Stacks of library books, as many as I could carry in my bike basket – a memory of my childhood summers. And girl detectives figuring stuff out, and finding justice.
I still read mysteries today. The best detective stories are novels of manners. Also pertinent to my adult life: the action unfolds at the messy intersection of career, purpose, and ambition. In workplaces.
Until Serial, I hadn't liked, or even considered, "true crime." The first season of Serial absolutely hooked me. I still remember a waking thought, one day, that a new episode should have dropped. It dawned on me slowly that my fandom was a sort of complicity. I moved away from true crime.
Until this week, when I heard Why Reporter Nancy Solomon Chose True Crime at On the Media. WNYC's Solomon talked with Brooke Gladstone about the tension between the way she had always practiced journalism, and her decision to use true crime storytelling techniques to explore corruption in New Jersey politics.
Or, maybe it was a few weeks ago, when I committed to watching every episode of the January 6 commission hearings.
And, I mean, maybe "documentaries" about corrupt startups count as true crime? Maybe I haven't really given up the genre, after all.
Longtime readers know of my borderline obsession with how stories shape the way we view the workplace, and how media portrayals of seemingly powerful women often presage downfalls that most won't come back from.
I have more questions than answers. And I'm still reading, and not just mysteries. Especially in the summer – once I hit send on this newsletter, I have a good stack of books to read!
Mysteries to me
I love nothing more than reading a series from the start.
- I just plowed through Tracy Clark's Chicago Mysteries, which feature PI and former Chicago police detective Cass Raines, whose commitment to community and chosen family keep her knee deep in crime.
- Marcie Rendon’s Cash Blackbear novels feature a young Ojibwe woman who navigates crime and injustice in late 1970s in the Red River Valley. I'm starting the second book, Girl Gone Missing, later today.
- Sara Paretsky and William Kent Kruger are longtime favorites. (I learned about Tracy Clark via a Paretsky tweet.) Both have newer books I haven't read yet.
These days, my attention span has sometimes been...wanting. I picked up two anthologies to see if, sometimes, maybe, a short story or two will work for me.
- The best American mystery and suspense 2021, edited by Alafair Burke, series editor Steph Cha (library) (Bookshop)
- Midnight hour : a chilling anthology of crime fiction from 20 authors of color, edited by Abby L. Vandiver (library) (Bookshop)
Here are two books I didn't finish reading, but lol sometimes it's me. (Or my attention span?) I plan to take another run at them down the road.
- Last summer, I tried Follow Her Home (Bookshop) the first of Steph Cha's Juniper Song mysteries.
- The other week, I dipped into Faye Snowden's A Killing Fire (Bookshop), her first Raven Burns mystery.
Because women having power is probable, as science fiction
- The Violence, Delilah S. Dawson (library) (Bookshop) was a Twitter discovery. What happens when a plague infects people with a murderous violence? MLMs, McMansions, professional wrestling, domestic violence, and Florida, all come together improbably. I loved it.
- The Change, Kirsten Miller (library) (Bookshop) All my thanks to Stephanie K for this tale of 3 women in a Long Island hamlet who gain superpowers, and use them to investigate the murders of young women. I laughed out loud many times, and only later found out that some have billed this book as a "menopause thriller." Oh.
- The Men, Sandra Newman (library) (Bookshop). Everyone with a Y-chromosome disappears from the face of the earth, and what happens next will __ you? When I finished this book, I was underwhelmed – but it has somehow stuck with me.
Don't know much about history
Here's a list of books I haven't started reading yet. And I'm unlikely to finish this entire list this summer – shooting for this year!
- 1619 Project (library) (Bookshop) by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times. I loved what I read online, but found it to be difficult to know where I was in the text. This was weirdly important to me, and the physical edition will help my completionist self to know for sure when I'm done reading.
- Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution, by Woody Holton (library) (Bookshop). This wound up on my list when early reviewers touted the book for bringing out the multiracial origins of the American experiment.
- Fight Like Hell: The Untold Story of American Labor by Kim Kelly (library) (Bookshop). ngl, I find Kim overwhelming on Twitter, and I want to read more of her work on labor history! Boom.
- Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America's Empire, by Jonathan M. Katz (library) (Bookshop). I added this to my list after Francine McKenna retweeted one of Katz's articles. (Francine talked to me in 2018 for my newsletter issue about shareholder primacy.)
Two books I haven't started yet.
- Amoralman, Derek DelGaudio, (library) (Bookshop), is a Jane Watson recommendation. Jane said, "truly outstanding and uncategorizable - I loved it." Sold. Later I remembered reading about the author, or maybe hearing an interview with DelGaudio. Jane also sent me her epic reading list on societal/institutional decay and collapse, which I plan to come back to. Thanks, Jane!
- The Work of Living: Working People Talk About Their Lives and The Year the World Broke, by Maximillian Alverez (library) (Bookshop) (publisher). Max talked to essential workers about their experiences working through Covid. I look forward to diving in!
We've got to talk about work
Starting August 12, I'm launching a limited series of virtual discussions for On Management supporters, called "We've Got to Talk About Work."
Each structured discussion will cover a single topic, and will be focused on generating discussion and ways we can act in the world – not on my slide deck lol. So far, my list of topics includes Negotiation, Power, and Evaluation.
And if you have suggestions for topics worth discussing, please send me a note!
Readings from summers past
- I still can't believe I didn't write a Summer Reading issue in 2019.
- 2018 - part 1
- 2018 - part 2
- Nope, I did not write a Summer Reading issue in 2016.
(My entire archive is not on this website, at this point. I'm hoping that some day, my newsletter host will make it easy to import the emails I sent out back in the day.)
- Very few once-powerful women get to have a comeback after a downfall. You know who did? Martha Stewart. Check Martha Stewart w. Sarah Archer, on Sarah Marshall's You're Wrong About.
- One of the books on my stack came via Francine McKenna, who tweeted 'As somebody who has helped plan coups ...' by Jonathan M. Katz.
- And here's a link to the true crime podcast that kicked off this issue, Dead End: A New Jersey Political Murder Mystery.
There are no affiliate links in this newsletter! Some books on my list are written by people I know, or have been acquainted with; I procured the books on my own. Many came from my public library. If you're a US resident hoping to forestall our slide into religious autocracy, I encourage you to consider getting involved with your local public library board. You don't have to be a candidate for the board, though that would be awesome. Book bans are real, and our actions can also bring them to light, and stop them.
Thank you for reading my newsletter, and I wish you the best of summer reading. Thanks to the good people who support my newsletter financially, and to everyone who shares this issue in a social media space, or sends it along to a friend.
I hope that I fixed most of my typos and untoward turns of phrase. If not, I'll fix at least some of them later, on the Internet.
May you and your loved ones be safe, healthy, and free,