Good summer reads

I just got back from a couple of weeks on Vancouver Island. As per my usual, I devoured a number of books there and have a few recommendations.

In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin

This book got to me. I was a fan of Marie Colvin’s before she died but I didn’t know anything about her, other than that she was freakishly brave. Reading this book showed me the story behind the bravery and the truths that kept propelling this brave person back into the most dangerous places on earth.

My biggest problem with the book was that going in, I was a fan of the brave Marie Colvin. I didn’t know a thing about her or her life and mostly just knew her from a couple of conflicts she reported on. Going in with that perspective, I’ll admit that parts of the book seemed too darkly personal. The Marie Colvin I was aware of charged right back into war zones, eyepatch and all. I didn’t think she would feel comfortable with some of the book.

When I got to her funeral though, it all made sense. This book wasn’t the tribute I would write. Instead, it was another journalist treating Marie Colvin the way Marie Colvin treated stories. It was a tribute, just a tribute to Marie Colvin’s gift and the way that gift inspired countless others.

If you read one book this summer, read this one.

The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club

Joy Division is one of my favourite bands ever and New Order is also up there amongst my favourites. But, as the various members have had their problems and written their books, I’ve started to wonder if the old adage about how it’s never a good idea to meet your heroes is true.

Peter Hook is an amazing bass player. Musically, I can’t imagine what my life would be like if he had never picked up that instrument. But, sometimes, I find him just utterly distasteful. He’s an excellent writer – both Unknown Pleasures and Substance were well written and I particularly appreciate how he treated Ian Curtis as a sad kid with issues, but also as a really fun, brilliant kid who was great to go out for pints with. Despite all that goodness, I still found myself having to skip entire pages because Hooky was just being a little too Hooky.

So, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I received The Hacienda. Hooky is an excellent story teller, but writing about the Hacienda must have triggered all sorts of things and, what is Hooky is a little too Hooky again??

To my surprise, Peter Hook was perfect and this is my favourite book about the Madchester scene. Hooky is definitely bitter, but he presented his case so well that I found myself cheering for him. I particularly enjoyed his stories where, despite being in one of the biggest bands in the world, he was so broke that he had to pick up shifts bouncing at the Hacienda. Beneath the bitterness, he is a great storyteller with an unbelievable sense of humour. And, even Hooky being a little too Hooky and getting a bit too charged up before he worked a shift was pretty entertaining. At points, this book was so darkly funny that I had to put it down. At other points, the story was so thick and consuming that I couldn’t put it down.

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