Recommendations 1/20/2021

Room to read

Nothing is fixed, but at least the guy actively trying to wreck things is gone.

As Amanda Gorman put it in her inaugural poem, “We’ve seen a force that would shatter the nation, rather than share it.”

In my Chicago Tribune column, I would occasionally jest at the previous president’s expense, which would always trigger emails of complaint from his supporters. If any of them followed me here, perhaps they’ll be exiting, though I hope not. The only column that has come close to engendering the same volume of negative response was when I declared that no one should feel obligated to read the “classics” like Moby Dick.

The chaos engendered by the previous president that I allowed to colonize some part of my consciousness, combined with the terribleness of the pandemic has at times made reading impossible, and other times a necessary escape. Last April, I wrote about how hard it was to read because I was pretty certain I was grieving. A good dozen readers wrote back to me and said, “same.” Over time, it got easier and now, my reading practice is vital to my own equilibrium.

I watched the inaugural this afternoon. Tonight I’m going to escape into Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami, which is one of the selections for this year’s Tournament of Books. If you’re not familiar with the Tournament of Books, follow that link, you’re in for some fun.

I hope your reading is going well.

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 bookshop at Bookshop.org. Affiliate income for purchases through the bookshop goes to Open Books in Chicago.

If you know anybody who might like to get once or twice weekly book recommendations, share, share, share.

1. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
2. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
3. Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
4. Himself by Jess Kidd
5. A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

Christine C. - Skokie, IL

As much as I project an all-knowing authority about books, in truth, a small fraction of what I might be interested in ever reaches my attention. A good way for me to discover books for myself is to look at the lists of what others are reading. In this case, I wasn’t aware of Conjure Women, but it sounds pretty terrific. For Christine, I’m going to guess that the off-kilter nature of A.M. Homes’ May We Be Forgiven will capture her fancy.

1. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
2. The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt 
3. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
4. Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
5. Some Women by Emily Liebert

Amanda G. - Lisle, IL

I’m also realizing that since this is my joint I can comment on anything I want and share anything I want. In this case, it’s a blog post I wrote at my other steady gig for Inside Higher Ed about what Coddling the American Mind gets wrong. Those who know that book may find it interesting. For Amanda, I’m recommending a novelist who I think is one of our best working today, but who isn’t widely known, Michelle Huneven’s Blame.

1. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hill by Robert Dugoni
2. Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman
3. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
4. Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin
5. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Beth G. - Yorkville, IL

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person in the country who hasn’t read A Gentleman in Moscow. Should I? Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid was one of my favorites of 2020, and if Beth hasn’t read it, I think she’ll dig it and then she’ll be prepared for the inevitable limited run TV series that must be made from it if there is any justice in the world.