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in which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, by Jane McGonigal.
It’s always a bummer to read diatribes by baby boomer types who insist that because of media or the internet or irony, the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and by the way, did we mention the 1960s were awesome? Then again, it’s also a bummer to read diatribes by millenial types (or older folks turned on to millenial ways) who insist that media and the internet or irony are actually setting us free and changing the world and flattening the earth and, by the way, did we mention that microfinance is the only way to save Africa? I prefer a middle course—-that is, sometimes posting updates to Facebook, but sometimes not, and sometimes reading Chekov short stories on an iPad, but sometimes reading books, and sometimes being ironic, but sometimes being sincere, and, unless it’s absolutely necessary, not writing diatribes.
2. Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence, edited by Joelle Biele.
I was shocked to learn when trying not to research this title too closely that Elizabeth Bishop a.k.a. EB only published about 100 poems in her life. This number seemed very small to me. I mean, can’t most of us bang out some quality freeverse in 10 minutes or less? Then again, I guess if we could, we would all be celebrated modernist poets. Then again, what is poetry anyway but verbiage not strong enough to be prose and not cool enough to be song lyrics? Then again, they say punk is dead, but it’s very much alive in my softly beating art. And, if a singer wrote 100 classic songs or certainly if a novelist published 100 classic books, that would be a career. But, then again, publishing 100 poems just doesn’t seem that hard. Then again, I’ve never had a poem in The New Yorker. But then again, would I really want a poem in The New Yorker? I’d rather have something in “Talk of the Town.” But then again, I haven’t had anything in “Talk of the Town,” either.
3. I Think I Love You, by Allison Pearson.
Someone compared this writer to Nick Hornby, so take that bit of info and run to your local bookstore and pick up this novel if that’s your gut reaction, or avoid your local bookstore for the rest of your life on the off-chance you might actually purchase this book if that’s your gut reaction. I’m not sure what my gut reaction is to Nick Hornby and writers compared to Nick Hornby. I guess I’m standing nervously in the foyer of the metaphorical bookstore, metaphorically shivering.
4. The Exceptionalist State and the State of Exception: Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor, by William V. Spanos.
I’m probably not the only 33-year-old at the Justin Bieber show with this tucked under my overcoat, right?
5. Revolutionary Deists: Early America’s Rational Infidels, by Kerry Walters.
It’s fun to think of the founding fathers (capital-F “Founding Fathers?”) as free-loving pseudo-atheists who only planned revolutions and wrote constitutions when they weren’t getting busy with French ladies and reading Rousseau. But I’m sure they were just as frown-y as Clarence Thomas imagines them to be.