Hello reader!

Hermione's fervent belief in the power of books to solve all problems and answer every question might be my favorite part of the Harry Potter series. Oh, I know facts get dated and stories can't solve everything, and how we use and interpret information — and where we're getting information from in the first place — are just as important, if not more so, than the fact that we're reading. But! reading gives us tools. Books give us data and context and perspective and the ability to learn outside our own experience. And so, like Hermione, my first instinct, whenever I encounter something new or confusing or intriguing, is to go to the library. 

(Or, in the case of my interest in genes, inheritance and epigenetics, go to the bookstore.)


Sometimes, I don't even realize I've been reading around a topic until I look at my end-of-year reading log and see how one book led to another.  In Florida, I started reading Zora Neale Hurston because she had lived in my area, and looking for books like hers led me to Jesmyn Ward, James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, who in turn led me to books like Stamped from The Beginning and The New Jim Crow. Since the election and even before Election Daylists of books trying to explain Trump's rise and win have popped up. Many of the books deal with class in America and the urban/rural divide, and looking at my yearly reading lists, you can see I've been interested in these topics a long time, reading Rick Bragg and Barbara Kingsolver, Barbara Ehrenreich and Dorothy Allison, Phil Klay and David Finkel.

Lately, given world politics, I've bookmarked these reading lists about North Korea and Venezuela. Given American politics, I find myself looking backward, reading about our country's beginnings. Since our cross-country road trip to the West, I've been picking up books about western migration, manifest destiny, and Native Americans, and I've had a craving to reread Willa Cather. And given the Google firing, I think our latest Make America Read book discussion (more information below) is pretty damn timely.

I don't know that I'll ever officially go to school again. But as long as I have a library card, I'll be learning. What are you learning about these days? 

— Hillary


Make America Read Book Discussion
I argued with this book the entire time I read it. Talk with me and the Make America Read Community about it at 8 p.m. EST Aug. 28Email to be included.

In the meantime, check out the discussion questions and prompts for our last read. 

What I'm reading

The favorite: The Animators, Kayla Rae Whitaker 
Who has the right to tell a story? Other authors have considered this question and its implications on identity and family and relationships — most recently, Ann Patchett in Commonwealth — but this debut novel feels fresh thanks to dialogue that makes the characters feel like they're in the room with you. It's funny and sad, and if you ever were a weird kid in a small town it'll speak directly to you. I haven't loved a book this wholeheartedly since I don't know when. 

Up next: The New Urban Crisis, Richard Florida

Read Harder: A small press book from one of these presses. (Thanks, Teresa, for the link!) My complete Read Harder list here

Reading links

My hero: 10-year-old girl saves her community's bookmobile

Rebecca Solnit's 14-year-old book, Hope in The Dark, received new attention after the election. My favorite part in this profile: It’s worth noting, however, that these belatedly embraced writers seem to be mostly female. Perhaps it’s because no one listens to them the first time they speak.

Fiona, the beloved baby hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo, is getting a children's book. (The tiger cubs still are my favorite.)

You've heard Hillary Clinton is writing a book, yes? (Confession: I saw the cover and assumed it was a joke.) Will you be reading it? I'm on the fence. 

More Cincinnati: I just added Chief Engineer, about the man who built the Brooklyn Bridge, to my reading list. Before Brooklyn, Washington Roebling built a beautiful bridge linking Ohio and Kentucky.

How to start a book club. (Or you could just join the Make America Read discussions. Or both. It's not an either/or situation.)

Kid's Corner

The 7-year-old is reading: Half Magic, Edward Eager
We're reading it together. On his own, he's been flipping through strange-fact books and plowing through graphic novels. 

The 9-year-old just finished: Ms. Bixby's Last Day, John David Anderson
He read this with a book club one of his teacher's put together over the summer. (We love our school!)

Recently, in my neighborhood's Little Free Library, I rediscovered The Summer of The Monkeys, a book I loved as a kid, written by the author of Where The Red Fern Grows. It brought back happy memories and made me think about other beloved books I'd forgotten. What was your favorite book growing up? 
Housekeeping note: I use Amazon affiliate links for books throughout this newsletter.
If you purchase books through these links, I will earn a small commission, which I probably will spend on books. 
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