As a university student the end of semester means the freedom to read for fun once again. During the semester I am so bogged down with class readings — which lets face it don’t always get done — that the books I really want to read have to wait. Working in retail may not be the grandest thing in the world but at least when your shift is over it’s over and you get to go home and do whatever you like guilt free.
Nick Hornby wrote a column for the Believer — collected in The Polysyllabic Spree and House Keeping vs. The Dirt — about the books he had been reading over the previous month, which was extremely witty and enjoyable. I will attempt to similarly catalog my readings although likely not on a monthly basis.
I often find myself reading six or seven books at one time along with a number of graphic novels and comic books. Lets just say few if any books get my undivided attention for more than fifty pages meaning that I have trouble finishing books. When I sit down to read I will often have three books with me and will alternate between them every chapter or so.
I have begun taking comic books and graphic novels out of the library — an affordable way to be a comic book nerd since they are $20 or $30 each and can be easily finished in a sitting or two — which is forcing me to commit to finishing them in the three weeks allotted.
I have been reading the Greatest Green Lantern Stories Ever Told, which provides a nice glimpse into the world of the Green Lantern. I haven’t read too much Green Lantern before and it starts nicely with an introduction into who he is and how he got his powers. Year One style comics do a better job introducing unfamiliar characters and perhaps would have been a better choice for me.
I just finished Wikileaks by David Leigh and Luke Harding two journalists from the Guardian. It is an extremely well written book that provides a much better understanding of how a series of events unfolded. It goes through a logical progression of how Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and the mainstream media came to be where they are now.
The writing and research are superb as can be expected from senior Guardian writers. Every chapter begins with a compelling introduction showing the writers’ experience with ledes.
As I read I couldn’t help but think to myself this would make an excellent screenplay, something like the next Social Network. Assange is simultaneously charming and destructive. In some ways he is a determined man with a vision that will work hard to achieve it, there is something appealing about elusive wanderers with a sense of justice then there is the bickering and irrational Assange who is alienating and controlling. Perhaps this is why he is so appealing. The drama combined with the intrigue make him more interesting figure than Bradley Manning or anyone else involved.
The book does a good job of explaining the drama that unfolded with the charges of sexual assault in Sweden. At the time they came off as an assault on Wikileaks and an excuse to extradite Assange and now they seem preventable and foolish. If Assange had been provided with better sex ed classes and the importance of condom usage none of this would have happened. If he had agreed to take an AIDS test while in Sweden charges would likely not have been pressed.
Wikileaks provides a wonderful history of Manning and how he ended up providing Wikileaks with vast amounts of material. Manning’s role was often overlooked in stories about the leaks but here it fits nicely into place. We are provided with a compelling picture of the young soldier and why he did what he did.
The book ends at the end of 2010 with Assange embroiled in legal battles and the future of Wikileaks uncertain. Without another Bradley Manning the odds of another epic release are low. Wikileaks seems to have died off a little bit. Perhaps Assange will be like a band that releases one great album but is never able to follow up. Maybe he will find something else just as good.
It is hard to sustain something on that level, especially when you alienate members of your core group of staff. Whatever happens next Wikileaks will help you better understand what has happened so far and is an enjoyable read.