Lewis’s The Fifth Risk


The Fifth Risk
Michael Lewis

I’ll read anything Michael Lewis publishes, even the minor works, like this one that examines what happens in the institutions of government when the new leaders not only disdain the institutions, but are also entirely incompetent. A brisk narrative telling celebrating the important of bureaucrats, and the power they hold, and how attacking them, without a clear plan for what to do instead is foolish and dangerous.

A lot of Trump era D.C. books are fearmongering and unhelpful, this one is neither. There’s real insight here in how government works, and how it could be better. Worth reading for that alone.

 

Recommended.

Michael Lewis

Winslow’s The Force


The Force
Don Winslow

Don Winslow if not the best crime writer alive, definitely top five. His pacing is always full speed ahead, but without sacrificing character develop, or whip smart dialogue. His two books on the rise of Mexican drug cartels, The Power of the Dog and the Cartel are deeply researched and utterly compelling.

Here, he turns his attention to the NYPD and an imaginary unit of super cops that shares a lot of similarities with the notorious Street Crimes Unit. They’re touted around the city as a team of super cops out to get the baddest of the bad guys, but in reality they’re deeply corrupt and their leader is spiraling out of control.

An ode to New York City and a sympathetic portrait of the NYPD, with its blemishes and all, this book is catnip for a New Yorker like me. Dialogue is on point, story moves at a blazing speed, landmarks all check out. If you like crime novels, or New York City novels, or novels with a plot that flies, this is worth the read.

 

Recommended.

Don Winslow

Hayes’s American Sonnets to My Once and Future Assassins


American Sonnets to My Once and Future Assassins
Terrance Hayes

Another gut punch of a book of poetry by a black man. Viscerally moving sonnets about race, love and America.  Most pointedly what its like to reflect backwards, and think ahead, in Trump’s America.

For many years, I didn’t read much poetry, but lately, I’m drawn to it. There’s only so many tweets you can read, so many Washington tell alls you can consume, before it all feels the same and you need someone brilliant, like Terrance Hayes, to capture the moment in a perfect turn of phrase, the reflect back the world to you in a sonnet that leaves you staring at the page long after you’re done reading.

Perhaps now, more than ever, we need poetry and poets to give voice to what its like to live today.

Essential reading.

Recommended.

Terrence Hayes

Boyarin’s The Jewish Gospels

The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ
Daniel Boyarin

Daniel Boyarin is one the most interesting scholars of rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity working today. He’s also, usually, an incredibly dense and academic writer. I read, and loved, his book Borderlands, but I’m also not sure I understood it.

The Jewish Gospels is Borderlands for normal people. It posits the same hypothesis – that Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity developed, at least in part, in conversation and competition. When Paul was Saul he was a student of the school of Gamaliel, after all.

The time, and subject, covered here is of deep interest to me, but much of the writing I’ve found (especially that covering the Rabbinic side), often assumes a level of learning I do not have. Very pleased to have found this accessible book to give me a toe hold in this world.

If clear thinking on the early development of Christianity and rabbinic Judaism is of interest to you, I can’t imagine a better place to start.

Recommended.

Daniel Boyrain

Steinhauer’s Middleman

MiddlemanOlen Steinhauer

If literate, smart, fast paced thrillers are your thing, you should pick up every Olen Steinhauer novel as soon as it is published. He is without a doubt amongst the best in the business. This thriller about a leftist social movement (or is it a terrorist organization?) which one day tells its members to pick up and leave is exactly the kind of mind candy I can’t put down. I finished it two days, staying up far, far too late

Some thrillers manipulate you into reading more with a cliff hanger at every chapter. Steinhauer doesn’t go for anything so pedestrian. He keeps you reading by keeping the pace high, the characters compelling, and the ideas complex enough to ensure that you don’t feel like you’re wasting your time.

Make no mistake, this is entertainment, but its top-flight entertainment and if this sort of dad airplane book genre is your thing (and it is definitely my thing) Middleman is not to be missed.

Recommended.

Olen Steinhauer

Olen Steinhauer

Heraclitus Fragments

FragmentsHeraclitus

A strange and beautiful little book collecting the surviving fragments of poetic writings of Heraclitus, a pre-socratic philosopher and poet. None of the fragments collected here are complete, so it difficult to under how exactly they fit into the longer works to which they once belonged, but here, in a relatively new translation, and presented one to a page, they have a kind of mysterious and compelling beauty. I read the whole thing in one sitting and now it sits by my bedside, frequently re-read when I need a moment or two of beauty before bed.

 

Recommended.

Heraclitus

Heraclitus by Moreelse

Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead


Don’t Call Us Dead

Danez Smith

A stunning work of poetry. A book that left me breathless, and thrusting it into my wife’s hands, saying “you need to read this”. A work both political and deeply, deeply, personal full of poems that address race, love, manhood and more, tackling the deeply toxic race relations in America with nuance, compassion and serious writing chops.

Many many years ago I heard Tariq Ali say that if you want to understand a culture, read its poetry. He was talking about Iraq, but the same holds true for U.S. If you want to understand America, in all our horribleness and beauty, read Danez Smith.

Recommended.

Danez Smith

Danez Smith