Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

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A Year in Reading: Sarah Smarsh

Inauguration Day was, in the eyes of most people I know, a horrifying day. The poison of hate had taken control of our political system, and it touched us whether we voted for it or not. Thus, the year that followed was for many—even those who sprang into civic action on the right side of history—lived in a state of foul bitterness.

In precise tandem with that political trauma, I happened to receive a shock to my physical system. Hours after the inauguration ceremony, which I had refused watch, I was in an emergency room with a rare, painful infection that progressed far enough to initiate liver failure. I fully recovered from that weeks-long illness, but it set the tone for the resistance I would undertake for the rest of the year. My scary hospitalization was a reminder, for me, that living to fight—to write—another day is reason to not just resist but to be glad.

In the face of such an assault on decency as the current political leadership, there is perhaps no greater act of resistance than to appreciate our lives, even as we fight back against the forces that tear at us. To see beauty in this place called Earth and the broken beings with whom we share it for a short while. To read and write the books that the most corrupted of them would burn.

Here is what I read or re-read this past year. It is a list in which I now see the simultaneous peaceful reveling and spirited reckoning that I hope might save this democracy in peril in 2018.

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang

Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert

Dark Money by Jane Mayer

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town by Brian Alexander

Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother’s Love by Zack McDermott

Healing the Soul of America: Reclaiming Our Voices as Spiritual Citizens by Marianne Williamson

Homing Instincts: Early Motherhood on a Midwestern Farm by Sarah Menkedick

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America, edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder

On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry

PrairyErth: A Deep Map by William Least Heat-Moon

Revolution by Russell Brand

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression by Dale Maharidge

Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation, edited by John Freeman

The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby

The Clancys of Queens by Tara Clancy

The Dorothy Day Book: A Selection from Her Writings and Readings, edited by Margaret Quigley and Michael Garvey

The Editor and His People by William Allen White

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang

The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the American Dream by Studs Terkel

The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I by Barbara W. Tuchman

The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself by Andrew Pettegree

The Kansas Guidebook for Explorers 2 by Marci Penner and WenDee Rowe

The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery by Sarah Lewis

Women as Healers: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, edited by Carol Shepherd McClain

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Magazine Subscriptions:

Columbia Journalism Review
Creative Nonfiction
Dissent
Harper’s
In These Times
No Depression
Poetry
The Believer
The Lion’s Roar
The New Territory
The New Yorker

More from A Year in Reading 2017

Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now.

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

A Year in Reading: Rakesh Satyal

The Book That Will Make You Believe (Even More) in Magic: I would like to add my voice to the overwhelming chorus that has already lauded Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties. This book feels like meeting Angela Carter for a wild night of drinking and dancing. The experimentation with form is simply astonishing, and there is a directness in the treatment of sexuality and identity that is both refreshing and deeply affecting. I assume that I’ll reread this book every year for the rest of my life.

The Book That Was Worth the Wait: Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness would have been a welcome gift in any year, but it felt especially, painfully resonant during this year of dangerous nationalist sentiment and turmoil—worldwide, that is. This book is unflinchingly unconventional in its structure and unapologetically diffuse in certain parts where other books maybe feel a responsibility to adhere to a more rigid form. And there are descriptive passages of physical conflict that feel like a nefarious type of music shivering on the page.

The Book That Felt Like Emotional Armor: I have rarely read a book that more accurately captures the psychosomatic trauma of being queer in a place that is decidedly homophobic than Édouard Louis’s The End of Eddy. Written in blunt, unsentimental prose that nevertheless seethes with anger and laments the trauma of a closeted, hunted childhood, this book will open your eyes and slap the sharpest of lenses on them.

The Book That Will Harness Your Terror: I finally read Jane Mayer’s Dark Money at the beginning of this year, and it was easily one of the most important works of nonfiction that I have ever read. It makes horrifyingly clear how corrupt the financial workings of our political system are, and it holds at its core a maddening paradox: How can families that will do anything to preserve their dynastic wealth create a physical world in which future generations of their own relatives will not be able to live?

More from A Year in Reading 2017

Do you love Year in Reading and the amazing books and arts content that The Millions produces year round? We are asking readers for support to ensure that The Millions can stay vibrant for years to come. Please click here to learn about several simple ways you can support The Millions now.

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

NBCC 2016 Finalists, Leonard Prize, and Balakian Award Winners

The finalists for the annual National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award have been announced, offering up the customary shortlists of great fiction and nonfiction. In addition, the John Leonard Prize for best debut novel was awarded to Yaa Gyasi for Homegoing; the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing went to Michelle Dean (check out her 2016 Year in Reading); and Margaret Atwood took home the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

The NBCC Award will be presented March 17 in a public ceremony.

Fiction

Michael Chabon, Moonglow (our interview with Chabon)
Louise Erdrich, LaRose
Adam Haslett, Imagine Me Gone
Ann Patchett, Commonwealth 
Zadie Smith, Swing Time (the author’s Year in Reading; our review)

 

Nonfiction

Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Lisa Lucas and Imbolo Mbue on the book)
Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive Idea of Racist History of Racist Ideas in America 
Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (edited by our own Zoë Ruiz!)
John Edgar Wideman, Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File

 

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