So Jess wrote about books that make her want to travel, and it got me thinking about the books I read while I’m traveling. For reasons currently unexplored, I typically choose biographies. This could have something to do with my tendancy to read a lot of non-fiction, and to save the decently long books for airplanes. These are my last two:
by Walter Isaacson
I put this book off for a very long time. I’m a long-time Apple user and was surprisingly hit hard by Jobs’s death. When I received the book as a gift, the emotions I knew it would evoke felt too close to the surface. It sat on the shelf until I stuck it in my backpack for a Hawaiian vacation. Steve Jobs was a hard personality to capture. After his death people almost relished in writing about the unflattering aspects of his life. Isaacson includes these parts with no excuses or explanations, but he doesn’t dwell on them or put an inordinate amount of emphasis on them. He writes about the failures, but keeps the larger issues — Jobs’s colossal ideas and all-consuming focus — in the forefront. The result is a biography of a multi-faceted, beautifully flawed human being that had a lasting effect on culture and art. There are lessons to be learned in the life of Steve Jobs and this book presents them in a thoughtful way. Also, there is no better biographer than Walter Isaacson. His writing is concise, alive and fascinating.
Jim Henson: The Biography
by Brian Jay Jones
Sheesh. If there’s anything harder than reading about the death of someone you admire, it’s reading about the death of someone you admired as a child. Like almost everyone in America, Sesame Street taught me to read. Grover showed me that not all monsters were scary. Cookie monster made me laugh. Big Bird and Snuffleupagus taught me how to be a good friend. Jim Henson’s creations were my childhood. I was 8 years old when Henson died, but I was 32 when I sat on a plane from Frankfurt to Washington D.C. and cried big, wet, ugly tears over it. Jones’s story is as colorful and textured as the muppets Henson created. He doesn’t blindly worship Henson, but he obviously delights in the aspects we all loved. Over 608 pages, Jones reminds us that there was a person behind the felt and fur, and the person, not the puppets, taught us to be gentle and kind, and to love one another.
I know it sounds like both of these books are majorly depressing. I promise they are the opposite. Both leave you with hope and big ideas, as well as an appreciation for life that is fleeting.
On last month’s trip to Nice, I took very different books. One was a non-fiction book about US spies in Russia. The other was a novel about a Parisian book store owner. They were great reads, and they were much less emotional. But neither of them had the lingering impact of the stories of Steve Jobs and Jim Henson. Of course, there was also no ugly-crying on the plane.