Recommendations 1/10/2021

I can't go on, I'll go on.

You may recognize the post’s subtitle as a fragment from Samuel Beckett’s The Unnameable. The whole sentence it belongs to goes like this:

Perhaps it's done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.

I went through a very intense Beckett phase in graduate school, and read the entire trilogy (Molloy, Malone Dies) that The Unnameable belongs to back then. I couldn’t say I understood it, though I’m not sure understanding is the goal of when it comes to Beckett. The Unnameable involves a narrator wondering if he actually exists in the world, or is just an artificial construction of language. The effect is to feel unmoored from the world, in a powerful, but not entirely pleasant way.

I think many of us have been feeling unmoored lately if not longer, years, or lifetimes. The desire to make sense of things is incredibly powerful and when so much is senseless, we are left with…I don’t know.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on” feels particularly apt to this moment, so I’m going to deliver some reading recommendations.

If you’d like to submit a list of your recent reads for a book recommendation for yourself, the instructions for consideration are here.

Links to the recommended books take you to The Biblioracle Recommends bookshopat Bookshop.org. Affiliate income for purchases through the bookshop goes to Open Books in Chicago.

This week’s column is about how I believe spending time trying to figure out which contemporary books are going to “last” isn’t worth much.

If you know anybody who might like to get once or twice weekly book recommendations, there’s some kind of button for sharing this post on here somewheres.

1. The Cold Millions by Jess Walter
2. Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope
3. Pursuit of Honor by Vince Flynn 
4. Do You Feel Like I Do? by Peter Frampton
5. The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Love of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times by Jerome Charyn

Tom M. - Chicago, IL

Tom tells me he likes to alternate fiction and nonfiction which means he’s looking for nonfiction, which brings to mind the most messed-up, simultaneously unbelievable, and yet totally believable story of a corporate scamming in recent memory, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou.

1. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
2. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
3. Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
4. All The Devils are Here by Louise Penny
5. Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

Kathy O. - Glen Ellyn, IL

There are some writers that you read and you know instantly that you will be reading them for the rest of your lifetime. Yaa Gyasi is one of those writers. I’m recommending that Kathy start with her first novel, Homegoing.

1. Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House by Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz.
2. The Order by Daniel Silva
3. A Room Full of Bones: A Ruth Galloway Mystery by Elly Griffiths
4. Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump by Michael Cohen.
5. Sycamore by John Grisham

Arnold R. - Wilmette, IL

While I was drawing breath at the time of Spiro Agnew (the focus of the book at the top of the list), I was too young to live through that history, and while I haven’t read Maddow’s book, I’ve listened to her talk about it on a couple of podcasts and the full story sounds mind-blowing. It strikes me that whenever big things happen we can plausibly say, “we’ve never been here before,” which is why ongoing vigilance is even more important. Anyway, Arnold should check out Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin.

1. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
2. Macdermots of Ballycloran by Anthony Trollope
3. Walking Zero by Chet Raymo
4. Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
5. I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary by Marianne Szegedy-Marszak

Rayna A. - Wheeling, IL

For Rayna I’m going to suggest one of the books invoked in the comments of last week’s “be the Biblioracle” experiment, The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra.