Obama’s Recent Reading List

Because our new President doesn’t read anything besides Fox News chyron we will have to check in with what a thoughtful and intellectual President reads:

One of my favorite parts of summer is deciding what to read when things slow down just a bit, whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon. This summer I’ve been absorbed by new novels, revisited an old classic, and reaffirmed my faith in our ability to move forward together when we seek the truth. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Tara Westover’s Educated is a remarkable memoir of a young woman raised in a survivalist family in Idaho who strives for education while still showing great understanding and love for the world she leaves behind.

Set after WWII, Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is a meditation on the lingering effects of war on family.

With the recent passing of V.S. Naipaul, I reread A House for Mr Biswas, the Nobel Prize winner’s first great novel about growing up in Trinidad and the challenge of post-colonial identity.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is a moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple.

Factfulness by Hans Rosling, an outstanding international public health expert, is a hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.

GQ’s 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read

Is there an award for worst lists done by a website? GQ lists 21 books (like Catch 22, Dracula, Slaughterhouse V) and declare them overrated and give alternatives. Here’s the #1 rule for people who love books. Fuck your “I didn’t like it” lists. Give everything a try that you’re curious about. If you don’t like it, fine. But reading tastes are subjective. The only thing I found good about this list is I didn’t know some of the alternative book titles they supplied. Come on GQ. Be best!

To Kill a Mockingbird Sequel is Raising Eyebrows

This is a bit disheartening:

It was initially greeted with an outpouring of excitement, but questions soon began to be raised over the timing of the discovery, shortly after the death of Lee’s sister Alice Lee, and about the degree of Harper Lee’s own involvement in the deal.

“Alice Lee was about 12 years her sister’s senior, and she was Harper Lee’s buffer against the publicity-hungry world,” said Charles Shields, author of a biography of Lee, on Wednesday. “Alice advised Harper about financial matters, contracts, rights, and the rest of it. I can’t think it’s just coincidence that two months after Alice’s death, this 60-year-old manuscript is suddenly available for publication. Understanding the relationship between the sisters as I do, I doubt whether Alice would have allowed this project to go forward.”

After all, he added, the book “was written before Harper had the benefit of a strong, experienced editor at her eventual publisher”.

“Consider that To Kill a Mockingbird went through several complete drafts,” he said. “Although my fingers are crossed, I suspect Go Set a Watchman will show signs of what it is: a first attempt at novel-writing by a young, inexperienced author.”

Shields said it “wouldn’t be appropriate” to comment about Lee’s mental state, “but it’s well-known that she’s blind, she had a serious stroke several years ago, and in the past two years, her legal problems have been in the news several times after decades of silence. This indicates, I think, an elderly woman who’s getting poor advice.”
Advertisement

The novelist Philip Hensher also raised questions about the deal. “For 50 years she’s maintained the position that she’d said what she wanted to, with that one, fantastic, novel, and that she didn’t want to publish anything else. So why has she changed her mind, and has she changed her mind? … What I would very much like to see is some sort of accurate account of Harper Lee’s capacity to give consent, that doesn’t come from the publisher just saying she is in fantastic health, even though they haven’t seen her.”

In an interview with Vulture on Tuesday, Lee’s US editor told the site: “I think we do all our dealing through her lawyer, Tonja. It’s easier for the lawyer to go see her in the nursing home and say HarperCollins would like to do this and do that and get her permission. That’s the only reason nobody’s in touch with her. I’m told it’s very difficult to talk to her.”

The book that isn’t released until July is already ranked as #1 in Amazon sales.

Harper Lee to publish sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Hmmmmm.

The beloved author will publish her second novel this summer. “Go Set a Watchman” was written more than 50 years ago — before her Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird” — but it was never published.

In a statement released this morning, the 88-year-old author said that “Go Set a Watchman” features “Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

‘Tinker, Tailor’: The Greatest Spy Story Ever Told

From NPR:

When I was 12, I was hooked on James Bond, both Ian Fleming’s elegantly pulpy novels and the cartoonish movies they spawned. One day, my friend’s older brother, who went to Harvard, tossed a paperback onto my lap and said, “Here’s the real thing, kid.”

The book was The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, the 1963 thriller by John le Carre. I opened it expecting a racier version of what I found in 007 — you know, Asian thugs with steel-rimmed bowlers, gorgeous women as sweetly pliable as taffy. What I got was a dankly bitter tale of betrayal ending at the Berlin Wall. I hated it. It was just too sophisticated for the adolescent me.

You see, le Carre wasn’t merely a better writer than Fleming, but a reaction against him. Where 007 fought amusingly acronymed groups like SPECTRE, le Carre conjured a Cold War hall of mirrors in which spy craft wasn’t about knife fights and hot sex, but about gambits and machinations in which it was hard to tell the good guys from the bad.