On The Shelf: Books 2019

I love to read. Reading is a way to engage my imagination, to get lost for a while in another world. It is also one of the most available ways to educate myself short of traveling and getting a first hand experience. And as I only got my passport about a week ago, my travels have been limited. I also have a limited perspective, that of a cis, white, working class male. Reading works by authors outside of those parameters helps me learn what the world is like for people who are not me. It gives me the beginnings of an understanding of their perspective and lays the foundation for empathy. I can find no negatives in that process. Reading throughout my life has been cyclical, sometimes voracious, sometimes there are long gaps between books. In 2019 I made an effort to get back in the habit. I managed to begin and finish several books, I have started several others, and have a good list of what’s next when those are through.. So for what it’s worth, here is my list of books read in 2019, what I’m currently reading, and what’s next.


Books Finished : 

 The Cooking Gene - Michael Twitty - The story of an African American’s quest to find his family history through the twisted trail  of slavery, and how African food traditions influenced Southern cooking culture.

  Becoming - Michelle Obama -  Set aside your feeling of our 44th President, this is her story, and I found it fascinating.

  Barracoon The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” - Zora Neale Hurston - A first hand account of slavery in the words of an enslaved man. Not the whitewashed version from history books.

  The Fire Next Time - James Baldwin - James Baldwin should be required reading for everyone. Period. The painfully honest perspective of a black man in America.

  The Best of the Bitter Southerner Vol II - Stories and essays by Southern authors about life in the American South

  Redemption Alley - Bob Perry - I met Bob in recovery and learning about his story I knew I had to read the book. A crazy ride involving bowling, the mob, a brilliant talent destroyed by alcoholism, and in the end, redemption.

  Dark Days, A Memoir - D. Randall Blythe - Lead singer of a heavy metal band, recovering alcoholic, from Richmond Virginia, wrongly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit in a country where he doesn’t speak the language. How could I not read it?

  Sleeping Beauties - Owen King and Stephen King - I’ve always been a big Stephen King fan. Another good one from him and written with his son, gotta love it.

  Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen - The life story of an American musical icon. A good read regardless of whether or not you like his music.

  Before the Feast - Sasa Stanisic - A random used book store find. A fantastical tale from a real wordsmith whose talent is obvious even in translation.

Started but not finished

  The Outsider - Stephen King - More Stephen King just because the man won’t stop writing.

  The Silk Roads - A New History of the World - Peter Frankopan - A look at how world history has been shaped by trade.

  The House of Government - A Saga of the Russian Revolution - Yuri Slezkine - I have a fondness for Russian literature which has led to an interest in Russian history. We have long been political enemies, but what do we really know about the people and their way of life? I’m always willing to learn more.

  A Writer’s Diary Vol I 1873-1876 - Fyoder Dostoevsky - Dostoevsky’s insight into the human condition transcends time and place, but his time and place lends it a context I connect with. I’m on the hunt for volume 2.

  Prisoners of Geography - Tim Marshall - A look at geography as a principal factor in how nations and regions have come to be what they are today.

  The Technological Society - Jacques Ellul - Recommended reading by T. Bone Burnett from a speech he gave a few years ago. A dry read translated from the French in the language of the technical jargon of the 1960s, it’s a scary accurate look at the dehumanizing effects of technology.

  Why You Like It - The Science and Culture of Musical Taste - Nolan Gasser - Exactly as the title suggests. A scientific look at why we like the music we do.

  Overcoming Bias - Building Authentic Relationships Across Differences - Tiffany Jana and Matthew Freeman - A guide to examining our unconscious biases and how they effect our everyday interactions with, well, everyone.

First in the Queue : 

  The Soul of Money - Lynne Twist - Exploring developing a healthy attitude towards money. Twist was a presenter at an online summit called People First Economy. 

  Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy - Recommended reading from Nick Cave, who is one of my favorite songwriters.

  The Best of the Bitter Southerner Vol III - The next installment of stories and essays written for The Bitter Southerner.

  Beloved - Toni Morrison - A random selection in my quest to read books by authors outside of my identity group.

  Secondhand Time - The Last of the Soviets - Svetlana Alexievich - More exploration of recent Russian history.

  As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner - Another title from the Nick Cave list.

  Eileen -  Ottessa Moshfegh - A kind of totally random choice. Going for an unknown author who doesn’t share my cultural perspective, and I am secretly hoping the story will inspire a sequel to the song Eileen.

For later down the line : 

  The Unknown Chekhov 

  Tunesmith - Inside the Art of Songwriting - Jimmy Webb 

  Collected Stories of Ivan Bunin 

  Women Writers in Russian Modernism