It Happened to Me

On the Reading List

I’m a sucker for “big idea essay” books, so while wandering around Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighbourhood, I stopped by Elliott Bay Books and picked up a couple that I’d been meaning to read:

Cover of "X Saves the World"

The first was X Saves the World, Jeff Gordinier’s book inspired by his Details magazine screed Has Generation X Already Peaked? Here are the notes from the back cover:

Hi. If you’re read this far, the publisher of this book is pleased. Presumably there is something about X Saves the World that intrigues you, but you need an extra nudge. That’s what this paragraph is for. In these pages, Jeff Gordinier pursues an idea that is bold, fascinating and really entertaining. Generation X isn’t the bunch of “slackers” that you remember from way back in the early ‘90’s. Instead of squandering their hours in coffee shops and record stores for the past twenty years, Gen X has been busy…wait for it…rescuing American culture from a state of collapse! It’s true! From the way we watch moves to the way we make sense of a cracked political process to the way the whole world does business, the snarky but hardworking men and women born in the sixties and seventies are doing the quiet work of keeping America from sucking. Read the details inside this book. (Then give yourself an ironic pat on the back. You deserve it.)


The other book was The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, written by Matt Miller (who wrote The Two Percent Solution: Fixing America’s Problems in Ways Both Liberals and Conservatives Can Love).

From the book liner notes:

America is at a crossroads. In the face of global competition and rapid technological change, our economy is about to face its most severe test in nearly a century. Yet our leaders have failed to prepare us for what lies ahead because they are in the grip of a set of "dead ideas" about how a modern economy should work. They wrongly believe that

• our kids will earn more than we do
• free trade is always good, no matter who gets hurt
• employers should be responsible for health coverage
• taxes hurt the economy
• schools are a local matter
• money follows merit

These ways of thinking—dubious at best and often dead wrong—are on a collision course with economic developments that are irreversible.

Matt Miller, one of America’s most creative public-affairs thinkers, offers a unique blend of business-world acumen and public-policy vision to lay bare how this conventional wisdom holds our country back, and he introduces us to a new way of thinking—what he calls "tomorrow’s destined ideas"—that can reinvigorate our economy, our politics, and our day-to-day lives.

It is only by breaking the tyranny of dead ideas that we can move beyond the limits of today’s obsolete debates and reinvent American capitalism and democracy for the twenty-first century.

I’m going to start with X Saves the World. Have any of you read either of these books? Any comments?

4 replies on “On the Reading List”

Hey Joey, Elliot Bay has got to be one of the greatest bookstores I ever visited. Last August I made a special trip to it and stood in front of the doors waiting for opening time. I only had two hours, but enjoyed every second of the selection with a mix of new and used, the stunning bookshelves, the book reviews pasted all over the place, talking with knowledgeable staff about Haruki Murakami, and, finally, drooling over my purchases in the the basement using the free wifi while drinking yummy coffee. It was one of my favourite stops during my week stay in Seattle. The SciFi museum was top on that list : )


Hey Joe: The second title sounds much more compelling to me…could be the perceived typo in the first blurb (is it supposed to be movies?), to the smug tone of gen x-er rescuing culture. Let me know how it is, though. I tend to read 1-2 grown up titles per year…

The “X Saved the World” book sounds interesting.
However I will say that I don’t like the implication implicit in the term “Generation X” that just because you are a particular age you are presumed to be a)alienated from older cultural roots and b) trendoid and fashion-conscious.
Douglas Coupland and the demographic marketing droids cannot decide for me that I am a cross between Dilbert and the rock-and-roller who works at the clothing store in the mall and the Lord of the Flies.
(I was born in 1964, if that helps put me in context.)

The idea that employers are responsible for health coverage:

I, for one, would be somewhat more capable of outgrowing the employeehood I’m accustomed to (i e becoming a contractor or going into business for myself) if health benefits weren’t the bone of contention.

i e I might be more likely to say “I can work as a contractor” if I were less dependent on my employer (or whatever he’d prefer to be) for health benefits. Why don’t people who hire see it that way, and also favor a proposal that doesn’t force them to pay my health benefits?

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