24 Books in 2015 - September Reads

Much like the great George Washington, Hipsters, I cannot tell a lie. My quest to read two books each month in 2015 was not completed in September. My social and professional calendars did not leave much time for reading in September, and I did not take advantage of the free time I did have. I know I've let you down, but I hope we can still be friends. I did start two books in September, though: The Good Citizen by Russell J. Dalton and The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake by, you guessed it, Breece D'J Pancake.

The Good Citizen
Dalton's work is in essence a compilation of statistical research on citizenship in the United States. Citizenship has changed over the years; where we once displayed citizenship through acts such as voting (duty-based citizenship), we now consider ourselves good citizens if we are actively concerned with the betterment of our fellow humans, at home and abroad (engaged citizenship). This stark difference, Dalton claims, is mainly based on a change in citizenship norms through the decades. Culturally and demographically, things are very different than they used to be, which has changed how we view citizenship. He also claims that those who are worried that citizenship is near-death are wrong; citizenship has just undergone a transformation.

The Good Citizen has a bias. Dalton seems to favor engaged citizens over duty-based ones, even though he claims neither form of citizenship is dominant over the other. He also describes both forms of citizenship as if they are dichotomous, but I know many people from various generations that could be considered both a duty-based and an engaged citizen. I consider myself both a duty-based and engaged citizen and would prefer not to pigeonhole myself into one category. All that matters is that we're involved, in one way or another.

For those of you who are political science junkies, this book will be of interest to you. If statistics and graphs don't rev your engines, though, this may not be the book for you.

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake
Breece D'J Pancake was a short story writer from Milton, West Virginia. His career was sadly brief, as he committed suicide at age 26. At the time, his writing was taking off, with some comparing his writing talents to that of Ernest Hemingway.

The short stories that Pancake created in his short career were truly impeccable, though. The stories take place in West Virginia, Pancake's stomping grounds, and he so accurately captured the essence of both the place and the people in it. On some occasions, it is so accurate that it is difficult to read; the familiarity, the reality behind what Pancake described, is not always flattering, but it is unfailingly honest.

Pancake was able to transport the reader into his stories like no other author I've read. After reading many of his stories, I felt what can only be described as a reader's jet lag or culture shock. I was pulled so deeply into the stories that when they were over, I was forced to quickly return to the present (which, in this case, was a garage, waiting for my tires to be replaced), a rather harsh transition for which I wasn't at all prepared. It was honestly uncomfortable, but a piece of writing that can do that is incredible.

I did not finish all of Pancake's stories - I read a little over half of them before September's end - but I plan on finishing the compilation as soon as I can. The ones I had a chance to read deeply impacted me, and I would very highly recommend that others read anything they can get their hands on by Pancake.

Have you read either of these books, Hipsters? If so, what did you think of them? Comment below!

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