Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

by Olga Tokarczuk

Lovely book. I mean, it won the Nobel prize for literature. You don’t need me to tell you it’s good. But it is. And it’s not good the way some literature is good, meaning thick and dense and hard to read. It’s good the way good stories are good.

I think maybe the most magical thing about the book is the way the field of view starts small—just two characters and a corpse in a frozen winter village—and grows steadily as the book progresses, taking on scenery, characters, relationships, and more.

It’s also a unique take on murder mystery. I didn’t read the jacket so I didn’t even realize I was reading a murder mystery until two thirds of the way through the book. Not that I minded.

Anyway it’s really good and you should read it.

The Order of Time

by Carlo Rovelli

A book that fascinates, confuses, and reassures in uneven measures (reassurance coming late, and perhaps in smaller measures that I would like). But a lovely little book that provides a window into the fundamental nature of our world for those of us who aren’t current on the scientific and philosophical investigations into the nature of time.

I’m still not sure if I should be surprised that the memory of reading it came after the act of reading it, instead of before. Maybe I’d better read it again.

Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution

by R. F. Kuang

I snapped up this book the moment I saw it, because I already loved R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War. Babel is a hard book to describe but an easy book to recommend. But I’ll try to describe it anyway.

Babel is about communication, colonialism, cultural appropriation, and capitalism. It touches on so many of the conversations we have been struggling to have about those things—especially over the last few years. It is also about magic. The magic of silver working is literally lost in translation. It is a feast for word nerds (like yours truly). And it is a compelling story of unlikely friendships and reluctant heroes.

I loved it, and it’s going straight onto my book recommendations.


by Michael Chabon

Let me get this out of the way, first: Michael Chabon is a really good writer. At times, Moonglow feels almost like reading a brilliant New England gothic–meets–Catch-22 novel. Almost.

The problem is there is no suspense or tension in the book. It just keeps going. It’s not a bad story; there’s just nothing that draws you back to the book to keep going. That’s why it took me well over a month to read. A lot of stuff happens that is perhaps a bit more interesting than the average kind of stuff that happens to everyone, everywhere, all the time.

It’s a really good writer filling a book with really good writing that somehow doesn’t feel all that compelling to read.

The Dope: the Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade

by Benjamin T. Smith

I decided to visit Mexico City this year, so I thought I should try to learn more about Mexico. (This isn’t the only book on my reading list; it’s just the first one the library had available for me.)

This book attempts to tell a truer story of the Mexican-American drug trade. Here is how it starts:

[T]he driving force of the drug trade is and always has been economic. America has an enduring and enormous appetite for narcotics.

p. 6

And America’s insatiable appetite for narcotics means there is enough drug money to buy protection, torture, rape, and murder, from corrupt officials on both sides of the border.

Here is how the book ends:

As long as narcotics remain illegal, incentives to produce and smuggle them will outweigh any economic alternatives.

p. 407

Perhaps that could also read “as long as America refuses to address its drug problem at home ….”

If you want to learn more about the drug trade and get angry about it, too, I’d definitely recommend this book. It’s an easy read, even if it left me wanting more.

Dads & Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter

by Joe Kelly

A friend gave me this book years ago when I was a fairly new father. I started it, but it seemed premature given that my daughters could barely put a sentence together. Now that they are in middle school it seemed like a good idea to pick it up again.

I got some reassurance from it, even if it feels a bit dated. There is nothing about social media or gender identity/exploration, for example. And the chapter on substance abuse just feels out of touch. But if, like me, sometimes you feel a bit out of your depth as a father, maybe it will help.

The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines

by Mike Madrid

The inclusion of females in stories is specifically discouraged. Women, when used in plot structure, should be secondary in importance …

DC Comics Editorial Policy Code in the 1950s, quoted on p. 77

Overall, a nice survey of the evolution of women and girls in mainstream comics intended for young adult readers. But …

No pictures? There is not even one panel showing the subject matter.

Also, the author never met an adjective he didn’t like—especially if he could use it to describe a woman’s body parts. In fact there is a strong whiff of chauvinism throughout. Here’s an example from the chapter “Supergirl and the Ballad of American Youth.”

Britney Spears is credited with kicking off a revival of the teen pop star, updated with a sexually mature image. An army of adolescent trollops followed Britney’s dancing footsteps to dominate the media and America’s attention. No longer relegated to teen gossip magazines, “Young Hollywood” women were now the stars of the day, and the role models for not only young girls, but for plastic-surgery addicted middle-aged women as well. Slatternly songbird Christina Aguilera, amateur porn starlet and heiress Paris Hilton, and “difficult” teen actress Lindsay Lohan entertained the nation with tales of drunken revels, dangerous eating disorders, and general rude behavior. This was the world into which a new Supergirl would arrive.

p. 95

“Adolescent trollops?” “Plastic-surgery addicted middle-aged women?” “Slatternly songbird?” I don’t know. Feels kinda gross. But then again, comic books are steeped in chauvinism. Maybe it’s inescapable when writing about them.