My reading pace slowed a bit in November (the US elections and their sad aftermath have provided me with lots of avenues for distraction and worry), but I still managed to keep up my love affair with books, though I picked a fair amount of duds this month. The poetry and fiction were great, but the nonfiction didn’t really light a spark in me. I did read a fair amount of graphic work this month, which was mostly new for me, though it was pretty hit and miss.
Outside of the reading I’ve been doing for my dissertation and my work, here’s a list of the books I read for pleasure/self-education in November 2016:
- Catherine Jagoe’s Bloodroot (a new poetry collection by a friend). The book had several outstanding poems about making one’s home in a strange land, and a very impressive, moving section about pregnancy and motherhood.
- Robert Lax’s A Thing That Is. Minimalist, contemplative poetry from a tremendously interesting human being.
- Archaic Greek Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Barbara Hughes Foster.
- The Collected Poems of Kenneth Fearing. Fearing was a prominent leftist writer in the 1930s. In the late 1920s he attended the UW-Madison where he lived with the poet Carl Rakosi and was a lover of Margery Latimer’s. His poems are angry, cynical, and fairly iconoclastic for their time–it seems me that they anticipate much that would be later developed by American counter-culture writers in the late 1950s and 60s.
- Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection Interpreter of Maladies (a birthday gift from my friend Theresa). Highly recommended!
- Alphonso Lingis’ The Community of Those Who Have Nothing In Common. A short book made up of dense, often beautiful phenomenologically-inflected reflections on community, illness, embodiment, death, etc..
- Catherine Osborne’s Presocratic Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction. Not my favorite book in the series.
- Adam Silverstein’s Islamic History: A Very Short Introduction. Covered a lot of ground. Very learned, but I felt that the author’s ideological commitments are probably at odds with my own.
- Eric Tyson and Ray Brown’s Home Buying for Dummies. Not the most engrossing read, but I learned a lot.
- Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.
- Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama
- Lynda Barry’s Picture This.
- Brian Vaughan and Niko Henrichon’s Pride of Baghdad. A friend gave it to me and said, I think you’ll like this. Sadly, I didn’t.
- Ted Rall’s After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded In Afghanistan. I think Rall may be right in many of his foreign policy criticisms, but he seems like an insufferable narcissist in this book. My least favorite of all the books I read this month.
I’ve started a few other books that I’m reading more slowly. Each is excellent:
- Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. Slow going, but Beard is an excellent historian and storyteller.
- Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark. Necessary reading in our current moment. I admire the mind and voice of Rebecca Solnit very, very much.
- Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. I’m still curious rather than fully convinced by Haidt’s central arguments, though I have been enjoying the self-assessments at YourMorals.
- Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Sons. Not very deep into the book yet, but impressed so far.
To Read Soon
Books recommended by friends that I hope to read soon:
- Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting (thanks Christina, Anna, and Kaitlin!)
- Matthew Desmond’s Evicted (thanks Jim, Dee and many, many others!)
- Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies (thanks Sarah!)
- Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things (thanks Jeff!)
I also read a lot of long-form journalism via the Pocket app on my iPad in November. Much of what I read was about politics. I’ll spare you all of those pieces. Sans think pieces about recent electoral disasters, my November recommendations include:
- “Being Mortal: Atul Gawande, a moped death, and my mother’s Alzheimer’s” reflections on mortality and human fragility by my friend, the poet and professor Susan Schultz.
- This Economist feature on kabaddi that introduced me to what looks to be a pretty wild sport.
- “How to Be Good,” an old (well, from 2011) Larissa MacFarquhar feature on the moral philosopher Derek Parfit.
- “A lynching in Georgia: the living memorial to America’s history of racist violence,” in the Guardian, by Peter Baker.
- “Still Running at 119? Not So Fast,”a fascinating NYT feature about elderly runners by Jeré Longman and Hari Kumar.
- Shane Bauer’s piece about going undercover with a border militia in Mother Jones.
- William Friedkin’s profile of Father Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, in Vanity Fair.
- John Crowley’s sprawling exploration of American beliefs about aliens in the form of a review two recent books about UFOs in the Boston Review.
Hoping that you store up good things for yourself and others this December–Winter is here and before long worse things than snow will be upon our doorstep.