Books I Read in October

I read or finished 13-ish books this month.* Over half of which were Agatha Christie books . . .

Light Non-fiction
The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA by Doug Mack. Are all travel books silly, narcissistic, shallow, and dull? Or have I just had horrific luck? (I’ve got John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley sitting on my library shelf, so I surely will have at least one satisfying travel book) I want to see and feel and be inspired to visit these new environs. I felt that this book was a mix of popular history, polemic, and terrible travel writing (if you can describe, don’t pick topics that need description!). I found the tone (particularly when the author himself showed through) smarmy in parts and rather boring in others (and yet I fell for his statement that there are no other books on the topic; I guess I should actually verify that . . . eventually). Also, the overall feel is depressing, not inspiring.

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel of The Modern Mrs. Darcy. I enjoy reading lightheartedly about personality, BUT I repudiate the sticklers for “types.” I almost put this down when I got into the Meyers-Briggs because I can not stand how limiting Meyers-Briggs is while being completely based on opinion . . . and the author reinforces that concept. I then decided to skip that section. I liked the tests that measure your “amount” and the chapter on fixed mindset (her book recommendation is sitting on my library shelf right now). I do agree with another reviewer that the book focuses on self far more than the title indicates. The parts I found most helpful where the familial differences. But again, the hard typing seems to draw lines.

Mysteries
I read nine Agatha Christie books: The Moving Finger, Third Girl, Murder at the Vicarage, The Hollow, The Body in the Library, Sleeping Murder, A Murder is Announced, A Caribbean Mystery, and Murder in the Mews. The Moving Finger had a funny protagonist and fun subplots. The Body in the Library and Sleeping Murder are particularly disturbing, especially the latter. That scared me and made me consider laying off the mysteries for a while. Besides the obvious violence and other issues with mysteries I’d lay a general content advisory for various things plus language advisory over these generally because 1) I feel I must, 2) Because I don’t remember every single book/issue, and 3) Because I’m lazy.

Lord Peter. I didn’t have this listed as read yet I knew I read many of these stories and that I’d had it checked out at least twice before. But as I re-read and skimmed, I realized I’d read most of the stories and didn’t care to re-read them all, so I went on a search and discovered I’d read two smaller short stories collections (I’d thought I’d only read one). So I only read those stories that I had not read before. Save your time and only read this one because this has ALL the previously published Lord Peter short stories.** I don’t love short mysteries, and some of these are grisly plus they don’t feature much of Lord Peter’s personality, except “Tallboys” in which you get a hilarious picture of the Wimsey family, that one I definitely recommend.

Classics
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. I definitely enjoyed this more than my aborted reading of Jayber Crow and my read of Nathan Coulter, but I’m still not a Berry fan. I dislike the morals of the people and I loathe the fatalistic, deterministic, passive, hopelessness that pervades the books. I found the tone of Lila similar but faaaaaar more submissive than passive I guess? Just less hopeless. But that is hindsight. And also, the subject matter in Lila dealt with true hard things while Berry doesn’t*** so Lila doesn’t feel petty or complaining while what I’ve read of Berry’s does. Don’t get me wrong, Berry is worth reading. He is an excellent writer, definitely a classic author caliber like Marilynne Robinson. I just don’t LIKE his stories. I DO appreciate his writing quality.

Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov
Ugh. More passive, hopeless, fatalism. Also, boring.

Intellectual Fiction
Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt. Brilliant explanation of economics. I loved how he explained both the short and long perspective. I like to think of this as “doing the whole Algebra problem.” That is how I want to think of so many things. As Sowell points out in the below book and in his economics book, many people make issues zero-sum that are not. We have to do all the work, all of the equation.

The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell. Timeless and timely. Sowell explains the paradigm divide in U.S. specifically but also a general timeless paradigm divide. He wrote this 22 years ago, and we are seeing the fruits even more fully now.

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*I skipped pages in Reading People. With Lord Peter, once I figured out which short stories I had read (by looking at the collections I’d already read), I skipped to the ones I hadn’t read and read those.

**The previous collections are: Lord Peter Views the Body, Hangman’s Holiday (includes non-Wimsey stories), In the Teeth of the Evidence (includes non-Wimsey stories), and Striding Folly, and then the short story “Tallboys” was published alone. Like I mentioned, all these Wimsey stories are included in Lord Peter.

***Except for that superficial and jarringly out of place section where Hannah pretends to understand Nathan’s experience with hackneyed and generic descriptions.

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