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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Listing Some Books, Episode 1: Dark Money

If I were writing a song about a few of my fav-or-ite things, books and lists would rank higher than brown paper packages tied up with string.

This week, I am going to blog a few books from my lists of this month. First, I'll share a couple of thoughts about the books. Then, on the meta side, I'll think about how and why I come to pay attention to the books I do and what I take from the experience of reading and listing. If any of this makes you think of a book you've read, would recommend, would anti-recommend, have heard of, have on your list(s). . . sharing is caring.

1. Dark Money. Finished. Semi-Recommended.

An eerily familiar list of names winds through this exposé of the ways that very rich, self-interested people openly and hidden-ly manipulate specific government policies and public information. Published in early 2016, the book names at least half a dozen figures I had only heard of since the political rise of Trump. (He has only a small role, himself.)

Jane Mayer's extensive research accomplishes important stuff in a book that risks being dismissed as "one-sided," or worse, melodramatically shallow. Most significantly for me, she spells out specific, direct consequences of dark (or, in some cases, sort of transparent) money. Climate change - regulations, reputations - gets enough detailed discussion of donors' influence on members of congress to make me educatedly mad.

I rated the book just three stars out of five on GoodReads mainly because I could have done with just an updated long-form magazine piece. In fact, it began as just that -- but I never read the original article because I can't seem to get myself to read many magazines electronically or paperwise in the last few years. So, it's good it was a book because I am glad I was exposed to the systems and outcomes of dark money. But, it got a bit redundant (at least for me, at my level of interest).

One of the reasons even 400-page books win out over 15-page magazine stories has to do with my thing for motivational-lists. In this particular case, I use GoodReads to motivate me to keep going both in finishing a long book I'm interested in (but might walk away from because of eleventy other shiny things in my space) and in moving through my to-read piles.

If you can point me to an app that lets me list and track and rate/notate all my media (books, movies, podcasts, articles) consumption in one spot, please do so in the comments or tweet me. I'll put you on my Nice, Helpful People list. I use Diigo and Evernote to track blog posts and magazine/newspaper articles read/to read and find neither one friendly enough to keep up with.

Tracking points for this week's "Listing Some Books" blog series:

Came across: via some forgotten tweet. Or probably a Best Books end-of-year list.

Caught attention: because of its intersecting of multiple points of interest for me: politics, economics, popular culture names (Kochs), current buzz.

And then: I'm not planning to pursue the book's subjects further in any focused way. I learned about how parts of our culture work, I became familiar with powerful people and movements, and I got clued into following as related things develop (through general news coverage). It's not on my To Dig list.

Accessed: the e-book from my public library and ended up buying it to finish when I kept getting bumped to the end of the wait list for renewal.

Listing Some Books Episode 2 up next: A few books added to my "To Read" List this month.

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