Sometimes it’s good to share a list of the strange things you’ve read. You never know what might inspire someone else.
1. The Urban Treasure Hunter: A Practical Handbook For Beginners by Michael Chaplan
I checked this out from the library a few summers ago and have thought about it a lot since then. I had no desire at the time to run out and get a metal detector and be one of those people at a beach, moving their detectors back and forth across the sand while all around them sunbathers and swimmers cavort. But treasure hunting is more than just trying to find some loose change. There are many angles… maybe you’re trying to find out about the history of a place or solve a mystery or a crime. Maybe you just want to find out more about the land your house stands on. Maybe you find it entertaining and relaxing to search for lost treasure in your spare time. Any way you look at it, it’s at least a more interesting hobby than volleyball.
2. The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd by Richard Zacks
This book is by no means obscure. It’s been on several “best books” lists but I still think it would escape your attention if this isn’t the kind of book you usually read. When the Pirates of the Caribbean movies started coming out, I wondered about real pirate life and checked this book out from the library. It’s the tale of what happened to Captain Kidd but it’s filled with all kinds of information about what pirate life was really like, plus it’s a history lesson that’s not dry and boring. You find out about early life in New York City, what it meant to be a privateer vs. pirate, how pirates lived on ships and English prisons. Let me just say that you didn’t want to mess with England back in the day and you sure as hell didn’t want to go to one of their prisons. Those were some heartless people. So if you’re someone who wants to learn more about history but can’t handle most of the dry books out there, this is one that entertains and also manages to give you an education.
3. The Freedom Manifesto by Tom Hodgkinson
If you’re in a pissy mood about life and all the rules we have to follow, pick up this book. Of course I don’t agree with everything he says, and the stuff about how life during medieval times, when there was a system of Guilds, was so awesome gets tiresome and sometimes downright wacky. I don’t really want to live like the medievals. He also seems to be in denial about the Internet and how it’s changing the world. BUT, setting all that aside, there is some great stuff here about how to organize your life and set your priorities. He covers everything from making a living to cleaning your house. The full title is actually: The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work and Waste. So it does cover quite a bit of ground.
4. Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger
I heard about this book for years before I finally got it from the library. It’s like a gossip column with some graphic pictures, all about the early scandals of Hollywood – sort of rougher, even more sordid edition of US Weekly. It details who was on heroin, who committed suicide, who was gay, who died destitute in a cheap New York hotel. You have to get used to the language it’s written in, too. It’s a breezy, film noire style that doesn’t always gibe with the pictures of car crashes. But this book definitely grows on you. I went out and bought my own copy at a used book store. There is also Hollywood Babylon II and III. But the first is still the best.
5. Vagabonding in America by Ed Buryn
I found my copy of this book at a charity book sale in about 1996 or 1997, when I had romantic notions about possibly traveling around the U.S. in a tiny Airstream trailer on day. Something about the thickness of the book and the red, white and blue cover really attracted me – plus all the photos and crazy drawings inside. It’s basically a guidebook and travelogue mixed into one with a very “hippie” slant to it. Back in 1999, I found Ed Buryn’s e-mail address through searching online (this was back in the early, innocent days of the Internet when it was easy to do this) and e-mailed him about my love of the book. I got a response back and he told me what he was up to:
“Anyhoo, I’m working my butt off at a variety of things, none of which make
any money but some of which are interesting. Like, I’m involved in a co-op
bookstore at which I also work part-time. I’m renting out my house to a
bunch of roommates. I’m doing all sorts of work on the 3 acres plot I own —
establishing a garden, fixing broken sewer lines, chopping out weeds, etc.
I’m helping my three daughters get through various early-and mid-life
depressions. I’m arguing with my ex about money. I’m looking for a new love.
You know — all the usual stuff. Life is a gas, and I’m having a good time.
And I’m eagerly looking forward to the next Burning Man Festival.”
Which made me a little sad, to hear that he was divorced and figthing about money with the woman who appears in all the pictures in the book with their baby. But that’s life. The book is still relevant today; maybe even more so as our economy tanks and the green movement takes hold of even the most hardened “eco-criminals” among us. The book is out-of-print but you can find used copies online. He also did one for Europe, which I have as well, but admit I’ve never actually read.
Care to share your “off-the-beaten” path favorites?