A new year means new books (yay!). Here are some of my recommendations for books to read or listen to this month, including two heart-stopping crime novels, a true story of hoarding, a feminist manifesto, a lucid and fascinating glimpse at behavioral economics, an astronaut’s guide to life on earth, and a classic text on authoritarianism and mind control.
This list is heavier on memoir than usual, but you won’t find any addiction stories here. These are memoirs about academic life and economics, space, life as the daughter of a hoarder, and true crime.
Crime & Thriller
Alligator Candy is journalist David Kushner’s heartbreaking account of his brother’s brutal murder when Kushner was four and his brother was eleven. Kushner shares how his parents, in the midst of their grief, managed heroically to raise their children in what would today be called “free range” style. Even after his brother was kidnapped while riding his bike home through the woods, Kushner was given his own bike and allowed to roam he neighborhood with his friends. His parents made the courageous decision to let their children grow up as normally as possible, while coping with the horrors of their son’s death and the subsequent trial of his killers.
I’ve just finished Coming Clean, Kimberly Rae Miller’s fascinating memoir about growing up as a child of extreme hoarders. It’s a fascinating story of maintaining love amid extreme family dysfunction, and of rising above circumstance. Rae delves deep into the true trauma and heartbreak of being forced to live this way as a child who had no control over her parents’ behavior.
Great Audiobooks to Listen to Now
When weather permits I walk, and when I’m procrastinating from working on my new novel I clean and get rid of things, which is good for the house but bad for my novel-in-progress. When I walk or clean, I listen to audiobooks, which I’m sort of obsessed with these days. (Pictured at the top of this email: Sutro Baths, one of my favorite San Francisco walks, which features prominently in The Year of Fog). My current listens are:
- Hunger by Roxane Gay (you can’t go wrong with this, really)
- Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard Thaler (it’s way more interesting than it sounds, I promise)
- An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield (because for me no week is complete without a little space talk and space dreaming)
Complete immersion, The Marriage Pact way
Do you like reading about cults, marriage, infidelity, and mind control? On the WH Smith blog, I shared 5 companion books for The Marriage Pact, and one delightfully frightening film you might remember from the nineties. Here’s a taste:
While studying psychology at university, Jake, the narrator of The Marriage Pact, immersed himself in the work of Stanley Milgram, author of Obedience to Authority. The book examines Dr Philip Zombardo’s 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, in which students who were randomly assigned to the position of ‘prisoner’ or ‘guard’ took on their prescribed roles with terrifying consequences. Milgram’s work helped Jake to formulate his own ideas about power, corruption, and the susceptibility of seemingly intelligent people to mind control. Readers who are interested in the darker aspects of The Pact and its psychological underpinnings will enjoy this real-world story of ordinary, educated individuals surrendering their rights and values to an external power.
Writing for The Washington Post Book World, Michael Dirda called Obedience to Authority ‘the classic account of the human tendency to follow orders, no matter who they hurt or what their consequences’. Although Zombardo’s controversial methods have been seriously questioned and criticized on ethical grounds, many psychologists believe the experiment deepened our understanding of the human willingness to following unjust orders.
Next time, I’ll be posting my list of books to help you be a better you in 2018.
Also published on Medium.