Monday, December 21, 2009

Sumoftha Books (NonFic) I Read in 2009

Listen - I dunno how much time you want me to spend on explaining how this year's reading list was overdetermined by external events, my dissertation, etc., so just lemme say this: I did a lot less actual book-reading this year than I have in the four, five, six years previous. If anything, I hope this underwhelming list (of neither "high" nor "low" lights) will inspire some of our distinguished bloggers, commenters, etc., so that they'll use the occasion to reminisce on books they read and liked this year. It's a good excuse for looking back on shit - even non-book shit - you know?

Invisible Hands: The Businessman's Crusade Against the New Deal
by Kim Phillips-Fein
A major motif of my academic-ish readings in 2009 was a dip out of academic social and political theory, into a) more "applied" political science writing and b) the necessarily more "empirical"/"historicist" realm of the history of conservatism (both Perlstein's Nixonland and Wilentz The Age of Reagan deserve mention, too.) Check out Phillips'-Fein's Nation Review Article posing the question, what can the histories of conservatism tell us about the current configuration feat. Tea Parties and various fledgling populisms.

From Marxism to Post-Marxism
by Goran Therborn
I will revisit this work, no doubt, in making the argument that my dissertation "methodology" is """ marxism, """ but in the longer run, I fear I find it a little middling, and appropriate only for a grad-level Marxism seminar I'm increasingly less likely to ever one day teach.

Fat Man in a Middle Seat
by Jack Germond
You remember Germond [pic. below, Right] as the "fat man" from the McLaughlin Group, and his memoir is a weird, newsy, drunk, dry, drab denunciation of the (Clinton-era) political culture. I blame my unfortunate dependence on cable news for situating me such that this kind of well-meaning, liberalist batinage tastes like a grilled cheese sandwich to me after a long day "working."
The Eliminationists
by David Weinert
Domestic terror was on the brain, for obvious reasons. Which side is allowed to call the other one "fascist," again?

Plunder and Blunder
by Dean Baker
Have I ever mentioned this guy before? I am thinking about forcing this, if not The United States Since 1980 on some anthropology undergraduates this Summer who are doubtlessly expecting something about female genital cutting instead. It is the best explanation of the "current crisis" that I've read.

The Family
by Jeff Sharlet (who has a blog, I am thrilled to know.)
“Un-American theocrats can only fool patriotic American democrats when there aren’t critics like Jeff Sharlet around -- careful scholars and soulful writers who understand both the majesty of faith and the evil of its abuses. A remarkable accomplishment in the annals of writing about religion.”
--Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
Now, what the crap non-fiction did you read?


tad said...

Lex: Here's the non-fiction I've read in the past yr, most of which was read in an attempt 2 ESCAPE current reality. Hope book- & music-criticism count -- they ain't fiction, right?:
Damon Knight's THE FUTURIANS (science-fiction history) & IN SEARCH OF WONDER (SF book reviews.
James Blish's THE ISSUE AT HAND & MORE ISSUES AT HAND (reviews).
Julie Burchill & Tony Parsons' THE BOY LOOKED AT JOHNNY (about the birth of Punk Rock; disappointing).
Ian MacDonald's REVOLUTION IN THE HEAD (in-depth analysis of the Beatles' catalog; re-read).
Robert Christgau's '90s RECORD GUIDE (reviews).
Paul Williams' BACK TO THE MIRACLE FACTORY (reviews).
Dan Kennedy's ROCK ON (about working at Atlantic Records in the early '00s, funny but....).
Hipgnosis' WALK AWAY RENE (album-cover art; re-read).
Phil Patton's DREAMLAND (UFOs, high-tech planes, etc).
David Darlington's AREA 51 (ditto).
John Peel's MARGRAVE OF THE MARSHES (about his long career as a BBC DJ).
Thomas Mallon's A BOOK OF ONE'S OWN (about diaries, journals, etc).
Most of these books were reviewed at my old website, which recently died. Items near the toppa the list R reviewed at my fairly-new blog, which U R of course welcome 2 visit.
...There may B others I've 4gotten. Gave up 130+ pgs in2 Richard Rhodes' BLACK SUN (on the making of the hydrogen bomb), Bcos even tho I'm fascinated by the history (worked at a missile base 1nce), the book was 2 dry, told from 2 great a distance, & from the wrong side, I thot -- 2 much about what the Russians did, not enuf about what WE did.
Bn trying 2 read 2 books about English folk-rocker Nick Drake, but neither of them has told me much new -- 1 of them (the more Dpressing 1) tries 2 make the case that Drake was a closet drug addict....
Am currently just getting in2 Johnathon Green's DAYS IN THE LIFE, a long oral history about Britain's underground/psychedelic scene in the '60s.
NE chance U might write more about music & books in the future? Yr music writing was why I started following OG in the 1st place (& The PrisonShip). There R still only a handful of good music-review sites, & the # of good book-review sites I can count on 1 hand -- GabbaGabbaHey sometimes writes some great stuff at "Steady Diet of Books."
Sorry this is so wordy. Merry Xmas! -- TAD.

gabbagabbahey said...

Alex Ross - The Rest is Noise; 20th century in 'classical' music, damned if I've yet heard more than 1%, but it's good to read about it.
David Simon (& Ed Burns) - Homicide & The Corner; the latter is surprisingly political, more like an overt polemic than the Wire itself.
Declan Kiberd - Ulysses and Us; sorta self-explanatory, made me understand Ulysses for the first time, without having to go into detailed annotations and instead making a social argument out of the whole thing. He's at the English department in my college.

they're the ones that stick in my mind. just finished reading a book on 'The Future of the Internet' from the local library and going to start a book about the French headscarf ban by an American sociologist/anthropologist.

also, might be doing a collaborative book blog with a couple of other Irish bloggers, so's I can divert myself from music for a bit.