January reads

Emotional Inheritance (Galit Atlas): I chose this book after listening to a podcast in which Galit Atlas was a guest. Atlas puts to language (with research) many of the things I’ve felt. We do not operate independently of the emotional complexity and lineage of our parents and grandparents– it is something we carry around until we are able to speak it and process it.

It is worth reading for so many reasons, not the least of which were the introductions of the concepts of afterwardness (Freud’s idea that memories are reworked again and again as we move through time), and grievability (Judith Butler’s idea that some ideas or lives are not considered valuable enough to grieve).

This book is endlessly fascinating and as a bonus reads like a novel. Everyone should read it.

“Everything we don’t consciously know about ourselves has the power to control and run our lives, in the same way that the riptides below the surface of the ocean are its most powerful ones.”

Galit Atlas

How to do nothing (Jenny Odell): I chose this book also after listening to a podcast where it was recommended. I tried to read it twice: once last April, and again in January.

I loved this work, but it was difficult to get into..and honestly I did not really understand what Odell was trying to say with the first half of it. She spends a lot of the beginning time talking about Digital Detox retreats and old communes that failed, as if to point to the ways in which we can fail if we try to completely rid ourselves of the attention economy.

The highlight was the second half when Odell discussed the ways in which she has leaned into “doing nothing.”

A common critique of the book is that the title is misleading: Odell does not give step by step instructions on how to do nothing. But that is the whole point. If you are not willing to extrapolate from her experience and build your own version of resistance, this book probably is not for you. To give a listicle or step instructions would be to echo what social media and the attention economy readily does– which is to give you information with little context in the most digestible fashion.

Odell says with this book, “here is what I find fascinating about being alive and paying attention,” which by itself is an invitation to the reader to do the same. To give a “how to” for such a complicated and individual idea would be reductive.

“Where and when am I? And how do I know that?”

Jenny Odell

An American Marriage (Tayari Jones): most of the books I read I’ve pre-selected and put on a “notes” page titled “books to read.” However, one of my favorite things to do is go to the library and randomly pick a novel (usually from one of the displays, or “staff picks”) This happened to be one of those books. Jones is a an incredible writer, and I easily found myself absorbed in the story and the complicated relationships she presented.

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