Rick Perlstein: By the Book ☀
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
The Book of Job, maybe. It’s the best story I know at driving home the fact that the world just isn’t always a reasonable place. Not grasping that, I think, is Barack Obama’s tragic flaw: He still seems to stubbornly believe that if he just explains clearly and calmly enough to his friends across the aisle why his ideas will bring the greatest good to the greatest number, there’ll finally be no more Red America and no more Blue America. But my 18 years studying conservatism has convinced me the right just doesn’t work that way — they’re fighting for civilization stakes, and he’s a liberal, so, Q.E.D., he’s the enemy. His longing to compromise with them just ends up driving the political center in America further to the right.
Tolle, Lege ☀
I invite you to share your own top 10 on your blog, on twitter, or on facebook — wherever you tell people about things in writing. When it comes to the subject matter and content of books, we don’t have to come to the same conclusions — we don’t even have to feel the same now as we did when the books we list changed our ways of thinking. The important thing is to pay a little homage to the books that have shaped our tools for interpreting the world. So without further ado, here are the top 10 books that have made all the difference to me.
Who Reads 'Mein Kampf'? ☀
Yet conservatives are not alone in finding things to agree with in Hitler’s tome. One reviewer writes, “Taking most of the statements and conclusions from this book and displaying them separately you would be surprised as to how many you would agree with.” Another says, “I will admit I agree with Hitler … but damn its hard to disagree with Hitler when it comes to social and governmental issues.” One describes this feeling as “psychologically torturing.” For some, this feeling is a reason to read the book: Maybe you ought to confront your own capacity to be Hitler.
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Murakami’s characters usually operate as ciphers, and Tsukuru is no exception. It’s rare to finish one of Murakami’s books feeling a strong identification with his characters, and it’s the mood his stories provoke, more than the people in them, that tends to stay with you long after you’ve finished his books. In Murakami’s hands this is usually a powerful approach. His spare style, it’s said, translates easily between Japanese and English and his themes also travel well.
'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage' is straightfoward and un-Murakami-like ☀
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This is a book for both the new and experienced reader. It has a strange casualness, as if it unfolded as Murakami wrote it; at times, it seems like a prequel to a whole other narrative. The feel is uneven, the dialogue somewhat stilted, either by design or flawed in translation. Yet there are moments of epiphany gracefully expressed, especially in regard to how people affect one another.
Deep Chords: Haruki Murakami’s ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ ☀
Once Upon a Time ☀
I saw and interpreted the issues and people involved in children’s book publishing not only from the periphery, but as an observer who in some important ways was not quite all there. Young women like me were raised to believe, indeed explicitly instructed, that our only true and essential work was to marry and raise a family. School work, jobs – yes, do them and do them well, but they will not and should not claim your whole heart or attention, lest they distract you from your real work. I did recognize that my boss and the other women at lunch represented something new in my experience – not because of their hats, but in spite of them. I recognized, without ever talking about it, that they had something my mother and her friends lacked – more fun? More energy? A public presence in the world, with significant relationships that were not purely social or familial? (Or – and I wouldn’t have thought of this then – a paycheck?) Even if I didn’t think any of it applied to me, I knew that those who were married did not use their husbands’ names, and few of them had more than one child, if they had any. I did not make much of any of this at the time, but I did observe it and I do remember it.
…we face a revolution in reading not unlike the one Gutenberg introduced almost 700 years ago. Nowadays authors are coached on “building your brand” more than on improving their writing. Publishers care more about website stats and Twitter followers than the quality of an author’s work.
Farewell to the Golden Age ☀
Bookstores almost always fail not because of e-books, but because of rent increases. This is true of a lot of interesting, marginal businesses, especially in cities with housing bubbles (and Victoria is not cheap.) Prices go out of line with income, rents follow, and interesting stores which need low rent die. So you wind up with a whole bunch of chain stores or boutiques operations selling overpriced goods and services who can make the rent.
Why Bookstores live or die ☀
I memorised Tennyson, and read Homer in prose and Dante in verse; I shed half my childhood tears at The Mill on the Floss. I slept with Sherlock Holmes beside my pillow, and lay behind the sofa reading Roget. It was as though publication a century before made a book suitable – never was I told I ought not to read this or that until I was older. To my teacher’s horror my father gave me Tess of the D’Urbervilles when I was still at primary school, and I was simply left to wander from Thornfield to Agincourt to the tent of sulking Achilles, making my own way.
Reading lessons of a religious upbringing without modern books (via ayjay) ☀
But I have now reached capacity, and rather than just buy more bookshelves, I decided that it was time to cull the library. I expected this to be a painful process, but a simple rule made it easier: if the likelihood that I’ll read the book again is near zero, then out it goes.
Culling My Library ☀
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