Saturday, January 01, 2011

Books to Blog About

For years, and for reasons that are equally the fault of my chosen vocation and intellectual trajectory, as well as my blogging habits, I've felt as though I really wasn't a very good reader. Especially as compared to my wife, whose Book Nut blog records her wide, thoughtful, and extensive ongoing career as a reader and reviewer, it seemed to me that I was far more dependent upon articles, commentaries, blog posts, interviews--really, anything except actual books. But this past year, I think I may have begun to change that.

Some of the change was due to reading Nicholas Carr's The Shallows, which really made me wonder about my attention span, my ability to focus on and stick with a plot or an argument for more than 20 minutes at a time. Some of it though, to be honest, was the result of a blog argument. Back in the spring, over three different posts, I interacted with a lot of other bloggers (including some of you, dear readers) over influential books in my life. Anyway, the upshot is that I feel like I'm slowly recovering the kind of serious book-reading habits I once possessed. So what's the best way to keep that recovering going? To blog about it, of course.

I have a dozen or so books sitting around the office; some of them I've read all the way through, some of them I've read part of, some of them I keep starting and stopping and promising myself to get back to eventually. Most of them are fairly new, but not all. All of them, though, are books that deserve talking about, in the manner which Jacob T. Levy does occasionally--not necessarily formal reviews, but commentary about what the book's claims mean to me, intellectually and otherwise. I do that occasionally as well, of course, but I could do it more often. So anyway, in place of any New Year's Resolutions, here's a list of books that, with any luck, I'll be blogging about at some point this year (alphabetical order by title):

1688: The First Modern Revolution, Steve Pincus (a Jacob Levy recommendation)

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, Robert Putnam and David Campbell (since I will likely be on a panel with David later this year, I better have it done by then...)

The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, James C. Scott (this one has had--and is having, in conjunction with the next book--a deep and complicated/complicating impact on how I think about social justice)

Envisioning Real Utopias, Erik Olin Wright (Crooked Timber will supposedly be having a blog-symposium on this book at some point; I may wait to put up my thoughts until then)

Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism, George Grant (maybe I could make this my Canada Day post for the year)

Making the Political: Founding and Action in the Political Theory of Zhang Shizhao, Leigh K. Jenco (a book that I need to digest in order to figure out how to correct all that I got wrong in my Hong Kong paper)

PrairyErth (A Deep Map), William Least Heat-Moon (as a resident of Kansas, I think I'm contractually obliged to discuss this at some point)

Race and Renunion: The Civil War in American Memory, David W. Blight (as this is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I figure it's appropriate for me to learn something about it's legacy)

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, Shannon Hayes (since I'm likely going to be part of roundtable discussing these issues later this spring as well, I need to get my thinking about this one worked out too)

Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture, Naomi Cahn and June Carbone (I've been meaning to find the time to write about this since last summer)

A Secular Age, Charles Taylor (stop laughing, Camassia...)

Sovereignty: God, State, and Self, Jean Bethke Elshtain (anything Elshtain writes is worth arguing about)

Tough Choices: Structured Paternalism and the Landscape of Choice, Sigal R. Ben-Porath (I may get this one up soonest; it's a great book)

Will I actually get to all of these? Probably not, and there will probably be other books that will be substituted in along the way. But at least now I've written something down that I can be mocked for if I completely fail to follow through. Consider it my New Year's gift to you all.

1 comment:

Baden J. Fox said...

Hey Russ,
Thanks for the book list. Some of these look interesting. Quick question: Have you read any Jurgen Habermas? He is a German philosopher, who talked about a lot of stuff including communicative rationality, which is a theory that explains human rationality as an outcome of successful communication. I'm supposed to read a couple of his books for an ethics class and I have no clue what he is saying. He refers to Kant and Hegel a lot so maybe I need to understand them better to understand him. Any help is appreciated.