Don Hosek - Recent reading

I tend to be a voracious reader, and I read widely. This list has its origins in an old signature file which I would update periodically with the current book that I was reading. That gradually transmogrified itself into the current massive archive with brief reviews.

What I've been reading lately
Number of books read and reviewed each year
1995* (28)
1996 (47)
1997 (74)
1998 (61)
1999 (62)
2000 (27)
2001 (51)
2002 (60)
2003 (37)
2004 (36)
2005 (32)
2006 (46)
2007 (109)
2008 (78)
2009 (65)
2010 (68)
2011 (98)
2012 (129)
2013 (114)
2014 (101)
2015 (88)
2016 (82)
2017 (76)
2018 (67)
2019 (95)
2020 (90)
2021 (41)
* Partial year
When Capone Ruled the Village by Linda M. Malek
[Finished 24 May 2021] I stumbled across the existence of this book during the last days of my time on social media. The village of the title is Stickney, the suburb of Chicago where I grew up and, it turns out, Malek was the granddaughter of the old woman who lived next door to us when I was a kid (we used to play on her steps and she would come out and yell at us, “ji domů” (go home).

Malek is upfront about identifying herself as neither a writer nor historian and a lot of this book is compilations of primary source material with little context. It would have been nice to have had some more context given, particularly about the relationship between Capone lackey Anton Rench and later village president George B. Rench, Malek is also reticent about making the connection between the establishment of the Hawthorne Kennel Club and its subsequent reinvention as Sportsman’s Park (she does eventually give this information, but it would have been nice to have had the connection made when she first introduces the Kennel Club).

Some of the most interesting information is beyond the scope of her ostensible subject, where she talks about the trial of Sabella Nitti for the murder of her husband Francesco. There was a book on Nitti published a few years ago (that I’ve added to my reading list), which seems to be convinced that Nitti was innocent of the charges, but Malek seems persuaded otherwise.

Overall, the book is to be commended if only for making accessible a fair amount of Stickney history which might otherwise be unavailable.

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier
[Finished 17 May 2021] A light novel, it had its moments of comedy, but I felt like I wasn’t the right reader for the book.

Waiting for Hope: Jewish Displaced Persons in Post-World War II Germany by Angelika Königseder and Juliane Wetzel
[Finished 17 May 2021] A detailed look at Jewish DPs in the wake of World War II. Originally written in German, it is well-researched and gives detailed accounts of two camps, although unfortunately, neither is the camp at the center of my novel in progress.

Death Note, Vol. 12: Finis by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
[Finished 12 May 2021] At least it’s over. Interestingly, the superfluous coda to the story actually does a lot to make the story more compelling as we see the consequences of Kira’s demise along with Matsuda’s ambivalent reaction to it and suspicions about what really might have happened with Near’s confrontation with Light and Mello’s role in it.

Death Note, Vol. 11: Kindred Spirits by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
[Finished 7 May 2021] The thing that comes to mind as I read this is the scene in The Princess Bride where the man in black faces off with Vizzini in the battle of wits. “All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.” The same sort of “logic” feels endemic here and, just like in The Princess Bride, the ultimate winner does so by effectively cheating.

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
[Finished 2 May 2021] Between being in leftie circles for a lot of my life and, I think Zinn’s own influence on the culture, this did not come off as quite the revolutionary book that it once was. There were a few things I was unaware of and Zinn seems to fall pray to the no difference between the parties fallacy that infects a lot of political discourse, but there was still a lot to recommend it. I can see giving this to my kids to read when they’re in high school as a useful corrective to the standard curriculum even with its flaws.

Death Note, Vol. 10: Deletion by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
[Finished 29 April 2021] Things get a little bit more interesting here, although I’m actively looking forward to completing the series now.

The Bittersweet Science: Fifteen Writers in the Gym, in the Corner, and at Ringside edited by Carlo Rotella and Michael Ezra
[Finished 25 April 2021] I enjoyed this far more than I would have expected. There’s a certain romance around boxing that makes it aesthetically appealing. The article which combines criticism of Million Dollar Baby with an account of a real-life woman boxer was one of my favorites, but there were few dull moments in this collection of essays.

Close Calls With Nonsense: Reading New Poetry by Stephen Burt
[Finished 25 April 2021] Burt (now Stephanie, but her dead name is still the name on the spine of the book as published) is an insightful critic and expositor of contemporary poetry. I found myself adding a lot of poets to my to-read list after reading this and having a better sense of how to approach a lot of contemporary poets’ writing more fruitfully.

Fighting in the Jim Crow Army: Black Men and Women Remember World War II by Maggie Morehouse
[Finished 24 April 2021] A good collection of information on Black service during World War II. My only complaint is that it focuses on combat troops and not the majority experience which placed Black soldiers in support roles.