It's time to choose a book for #1book140, our Twitter book club. Readers have offered fantastic suggestions over the last week, with brief digressions into the history of philosophical romance and an anti-suggestion sidetrack into Godwin's Law. Okay, I admit, I started it. Conversation is still going strong as we continue discussing China Miéville's novel The City and the City over the next ten days (follow the reading schedule here).
Now that the American election is over, let's step back from partisan politics to take a close look at fundamental questions of how we choose what's right and wrong for society. Michael Sandel is a political philosopher at Harvard University, and videos of his lectures are online. If you want to take it further, HarvardX is offering an online version of Sandel's course on justice. Several bookies have already signed up!
In the New York Times review, Janet Maslin writes that Boo "is one of those rare, deep-digging journalists who can make truth surpass fiction, a documentarian with a superb sense of human drama." Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, Martha Nussbaum argues that Boo is inattentive to the social context. Who's right? If you choose this book, we'll ask bloggers from the Indian Twittersphere to be our guide.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Elizabeth Hand calls Patti Smith's memoir "a haunted elegy for both her soul mate Robert Mapplethorpe and a lost New York City." Rolling Stone recently reported that Patti plans to follow it up with a sequel, so January is an excellent month to read this National Book Award winning memoir. If you choose this book, we can expect a lively conversation about punk, art, and the history of New York. Listen to Patti's interview on NPR's Fresh Air.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander
"Mr. Englander's tales use allegory and folkloric techniques to tackle the largest questions of morality and history," writes Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times. The abstract to Englander's title story pitches his work quite differently: "Short story about two married Jewish couples who get high and argue about culture." If you choose to read this collection of eight short stories, we'll try to lure @NathanEnglander to answer our questions.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
Fadiman's 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award winning exploration of conflict between Hmong cultural beliefs and American medical science is timely in light of RadioLab's recent apology for their treatment of Hmong sources in a story about Yellow Rain (read more about the controversy). Rather than focus on the story of Yellow Rain, Fadiman explores Hmong cultural traditions by following the story of a family whose daughter has epilepsy as they navigate the American hospital system. If you choose this book, we will ask @HmongStudies contributors to join the conversation.
The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe
One of the great works of European fiction, this 1794 novel helped established the Gothic style, influencing Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, Edward Allen Poe, and many others. Be warned. Although it's a dramatic read, with lost love and mysterious castles, it's also a book of 57 chapters. The Oxford edition has 736 pages—perfect reading to candlelight when the power goes out in a January storm.