Monday, February 1, 2010

One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs

This evening, I achieved a major accomplishment: I finished a book for pleasure! Reading after college is another thing I'm adjusting too. I approach every book like its an assignment, flipping ahead to see how many pages until the next break, skimming for the gist of the chapter, procrastinating reading it at all, and then feeling guilty about all of the above. Maybe this is just the way people read, but as part of my greater goal to be more in the moment and work on my focus, I would ideally like to change the way I read. I'd like to absorb each word and each sentence as it comes. I want to think while I read, but also focus on digesting the information as I take it in and being able to remember and reflect.

One step toward that is to catalog my reading notes here as I go. I had this idea several weeks ago, but I was in the middle of One Minute to Midnight by Michael Dobbs and didn't feel like starting up notes right in the middle of a book. So here's my brief review, and then I'll start taking notes on the next one.

This was a great book. I received it as a gift from MC and MC (wow I only just NOW realized they have the same initials??), and was thrilled at their great choice. Who else do you buy a a nonfiction, detail account of the Cuban missile crisis? Me. No one else I know. If anyone wants to borrow it, let me know, and then we should be friends for ever, so I can talk to you about nerdy, historical stuff.

Anyway, this retold the story of how the world came to the brink of nuclear war but didn't jump into the abyss. It's dramatic, almost suspenseful (I mean, you know the ending so not that suspenseful. Right?), and Dobbs paints the characters in this dramatic episode of American history with skill and charm. I think the main reason it took me so long to read (I've been at this since September) is the school approach I've had to reading since graduation. The only other thing I'd complain about it is its breadth of detail. In his efforts to incorporate lots of newly released information and give equal time to many parties, Dobbs' finished product seems somewhat hobbled together and, in places, hard for the casual reader to follow. I felt like I ought to have had a graph or something along side me as I read it to remind myself who's who and what they are doing and why. Though, on the whole, this didn't detract from the overall message I will summarize thusly:

We came pretty fucking close to a full-blown nuclear war. And by close I mean within inches, ok? Any number of tiny events going one way or another could have changed the largely positive outcome of this event. And by largely positive, I mean 100% positive, since the planet WASN'T DESTROYED. If you don't really understand what I mean or just how close, then I highly recommend you read this book and get a whole new perspective.

Ok, as for the next book! I have a pile next to me of options. A few I've read parts of, one I read half of last summer but got overwhelmed in the fall and put it down, and two that intimidate me, but that's what it's all about right? Let me know which you think I should read first, or if you have any other suggestions!
Will update later! Good night!

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