3 books we should chat about

what I'm reading during this liminal time

It’s almost but not too late to RSVP to rebeccamiller@lfla.org to join our Wine and Wisdom conversation with Anna Merlan, author of Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Suprising Rise to Power (buy from that link to benefit the LA Public Library and get a book with a signed bookplate!) and one of the most compelling journalists there is, and Patrick Caveletti of Cavaletti Vineyards, one of the three wineries leading the charge for bringing LA back as a wine region.

As we slowly, haltingly, and with varying degrees of joy, excitement, hope, and trepidation (or maybe that’s just me?) make our way toward the long-promised new normal of a post-pandemic, post-Trump world, I’m finding that getting a handle on the growth, power, and impact of “conspiracism” on the events of the last year is a helpful (if unsettling) angle.

I think you will, too.

So don’t miss this conversation with an expert who stepped off a Conspira-Seas Cruise (really) into the deep end of the history, personalities, and trajectory of conspiracy theorists, “truthers”, and real-life conspiracies driving our present. I loved Republic of Lies, even when it made me cringe. Anna writes with wit, humor, kindness, and a keen eye for context. I couldn’t put it down.

Tomorrow eve, 7pm PT, grab a glass of rosé and join us for a wild ride. Zoom webinars remain a personal pet peeve, so this is a conversation you’re invited to join. RSVP to rebeccamiller@lfla.org any time before 4pm PT tomorrow, Wednesday, to get the link.

ALSO, this is my monthly(ish) books post! This last month I’ve inadvertently immersed myself in books that are oh-so-relevant to the many transitions we’re in. So relevant, it’s almost got me wondering if there’s a conspiracy afoot in the LA Public Library wait list! Just kidding. No conspiracy, but some real serendipity.

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May

I wish I’d known to pick up Wintering last summer, when the initial trauma of the COVID crisis was making its way into the long slog, before the reckoning of the global response to George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s murder, and before the terrifying near miss of our democracy. Katherine May set out to write a survey of cultural responses to winter, literal and figurative, and then was sent into a winter of her own when overlapping professional, health, parenting, and family crises derailed her. Wintering morphed into a combination of memoir, philosophy, nature guide, and yes, cultural exploration, of how to think about, cope with, and emerge from a season of pain. The theme: winter isn’t dead time, it’s necessary transition time - there’s no spring growth without what happens during winter.

I fear I’m doing a terrible job of describing this lovely book, making it sound like new-age hooey and convincing many of you that I’ve gone full stereotypical Los Angeles. I hope you’ll look past that and give yourself the gift of this book to help make your way through this liminal space we’re all in.

Intimations: Six Essays, by Zadie Smith

A short book of six short essays, Intimations feels like the journal prompts I’d have needed if I was disciplined enough to journal. These essays were all written in the early days of lockdown, and are reflections of the transitions we were (and weren’t) making. Zadie Smith has an inimitable, insightful, and deeply thought-provoking way of weaving together the personal and political, mundane and profound, devastating and joyful. I love her voice and appreciated looking back through her eyes while we’re all looking ahead.

Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy, by Matt Stoller

Goliath unpacks the last century of business monopolies, the monopolists that made their fortunes off of them, the politicians that acceded to them and those that fought them, and the implications for all of us. Full of colorful personalities and fascinating vignettes, Goliath is (surprisingly) a page-turner, and it’ll make you feel smarter and better equipped for evaluating the post-crisis economy with every page.

Read Goliath, Republic of Lies, Kochland (I reviewed/recommended it early last year) for about as comprehensive an understanding as you can get of the forces at play in shaping our economic realities, and therefore our societal realities, over the past century or so in America. You won’t consume the news, spend your money, or contemplate the robber barons <ahem> business leaders of our time the same way again.

Give me a shout if you've read or are tempted to read these! I want to know what you think and I’m desperate for book club, tbh.

The books I’ve recommended in this space are available here. Eventually, I’ll add the books from last year, too, but alas, that’ll stay on the “to-do eventually” list for another little while. Note that if you buy books from the bookshop.org links I get some small commission, which will all get donated to the Library Foundation of LA.