Spring 2016 Reading List

Well, time for the next reading list.  Now that I won’t be in school (for a couple years, anyhow), I’m not sure if I’ll keep doing three “semester” lists, or possibly switch to biannual or quarterly lists, which conform better with the temporal preferences non-academic society.  It may turn out that post frequency will depend on how much reading I do.

The links go to other people’s reviews where I could find ones I thought were well-done.  Many come from NPR as I find a large proportion of my reading list from NPR articles/broadcasts.  Otherwise, the links go to product pages on Amazon (yes, I know, Amazon is a killer of small-businesses-and-publishers–trust me, I used to work for such a publisher–but the large numbers of non-paid reviews are a valuable resource)

Ink and paper books:

  • Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America (Jeff Chu): One issue that I struggle with is the position and role of the church in LGBT issues.  I was raised pretty conservative, but a lot of the orthodox positions make me deeply uncomfortable for a lot of reasons.  Although the Bible isn’t supposed to be a comfortable book, there are a number of things that are often taught in more conservative (or even just “less liberal”) circles that I am fundamentally unsure about.  The internet is a terrible place to have a “discussion” about this, so I’ll leave it at that, but this book is worth a read to get an idea of the tension and struggle that LGBT Christians face even in a progressive, accepting larger society–and in the case of this book, the story of one relatable, personable, human individual.  As Andrew Solomon so beautifully wrote in Far from the Tree (see below), “Numbers imply trends, while stories acknowledge their chaos.”
  • Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry (Jeffrey A. Lieberman & Ogi Ogas): May be a little history heavy/textbook-y, but I thought it was an enlightening read on a specialty of medicine that often gets a bad rap, sometimes deserved, sometimes not.  Traced the development of psychiatry from pre-DSM to the present day.  Pretty accessible, but some may find it to be a little textbook-y at times.
  • A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back (Kevin Hazzard): I thought about going to EMT/paramedic school after finishing my bachelor’s (I know, backwards…).  I ended up not taking that route, but this book kind of made me wish I did.
  • Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Andrew Solomon): Very long, but Solomon’s writing is graceful and informative and flowing and fair as usual.  Each chapter covers a type of “difference” that individuals experience that alienates them from larger society: deafness, criminality, dwarfism, genius, and so on.
  • The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (Elyn R. Saks): Saks is a professor of law (as well as psychology/psychiatry/behavioral sciences) who was diagnosed with schizophrenia while she was in graduate school.  She is incredibly bright and also incredibly self-aware.
  • When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi): Kalanithi was a medical doctor in his final year of residency when he died after facing metastatic cancer.  This autobiography was written after his diagnosis and completed posthumously by his wife, also a physician.  His language is beautiful and compelling.  Wins the “best book of the semester” award for its writing, tied with A Mother’s Reckoning.
  • Proof: The Science of Booze (Adam Rogers): Pretty informative and not too dry (no pun intended).  Accessible to a general audience.
  • It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War (Lynsey Addario): Addario is a prize-winning war photographer.  Here she documents stories of her work, struggles, and life.  I heard about this book on a Radiolab podcast.
  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things (Jenny Lawson): It’s funny.  And very real.
  • A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy (Sue Klebold and Andrew Solomon): I found out about this book from a reference in Far from the Tree.  Klebold’s writing is excellent and her words are honest.  She writes about her son, Dylan Klebold, one of the shooters at Columbine, his life, and her life, before and after the tragedy.  Her story is filled with grace in the face of unspeakable pain and anger.  Wins the “best book of the semester” award for its courage and honesty, tied with When Breath Becomes Air.


  • The Brothers Karamozov (Fyodor Dostoevsky): Great book to listen to; in some ways even better than reading it.
  • The Giver (Lois Lowry): Not into dystopian fiction but it was fine.
  • Harry Potter series (JK Rowling): Finally “read” Harry Potter!  I thought the plot was really well-constructed.
  • The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett): “Read” it for the first time since kindergarten or first grade because Harry Potter seemed like it was alluding to this in a lot of ways and I wanted to know if my memory was serving correctly.  Still not certain, but I think it is (e.g., Lily’s eyes/his mother’s (Lillias’) eyes, the names Colin Creavy/Colin Craven, etc.)

Feel free to insult each other, forget your manners, create straw men, ignore empirical data, and commit as many other fallacies as you can, all from the cozy, anonymous protection of your keyboard.

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