I haven’t kept up as regularly with these monthly updates as I had hoped, but I did keep reading through the summer. I stayed really plugged into my dissertation reading and research, which really cut down my leisure reading, but I still managed to get through several books that struck my fancy in some way or another.
- William Langewiesche’s Inside the Sky: A Meditation on Flight. Saw it at a library book sale, and thought I’d give it a try. I’ve always enjoyed Langewiesche’s writing in Vanity Fair and other longform venues, and my father was a navigator in the US Air Force, so I figured I ought to be at least somewhat interested in the topic. A quick but satisfying read.
- Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law. The best nonfiction book I’ve read all year. Outstanding look at de jure residential segregation in the United States.
- Simon Reid-Henry’s The Political Origins of Inequality. A very important topic, but only occasionally interesting. Glad to have an intelligent geographer’s perspective, but little pleasure in his prose or points of real, curious interest for me.
- David Lagercrantz’ I Am Zlatan. Fun, light reading–I read most of it on airplanes/in airports while traveling this summer.
- Ann Leckie’s Ancillary trilogy: Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy, read on recommendation from our friends Josh and Jeff. I liked the first book best, but all three were fast, engrossing sci-fi stories. Read them mainly at night after putting our son to bed.
- Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. Read so I could have something to talk with my friend Dave about. Didn’t hate it, but didn’t really like it, either. Better than mindless reading, but only just.
- Patrick O’Brien’s Master & Commander. I actually really liked my first exposure to the Aubrey & Maturin series. My friend Dave’s been recommending these books to me for years, and I never took the plunge until I went to Chicago for a conference and had 5 hours in a hotel room next to the airport and a shopping mall. Reading was the best way I could have spent my time, and so I read Master & Commander. I’m glad I did. At times, all the 19th century references and nautical terminology were like reading an untranslated work or a work in dialect.
I read so much longform over the summer on Pocket (reverting back to bad habits). A fair amount was about sports and politics, which I won’t share here, but I also read pretty widely outside of those two ‘guilty pleasure’ interests. It’s hard to pick just a few of the best pieces, so here’s a longer list of what I’d recommend from the last three months of my reading:
- Ian Bogost writing for The Atlantic on useless apps and how we’re already living inside of a computer.
- A Wired feature on Tristan Harris’ work to lessen the intrusive impact of technology on everyday life.
- Ed Finn writing for Aeon about algorithms and the roles of human creativity and machine learning
- Jean Twenge’s piece in The Atlantic smartphone usage and mental health impacts on teenagers.
- Michelle Dean’s article about the founding of Snopes and the messy divorce that has caused them to revise their own founding story.
- Emma Hogan writing for 1843 about the surge in interest in micro-dosing with acid to achieve productivity gains.
On Higher Education:
- Tom Farrey’s article about for the Undefeated about the disappearance of first-generation college attendees among D-1 basketball scholarship recipients.
- Todd Gitlin writing in The Washington Post on the long history of free speech challenges on college campuses.
- Three reporters’ data-driven story about affirmative action and the persistent (and growing) gap in college attendance at elite schools for African-Americans and Hispanics.
- John Warner on what we know about teaching writing effectively.
- Kyle Siler on future opportunities for scholarly publishing.
- Ashley Powers’ feature in The California Sunday Review on the costs of college attendance.
On Race, Gender, and Social Issues:
- Larissa MacFarquhar writing for The New Yorker about family court and its role in deciding when children should be taken from their parents.
- Paul Kiel and Hannah Fresques writing for ProPublica about racial disparities and types of bankruptcy filings.
- Rebecca Solnit writing about feminism and occupying space in Harper’s and for The Guardian imagining what life would have been like had she been born male.
- Albert Samaha writing for BuzzFeed News about why police officers file reports which contradict video footage of their actions.
- The letter The Economist wished Larry Page had written in response to James Damore’s infamous memo.
- Rachel Monroe’s article for The New Republic about real estate speculation and its impact on urban blight in America’s cities.
- Mina Kimes on Kim Se-hyeon, eSports and sexism.
- Danah Boyd writing on her own blog about on empathy, privilege and perception.
- Ben Schmidt writing on his own blog about the usage of ‘public’ vs. ‘government’.
- Sarah Sentilles writing in The New Yorker about how we ought to respond to images of human suffering.
- Mark Boyle writing for The Guardian about herbalism and rejecting modern industrial medicine.
- Atul Gawande writing in The New Yorker about health care and insurance.
- Ron Rosenbaum writing in Tablet on Elie Wiesel and Jewish anger. I also liked Paul Berman’s essay for Tablet on Philip Levine and Spanish anarchism.
- Sam Anderson’s feature in The NYT Magazine on John McPhee.
- Martin Puchner writing for Aeon about Goethe and the invention of ‘world literature’
- Jeremy Adelman writing for Aeon about nationalism and the rise and decline of ‘world history’
- Jacob Soll’s article for Politico on the long, sordid history of ‘fake news’.
- Joshua Hunt writing for The California Sunday Magazine on the investigation of counterfeited goods in China.
- Evan Osnos’ New Yorker feature on the risks of catastrophic conflict with North Korea.
- Natalie Angier writing for the NYT about the praying mantis.
- Alice Gregory writing for The New Yorker on what it’s like to accidentally kill another person (often while driving).
- Will Boast writing about kokpar, a horse named ‘Lazer’ and Kazakhstan for VQR.
- Julian Baggini writing for TLS about ‘truth.’
- Bradley Babendir’s review of Evan Kindley’s Poet-Critics and the Administrators of Culture.
- Benjamin Schwarz’ grumpy review of Elizabeth Currid-Halkett’s The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class for The American Conservative.
- Robert Christgau writing a Terry Eagleton omnibus review for Barnes & Noble(!)
- Carlos Fraenkel’s review of Peter Adamson’s History of Philosophy without Any Gaps, volume 3: Philosophy in the Islamic World.
- Oliver Burkeman writing in The Guardian about ‘the new optimists‘
- Robert Minto’s review of Philippe Desan’s biography of Montaigne.
- Geoffrey O’Brien’s review of the new Otis Redding biography.
- Santiago Zabala writing for the LARB about Richard Rorty, 10 years after his death.
- Marina Warner’s review for the LRB of Thomas Laqueur’s The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains.
- Sarah Cowan writing in the Paris Review about American designers and filmmakers Charles and Ray Eames.
- Sean Cooper writing in Tablet about the great American documentarian Frederick Wiseman.
Writing by friends:
- Spencer Gardner’s excellent 3-part series for Strong Towns on zoning: part 1, part 2, part 3.
- Colin Gillis writing for Avidly about living in a smaller body after weight loss.
- Kyle Johnson’s podcast series about Olivier Messiaen, birdsong and classical music for Edge Effects.
- Julia Dauer writing about names and St. Jude for Entropy.
- Tom Schaub with the best story about Thomas Pynchon I’ve ever heard.
Featured image by Steve Halama