Short List: Books Read in 2019

Every year I set a goal to read between 30-45 books. Last year, I set the goal at 45. I was 10 short but no matter. It was a great year for reading — and since I first started doing the Reading Challenge on Goodreads nine years ago, I’ve successfully completed two of my reading challenges. Maybe this year will make three. Who knows.

Out of the 35 books I read in 2019, the below are five of my favorites (not necessary ranked 5/5 stars), and some commentary on them. Hell, I might even throw in one I really didn’t like.

Education and Capitalism (Sarah Knopp, 2012)

If you’re interested in understanding the insidious ways in which Capitalism is linked to our social institutions, this is a great book. Education is a kind of given, and in American society especially, every person wants the best for their kid. Without a good education, we can’t be productive citizens. In this regard, education as it is understood and practiced contemporarily, is a means to an end of creating “good citizens” to fill the labor market, and produce for the profit of the capitalist. It puts into new perspective the education reform and social justice narrative of providing poor, and black and brown students “equitable” education.

Moby Dick (Herman Melville, 1851)

F-I-N-A-L-L-Y. After years of only having a smidgen of an idea of what this book is, I am now the proud reader of the book. And it was emotional. About halfway through the book, I became unsettled. Captain Ahab is chasing the White Whale yet never really captures the beast. I yelled out to M, “is this book just going to end without the actual capture of the White Whale?!?!” His response: a giggle. Fair enough. I kept reading, and I enjoyed it. As someone who likes whales and dolphins, the detailed descriptions of the ocean beasts and the ships used to hunt them can easily appear tedious but I was there for it. Every damn page of it. And by the time I got to the end, I wasn’t disappointed.

Undoing the Demos (Wendy Brown, 2015)

Similar to Education and Capitalism mentioned above, Brown’s Undoing the Demos goes on a larger scale of how neoliberalism has worked to dismantle semblance of a human collective, the destruction of democracy. I just recommend reading it.

The Mosquito Coast (Paul Theroux, 1981)

Theroux is a favorite author of mine, and this novel was enthralling and disgusting. It follows a man who moves his family out of the U.S. for some fantastical reason, and attempts to prove their ability to survive independently of a government. It’s maddening and you want to yell at the man and you feel for his children. In the end, the man is taken by his own madness.

The Witch’s Trinity (Erika Mailman, 2007)

Witches and magic are my guilty pleasures but I’m quick to put down anything that resembles trash. This novel isn’t that at all and is in fact very engrossing. Like all witch-related stories, there are accusations, cause-and-effect, and burnings. This takes all that and steps it up a notch by focusing more on the effect of the “hive mind.” It’s easy to blame the cause of an undesired outcome (infertility, poor crop yields, etc.) to an unknown source — in this case, witchcraft — but what happens when those accusations end up demonizing the very practice that’s saved the village for generations? Recommend.

The Gunslinger (Stephen King, 1982)

This is a reread in the hopes that I’d get through the entire Dark Tower series. When I was a teenager, I read the first three books and really enjoyed them. I wanted to get back into it but sadly, I just couldn’t stand the drudgery of The Gunslinger. The perils of aging? I did not enjoy it.


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