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So Complicated

Action Tuesday: Let's Read

I just love Goodreads!  It's like a virtual library . . . you can wander through all the virtual bookshelves you could ever imagine.  It's such a handy place to keep track of books you've read, books you want to read, the books your friends read.  You can write reviews and award stars.  There are even virtual book groups and author book talks.  

And, best of all, at the end of the year, Goodreads provides you with your reading stats.

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In looking through my year-end stats on Goodreads, I see that I gave 26 books a 5-star rating. In fact, my average rating for the year was just over 4 stars . . . which tells me I'm a pretty good judge about the kinds of books I'm going to like to read!

If I were going to pick my 5 favorite books in 2016, it would be these:

I've already made a good start with my 2017 reading.  I have a few specific goals.  

  • First, in terms of quantity, I set my Goodreads Challenge at 75 books this year.  This is an increase, but manageable.  And, truth be told, much more in line with the # of books I typically read in a year.
  • Next, in terms of quality, I always have a goal of reading many/most of the nominees from my favorite book awards:  The Orange Prize, The Man Booker Prize, and the National Book Award.  (I have never read ALL of the nominees.  Ever.  But it's always my goal!)
  • And, new for me this year, I want to try to read books that will shake up my perspective and worldview a bit.  You see, since the election this year, I have come to realize that I really and truly hang out in a very specific . . . bubble!  I need to get outside that bubble - even if I don't want to, and even if it's going to make me uncomfortable.  

In other words, this year I'm going to read a few books that I might never (in a million years) choose to read otherwise.

It's another way to take ACTION:  to learn; to expand our perspective; to get out from under our bubbles.  In the words of New York Times columnist Ross Douthat*, reading books that critique Western liberalism can give us a "clearer sense of [our] own worldviews, limits, blind spots, blunders and internal contradictions."

With that it mind, I'm planning to read a couple of books already on my Goodreads To-Read shelf.  These two are books that might help me understand the "red state" thing from a different perspective: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning in the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild.

I'm thinking about reading How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley.  Although this one looks a bit ... academic ... it might help me understand how propaganda is working to undermine democracy, and maybe get my head around this whole "post-truth" concept.

I'll definitely read this article in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  His writing always challenges my  thinking -- and it's essential to understand the racial element of Trumpism.

Ross Douthat of the NY Times recommends The Revolt of the Elites by Christopher Lasch and Who Are We? The Challenges to American National Identity by Samuel P. Huntington.  According to Douthat, both of these books illustrate how Western elite has "burned the candle at both ends," resulting in a rather gross mis-read of the political situation in both Europe and the United States.  

These books will not be "light" reading at all, and - in fact - many of these titles sound downright disturbing to me.  But.  I will be reading at least a few of these books this year.  Because it's important to understand the context of our world.

Bottom line?  READ something unexpected.  Step out of your bubble.  

That's ACTION!

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You can read Ross Douthat's recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Books for the Trump Era, here.

Comments

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Juliann

I just started Hillbilly Ellegy. Have you read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson? I read it when it came out but planning to reread before I hear him speak in March.

AsKatKnits

Reading for a revolution is what we all need to be doing! Good recommendations here, thank you! XO

Patty

I have Hillbilly Ellegy in the back of my mind and saw the author on Sunday morning television this past weekend. Thank-you for helping me to be a bigger thinker. xo

Debbie

Hillbilly Elegy was an eyeopener for me and I enjoyed reading it. I would also recommend two other books: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and Deep South by Paul Theroux. Thank you for your recommendations!

Gale Zucker (she shoots sheep shots)

aaagh! I want to climb way way deepr into my bubble. For gour years, at least.
But that's not possible. I think Hillbilly Elegy will be on my reading list, too. And maybe the Paul Theroux too.

Bonny

I often read for comfort, escape, and for the appreciation of excellent writing, and my non-fiction choices are mainly science and nature, but I thank you for helping me begin to escape my own bubble. I don't know if reading Hillbilly Elegy and Strangers in Their Own Land will help me feel better about the next four years, but they will hopefully broaden my understanding, increase my empathy, and learn how to deal with my confusion and despair over the state of our country.

Carole

Great advice. Dale has been encouraging me to read Confederates in the Attic to better understand how racism works in the south. Maybe I'll take your advice and actually read it.

margene

Great job of reading last year! I agree with your top 5 choices for books this year (except the Eve Ensler as I haven't read it). The Atlantic is one of my go to daily reads. Coates article is fantastic, as is his 4 part interview with President Obama.

Geri

When I retired I made it a goal to read more non fiction. Then I began to drift back to more fiction. Time to press the reset button. I've heard J D Vance on NPR and found him fascinating. Hillbilly Ellegy is on my list. Thanks for reminding me and happy reading!

Jo

This post made me feel almost frantic to get reading! And to step into my discomfort zone! Less acebook time and more NY Times! Thank you for the inspiration.

Mary

Great post, Kym! Looking back at my 2015 and 2016 reading, a few of my favorite books came from the reading challenges that forced me outside my comfort zone (Between the World and Me, Invisible Man, Emperor of Maladies). I definitely want to continue that kind of reading this year. On a related note, I was thinking about Summer Book Bingo categories and was planning to include something along the lines of "a book that takes you outside your comfort zone" - I think we should also include something along the lines of your "take action" TBR - could you help me think of a snippet we could use to capture that? Thank you!

kmkat

Add Don't Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff to your list. It may help in discussions with *others*.

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