The Price of Inequality, published in 2012, was one of the first and most prominent books to address the increasingly important topic of income inequality, and helped to expand the conversation beyond the rag-tag group of squatters in Zucotti Park and into the larger civic discourse. Miley Cyrus and all the healthcare.gov trouble will be remembered as major things that happened last year, but the steady drumbeat of attention paid to inequality and its effects was the most sustained and meaningful topic of 2013.
President Obama is talking about it. Pope Francis is talking about it, saying that “Inequality is the root of social ills.” Fast food workers are marching for a raise in the minimum wage, an issue that is getting serious consideration in places like Bloomberg Businessweek.
The New York Times ran a series called The Great Divide, while the New Yorker mapped income inequality along the city’s subway map. In November, Switzerland held a vote to forbid companies from paying their highest paid employee more than 12 times what they pay the lowest compensated — on the premise that no one person should make more in a month than someone else makes in a full year. The referendum failed, but the issue is not going away.
See other Books that Mattered in 2013.
In 2013, J.D. Salinger was the subject of Salinger, a much anticipated biography written by Shane Salerno and David Shields after a decade of research and extensive interviews. The book, along with a concurrently released documentary, was marketed with a slow-trickle of revealed “secrets,” including never-before-seen photos of the author, a dramatic theatrical trailer, and a legitimately exciting announcement about the works that are planned for publication in the years to come. Hopes were high. Unfortunately, when the biography arrived, it was clear that it was terrible. Same for the movie.
For that reason, we are returning to the source, the real reason any of this is happening at all. Salinger the book might have mattered briefly in 2013, but Salinger the author has mattered since 1951, when his debut novel The Catcher in the Rye started something that still has us talking 62 years later.
See all the books that mattered in 2013.
Most mainstream speculative sci-fi follows a handful of basic storylines, roughly speaking, the efforts of Good Guys to prevent, survive, overthrow or reverse social orders or apocalyptic events, typically caused by Bad Guys. America’s latest favorite, The Hunger Games, is first about surviving and overthrowing. The Matrix trilogy is about overthrow and reverse. The Terminator franchise has explored all of these areas with varying degrees of success.
In literature, George Orwell’s 1984 is, on its surface, about overthrowing. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is about surviving. Margaret Atwood has a well-deserved reputation as a master of the form, and while her works are typically a cut above the rest, they still fall into the usual categories. Her best known book The Handmaid’s Tale is, in its unique way, about surviving and overthrowing. More recently, she has written a trilogy of speculative sci-fi about the collapse of a near future dystopia. The first two entries fit into the broad categories of prevention and survival. But the final book, MaddAddam, is an exception — to the trilogy and the sci-fi mainstream. Continue reading
Today is the birthday 405th birthday of the poet John Milton, who wrote the line “His dark materials to create more worlds” in Book II of Paradise Lost, the great work from which Philip Pullman took his inspiration and his title in writing the His Dark Materials trilogy.
Reportedly, Pullman was attempting to write a version of Paradise Lost that would be accessible to teenagers. Whether he managed such a feat is debatable, but the results were good enough to be our Book of Today.
- Michael Moats
New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!
When Black Friday comes
I’m gonna dig myself a hole
Gonna lay down in it ’til
I satisfy my soul
- Michael Moats
I’m happy to recommend that you read Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon — but, well… I’ll get to that.
Red Moon is a smart variation on the theme, extremely popular of late, of bringing childhood heroes and monsters into adult life. Rather than a gritty Batman wrestling with the morality of vigilante justice, or emo vampires wrestling with awful dialogue, we have werewolves, and the many ways that their existence would spread turmoil in normal civic dynamics. Continue reading