A few years ago I only partially listened to a professor who was lecturing on a book by Nasim Taleb. Whether the idea was Taleb’s or my professor’s, I never really parsed out, but one thing I took from that day was the idea that a collection of books you have already read doesn’t really do anything except show people what you’ve read. I was drawn to the idea because – for as long as I can remember – I have been reaching towards the goal of building a personal library primarily of books which I have not read. I love book stores, and I spend too much time and money in them. I have numerous books that are on my reading list, but that doesn’t mean I’ll wait to read them before buying more.
With that in mind, I recently went on quite the shopping spree – the only Borders left in the East Valley is about to close and I had a small collection of gift cards. Between last week and yesterday, I have raided Borders three times and come away with a small stack to add to my bookshelf. Even without a job it will take some time to read them, so instead of waiting until I review them I thought I would let you know what I just picked up and you can get to the commenting (if you so desire) or even click through to buy them yourself (full disclosure, I’ll get a tiny percentage if you do). Without further ado, here are the books I recently acquired:
First among them is Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason K. Stearns. It’s supposed to be a pretty comprehensive account of the war in the DRC, often referred to as the African World War. I’ve got the gist of the conflict already, and I’ve dabbled in readings about it, but this will be my first full-read of a book specifically about the war itself. I’ve been reading the author’s blog for a while as well, so I have a feeling I’ll find it readable and enlightening. I have heard that it ignores (or downplays) America’s role in the Congo, but I’ve read some about that so I’m not too worried about it. I’ve already started the book and I think I’ll definitely be happy with the purchase.
I can’t say I’m always a fan of Westerners writing about their life-changing experiences traveling in unknown country X (be it African, Middle Eastern, or Asian). It often comes off either as carrying a White Man’s Burden approach or viewing it through orientalism’s skewed spectacles. That said, I’ve heard good things about The Places In Between by Rory Stewart. The book is Stewart’s account of his trek across post-Taliban Afghanistan in 2002, the people he met and things he encountered. As far as traveling-to-crazy-places stories go, it was between this and a recent book on Somali pirates. I went with this.
I picked up Jackson Lears’ Rebirth of a Nation on a complete whim. It was one of several books dealing with early modern America with an attractive cover featuring circus-like type in an arching fashion. I could have gone with corruption in Chicago or murder in the machines of New York politics, but I liked the broad spectrum of Lears’ book. America at the turn of the century has always been one of my favorite times to read about, so I’m hoping to learn something.
Darfur: A New History of a Long War will be one of many books I end up reading about Darfur. While I’ve been an advocate for bringing peace to neighboring Uganda, my work with the Darfur atrocity has been largely from the sidelines. I’m one of the activists who thinks that Darfur is not a genocide, but that it is an atrocity that needs to stop regardless. With that in mind, I’m interested in reading this book because it’s authors (Julie Flint and Alex de Waal) are both long-time experts in the region and it’s published by African Arguments, a center/blog which has been a fruitful resource for educating myself about several conflicts.
I sometimes spin the wheel when it comes to book shopping, as I don’t only want to read the same type of book all of the time. Enter The Bang-Bang Club. A book of which I was familiar but without any recommendations or reviews. It’s a memoir by news photographers of their time in post-Apartheid South Africa, trying to capture photographs of the violence that ensued in that country. I know relatively little about this part of South African history, and the book is specifically about the journeys these photographers faced, so I’m not sure how educational it will be. That said, it could turn out to be a page-turning read.
That’s quite a lot of books, but sales and gift cards do that to me. Next time there’s a long post like this it’ll either be a trip from the library or when Barnes & Noble closes its doors.