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Read: a list of 33 books to help you understand America

Lincoln Memorial illuminated at night in Washington DC Engel Ching / Shutterstock

Happy Halloween weekend! Before you break out the candy, costumes, and scary movies, you might appreciate some reading material. Here is the best writing about books and related subjects on the web for the week of October 24, 2016.

  • The New York Times has a reasonable if somewhat arbitrarily chosen list of 12 books you should read in your 20s. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have four books to finish within the next two years.
  • In honor of Halloween, Electric Literature compiled a list of 11 novels that feature emotional ghosts.
  • And the Atlantic has a list of 33 books you should read to make sense of American politics. I wholeheartedly endorse Americanah’s inclusion here.
  • At BuzzFeed, The Seven Good Years author Etgar Keret has a short story about America’s future:

They set up the 14+ exactly one year after Trump was elected to his third term. America was still licking its wounds from the war in Mexico. Honestly? No one thought it would be that rough. Our drones pummeled them from the air on the frontlines, but there was much less we could do about the terrorist attacks in the malls. The whole country turned into a battlefield. The Jihadis and those stinking Russians hooked up against us and started channeling weapons to the Mexicans like there was no tomorrow. The Federal government declared martial law. At first there was a draft, and then, when things got really hairy, they announced a new unit and named it 14+.

The claim that “she and her stories are American” might be the absolute worst and most misleading way to describe a novel that not only concerns immigration and its discontents, but which is deeply ambivalent about the prospect of being American. And this is where the hype positively misleads you about what this novel is. If the story of the novel’s publication is a story of triumph, the novel itself is not: the longings of Jende Jonga are complicated and fraught and almost totally lacking in the kind of clarity provided by the nationalist clichés that bring the novel to the market.

Doctors sometimes removed the skins of infamous murderers and used them to bind books about their deeds—a fact well known enough to serve as a kind of deterrent. The most infamous case is the pocket-sized book bound in the skin of William Burke, half of the Scottish duo Burke and Hare, who murdered sixteen people in order to sell their bodies to doctors for dissection. Like his unfortunate victims, Burke could not escape the anatomist’s knife in the end, and his skin book resides in Surgeons’ Hall Museum in Edinburgh.

  • Station Eleven author Emily St. John Mandel breaks down the data for all of those books with girl in the title:

The “girl” in the title is much more likely to be a woman than an actual girl, and the author of the book is more likely to be a woman. But if a book with “girl” in the title was written by a man, the girl is significantly more likely to end up dead.

Happy reading!