Commenter Book Recommendations: Gift Guide 2018 #3

Steve’s book gift guide will be here soon. Warning: his list this year is full of Puritan and Native American history books, because after doing lots of genealogy work, he found out his Puritan ancestors’ cousins were abducted by Indians and dragged off to Canada.

In the mean time, why don’t you all share your favorite books for the year? I’ll hyperlink your responses to Amazon. All genres are welcome.

Okay, let’s go.

Y81: “Twelve Rules for Life” and “The Three Body Problem.”

Wendy’s romance recs:
The Hollow of Fear, Sherry Thomas
The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang
Lethal White, Robert Galbraith
Hate Notes, Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
Duke of Shadows, Meredith Duran
Hard Knocks, Ruby Lang
Burn For Me, Ilona Andrews
SEAL Camp, Suzanne Brockmann
Wanna Bet? Talia Hibbert
Jane Doe, Victoria Helen Stone

Wendy’s husband’s recs:
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Steven Pinker
At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, Michael Pollan

John B. — Churchill: Walking With Destiny by Andrew Roberts.

  • From Sandra
  • How to Stop Time – Matt Haig – love the time-traveling story
  • Beartown + Us Against You – both by Fredrik Backman – small-town, hockey, lots of interconnected people and their stories – I think growing up in a small town on the prairies drew me to these two books
  • The Witch Elm – Tana French – A stand alone novel (not part of her Dublin series) that is the best one that I’ve read so far to tackle privilege. Great characters, writing and dialogue. A version of one of my fave genres – “getting the band back together” where you read about a group of friends and/or family over a number of years.
  • An American Marriage – Tayari Jones – from last year but read it if you haven’t yet
  • Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue – the Lehman Brothers crash in novel form from the perspective of a number of different people. A good companion novel to Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (Sunil Yapa) from a few years ago about the WTO protests in Seattle.
  • the Dry + Force of Nature – both by Jane Harper – I’ll read anything she writes – small town Oz detective

 

  • From AF
  • Lincoln in the Bardo (Saunders) – really interesting and weird. I liked it a lot.
  • Born A Crime (Trevor Noah’s autobiography). Some South African history I didn’t know or had forgotten. He’s had quite a life.
  • How It All Began (Penelope Lively) – intertwined stories, related people of different ages and backgrounds, well put-together. Not a rave but a pretty good read.
  • I tried to push myself through Sing Unburied Sing but couldn’t do it – too depressing at a time when I wasn’t up for being depressed. It seemed like it would be worthwhile if I had. I did not like Beatty’s The Sellout but others did.
  • I’ve now reread Anna Karenina twice to teach it for a grad-level humanities class and it holds up. Students, including an African American campus police detective who does not read novels, loved it too. Get the Volkhonsky and Pevear translation.
  • For the same class, I poked around and found a good book on early women’s suffrage efforts called Untidy Origins. It’s fun because the author has to poke around in all sorts of obscure records to put together what happened with a small group of women who filed a petition with New York State. This year I’m using another new book, Jennifer Graber’s The Gods of Indian Country: Religion and the Struggle for the American West. I haven’t read it yet but have really liked her other writings.
  • I always get the newest Flavia de Luce and First Ladies Detective Agency books. I’m reading the current Flavia now and enjoying it. One of my friends is really into the Louise Penney series and I might start that sometime.

 

  • From Doug
  • The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine, as good as it is long
  • The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, a novel about Russia that isn’t ginormous
  • Words Are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin, essays and insights (Interviewer: Would you prefer to win the Hugo or the National Book Award? UKL: The Nobel, of course.)
  • Any Day Now by Terry Bisson, is awfully close to being the fourth perfect book
  • The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St Clair, great as an object that illustrates its thesis
  • The Gatekeepers by Chris Whipple, how the White House chief of staff position is essentially a solved problem in politics, with an added chapter on how the Trump people managed to screw it up in all of the known ways
  • War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, definitely a late-1980s book and still awesome
  • I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, the last great Discworld book (even though Raising Steam works better than it should)
  • Soviet Bus Stops (Volumes I and II) by Christopher Herwig, no really
  • Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner is in fact one of the perfect books
  • The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, fast and loopy and not like anything else

 

  • From Amy P
  • This is the most important book I’ve read in years: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40611244-how-not-to-hate-your-husband-after-kids. I think everybody who is getting married or having kids or thinking about it or knows anybody who is married or has kids needs to read that book. Not that it has all of the answers, but it’s important to know what the questions are.
  • Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West
  • Is It You, Me or Adult A.D.D. (Gina Pera has an excellent website at adhdrollercoaster.org)
  • I’m currently reading Delivered from Distraction, which is the sequel to the ADHD classic Driven to Distraction.

 

  • From Cranberry
  • If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together, by James Sexton

50 thoughts on “Commenter Book Recommendations: Gift Guide 2018 #3

  1. O, that happened to one of my ancestors. There was a book, “The Unredeemed Captive,” by John Demos, about the event. My ancestress was not the eponymous unredeemed captive of the title, but another victim, who was forced to walk from Deerfield to Quebec in mid-winter while 8 months pregnant,

    Like

  2. The books that I read this year that I remember were “Twelve Rules for Life” and “The Three Body Problem.” The former has been discussed by everyone else on the internet, so I won’t say anything except that I usually consider it advisable to read any book that becomes a cultural event at that level. The latter was, among other things, an interesting portrayal of the Cultural Revolution. My big historical questions for the past few years have been “why the English?” (to invent liberal democracy and industrial capitalism) and “why the Americans?” (to have the only major revolution that didn’t turn into a dictatorship). I’m not ready to learn a lot about the Chinese, however, since I don’t fully understand the French.

    Like

    1. ey81 said,

      “My big historical questions for the past few years have been “why the English?” (to invent liberal democracy and industrial capitalism) and “why the Americans?” (to have the only major revolution that didn’t turn into a dictatorship).”

      The first question is the one Jonah Goldberg talks about in Suicide of the West.

      He doesn’t really solve it, but he does present it.

      Like

      1. Not in the least. It’s like saying how can you be a liberal democracy when you have a religious test for civil liberties.

        Like

      2. “[H]ow come my ancestors didn’t get to vote until they came to America?”

        Not sure without more facts: either they were Irish, and democracy doesn’t apply to conquered provinces; or they were Catholic, and the English didn’t invent religious liberty (although Catholics in England did a lot better than my Huguenot ancestors in France, or my Jewish cousins in Nazi-occupied Hungary); or they were poor and landless, and left England before the democracy part of liberal democracy was completely implemented. Is there some other candidate than the English for the inventors of liberal democracy?

        Like

      3. ey81 said,

        “Is there some other candidate than the English for the inventors of liberal democracy?”

        Yeah.

        And is it reasonable to expect that the inventors of something would first roll out the version with all the bells and whistles?

        You have to expect that the prototype is going to be pretty rough.

        Like

      4. Irish. I don’t think you can count Ireland as a captive province after the United Kingdom was created. Maybe it was before then, but then decided it would rather stop.

        Like

      5. “then decided it would rather stop.”–I don’t think most of the Irish population decided to join the United Kingdom.

        I find this whole discussion very puzzling. Who do you think invented liberal democracy? No doubt a somewhat imperfect one at first (my Puritan ancestors left, after all, and my nonconformist ancestors who remained faced civil disabilities, including being barred from university attendance), but a lot freer than France or Germany. And the English polity was on a road to steadily increasing freedom and democracy, which would be a very odd description of French or German history. So who?

        Like

      6. “to invent liberal democracy and industrial capitalism”

        True fact: The share of the Polish population that could vote to elect the king until 1795 (when the neighbors did away with the Polish monarchy, and indeed, for a time, Poland) was higher than the share of the British population that could vote for Parliament any time before the Great Reform of 1832.

        Another true fact: The Sejm established its supremacy in 1505, long before the Brits did in 1688, and they didn’t need a successful Dutch invasion to do it, either.

        Like

    2. “I’m not ready to learn a lot about the Chinese, however, since I don’t fully understand the French.” This is a great line, worth further examination. How much longer do you think it will take you to fully understand the French? Do you fully understand the Americans and the English? How did that happen? Do you think that’s the way understanding works best, starting with one country and then (perhaps years later) moving to the next?

      There’s a lot of good options for mocking here (“I’m not ready to learn a lot about taking care of babies, since I don’t fully understand the French”; “I’m not ready to learn a lot about plumbing, since I don’t fully understand the French”) but I’m seriously interested in this conception of history.

      Like

      1. “There’s a lot of good options for mocking here (“I’m not ready to learn a lot about taking care of babies, since I don’t fully understand the French”; “I’m not ready to learn a lot about plumbing, since I don’t fully understand the French”) but I’m seriously interested in this conception of history.”

        Hey, I think we may have discovered the all-purpose excuse!

        It’s a good thing!

        Like

      2. I might never get to China. Of the making of books there is no end, and I will never learn all there is to learn.

        Yes, I think I understand English and American history, as well as anyone else in the world, i.e., I almost never read anything by a leading historical scholar of those countries that strikes me as a major revelation. I don’t think I understand French history anywhere near that well.

        Like

  3. Wendy’s romance recs:
    The Hollow of Fear, Sherry Thomas
    The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang
    Lethal White, Robert Galbraith
    Hate Notes, Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
    Duke of Shadows, Meredith Duran
    Hard Knocks, Ruby Lang
    Burn For Me, Ilona Andrews
    SEAL Camp, Suzanne Brockmann
    Wanna Bet? Talia Hibbert
    Jane Doe, Victoria Helen Stone

    Wendy’s husband’s recs:
    Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Steven Pinker
    At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson
    How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, Michael Pollan

    Like

      1. They’re even better when you reread them all again having read the third. Not that I have done that 2 or 3 times. 😀

        Like

  4. Some of my faves from this past year (and the year before I think too):

    How to Stop Time – Matt Haig

    – love the time-traveling story

    Beartown + Us Against You – both by Fredrik Backman

    – small-town, hockey, lots of interconnected people and their stories
    – I think growing up in a small town on the prairies drew me to these two books

    The Witch Elm – Tana French

    A stand alone novel (not part of her Dublin series) that is the best one that I’ve read so far to tackle privilege. Great characters, writing and dialogue. A version of one of my fave genres – “getting the band back together” where you read about a group of friends and/or family over a number of years.

    An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

    – from last year but read it if you haven’t yet

    Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue

    – the Lehman Brothers crash in novel form from the perspective of a number of different people. A good companion novel to Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (Sunil Yapa) from a few years ago about the WTO protests in Seattle.

    the Dry + Force of Nature – both by Jane Harper

    – I’ll read anything she writes
    – small town Oz detective

    And I’ll add a few recommendations for tv series from the past year or two – tell me a good story, whether it be in print form or on the screen:

    The Split

    – 6 episode BBC series about an intergenerational family law firm in London. Starring Nicola Walker (I’ll see her in anything and will see her on the stage in London in January).
    – written by Abi Morgan who also wrote The Hour and River
    – clever, realistic dialogue
    – fabulously filmed dinner and party scenes

    River

    – 6 episode series starring Nicola Walker and Stellan Skarsgard
    – atypical detective show set in London
    – should have received much more recognition than it did

    Schitt’s Creek

    – might as well plug some dry, witty, Canadian humour!
    – what I originally thought was a Dan Levy vanity project has turned out to be 4 seasons (and soon to be 5 in January) of great fun
    – also has one to THE best written and acted romances ever

    Like

      1. Does it matter? It’s been so much fun. I didn’t like the first season, but after I was convinced to see season 4, I went back and started over.

        Like

      2. I’ve seen a few eps. I read spoilers, but I just don’t know which romance you’re referring to. Is it the one with Dan Levy?

        Like

  5. I had to look back over my book group list for the year since I’m not reading much fiction outside of that. Recs from that are:

    Lincoln in the Bardo (Saunders) – really interesting and weird. I liked it a lot.

    Born A Crime (Trevor Noah’s autobiography). Some South African history I didn’t know or had forgotten. He’s had quite a life.

    How It All Began (Penelope Lively) – intertwined stories, related people of different ages and backgrounds, well put-together. Not a rave but a pretty good read.

    I tried to push myself through Sing Unburied Sing but couldn’t do it – too depressing at a time when I wasn’t up for being depressed. It seemed like it would be worthwhile if I had. I did not like Beatty’s The Sellout but others did.

    I’ve now reread Anna Karenina twice to teach it for a grad-level humanities class and it holds up. Students, including an African American campus police detective who does not read novels, loved it too. Get the Volkhonsky and Pevear translation.

    For the same class, I poked around and found a good book on early women’s suffrage efforts called Untidy Origins. It’s fun because the author has to poke around in all sorts of obscure records to put together what happened with a small group of women who filed a petition with New York State. This year I’m using another new book, Jennifer Graber’s The Gods of Indian Country: Religion and the Struggle for the American West. I haven’t read it yet but have really liked her other writings.

    I always get the newest Flavia de Luce and First Ladies Detective Agency books. I’m reading the current Flavia now and enjoying it. One of my friends is really into the Louise Penney series and I might start that sometime.

    Like

    1. “I always get the newest Flavia de Luce and First Ladies Detective Agency books”.

      I always get the newest Elizabeth George mysteries (20+ now I think), the latest Laura Lippman and the latest Sara Paretsky. Not necessarily the highest of brows but I’ve been reading all of them for so long that the characters feel like family. The most recent Paretsky was sub par but Lippman’s was excellent.

      Like

  6. The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine, as good as it is long

    The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, a novel about Russia that isn’t ginormous

    Words Are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin, essays and insights (Interviewer: Would you prefer to win the Hugo or the National Book Award? UKL: The Nobel, of course.)

    Any Day Now by Terry Bisson, is awfully close to being the fourth perfect book

    The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St Clair, great as an object that illustrates its thesis

    The Gatekeepers by Chris Whipple, how the White House chief of staff position is essentially a solved problem in politics, with an added chapter on how the Trump people managed to screw it up in all of the known ways

    War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, definitely a late-1980s book and still awesome

    I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, the last great Discworld book (even though Raising Steam works better than it should)

    Soviet Bus Stops (Volumes I and II) by Christopher Herwig, no really

    Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner is in fact one of the perfect books

    The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, fast and loopy and not like anything else

    Like

  7. I like all the Fredrik Backman books. I’m saving Beartown, but really liked Britt-Marie was here. I’m still quoting the lines about Liverpool football: ““If you have a dad who supports Liverpool you always fucking think you can turn anything around. You know! Ever since that Champions League final.” (except that being me I have to replace the swear words).

    And, combined with ““What does it mean when someone supports Manchester United or whatever it’s called?”

    “They always win. So they’ve started believing they deserve to.”

    Like

  8. This is the most important book I’ve read in years:

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40611244-how-not-to-hate-your-husband-after-kids

    I think everybody who is getting married or having kids or thinking about it or knows anybody who is married or has kids needs to read that book.

    Not that it has all of the answers, but it’s important to know what the questions are.

    Some other books I’ve benefited from in the past year:

    –Jonah Goldberg’s Suicide of the West
    –Is It You, Me or Adult A.D.D. (Gina Pera has an excellent website at adhdrollercoaster.org)

    I’m currently reading Delivered from Distraction, which is the sequel to the ADHD classic Driven to Distraction.

    Like

    1. If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together, by James Sexton

      Which, admittedly, I read hoping for War of the Roses type stories, but found I had bought a marital therapy book instead. One must read the footnotes. Both snarky and thought-provoking.

      Like

      1. Cranberry said,

        “If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together, by James Sexton”

        That sounds like a great book–but I don’t want to make my husband nervous.

        It’s bad enough that I have Bryan Caplan’s “Selfish Reasons to Have More Children” lying around.

        Like

    2. A childless friend of mine visited a friend with a husband, toddler and infant over Thanksgiving and came back traumatized. I reassured her that it’s the kids and you get over it and she didn’t know me when my kids were much younger and look at how sane I am now. 😀

      Like

  9. Y81 wrote,”did a lot better than my Huguenot ancestors in France.” So, you’re probably related to Steve’s maternal side who was at Deerfield, and his father’s ancestors who were Huguenots.

    Like

    1. Probably. Readers may recall my mathematical demonstration a short while back that any two people with substantial colonial New England ancestry probably have a common colonial ancestor. Knowing that two people had ancestors in a common location makes it easier to find that common ancestor.

      Like

      1. I had a Thanksgiving party trick, in which I demonstrated through an online geneology database that relatives were related to each other *more than once*, i.e., through maternal and paternal lines of descent. To play this game, it helps to have deceased ancestors with distinctive names.

        This is why I’m not convinced by “The Son also Rises.” There are millions of people descended from the Mayflower colonists (the few who survived the first winter and managed to have children.) Which thread of descent should one single out as “retaining privilege?” For the full picture, one must follow _all descendants_, not only the male lines in unusually small families.

        Like

      2. Cranberry said,

        “I had a Thanksgiving party trick, in which I demonstrated through an online geneology database that relatives were related to each other *more than once*, i.e., through maternal and paternal lines of descent. To play this game, it helps to have deceased ancestors with distinctive names.”

        Oh, wow!

        “This is why I’m not convinced by “The Son also Rises.” There are millions of people descended from the Mayflower colonists (the few who survived the first winter and managed to have children.) Which thread of descent should one single out as “retaining privilege?” For the full picture, one must follow _all descendants_, not only the male lines in unusually small families.”

        In a previous thread, I may have mentioned that my parents did one of the online DNA tests, and discovered that the persistence of a German surname was not necessarily a proxy for the amount of German DNA that had come down. It’s obvious when you think of it, because the surname and the DNA are not attached to each other!

        So, yeah.

        Like

      3. I’ve been trying, idly, to get a handle on the issue Cranberry raises, the persistence of class. Note that assortative mating and inherited status (whether genetic or social) could, a priori, result in class persistence through all lines of descent over several centuries. Turning it around, that would mean that a person’s 1000 or so 17th century ancestors are not randomly distributed on the social scale, but cluster around a socioeconomic point which, on average, matches that of the reference person. Unfortunately, the only person for whom I have a majority of the 17th century ancestors is Prince Charles. (They are, on average, very high status.) Despite years of research, I only have about 20% of my ancestry back that far.

        Like

      4. “In a previous thread, I may have mentioned that my parents did one of the online DNA tests, and discovered that the persistence of a German surname was not necessarily a proxy for the amount of German DNA that had come down. ”

        I might resemble that remark. On the other hand, one line we thought was Dutch (coming from the well-documented Ostranders) was actually mostly German. Those pesky Palatine Germans in the Hudson Valley intermarried with the Dutch a lot.

        Like

  10. I spent the winter months reading about the end of wars and how they set the stage for whatever happened next. Recommendations along that line, along with URLs that you’ll probably have to edit:
    WWI
    The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, by Robert Gerwarth

    WWII
    Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe

    1946: The Making of the Modern World by Victor Sebestyen

    In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia by Robert Spector

    Lighter reading:
    Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tale of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy

    Like

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