What We’re Reading #1: The New Tsar, Red Rising, and Killing Pablo

The AoC team is a well-read bunch. Each month, I’ll share what I’ve been perusing and try to get the others to put their books down long enough to do the same. If you’ve got any suggestions for books you think we should be reading (or comments about what we’ve already read), drop us a line at our respective Twitter feeds!

Jordan Harbinger (@theartofcharm)

The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin by Steven Lee MyersJordan has been working through biographies of Vladimir Putin. This isn’t just because Putin and Russia are in the news cycle, but we need to understand those with whom we share this world, and Russia plays an increasingly important role in that world. He’s currently in the middle of The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin by Steven Lee Myers, which is a pretty exhaustive account of his entire life and career to date.

Somewhat in the same space, he’s been reading books on espionage and events in the Middle East, specifically about how propaganda and information affect the ways we think. Jordan will share more specific details on upcoming episodes, but feel free to engage with him on Twitter and he might give you a title to chase in the meantime.

Producer Jason (@jpdef)

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi“Producer Jason” DeFillippo, who is the guy behind the guy responsible for bringing you all our audio content, has been digging into the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown. It’s a series for young adults and Jason describes it as “Animal Farm meets Star Trek meets The Hunger Games with some Game of Thrones sprinkled in.” Sounds interesting, though Jason is passing on the third book in the series, Morning Star. While he found Red Rising, the first in the series, predictable but good, he felt the second one, Golden Son, was too predictable. He thinks it’s great for young adults but probably a pass for more sophisticated readers.

We go from a non-ringing endorsement to “one of the best books I’ve read this year,” says Jason, namely, Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi. He found the story extremely clever and funny, with enough plot twists to keep you guessing all the way through. It’s got multiple universes, twisting timelines, and a subversive take on everything we think about science fiction.

Stephen Heiner (@stephenheiner)

Notes from Underground by Fyodor DostoevskyI read a lot of classics and this month I’ve gone back to a short work by Dostoevsky that I read in my twenties called Notes from Underground. Its tortured narrator describes a world from which he feels so alienated (it’s our modern world) and yet, in displaying classic borderline personality disorder, brings us close as a confidante, then accuses us of being just like everyone else. It’s about 150 pages, so it’s likely to be the shortest work of his you ever read, but would be well worth it.

I also recently finished Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden. If the author’s name sounds familiar it’s because he wrote Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War and Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam, both written in a fascinating nonfiction narrative style in which the overwhelming amount of research and interviews he’s done allows you to read the story panoramically as it’s happening through the eyes of dozens of witnesses.

In this particular case, I was struck by just how horribly Colombia was damaged by this maniac, and how odd it is that to this day flowers are left at his grave. This book will also help you understand how very close to portraying actual events the Netflix series Narcos has done so far.

Stephen Heiner - author of 36 posts on The Art of Charm

Stephen Heiner was born in Singapore and moved to America just before his ninth birthday. He's stepped foot on every continent except Antarctica, served in the US Marine Corps, and is living the charmed life of a writer in Paris. He has a passion for running small businesses and storytelling. More than anything he enjoys getting people to think differently about the things they take for granted. Here at The Art of Charm, Stephen matches his life experience to our content to extract key points in written form for our students and clients to ruminate and act upon.


in What We're Reading