1. The Cross of Redemption, Essays & Works by James Baldwin
I’ve read quite a few Baldwin essays at this point, but I’m eager to fully immerse myself in his writing again. I love his anger and his humanity. A through-line thus far has been that there is no such thing as a “Negro”, it’s an invention. I’ve been reading Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, and it’s been surprising how well these books are speaking to each other. In Atwood, some characters call this “pseudospeciation.”
3. The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann.
I thought this novel would be tonally similar to Death in Venice, but it’s a lot more…combative, almost; antagonistic. I pictured a book titled “Magic Mountain” and set in a Swedish resort to be calming and meditative, but although it is philosophical, it is so in a way that is complex and obtuse, as if the book didn’t like you and wanted you to struggle along with its characters.
4. Why I Write, George Orwell.
I bought this while in London, in part to keep myself from buying out an entire bookstore. I toss it in a bag when I’m on my way out the door.
5. Capital in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty.
As soon as we unpack our book boxes and I find it. This was a very enjoyable read when I started it—the prose, at least in the beginning, is very engaging and light, in spite of a subject that, in the hands of a less capable writer, could be dense and difficult.
6. MaddAddam, Margaret Atwood
Finally—I’m at the end of the trilogy. I’m hoping that the endcap will not be horribly depressing—or at least, not as horribly depressing as the preceding books have been.
7. No Plot? No Problem, Chris Baty
This book, written by the creator of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), was recommended to me by a lifehacker article about writing your own (awful) novel in 30 days. The main advice of the article (and the book) is to realize first-hand that the novel you write will be an awful piece of garbage (“shit”, the book says). But, that’s OK. All first drafts are shit. The point is to get yourself to write it—not to publish, necessarily, or to share, or to amaze yourself with your writing prowess (or not just that), but also because it’s an experience that could be rewarding of itself.