What Book Are You Reading—Or Re-Reading?

Several days ago, I noted Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. It’s a book that I return to now and then, not just because of it’s beautiful prose, but because of Didion’s extraordinary ability to look squarely—actually, to not look away—at a subject as painful as the death of her beloved husband, John Gregory Dunne, and then continue her reflection on what it all means. The opening words read like this: “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”

On a completely different wavelength, I relish reading and re-reading Philip Kerr’s noir detective thrillers, not so much because I’m a fan of the genre, but because of the take-no-crap attitude of the central character, former police homicide detective and private investigator Bernie Gunther, and most of all because of Kerr’s ability to transport us to 1930s Berlin. I’ve read a fair share of historical books about Nazi Germany, but the Berlin Noir trilogy (his first three short novels, the first set in 1936) places you in the hardened streets of Berlin and let you feel what life was like there for real people—those who were swept up by the mania and that small subsection like Gunther who maintained a jaundiced eye—in a way that few other tellings have.

Might I also mention what I’m in the midst of now? It’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the epic The Warmth of Other Suns (about the great migration of Black Americans). I expect to return to the remarkable Caste another time, which looks at its topic across civilizations and cultures, including and particularly America, but let me share with you one encapsulating sentence: “In the same way that black and white were applied to people who were literally neither, but rather gradations of brown and beige and ivory, the caste system sets people at poles from one another and attaches meanings to the extremes, and to the gradations in between, and then reinforces those meanings, replicates them in the roles each caste was and is assigned and permitted and required to perform.” That’s a lot…to be continued.

But how about you? What are you reading? And what books do you return to read again…and again? I hope my list gives you license to let it all hang out, even if my choices lean on the serious side.

As always, I’m excited to hear from you and from this community’s chance to hear and learn from each other. It’s why I intend to keep the comments section of these discussion threads open to everyone.

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