Since 2016, I’ve made a “commitment” at the beginning of each year to read fifty books. And if you assumed that I put that word in quotes because I haven’t managed to fulfill my promise to myself, you are correct. This year it’s been particularly difficult for me to focus on reading whole books. Between family health issues, vocational responsibilities, political unrest, and the COVID-19 pandemic, my attention has been pulled every which way.
Recently, though, I finally sat down and read Deep Work by Cal Newport, which had been on my to-read list for several years. It turned out to be a more business-oriented guide than I anticipated, but I still found many of Newport’s suggestions for retraining the mind to focus helpful. I’ve been using weekly schedules off and on since the early 2000s to assist with uncovering pockets of wasted time that I can reclaim and use more productively. Newport’s book was just the kick in the pants I needed to return to that practice.
So now I’m trying to get back on track as well with my goal of reading one book a week. And lo and behold, a bunch of my favorite authors have new books out!
Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson’s second book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents was just released this week. I read her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns, last year, and it is one of the best historical accounts I’ve ever read. Despite the text being more than 500 pages long, Wilkerson has a concise, almost poetic way of relating history that kept me enthralled.
Also recently released is Natasha Trethewey’s memoir Memorial Drive in which she explores her mother’s life and murder along with her own grief. I’ve read every one of Trethewey’s poetry collections, and her work never disappoints.
Matthew Salesses, who was one of the first adoptee authors I discovered when I began to write about adoption myself, has a new novel coming out next week. Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear is “a haunting and frighteningly funny novel about Asian American stereotypes, the desires that make us human, puns, and what happens to the self when you have to become someone else to be seen.”
And one of my favorite essayists, Eula Biss, has a new book coming next month called Having and Being Had, “a radical interrogation of work, leisure, and capitalism.” Yes, please.
I’m such a fan of all of these authors. I’ll read anything they write, no matter the subject or genre, because they each inspire me to notice more and to open my mind. They force me to think, which is the main reason I read in the first place, to go on a journey with another’s mind.
(P.S. I also highly recommend High Cotton, a timely collection of essays by first-time author Kristie Robin Johnson just released by Raised Voice Press [wink].)