Book Recommendations

I’ve been reading a lot. That’s the benefit, I guess, of only having one class last semester. And I want to share with you some recommendations.

But before that, here’s a simple request. Currently I’m between books and having a hard time figuring out what to read next. Classes don’t start for another three weeks, and I have the ambition to read something on the longer side. So maybe I should read that book that Leslie suggested: Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Then again, I still have The Plot Against America from the last time I went to the bookstore; and I’m trying to do better about reading what I buy.

What do you think? What should I read next?

Okay, here are my recommendations. Just be aware: I’m rubbish at giving short synopses that don’t totally suck the life out of whatever I’m recommending.

Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead. An enjoyable novella about names, branding, growth, change, race, and (ultimately) ourselves. Tantalasia: “An emotional state, that muted area between desire and consummation.”

Willing by Scott Spencer. You might think I’d be apprehensive about recommending a novel about a down-on-his-luck author who goes undercover to take a high-priced sex tour, since it makes me sound a bit bawdy and the description will likely drive all sorts of unexpected traffic to my site. But I’m a sucker for a well-told, ambiguous morality tale that attempts to divine what our morals are in the Internet age. (p.s. – What’s up with not using quotation marks in fiction these days?)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. I have to admit that I like Harry Potter. I came to the party late — mostly because Lisa wanted to talk to me about book #5 — but I was very anxious for its release last year. If I remember right, I read the whole thing in, like, 20 minutes.

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Timothy Egan wrote an amazing book about the plow that literally broke the prairie and the folks on the southern Great Plains who toughed out the Dust Bowl. That period of American history is far, far worse than I had fathomed.

China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power. Rob Gifford is my everyday hero: smart, self-deprecating, ruggedly handsome. All of these fine attributes come through in the travelogue of his cross-China trip. Along the way he talks to politicians, dissidents, students, farmers, hermits, truckers, hookers, entrepreneurs, . . . everybody. And as NPR’s long-time China correspondent, he draws from a deep, deep well of knowledge and cultural sensitivity.

Terra Nullius: A Journey Through No One’s Land by Sven Lindqvist. Perhaps there’s something that gets lost in the translation of this book; yet despite its imperfect execution, it is a very thought-provoking treatise on collective guilt, reparations, and the legal fictions Europeans used to justify taking other people’s land. I was amazed to learn that Australians are just like Americans, only more so.

Foto: Modernity in Central Europe, 1918-1945. It would have been hard for this thick catalogue from a really wonderful exhibit at the National Gallery of Art to disappoint. But strange things happen in the world of art catalogues. Sometimes the images from the exhibit aren’t in the books. Or there’s no text. Or the text that does appear is hopeless art speak. This book has none of those problems. It’s as fresh as the Central European photographs it covers.

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