August was a terrible reading month. Usually, I read a lot during the summer months, and I did in June, but August was a total bummer. I felt unfocused and overwhelmed all month and it definitely shows in my reading stats. I only read six books and half were audiobooks. I hardly read anything at all the last two weeks of the month. I gave the books an average rating of 3.4 stars. Not fantastic, but there were a couple that I loved.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Complimentary copies of some of the books mentioned below were provided by the publishers.
Wealthy political donors like the Koch brothers have long used their personal fortunes and private foundations to fund radical conservative think tanks, academic programs, and political campaigns, stealthily shifting the Republican party further and further to the right. But their influence has grown exponentially in the last decade, and now, the radical right’s political machine has come into its own. In Dark Money, Jane Mayer gives readers a grand tour of the shady underside of conservative American politics. Normally, any book filled with terms like “campaign finance” and “free market economics” would bore me to tears, but Dark Money reads like a political thriller. I mean, it is a political thriller. It’s also real, which makes it truly terrifying.
Sarat Chestnut is just a child in 2074 Louisiana when the Second American Civil War breaks out–North and South pitted against each other in a fight over whether using petroleum, the fuel which has caused environmental devastation–should be legal. When her father is killed, Sarat and her family are sent to live in a refugee camp where she meets a mysterious man who radicalizes and transforms her a deadly instrument of war. Objectively, this is a brilliant book. The writing, plot, and characters–even the audiobook narration–are amazing. But I had a hard time sinking my teeth into it because it’s just so depressing. Fair warning: this is not your standard dystopian fare. You have to be in the right frame of mind to read it.
In this Essay collection, Marilynne Robinson takes on modern thought–defending John Calvin, denouncing social Darwinism, and advocating for the return to original source material. Marilynne Robinson is nothing if not a probing and nuanced thinker. This collection expanded my mind and made me think about certain things in a completely different way, which is the most one can hope for in a book of philosophical essays. There is much I agree with and much I disagree with. I think Robinson selectively ignores facts that don’t fit in with her view at times. For example, her defense of John Calvin against charges of misogyny suffers from proof texting. But overall, it is an engaging and provocative collection.Short Reviews of 'American War' by Omar El Akkad, 'Citizen' by Claudia Rankine, + more!Click To Tweet
The Way of Strangers is journalist Graeme Wood’s account of his encounters with ISIS members and sympathizers, along with his analysis of how ISIS arose, what drives it, and why so many are drawn to its violent vision of Jihad. This book is quite analytical and scholarly. Had I known this, I would have read a hard copy instead of listening to the audiobook, because I have a difficult time absorbing complex information by ear. Also, Wood is not an engaging narrator. That said, it’s an interesting book. Wood is clear-headed and he does a good job of looking at ISIS objectively, without the filter of right wing fear or the left’s tendency to completely disassociate ISIS from Islam. I definitely recommend it if you want to better understand the factors driving the Islamic State.
Citizen is a lyrical exploration of the micro-aggressions black people experience every day in America. I was excited to read it because I’ve heard such amazing things from other bloggers and book reviewers. Alas, Rankine’s communication style just isn’t for me. She frequently writes in cryptic abstractions. For example, “Do feelings lose their feeling if they speak to a lack of feeling?” Huh? Now, I realize that poetry is, up to a point, inherently abstract (which is one of the reasons I struggle with it), but this is pushing it too far for me. The first half of the book is much stronger than the second half and Allyson Johnson does a wonderful job of narrating the audiobook. If vague abstractions and hazy metaphors are your thing, you’ll probably get a lot more out of this than I did.
This book will probably be of no interest to anyone who doesn’t have chronic Lyme disease. It’s basically a sequel to Strasheim’s 2009 book, Insights into Lyme Disease Treatment, in which she interviewed thirteen Lyme-literate doctors about their treatment strategies. That book had more of an allopathic/integrative focus, whereas this one focuses on ten doctors who are using innovative out-of-the-box alternative treatments, such as hyperthermia (in Germany), low dose immunotherapy, herbalism, supplements, and a host of energetic and frequency-based therapies that are way outside the realm of orthodox medicine. While I have mixed feelings about some of the testing and treatment modalities outlined in the book, I think it’s an outstanding addition to the canon of layman Lyme literature.
Tell me about the books you read in August in the comments below!