Literature

As per my sort-of-new-year’s-resolution, in 2017, I have tried to be faithful to reading this year. Below is a list of books I have read or completed in 2018:

  • The Great Shark Hunt, Hunter S. Thompson

Lots of dark humor, politics from the Richard Nixon/George McGovern race, and gambling.

Grade: B-

  • Chuck Klosterman X, Chuck Klosterman

Usual pop-culture and sports talk. Not as raw and thought-provoking as most of his other stuff, but still great.

Grade: B-

  • But What If We’re Wrong?, Chuck Klosterman

Ditto to the last bit, but more delving into the theoretical and future.

Grade: A-

  • Arguably, Christopher Hitchens

American politics, geopolitics, human rights violations and some Russian Revolution. It’s a book of essays, some just a few pages and others worth 30 or 40, and constantly keeps the reader at attention.

Grade: A

  • 1984, George Orwell

I should’ve read it in high school, but I didn’t.

Grade: A+

  • What’s The Matter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank

Talks about how the Republican Party in the 1990’s and early aughts took control of historic labor strongholds in Kansas, and throughout the midwest. Their brilliant and effective strategy: using culture war to sway people into voting against their economic interests.

Grade: A

  • The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

I should’ve read it in middle school, but I didn’t.

Grade: B+

  • Listen, Liberal, Thomas Frank

Talks about how the Democratic Party, under Bill Clinton’s rein, shifted away from FDR’s New Deal policies and began selling out organized labor through NAFTA. Thomas Frank provides the most thorough explanation as to why the Democratic Party became so unpopular, and why that paved the way for Donald Trump to win the general election in 2016.

Grade: A+

  • The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens

Treason, war crimes, paid hit jobs, and U.S.-backed government coups, Hitchens paints a very ugly picture of a particularly ugly little man.

Grade: A

  • The Permanent Revolution, Leon Trotsky

To me this book was just as much philosophy as it was politics. With ideas like public ownership of all land and manufacturing, Trotsky clearly puts every modern Leftist to the test. One part I did find romantic and inspiring:

Under socialism, all will share in the benefits of abundance, not merely a few at the top. All the people will have time and be secure for an ever higher development. All will be artists. All will be workers and students and creators. All will be free and equal. Human solidarity will encircle the globe and conquer it. 

Grade: B

  • Rendezvous with Oblivion: Letters from a Sinking Society, Thomas Frank

I generally like books of essays, and I like this author. So I liked this book. Rendezvous is comprised of articles Thomas Frank wrote between 2012 and 2017, so the subjects feel more current and real (because they are), and cover a pivotal time in recent American History — the great disappointment of the Obama years which paved the way into Donald Trump.

But that’s not everything, of course. Frank also has articles about the insane cost of college tuition, the way fast food chains have dominated middle America and driven out mom and pop restaurants, and even something as seemingly obscure as how much airport architecture and advertising have changed over the years.

Thomas Frank is to my brain what comfort food is to my stomach. Line by line, and chapter by chapter, he refuses to put much fluff around the straight dope that he consistently delivers.

Grade: A-

  • No One Left To Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, Christopher Hitchens

I bought this book expecting it to be largely about Bill Clinton’s scandals as President, and mostly it was. My favorite parts of the book, though, dealt with Clinton’s economic policies and treachery of the American Left.

Grade: B