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Matthew

The Best Books You Read in 2020

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Like a lot of others, the pandemic gave me a chance to do more reading. Here are my three favorites of the year.

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristian Kobes Du Mez. A well written and important book to see just how Evangelical Christianity reached its present state. Great insights and highly recommended if anyone is interested in this topic.

The First Fall Classic: The Red Sox, the Giants and the Cast of Players, Pugs and Politicos Who Re-Invented the World Series in 1912 by Mike Vaccaro. A fun and interesting read on the 1912 World Series. There's a great cast of characters involved, great games to read about, and it all adds up to a fun read.

Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow. For some reason, I found this a deeply moving book. Thoreau comes across as a person who never felt at home in this world, and his commitment to a honest life cost him dearly. At the end of reading this book, I had so many conflicting emotions, it took awhile to sort them out. Thoreau is endless in his inspiration and impact.

 

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Ayad Akhtar: Homeland Elegies

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Max Porter - Lanny
James Ellroy - The Storm
Fiona McCarthy - Walter Gropius; Visionary Founder Of The Bauhaus
Philip Clark - Dave Brubeck: A Life In Time

 

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While it wasn't a complete artistic success for me, I thought Rushdie's Quichotte had a lot going for it.  Probably the best book I read was Camus's The Plague and the best book I reread was Atwood's The Edible Woman.

I did reread some key Thoreau essays, and I have to say I get more conflicted each time.  The strain of extreme individualism that Thoreau embodies is ultimately extremely corrosive.  I also feel he comes across as cold-blooded and somewhat provincial (trying to be an island and proving Donne wrong) in his famous bit in "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For": "And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter,—we never need read of another. One is enough."

Now this essay tries to reclaim Thoreau by saying that he didn't really mean it that way (and he was mostly against the commodification of the news), but I find the apologists wrong-headed: https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2018/summer/what-would-thoreau-think-our-24-hour-news-cycle

I see no reason to believe he didn't mean what he actually wrote, and he simply wasn't that interested in other people and their fates.  I do agree he would be completely aghast at today's society.

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All year I've been reading Mary S McAuliffe's series of books covering the history of Paris from the election of Napoleon III to the German occupation in WWII. They're all written from the point of view of the arts and culture - including hotels, department stores, haute couture, perfumery, Renault and Citroen and, of course, Baron Haussman's work and the Metro and canals. Very little politics - just enough to keep one in line, but we DO get the story of what Gnl de Gaulle did during WWI.

Here they are:

Paris, City of Dreams: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Creation of Paris (Hardback)

Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel,  Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends by Mary McAuliffe

 

Best History Books - Mary Mcauliffe

Just started on this one (my daughter's getting them for me on Kindle for birthdays &c)

When Paris Sizzled the 1920s Pcb: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel,  Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends: Amazon.co.uk:  McAuliffe, Mary: 9781442253322: Books

9781538121795.jpg

MG

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Is It Abuse?: A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping  Victims: Darby Strickland: 9781629956947: Amazon.com: Books

Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships Miller, Paul E  9781433537325 – Westminster Bookstore

The Second Mountain by David Brooks

Overcoming Trauma — The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk | by  Sarah Cy | Be a Brilliant Writer | Medium

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2 hours ago, Matthew said:

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristian Kobes Du Mez. A well written and important book to see just how Evangelical Christianity reached its present state. Great insights and highly recommended if anyone is interested in this topic.

Thanks for the heads-up on this book, Matthew. I just ordered it.

 

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Reading really helped me get through the Spring, when I was in the epicenter of the epicenter. these two books were long, tough reads, but that was what I needed to get my mind off of the fact that my doc said he lost twelve patients during that time period:

Thomas Pynchon- Mason and Dixon

David Foster Wallace (a much easier read) Infinite Jest.

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3 hours ago, ejp626 said:

While it wasn't a complete artistic success for me, I thought Rushdie's Quichotte had a lot going for it.  Probably the best book I read was Camus's The Plague and the best book I reread was Atwood's The Edible Woman.

I did reread some key Thoreau essays, and I have to say I get more conflicted each time.  The strain of extreme individualism that Thoreau embodies is ultimately extremely corrosive.  I also feel he comes across as cold-blooded and somewhat provincial (trying to be an island and proving Donne wrong) in his famous bit in "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For": "And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter,—we never need read of another. One is enough."

Now this essay tries to reclaim Thoreau by saying that he didn't really mean it that way (and he was mostly against the commodification of the news), but I find the apologists wrong-headed: https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2018/summer/what-would-thoreau-think-our-24-hour-news-cycle

I see no reason to believe he didn't mean what he actually wrote, and he simply wasn't that interested in other people and their fates.  I do agree he would be completely aghast at today's society.

I get what you saying, in a way, but Thoreau (and the Thoreau family as a whole) was very committed to the Abolition Movement, as well as a participant in the Underground Railroad, so that outreach to others was there. One of the things that Dassow brings out is Thoreau's closeness to his family and the wide circle of people he knew. It was a complex life, and there are various ways of looking at it. 

1 hour ago, HutchFan said:

Thanks for the heads-up on this book, Matthew. I just ordered it.

 

Hope you enjoy it!

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On 12/29/2020 at 2:45 PM, The Magnificent Goldberg said:

All year I've been reading Mary S McAuliffe's series of books covering the history of Paris from the election of Napoleon III to the German occupation in WWII. They're all written from the point of view of the arts and culture - including hotels, department stores, haute couture, perfumery, Renault and Citroen and, of course, Baron Haussman's work and the Metro and canals. Very little politics - just enough to keep one in line, but we DO get the story of what Gnl de Gaulle did during WWI.

Here they are:

Paris, City of Dreams: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Creation of Paris (Hardback)

Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel,  Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends by Mary McAuliffe

 

Best History Books - Mary Mcauliffe

Just started on this one (my daughter's getting them for me on Kindle for birthdays &c)

When Paris Sizzled the 1920s Pcb: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel,  Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends: Amazon.co.uk:  McAuliffe, Mary: 9781442253322: Books

9781538121795.jpg

MG

This looks like a very interesting series. I’ve ordered the first one. 

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My favorite of 2020 was Carl Hiaasen's "Squeeze Me". I laughed quite a bit. I needed that during this past year.

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On 12/29/2020 at 2:45 PM, The Magnificent Goldberg said:

All year I've been reading Mary S McAuliffe's series of books covering the history of Paris from the election of Napoleon III to the German occupation in WWII. They're all written from the point of view of the arts and culture - including hotels, department stores, haute couture, perfumery, Renault and Citroen and, of course, Baron Haussman's work and the Metro and canals. Very little politics - just enough to keep one in line, but we DO get the story of what Gnl de Gaulle did during WWI.

Here they are:

Paris, City of Dreams: Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann, and the Creation of Paris (Hardback)

Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel,  Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends by Mary McAuliffe

 

Best History Books - Mary Mcauliffe

Just started on this one (my daughter's getting them for me on Kindle for birthdays &c)

When Paris Sizzled the 1920s Pcb: The 1920s Paris of Hemingway, Chanel,  Cocteau, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Their Friends: Amazon.co.uk:  McAuliffe, Mary: 9781442253322: Books

9781538121795.jpg

MG

Glad I checked this thread. I was unfamiliar with these and just started in on ‘When Paris Sizzled’ today.    Excellent recommendation.  👍

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Brit Bennett: The Vanishing Half

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Just started Paris City of Dreams. Thanks again MG. 

On 1/25/2021 at 6:49 PM, Son-of-a-Weizen said:

Glad I checked this thread. I was unfamiliar with these and just started in on ‘When Paris Sizzled’ today.    Excellent recommendation.  👍

You might enjoy Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. 

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