Said and read – April 2018

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My April was filled with reading, but a lot of it was not anticipated. In recent months, I started to take action on a lifelong dream, and in setting that into motion, I also realized that there were loose ends from the past I wanted to tie up. In this case, I had an almost-finished MA degree that I started in 2012 but hadn’t completed the final thesis project. I wondered if maybe I could quickly wrap this up, so I wrote to the program administrator to see if there were any way to rejoin the course. In less than 14 hours, I was re-enrolled in the program and on my way to finishing the degree. So… yes, I have had a lot of reading to do, but almost all of it has been connected to my newly (re)claimed identity as a student. Now I have become one of those students I always hated when I was young: the dreaded “adult learner”. Anyway, this course is all research methodology in the lead-up to researching and writing the thesis. Therefore, not much material I would list here.

 

 

However… I did still find the time to keep up some of my reading for pleasure activities, albeit not as aggressively. Still, at the close of April, I had completed 150 books in total for 2018 (so far) with modest progress made toward my ultimate goal of reading 26 in non-English languages. (In April I did manage some Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic and French.)

Reading recommendations for April:

*North in the World: Selected PoemsRolf Jacobsen

Norwegian, dual language. I had to order the actual book! I loved receiving it. Sadly the poem I bought it for (to get the Norwegian original) wasn’t even in this volume but that is a good excuse to get another.

*Crossing to SafetyWallace Stegner

I would say that this is highly recommended and great, perhaps if it were the first Stegner I had ever read. And in truth, I do recommend this. Stegner’s natural, realistic way of writing is rare and engrossing. But his Angle of Repose was one of my favorites of all I read in 2017, so it’s hard for me to say that this book is its equal even though it’s still beautiful.

“Leave a mark on the world. Instead, the world has left marks on us. We got older. Life chastened us so that now we lie waiting to die, or walk on canes, or sit on porches where once the young juices flowed strongly, and feel old and inept and confused. In certain moods I might bleat that we were all trapped, though of course we are no more trapped than most people. And all of us, I suppose, could at least be grateful that our lives have not turned out harmful or destructive. We might even look enviable to the less lucky.”

*Several books by Danish poet, Henrik Nordbrandt: 100 digte, Omgivelser, and Selected Poems (in English)

It required a long, maze-like effort to find original (Danish) language e-books that I could both buy (many sites only allowed customers in Denmark) and buy affordably. Then I finally succeeded and loved these.

*PachinkoMin Jin Lee

I didn’t have high expectations for this book – and in fact didn’t really know what it was about. I would not say it’s a great work of literature, but it was undeniably readable and hard to put down. Following several generations of Koreans in Japan during the 20th century, it’s quite fascinating.

*Poésie africaine – Six poètes d’Afrique francophone: anthologieAlain Mabanckou (ed.)

A number of poets from Africa – some really great stuff. But then, I’m partial, you know, to poetry.

Good – really good – but not great

*Year of WondersGeraldine Brooks

“For the hour in which I am able to lose myself in someone else’s thoughts is the greatest relief I can find from the burden of my own memories.”

*Poèmes et rêvasseriesFiston Mwanza Mujila

French-language poetry from a Congolese writer I have appreciated for his prose work in the past.

*The DoorMagda Szabó

An unexpected and complex Hungarian book about an unusual and strangely demanding servant/housekeeper who comes to dominate the life of the story’s narrator.

“In my student days, I detested Schopenhauer. Only later did I come to acknowledge the force of his idea that every relationship involving personal feeling laid one open to attack, and the more people I allowed to become close to me, the greater the number of ways in which I was vulnerable.”

Entertaining/informative/thoughtful or some combination thereof

*I Am a Strange LoopDouglas R. Hofstadter

“So, to the extent that we can be chameleons and can import the “spices” of other people’s life histories (the spices that imbue their self-loops with unique individuality), we are capable of seeing the world through their eyes. Their psychic point of view is transportable and modular — not trapped inside just one perishable piece of hardware. If this is true, then Carol survives because her point of view survives — or rather, she survives to the extent that her point of view survives — in my brain and those of others. This is why it is so good to keep records, to write down memories, to have photos and videotapes, and to do so with maximal clarity — because thanks to having such records, you can “possess”, or “be possessed by”, other people’s brains. That’s why Frédéric Chopin, the actual person, survives so much in our world, even today.”

*Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practicebell hooks

A reading for the study program but certainly important above and beyond academic reach.

Coincidences

*The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling and the Making of the Cultural MindAntonio R. Damasio

Just as I rejoin the student world, much of what I am looking at/reading has a component of this: construct of culture. I had just finished reading this when I re-enrolled and thus would like to take a look at this comparatively against some of the uni readings.

“The idea, in essence, is that cultural activity began and remains deeply embedded in feeling. The favorable and unfavorable interplay of feeling and reason must be acknowledged if we are to understand the conflicts and contradictions of the human condition.”

Biggest disappointment (or hated/disliked)

*American TalibanPearl Abraham

I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t like it either. It isn’t anything I looked forward to or anything about which I had any expectations, and am not sure why I read it. I just found it sort of boring.

Images by SD 2018

February action

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February has historically been a month of inaction and hibernation for me – this one has been no exception. Last year I did jump on a plane to Berlin on a whim just to see a movie, and ended up in a mild debate with someone about the Holocaust while I was having lunch in a Jewish restaurant. Hmm. Seriously. It was a cold but bright day, and I was glad I had broken out of my routine to do something completely different, unexpected and spontaneous.

I had no intention of doing anything similar this year, but today I happened to see that Belle & Sebastian is in Oslo, so I quickly bought a ticket, got a train ticket and head over to Oslo in the afternoon. It’s not quite the distance of Berlin or somewhere further afield, but it’s still something (a band) I’ve wanted to see forever, especially as I have Glasgow so much on my mind these days. Bonus: Jane Weaver opens! Brilliant. Two birds, you know…

Any other day I might have ignored this urge to go, but I had a dream last night in which I kept wanting to do things but kept putting them off, and I started writing a poem in the dream, which I never had a chance to finish before someone would interrupt and drag me off somewhere:

If I light a fire, I will stay warm.
If I light a fire around myself, there will be no way back.

In dreams, never going where I want to go, but always with a fistful of melting popsicles.

Photo by Lindsay Moe on Unsplash

effigy in a trance

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The Witness
Edwin Morgan
No, there is no spirit standing in the sun,
only a great light and heat, that instantly
surround us when we meet.
The cold of solitude was
an effigy in a trance —
it was not death! my eyes were watching! my blood
was waiting to be moved by your hand.
We must believe it, though beyond
all gratitude when it comes —
to melt the bonds!
Half unbelieving I rose with you,
half uncaring I closed you
in my arms and left the trance.

There are effigies throughout the world! that I would touch!
that I would warm to life
out of the hell of stone
where they lie waiting,
broken in fields, staring,
frozen by the lathe,
carved in brickdust, in smoke,
in chains of ordinances,
and also in chains.
There is a witness! There is no god on the altiplano
where they scratch the earth,
but there is a witness, and time keeps it
like the first men’s fire.
The ordnance crash, and burning villages
feed pain with men, juntas
lay the cold table again with steel.
You can’t speak for others, there are no others.
You can only say there is that witness
standing where they fall, as it waits
in language, the promise like a prominence
that trembles on the crown of the sun —
only a million miles of fire,
and a signal to the eyes that are watching.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

a love supreme – anti-valentine – random gum of february 2018 soundtrack

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a love supreme – anti-valentine
february 2018 – the good goo of random gum

01 The Supremes – Love is Like an Itching in My Heart
“Just an itching in my heart and I can’t scratch it”
02 Cate le Bon – Are You With Me Now?
03 Margo Price – Hands of Time
“Turn back the clock on the cruel hands of time”
04 Nana – Menino Carioca
05 Mary Lou Lord – I’m Ahead If I Can Quit While I’m Behind
06 BC Camplight – You Should’ve Gone to School
07 Sandie Shaw – (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me
08 Sibylle Baier – Softly
Here’s to hidden women making their belated mark
09 Grizzly Bear – Losing All Sense
“Like a rogue wave you/Wash right over me/Losing all sense of what my body could feel/I was able to drift away from here/I have lost all control”
10 Gingerlys – Incandescent
11 BRONCHO – What
12 Sofia Freire – Canção da Bruxa
13 Dita von Teese, Sébastien Tellier – Bird of Prey
14 Marta Kubišová – Už se léto schovává
…Hang up the Czech habit. Love to Anne, to Martina, to Mr MI
15 Claudine Longet – Medley: Jealous Guy/Don’t Let Me Down
16 Belle & Sebastian – I’ll Be Your Pilot
All the Glaswegians
17 Nap Eyes – Delirium and Persecution Paranoia
18 Angel Olsen – How Many Disasters
19 The Supremes – Forever Came Today
20 The Barry Sisters – Vyoch Tyoch Tyoch
Can’t resist a Yiddish song, now can we?
21 Tommy Allen – Ghosts in the Walls
22 The Fall – There’s a Ghost in My House
RIP Mark E. Smith – who seems like the type to linger as a ghost in another dimension, tormenting people for all eternity from the beyond.
23 Jenny O. – Lazy Jane …I’m feeling blue/Cause I can’t have you…
“I’m never gonna be a cheerleader/I can’t do tricks/And I ain’t that sick”. For all those so far away now I will never get them back
24 Emma Gatrill – Odd Ones Out
“Don’t judge a book by its cover/Its façade is simple, simple to see/But by twenty pages in/You’ll find the story is not what it first seemed”
25 Over the Rhine – Latter Days
26 Al Masrieen – Men Awel Deqiqa
27 The Fall – Feeling Numb
One can only feel numb at the passing of Mark E. Smith (RIP), knowing the end probably could easily have come earlier. Still, the only good thing about his death is that I have learned about so many more people in my circles who are fans of The Fall, and I might never otherwise have known.
28 Hollie Cook – Desdemona
29 Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guébrou – The Homeless Wanderer
Ethiopia
30 The Fall – Big New Prinz
I didn’t think much about how The Fall served as a soundtrack thread through most of my life until the recent passing of the cantankerous Mark E. Smith. All the way back to my adolescence, when my friend Terra and I would be sucked in by the aggressive sounds of “Big New Prinz” (and the rest of the songs from the same album), and not too long thereafter when my bricklayer pen pal Peter in the north of England would send me mixed cassettes that included loads of The Fall. And then how Naomi and I would share this connection and even see The Fall together many, many years ago. The Fall continued to help me forge surprising connections through the years.
31 Renata Zeiguer – Follow Me Down
32 Duke Garwood – Blue
33 France Gall – Laisse tomber les filles
34 Mattiel – Whites of Their Eyes
35 Yo La Tengo – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
36 Slow Club – In Waves
“You can’t tell me you’re not like this/Staring down the pages of the shit you’ve missed/Hoping you’ll find a way to change/Days spent waiting in my living grave”
37 Julia Lucille – Darkening
Such pretty sounds “As I’m darkening I must go alone”
38 Brigitte Fontaine – Une fois mais pas deux
39 Ofege – It’s Not Easy
Nigeria
40 Luwten – Pinball
“I am the pinball/I am the deer/I hear the shot/I disappear”
41 Mogwai – I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead
“Jim Morrison… Van Morrison more like!” For S (naturally with an additional nod to Glasgow in Mogwai)
42 Wooden Wand – Mexican Coke
Martina! You know if it’s Mexican I will tag you!
43 The Fall – British People in Hot Weather
I had been an avid anglophile as a kid/adolescent, and I don’t really know what happened to make me so negative on the English. Still, The Fall has been something of a ‘negative soundtrack’ all along.
44 De Lux – When Your Life Feels Like a Loss
45 Ramona Lisa – Dominic
“Forgive me if I was too forward too fast”
46 The Fall – Powder Keg
And what else is the world today than a powder keg?
47 Sexores – Bluish Lovers
Ecuador
48 The Supremes – Someday We’ll Be Together
…but will we?
49 The Psychedelic Furs – Sister Europe
“Words are all just useless sound” … for all my Furs friends
50 Tori Amos – Josephine
51 Cowboy Junkies – Cowboy Junkies Lament
Memories of college-era road trip with my Russian class, all long disappeared, all of us singing together in that fleeting moment of closeness. And the long, lost Townes van Zandt, who wrote this song for the Cowboy Junkies. “There’s a hole in heaven where some sin slips through/Close your eyes and dream real steady/Maybe just a little will spill on you”
52 Al Green – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?
“I could never see tomorrow/I was never told about the sorrow”
53 The Cranberries – No Need to Argue
RIP Dolores O’Riordan. I remember listening to this song on repeat one year during college – it had such a sad, resigned finality to it that resonated with me (as I greeted endings, particularly of relationships with this kind of sad resignation. I have never been the type to really “freak out” and go crazy). This seemed like the perfect anthem for that kind of sad acceptance. Much as we must go forward with sad acceptance when people die too soon.

Follow me on Spotify to find all my random gum soundtrack playlists.

Meow Mix – Random Gum of January 2018 soundtrack

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Meow Mix – Random Gum of January 2018

Follow me on Spotify.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/comraderadmila/playlist/2k0qZu0AIqoePAqcBYeepW

01 Grace Lightman – Halloween is Over
Because Halloween really is over
02 Inspiral Carpets – This is How It Feels
Lonely and nostalgic
03 Robyn Hitchcock – Raining Twilight Coast
“Just one thing, baby, you forgot my heart”. Glasgow in May
04 Soccer Mommy – Switzerland
“i trace and memorize your curves and lines until my fingers start to bleed
we could go some place alone
don’t you see
we could go somewhere it snows
just you and me
we could go to switzerland
never come back home again “
05 Calypso Valois – Amoureuse
06 Luwten – Double for Me …You don’t want to need but need to know what you want/You think that if you need too much you’ll end up with none…
“What you said is not what you meant
You haven’t quite figured it out yet”
07 Lykke Li – Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone
Sweden
08 Nap Eyes – Alaskan Shake
Nova Scotia
09 Moonface, Siinai – The Nightclub Artiste
Pretty prolific Canadian from delightful British Columbia
10 Elvis Perkins – While You Were Sleeping
11 Niobe – Hawaii Duet
12 Summer Aviation – Thrust
Old friends
13 Nana – Gato é Crime, Denuncie
meow… meow…
14 DRINKS – Hermits on Holiday
For beloved grumpy would-be hermits and mugwumps
15 The Amazing – Perfect Day for Shrimp
Why, Swedish, of course…
16 Black Marble – Iron Lung
17 Vashti Bunyan – If I Were
A name-dropping opportunity
18 Lily & Madeleine – Devil We Know …Come the memories, come the shivering cold, let the rain fall…
Better the liar you know…
19 Fats Domino – Every Night About This Time
RIP – 2017
20 Al-Masrieen – Asef Gedan
Egypt. Cheers to Aurélien and Cat
21 Moon Palace – Shapeshifter
Is a person a liar or just a shapeshifter? …Seattle
22 Sylvia Striplin – You Can’t Turn Me Away
23 The Third Bardo – I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time
24 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The Pilot …A tough-love motherfucker, who was born a clown…
“What could I say? What was I after?
I forgot, but you figured it out for me again with your radio silence”
25 Sevdaliza – The Language of Limbo
Iranian-Dutch
26 Over the Rhine – Faithfully Dangerous
Memories of the 1990s. “I wonder which part of this will leave a scar”. Ohio.
27 LCD Soundsystem – Emotional Haircut
Glasgow in May?
28 Anchorsong – Butterflies
29 David Cassidy – I Think I Love You
RIP – 2017
30 Cults – Right Words
31 An Luu – Pourquoi tu me fous plus des coups?
32 Christopher Owens – Heroine (Got Nothing on You)
33 St Vincent – Sugarboy
34 Sébastien Tellier – Drunk on the Radio
35 Luwten – Indifference
Netherlands
36 Maggie Rogers – Alaska (acoustic)
“And I walked off you
And I walked off an old me”
37 Kyu Sakamoto – Sukiyaki
The old days: Japan
38 Laibach – Drzava
Slovenia
39 Otis Redding – That’s How Strong My Love Is
You can’t not love Otis
40 Eivør – Salt
Much love to very music-loving colleague, Eva
“langt burtur úr landi
hómi eg gráan av minnum
lati aldurnar taka meg
føli djúphavið darra
havið er í mær
er saltið í tárunum”
41 Tropic of Cancer – The Dull Age
42 Helado Negro – Lengua Larga
Ecuador-USA
“Abre tu boca que quiero conocer
Adentro
Y hay un gran vacío
Conocido”
43 Sound of Ceres – Gemini Scenic
For twins of all kinds: birthday twins, astrological twins, lost twins
44 Patio Furniture – Please, Please, Please Let me get what I want
A song for the hardy, sturdy patio furniture
45 Neşe Alkan – Kaçma Güzel
Turkiye
46 Acetone – Shaker
47 Aimee Mann – Knock It Off …You had your chances but now they’re gone…
“Seattle finally couldn’t hold her”
48 Summer Aviation – Angle of Attack
Old friends, lovely sounds
49 Coparck – A Dog and Pony Show
Netherlands
Martina! Here’s to, if not the end of dog and pony shows, at least new and exciting ones
50 Shura – Nothing’s Real
“I’m a dead girl walking
I need medicine”
51 Salma Agha – Barish Men Main Khari
52 Natalia Lafourcade – No Más Llorar
Mexico
“No más llorar
Sé que ya lo nuestro no tiene remedio
Pero no más llorar”
53 Anna Burch – Tea-Soaked Letter
Detroit
“I forgot to fake
The way that I was feeling
I guess it’s too late
Now all my cards are showing”
54 Malena Zavala – Should I Try (acoustic)
Argentina
55 Mdou Moctar – Iblis Amghar
Tuareg/Niger
56 Softer Still – 1993
England, of course
57 Ages and Ages – How It Feels
Portland, Oregon
58 Jaws of Love – Love Me Like I’m Gone
Thanks, with love, to Andreas
59 Heartless Bastards – Marathon
Cincinnati (why are people always surprised that Ohio has not only a bunch of cities but a ton of bands?). Not my kind of marathon, but okay…
60 Marta Kubišová – Cesta
Requisite Czech. Love to Martina, dearest Anne and Mr MI
61 P.P. Arnold – Medicated Goo
Good goo of random gum and love and life
62 Hatchie – Sure
Australia
63 Mattiel – Not Today
“Everything’s okay – but maybe not today”
64 Cinnamon Tapes – Cinnamon Sea
São Paulo.
65 France Gall – Les sucettes
RIP – 2018
66 Xenoula – Tororoi
South Africa/Wales
67 Essaie Pas – Futur Parlé
Montréal, bien sûr
68 Jonathan Bree, Clara Viñals – Say You Love Me Too
Thanks to Tom
69 Julia Holter – Don’t Make Me Over
The simplicity of this song makes me overly emotional
“Don’t make me over
Now that I can’t make it without you”
70 Angel Olsen – Fly On Your Wall
“I found a feeling inside
Or should I say it found me
I turned into someone I
Never imagined I’d be”

in the hundreds

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When 2017 began I set out to read 26 books. I thought this was ambitious because I had essentially abandoned reading for most of the previous ten years. It must have been sometime in the spring, after topping well over 100 books, that I realized I would certainly read a record number of books (record for me, that is). I didn’t consciously set out until later in the year to finish 365 books but crossed that threshold in early-mid December, meaning that I did in the end get to read somewhere between 393 and 400 books (Goodreads, which I used to keep track of the reading, was a bit fidgety and unreliable in recording dates).

I’m a bit stunned by having read so much – feeling some of the material branded on my brain permanently, fresh in my mind since early in the year, while some things were almost forgettable. But it was, as I told a former colleague, enriching. It might not be the greatest accomplishment of the year, and it is certainly the quietest, but it gave each day a new meaning, a fresh story, a new palette on which language was painted in wholly different ways, and of course made, as Firewall likes to say, every day into a school day. In a good way, of course.

I was asked to select my favorite from among these books, but this is impossible. I read from such a wide breadth of topics and disciplines, from literary and scientific materials from around the world, that it could not even be done to say that one single book stood above the others. But among those that I loved, those that I didn’t want to end, those that I learned the most from, those that confounded or stayed with me the longest – making me turn my thoughts to them again and again – here is the rough list in no particular order:

*Advice for a Young Investigator – Santiago Ramón y Cajal

*The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell
Was not sure I would include this because I had mixed feelings, although by the end I was convinced/moved.

*The Master Butchers Singing Club – Louise Erdrich
Another one I was not sure I would include. I read most of Erdrich’s books this year and most were middle of the road, but this one stood out for some reason.

*The Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon
I read a bunch of Chabon and just like his style (even though it can be quite different in all his writing) and could recommend anything he has written, but this was somehow… the one I liked most.

*Time and Materials – Robert Hass
Poetry, which is not for everyone. This was superlative

*Edwin Morgan: Collected Poems – Edwin Morgan
More poetry; discovered Glaswegian Edwin Morgan this year and loved

*Reality is Not What It Seems: The Elusive Structure of the Universe and the Journey to Quantum Gravity – Carlo Rovelli

*Seven Brief Lessons on Physics – Carlo Rovelli

*Go, Went, Gone – Jenny Erpenbeck
Possibly overlooked by many; reminds me slightly of the film The Visitor. Deals with refugee crisis/asylum seekers in Germany with some interesting looks back at how things changed when Germany reunified

*Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
An old one I should have read ages ago but only got around to now. Enjoyed the hilarious absurdity

*The Noonday Demon – Andrew Solomon
A long book on depression – not sure why I started reading it but it was engrossing

*Evolution’s Bite: A Story of Teeth, Diet, and Human Origins – Peter S Ungar
Part of my obsession with teeth this year

*Angle of Repose – Wallace Stegner
A surprising and moving book

*If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino
A strange one – but the complexity of Calvino’s style makes me want to read everything he writes (he is listed again later/below)

*Broken April – Ismail Kadare
Albanian book that deals with the Kanun/blood feuds, etc.

*Secondhand Time: An Oral history of the Fall of the Soviet Union – Svetlana Alexievich

*The Solitude of Prime Numbers – Paolo Giordano
Surprising – not sure why this book (fiction, Italian) stuck with me – perhaps the descriptions of how people fool others and themselves living a version of themselves that cannot possibly be true

*Pretty much anything by Naomi Klein, of which I read all – very timely and important

*A General Theory of Oblivion – Jose Eduardo Agualusa
An unusual one from Angola

*Tram 83 – Fiston Mwanza Mujila
An interesting one from Congo

*The Sellout – Paul Beatty
Probably one of my very favorite ones this year

*A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
Engrossing – just when you think things cannot get worse or more heartbreaking, they do. As my colleague put it “emotional porn” – a form of blackmail

*The Revolution of Everyday Life – Raoul Vaneigem
Abstract-ish philosophy but somehow resonated when I read it

*All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Fiction

*Before the Fall – Noah Hawley
Fiction from the guy who brought us the TV version of Fargo

*The Emperor of All Maladies – Siddhartha Mukherjee
A book on cancer – not uplifting but fascinating

*Karaoke Culture – Dubravka Ugresic
Because I pretty much love all of Ugresic’s observational essay work

*Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America – Mary Otto
More teeth!

*Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino
More Calvino, whom I have quoted to death this year

*Pretty much any poetry book of works by Polish poet Adam Zagajewski, Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai and Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer

*The Book of Disquiet – Fernando Pessoa
This is one that kept me thinking all year long and to which I will return repeatedly

*A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America – Bruce Cannon Gibney
Brewing the Baby Boomer hate…

*The Sympathizer – Viet Thanh Nguyen
Another of my favorite works of fiction this year

2018…

My goal, again, is to read 26 books. The trick this time, though, is that none of them can be in English. I can read books in English, but they won’t count toward the goal.