Wednesday, January 31, 2018


My reading life during 2017 focused on understanding the times in which I live, both at home and abroad.  To that end, I read countless articles, both in mainstream newspapers and online publications.  To hang on to my joy, I interspersed fiction runs, some of it pure escapism.  My mind and my soul thanked me.  So, on this last day of January, here are my significant reads for 2017, should some of them pique your curiosity.

Again this year, I made the most of my subscriptions to great newspapers. 
From the New York Times, I always read
·  Paul Krugman (anything he writes);
·  Charles Blow (check out The Lowest White Man);
The occasional columnists get me thinking too.  Try this article by Linda Greenhouse, The El Salvador Tragedy.

From The Washington Post, I usually click on anything by Jennifer Rubin,  E. J.  Dionne Jr., Dana Milbank, and cartoonist Tom Toles.  Check out the Opinion section here.  Phil Lee has a great op-ed on racism that hits close to home.

At the Globe and Mail, I look for perspectives from Margaret Wente and John Ibbitson.  Refreshing subjects and slants spur reflection on a range of subjects from stereotypes of Americans  to where to eat insmall-town Saskatchewan from Amy Rosen.

I’ve branched out to edgier publications as well, like the Establishment.  Ijeoma Oluo, for example, takes no prisoners in her piece on Trump supporters and white supremacists.

No wonder, then, with all this heavy stuff, that I often gravitate to what I hope might be lighter fare.  That’s how, about this time last year, I discovered Amy Krouse Rosenthal in the New York Times, with You Might Want to Marry My Husband.  No spoilers here—let’s just say that, after reading this piece, I read as much of AKR as I could find, purchased her books for my grandchildren, and sent a few in my daughter-in-law’s direction.  Although there are so many yet to explore, here are some  favorites:
This Plus that
! Exclamation Mark
Little Pea
I Wish You More
That’s Me Loving You
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

What were some of the fiction highlights?
·  The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, no less powerful because I saw the series first, is an eloquent and stark representation of the speed with which our world can change when we’re not looking, when, as Atwood puts it, we are living in between the lines and in the margins of the newspaper articles alerting us to danger.

·  Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, all four of them.  Ferrante can astound with penetrating insight one minute, as she does in The Story of the Lost Child, where she comments: To carry out any project to which you attach your own name you have to love yourself, and shock you the next.    Be prepared for violence and abuse at the cellular level of family.  These are tough and disturbing reads.

·  The Buried Giant from 2017 Nobel Prize winner for literature,  
  Kazuo Ishiguro, a tale of an elderly couple searching for their past and their son,  as well as
·  Never Let Me Go from the same author,  the story of young people cloned to supply transplant organs to the affluent class.  Both books ask questions about memory.  Ishiguro wonders about the circumstances when either remembering or forgetting are advantages or disadvantages.  

In non-fiction books, I recommend
·  American Fascists:  The Christian Right and the War on America  (2008) by Chris Hedges.  I admire Hedges’ work, having read The Empire of Illusion: The End of LIteracy and the Triumph of Spectacle years ago.   With implacable clarity, he exposes the changes in values the Christian Right imposes on society.  Look for his articles and interviews at Truthdig.

·  The First Coming : How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity by Thomas Sheehan (1986).  A séminal read in my faith life, this account of the life of Jesus centers on his efforts to live the kingdom of God in the present. 

Not much respite in that catalogue, is there?  Lots of heavy reads, reflective of our times.  I wonder if my penchant for disturbing non-fiction combines my sense of duty with a rebuke of all the distractions society provides to keep us from noticing what's going on.  As the Post reminds us, "Democracy dies in darkness."  Best to be as aware as we can manage.

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