December 2018 Book List

Books new 2 TheEconomist

It’s time for the December 2018 Book List. December is often not the best month for newly published books since people are looking backward to pick their best books of the past year, but that is not so true this year. With the holidays coming up there is a book on this list to interest almost every adult on your gift list. There is crime, fantasy, art, picture books (coffee table), mystery, music, romance, America’s foreign policy and our role in the world, Dungeons and Dragons, graphic novels, biographies and memoirs, books on feminism, books on racism, books on beauty. I love the idea of all these books, but of course I cannot read them all. My quick picks are followed by an asterisk but I may change my mind or get tantalized by some other title on this month’s list. Happy holidays, peace on earth, and I hope you get to read at least one great book this month.

 

Amazon

 

Literature and Fiction

North of the Dawn: A Novel by Nurrudin Farah

The Dakota Winters: A Novel by Tom Barbash

The Songbird by Marcia Willett

The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke, Carlos Rojas

Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

Once Upon a River: a Novel by Diane Setterfield

Trying by Emily Phillips

Milkman: A Novel by Anna Burns*

Mystery and Thriller

The Mansion: A Novel by Ezekiel Boone

Broken Ground (Karen Pirie) by Val McDermid

Watching You: A Novel by Lisa Jewell

Once Upon a River: A Novel by Diane Setterfield

Milkman: A Novel by Anna Burns

Pandemic by Robin Cook

The Kingdom of the Blind: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak

Biographies and Memoirs

Never Grow Up by Jackie Chan

My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen

King of the Dinosaur Hunters: The Life of John Bell Hatcher and the Discoveries that Shaped Paleontology by Lowell Dingus

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love and Food by Ann Hood

All That Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson by Mark Griffin

The Warner Boys: Our Family’s Story of Autism and Hope by Curt Warner, Ava Warner with Dave Boling

Daniel Morgan: A Revolutionary Life by Albert Louis Zambone

The Annotated Memoirs of Ulysses S Grant by Ulysses S Grant, Elizabeth Somet

Bring It On Home: Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin and Beyond-The Story of Rock’s Greatest Manager by Mark Blake

Nonfiction

The Atom: A Visual Tour (The MIT Press) by Jack Challoner

This Is Cuba: An American Journalist Under Castro’s Shadow by David Aristo

Theater of the World: The Maps that Made History by Thomas Reinerstsen Berg, Alison McCullough

Congo Stories: Battling Five Centuries of Exploitation and Greed by John Pendergast, Fidel Bafilemba, Sam Ilus (illustrator)

McSweeney’s Issue 54: The End of Trust by Dave Eggers, Julia Angwin, Madeline Ashby

Influenza: The Hundred Year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in History by Dr. Jeremy Brown

You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero

Unruly Waters: How Rains, Rivers, Coasts and Seas have Shaped Asia’s History by Sunil Amrith

Dear Los Angeles: the City in Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018 (Modern Library) by David Kipen

Science Fiction

Bright Light: Star Carrier: Book Eight by Ian Douglas

The Day the Sun Died by Yan Lianke and Carlos Rojas

Sword Heart by T. Kingfisher

The Frame-Up (The Golden Arrow Mysteries) by Meghan Scott Molin

Marked By Stars (Songs of the Amaranthine, Book 1) by Forthright

Blood and Bone: Chronicles of the One, Book 2 by Nora Roberts *

The Razor by J. Barton Mitchell

The Mortal Word (The Invisible Library Novel) by Genevieve Cogman

 

New York Times Book Review

 

Nov. 11

Nonfiction

Frederick Douglas by David W. Blight

The Souls of Yellow Folk by Wesley Yang (essays)

Always Another Country: A Memoirs of Exile and Home by Sisonke Msimang

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. 2 edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kubil

Heart by Sandup Janhar

Becoming by Michelle Obama

The Shortlist

Consent on Campus: A Manifesto by Donna Freitas

Equality for Women = Prosperity for all by Augusto Lopez-Claros and Bahiyyih Nakhjavani

Can We All Be Feminists?: Seventeen Writers on Intersectionality, Identity, and Way Forward for Feminism by June Eric-Udorie

Fiction

Gone So Long by Andre Dubus III

Fiction (women with cancer)

Craving by Esther Gerritson, trans. by Michele Huchinson

The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett

Fiction (cont.)

The Novel of Ferrar by Giorgio Bassoni

Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return by Martin Riker

Night of Camp David: What Would Happen if the President of USA Went Stark-Raving Mad? By Fletcher Knebel (new reprint)

Nov. 18

Audiobooks

Accessory to War by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Parker: Selected Stories by Dorothy Parker read by Elaine Stritch

Patti Smith at the Minetta Lane: Words and Music by Patti Smith, read by the author

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, read by Richard Armitage

My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper, read by the author

Out of My Mind by Alan Arkin, read by the author

We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Dark Racial Divide by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden, read by Robin Miles

We Say #Never Again, edited by Melissa Falkowski and Eric Garner, read by Melissa Falkowski, Eric Garner and the Parkland student journalists

Fiction

The Feral Detective by Jonathan Letham

Scribe by Alyson Hagy

Love Songs for a Lost Continent by Anita Felicelli

Useful Phrases for Immigrants by May-Lee Chai

Destroy All Monsters by Jeff Jackson

Nonfiction

(5 Books About Being Jewish in America)

The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion by Steven R Weisman

The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice their Religion Today by Jack Wertheimer

The Jewish American Paradox: Embracing Choice in a Changing World by Robert Mnookin

God is in the Crowd: Twenty-First Century Judaism by Tal Keinan

Dear Zealots: Letters From a Divided Land (Essays)

General nonfiction

Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts

Best of Enemies by Gus Russo and Eric Dezenhall

Storm Lake by Art Cullen

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

The Red and the Blue by Steve Kornacki

Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture by Ed Morales

The Shortlist (Americas’s Role in the World)

A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism by Jeffrey Sachs

Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower by Michael Beckley *

The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World by Robert Kagan *

Nov. 25

Nonfiction

Debussey: A Painter in Sound by Stephen Walsh

Fryderyk Chopin by Alan Walker

Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 by Max Hastings*

The Hell of Good Intentions by Stephen M. Walt *

Schumann: The Faces and the Masks by Judith Chernaik

There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald

In Extremis: The Life and Death of the War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum

I Am Dynamite! A Life of Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux

Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming. Who You Are by John Kaag

A Graphic Tribute to Anne Sexton by Katie Fricas

Dec 2

Fiction

(Other worldly)

Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (fourth part of Murderbot Diaries) *

Ghostographs: An Album by Maria Romasco Moore

The Monster of Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (second in a series)

Heresy by Melissa Lenhardt

Romance

Consumed by J R Ward

High Risk by Brenna Aubrey

Beautiful Sinner by Sophie Jordan

Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon

General Fiction

An Almost Perfect Christmas by Ruth Reichl

Berlin by Jason Lutes (graphic novel)

The Waiter by Matias Faldbakhen

Jeeves and the King of Clubs by Ben Schott

The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey *

Crime novels

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Bryant and May: Hall of Mirrors by Christopher Fowler

The Shadows We Hide by Allen Eskens

Suitcase Charlie by John Guzlowski

More Fiction

The Last Poets by Christine Otten

Nonfiction

Hungover by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall

(3 Art Books)

Henry Taylor: The Only Portrait I Ever Painted of My Mama was Stolen by Sarah Lewis, Charles Gaines, Zadie Smith, and Rachel Kaadzi Ghansak

The Sweet Flypaper of Life by Ray De Carava and Langston Hughes

I Too Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 by Will Haygood

Magnum China edited by Colin Pantall and Zheng Ziyu, add. Text by Jonathan Fenby (photos)

Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly by Joshua Rivkin

Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History by Michael Witmer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer

Food on the Move: Dining on the Legendary Railway Journeys of the World edited by Sharon Hudgins (essays)

 

Publisher’s Weekly

 

Nov 9

Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy (mystery)

Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters edited by David Kipen (NF)

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas (F)

Hearts of the Missing by Carol Potenza (mystery)

The Blood by E S Thomson (crime

Eighteen Below: A Fabian Risk Novel by Stefan Ahnhem, trans. from the Swedish by Rachel Wilson-Broyles (F)

King of the Road by R S Belcher (F)

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren (F) (rom-com)

Deep War: The War with China and North Korea – The Nuclear Precipice by David Poyer (NF)

On Thomas Merton by Mary Gordon (Bio)

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys (NF)

Army of Empire: The Untold Story of the Indian Army in World War I by George Morton-Jack (NF)

The Kansas City Star Quilts Sampler: 60+ Blocks from 1928-1961 by Barbara Brackman (Art Picture Book)

A King in Cobwebs by David Keck (Fantasy)

Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages by Gaston Dorren (NF)

Hunting Game by Helene Tursten, trans. from the Swedish by Paul Norlen (crime)

Nov 16

Faking It: The Lies Women Tell About Sex—and the Truths They Reveal by Lux Alptraum (NF)

City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender (Fantasy)

The Houseguest by Amparo Davilia, trans. from the Spanish by Audrey Haris and Matthew Gleeson (Short stories)

I Am Young by M. Dean (Short stories)

All the Life We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy (F)

Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St. Vincent (F)

Your Place in the Universe: Understanding Our Big, Messy Existence by Paul M Sutter (NF)

Dec 3

The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash * (F)

Cold, Cold Heart by A J Cross (F)

Photo Credits: From a Google Image Search – The Economist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America: The Farewell Tour – Book

America - Hedges 2 Forum Network

Chris Hedge’s book America: The Farewell Tourbegins with a chapter entitled “Decay”:

“I walked down a long service road into the remains of an abandoned lace factory. The road was pocked with holes filled with fetid water. There were saplings and weeds poking up from the cracks in the asphalt. Wooden crates, rusty machinery, broken glass, hulks of old filing cabinets and trash covered the grounds.”

His prose is personal and relatable. He is a well-respected journalist and does not ride a desk. He goes out to meet the world and provides plenty of anecdotal backup for the points he makes. He also recognizes that anecdotes need to be backed up by overviews that offer data collected by organizations who study these issues. Everything is footnoted and properly attributed as you would expect from someone who attended Colgate and Harvard (Divinity School). He has bona fides; he knows how to do research. Other chapters include: Heroin, Work, Sadism, Hate, Gambling, Freedom. However Hedges also had a thesis in mind when he began, and so the material in this book is not scientific in that sense. If you know what you want to find in advance it can affect what you observe.

The city that is home to the abandoned lace factory is Scranton, PA which leads into the challenges faced by the city leaders who find their city on the edge of bankruptcy. His point is that the lace factory  is emblematic, “is America”, as is the city of Scranton.

Chris Hedges tells us, in his tale of American decay, that he is a socialist. He quotes Karl Marx, a Communist. He says Karl Marx knew:

“that the reigning ideologies—think corporate capitalism with its belief in deindustrialization, deregulation, privatization of public assets, austerity, slashing of social service programs, and huge reductions in government spending—were created to serve the interests of the economic elites.”

However, he adds

“The acceleration of deindustrialization by the 1970’s created a crisis that forced the ruling class to devise a new political paradigm…This paradigm, trumpeted by a compliant media shifted its focus from the common good to race, crime, and law and order. It told those undergoing profound economic and political change that their suffering stemmed not from corporate greed, but from a threat to national integrity. The old consensus that buttressed the programs of the New Deal and the welfare state was attacked as enabling criminal black youth, welfare queens, and social parasites. The parasites were to blame. This opened the door to authoritarian populism.”

Hedges believes we are “witness-[ing] the denouement of capitalism”. He goes on to paint a pretty grim picture of America, a snapshot of our less than stellar moment in time here at the beginning of the 21stcentury. Addiction destroys individuals but it also is a symptom of rot in a culture. The kinds of work and the way work in America has changed has caused a decline in worker’s pride in their work, in their prosperity, and is turning us into corporate serfs. Lots of evidence is offered for these contentions.

Sadism is real, but, thankfully does not crop up often in my little world but Hedges goes to speak with the people who provide such experiences, and with other sex workers. This information is very graphic and I confess that I sometimes had to skip the details and seek out the conclusions Hedges arrived at. We need to understand the male domination in our culture and the abuse of women and if just reading about this aspect of American culture takes you to a dark place, you can imagine what it does to women (and exploited men) who feel this is the only way they can make a living. Hate and Gambling are further signs of the decay we see all around us in America. The chapter on Freedom begins with a discussion of incarceration as a tool of the capitalist elite to control populations with the most reason to resist or revolt. Also included is the Native American movement to block tar sand pipelines in South Dakota and the use of military might against people who were peacefully protesting.

I never read Chris Hedges before except for an old article in the Christian Science Monitorbecause I believed that our politics were very different but after reading this book I think we have more in common than not. However, I cannot blame problems on “isms”. The ways we organize economies are neither inherently good nor bad. Capitalism is not bad, but capitalists certainly can be. We have seen enough of unregulated capitalism to know that it gives full scope to the greediest, meanest impulses that reside in all of us very flawed humans.

Clearly though, the same weaknesses can be found in Communism and Socialism, because the defects are in us. We know that our natures are full of paradoxes. We all have a best self and a worst self and lots of degrees in between. We can rationalize that our worst behavior is beneficial with shocking ease. Communism, which lifted up those who had been oppressed, did solve the problems of inequality for a tiny minute (everyone was poor), except the Soviet Union got hung up on issues of purity and they began to purge anyone whose ideology was not pure enough. This is a trend we are finding in America right now, without the gulags (or, are our prisons our gulags).

This is where I differ from Mr. Hedges. I don’t think simply switching to socialism will magically save our democracy from decay and ruin. I do agree that what we have in America right now is nothing like the democracy/republic our forefathers foresaw.

“Our capitalist elites have used propaganda, money, and the marginalizing of their critics to erase the first three of philosopher John Locke’s elements of the perfect state: liberty, equality, and freedom.”…”Liberty and freedom in the corporate state mean the liberty and freedom of corporations and the rich to exploit and pillage without government interference or regulatory oversight.”

Hedges finds Republicans and Democrats equally guilty of turning America into a corporate state. I see the Democrats as more likely to feel some shame about this, and I also think that Democrats have not had many opportunities to introduce meaningful reforms because their power has been limited by a pretty successful Republican power grab. Hedges has some recommendations for strategies that we the people can employ to wrest back power from the corporations and the elite but he admits it will not be easy.

“All of the movements that opened up the democratic space in America—the abolitionists, the suffragists, the labor movement, the communists, the socialists, the anarchists, and the civil rights movement—developed a critical mass that forced the centers of power to respond. The platitudes about justice, equality, and democracy are just that. Only when ruling elites become worried about survival do they react. Appealing to the better nature of the powerful is useless. They don’t have one.”

I can agree with many of the progressive policies that Hedges supports although I do not call these programs socialist. The elites label these ideas as socialist to stigmatize them.

“…mechanisms that could ameliorate this crisis—affordable housing; well-paying jobs; safe, well-staffed, and well-funded schools and colleges that do not charge tuition; expanded mental health facilities; good public transportation; the rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure; demilitarized police forces; universal government-funded health care; an end to predatory loans and practices of big banks; and a campaign to pay reparations to African Americans and end racial segregation.”

In a democracy we the people are meant to determine how our tax dollars are divvied up. If we want the federal government to manage utilities because it is fairer and more convenient and offers greater equality of access, then that is a democratic decision to use a socialist strategy for economic reasons. In other areas we might find that regulated capitalism works best, or it might make sense to make room for communal arrangements, or to even employ bartering if that suits the situation.

It is impossible to cover all that is in this book in a short commentary, but it is a deep dive into the maladies affecting America, which the Trump presidency did not cause, although the transparent looting of America by the Trump family and friends makes the direction we are headed much easier to predict. In America: The Farewell Tour, Chris Hedges focuses on capitalism as the real culprit in the decline of the quality most of us find in our lives in modern America and it is not just about money, but much, much more. This one is well worth reading and you should not let political prejudices stop you.