Tagged with eduardo galeano

My favorite reads of 2021

I’m going to do something a bit different this year. Much less on the numbers other than the top line of 85¹ books read this year with 50.1% by women and 38.6% by non-white authors.

 I’ve been a bit better about finding time to read without my commute by “L” to give me the time with my books. Even so, I 85 is less than my goal of 100.

I started the year with a few books by women, with Siân Griffith’s The Heart Keeps Faulty Time being the first book that really blew me away. It’s a slender book, but I can remember being torn between savoring it and tearing through it as I read.

Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe came close on the heals of reading Griffiths. Everyone else was reading his latest book, Interior Chinatown, but this popped up higher on my to-read list and it was an amazing book and made me eager to read more of Yu’s writing.

As part of my Dewey Decimal Project, I read Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy² and was absolutely blown away by it. It feels in many ways what Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States should have been. This is the book that I keep bringing to other people’s attention.

I only read one book in Spanish this year, and it was the slender La Historia de mis Dientes by Valeria Luiselli. I read Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive last year and wasn’t that impressed by it. My sense, coming at this book, is that Luiselli is a more compelling writer when she writes in her native Spanish than when she writes in English which seems to make her more conventional in her voice.

Kristen Radtke’s Seek You: A Journey through American Loneliness was a revelatory read. Radtke managed an amazing mixture of words and pictures for her illustrated essay that allowed the text to have even greater strength than it would have on its own.

  1. Assuming that I do indeed finish the two books I expect to finish by Friday.
  2. Strictly speaking, I only read the first volume as part of my Dewey Decimal Project but I was so taken by it that I made a point of reading the other two volumes at the first opportunity.
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Dewey Decimal Project: 980 GAL Vol. 1 Memory of Fire: Genesis

I’m drawing to a close on this project anNewImaged for the 980s—South America—I saw this book which one of the back cover blurbs describes as “taking vital parts out of everything that has been written on the discovery and settlement of America … arranging them in a kind of verbal collage … something that defies classification into a genre.” 

This was enough to catch my attention and the book delivered on its promise. Beginning with pieces of pre-Columbian myth, legend and memory and building from there, Galeano created a vital accounting of the history of the Americas from the dawn of time until the late twentieth century. Officially, I only read the first volume of the trilogy for the Dewey Decimal project, but I was so captivated, I read the last two volumes as well. There was a great deal that was unknown to me—my history classes in school focused pretty much exclusively on Europe (mostly Western Europe) and the United States. And even with a broader knowledge of Latin American history, there would still be much to catch my attention because Galeano is as likely to have his attention caught by the tale of an Argentine socialite who absconded with a young Jesuit priest and became pregnant with his baby only to end up executed by firing squad at her lover’s side, as he is to consider the history of Christopher Columbus, Simon Bolivar or Fidel Castro.

I feel like this is the book that A People’s History of the United States could have been, something that manages to tell its story through both the “great” men and the commoners, that doesn’t elide the unpleasant aspects of the hemisphere’s history while also giving due to the incidents that most historians would ignore.

Of all the books I’ve read in the course of this project, this is the only one that I’m planning to buy my own copy of, although when I re-read it, I’ll read the original Spanish text.