What I’ve been reading

  1. Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher. A story told entirely through letters of recommendation, each written by a cynical, funny, arrogant, self-destructive English professor. As a writing gimmick it works surprisingly well.
  2. Straight Man, by Richard Russo. The unraveling of a cynical, funny, arrogant, self-destructive English professor. (One begins to wonder if there is any other kind.) I kept thinking “this character is over the top”, and moments later would be reminded of past faculty meetings. (And up to now I never even got invited to the really interesting ones!) Essential reading for academics.
  3. The Innocent Have Nothing To Fear, by Stuart Stevens. The author, a former political strategist for Bush and Romney, keeps getting called “oddly prescient” for writing a novel about Trump vs Clinton before Trump actually looked like a real candidate. A short and entertaining novel, and interesting as an psuedo-anthropology of life inside a political campaign.
  4. Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, by William Cronin. I am reading this for obvious reasons.It’s fascinating to see the development of today’s financial markets and US development through the waxing and waning of various commodities in Chicago markets. Like so many history books, it is hard to flip through, and tedious to read closely. So you need to be committed to the topic.
  5. Encountering Poverty: Thinking and Acting in an Unequal World, by Ananya Roy and coauthors. A radical left take on the promise and pitfalls anti-poverty work. It’s full of interesting ideas and one of these days I will get around to blogging bits. It is worth perusing.
  6. The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu. Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a spy thriller. Pulpy and fun. After reading it I felt the same as after watching the latest Bond movie: entertained but unconvinced that was worth a few hours of my life.