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The books I read in August 2022

Each month my goal is to read five books on a variety of topics and from different genres. I read in order to learn and to start conversations with readers and others I encounter along the way. Here are the books I read in August 2022. If you click on the title, you’ll go to the longer post on More to Come. Enjoy!

The American Spirit

The American Spirit (2017) is a collection of fifteen speeches given by David McCullough over twenty-five years. There are a number of commencement speeches, a talk made before Congress, and a July 4th naturalization speech given at Monticello, among others. I returned to reread this volume after hearing of McCullough’s passing on August 7th, as I was reminded of a speech he made in October 2001 and of one of the most memorable personal interactions I had with the late historian, at an especially difficult time in our country’s history. A sense of history, he wrote, “is an antidote to self-pity and self-importance…history is a lesson in proportions.”


The Great Passion (2022) by James Runcie, is “a meditation on grief and music” as imagined through the writing of one of the greatest masterpieces of Baroque sacred music, J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The narrator of this historical novel set in 1726-27 is thirteen-year-old Stefan Silbermann, who is sent away to school in Leipzig after the death of his mother. Following a few rough initial weeks, young Silbermann is taken under the wing of the school’s cantor, Johann Sebastian Bach, and his life changes forever. Runcie uses the voices and thoughts of Silbermann, Bach, and his family to teach us how music speaks to grief while capturing, in a very imaginative way, what it must have been like to “sing, play, and hear Bach’s music for the very first time.”


One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy (2018) by historian Carol Anderson is a ringing condemnation of the rollbacks to Black and Brown Americans’ participation in the vote both before and especially since the 2013 Shelby County vs. Holder Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the 2016 election’s most “misunderstood story,” Anderson shows how “Republican legislatures and governors systemically blocked millions of African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans from the polls.” Faced with demographics that were quickly shrinking the party to permanent minority status, “the Republicans opted to disfranchise rather than reform.”


Eat Your Words: A Fascinating Look at the Language of Food (1999) by Charlotte Foltz Jones was just the recipe for a short, delightful romp through the world of language and food. “Because food is necessary for survival, our entire culture is based on it.” writes Jones in this work suitable for pre-teens through adults. “It’s in our laws, our money, our superstitions, our celebrations, and especially our language.” Calling on her favorite anecdotes, Jones has created a fun-filled and informative book about the history of food-related words and phrases.


Vietnam: The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture (2020) by Geoffrey Murray is a work I read in preparation for an upcoming trip to Southeast Asia. Murray’s smart and concise overview pushed me to recognize how much I had to learn and encouraged me to explore different paths, such as the perspective of the Vietnamese to the Vietnam War as well as the eastern approach to time, where people see it much differently than westerners. 

More to come…

DJB

NOTE: To see which books I read in January, FebruaryMarch, April, May, June, and July click on the links. You can also read my Ten tips for reading five books a month online.


This Weekly Reader features links to recent articles, blog posts, or books that grabbed my interest or tickled my fancy. I hope you find something that makes you laugh, think, or cry. 


Image of boys reading by Victoria_Borodinova from Pixabay

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