A book about current events

Okay, let’s all settle in with some cozy blankets and a soothing tea so we can cope with the “current events” category. I definitely won’t be repeating that one any time soon. Mistakes were made, and all that.

The World Without Us
by Alan Weisman
Event: our current doom to human extinction
A depressing book about how global warming won’t be the end of the world, just humanity (and quite a few species along the way). I’d honestly rather read something with solutions. A cookbook for eating the rich, for example.

Possible Other Categories
A book with an adaptation you enjoyed (or not) first
A book about or involving climate change
A book involving real scientific knowledge
A book about a modern problem
A book set in the city (partially)

Weapons of Math Destruction
by Cathy O’Neil
Event: algorithms are not our friends
So, it turns out computer programs are only as unbiased as the humans who write them. I know people like to think data (and science) are Objective Truth, but that’s simply not true. Also, like Mary Shelley many years ago, scientists, and data analysts, are not necessarily inherently ethical and given the scale their programs can do harm at, should really go the extra mile to predict and prevent potential harm

Possible Other Categories
A book based on a real person (lots of real people!)
A book involving real scientific knowledge
A book about a modern problem
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with
A book with a yellow spine

We Should All Be Feminists
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Event: the age-old problem of misogyny
For all the dumb-asses who keep asking “why shouldn’t we be egalitarians” as though that was a new, refreshing question: shut up and read the damn book/essay.

Possible Other Categories
A book about feminism
A book you can read in a day

Unspeakable Things
by Laurie Penny
Event: intersectional feminism
I think my favorite line in this whole book is the one about there not being enough boardrooms on fire.

Possible Other Categories
A book about true crime
A book based on a real person (much is autobiographical)
A book with a two-word title
A book about feminism
A book with a subtitle
A book set in the city (largely; Penny is a decided urbanite)

THUG
by Angie Thomas
Event: Racism in the USA
All I can say about some of the reviews for this stunning debut is: ugh, white people. Reverse racism doesn’t exist, FIGHT ME.

Possible Other Categories
A book about a modern problem (well, not exactly but also yes)
A book about death or grief
A book with an adaptation you enjoyed (or not ) first (literally in theaters as I type this)
A book about a difficult topic

The Stardust Revolution
by Jacob Berkowitz
Event: really, really digging that Carl Sagan quote
I feel like this book is the result of someone watching Carl Sagan saying “we are made of star stuff,” possibly while high as a kite, and getting really, really fixated.

Possible Other Categories
A book involving real scientific knowledge
A book with a subtitle
A book based on a real person (piles of interviews with scientists)

The Last Days of New Paris
by China Mieville
Event: According to the Habitican “alright, not directly – but it felt particularly resonant to be reading this during Charlotesville”
Ok, fair enough, anything involving Nazis is probably related to current events. What I really want to know is why Mieville keeps getting covers that look relatively normal when he writes, ahem “weird” tales (obviously he is above genre fiction…). Seriously, someone switch his and Umberto Eco’s cover artists. Everyone will be less confused and buy books they actually wanted.

Possible Other Categories
A book set in the city
A book from a genre you didn’t know existed (well, I think “New Weird” is a bullshit genre, but I’m mostly including it here just to annoy all the self-ascribed writers of it by placing them in genre fiction)

The Hatred of Poetry
by Ben Lerner
Event: what it says on the tin
I don’t understand people who hate all poetry. I can understand hating the poetic attempts of angsty teenagers (hey, I never inflicted my efforts on anyone else), or a particular form of poetry (I can recognize good spoken verse, but I still don’t like it), but all poetry? Seems like hyperbole. Except Plato, but he was already kind of an ass.

Possible Other Categories
A book you can read in a day
A book based on a real person
A book of or about poetry or poets

The Competition
by Marcia Clark
Event: school shootings
While it’s a crime thriller written by a lawyer, it’s not a courtroom drama. Also, it has weirdly inappropriate cover art. Like, what’s the deal with a martini glass for a novel about a school shooting? That seems somehow insensitive.

Possible Other Categories
The next book in a series
A book about a difficult topic
A book with a two word title
A book set in the city

QualityLand
by Marc-Uwe Kling
Event: algorithms are, yup, not our friends
In case you’re wondering, I still don’t speak German. So I ran the blurb through machine translation to find out what the current event might be. Basically, it’s Amazon’s wet dream come true, and what that might mean for both humans and AI. It ain’t good.

Possible Other Categories
A book about mental health (I mean, drones are getting PTSD, so there’s that)

Putin Country
by Anne Garrels
Event: one part of Russia since 1993
The trouble with writing a book based on old notes and interviews with past sources in a very specific place and then extrapolating it to a country as physically huge as Russia is that it’s… a bit narrow. Is this bit of Russia representative, or unique? It’s impossible to know from just this book. Oh well.

Possible Other Categories
A book with a two word title
A book based on a real person
A book about a modern problem (it’s not a history, either)
A book with a subtitle
A book set in the city

Player Piano
by Kurt Vonnegut
Event: neither corporations nor machines are our friends
Vonnegut, the man who never meant to write science fiction, and yet, here we are. This one is almost futurist, but then he did have an inside line, having worked at GE and seen the writing on the wall. That said, Vonnegut’s female characters are at best problematic. And I’m saying that as someone who thinks Slaughterhouse-Five is brilliant.

Possible Other Categories
A book with a two word title
A book set in the city

On Tyranny
by Timothy Synder
Event: fascism
If nothing else, this book really, really, really enrages American right-wingers, and watching them have meltdowns could be entertaining for some people. Otherwise, the book is incredibly depressing, as anyone with half a brain and awareness of the American situation right now could predict.

Possible Other Categories
A book you can read in a day
A book with a two-word title
A book you didn’t get around to in 2017
A book about a modern problem

Modern Romance
by Aziz Ansari
Event: dating advice from a guy with a bad case of “nice guy syndrome”
Still awkward. Also the last time we’ll see it this year. Please everyone, spare us next year, okay? By the by, his career is just fine, and so are those of a bunch of other male comedians who had their moment of revealed assholery, did their nonpology penance, and laid low for a couple months. Congrats guys! All of you still suck!

Possible Other Categories
A book with a two word title
A book you can read in a day (possible)
A book about a modern problem (well, so it claims)
A book by two authors

In Order to Live
by Yeonmi Park
Event: North Korea
I’m willing to concede that Park’s childhood memory might be a bit dodgy. Fair enough. However, I do find it worrisome that she’s apparently backed by a libertarian think tank. Honey, you got out of one extreme, don’t go to the other.

Possible Other Categories
A book about true crime
A book based on a real person
A book about a modern problem
A book about a difficult topic
A book set in the city

Forgetting Foster
by Dianne Touchell
Event: Alzheimer’s disease (not a problem unique to the modern era)
Why is this one here? The task wasn’t “a depressing novel in a modern setting”. Why did no one choose a single positive current event? I know there are some! Right?!

Possible Other Categories
A book with a two word title
A book you can read in a day
A book with a character’s name in the title
A book about death or grief

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice (The Austen Project #4)
by Curtis Sittenfeld
Event: Once again, our Habitican friend shares their thoughts, and really, they are particularly on point: “tackles a lot of modern/current events, unfortunately it does it really, really badly”
Per the above, the author goes full well meaning but uninformed and thick as a brick White Lady on this retelling.

Possible Other Categories
The next book in a series (stand-alone though)
A book with a subtitle
A book by a female author with a masculine-passing pseudonym (She writes under her middle name, which is her mom’s maiden name, which is totally a male name. Just to add some White Lady icing, in interviews she seems only vaguely aware of gender discrimination in publishing, and pretends she is not aware of what marks prestige in publishing. You know, with her NYT bestseller status)
A book with a queer/quiltbag/lgbt+ protagonist (I will FIGHT YOU if you use this book for transgender representation in your reading this year)
A book with an ugly cover (It’s not the graphic design overall so much as the choice of bright red)
A book set in a city (Cincinnati, not fondly or kindly)

Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies
by Chris Kluwe
Event: gay marriage, pissing off the NFL
I love Chris Kluwe and his ability to swear, at least last I paid attention. I kind of left Twitter awhile back, which puts me rather out of step with celebrities like Kluwe. It’s not a very good book, so you’re better off reading his good essays online anyway. But hey, if you need easy challenge credit, it’s short and half of it is already online in some form or another!

Possible Other Categories
A book you can read in a day
A book based on a real person
A book about or involving a sport (Kluwe is, after all, the former punter who metaphorically flipped off the NFL)
A book featuring a profession you are unfamiliar with (is anyone actually familiar with NFL punting??)
A book with a subtitle
A book set in the city

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
by Charles C. Mann
Event: new science on old stuff
Mann decided no one had yet written the pop history corrective to the shoddy education on indigenous people of North and South America, and that he was going to write it. There’s definite overreach in here. He’s a science writer and not a historian or archaeologist, and I think that causes some problems because he is far too careless with his language, not even considering his preference for mixed metaphors.

Possible Other Categories
A book with pictures
A book based on a real person
A book with a subtitle
A book set in a city

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