The Omnivorous Reader - August, 2022

The Omnivorous Reader




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The Omnivorous Reader

September 15 · Issue #18 · View online

Recommendations, reviews, and assorted digital flotsam and jetsam

I was away for a lot of August and then school started–lots to recommend, but some of it will be in the next newsletter. Happy New School Year to everyone in education (or with a child in school)!
Why you’re getting this: I’m Chris Cunningham, and this a newsletter with reading suggestions. If you’re receiving this, I thought you might appreciate it.
If you don’t want to receive a monthly newsletter with book recommendations, please unsubscribe below–obligatory reading is the worst.
If you know someone who might enjoy it, please forward it along!

A Missing Link
One of the toughest things about teaching U.S. History has always been that you run out of time. One of the eras that always got short shrift for me (both as a student and as a teacher) was Reconstruction. Since high school U.S. History is always a nine-month sprint, I wonder whether that’s true for a lot of people. It’s a shame because it’s probably the period in history that best explains our current politics.
So I went on a bit of a Reconstruction kick this month. Reconstruction: A Concise History by Allen C. Guelzo was an outstanding primer for more in-depth readings, a great succinct overview of the issues of the day.
Then I delved into Heather Cox Richardson’s West of Appomattox, which argues convincingly that the political divisions that exist today map to the political landscape that emerged after Reconstruction. It’s a fascinating look at the idealized role of the cowboy and the American West and its role in politics and political discourse around governmental support and freedom through the end of the 19th century.
Enjoyed is the wrong word for Henry Lewis Gates’s Stony the Road, a brutally honest examination of the racist backlash to Reconstruction focused largely on an examination of primary sources. But I appreciated it and am glad to have read it. It’s difficult to read but an extremely important work.
Time in a Well
I decided to reread what is Haruki Murakami’s best work, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles this August. Murakami’s work can tend to bleed into one another after you’ve read a few. His single, lonely, jazz-loving, cigarette-smoking male protagonists are all of a type, but Wind-Up Bird is likely Murakami at his best. Japanese magical-realism is probably the best way to describe his style. It was a great reread and the place to start if you’ve never read anything he’s written before.
What's the plural for "apocalypse"?
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is even harder to describe than Murakami. Portraying two rivals from alternate time streams that are both intent on eliminating the other, this semi-epistolary novel tells the story of those two enemies growing in respect and the love for one another. It ended up being a sort of Romeo-and-Juliet-crossed-with-Doctor-Who sci-fi/ fantasy narrative. It took me a few times to get into it, but once I did, I finished it in a single gulp.
Assorted Quotes
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake in the middle of the night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then–to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.” - T.H. White
The reason to read Blake and Dickinson and Freud and Dickens is not to become more cultivated or more articulate or to be someone who, at a cocktail party is never embarrassed (or can embarrass others). The best reason to read them is to see if they know you better than you know yourself.  - Mark Edmundson
I hope you’re doing well and that you can find (or make) the time to read whichever of these books catches your interest–and I hope that you quickly abandon it if it turns out to be something that’s not for you. And if you come across a book that you’d recommend, please let me know.
Take care,
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