I wrote last month that I was on a big reading kick, and that surge of devouring books has continued in full force this month. 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 October 2016:
- No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal. An account of the war in Afghanistan, told largely through the lens of 3 native Afghans. Important, detailed reporting from a WSJ journalist who lived and reported in Afghanistan for several years. Read on recommendation from my friend Laura.
- Partisan of Things by Francis Ponge. Translated by Joshua Corey and Jean-Luc Garneau. A new translation of Ponge’s amazing 1942 collection of prose poems Le parti pris de choses from Kenning Press. Absolutely worthy reading.
- Stoicism by John Sellars. A brief introduction to the philosophical thought of the ancient Greek Stoics. Turned me on to Epictetus, which was a fortunate encounter.
- Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems. The account of the detainment and torture of Slahi, a Mauritanian national held without charges by the United States for around 15 years. Slahi was released last month and is now living with his family in Mauritania. Read on recommendation from my friend Phil.
- The Most Good You Can Do by Peter Singer. A brief exploration of effective altruism, a new trend in charitable giving, and some of the principles of ethical utilitarianism. Laurel and I have been guided in our thinking about chartiable giving by Give Well, a related metacharity.
- Discourses and Selected Writings by Epictetus, translated and edited by Robert Dobbin and The Handbook (The Encheiridion), translated by Nicholas P. White. I had never read any of Epictetus’ teaching, which I generally quite enjoyed. Epictetus was a former slave and leading Stoic philosopher.
- Meditations: With Selected Correspondence by Marcus Aurelius. Translated by Robin Hard. I’d only ever read fragments of this work, so it was good to read it all, and to have a better context of Stoicism generally in which to understand the former emperor’s thought.
- Independent People by Halldor Laxness. A terrific, brutal novel about a fiercely independent Icelandic sheep farmer, Guðbjartur Jónsson (Bjartur of Summerhouses).Laxness is the only Icelander to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and this was the novel credited with winning him the prize. For a social realist novel, it’s expectedly dismal, but surprisingly funny (mostly black humor, but still). Read on recommendation from my friend Hugh.
- Reality: A Very Short Introduction by Jan Westerhoff. Laurel and I have decided to start reading several of the titles in Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series to quickly learn more about subjects that we think we should know more about. This was the first one I read.
- Confucianism: A Very Short Introduction by Daniel Gardner. I’ve been editing and proofreading writing for a South Korean friend with a doctorate in Ancient Chinese thought for years now, so this book helped me gain a lot more of the context that I really should have had for several years. Better late than never, I suppose.
- Sayings and Anecdotes with Other Popular Moralists by Diogenes the Cynic [Diogenes of Synope]. Translated by Robin Hard.
- Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction by Julia Annas. Can you detect a theme in my October reading?
I’ve started a few other books that I’m reading rather slowly. Each is excellent:
- Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome;
- Catherine Jagoe’s Bloodroot (a new poetry collection by a friend); and
- Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection Interpreter of Maladies (a birthday gift from my friend Theresa).
To Read Soon
Books recommended by friends currently on the night shelf for me to start soon:
- Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting (thanks Christina, Anna, and Kaitlin!)
- Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Sons (thanks Monika!)
- 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!)
Apart from books, I also read a lot of long-form journalism via the Pocket app on my iPad. I’ve been reading a lot less there now that I’ve been so engrossed in actual books (and because I’ve been assiduously avoiding the whole presidential election cycle newscycle vomitorium), but I did read a few good pieces worth recommending in October:
- “Who Gets to Be an Atheist,” Andrea Bennett and Kim Fu writing in Hazlitt.
- “The Way Ahead,” Barack Obama writing for The Economist on economic policy and the future of the American/global economy.
- “More Virtuous Than We Think,” Henry Aaron’s review of Samuel Bowles‘ new book The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. I want to read Bowles’ book!
- “Out of Their Love They Made It: A Visual History of Buraq,” Yasmine Seale writing about visual representations of the steed upon which Muhammad made his night journey to heaven in The Public Domain Review. Some incredible images here.
- “I Used to Be A Human Being,” Andrew Sullivan’s recent meditation in New York magazineon the human price of constant connection to our devices. I don’t typically read (or recommend!) Sullivan, but …
- “The New Yorker Endorses Hillary Clinton,” the editorial staff of the New Yorker with a thorough, thoughtful, largely factual encapsulation of the electoral choice Americans face in this year’s presidential race.
Wishing you all a happy, curiosity-filled November! May you all frequent your local libraries lots and lots!
Featured image: People reading the newspaper on a bench in the street after the American moon landing, July 21, 1969, Amsterdam, Holland