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The 2018 Nonfiction Challenge Part XI: Politics, Economics and Business in November

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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Oct 31, 2018, 8:32pm Top

Next week, we here in the US will go to the polls for our midterm elections (in case we haven't all bored the rest of the world to death or frightened you all witless with the political rhetoric surrounding those contests to date...) Which seems to make it a good, timely moment to consider a challenge on what I think of as hot button issues of all kinds: political, economic, financial, business. Want to read about how to revive capitalism? Whether or not universal basic income is the solution to the ongoing woes of the growing ranks of those struggling to survive and getting their benefits chopped or nibbled away at with every week that passes? Alternatively, there are the big political pictures worldwide: what is happening that we can have the elected leader of an ostensibly democratic nation like Hungary declare that democracy itself is passé? Are there new models of political governance? What is the best way to push back against authoritarian regimes or leaders? Do we need to restructure our systems -- and if so, how? Or, read a political or business biography or memoir, perhaps of someone who lived in what now appears to be a simpler age (Gladstone or Disraeli might not agree with you, but...) There's a great new book out there about how the Third Reich WAS born, which delves into the collapse of political structures. What about the activities of new actors in the political arena? From the alt-right to the "antifa"; Black Lives Matter to #metoo; all are having an impact on policymaking and lawmakers and thus play a role in shaping the political and/or economic landscape.

So, those are some of the options. I'm sure the fertile minds of the members of this group will come up with more ideas.

As always, post or PM me with questions. Come back and keep us up to date with what you're reading, the winners and the losers... Why did you love what you loved, and vice versa?? Inquiring minds of readers everywhere want to know, and if there's one thing we all adore, it's a good book bullet.

Edited: Nov 2, 2018, 1:17pm Top

What we're reading this month:

Edited: Oct 31, 2018, 9:31pm Top

Some suggested reading ideas for this challenge

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History by Kurt Anderson

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward
(or any other Woodward books...)

Game Change by John Heileman -- about the 2008 election

Republican Like Me: How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right by Ken Stern

Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic by David Frum

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad

The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics by Dan Kaufman

How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them by Jason Stanley

American Dialogue: The Founding Fathers and Us by Joseph J. Ellis

The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder

How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky

The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics by Mark Lilla

The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future by Andrew Yang

Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation by John Freeman

Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy by Sasha Polakow-Suransky

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell (also Assassination Vacation by the same author)

The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic by Ganesh Sitaraman

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neill

The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power by Steve Fraser

You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You by Molly Ivins
(or any other anthology of writings by other political commentators...

Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland (now Canada's foreign minister, formerly a journalist with the Financial Times)

Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America by Charles Ferguson

Death to the Dictator!: A Young Man Casts a Vote in Iran's 2009 Election and Pays a Devastating Price by Afsaneh Moqadam

The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe by Peter Godwin

C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy by Jeff Sharlet

The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History (The Public Square) by Jill Lepore

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power by Robert Dallek

Books by Matt Taibbi

Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America by Alissa Quart

A Force for Good: How Enlightened Finance Can Restore Faith in Capitalism by John G. Taft

The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger

The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America by Rick Wartzmann

What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael Sandel

The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy by Sasha Issenberg

Edited: Oct 31, 2018, 9:42pm Top

Fiction "side-dishes" for this month's challenge

All kinds of espionage novels could be defined as political novels

Classic late 20th century books include Advise and Consent by Allen Drury

Try -- for a laugh -- books by Christopher Buckley, like Supreme Courtship or Boomsday

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

A classic: Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

Animal Farm by George Orwell -- what happens when the animals decide to govern

The Ghost Writer by Robert Harris -- a thriller based on a former British PM writing his memoirs

Also in the UK, the original House of Cards series by Michael Dobbs, who also wrote four books based on Winston Churchill's struggles during World War II, and a three-book series about an ordinary, modern-day backbench MP in Westminster, Goodfellowe MP, The Buddha of Brewer Street, etc.

Primary Colors by Joe Klein (originally by "Anonymous")

Wag the Dog by Larry Beinhart (on which the film was based)

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

Lincoln by Gore Vidal

Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel

A Very British Coup (also the TV miniseries based on this!) by Chris Mullin

Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong (one of the earliest and best of this author's mysteries, featuring Chinese politicos)

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (OK, so it's speculative fiction, but whatever...)

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Rage is Back by Adam Mansbach

The End of the Jews by Adam Mansbach

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Oct 31, 2018, 8:41pm Top

Coming up in the last month of 2018:

December – 2018 In Review -- Frustrated because you've got leftover books? You've got too many book bullets from other people? Or -- omigod -- that new biography was just published and you must must must read it? Or you've been reading the lists of best reading of 2018 in the NY Times and just realized, omigod, you MUST READ this one book before the end of the year? This is your holiday gift, from the challenge that keeps on giving...

Then, for the first months of 2019:

January: Prizewinning books, and runners up. Any nonfiction book that has won or been nominated for a book award. Obscure is fine!

February: Science and Technology: Innovations and Innovators. Who's leading the breakthroughs in biotech and nanotech? What are the big issues that we're facing in cybersecurity? (I confess I timed this to coincide with the publication of "Zucked" by a friend of mine, Roger McNamee, an early backer of/investor in Facebook, turned critic.

March: True Crime, Misdemeanors and Justice, Past and Present Day: Wanna read about Nixon and Watergate? Or the poisons scandal of Louis XIV's court in 17th century France? The development of criminology? Books like The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher or David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon all count. Or a bio of Thurgood Marshall, or others who worked or still work to correct injustices.

April: Comfort Reads: Whatever topic makes you feel warm & fuzzy inside. Animals? Cooking? What brings you joy? Music? Long walks? This could cross a number of more traditional challenge categories, and maybe will give us insight into each other...

May: History. In this case, my cutoff date is 1950. A bit arbitrary, but after the end of World War II and after the Berlin Airlift, the birth of the Marshall Plan and the start of the Cold War.

June: The Pictures Have It! Any book that relies on pictures to tell the story, from an illustrated graphic text, to a book of photographs, to an art catalog.

Disappointed that your favorite isn't here? Well, there are six more months to come. Stay tuned!

Oct 31, 2018, 9:00pm Top

I plan to read American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. I'm thinking it might shed some light on some of the "red state/blue state" divisions.

Oct 31, 2018, 9:37pm Top

For those fiction side dishes, what about Philip Roth's The Plot Against America. I have it on my shelf but haven't read it yet.

Oct 31, 2018, 9:42pm Top

>6 cbl_tn: Done! Thanks for the suggestion...

Oct 31, 2018, 11:09pm Top

I am reading the already excellent The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes

Edited: Nov 1, 2018, 6:57am Top

I need to ponder what I want to read on this, but I will definitely be reading Michelle Obama's autobiography when it comes into land in a couple of weeks. I also have To Obama in the pile.

I also have both Evicted and Educated on the shelves.

Nov 1, 2018, 7:51am Top

>5 Chatterbox: I can see all of those categories working for me, and I love the comfort reads! We need some comfort amid all the heavier subjects. It will be fun to see what people choose:-)

Nov 1, 2018, 7:58am Top

Does Freakonomics count? I was planning on reading that anyway. And I decided to pop into the nonfiction challenge for next year, so might as well start now, right? :)

Nov 1, 2018, 9:20am Top

Forgot to say, I'm happy with 2019s themes so far. Thanks for all your work on this every year Suz.

Edited: Nov 1, 2018, 9:48am Top

I've several on the go or about to start for this month. I've already started Goodbye Europe: Writers and Artists Say Farewell, about the looming disaster for the UK that is Brexit. It's a mixed bag so far - OK, but nothing earth-shattering. I have to say, if anyone wants to read about how Brexit happened, I thoroughly recommend Tim Shipman's All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class (although with the hindsight of a couple of years it really is like reading a car crash). I'm not reading that for this challenge, but it's another one to add to the list of possibles if Brexit has you scratching your head.

I've also just started Ann Pettifor's The Production of Money: How to Break the Power of Bankers, and I've also got Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century lined up.

I have both Strangers in Their Own Land and Hillbilly Elegy on Mt TBR and think it would be really interesting to read them together, but I don't know if I'll have time as it could be quite a mammoth undertaking! So the first three can definitely go in the covers post, and I'll see where I'm at later in the month.

Nov 1, 2018, 9:56am Top

Nov 1, 2018, 10:06am Top

>14 Jackie_K: - On Tyranny is excellent! A quick but powerful read.

Edited: Nov 1, 2018, 10:13am Top

I'm reading Secondhand Time by Nobel prize winner Svetlana Alexievich about Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union and as Putin comes to power. It's for a class next week.

I have several 'partially reads' : American Nations, which was mentioned above; One Nation After Trump and Ten Days That Shook the World which I started for one of the earliest challenges this year and still haven't finished. I'll try to get at least one of the 'partials' finished, too.

Nov 1, 2018, 10:21am Top

The paperback edition of Win Bigly has just been released, think I'll give it a try. I enjoy Scott Adams' Periscopes, even when I don't agree with his views, so why not? :)

Edited: Nov 1, 2018, 10:39am Top

Not sure if this would work here. What do you think about Haven: The Dramatic Story of 1,000 World War II Refugees and How They Came to America by Ruth Gruber.

Nov 1, 2018, 10:41am Top

I have another idea for the 2019 themes. What about putting a focus on good journalism, since there is so much hot air (and support for it) coming from the White House about bad journalism? There are some terrific books out there written by first rate journalists, about their own experiences, about the industry, about freedom of speech and the importance of journalism to democracy. I bet we could compile a list very quickly.

Edited: Nov 1, 2018, 11:01am Top

I'm still listening to my book for October and I had every intention to skip this month but . . .
I'm thinking I can manage to shoehorn in On Tyranny at some point.

Great categories to start 2019 !!

Nov 1, 2018, 11:36am Top

I am going to try to read two books for this month. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer and I am going to finish Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture by Brink Lindsey.

On Monday and Tuesday I watched the PBS program Frontline. It was the story of Facebook and how it has become the silent elephant in the room when it comes to global politics and events. It was a fascinating story and made me feel very self-righteous about my decision to not belong to Facebook that I made many years ago. (long before the 2016 election) However, I am fascinated by how this system works. I want to read more about it and how these global information softwares are changing politics - and not for the better. I have Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich somewhere in my collection and I might read it. I am also thinking of reading The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick or The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. I know that these are not politics but things are very intertwined and getting harder and harder to separate. I am not going to have these as my priority for this month, that spot belongs to Dark Money, but the connections are fascinating.

Nov 1, 2018, 11:44am Top

I read Weapons of Math Destruction a couple of years ago and thought it was a very good book. It is easy to read and so relevant for so many things in our world. If anybody is looking for a book for this months challenge I think you will find this very readable and very informative. Give it a go.

Nov 1, 2018, 11:53am Top

>12 The_Hibernator: Yes, that absolutely would count.

>15 m.belljackson: YOU'RE READING MY BOOK! That gets you special non-fiction challenge stickers (or something...)

>20 jessibud2: That's a really interesting idea, and easily could replace a challenge on a particular theme, like current affairs, politics or even travel, since so many of those who write travel narratives also are journalists.

>22 benitastrnad: I think those books on the Internet are fine, because they have ramifications for the way we approach/think about political and economic issue. If we simply dabble in "the shallows", as Carr suggested, then how can we engage in the gnarly complex political issues that are the most crucial ones to address??

>19 jessibud2: This would work IF there is a significant emphasis on the political wrangling over admitting these refugees, versus telling the stories of the refugees themselves and their rescuers on a "newsy" basis. Does that make sense? I think this kind of book is a reminder that immigration has been, for most of the last century (well, and long before that...) a really big political hot potato, about which politicians on all sides wrangled.

>14 Jackie_K: There is a bit of an echo effect with J.D. Vance and Arlie Russell Hochschild. For that reason alone I'd think about reading them a few months apart.


I will update cover images and lists later this afternoon. I have to return to caring for Molly-cat... and dealing with some edits on a story that will run on Monday.

Nov 1, 2018, 12:56pm Top

>24 Chatterbox: (re>19 jessibud2:) - Oh, I think it absolutely is.

Also, I have requested from my library another book of Jewish immigration during and after WWII, that is Canadian, called None is Too Many subtitled: Canada and the Jews of Europe 1933-1948. It is about Canada's restrictive immigration policy towards Jewish refugees during the Holocaust years. I have long since known about this book but never actually read it. As long as our species continues to behave reprehensively towards others, immigration will always be an issue and a hot-button one, at that. Everywhere. Sadly, even here in Canada, things aren't as smooth as we would hope for.

Edited: Nov 4, 2018, 9:14am Top

ON TYRANNY offers many powerful words,
yet it does not address the fact that our democracy was founded on Tyranny to millions of stolen and enslaved Africans.

Other concerns to address:

Yes, I have contacted my liberal U.S. Senator and Representative and sent a message to The United Nations, but why are people STILL starving in Yemen?

How could The World WATCH that little girl die? Why didn't the photographer feed her?

How exactly can we stop another Biafra?
Malala will likely have answers.

Even if trump was impeached, that would leave equally evil McConnell or Ryan or ???

Even if the Democrats win The House, hasn't the ONE PARTY bankrupted us to Russia and/or China?

#8 STAND OUT. To me, this is the strongest statement and one which needs more of a blueprint for the current state of disaster at the Mexican border.
All of our hard-earned taxes are being totally wasted to support troops which should never have been sent.
How do we Stand Up and Out to this?

We can do this, but what if The Truth is that the Libertarians, Greens, Etceteras, and Republicans will again outvote us?

The author has also left us with no CALL FOR ACTION - what is The Plan when the Impossible is already happening?
Where are links to a United Movement to Save our Democracy?

Nov 1, 2018, 5:54pm Top

Just a quick heads-up that Haymarket Books have 90% off all their ebooks till Nov 9th - I have just bought 7 books for $7, all of which would be perfect for this month's theme!

I'm trying not to think about the time needed to read them along with all the other hundreds of books on Mt TBR. Too bad that reading time can't be 90% off as well.

Nov 2, 2018, 1:33am Top

I went for the business part of the category and fraudulent business from the looks of things. I recently finished Empire of Deception about an historic business swindle and am currently reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.

Nov 2, 2018, 9:33am Top

I'm going to read Er zijn nog 17 miljoen wachtenden voor u, by Sander Heijne.
A dutch reporter who has investigated the results of 30 years of privatisation of public institutions in Holland. He has done interviews with people working in those sectors. He is not an economist, but a reporter, so I expect a readable book:-)

Nov 2, 2018, 9:51am Top

Today's news has GOLDMAN SACHS with another billion dollar scandal - this time in Malaysia!

Nov 2, 2018, 1:14pm Top

>29 Familyhistorian: John Carreyrou broke that story, and I read every article as it appeared, so I may wait to read the book. But it's an incredible story, of the "will to believe" an entrepreneur who spins a great tale and is expert at controlling access to the books and to the technology. Truly remarkable (good in a journalistic sense, dreadful in a business sense.)

Nov 2, 2018, 9:26pm Top

>32 Chatterbox: It is an amazing story. It made me wonder what else might be out there in the business world.

Edited: Nov 2, 2018, 10:47pm Top

I started looking at Accidental Billionaires last night and decided that this one will be first book I will read this month.

The power of social media never ceases to amaze me. Tonight I stopped at Starbucks to make use of their free WiFi and check LT. I spent all day in a tenure committee meeting and so was basically in a locked room. I have a Starbucks card and am on their e-mail list. Yesterday I got an e-mail about a free reusable red cup that would be handed out today only. This cup gives you a $.50 discount when you use the cup after 2:00 pm. From now until January 7th. Offer good for any drink.

When I got to Starbucks tonight there was a sign on the door that said they were out of the red cups. I inquired about it when I ordered my latte. The barista said that it was horrible. He came to work at 2:00 p.m. and there was a line of customers out the door. The drive through was totally clogged with a line all the way out to the main boulevard. They are still getting people stopping to ask about the cups.

I asked him how did they know about it. He shrugged his shoulders and guessed social media.

My question is - Don’t these people have jobs? Don’t they work on Friday? I do. How do that many people have time to flash mob Starbucks for a free coffee cup?

I need to learn about these mind bending tools.

Nov 3, 2018, 7:42am Top

I finished On Tyranny yesterday - it's a quick but sobering read. I agree with >27 m.belljackson: that it raises the issues but then doesn't have much of a call to action - I think a page at the end summarising some practical suggestions would be helpful.

Nov 4, 2018, 1:22am Top

I'm nearly halfway through We were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates and am loving it. This entire thread is doing bad things to my wishlist!! I already have 2 other books on the go so will try to hurry up... but I'm also spending time following the US midterms. I've re-subscribed to the New York Times and am really enjoying having full access to it again

>15 m.belljackson: I loved Chasing Goldman Sachs and I am not just saying that because its author is reading this post! Hope you are enjoying it too.

Suz, the themes for next year look great.

Nov 4, 2018, 1:47am Top

>34 benitastrnad: Does it give you any hope that I had NO IDEA about the Starbucks red cups and had to Google this??

>36 cushlareads: Cushla, LOL re CGS... I suspect the midterms are better enjoyed from afar...

Nov 5, 2018, 12:08am Top

I concentrated on the business part of this month's challenge. My first book was Empire of Deception about Leo Koretz who swindled everyone around him, including his mother and other close family members. The action took place in the 1920s when everyone with a penny to spare was playing the stock market. Koretz took advantage of their greed to sell them stock in rice farms which under produced and nonexistent oil wells in Panama. Eventually his empire collapsed and he fled to Nova Scotia where he lived the high life while US law hunted him down.

Nov 5, 2018, 11:41am Top

The second book I read for this month's challenge was Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. As I had read Empire of Deception shortly before I found definite parallels between the characters of the swindler, Leo Koretz and the Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos. They both came to believe the fairy stories they sold to the people around them. They even included their close families in their schemes.

It was chilling to see how close Carreyou's story about Theranos' deceptions came to being buried by Holmes' high connections and legal wrangling. Because this wasn't just business that the company was playing with, it was peoples' health and lives.

Nov 5, 2018, 3:11pm Top

I just finished Goodbye Europe: Writers and Artists Say Farewell which is a collection of essays as we in the UK run up to the collective political cluster**** that is Brexit, our imminent departure from the European Union. This is a pretty mixed bag - the majority of pieces were by people who, like me, voted to Remain in the EU, but I did appreciate the attempt to make this marginally less of a liberal echo-chamber, and some of the pieces by people who had voted Leave were thoughtful and considered. Some of the writers I had heard of before (they're authors and comedians, mainly), and there are a couple whose work I want to check out more of. They were mostly non-fiction, but there was a short story by Lionel Shriver about liberal smugness which I thought was very good, and good food for thought. There was a piece by Jacob Rees-Mogg (for those of you outwith the UK who are lucky enough to not know who he is, he is a Member of Parliament and very prominent campaigner for Leave, who is often caricatured as the Minister for the 18th century, which I think is pretty apt) and his piece brought me the closest to punching my ereader, but fortunately (a) it was short, and (b) it was immediately followed by a piece by the writer of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister giving us his character Jim Hacker's updated views on Brexit. I've no idea if the people who selected these pieces deliberately placed them side by side, but I for one appreciated very much a piece gently lambasting political pomposity straight after JRM.

Some of the pieces were better than others, but all were readable. None of them made me feel any better about Brexit though. 3.5/5.

Nov 5, 2018, 4:29pm Top

I know we've only just started November, but I have a question about next month, if I may? Do you have in mind for that only books which were published in 2018? The one book I'm definitely planning on reading was published in 2017 (I got hit by BBs by several people in 2018 though). And the other one I'm veering towards is older (published in 2009), but I'd never heard of it before last week - would that count for the challenge?

Nov 5, 2018, 11:57pm Top

I finished What the Eyes Don't See by Mona Hanna-Attisha about the Flint Water crisis, and realized that it fits for this month.

Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician and the residency director at MSU. This book details how she was instrumental in bringing attention to the lead crisis in Flint's drinking water, though pulling together data about lead levels in children before and after Flint changed the water source. It is appalling to read about how local politicians and public health officials covered up the problem, until Dr. Hanna-Attisha and other whistle-blowers made that impossible. Dr. Hanna-Attisha is definitely a hero.

That said, I believe she is a better doctor and activist than a writer. Her writing isn't bad, but it is pedestrian. Also, she alternates between stories of Flint, and her family stories (her family are Iraqi refugees). Interesting idea, but it did not quite work.

The book does do a good job of pointing out how important the environmental justice movement is for low income and minority communities.

Nov 6, 2018, 8:53am Top

Election Day and brain has so slowed that my politics are that if I read one more book, DANGEROUS BRANCH,
I would have a horizontal Bingo.

Nov 6, 2018, 5:39pm Top

The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes

I am usually not one for political memoirs but positive reviews prompted me to check it out. I am very glad I did as it was a superb book, one strong enough to be in the running for my yearly top five from a genre I typically avoid.

Rhodes was a deputy national security advisor in the Obama administration. He began work with Obama in 2007, prior to the campaign where he was originally a speechwriter. He assisted Obama in some of his most consequential speeches such as Obama's Cairo speech and the address when Obama received the Nobel prize.

The World As It is follows Rhodes's time in the campaign and then the White House. Given Rhodes's proximity to Obama, it is an up close look at how the administration thought about global events like the Afghan surge, the Arab Spring, the pivot to the Pacific and so on. Rhodes gradually took over responsibility for some of the major foreign policy initiatives of the Obama administration such as the improvement of ties with Cuba and reestablishment of ties with Burma. As such, Rhodes talks about some of the behind the scenes events like the first meetings between himself on behalf of Obama and a Cuban delegation in Canada.

While the book is organized chronologically, Rhodes reflects more deeply on the broader meaning of events as they impact him personally and as they fit into history. He talks about how he got into politics feeling compelled to action by 9/11 and how the death of Bin Laden was a capstone of sorts. Similarly, when dealing with Cuba, Rhodes reflects on the long and difficult history with Cuba and how that history has very much narrowed present day opportunities.

Finally, the book shows the level of care and thought that went into the efforts of the Obama administration. Thus, intentionally or not, the contrast with conduct of foreign policy with the present administration is a study in contrasts.

The World As It Is is poignant and informative. Highly recommended.

Nov 6, 2018, 6:51pm Top

>44 Oberon: - This sounds like a good one. Thanks for the review. Did you see the documentary film last year, called The Final Year? It was about Obama's final year and is a rather excellent look behind the scenes at some of the major events of that year, as experienced by several of his closest people, including Ben Rhodes, who features prominently. If you haven't seen it, see if you can find it on Netflix or something. Well worth viewing, maybe especially after reading this book. Here's a trailer: The Final Year

Nov 6, 2018, 10:11pm Top

>45 jessibud2: I did see it and enjoyed it. One of my idols in government (and as an author) is Samantha Power who also features prominently in the film.

Nov 7, 2018, 9:43am Top

Published in 1951, THE GENERAL WHO MARCHED TO HELL: Sherman and the Southern Campaign tells the non-PC (abundance of grinning n-words),
rather rosy tale of the swathe of destruction left by Sherman's Union soldiers as they marched from Atlanta to Savannah and up through Colombia
to Charleston, South Carolina.

While not without honest depictions given the many original sources available in the 1940s and not shrinking from some horrors, the book
has been criticized for not evaluating Sherman's choice to burn small homes and farms, to murder animals, and to totally destroy all food and crops.

Burning the public buildings, destroying railroads and bridges, looting art, and taking the food needed to feed the Army and the many slaves joining The March
would have been a more compassionate approach, but Sherman and his soldiers, notably after witnessing the conditions of the few surviving prisoners
at Andersonville, wanted The South to never forget the war it had started.

And the Confederates nearly won another decisive battle because Sherman's soldiers were out of condition from all their looting across Georgia.

Any recommendations for an updated account?

Nov 7, 2018, 7:31pm Top

There are several titles. Southern Storm by Noah Andre Trudeau was published in 2008. It has good reviews.

One that we have in our collection that I have wanted to read is Sherman's March in Myth and Memory by Edward Caudill and Paul Ashdown. This book was published in 2008 (same year at Southern Storm) and is part of a series of books about myth and memory in the Civil War. Many years ago I read Pickett's Charge in History and Memory by Carol Reardon and it was worth every minute I spent reading it.

Nov 8, 2018, 12:30am Top

>41 Jackie_K: Thinking mostly along the lines of books that you've been aware of in 2018; that you were hit by a BB during the year; that were published this year; that you had had intended to read this at some point in the year but never really got to it; that someone mentioned it to you anywhere along the line...

Nov 8, 2018, 12:39am Top

Edited: Nov 8, 2018, 7:46am Top

>49 Chatterbox:

Okay, neither of the books was published in 2018,
but I became aware of the beauty in THE WILD LIFE OF JOHN MUIR and Whitehead's chilling UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
because of the generosity of two LT people, Fuzzi and Nittnut, in 2018

Intended to read them for December...will this work?

Finishing these will mean completing every month of the 2018 Challenge and looking forward to the 2019 Choices.

Nov 8, 2018, 12:54pm Top

>49 Chatterbox: OK, thanks. I'm going to interpret that as it being fine to read both of them, as the BBs hit in 2018.

Nov 8, 2018, 7:28pm Top

I am hoping to read The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution. I've started it, but RL is making it hard to get much reading done. Long, cross-country flights coming up in a week, so that should help.

Nov 8, 2018, 10:26pm Top

Nov 9, 2018, 1:00am Top

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

An unromantic look at one of the more romantic of historical figures, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. The structure of this book is sort of like a ball of yarn played along a hallway by a kitten, with eddies of yarn popping us into a contemporary tour of sites figuring in Lafayette's adventures with the continental army, and his tour 40 odd years later. The lack of unity in what was to become the USA is a constant theme, a dark haze in the mostly humorous tone. Calligraphic caricatures that seem more whimsical than accurate punctuate the text.

Nov 9, 2018, 11:47am Top

>55 quondame: Love your review/comments on Vowell's both, the unromantic look at the romantic figure; caricatures "that seem to be more whimsical than accurate".

Going back...

>42 banjo123: Yes, definitely that fits for this month! It's the way politics can betray, rather than helping, ordinary people whom elected officials are supposed to represent.

>39 Familyhistorian: Thanks for your comments on this. I'm very interested in this story, and followed John's articles while he was exposing the Theranos fraud (one reason I'm going to hold off on reading the book itself for a little bit, perhaps.) It's a superb example of great reporting. And yes, it makes one really ponder the egocentric/egomaniacal approach of some CEOs. I don't know what mindset it takes to believe that they can distort reality in this way... (although I did just finish a new novel by Richard Flanagan, First Person, that deals with an amoral CEO writing his memoirs ahead of pending imprisonment, with the help of the ghost writer who narrates the work. Flanagan won the Booker for Narrow Road to the Deep North.) In that context, I'm eager to read a really thorough, dispassionate evaluation of Elon Musk, especially in the wake of this story, published by Reveal, an investigative journalism entity. https://www.thedailybeast.com/teslas-medical-clinic-neglects-injured-workers-rep....

>44 Oberon: I love the title of this book -- "the world as it is" and not as we might wish it to be. That's how we need to engage with the world around us, of course... It sounds intriguing...

>50 charl08: In a way, I'm glad to note that people are reading more books about politics and policy choices and related topics. One might have hoped that they had done so before voting in 2016, or voting on Brexit -- to be well informed, to know HOW to think about some of these issues and to evaluate claims made by rival political camps -- but it's better than indifference...

Nov 9, 2018, 11:54am Top

I have just finished my first read for this challenge, Michiko Kakutani's relatively slim volume, The Death of Truth. It's more than just another "bash Trump because he's nuts and dysfunctional", or "democracy is dying, arggggghhh" tome. Rather, she engages head-on with the impact of deconstructionist thinking (or, arguably, a mis-application or misunderstanding of deconstructionism) on today's political thought. So, for instance, all perspectives can be equally valid; emotions can contain truth even if they are not founded on real data. (It's one reason why the gun control lobby struggles to make heady: people point out that folks "feel safer" with guns in their homes, and that's a good thing, even if the data show that those guns are more likely to cause tragic accidents, to be used against them, or to be used in suicides, than to defend themselves from a violent criminal. The emphasis is on feelings over facts.) What does that mean, then, for assertions of truth in political discourse? Well... you can read this and find out. It's polemical (at least in its message), but Kakutani (best known as a New York Times book critic) is level headed and thoughtful, making this a good read. 4.2 stars from me.

Nov 9, 2018, 12:12pm Top

And because I know you have been waiting for this....


The final six categories. I'm starring the new categories.

July: Biography & First Person Yarns
(Hopefully, self-explanatory!!)

*August: Raw Materials: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
So, read a book that starts with animals, vegetables or minerals at its heart. You could read about the human animal -- medical science, how we die. How farm animals are treated. You could read about how we eat and cook (animal & vegetable.) You could read about how the world's natural resources are being developed -- or exploited (the oil industry?) and their impact on the environment (mineral AND vegetable.)

*September: Books by Journalists
As suggested by a member of this group! On ANY topic -- just check to be sure that the author is a journalist -- employed by a paper, writing freelance, past or present.

*October: Other Worlds: From Spiritual to Fantastical
Want to read about heaven (Christian version, Muslim version, etc.) and how to get there? Or reincarnation, Buddhist style? Or simply fantastical other world? (There's a new book either just out or coming soon that is a history of the science fiction novelists who really helped pioneer the genre in the mid-20th century, for instance.) If you find a book that writes about how the future will look -- plagues, environmental catastrophe, the impact of robotics -- that would fit, too. Think "other worlds" that aren't like the one we inhabit and take for granted. I'd even accept dramatically different variants on reality, like living through the Holocaust, under Pol Pot in Cambodia, or in a war zone or as a refugee or illegal immigrant.

November: Creators and Creativity
We've done this one before. Anyone who creates stuff -- preferably arts, since there's an earlier category dedicated to scientific and technological innovation. Dance; music; writing; painting; photography, etc. etc. The act of creation; controversies that ensue; collectors of art, patrons of art, what does creativity mean? (I think Nicholas Delbanco has written on this), etc.

December: I’ve Always Been Curious About…
A wide open category, pretty much. Your favorite category isn't here? Well, find a way to squeeze a book about it into December. Bummed that there isn't a category about the great outdoors? Well, read a book, and say you've always been curious about hiking the Pacific Coast trail, for instance. Or sailing. As long as you can complete the sentence with the topic of the book, you're good to go.

Nov 9, 2018, 12:15pm Top

I would note that this list makes HALF of the categories brand-new ones this year!! Or, at the very least, radically new takes on older subjects.

Nov 9, 2018, 2:10pm Top

>58 Chatterbox: Excellent!!

Nov 9, 2018, 3:19pm Top

>58 Chatterbox: Thank you - this looks great!

*goes off to plan*

Nov 9, 2018, 4:01pm Top

Thanks for the list. Looks like a great lineup!

Nov 9, 2018, 4:39pm Top

>58 Chatterbox: I shall look forward to those Suz.

Nov 9, 2018, 6:17pm Top

Looks like a great year of categories!

Nov 10, 2018, 5:30pm Top

Just finished my second book for this challenge, which was more of a struggle. Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny sets out to deliver what the subtitle suggests, but labors heavily to make the analogy between the dancing bears owned by Bulgarian Gypsies confiscated in recent years and then "readjusted" to live in a quasi-liberty in a 30-acre reserve, carefully cared for and monitored by vets, etc. -- and the human beings released from life under communism that controlled their every movement and thought just as rigidly as the lives of those bears were distorted. The problem? The author develops both pieces (the story of the bears; the tales of those in Estonia, in Albania, in Poland, in Kosovo, etc.) in intriguing ways, but doesn't make the bridge between them work in a way that doesn't require the reader to really struggle. Both are interesting stand-alone narratives, but simply presented for us to read and draw our own conclusions. Even without hammering home his points, framing or shaping this would have helped make it feel less like a collection of anecdotes (however fascinating or quirky -- a Hobbit village in Poland? a Karadzic tour in Belgrade? how to blow up Hoxha-era bunkers in Albania for the steel? a collection of first person love letters to Stalin from the women who work at his museum in Georgia) and more like an integrated narrative. Read it for the insight into today's Eastern/Central Europe, if you want, through the eyes of a Pole rather than an American or a Brit, but with those caveats in mind. Definitely a library book, rather than a purchase, would be my recommendation... 3.7 stars.

Nov 11, 2018, 7:18pm Top

I shall have to ponder the 2019 categories and see what I come up with although I do have a bunch of books for September. I have a few books by a local former journalist, Eve Lazarus, who writes about Vancouver history and has just come out with a new book. I am going to a talk about it this month. Intriguingly the title is Murder by Milkshake.

Nov 12, 2018, 11:43am Top

For this month's challenge ( and I am not going to finish it soon) I have just started Team of Rivals
The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Nov 12, 2018, 2:15pm Top

Good luck with that one. It took me months (and I mean months) to wade through that one. I warn people about it now, as it is not a readable book - in my opinion. It is clear that Goodwin is trying to reestablish her academic credentials after the scandal.

Nov 12, 2018, 4:51pm Top

>67 torontoc: >68 benitastrnad: I started that book several years ago, was enjoying it, but didn't want to take it on holiday with me; I got distracted on my return. Must hunt it down. Off to discover about the scandal...

Nov 12, 2018, 5:30pm Top

>68 benitastrnad: Thanks, I'll plan to read it over a long period of time!
>69 Caroline_McElwee: yes, good idea- I might do that too!

Nov 12, 2018, 5:41pm Top

OK, unacknowledged use of other people's work. Frustrating. How can you not know you are doing that. The odd phrase that gets embedded from something you have read is understandable, but repeated incidents. Hopefully (that was in 2002) she has improved her working practices since.

Nov 12, 2018, 6:52pm Top

Yes, that book is an interesting one, but also one of the ones with the most self-evident theses out there -- and one of the most overrated out there. I eventually plodded through, but I remain underwhelmed by it.

Nov 15, 2018, 8:16am Top

Two weeks later and I'm still waiting on my November book to arrive at the library...

Nov 15, 2018, 1:30pm Top

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

"Whatever our way out of this mess, one thing is certain. This degree of inequality, this withdrawal of opportunity, this cold denial of basic needs, this endorsement of pointless suffering - by no American value is this situation justified. No moral code or ethical principle, no piece of scripture or holy teaching, can be summoned to defend what we have allowed our country to become."

So, yeah. That pretty much sums it up. The United States punishes poor people for being poor, trumpets the virtue of individual responsibility, asserts itself as a shining city upon the hill for all to emulate, and it's all bullshit. The structure of inequality in this country is so ingrained, so mired in history and prejudice and ignorance, that there seems to be no solution.

Desmond has written a readable and well-researched account of housing insecurity in Milwaukee, and it's infuriating and heart-breaking. The ramifications of such insecurity reach far beyond "just" homelessness - it leads to education short falls, unemployment, ill health, and so much more, all of which he touches on in this exhaustive account. He profiles black and white, single people and families, renters and landlords, and what he finds is a broken system where one mistake or bad choice can sentence people to a lifetime caught in the cycle of poverty and insecurity.

I appreciate his efforts to offer solutions but after reading the whole book, I just felt like nothing will ever change.

This work, along with $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America about food insecurity, should be - but never will be - required reading for all Americans, starting with our political leaders.

4 stars

(I docked it half a star because I had trouble keeping some of the people straight in my head and would have appreciated the occasional reminder or list at the front)

Nov 15, 2018, 8:41pm Top

>74 katiekrug: I don't think I can face reading this whole book -- I'm familiar with the arguments and issues because of my coverage of economic inequality -- because I worry it will plunge me into the final stages of depression and despair. That said, everything I've heard about it convinces me it's squarely on target. It's the appalling double standard -- it's all your fault you got sick and lost your job and now you're poor, clearly you deserve to lose everything -- that horrifies me. We talk about entitlements as if people are just standing there holding out their hands, when those people who are benefiting from these are really those who have been at the end of the line from day one. You just have to meet them -- they've had the least education or the poorest quality education; the poorest parenting; least access to good healthcare or birth control or job training (because it's up to them to figure it out for themselves, isn't it! because everyone else -- i.e. rich people -- figure it out, don't they?) I see these people here on buses most dramatically, because public transit in Providence is not democratic at all -- it's kids and the poor, who take it from one free meal or food bank to the next. And me, because I don't drive.

>73 fuzzi: ARGH, how frustrating...

My next book will be What Truth Sounds Like by Michael Eric Dyson, a look back at a conversation between RFK and James Baldwin over race and politics in America. Timely, I think -- and Dyson is a great, eloquent writer.

Nov 16, 2018, 5:35pm Top

>75 Chatterbox: off to purchase the Dyson book. Big Baldwin fan here.

Nov 18, 2018, 8:53pm Top

>4 Chatterbox:

A perspective you rarely hear, from The Noise of Time:

"He himself knew little about visual art, and could hardly argue with that poet about abstractionism;
but he knew Picasso for a bastard and a coward.

How easy it was to be a Communist when you weren't living under Communism!

Picasso had spent a lifetime painting his shit and hailing Soviet power.
Yet God forbid that any poor little artist suffering under Soviet power should try to paint like Picasso.

He was free to speak the truth - why didn't he do so on behalf of those who couldn't?

Instead, he sat like a rich man in Paris..."

Nov 19, 2018, 7:38am Top

>77 m.belljackson: thanks for sharing that quote.

It's easy being an armchair warrior...

Nov 19, 2018, 12:29pm Top

>77 m.belljackson: I'm going to be reading The Noise of Time next month for another challenge - looking forward to it very much.

For this challenge, I just finished Ann Pettifor's The Production of Money: How to Break the Power of Bankers. It is a pretty accessible guide to economics - I'll be honest that some of it went over my head, but I think that might be because I mostly read it at the end of the day; it's definitely one I'll return to. What I did like about it was her 'call to arms' for greater public understanding of the financial system, and her focus on the environment and social issues within her exposition. It's not the easiest read, but I'm glad I read it and have chipped away a little bit of my ignorance about the financial systems that govern so many of our day to day interactions and processes without us even realising it.

Nov 19, 2018, 4:00pm Top

>79 Jackie_K: I'll seek that out. I'm a big believer in gaining an understanding of the financial system. It really isn't rocket science. And it isn't just the bankers and those who benefit from the system who convince us we'll never understand it -- we do it to ourselves, or allow ourselves to be convinced. I've seen people do that. I've offered to walk people through the very basics of investing; the idea of compound interest; the importance of low-cost funds; the difference between active and passive investing; the difference between defined contribution and defined benefit funds and why asset allocation, risk management and diversification are important. They have looked at me and said, no, it's too difficult, I'll never understand. Now, I'm sitting there, saying, I will help you understand, and explain it until you do, in ways that ensure that you will, and I'm someone who failed high school math and (the first time) economics in college. So if I can get there, I'm pretty sure you can too. But nope, they won't try. And then the same people go and claim it's a conspiracy. THAT is what makes me pissed off. Because some of it is mis-selling, and bad products and corruption, and some of it is simply people who are scared by stuff that FEELS complex, who are afraid of getting it wrong and who don't want to try. There does need to be more support for people who don't have a lot of assets or knowledge, but those folks also need to make the effort to learn. Because most of the wealthy/affluent people do -- they don't trust their private bankers an inch; they are afraid the latter will rip them off and so police them rigorously. So you have to have at least a rudimentary understanding, and can't leave this to the pros or your advisors. And simply "breaking the power of the bankers" isn't a solution, either. Who will play their key role, as a utility function, of getting money from one part of the financial system to the other? Who will ensure that their is capital in the system so you can borrow to buy a home, or start a business? I'm always very intrigued by these critiques, but haven't yet read one that completely understands the functions of a bank, at its heart. OK, rant over...

Nov 19, 2018, 4:21pm Top

>80 Chatterbox: She certainly wasn't calling for the end of the banking system, and as I understood it her main point about 'breaking the power of the bankers' was precisely in what you are saying, in increasing public understanding so that they can no longer get away with all the smoke and mirrors stuff that we've all convinced ourselves is too complicated to understand. She's also pretty scathing about academic economists.

Nov 19, 2018, 7:21pm Top

>81 Jackie_K: That sounds interesting. Too often, the call is to do away with the bankers, which always is something that grates on me -- very simplistic and annoying to me. It's one reason why Bernie Sanders is someone I found irked me incredibly (well that, and I found him patronizing as can be to minorities...) Over-simplification is just as dangerous as over-complication.

I'm nearly finished with the book by Michael Eric Dyson, who uses the seminal meeting of RFK with James Baldwin and other key African-American cultural figures in 1963 as a way to ruminate on racial issues, right up to the current moment. (For instance, he talks about the rift between Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates, and West's distaste for Obama, and what that says about African-American intellectual thinking.) It ends up being very dense reading -- good, thought-provoking, rich, rewarding, etc, but I can only read a few dozen pages at a time before I have to put it down for a while and move on to something else and let this settle in and percolate. This is VERY much worth reading, however, if you can take the time to sit and really concentrate on it. Reminds me of my resolution to read more Baldwin, and there are some names that pop up of new writers to focus on including an essayist, Erin Aubry Kaplan, whom he argues has been unjustly overlooked. (Female, African-American, you get the picture...)

Edited: Nov 20, 2018, 1:20pm Top

>79 Jackie_K: >80 Chatterbox:

From the September 9, 2018 L.A. TIMES:

Edmund F. Biro, whose bank before 2008 had set him up with a home equity line of credit,
said, "As far as I was concerned, things were going really well, except I wasn't aware of all the things that could go wrong."

Housing market crash with 10 million people losing their homes - recession - collapse of Wall Street bank, Lehman Bros. -
worst U.S. financial crisis since 1929 - big increase in number of people below poverty line ...

while ..."the big banks got hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts."

"But there were no big bailouts for lower- or middle-income Americans."

"Like many average Americans, Biro, now 61, is still struggling to get his life back in order."

CHASING GOLDMAN SACHS helps us to understand the background of greed and risk that led to this.

Any update on how to avoid this kind of personal loss?

Thank you!

Edited: Nov 19, 2018, 8:08pm Top

Er Zijn nog 17 miljoen wachtenden voor u by Sander Heijne ( Dutch) *****

Reporter Sander Heijne has managed to write a book about an economic issue, privatisation and market economy, that is short, to the point, and easy to read and understand.

He has spent seven years, as a reporter, talking to people in different jobs, and different sectors, that were dealing with the consequences of the wave of privatisation in the Netherlands. Based on that he analyses what has gone wrong, or sometimes also what is going right, in those privatised sectors. Like the trains, or health care.

The result is frustrating and angry making to read, but also enlightening. Read all about the Hosanna of Milton Friedman, Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. And our own national politicians. Because his analysis makes clear how the idea of the benefits of privatisation has become more of an ideology. And where the market can be useful and beneficial and where not!

It was shocking to see it brought together in such a short book. I started this book because of the recent foreclosures of a number of hospitals, here in Amsterdam and surroundings (Thanks to privatisation) So a rather timely read.

>80 Chatterbox: I also always had difficulty understanding discussion of economic issues. That's why I loved this book, very clear!

Nov 20, 2018, 8:26am Top

Yippee! My ILL has arrived, Win Bigly. I hope to pick it up tonight, so perhaps over the holiday weekend I'll get a chance to sit and devour something besides Thanksgiving food!

Nov 20, 2018, 6:10pm Top

>83 m.belljackson: To avoid losses -- be very, very, very skeptical. Too many of the people who ended up trapped in toxic mortgages were those who didn't have a lot of knowledge of financial concepts or the tools to evaluate one kind of mortgage versus another. That made them great targets for predatory lenders, sadly. Alternatively, they weren't willing to look past the exterior of a product that promised them everything they wanted to hear. "Will this let me buy the house I want?" "Absolutely!" The harsh truth is if something sounds too good to be true, it is. When you're dealing with someone selling a product (on which they will collect a commission), ask a LOT of questions. Be sure you understand the product. If you don't understand it; if they seem to be ducking and weaving in their answers; become more wary. Don't tell yourself it will all work out OK. If you suspect something might be fishy, almost certainly it is VERY suspect indeed. Look for the holes in it. Think of it this way: if you go to buy a car, you'd have it checked over by a mechanic, right (if it were second hand)? And if you go to buy a house, you get a housing inspector to ensure there aren't any termites skulking around, and have someone make sure your title to the property will be clear. So think of whatever financial product you are buying as the equivalent of that: you do your due diligence in the same way the mechanic or the home inspector or title inspector do their checks. If you can't get answers, you walk away.

Why is it down to the consumers? Why NOT demand a bailout? Sadly, a giant financial institution, like it or not, is too big to fail, at least as an institution. If those banks had failed, we would have been left with no easy way to transfer social security checks and other routine wage/salary payments. Your bank accounts? OK, eventually you would have gotten something back. Eventually. How much cash do YOU keep in the house? Exactly. Regulators and government opted for the least evil: bailouts with some conditions: more capital, less risk on the books, etc. And in some (many) cases, management changes. Individuals? It's harder, logistically. The government leaned on banks to restructure mortgages, which many did -- but too little and too late (that was a big problem, and lack of sticks and carrots in the appropriate mixture, timed appropriately, was to blame there.) Part of the problem was that some people behaved downright recklessly -- bought multiple homes knowing that they couldn't afford them. Should they be treated on the same basis as someone who was knowingly defrauded and who is now homeless? Who should be in a position to make those decisions? But ultimately, we all should know that we simply can't count on the government to be there -- this is the US, after all. So, act as if we are in this on our own, and be grateful if there is something that comes along to help. (In other words, buy flood insurance, and if the state or federal government hands out grants to supplement what you collect from your insurer, well, you just got icing on top of your cake.)

This may make me sound cynical and hard-hearted. I don't mean to be. I just think that the kind of stuff we're wary about in other contexts, when it comes to our finances, we don't think twice about. An idea that will let us double our money in six months? Hurray! *bash head against wall* Markets always go up, don't they? And if they go down, that's a cue to panic and sell, right? *repeat bashing of head*

Here is one thing I hear a lot about that concerns me: cryptocurrencies. Invest all your money in these; they are the wave of the future! Well, maybe. But which cryptocurrency? How will it be regulated? How safe is your investment? Who is backing this one? What can people buy with this cryptocurrency? (Which goes to how attractive it is not just as a store of value, like gold, but as something that other people will accept in exchange for food, gasoline, or other essentials?) But as soon as some people hear the phrase, common sense seems to fly out the window.

Don't assume that anyone -- especially the government -- is going to bail you out of your errors. Do your best to avoid making errors in the first place, and manage the overall risk in your financial life. Make sure you don't cross a line and indulge in insider trading or something like that. Understand what reasonable annual average investment returns are; what a typical mortgage contract; a typical loan, etc. look like and if you're ever offered anything promising you something dramatically more attractive, be VERY DEEPLY suspicious. Ask a lot of questions. For instance, consider Bernie Madoff's clients. He promised them returns of 1% per month, every month. Now, markets just don't behave like that. Sometimes they go up more, sometimes they go down. Madoff appealed to their lust for a stable, predictable source of returns -- something that they should have known was utterly absurd. He showed them performance statements showing he had produced returns just like that, within a very small variance. Improbable. Yes, regulators were at fault too. He claimed, oh, I'm using derivatives to get to that figure, but never spelled out the precise strategy. It was the will to believe him that kept them invested. Oh, and anyone who asked too many questions up front? Madoff simply refused to take them as clients! (Seriously, a friend of mine in the wealth management biz told me this, and that this is how he knew Madoff was a fraud: a good, normal wealth management firm answers questions, doesn't tell a potential client "you're asking too many questions" and turn them away at the door.)

Sorry if this is all too much info. In a nutshell? Knowledge, self-reliance, the willingness to ask questions constantly, to challenge yourself and others, the willingness to turn your back on greed as being treacherous, and to avoid the deal that is too good to be true.

Nov 20, 2018, 6:20pm Top

>86 Chatterbox: - Good stuff, Suzanne.

It's the too good to be true things that get me. The husband of a friend works for Bloomberg and he and a colleague just published a story on a certian kind of predatory lending that is targeting small business owners. It's truly terrible, but the couple profiled in the story got into trouble because they responded to a random fax (a fax!!!) promising great terms, lower payments, blah blah blah. I truly hope they get their money back and the lenders are punished (or the laws and regulations are changed to prevent their practices) but I also get frustrated by people who somehow forget all common sense and let greed govern their actions.

Nov 20, 2018, 6:29pm Top

So, I have just finished reading What Truth Sounds Like and it's a very powerful book indeed.

I'll preface these remarks by saying that I'm "white" (whatever that really means -- of Irish/Scots/Welsh/Norwegian/English/Pennsylvania Dutch descent). Having grown up mostly outside North America and not moved to the US until my early/mid 30s, I really wasn't prepared to encounter the race issue as it exists in the United States. Yes, I had read about slavery and Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his heirs. But I hadn't lived that reality, on either side of the race divide -- or even recognized the depth of that divide. And now, with every year that goes past, I see that divide as something wider and deeper, and have a greater sense of what it means to be on one side of it. I grasp one set of issues -- and another raises its head. But I never will understand what it is like to live on the other side of that divide, to know in my heart that an astonishing number of people still would refuse to recognize my knowledge, my dignity, my worth, my right to exist. Every time I think I start to get it, I find myself, once again -- like RFK (Robert F. Kennedy...) in the encounter with black artists and intellectuals led by James Baldwin, the retelling of which is the jump-off point of this book -- "learning a valuable lesson about listening to what you don't want to hear."

In 1963, Kennedy asked Baldwin to assemble a group of black thinkers that he could interact with about what to do next. I'm sure Kennedy's ideas about what would happen were not what DID happen: he was harangued about the administration's failure to listen and to hear what "black folk" (as Dyson repeatedly refers to them as) wanted and needed. Kennedy wanted to talk about policies; to them, that was an example of a white agenda being imposed on black needs. And it's that dichotomy that recurs again and again throughout this short book, as Dyson points to the distinction between "witness" and policy-making: which will transform society? And the way in which the debate over how the discussion takes place embodies the mutual incomprehension between the two groups (viz Hillary Clinton and BLM activists.) Dyson argues that the 1963 meeting was "the beginning of a disagreement that still rages today. Do black activists seek to improve black life through policies that translate the intent of politics, or does improvement come through the ethical force of witness? Does racial progress happen when black activists appeal to the government for change, or is it sparked by their efforts outside the system? And what happens when black activists cling tenaciously to ideologies that ultimately undermine the political fortunes of the people they claim to represent?"

This was an impressive and thought-provoking book, which covers an immense amount of ground without veering into dogmatism or polemic (beyond the unsurprising anger about the long-term impact of racism on an entire populace.) While it requires attentive and thoughtful reading, I'd urge everyone to pick it up; it will open some intellectual doors for many, I suspect, as it did for me. (I've added at least one book of essays to my wish list as a result of this.) 5 stars.

Nov 20, 2018, 6:34pm Top

>87 katiekrug: And sometimes people sign away their rights to sue, too. READ THE FINE PRINT. If you agree to arbitration, in the case of a business/investment dispute, you limit your flexibility. Equally, if you work with a financial advisor -- how is he or she being paid? If you aren't paying them, you can bet your last dollar that someone else is -- to recommend investment products that might not earn the highest returns but may have high fees, and thus will leave you with significantly less in your nest egg when you retire than you would have had if you had simply paid $x to Mr. Jones once a year to review your portfolio and your asset allocation to make sure you were on the right track. Not sure whether your advisor is working for you or someone else? Simple question: are you a fiduciary? It's like being pregnant, you either are or you're not. You can't be a little bit of one, or act as if you are. If you get weasel words in response to that question, ask again, and say: "it's easy: it's a yes or no question. Under the meaning of the phrase as written in the Investment Advisors Act of 1940, are you a fiduciary?" Hopefully, they will be so terrified by your knowledge of the detail of the '40 Act that they will 'fess up at that point.

Nov 20, 2018, 7:11pm Top

>86 Chatterbox:

Thank you - a lot to re-read and think about.

One question haunts me - how were regular (not buyers of multiple homes) folks supposed to know that they were getting sub-prime loans?

Were banks required to tell them the difference between those and regular loans, that there was risk involved...?

One more - did the people who lost their homes lose them only because they fell behind in payments?

Nov 20, 2018, 11:19pm Top

>90 m.belljackson: Here's where it comes down to common sense again. If you earn $35,000 or $40,000, only have $2,500 for a downpayment, and want to buy a house for $350,000, the odds are that if you go to the bank they will say NO. Probably HELL, NO. Hopefully, anyone who is thinking of buying a house does some research about what's involved: what kind of credit rating is needed, what kind of downpayment is needed, what the typical costs are. If you don't -- well, maybe you aren't ready to own a house? Why is someone entitled to own a house if they can't be bothered to do that much basic research about it -- that you need to have good credit to get a loan, and that lenders like to see a decent size downpayment? But here we were, suddenly, in a world where with those numbers, you COULD get that house. What had changed? It wasn't that you were suddenly a better credit risk. You weren't putting down more money. You weren't paying less for the house. The house price was the same. You weren't earning more. So what had changed? Someone with common sense would say, hmm, the lenders are willing to make riskier loans if they are lending to people like me. And perhaps look for the flaws. Some of which were there to see -- for instance, very low teaser rates that would reset after six months; floating rates; etc. Elements that put the lender at risk. Stuff that was potentially complicated. And if it's too complicated to understand -- the first rule of finance -- don't do it.

No, lenders aren't required to tell you that you're getting a subprime loan, but you can see that pretty easily for yourself. For instance, if you buy a car and (random data here) you look up the average car loan data online (readily available) and find it's 8%, and the lender is going to charge you 12%, and you check your credit score and it's poor -- bingo, you've got a subprime car loan.

Actually, all you have to do is look at your credit score. If it's between 550 and 620, you'll typically be a subprime borrower. If you're under 550, you're a "deep subprime" borrower, and will struggle to get even a subprime loan. So, let's go back to our original example. You know your credit score is 600, you've got a very low downpayment, and you're still approved for a mortgage -- not from your bank, but from a mortgage broker that doesn't need documentation, and seems very intent on just rushing everything through and collecting THEIR commission, you've not only got a subprime loan, but a weird kind of subprime loan.

Hallmarks of a problem mortgage: If someone doesn't want a downpayment. If they say that, nah, they don't need multiple years of tax returns or other proof of income -- not really. A single pay stub will be fine. If they are in a big hurry to get you to sign on the bottom line. If the mortgage is interest-only payments. (REALLY? How is that going to profitable for anyone??) If the loan has lots of features that will cause the interest rate to reset and lots of special fees or charges that seem high (i.e. want to call and talk to someone? $150 please...)

Often these weren't actually banks that were originating the loans, although in some cases they were. But the biggest problems were savings & loan institutions, which had lots of cash, incentives to expand lending into minority communities, and were being pushed to generate profits for shareholders. Sigh. The mortgage brokers brought them the deals. Here's a story from the very early days of the financial crisis -- April 2007 -- highlighting the role of the brokers. By that summer, the subprime market was in full-on catastrophe mode. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/subprime-crisis-shines-spotlight-on-mortgage-b...

Don't get me wrong, I do put the biggest share of the blame on the financial institutions. They were pushing the drug of cheap home ownership onto buyers who were ill-equipped to understand the nuances of the mortgage loans, and who they KNEW were not financially qualified to buy. They looked the other way and found ways to rationalize this. But so did homebuyers, who desperately wanted homes of their own. For some reason, they persuaded themselves that not putting down a downpayment, having poor credit and not paying mortgage interest was suddenly OK, when all the alarm bells -- "too good to be true!!" -- should have been clanging. But we don't provide enough financial education in this country. (It's one reason the CFPB was created in the aftermath of the 2008 nightmare -- to give people who know enough to look a place to turn for education and information.)

Banks do have some disclosure requirements, to the extent that they can't lie to you by misleading you about the terms of your loan. So if they say the interest rate won't reset, and it does -- that's illegal. But they aren't required to tell you that there is risk. We should all have enough common sense to understand that borrowing money and being able to pay it back involves risk, and we need to be sure we can evaluate those risks. Banks assume we are responsible adults. It's in their financial interests to assume we are more informed than we are, and bankers have no fiduciary duty to us -- they are not required to put our interests before their own, which is what this kind of reminder would be. And to be fair to them, there is a LOT of information out there, with more available by the day. For instance, the Washington Post ran this story back in February about the return of zero downpayment loans, and the risks involved. Anyone doing a Google search could find it (and a lot more.) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/where-we-live/wp/2018/02/12/zero-down-home-l...

If we live in a world where no one is willing to do a Google search about the terms of their mortgage loan, if they're wondering whether "no downpayment" is routine even though it seems too good to be true -- well, I confess I despair.

The only major reason for someone to lose their home would be that they couldn't keep up with payments. Of course, the real estate catastrophe triggered a recession and job losses, so... In some cases, although not enough that these made headlines, there probably were cases where people found themselves very far underwater on their loan-to-value ratios, and their lenders tried to renegotiate the payments. Even in cases where the values fell, some lenders had what are called "negative amortization" loans: instead of paying off principal along with interest each month, their payments were less than the full amount of interest. So instead of declining with time, as happens with a typical mortgage, the loan value ROSE. So, even if payments went up, the loan value went up too, and they weren't putting a dent in a larger and larger loan. At some point, a lender is going to get very hysterical about that. Then if the ACTUAL value of the property declines and they have to write it down, the borrower ends up owing vastly more than the property is worth. So conceivably you could have started off with a loan where you paid 75% of the interest due each month. After a year, your property is worth only 80% of what it once was, but you owe (the math will be wrong, but for the sake of argument) 107% of your original loan. At some point, if that gap gets wide enough, it's not going to matter whether or not you are current on your payments. The lender is going to want some kind of security: i.e. a downpayment or bulk payment to give him security. I have no idea how many cases of people losing their homes fall into this category vs straightforward "oh my god, the payment just doubled, and I lost my job" cases.

I know all this feels infuriating, but... Well, I explained these loans to my then-UPS guy in Brooklyn as follows. "You rent your current place, yes, and your landlord is basically a good guy who takes care of the apartment, right? UPS driver: "Yes." Me: "Now, with the no down-payment, interest-only loan, you're going to be renting again, but you'll be renting the house from the bank. They won't come around and fix stuff when it's broken; that's going to be your job. And you have a reset feature on your loan. Does your landlord raise your rent a lot?" UPS driver: "Well, once a year, about 2% or 3% each year." Me: "OK, well if you read this document, you'll see (I point to the terms and conditions) that after six months, you'll suddenly start paying principal as well as interest, so your payment will be significantly higher. Also, your interest rate is a floating rate, so it will go up whenever interest rates do. Do you happen to know right now whether interest rates are rising or falling?" UPS driver: "No, I hadn't looked at that."

And so on. He didn't buy the house. This was in Jan or Feb 2007. At Christmas, he and his wife brought me a big basket of chocolates, candy and a potted plant. ALL of this (OK, not the analogy, but the information) was stuff he could have learned by spending some time reading up on it on the Internet. Which is why I get angry when folks try to suggest that oh, finance is so difficult. No it's not. What's difficult is cleaning up the mess that follows getting crappy advice from people you trusted and shouldn't have done, because you wanted to believe them. Believe me, I know whereof I speak. I've seen it; I've done it (just not in mortgages!) And it's why I do what I do.

Nov 21, 2018, 9:47am Top

One way to avoid being "taken" by an unscrupulous mortgage lender is to go to a credit union. You become a member with a minimal investment/share (about $25) and as a member THEY WILL "DO YOU RIGHT". They don't charge outrageous fees, either. I've done almost all my banking/loans with a credit union for about 30 years, with only minimal complaints.

Nov 21, 2018, 10:11am Top

>91 Chatterbox:

Better late than never time again: Basic Finances should be taught in high school, replacing the second year of Algebra (expect for math & science majors).

Many African Americans lost their homes to Wall Street high risk, greed, and simply not knowing that you were supposed to know something:

like serving Romaine Lettuce in tomorrow's Thanksgiving salad.

Credit Unions aren't around most minority cities - 300% loan store fronts are.

Nov 21, 2018, 11:28am Top

>91 Chatterbox: To add slightly to this discussion, to me this is an area for government oversight. Finance has gotten so complicated that it is unreasonable to expect "ordinary" consumers to understand what they are buying. One of the things our property law professor challenged us to do in law school was to actually read and try to understand our home mortgages. I did it - it was a standard, non-subprime mortgage. It was unbelievably complex and utterly non-negotiable. Exactly what rights were waived and what were not was not clear. Moreover, when I insisted on seeing the documents before closing EVERYONE in the process considered it an absurd request - no one reads them.

Yet that isn't the worst I have seen. A client of mine who had a commercial sale fall through during the great recession got locked into a credit swap derivative contract through Wells Fargo. I handed that document around the office and not a single lawyer could explain what it did or how it was supposed to work. Yet Wells Fargo paid the highest priced law firm in town to defend the agreement. It ended up costing the client nearly six figures to get out of a loan agreement in which he never actually received any loan. It was the definition of broken and I was profoundly disappointed that Minnesota courts decided to enforce the agreement even though I am certain they didn't understand the terms either.

If I and my colleagues with 9 J.D.s and something like a combined 100 years of experience with real property between us cannot parse and explain a document to a court then it should not be legal to sell such a thing much less to people with high school or lower educations. The legal claim that if you signed it you are deemed to understand it is a legal fiction and caused a great deal of harm.

Nov 21, 2018, 12:07pm Top

>88 Chatterbox: that has just landed on my mat, and may be consumed in the next week.

Nov 21, 2018, 7:27pm Top

>94 Oberon: I completely agree with you. Some time ago, the SEC required companies to use "plain English" in writing their filings with the SEC, including annual and quarterly reports about risk factors, company outlook and so on. It's about time for someone to lead a campaign for these documents that consumers must deal with to be be expressed in plain English -- or to have a transliteration into plain English. I don't think that is impossible to do.

Meanwhile, when it involves consumer mortgages -- I think one way consumers can protect themselves is to look at the basic terms of the mortgage and whether these are standard. So if you are putting 15% to 20% down, your credit score is reasonable, and your mortgage terms are standard (i.e. the interest rate, payment terms, any penalties) are what nearly every mortgage carries, and your lender is a large institution, the odds that someone is trying to defraud you via complex terms is as low as it will get. I think it IS reasonable to take mortgage docs to a lawyer to review to ensure that they are standard. Then if the lawyer raises a red flag... And while something is non-negotiable with your current lender, you do have the option to seek out other lenders. Friends of mine who just bought a house in Richmond, VA did just that -- went to a mortgage broker after there was something (can't remember what, but she works in finance, so...) that they didn't like. And got a better product, at least that's what my friend says.

But plain English would make a BIG difference. The CFPB -- if it didn't have to keep fighting to retain its independence and its funding -- could push for something like that. It would be the perfect crusade for them. In fact, I'd urge EVERYONE reading these overly-lengthy posts to take time to familiarize themselves with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its policies, its advisories, what its agenda is. To the extent that some of this can be corrected, the people here are in the vanguard of the battle against banks who just think it will be costly (those are the ethical ones) and who feel it will eat into their profits (those would be the ones using the complexity to take advantage of consumers.)

Re commercial issues -- yes, that is heinous. And folks like your client are no longer seen as clients of their banks, but only as "counterparties." Google the "Fabulous Fab" (aka Fabrice Tourre) and Goldman Sachs and the Abacus derivatives transactions, which turned over a stone that banks really didn't want turned over; subsequent court cases and hearings forced Goldman execs to acknowledge that a client really isn't a client, but someone who has to protect themselves...

>95 Caroline_McElwee: I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, and found as much to relish!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL and I hope you all have some chance to get some good reading time in over the weekend. I just got a NetGalley copy of Jill Abramson's upcoming book about the media, so I'm very excited about that... But I also have Mitch Landrieu's book about removing statues of Southern heroes in New Orleans, which seems like a good book to follow Dyson's tome.

Nov 24, 2018, 2:26pm Top

So I'm reading Mitch Landrieu's book, In the Shadow of Statues, and I have to say it reads very much like one of those books written by politicians contemplating a run for higher office. You know, self-consciously wise, thoughtful, empathetic. It's kind of wince-inducing. If it felt less strained, it would be interesting, but he so clearly has pondered every word to make sure people will respond that it's difficult. I'm about a third of the way through it, and I predict a presidential run in 2024. You heard it here first.

Edited: Nov 24, 2018, 5:24pm Top

I finished reading one nonfiction title (not for this challenge) and started Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrichlast night. So far it is good - and easy to read.

Nov 25, 2018, 2:21am Top

>98 benitastrnad: A friend of mine who was an early investor in Facebook and discovered some of its flaws, has written a book, "Zucked", to be be published by Penguin in February. He's an excellent critic of Silicon Valley, as a veteran insider, so I can't wait to read all his thoughts (vs just his occasional e-mails or Facebook posts, as well as what he's said on CNBC, etc.)

I finished the Landrieu memoir, which was too much of a memoir and too little about the battle over dismantling statues. Had he kept the focus on the issues, where it belonged, and been a tad less self-congratulatory about all the wonderful values he acquired from his family, I would have ended up feeling less irritated. I'm sure he does feel all these good things honestly, but it's also just so much about him and about he feels about how the black people feel -- erm, how about less repetition of the fact that New Orleans was the biggest slave market in the South, however true that is, and opening up the narrative to more voices and more facts? So, not the book to read about this issue. Read an article by him, perhaps, but not this book. Pity. And yes, I own it, although thankfully at a deep discount (courtesy of the "Great on kindle" discounts for non-fiction titles.)

Nov 25, 2018, 3:01pm Top

I finished and was astonished by Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. I remember hearing about Elizabeth Holmes but I didn’t really follow the story so I was unaware of all the ramifications. What a story! And I don’t know where I saw it but apparently they’re making a movie based on the book.

I like the topics for next year and look forward to my NF reading in 2019. Thanks Suzanne.

Edited: Nov 25, 2018, 7:45pm Top

I am enjoying Accidental Billionaires but it seems like non-fiction light. I keep looking for footnotes or endnotes and don’t find anything. On-the-other-hand, I don’t recall the author getting sued for liable. I haven’t read any of books by Mezerich so don’t know if this is just his style or if I should be a wary consumer?

Edited: Nov 26, 2018, 2:26am Top

>100 brenzi: I didn't think Bad Blood: secrets and lies would be available in the UK but have checked the library and we have a copy. Fingers crossed it makes it to me soon. I read a short article about this case and was gobsmacked by it all: stranger than fiction.

Nov 26, 2018, 2:32pm Top

>101 benitastrnad: This might help you re Mezrich. His "reporting" approach has attracted a lot of criticism from other reporters; he tends to recreate scenes without disclosing what he is doing, so I'm not at all surprised he doesn't include footnotes. (On the other hand, neither did Michael Lewis in The Big Short, which really irritated me, as I had some issues with some of his conclusions/apparent biases and wanted to understand his sourcing. But nope...)


>102 charl08: Glad you will get a copy!! I think it's probably an excellent read. Carreyrou was formed in the "old Wall Street Journal" school, that put a priority on intensive reporting AND on learning how to structure and tell complex stories in a compelling way -- he was among those who wrote a lot of great pieces for the old front page (when it had two long columns on each side of the page, known in-house as "leders").

Edited: Nov 26, 2018, 3:36pm Top

The recreated scenes are exactly what I am talking about. The whole thing reads like a novel rather than narrative non-fiction. I may have spent to many years in academe to find this kind of nonfiction to be my cup-of-tea. The story is compelling and it is easy reading. I stayed up far to late last night reading it, but a day off today will mitigate those effects. That said, I think there should be some documentation and I think the author should be clear about his sources.

Thanks for the link to the article. It sums up what I was thinking about the style and format of the book.

I am more than half done with the book and it is clear that the movie was right on target about the contents of the book. What is also clear that Zuckerberg has never cared about the consequences of his actions. He didn’t care that he stole somebody else’s code for Facebook and he doesn’t care now that his site is being used to undermine the concept of “truth.” The consequences of that are much more far reaching than he wants to accept responsibility for. Somebody should be investigating his company and fining them billions for harming society.

Nov 26, 2018, 5:09pm Top

>104 benitastrnad: Read my friend Roger's book when it comes out early next year. Maybe you will be able to snag an ARC at ALA? (I don't see how I will get there, myself -- the airfare may only be $250, but that's too big a percentage of what I earn each month, and I'm STILL waiting for Money magazine to pay me. Maybe a miracle.)

Nov 26, 2018, 7:51pm Top

A gentle reminder that with the end of the week comes the end of the month and the end of this month's challenge -- along with the need to begin a new thread! So it's time to become extra chatty and try to drive us up to 150 posts in the next few days, please and thank you very much...

And remember, December's challenge is pretty much wide open. A 2018 book, by which I mean a book that landed on your wish list this year; that you've been trying to read this year; that was a book bullet somewhere along the way this year; that you wanted to read but never really fit into one of this year's categories...

Nov 26, 2018, 8:12pm Top

>106 Chatterbox: ok.

I am looking forward to next year's NF challenges. When will the main thread be posted?

Edited: Nov 27, 2018, 12:56pm Top

>107 fuzzi: The main thread for 2019? Whenever Jim (drneutron) opens up the 75 group, I suppose. But not before December, in any event. I haven't looked, but it surely isn't up yet??

I won't be posting a "main thread" as such, but will create a January thread, and go from there, as I have done in previous years. Does anyone think there is a need for a main thread? I hadn't, as we so rarely reach 150 posts in each monthly thread, and we can certainly raise general questions (like this one) at any point in any month.

The challenges for 2019 were listed here earlier this month, and are summarized in >5 Chatterbox: and >58 Chatterbox:.

Nov 27, 2018, 4:23pm Top

Jim rarely opens the next year's goup very early. My impression is that he doesn't like the confusion of people having multiple threads. I don't blame him.

Nov 27, 2018, 5:16pm Top

>108 Chatterbox: >109 The_Hibernator:

Is there a way to continue a thread?

Nov 27, 2018, 5:50pm Top

I did finish my book for this month over the weekend. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century. Glad I read it but definitely sobering.

Nov 27, 2018, 6:04pm Top

For December I plan to read one that I found out about just recently. California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas by Penelope Bagieu It's also one that would work well for next June's theme as it's what my library classifies as a 'Non-Fiction Comics"

Nov 27, 2018, 6:14pm Top

I’m already reading the book for December, American Mirror: the Life and Art Of Norman Rockwell by Deborah Solomon. Joe piqued my interest when he recently posted a lot of Rockwell’s work on his thread.

Edited: Nov 28, 2018, 10:48am Top

I stayed home from work today and baked. Since King Arthur Flour declared 2018 the year of the Bundt Cake I baked two bundt cakes. Both of them were new recipes. They are for Christmas gifts, so I will try to deliver them tonight and get them out of my kitchen. I also read some during the day while waiting for the cakes. Should finish Accidental Billionaires tonight - if I don’t stay and talk to long when I make my Santa deliveries.

Nov 27, 2018, 7:53pm Top

>110 m.belljackson: In what sense, to continue a thread? Each month, there's a link at the bottom the old month's thread to the first one in the following month -- that's what I'm so insistent about getting to 150 posts, because that's when the automatic link kicks in.

I think I also post a link to the first thread of the new year at the end of December's thread, so people can easily jump from one to the next. If I haven't, my apologies. I don't think it can be done automatically, as the threads would be done in different groups, so I would actually have to post the proper link in the text of the message.

Also, all the threads remain open for discussion and debate as long as people want to participate in them, if that's what you mean by "continue" them. But if you are asking whether I can "continue" the biography thread from 2018 into 2019's biography thread, the answer is no, because the latter is part of a different group.

If I'm not understanding your question correctly, feel free to correct me.

Nov 27, 2018, 7:54pm Top

>109 The_Hibernator: Yes, that makes complete sense to me.

>111 SuziQoregon: I have that sitting here too, and have read half of it -- then got too depressed and had to stop. I really should finish it -- it wouldn't take that long.

Nov 27, 2018, 7:56pm Top

Who knew there was such a thing as the year of the bundt cake?? What will 2019 be? Scones? LOL...

>113 brenzi: Yes, Rockwell is one of those artists who I think is going to make a comeback; not just being seen as a "feel good illustrator any longer.

Nov 27, 2018, 8:44pm Top

I finished Haven last week but in the end, I don't think it qualifies for this month's challenge, as per your parameters laid out in >24 Chatterbox:. It certainly does touch on the government policies of President Roosevelt and the hoops that author Ruth Gruber had to jump through to try to get the 1000 WWII refugees out of war-torn Europe and into the States, and be allowed to stay rather than be returned to Europe after the war. And how the American government's ridiculous policies in essence kept them as prisoners in the States while Nazi POWs (also brought to the States aboard the same ship) were given so much more freedom, insane as that sounds. But the bulk of the book did cover personal stories of the individual refugees, as well as Ruth's own story. Which is not to say it wasn't a good book; I learned a lot and found it fascinating. Frankly, I really prefer personal stories. But I guess it won't count for this one. Gruber, incidentally, lived to be 105 and died just a few years ago. What a life! Her story (and she has written many other books) would certainly qualify for next year's month about journalists. Maybe I will read her Ahead of Time for that one.

Nov 27, 2018, 9:10pm Top

>108 Chatterbox: thanks for the answers. I follow several challenges in different groups, and was probably thinking about Category challenges for 2019, which are already up.

Some challenge groups have a main "planning" thread.

I'd forgotten that the 75 group isn't usually created until the end of December.

We're good, will just be patient.

Edited: Nov 28, 2018, 11:27am Top

I finished reading Accidental Billionaires last night. As I mentioned up thread - I had some problems with the documentation, or the lack thereof, while reading the book. Reading this work of nonfiction was like reading a novel. I would like to seem some more documentation on how Facebook got started as I think this would add credence to this book. The book and the movie "Social Network" were in synch. By that I mean that they both told the same story and the movie did not deviate from the book. The book does not portray Mark Zuckerberg in a good light. He doesn't care about rules, or his friends. He lied and cheated everybody who was close to him. He has no social skills and in fact is anti-social almost to an extreme. The book was published in 2009 and so is 10 years out of date, but it is about the early founding days of Facebook and ends in 2005.

The subsequent events, specifically, the election of 2016, only reinforces what I learned about Zuckerberg from this book. He simply doesn't care about what his company does, and accepts no responsibility of anything that is the direct result of company policies. As a person he seems to be totally lacking in morals and ethics. He, and his company ought to scare everybody.

As a result of reading this book, yesterday I went to the library and checked out Chaos Monkeys and Upstarts in an attempt to find out if Facebook is an anomaly or if it is the norm for a Silicon Valley company. I hope to start Chaos Monkeys tonight. I hope that they are better documented than this book. From what I have heard, I think that Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou is more documented and might be the one important book to read if I want to learn about how these companies work. It too has gone on my reading list.

Nov 28, 2018, 12:02pm Top

I've read all four of my books: The General Who Marched to Hell,
We Were Eight Years in Power,
and Chasing Goldman Sachs.

The General is not recommended for Sherman's early experiences with cats.

THERE WAS A COUNTRY is tough to read,
notably because The United Nations appears to be doing the same thing to help save the children of Yemen
as they did for the children of Biafra.

Still working on reviews for the remaining two.

Nov 28, 2018, 1:13pm Top

>115 Chatterbox:

Okay, here's my anti-trump thread link: https://www.librarything.com/topic/297680.

I'd like it to keep it going in 2019 without having to rewrite all the book titles.

If you could look at it and tell me if this is possible, that would be great!

Nov 28, 2018, 6:13pm Top

>122 m.belljackson: I don't know enough about the LT technicalities, but since 2019 will be in a new group, I'm not sure how that would be possible. That said, you wouldn't need to rewrite them -- you could do a large scale cut & paste, no? I realize it's a mega hassle, but I do it every time I create a new thread for myself...

I suppose one way to do this would be to create a page/thread in the 2019 group, and then make its first post a link back to this page with all its book titles. That said, you'd be asking people to click back and forth a lot. The cut & paste may just be ultimately better, if you only do it once for the entire year...?

Nov 28, 2018, 6:32pm Top

>120 benitastrnad: Some suggestions if you're looking for Silicon Valley stuff. Fred Vogelstein (a former colleague) has written a book How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution. I've got a copy of Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble by Dan Lyon, which has good buzz. Then there is one of the only books by Michael Lewis that I like, about one of the early big deals in the Valley, Netscape, The New New Thing. (Avoid at all costs his book about high frequency trading, which is riddled with errors.) Randall Stross knows the Valley and has written a number of books about various companies and stories, including eBay. Brad Stone wrote The Everything Store, a decent chronicle of Amazon, and has written The Upstarts, about all the sharing economy businesses, like Uber and Airbnb. He's a pedestrian writer but has decent insights and is reliable in terms of his analysis. Then I would try Dragnet Nation by Julia Angwin, about cybersecurity on a personal level and about the myriad ways people try to data-mine us -- the businesses that try to do this, the ways they do this, and how and why we become vulnerable, and how our data is monetized. Terrifying. VERY relevant to Silicon Valley.

Nov 28, 2018, 7:57pm Top

While I did get a copy of Win Bigly from the library, I'm still working on getting older unread books off my shelves before 12/31/18, which is my main goal before the year ends.

Nov 28, 2018, 7:58pm Top

Twenty-five posts to go...

Nov 29, 2018, 1:54pm Top

Yes, let's please try to work on getting to that level... So that no one loses the link to the last thread of the year!!

Nov 29, 2018, 2:38pm Top

Okay, I've picked out my three books for December:

1. John Muir's Wild America

Nov 29, 2018, 2:38pm Top

Nov 29, 2018, 2:43pm Top

And, for Book 3, a couple of fictions = The Underground Railroad,A DOUBTER'S ALMANAC, and WASHINGTON BLACK.

That's hopefully up to 130 without boring anyone.

Nov 29, 2018, 3:01pm Top

Mad, bad, dangerous to know : the fathers of Wilde... caught my eye recently, although the reviews have been pretty mixed.

Edited: Nov 29, 2018, 3:03pm Top

Becoming maybe makes sense for both this month and next month's categories?

Nov 29, 2018, 3:07pm Top

Both are on my reservation list so I'm dependent on them arriving though.

Nov 29, 2018, 3:20pm Top

I've already started both the books I'm going to be reading for December - Essays by Wallace Shawn (actually a relatively old book, but I only discovered it recently - thank you Haymarket Books ebook sale), and Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. I'm hoping to have a lightbulb moment about my sleep patterns, which manage to be predictably erratic, so that I can do something about it. It came highly recommended this year by several folk I know, both here on LT and elsewhere.

Nov 29, 2018, 4:13pm Top

I’m going to try to get to Slipstream, Elizabeth Jane Howard’s autobiography. I recently finished the last volume of her incredibly satisfying family saga, The Cazalet Chronicles.

Nov 29, 2018, 4:37pm Top

Becoming (Michelle Obama) ****

What comes across in this memoir is that Michelle Obama is a very grounded woman, with a powerful desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others. A shining example of the ordinary, extraordinary individual.

A willing and active mentee, as well now as a mentor to many, many young people she hopes to help empower.

She talks openly about the 'otherness' of being an African-American, especially one existing in a very white environment in many fields as well as the political one. She talks about the lives and constraints of women and girls, and how she was raised to believe she was capable of anything, and her role has in many respects become that of teaching other young women especially, to believe that themselves.

Michelle has been open also about the compromises she has had to accept in being the wife of a President, which can challenge the equality in a relationship. But they have sought help when necessary, and they reside in a very loving and strong relationship.

And of course, she is a loving mother, now heading towards an empty nest.

I think she wrote this book in order to show young people that if they are prepared to strive, they can do anything they want to. She came from where they come from, and has done more than she could have ever dreamed of doing.

Nov 29, 2018, 6:02pm Top

>136 Caroline_McElwee: Definitely looking forward to reading this.

Nov 29, 2018, 6:50pm Top

Nov 29, 2018, 8:28pm Top

>138 fuzzi:

As you know, it's SO good. I won't be parting with it unless YOU wish it back!

Nov 30, 2018, 5:21am Top

>88 Chatterbox: Almost 2/3rds through Suz, a very fine read. Probably won't finish it until tomorrow, but it had me reading well into the night last night.

Nov 30, 2018, 8:42am Top

>139 m.belljackson: no no no! Keep it. I'm so glad you liked it as well.

Nov 30, 2018, 11:05am Top

>141 fuzzi:

Despite teaching about him, taking my classes to see his Book invention at the Madison, Wisconsin,
State Historical Society, and having 4th graders "become" him for their Wisconsin Historical Projects,
I had not learned that much about his amazing early life.

Nov 30, 2018, 12:49pm Top

Really want to read Becoming. That's a rare feeling for me, as I tend to loathe presidential memoirs, but Michelle Obama's frankness feels refreshing.

I have a dental abscess brewing so am off to race in search of an urgent care clinic that can/will prescribe antibiotics. Will be AWOL for several hours. Life truly stinketh, so say I. I will take books with me, however...

Nov 30, 2018, 1:02pm Top

>143 Chatterbox: sorry to here about the abscess, hope you get meds that will help Suz.

Nov 30, 2018, 1:45pm Top

>143 Chatterbox: Ugh, dental pain is the worst. I hope you can find the meds you need.

Nov 30, 2018, 1:46pm Top

>143 Chatterbox:

Migraine AND Dental = that's way over the top too much!

Any chance of an Emergency Dentist helping?

Nov 30, 2018, 4:03pm Top

>146 m.belljackson: A dentist would look at my mouth and run away screaming. I need a lot of work done. I went to the One Minute clinic at CVS and the guy there was really helpful. The only problem is that I won't get a refill of the Rx, so I'll still ask my neurologist next week for another Rx for the next time this happens. Because there WILL be a next time. Basically, I need dental implants all over and lots of work, but since I lost the Guardian gig -- well, that's no longer an option. I have a lovely dentist to do the work pro bono, but the stuff still costs money. Everything is just too much right now, so I while stop whining, and go find a book to read.

Nov 30, 2018, 4:15pm Top

So sorry to hear about the dental pain.

I'm #26 in the queue for Michelle's book - but 63 people have reserved it. I'm impressed by that: I can't think of another book that has been so popular in my area (that I've reserved).

Nov 30, 2018, 4:36pm Top

>147 Chatterbox:

Getting us up to 150 with dental asides, which do qualify as non-fiction.

At least, all the abscesses I've ever had will and indicated either a cavity or
need for extraction or the never-ending root canal to prevent travel into jaw.

Nov 30, 2018, 5:05pm Top

>149 m.belljackson: At this point, I'm not sure which it is, just that it's beyond a cavity. Sigh. And it bloody hurts, though I now have the antibiotics. They will take a day or two to work, so it will be a day or two of pain.

Nov 30, 2018, 5:06pm Top

I can't believe we still need one more post??

Nov 30, 2018, 7:55pm Top

>147 Chatterbox: you have my greatest sympathy. I have a similar situation, tooth-wise, brought about mainly due to a lifetime of Dentistophobia: I literally weep while in the dentist's chair.

On to December...

Dec 2, 2018, 1:52pm Top

>88 Chatterbox: I learned about this book from your post Suz, and totally agree with your summing up. I too added a volume because of it, and have a list of others to follow up down the line.

I've been reading James Baldwin since I was 14, and have learned so much from him (I too am white, and British, and often forget about the privilege that being so has offered me). The racial problems in Britain are powerful, if different. We didn't have segregation to contend with, my school in the 1970s was 50% non-white pupils. That sadly didn't follow when I moved into the working environment.

As with America we still have a long way to go to change things. Some things have improved, others have arisen. We need constant reminders that there is still much work to do, and books like this will advance that.

I'm about to read Akala's Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire. I heard him, and David Olusoga talking on these issues, and their experiences recently. Extraordinary men.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2018

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