So many books so little time.

2019 Bibliography

Books I’ve read in 2019

Here are all of the books I read last year, presented roughly in chronological order. For some reason I read fewer books this year than I have in past years. Then again, more of them were by women, so that’s good.

1. Slöjd in Wood, by Jögge Sundqvist (2018)

2. Guadalcanal Diary, by Richard Tregaskis (1943)

Generally speaking, contemporaneous historical accounts are valuable as much for the light they shed on the values and framing that existed in that time as they are for the events they describe.

Tregaskis was given unprecedented access — today we’d say he was embedded — to the Marines on Guadalcanal. But his job was to bring some desperately needed good news to the home front. There’s not a lot of plot here, mostly inconclusive skirmishes between scared and confused young men, and that’s mostly what war is like. Despite the quantity of self-editing going on in the book, it accomplished its goal of giving Americans at home something real, yet something positive. The book is an undemanding read, and I was probably eleven years old when I first read it. Compare and contrast to Herr’s Dispatches.

My copy of the US Constitution. A remarkably short document.

3. The Oath and the Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents, by Corey Brettschneider (2018)

This book was fascinating when I read it in the early months of the year. By year’s end, it had evolved into a necessary explanation of how the US Constitution was being systematically destroyed by the Republican Party and the duped innocents who empower it.

4. The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, by Michiko Kakutani (2018)

5. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (2011)

6. Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing, by Marie Hicks (2017)

But after the war, England was bereft: their colonies broke free, their economy withered, and their citizens suffered in poverty and hunger. But, in the minds of the British ruling upper class, the one thing that England still had that made it England was their claim on the moral high ground. Unfortunately, that morality was a pretty hollow shell.

That same English morality caused them to drive to suicide the man who most defined the advances of Bletchley Park, Alan Turing, because he was gay. And the people who made Turing’s machines actually work were almost all women. During the War, having women “help out” seemed like a reasonable concession, but afterwards, that good ‘ol English class-based morality couldn’t accept the fact that women did excellent work that was often better than the men they replaced.

Hicks’ book is the simple story of how England discarded a clear lead in digital technology and the demonstrable advantage of a gender-equal workforce in exchange for some obsolete platitudes.

Anand Giridharadas.

7. Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, by Anand Giridharadas (2018)

It’s not a coincidence that aggressive billionaire philanthropy accompanies a lot of other aggressive billionaire toxic behavior, and the author is emerging as a strong and clear voice for reframing our understanding of the economic system that creates such anomalies as billionaires. In addition to social media, he writes for (what’s left of) the mainstream media, so he gets good exposure. I wish him the best of luck in spreading the word. Please, read this book.

8. A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder, by Michael Pollan (1997)

While everyone is commenting on his latest book about psychedelics, I went farther back to one of his earliest outings: the story of him building a writing retreat in his backyard. If you are interested in writing or architecture or design or building this is a fascinating book. The building he creates is only a couple of hundred square feet, but it’s designed with much thought, and the author — who starts out not knowing which end of a hammer to hold — does most of the actual construction work.

9. Utopia for Realists and How We Can Get There, by Rutger Bregman (2014)

Bregman’s book exhaustively breaks down these confusions and shows how we not only can afford to have a generous, supportive, caring, and just state, but it would be cheaper and easier in the long run to create it.

10. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens (2018)

11. The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy, by Raj Patel (2010)

12. Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland, by Jonathan M. Metzl (2019)

13. City of Quartz, by Mike Davis (1990)

This is a demanding read. The author repeatedly sent me to the dictionary and I had to reread many complex paragraphs. Usually, as here, demanding books offer the most value.

14. Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms,and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, by Simon Winchester (2010)

15. Sophia of Silicon Valley: A Novel, by Anna Yen (2018)

16. The Overstory: A Novel, by Richard Powers (2018)

All of the stories are fascinating, but the first story is by far the most beguiling, and it’s worth the price of admission alone.

17. Sula, by Toni Morrison (2002)

18. Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey (2011)

A few of the night witches.

19. Night Witches: The Amazing Story Of Russia’s Women Pilots in World War II, by Bruce Myles (1990)

Kendzior is very quotable.

20. The View from Flyover Country, by Sarah Kendzior (2018)

21. Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, by Rachel Maddow (2012)

22. News of the World: A Novel, by Paulette Jiles (2016)

23. A People’s History of the German Revolution, by William Pelz (2018)

24. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877, by Eric Foner (1988)

25. 1619, The New York Times Mag, 18 Aug 2019, by Nikole Hannah Jones, et al (2019)

The lead essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones, the visionary who drove this project to completion, is excellent and sets the tone for the entire compilation. She suggests that if one alters their point of view somewhat, one can see the influence of slavery on literally everything in American life, culture, laws, politics, economics, language, music.

You know she’s on the right track because a bunch of white, male, boomer-aged, conventional academics have begun to spin up the slow grinding wheels of institutional doubt in an effort to debunk Hannah-Jones’s quite obviously valid point. Their attacks are based on insignificant disputes about irrelevant discrepancies. They clearly much prefer the version of history that casts Americans as the good guys.

26. The Great Eastern, by Howard A. Rodman (2019)

27. The Man They Wanted Me To Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making, by Jared Yates Sexton (2019)

Ancestry Thinker, Software Alchemist, Regenerative Rancher