Like most people who like to write, I love to read. These are a few of the books I’ve been reading lately…
The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, revised and expanded edition, Simon Wiesenthal (New York: Schocken Books, 1997)
A young SS soldier summons concentration camp prisoner Simon Wiesenthal to hear his dying confession. He asks Wiesenthal to forgive him for the murder of hundreds of Jews, and specifically the child and parents whom he shot as they tried to escape being burned alive. After listening to the confession, Wiesenthal walks away in silence. In the last paragraph of his narrative, Wiesenthal addresses his readers:
You, who have just read this sad and tragic episode in my life, can mentally change places with me and ask yourself the crucial question, “What would I have done?”
The rest is a collection of responses. It’s an uncomfortable book to read, and the question Wiesenthal asks refuses to be shrugged off.
We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy, Ta-Nehisi Coates (New York: One World, 2017)
This is a collection of eight essays, written over the eight years of Obama’s presidency. Coates is a writer for The Atlantic. In this book, he gathers essays written on various people and subjects, opening up a dialogue between a particular person or event and the wider issue of racism. He introduces each previously published essay with an account of his life at the time he of its writing, and of his evolving understanding of race in this country. It’s thoughtful, well written, and difficult to read at times.
Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales, P.D. James (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017)
This collection by the late P.D. James was a wonderful way to enjoy her style of mysteries in short story form – something new to me in this collection and The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories. Great stories, short form, and a wonderful introduction to P.D. James for anyone who hasn’t picked up her Adam Dalgliesh books…
The Holy Man, Susan Trott (Riverhead Books, 1995)
What if you could learn the stories of pilgrims waiting on a mountainside, each seeking to see the Holy Man? In short chapters, Susan Trott gives us a glimpse into the lives of those who see (or never see) the Holy Man. She also shines a light on whomever reads her words. I know I found myself in some of the pilgrims…These are short stories that will begin long conversations and even longer reflection.
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2017)
It’s a small book, each lesson somewhere from a few paragraphs to a couple of pages. Snyder takes a good look at the 20th century, the mistakes that led to wars and genocides, and the actions that countered suffering with strength and wisdom. I read it all in a couple of hours, then went back and read one or two a day. Each point is thoughtful and thought-provoking. At this point in time, it is a call to right action and sacrifice for what makes this world a better place.
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates (New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2015)
This book was required reading for my college freshman son. He handed it on to me because it was one of the best books he’d ever read. It is Coates’ letter to his fifteen year old son, a gift of his experience growing up in Baltimore, attending Howard, becoming a writer, and living as a man of color in the United States of America. It’s brilliant – beautifully written, open, and difficult to read. It changed me.
Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2011)
I’ve been a P.D. James fan for years, but never picked this up because I’m not a Jane Austen fan. This is a wonderful mystery written in the style of Jane Austen, but with James’ keen insight into the characters. It answers the question: what would Darcy and Elizabeth do if someone was murdered at Pemberley? Enjoy!