Showing posts from December, 2020

2020, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year

I read 81 books in 2020. That's almost exactly the same number of books I read in 2019, which feels a little surprising. You'd expect 2020, a year of lockdowns, shuttered entertainment venues, and quarantines to result in a lot more reading. And conversely, you'd expect 2020, a year of worries about health, politics, and the environment, to leave one too stressed to focus on a book. And yet, on paper, my reading doesn't seem to have changed at all. That's looking at the numbers, though. When I sat down to review my year's reading lists in preparation for writing this post, what I realized was how few of the books I read this year had stayed with me. For many of them, I have vague recollections of enjoying them, but would have struggled to say anything more meaningful. I read the normal amount of books in 2020, but didn't seem to have the mental energies to retain much from them. (This is probably also the reason that my TV viewing saw a huge explosion in 202

Recent Reading Roundup 53

The end of the year will soon be upon us, which means it's almost time to sum up the year's reading. Before I do that, though, here are some reviews of books I read in the second half of the year. Also book-related: over at Lawyers, Guns & Money , I wrote about the miniseries The Good Lord Bird , and since I was able to track down a copy of the James McBride novel on which it was based at a used bookstore shortly before the miniseries ended, I added some comments about the book as well. Short version: both are recommended, though mainly for the window they offer on the fascinating, contradictory figure of John Brown. Chosen Spirits by Samit Basu - In his afterword to this novel, Basu describes it as an "anti-dystopia". That's a bit of hard pill to swallow if you've just finished reading Chosen Spirits , which opens with its heroine, twenty-five-year-old Joey, frantically trying to keep her middle-aged parents from thoughtlessly handing out their data to


At some point in the last decade, Christopher Nolan became known as a purveyor of experiences. Not movies, not stories, but immersive sensory extravaganzas that one must delve into completely unprepared, or risk losing some ineffable quality that can never be regained. It's hard to pinpoint when this transformation occurred—it doesn't seem to have been in place for Inception , which was marketed rather plainly as a movie about a team who conduct heists in people's dreams. But that film, and especially its reception as a philosophical text, seem to have been the tipping point. The increasing weaponization of FOMO, through which Hollywood has learned to market as unmissable, go-in-knowing-nothing experiences even those movies that could easily have been sold on the strength of their plot, also played a part. Which is how we arrived at 2020, a year in which nobody should even consider spending two hours in a closed, climate-controlled room with two hundred strangers, and fou