Your regular vacation bookworm

Hey everyone! I’m back again after spending two wonderful weeks on Koh Phangan, Thailand. It was not really that adventurous, rather chilling and days with soaking in the sun while trying to multi task with the ocean, the pool and a good book (and perhaps the occasional daiquiri). Heavy stuff!

I don’t know why, but always when I’m on vacation it is the time to read books, it’s what feels as if you’ve got all the time in the world – just not think about anything, except the task at hand to read a good book. I thought I’d update you on what I read during the two weeks, especially since one of them was really awesome and is also going to become a blockbuster movie, again reuniting Scorsese and Di Caprio. This is going to happen in The Wolf of Wall Street, a biography about the life of Jordan Belfort, creator of the Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm – also referred to as “The real Gordon Gekko” (after Michael Douglas’ character in Wall Street). Without giving too much away, I mean – you can always read the Editorial review on Amazon, this is a MUST read for anyone that enjoys Entourage. Especially the 90s Entourage-lifestyle when the Testarossa was king, and the coke was his queen. Totally enjoyable and written in a fun way, can’t wait for the movie!

I also stumbled upon Gomorrah at a bookstore in Dublin earlier this year, haven’t been able to read it but I figured that this trip was the perfect excuse. This book is exactly was the subtitle refers to; A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System, Camorra. The author is ‘investigating’ journalist Roberto Saviano who also happened to grow up in the area – and he tells his tale about the place on earth where mafia-related murders are more common than anywhere else in the world – and about a mafia much worse than the notorious Cosa Nostra. Very confusing at times, loads of names and families to keep track of, but still a good read.

The third book I read on this very seldom extravaganza was The Broker by John Grisham. I’ve read quite a few books by Grisham and I have to say that each time is some let down. It’s always a really slow, cliffhanger kind of deal with Grisham, nothing being told properly until in the last 100 pages or so when everything suddenly comes to life, I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or not; but personally I truly enjoy high-paced books such as the Wolf of Wall Street much more, where there’s really not one single dull moment in the book. That’s why I can’t really understand why Grisham is such a celebrated writer. Just read the review, sounds intriguing, but it actually isn’t. Disappointment, again.

My forth contribution is Welcome to Hell by Colin Martin. It’s one of those books that is always listed in the ‘best sellers’ in Thailand, about a man that innocently spent 8 years at the Bangkok Hilton, one of the worlds most notorious prisons. It’s quite a ride, and quite a story. I don’t know whether Martin was stupid, unlucky or just at the wrong place at the wrong time – or perhaps it was a mix of both.

Colin was let down by the hopelessly corrupt Thai police. Forced to rely upon his own resources, he tracked down the man who conned him and, drawn into a fight, he accidentally killed that man’s bodyguard. Colin was arrested, denied a fair trial, convicted of murder and thrown into prison, where he remained for 8 years. Honest and often disturbing, but told with a surprising humour, “Welcome to Hell” is the remarkable story of how Colin was denied justice again and again.

I’d say that Martin’s book is definitely worth reading, even though I’ve read The Damage Done, about Warren Fellows, a narcotics smuggler that spent 12 years, also at the Bangkok Hilton – which I found was much more detailed (and quite disgusting) and a better read. I don’t know, I think there’s more honesty involved once a person is actually guilty, Fellows is guilty as few – while the circumstances surrounding Martin as I mentioned are just a mix of stupidity and bad luck.

I gotta give it to myself though, I read about 6-10 books yearly, and probably 90% of all pages I would read (that aren’t work related) – would be read during vacations. Does that make me a bookworm? Or just a wannabe, I’m guessing for the latter.

John Grisham – The Innocent Man

Was one of the books I read during my vacation, as a review from Robert C. Olson was really good, I’ll quote it.

“Ambivalence really sums up my feelings toward Mr. Grisham’s latest book. Depressing is another. I applaud Mr. Grisham in his attempt to analyze the hows and whys of just what happened to Ron Williamson during his hectic, confusing, and sometimes just unlucky life. From outstanding major league baseball prospect, to drug and alcohol abuser, to mentally unstable convict, to exonerated felon, Ron Williamson never really knew any peace off the baseball diamond. His dream of a major league career shattered he simply withdrew into his own private hell of dope, booze, loose women, honky tonks, and insanity.

Sometimes a difficult book to follow, the darkness that Mr. Grisham maintains throughout the book is at times oppressive. How many times must Ron Williamson have to exhibit mental instability before someone, anyone, gets him real help and not just temporary “band-aid” his CHRONIC mental problems. It is a wonder that he didn’t harm someone during his drunken, drug induced haze. Finally convicted of a murder he never committed, the complex judicial process to free him was very well told by Mr. Grisham. Ron’s years spent on “death row” were both illuminating, sad, and frightening all at the same time. His eventual release and exoneration was the ONLY happy point in an otherwise sad biography of a profoundly unhappy life.

Again, I was ambivalent about this book. This is not your typical light Grisham reading so be very careful. Be ready for a heavy, dark, oppressive book that while educating about the legal system, at the same time leaves one empty about the sad state of this nation’s mental health programs. This up close and personal view of America’s seamy underbelly will stay with you for quite awhile.”

While I’m a real sucker for stories like The Innocent Man I agree with some of the critical views in the review. Even so, I’d still recommend reading it, it’s a sad and compelling story of how a town hero can be caught in the US system and almost rot in hell for a crime he didn’t commit.