Does it count as required reading if you assign a book to yourself? Even if it doesn't, I would still have to read Conrad Wesselhoeft's Adios, Nirvana.
There's the guitar-o'-fire cover that alone would compel some of us to give it a read, and there's the main character's bond with his buddies -- his "thicks" -- that leaps right out at you from the novel's very first lines ("Hey, man, get down!" "Dude, don't be an idiot!"). But for me, there's more to it than that.
I've never met Conrad, but next month we're rooming together at a weekend writing retreat consisting of us and 41 women. And while that alone could provide quite the bonding experience, I'm not prepared to wait: I want to get to know the guy's words (and see what that guitar's all about) ahead of time.
That's something that hasn't changed for me one bit since I was finding my own thicks in high school and college: the make-or-break importance of words or music and preferably both. I wanted to know what a guy wrote, read, and listened to -- and assumed I was being sized up along the same lines.
Sometimes -- a lot of times -- it was silly. For example, all the snark I could muster -- and I could muster a lot of snark -- in the review I wrote for the school paper of the not-classic album Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast did not halt the rise of Kid Rock. But my friends then are my friends now, and they remember that review and laugh about it still, and that's what matters.
So, I'm reading Adios, Nirvana -- because I have to, because I want to. No one's making me, but four chapters in, I guarantee you -- no one could make me stop.
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