Motherhood by Sheila Heti

IMG_8177.JPG
The Stacks received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here

This week for The Stacks Book Club, author Jo Piazza and I discussed Sheila Heti’s newest book, Motherhood. You can listen to our full conversation here. There are no spoilers on this episode so feel free to enjoy.

If you are not familiar with Motherhood here is a little bit about the book.

In Motherhood, Sheila Heti asks what is gained and what is lost when a woman becomes a mother, treating the most consequential decision of early adulthood with the candor, originality, and humor that have won Heti international acclaim and made How Should A Person Be? required reading for a generation.

In her late thirties, when her friends are asking when they will become mothers, the narrator of Heti’s intimate and urgent novel considers whether she will do so at all. In a narrative spanning several years, casting among the influence of her peers, partner, and her duties to her forbearers, she struggles to make a wise and moral choice. After seeking guidance from philosophy, her body, mysticism, and chance, she discovers her answer much closer to home.

Motherhood is a work of biographical fiction, a genre of which I’ve not read much. In This case, the book feels like it is Heti’s own life and thoughts, but shielded loosely by the idea that it is still fiction. The book essentially feels like a memoir with the caveat that it is not one. The main character is even named Sheila. While I’m no expert on this genre, it felt nearly impossible to distinguish between the author and the “characters”. For me, this was the  biggest barrier to really diving into the book. I was constantly trying to figure out what was biography and what was fiction.

Heti’s writing is beautiful (and also somewhat experimental), and many of the debates she has with herself through the course of the book about childrearing are wonderful. She examines many facets of motherhood. including difficulty getting pregnant and abortions. I could relate to the questions she asked herself, if this was the right path for her and her life and her partner. There are conversations around what it means for a Jewish woman, who is a descendant of Holocaust survivors, to not want to have children. Heti explores what happens to a woman’s creativity if she decides to have children. These ideas are important and nuanced and interesting and I’m glad she brings them up.

The overall tone of this book is mostly cynical. The conversation doesn’t feel balanced, nor does Heti seem to be weighing the options equally. She taps into the anxiety around loss of self accurately, but misses the value added that children can bring. I’ve not had kids, and I am currently weighing my options about having them, and while I can relate to her doubts, I do wish the joys were presented more evenly. Motherhood leans into the anxiety and never lets up. She makes her point early on, and the book could end, but instead she labors with her thinking, as if to prove the tediousness of her thought process. I would have loved the book as an article in The New Yorker (long, but not book long).

Motherhood is not for everyone. I would even venture to say it is not for most people. If you’re interested a meditation on having children, and you like beautiful and experimental prose, this might be a nice fit. If you prefer your fiction to be traditional you might skip this one. There are also plenty of memoirs that examine these same questions without the guise of fiction that could feel more straightforward.

Don’t forget to listen the The Stacks with Jo Piazza discussing Motherhood.

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st Edition edition (May 1, 2018)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy Motherhood on Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

October Books for The Stacks Book Club

C0386BB1-8FDF-455E-8465-117DCF6AB191

In the month of October we will be reading two books of nonfiction (we have to balance out all that fiction in September). Both books speak to the current moment in American culture, and have received high praise as “must read” books published in 2018.

Our first book is Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, and we will discuss it on the show on October 10th. Bad Blood is a work of investigative journalism that follows the unbelievable rise and fall of Theranos, a Silicon Valley biotech company, and its founder Elizabeth Holmes.

Then on October 24th we will be dissecting How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. In this book, we will learn about democracies of Europe and Latin America that have crumbled and how this systematic destruction comes about and how to fight against it.

As with all our TSBC books, we want to hear from you. If you’re reading along, send over your thoughts or questions so we can have the conversations you want to hear. You can email us at thestackswithtraci@gmail.com, comment on this post, or reach out to us through our Instagram @thestackspod.

Order your copies of our September books on Amazon:

If you want to have input on future books we discuss on this show, become a member of The Stacks Pack by clicking here.

The Stacks received both of these book for free from the publishers. For more information on our commitment to honesty and transparency click here.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

IMG_7843On this week of The Stacks podcast, we discussed The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. Our guest for this episode The Stacks Book Club was Becca Tobin, actress best known for her work on Glee, and co-host of Lady Gang podcast. You can listen to our full conversation about The Mars Room right here.

If you’ve not yet heard of the The Mars Room here is a little more information for you.

It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.

This book is a bleak examination of lives in proximity to incarceration. While the book mostly centers on Romy and her experiences, we do have other narrators, and other characters who steal our focus for moments throughout the book. The Mars Room feels like a much darker and less “entertaining” look at the prison system than what you might be familiar with from a show like Orange is the New Black (Netflix). One of the things I appreciated most with this book was how dark Kushner was willing to go. She romanticizes nothing. It is all bleak and full of despair. I find that choice to be a strong and refreshing choice.

Throughout the book we meet a lot of flawed and interesting and dynamic characters. People who have been dealt shitty hands and lived hard lives and yet have perspective and depth and hope, and sometimes, though not enough, humor. Through these people Kushner asks us to question our own relationship to the incarcerated, our own thoughts on gender identity, racism, and sexual assault, the power of institutions and more. There are moments in this book where Kushner gets caught up in showing us her point of view, that the book does become a little preachy. Kushner uses characters as devices to make larger points, which leads to some characters being full and dynamic and some feeling like they are just there to prove a point (Romy’s son Jackson comes to mind here).

A major problem with this book has to do with Kushner’s choice of featured characters. While she does include Latina and Black characters in secondary roles, none of the featured narrators are people of color, despite there being ample space to allow for their perspectives. In a book about incarceration, our central character is a pretty white woman. This type of whitewashing of a predominately Black and brown space is irritating at best, and something more cynical at worst.

When faced with the choice to leave the reader with hope or not, Kushner mostly choses not. I respect that. I think we are constantly looking for a silver lining, and sometimes when we strip that false hope away we see a picture of reality that can also be comforting. This book addresses this head on. If the reality of hopelessness that so many people live with scares you, or turns you off, this book isn’t for you, and thats OK. Aside from major issues of representation, I enjoyed this book and suggest it to those who are not faint of heart.

Don’t forget to listen the The Stacks with Becca Tobin discussing The Mars Room.

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition Limited Issue edition (May 1, 2018)
  • 4/5 stars
  • Buy The Mars Room on Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

IMG_7803This week on The Stacks Podcast, we discussed Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for The Stacks Book Club. I was joined by Jay Connor, a writer, and the creator and co-host of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. You can listen to our conversation about the themes in this book right here.

If you’re not familiar with this book, which came out in 2015, here is a small description.

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

To say that this is a good book, is almost trivializing all this book says and does. This is one of those books that changed the way I saw the world fundamentally. It changed how I interacted with the world as a Black woman, and also changed the way I saw other Black bodies. I all of a sudden felt as though I was part of something bigger, and also less a part of a something else.

The Dream is what Coates refers to when he talks about this notion of White exceptionalism or supremacy at the cost of the marginalized (and in this book more specifically Black folks). The Dream is the force that fights against Blackness. It is exclusionary, violent, and forgives all sins that are perpetrated in its name. To Coates, The Dream is how we can exist in a world with racists, but no white folks know any racists. The Dream is how we can excuse the horrors of slavery to the point that we have stripped the slaves of their humanity, even in the history books hundreds of years later. The Dream is what protects and defends Whiteness, and Coates calls this all to task. This book is not to make you comfortable, it is to make you think and understand how America functions.

Coates asks the reader to think and analyze ideas we often take for granted. To deeply question convention. One of his most controversial points is leveled around 9/11. Coates discusses why he is conflicted about the hero worship that came during and after September 11, 2001. He notes that this same neighborhood, Lower Manhattan, was home to the site of slave auctions and much plunder perpetrated against the Black Body. Its thoughts like this, really unpopular to many, that elevate this book. Coates is not sentimental, he is not afraid to speak his truth. And this is not the only moment that he confronts the reader on their beliefs.

Coates expertly weaves his own thoughts and feelings with the greater context of violence, racism, and hatred. However that is not all this book is, it is also a celebration of Blackness. Coates just as carefully reflects on the power of his time at Howard University, and how that time showed him the vastness of the Black cultural landscape. The diversity in the Black community, and the influence that had over him. This book is a master class in writing a thoughtful cultural critique. It blends the scholarly with the personal in both nostalgic and objective prose.

Most people could benefit from reading this book. Especially those people who live in The United States. What he is discussing and presenting the reader is a valuable perspective on race, violence, and Black bodies throughout the history of America. Read this book, please.

Don’t forget to listen the The Stacks with Jay Connor discussing Between the World and Me.

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; 1 edition (July 14, 2015)
  • 5/5 stars
  • Buy Between the World and Me on Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Stacks Book Club September Books

51A119E3-B576-4C05-8FB4-5B0A3767316AIts time to announce our September book club books. We have two acclaimed novels in September and we could not be more excited.

We will discuss our first book of the month, Motherhood by Sheila Heti on September 12th. Motherhood is a novel that examines what is gained and what is lost when a woman becomes a mother.

On September 26th, we will be discussing this year’s Pulitzer Prize winning work of fiction, Less by Andrew Sean Greer. Less is about a struggling novelist who decides to travel the world instead of subject himself to the awkwardness of attending his ex’s wedding.

Here is how The Stacks Book Club works, you read the books and we talk about them on the podcast. If you ever have questions you want answered, send them our way, and we’ll do out best to include them in our discussions. You can email us at thestackswithtraci@gmail.com, comment on this post, or reach out to us through our Instagram @thestackspod.

Order your copies of our September books on Amazon:

If you want to have input on future books we discuss on this show, become a member of The Stacks Pack by clicking here.

The Stacks received both of these book for free from the publishers. For more information on our commitment to honesty and transparency click here.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

I had a great time with Ashley North as we discussed Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes for The Stacks Book Club. You can listen to that full episode here. The book is an exploration of what happens when you start changing your habits through positivity and affirmation.

AC988BC8-C1AD-4253-908B-ADE846132851
Get your own Ashley North Candle at www.shopanstyle.com

If you don’t know about this book here is more information on the premise.

She’s the creator and producer of some of the most groundbreaking and audacious shows on television today. Her iconic characters live boldly and speak their minds. So who would suspect that Shonda Rhimes is an introvert? That she hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances? That she suffered panic attacks before media interviews?

With three children at home and three hit television shows, it was easy for Shonda to say she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. And then, over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything. Shonda knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.

This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.

This book is written like it is straight out of the mouth of one of Shonda’s characters from her TV shows. It moves between short quick sentences to longer rolling monologues with tons of repetition of phrases, its very Scandal. It is conversational and performative. It feels like Rhimes is acutely aware of her audience and isn’t fully comfortable with us being let in. This approach to writing sometimes got in my way of enjoying the book, and trusting that it wasn’t all an act. I felt like I was consciously being entertained, which I rarely feel in memoirs (unless it is a comedian’s memoir).

The first part of the book was slow for me, it took a while for Rhimes to get into the actual “year of yes”, and getting used to the style of writing also slowed me down. However, once she gets into her story, the book picks up pretty quickly. The middle of this book is really great. Her struggles with anxiety, and guilt of being a mother who works, and her commitment to getting fit were all thrilling to read about. The topics felt universal and also uniquely Shonda. Its a hard balancing act to get people to relate to the most powerful woman in TV, and she pulls it off.

This book felt like a practical application of an earlier The Stacks Book Club pick, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. The Power of Habit uses scientific studies and examples from society to explain how habits work and how we can change them. It was a pop-psychology approach to changing behavior in businesses and individuals. Year of Yes was one woman’s account of how she changed the way she approached the world. I found myself noticing keystone habits and other ideas that came up in Duhigg’s book, which made me enjoyYear of Yes in a whole new way.

The ending of Year of Yes fell a little short for me. She loaded the earlier sections of the book with the most powerful transformations, and the ones that came toward the end felt less meaningful and crucial to the story. Just as the book started off a little slow, it also fizzled for me toward the end.

I have to admit, I was inspired to start my own year of yes, after reading about Rhimes’ journey. I think there is a lot to be learned from her experiences. Her perspectives are thoughtful and she does a superb job of extrapolating her lessons and stating them clearly for her reader. That is no easy task, especially when one is reflecting on their own struggles and successes. I think anyone could benefit from this book, while the style of the writing may not be for you, the content of the book is worth thinking about.

Don’t forget to listen the The Stacks with Ashley North discussing Year of Yes.

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (September 13, 2016)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy Year of Yes on Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

 

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

0A544274-291F-4462-980B-D964D85B5239This week on The Stacks podcast, Lauren Fanella and I discussed Reincarnation Blues as part of The Stacks Book Club. You can listen to our full conversation about the book, its themes, and who we think should star in the TV series of our minds, right here. There are spoilers on the episode (there are none in this review), so I suggest you read the book before you listen.

If you’re not familiar with Reincarnation Blues by Micahel Poore, check out a little bit about the book here

First we live. Then we die. And then . . . we get another try? 

Ten thousand tries, to be exact. Ten thousand lives to “get it right.” Answer all the Big Questions. Achieve Wisdom. And Become One with Everything.
    
Milo has had 9,995 chances so far and has just five more lives to earn a place in the cosmic soul. If he doesn’t make the cut, oblivion awaits. But all Milo really wants is to fall forever into the arms of Death. Or Suzie, as he calls her.

But Reincarnation Blues is more than a great love story: Every journey from cradle to grave offers Milo more pieces of the great cosmic puzzle—if only he can piece them together in time to finally understand what it means to be part of something bigger than infinity. As darkly enchanting as the works of Neil Gaiman and as wisely hilarious as Kurt Vonnegut’s, Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is the story of everything that makes life profound, beautiful, absurd, and heartbreaking.

My feelings about this book changed wildly as I read it. When I first started I was all in. I was 50 pages in telling my sister-in-law this is a must read. Then at about page 150 I was wanted to quit (and only held out because I’d heard good things, and had committed to covering it on the podcast). Then I got to the last 100 pages and was back in again.

I loved Michael Poore as an author. He is smart, and unsentimental, and witty, and flip, and emotional, and wise, and direct, and all the things that make a book like this resonate. He is fluid in his writing and his ideas are strong. He is never passive. He has a clear point of view on the important things in life. He has a strong moral compass when it comes to social justice and compassion, and that is what drives Milo and the entirety of Reincarnation Blues. He guides us as the readers through the universe as he sees it. I loved Poore so much, I even read the acknowledgements and swooned a little.

Its worth noting here, that Poore has opinions on prison, and rape culture, and soulmates, and the criminal justice system, and punishment, and meditation, and global warming, and the role of wealthy people in the economy, and so much more. He uses different lives to explore this major issues. In the discussion of these topics I was head over heels for this book. I’d never read a fiction book that was so direct in discussing these things, without being a fiction book about these things.

Of course, I also had parts of this book I wasn’t so into. I couldn’t quiet get into the story. The book felt more like a grouping of short stories, than a novel. I could never quiet get in a groove. And with each life being a different place and world and lifetime and era, I would fall in love with something or someone and then it would be gone. There were, of course, references to things in past (or future) lives, which I loved, but for the most part, I had to learn to enjoy the good moments and then let them go. Which I guess is a metaphor for life, or another one of Poore’s strong opinions on the way things should be.

The book is a little sci-fi, a little magical realism, and little bit of an adventure story, and then also a love story, and then once again its a story of humanity and one’s duty to society, its a genre-bending social commentary. Its unlike anything I’ve read. In a good way. While, I only gave it three stars, because it didn’t fully click with me, I could see this being a favorite book for a lot of people. It has all the potential to be a beloved book. It just wasn’t quiet for me. It is kind of a funny book like that. It could never really be the type of book that achieved consensus. Also, I don’t think I understood the ending. This happens to me more often than I’d like to admit.

If this review excites you, you should read this book. If you’re at all interested in a book about many lives and many characters and the big picture ideas of life, you should read this book. I don’t know how you’ll feel about it. I hope you’ll like it, you might not. I think either way, its worth a read. I’m certainly glad I read it. I now know I love Michael Poore.

Don’t forget to listen to Lauren and I discuss Reincarnation Blues further on the podcast.

  • Hard Cover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; First Edition edition (August 22, 2017)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy Reincarnation Blues on Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

IMG_5774We read The Power of Habit for the Stacks Book Club, and you can listen to author Ross Asdourian and I talk about it right here.

If you’re not familiar with this book, here is a little background.

In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

This is one of those books that makes you look at your life in a whole new way. I couldn’t help but think, how can I change my habits to become a better me. Thats not to say this book is really a “self-help” book, but more of a look at human behavior. It excites you into action (or maybe just the thought of action).

Duhigg uses examples from scientific experiments and everyday lives to illustrate his points. There is a variety of case studies and antidotal stories to keep the book engaging and diverse. The examples are broken down and used to drive his points home. I found some of the examples to be really effective, and some others to lack staying power.

One of the places I found the book to be particularly strong was Duhigg’s examination of social and political movements. How members of society can use habits to effect change. He talks about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery bus boycotts as examples of the power of habit in community. He highlights how the use of strategic and aggressive habits can sway people into action. These ideas made me think of the work that the Black Lives Matter movement is doing, and the activism we’re seeing from the Parkland survivors & Everytown. This book gave me a little hope as I look at the world and the many challenges we face.

While this book was thought provoking and engaging, it wasn’t anything special to me. It falls in line with other pop-pyschology books (think Predictably Irrational or Freakonomics). I appreciated what Duhigg had to say, but I’m not sure this book will stick with me in the long term. It was a great read and is a really good and interesting book. I think if you’re into pop-psychology and human behavior this is a great book for you. If you’re kick-starting your own transformation, this book might inspire you in your journey.

Don’t forget to listen to Ross and I discuss The Power of Habit further on the podcast.

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (January 7, 2014)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy The Power of Habit on Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

August Books for The Stacks Book Club

C7B44B61-937D-4F48-8598-339F3504B5EDWe’re excited to share with you the books we’ll be reading in August. The way the weeks shake out, you get three books instead of just two. Lucky you. You read the books, you tune in the to podcast, and you enjoy the conversations. Oh, and if you have any questions you’d like asked on the show, don’t be shy. You can email us at thestackswithtraci@gmail.com, comment on this post, or reach out to us through our Instagram @thestackspod. We want the show to reflect your thoughts and questions, so send them our way.

August 1st, we’re reading Shonda Rhymes’ book Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own PersonIf you’re not familiar with her, Shonda Rhymes is the creator of hit TV shows, Grey’s AnatomyScandal, and How to Get Away with Murder, she is a real life Hollywood superhero. One year Shonda decided to stay saying “yes” to everything, and this book is all about that journey.

The next book we’re reading, on August 15th is Between the World and Me by journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic). Coates is known for his work in examining the experience of Black Americans. Between The World and Me is a letter written to Coates’ son, and looks at the history and practices that have created a culture in America, where Black people are not valued as full citizens. He looks at slavery, discrimination, mass incarceration, and the murder of Black citizens by the police. Coates asks us not only how did this happen? But also, where do we go from here?

The last book for the month, which we will discuss on August 29th, is The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. This gritty novel tells the story of Romy, a mother who has been incarcerated for two life sentences. We see Romy in her life leading to prison and the world behind bars with thousands of other women struggling to survive.

Don’t forget to send us your thoughts on these books or any questions/topics you’d want to hear discussed on the show, and for special access to book selection join The Stacks Pack by clicking here.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

 

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer

IMG_6134For this week’s The Stacks Book Club episode, we discussed Franklin Foer’s book, How Soccer Explains the World. Our guest Aaron Dolores, founder of Black Arrow FC, and I look at this book and what is has to say about race and class.

Before I do my complete review of the book, take a look at what its all about.

A groundbreaking work—named one of the five most influential sports books of the decade by Sports Illustrated—How Soccer Explains the World is a unique and brilliantly illuminating look at soccer, the world’s most popular sport, as a lens through which to view the pressing issues of our age, from the clash of civilizations to the global economy.

The first thing of note, is that this book was written in 2006, a World Cup year, and Foer is clearly a lover of the sport. The book has the feel of someone trying to convince us, that we’re missing out and we should like soccer too. There is an earnestness, and a romanticization of all the issues that come up in the book.

While I found the idea of this book to be exciting and interesting, in actuality it lacked. In his desire to convince us to like soccer, Foer is uncomfortably uncritical. Granted, this book was written 12 years ago and issues that are front in center today, were barely discussed then. However, Foer goes out of his way to dismiss things as racialist, instead of calling them out for their blatant racism. For example, a group of reporters calling an African player a   “monkey”. This dismissal of real issues is also present when Foer justifies violent hooliganism as a charming relic of an old way of life, instead of noting the aggressive nationalism at play. I don’t know if its all as bad as I say, but as I read the book, I kept thinking who is benefiting from this? And who is at risk?

Where the book worked for me, was that the writing style was easy and straight forward. I didn’t always agree with what was being said, I understood the points being made. It is also worth noting, that most people who I have talked to who have read this book, love it. I think that can be attributed to the Foer’s style.

If you like soccer, you should read this book. It provides insight into the world’s most popular sport. If you’re not so into soccer, I think you can skip it, as it doesn’t really speak to the world on as grand of a scale as is presented in the title.

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 11, 2010)
  • 2/5 stars
  • Buy How Soccer Explains the World on Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.