mid-year book report
See the scale for rating explanation.
|Murder on the Orient Express
|The Mysterious Affair at Styles
|David Graeber & David Wengrow
|The Dawn of Everything
|Rest Is Resistance
|The Once and Future Sex
|The Long Walk*
|How To Blow Up a Pipeline
|A Memory Called Empire
|They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
|War Against the Mafia
|The Wee Free Men
|The Crying of Lot 49*
|The Storm is Upon Us
|Kill Anything That Moves
|The Trump Tapes
Asterisk next to a book's title indicates a re-read.
It's difficult to rate the Poirot mysteries (the two Agatha Christie books in the list) because they're so fundamental in shaping our cultural definition of the mystery genre. All the mystery cliches are cliches because Agatha Christie invented them. And Poe, Conan Doyle and Chandler of course, but for the kind of mysteries that are popular today, Christie may be the most influential.1 I'm not typically a mystery fan, so take my half-moon rating with a grain of salt, but these are among the most enjoyable pieces of mystery fiction I've encountered. It just doesn't sing to me the way other genres do. I intend to read more Poirot in the future.
I'd really like to give Rest Is Resistance a half moon, because I agree with all the ideas in it, but it's just too repetitive. It feels like a 1000-word manifesto awkwardly stretched out to book length.
The Storm is Upon Us would probably be a full moon if I wasn't already pretty up to speed on the Qanon cult through other media. If you don't know much about it and you're looking for a primer, consider this a hearty endorsement.
Kill Anything That Moves is probably the most important book I read, particularly if you're an American. It's a digestible but comprehensive accounting of the USA's atrocities in Vietnam. You're probably familiar with the My Lai massacre, and maybe you've even heard of the Tiger Force atrocities, but these events are just a sliver of the true extent of the US war crimes in Vietnam. The My Lai massacre was the name that our propaganda allowed us to remember, but it was to trick us into thinking it wasn't just a representative sample. The entire "war" was an extended My Lai massacre, from start to finish. It would feel weird to label this a "personal favorite", but I needed to read it. It didn't make me feel good. It made me sick. Happy July 4. Death to America.
I can explain why I read War Against thr Mafia: I was watching some old episodes of RedLetterMedia's Best of the Worst where they were enjoying some fun shlocky 80s action movies, and I thought "hm, I want this feeling, but I don't want to actually track down any movies. What's the closest book equivalent?" I was familiar with the Executioner series having stumbled across a couple paperbacks in a thrift store and looked them up out of curiosity. The first one in the series was available as an ebook, so I gave it a shot. I knew it would be bad, but I didn't think it could be that bad. It was that bad.
The Trump tapes isn't a book, it's edited together footage of Bob Woodward interviewing Donald Trump, but the library app called it an audiobook, so I might as well count it as book #15 for the year, because make-number-go-up is the only thing I got out of it. It's an 11-hour slog containing no new information or interesting insights. Bob Woodward breaks up the interviews with his own commentary, and he comes across as hopelessly naive. His big conclusion at the end (paraphrasing) is that Trump is dangerous psychopath who's unfit to be president. No shit. If it's worth listening at all, it's only for the novelty of being a fly on a fascist strongman's wall.
The Wee Free Men is the best fantasy novel I've ever read. I've enjoyed other Discworld books, but it's a huge series and all of the recommended reading order charts can be daunting. I'm very glad I ignored them and gave this one a shot. Whatever your feelings about Discworld, please read this book 🦝
PS: I added a book I forgot I read this year, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? It had some very powerful moments, but it was very short, prosaic, and on the whole (apparently) forgettable. One of the few books where I think I'll like the movie better.
as someone who doesn't seek out much mystery fiction, I'm mainly thinking of Knives Out. That movie rules, and it's Poirot as hell↩