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Books We Need to Read in Trump’s

In light of the inauguration of an American president with a now-indisputable fascist bent, I’ve put together a reading list for a Trump presidency. These books are either lesser-known or often pigeonholed in other niches -there are a few of these kinds of lists going around, so I’m trying to offer some suggestions that might be a bit more novel.
Abolition Democracy: Angela Davis’s very long-form interview. A manifesto for most political realities, especially relevant now.

Bad Feminist: Roxane Gay’s essay collection, dealing with race and gender and the intersection of the two.

Notorious RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a stone cold bad ass.

Long Way Gone: The memoir of a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, a story that speaks to the physical and psychological realities faced by children living in constant war.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Why families migrate, how they seek to survive in extreme poverty and in adverse surroundings.

Notes From No Man’s Land: Essays on how America has handled race, on NAFTA, and one absolutely brutal essay I’ve taught many times about lynching and telephone poles.

Fun Home: One of the best graphic memoirs I’ve read, addressing gender, sexuality, suicide and mental health, and how all of that shit mixes together in the USA

Play It As It Lays: Joan Didion’s crushing novel on the experience of a woman who is tired of living in a certain kind of male reality.

The Bell Jar: A good poet’s excellent novel. Gender, femininity, mental health, and a seemingly intractable fortresses of sexism.

The Demon-Haunted World: The King of Nerds explains why we all need to science way harder.

MAUS: Because this shit has happened before.

Slaughterhouse-Five: Because war sucks, and children wind up with the heaviest shit piled on them.

The Pillowman: A Fascist police state that pretends to care about children and tries to censor artistic expression. Imagine that.

Animal Farm: A pig that superficially resembles a human fucks everyone over in order to obtain an unprecedented and obscene amount of power, then continues to fuck over everyone, especially those who have worked very hard in his service, so as to make himself more comfortable and to further cement his power.

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Sarah Vowell’s The Partly Cloudy Patriot

Given recent electoral outcomes, reading essays about American political history probably doesn’t sound particularly appealing, but I found going into This American Life regular Sarah Vowell’s back catalog to be very refreshing. She writes with a casual persona, a conversational tone that communicates her obsessiveness and fascination with both self-awareness and contagious enthusiasm.

The Partly Cloudy Patriot is a celebration of nerdishness, written at a time before that kind of thing had been so widely co-opted to pander and to sell sitcoms and t-shirts. There’s a sense of guilty revelry at play -the delight Vowell clearly feels in immersing herself in the historical remnants of upsetting episodes in history are contextualized but never dismissed. The essays are informative, but couched in a sense of personal experience that keeps them from getting overly dry. I’m a big fan of this particular strategy in nonfiction, especially in travel writing.

I’ve got some conflicting thoughts on the place of essay collections in 2016, in the world of aggregated longform essays and creative nonfiction. One one hand, I feel like my time is better spent casting a wide net, reading a diverse selection of authors writing on a diverse selection of topics. But, for the same reason I like short story collections, I like getting inside and inhabiting one specific writer’s brain over the course of a few small pieces. I’m not sure how much of that is coming from my own writerly inclinations to observe other writers’ voices in depth and how much it has to do with simply valuing an accurate and close reading of somebody else’s lived experience, but there you go.

Reading on Your Phone, #Longreads, and Attention Spans

I rely on my phone more than I want to. I’m aware of my tendencies in this regard -I didn’t even get a smartphone until the beginning of 2015. And as much as I resent the damn thing’s ability to intrude into my life and tempt me toward wasting time, there are some redeeming qualities.

1: Kindle app.

I use my old Generation 2 Kindle on backpacking trips -there’s nothing like reading “Lolita” at the base of Cathedral Dome in Yosemite. This means I’ve got a pretty decent collection of ebooks, and I can access everything I’ve stored in Amazon’s cloud with the Kindle Reader app. It’s nice if I get stuck somewhere without a book -I don’t like reading on my phone as much as on the e-ink Kindle screen, (or ideally, a paper book) but it’s still damn useful.

2: Longreads.com

Longreads has a great social media presence, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how often very good creative nonfiction comes my way via Facebook. The work they present is always well written and usually very interesting.

(Since many of you read this via WordPress, here is their blog: http://blog.longreads.com/2016/01/05/were-going-on-a-bear-hunt-in-new-jersey/)

3: You know what, just… don’t download games.

Don’t download games, or anything that you’ll go to out of a reflex habit in response to a passing sense of boredom. Former Reddit addict here -there’s a reason I’ve never gone to Reddit on my phone. If you’re trying to eat well, you don’t by shitty food that’s easy to get into. If you’re trying to develop your intellect, don’t leave yourself with the attention-span equivalent of Twinkies and Lays Potato Chips.

Webcomics Roundup

In the style and delivery of my Podcast Roundup, (part one here: ) these are the webcomics you should be reading:

 Pt.1- Everyone should read these:

http://xkcd.com/: Insightful and hilarious. It might make you think. Short comic updated three times a week, meticulous and well-built. Be sure to check out his side project, http://what-if.xkcd.com/.

http://www.smbc-comics.com/: Updated seven days a week (Zach is a hard worker). Really funny, often featuring elaborate hypothetical situations revolving around some discovery.

http://wondermark.com/: Eccletic and varied. Modern observations wearing archaic absurdities.

Pt. 2- Give them a try and see if they’re your brand of tobacco:

http://oglaf.com/: VERY NSFW (not safe for work). Often pornographic, always clever. Avoid if fantasy sexuality (and by fantasy I mean magic and dragons) seems off-putting to you.

http://existentialcomics.com/: Simone de Beauvior as a caped crusader? Locke, Descartes and Hume playing Dungeons and Dragons? Hell yes. Philosophers are pitted against each other in these insane and comic situations that still manage to spark an internal dialogue on the ideas presented.

http://drmcninja.com/: Pure pulp fun. He’s a doctor and a Ninja. And weirdly Scottish. If any part of you can get on the level of a nine-year-old boy, you’ll dig.

http://questionablecontent.net/: Great characters and an interesting narrative, but it can get rather preachy and on-the-nose. Avoid if you’re burned out on Northeast American hipsterism.

http://www.asofterworld.com/: Simple text over photography. Often macabre and dark, extremely artistic. Sometimes funny, sometimes raw and earnest. Often both (to some degree, at least).

Anything I’ve missed? Let me know if you’ve got any great comics; I’d love to check them out.