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December 2018 Reading List

Four books for December puts me at 82 books read for 2018*. I’m unlikely to match this pace for 2019 but ya never know. I read a lot of really great books, learned more about American history this year than I ever did in all my years combined, became politically active and a card-carrying feminist. Thank you to the New York Public Library, Queens Library and Ramapo Catskill Library System for the tremendous year.

I’ll be snagging this nifty “Knowledge is Power” card during my regular visit to the NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. God I love that place. How did I not become a librarian? I turned my bedroom in my trailer into a fully functional library! I was a library aide at Montgomery Elementary School! I own a card catalog! 

(*Plus one in progress and one I did not finish but those don’t count!)

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward – Part of me wondered why I’d want to read this given that we’re still currently living under this madman’s rule. But the larger part of me said that this is history in the making and I want to better understand and fully inform myself as much as possible. Trump is so ill-qualified and everyone around him seems to know it and yet are powerless or unwilling to stop him. Electoral college aside, time and the American voter will handle it unless he kills us first or Mueller and other investigations beat us to it. 

The Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story by Miriam C. Davis – A recounting of a string of axe murders and attacks in New Orleans in the early 20th Century. It was all bloody and terribly and though two men were tried and convicted it remains unsolved. It reminded me of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara in that I was exhausted by the details of brutal crime after brutal crime all with no solution at the end. Of course in the latter case the Golden State Killer was caught after the book’s publication. In the case of the Axeman, he’ll go through history like a Jack the Ripper, leaving a legacy of fear, pain and injustice. Because it will remain unsolved (no DNA evidence exists) and the crimes all bled together, I found myself more intrigued by how each crime was investigated and the legal proceedings which led to two men being wrongly convicted.

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott – A terrific narrative of four* women who served their causes (the Confederacy or the Union, depending on which story you follow)

*Elizabeth Van Lew operated a spy ring for the Union while living in the Deep South much to the anger of her neighbors. But much of her information was aided by her slave Mary Jane Bowers who Elizabeth sent to live with and work for Jefferson Davis. That Mary Jane’s story is not more highlighted is not surprising as an enslaved person of color their stories often became secondary, but it is as remarkable as Van Lew’s. So it should be 5 women. Bowers also “disappeared” after 1867 —no further records can be found of her— so she was not around to help propel her story the way that two of the others did — one going on to write a memoir and perform in shows around the country.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister – She’s the eminent and prolific feminist writer of this current generation it seems. She can pump out the books faster than I can read them! That said, there was a lot of redundancy in this book and her book “Big Girls Don’t Cry” which I’d read only last month about Hillary Clinton’s bid for the nomination during the 2002 Presidential primaries and the VP nomination of Sara Palin. While recent history is worth discussing, reflecting on and learning more about, it seems Traister has tapped the well of history from the 1st and 2nd waves of feminism. That said, I will continue to buy and read everything she writes. She’s smart and thorough in her coverage and since we are still fighting the same exact fights, it’s worth drudging up the past over and over and over again until we fix things!

Click here to read my November Booklist (3*)
Click here to read my October Booklist (3)
Click here to read my September Booklist (5)
Click here to read my August Booklist (6*)
Click here to read my July Booklist (6*)
Click here to read my June Booklist (7*)
Click here to read my May Booklist (13)
Click here to read my April Booklist (12)
Click here to read my March Booklist (9)
Click here to read my February Booklist (8)
Click here to read my January Booklist (6)

*There were some months where I watched documentaries instead like the phenomenal Eyes on the Prize (PBS). I also read lots of historical and reference books that didn’t actually make it to my list and I completed two semesters (online) studying the Civil War and Reconstruction at Columbia with Professor Eric Foner. A banner year, indeed!