Wednesday, January 01, 2014

My top books of 2013

Note that I'm not saying "top ten", because I don't necessarily know how many I'll want to list. Still, I have a feeling that I won't have trouble with the dividing line between the books I would strongly recommend, those that are just okay, and those that I would steer you clear of.

This year we saw Republicans in state legislatures continue to try to keep black voters away from the polls and Republicans on the Supreme Court gut the Voting Rights Act, so this is a timely reminder of the difficulty and heroism of the fight to establish voting rights.

 Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
At a time when conservatives think slaves should have been grateful for the life they had, and Southern conservatives express nostalgia for the Lost Cause and anger at what they like to call the War of Northern Aggression, it is still important to have a clear vision of the reality of slavery in our past.

 A new poll just demonstrated that the percentage of Republicans who "believe in" evolution (do you "believe in" gravity? the germ theory? the heliocentric model?) has dropped to a minority. Maybe it's because some of the smart ones are leaving, but it's important to know the facts.

We are constantly seeing new research demonstrating the limited effectiveness and affirmative harms of psychiatric medications. In this book Carlat exposes the moral bankruptcy of the industry in which so many policy makers continue to repose their blind faith.

 Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.
New York City is falling apart, Richard Nixon is about to resign, and a French tightrope walker prepares to walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center.  This novel, which I had some reluctance to read, captures these events and a world we can hardly imagine or remember forty years later.

 My interest in fantasy pretty much begins and ends with Tolkien, but I know that fantasy readers are always on the lookout for a new voice. Here's one that presents a believable world and believable, relatable characters. It's worth reading, even if I, the author's father, say so myself.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
 You really haven't read it yet? Come on, what are you waiting for? Too big a fan of capitalism? 

 Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon.
 I never thought I'd have any interest in a book about the world of horse racing, but this is definitely worthwhile.


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