Sunday, January 1, 2017

Current reading, and 2016 favorites

I just started reading Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism. One of my goals for the future is to read more deeply in politics and philosophy, and her book was recommended by several people. Written shortly after the end of World War II, it focuses on twentieth century totalitarian regimes, particularly Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

In the introduction, Arendt writes, No doubt, the fact that totalitarian government, its open criminality notwithstanding, rests on mass support is very disquieting. It is therefore hardly surprising that scholars as well as statesmen often refuse to recognize it, the former by believing in the magic of propaganda and brainwashing, the latter by simply denying it . . . She goes on to add, However, the point of the matter is that this [knowledge of massacres and abuses] did not in the least weaken the general support of the Hitler regime. It is quite obvious that mass support for totalitarianism comes neither from ignorance nor from brainwashing. (Arendt, vii)

One of the history books I read last year, Martin Kitchener's Speer, challenges Albert Speer's whitewashed account of his years as Hitler's architect and accomplice. Kitchener skewers the apologetics of other historians, and their willingness to accept the way Speer glossed over his role in the Nazi regime. In an age where fake news and post-truth politics seem to be the order of the day, Kitchener's book was a powerful reminder to me of the need to dig deeper and not take any public figure's story at face value.

I'm off to read some more, but I also wanted to mention some of my favorite books of 2016, which I've broken down between fiction and nonfiction. I was . . . not very diligent about posting reviews on Goodreads this past year, but I'm hoping to do a better job going forward.

Ivory Vikings, Nancy Marie Brown
The Essential Rumi, Coleman Barks, trs.
Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear, Margee Kerr
The Witches: Salem 1692, Stacy Schiff
Maximum City, Suketu Mehta
Where Nobody Knows Your Name, John Feinstein
The Confidence Game, Maria Konnikova
Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better, Pema Chodron
Stamped from the Beginning, Ibrim X. Kendi
It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History, Jennifer Wright
Grit, Angela Duckworth

Emissary, Melissa McShane
The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, N. K. Jemisin
Broken Harbor, Tana French
Nevernight, Jay Kristoff
The Peripheral, William Gibson
The Raven Boys and subsequent volumes, Maggie Stiefvater
The Tyrant’s Law, Daniel Abraham
Worlds of Ink and Shadow, Lena Coakley
What Is Not Yours, Is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi
A Darker Shade of Magic, V. E. Schwab
The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu
The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant, Jeffery Ford
Etched in Bone, Anne Bishop
A Green and Ancient Light, Frederic Durbin

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