As the year limped its way to a close, I tried to keep up my torrid reading pace. I slowed down considerably from my October/November frenzy, and spent a lot more of my free time reading and writing on dissertation related topics (hi, Objectivist poets!) but still managed to read a fair number of interesting books in December. Here are some of them:
- Robert Lax’s Love Had a Compass: Journals and Poetry. Includes The Circus of the Sun, probably his best-regarded single volume. Here’s a small taste of the poetry in that book:
After supper light on fields, prairie, long yellow
light on fields aspiring, fields looking up grass singing
high grass singing yellow light on green grass growing,
the wide round horizon, the long tired light on the field
and the green grass high yearning up aspiring to heaven
to the dome sky heaven the grass growing up to the sky
and the light dying, the sun wearily sleepily smiling
lying down, with a sighing song, a long smiling sigh
over the fields and the grass rising, thin prayer rising
tufted to the air above the field to the sky the dome
sky thin made of light air the dome above the field and
the field breathing the air full rich golden grass smelling
sweet and tired with sun dying sun lying down, dying down
- I finally finished Ignazio Silone’s Abruzzo trilogy after stalling out halfway through The Seed Beneath the Snow several months ago. Glad I finished the books, and glad to have read them, though I’m not exactly sure who’d I recommend them to.
- David Foenikos’ The Erotic Potential of My Wife. Quick, absurd, and very, very funny. Came highly recommended by a French-speaking Polish language professor here. Thanks Ewa!
I read a half-dozen ‘very short introductions’ and continued muddling my way slowly through several longer books. The VSI’s I read in December were:
- L. Sandy Maisel’s American Political Parties and Elections.
- Timothy Lim’s The Dead Sea Scrolls. I’m afraid to confess that I found this book boring as hell.
- Ian Shaw’s Ancient Egypt. Covered a lot of ground, but spread itself a bit too thin, I thought.
- Geraldine Pinch’s Egyptian Myth. Quite good. I actually felt like I managed to learn more about Egyptian history and culture from this book than the previous one, despite it being less central to the book’s ostensible purpose.
- Penelope Wilson’s Hieroglyphics.
- Colin Ward’s Anarchism. I loved Colin Ward as a personality and as a writer when he was alive and have always been deeply sympathetic to philosophical anarchism. And it increasingly appears that, in the coming Trump era, I’m not alone.
- Inspired by Ward, I decided to finally start David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years. More anarchism! I still haven’t finished it, but it was so compelling (and disruptive to the way that I’d normalized the ‘economic order’ of things) that Laurel started reading it as well.
I’m still plowing my way slowly through a few other nonfiction books: Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark, Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.
I read a lot of longform journalism on my iPad through the Pocket app. Here are the seven pieces I read and most enjoyed in December:
- A conversation on capital, debt, and our economic future between Thomas Piketty and David Graeber published in 2014 by The Baffler.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates’ extended meditation on the Obama presidency.
- A description of the ethical and behavioral consequences of technological design decisions by Tristan Harris, former ‘design ethicist’ at Google.
- Graeme Wood’s profile of John Georgelas, a Texan screwup who appears to have become a leading presence in the Islamic State, published in The Atlantic.
- Abigail Geiger’s quick run-through of 16 significant findings regarding public life/opinion in America covered by Pew Research in 2016.
- A short James Hunt article from 2015 on Mental Floss about the hidden technological pedagogical purpose of some ubiquitous early Microsoft Windows games.
- M. Allen Cunningham’s Literary Hub article about Thoreau’s humor (ostensibly a book review of a new book meant to portray Thoreau as much funnier than his current public image).
Featured image by vpickering