What I’m Reading

Since July, 2020 I’ve been recording what I read, Art Garfunkel-like and, starting in February 2023, I’ve been adding brief notes to remind me what the books (or articles) were about and what I thought of them.

All the way at the bottom, below that historical record of my reading, you’ll find photography books that I have read, own and/or recommend.

November 2023

  • Prelude to Terror, Helen MacInnes – an ancient spy thriller from 1978. I had long known her name and thought I’d give it a try. Kind of laughably 1960s-ish. Peculiar sexism that’s hard to remember I lived through. Unbelievable plotting and story. Enjoyed as an historical anachronism and study.
  • Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography, Geoffrey Batchen – a compelling work of scholarship and erudition, thoroughly researched and illustrated that clarifies much in the epistemological battles over photography, let down a little, I thought, by its final chapter which uses Foucault and Derridian linguistic jiu-jitsu to resolve the differences (or should I say différance?) between the postmodern contextualists and the formalist connoisseurs.
  • The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza, Lawrence Block – 4th in the Bernie Rhodenbarr series, an amusing mystery told by the burglar implicated in the murder he must solve to exonerate himself. Lots of NY couleur locale (and 1980s time-colour, to boot).
  • The Nostradamus Traitor, John Gardner – when I saw this I first thought it might be a novel by the literary John Gardner that I’d missed but it turns out to be the first in a series of spy novels by a British writer. It’s a well written and exciting tale of cold war espionage in London in 1978, casting a net back to WWII.
  • The Perception Machine: Our Photographic Future between the Eye and AI, Joanna Zylinska – pdf version of a book soon to be published (and subject of an author talk I’m attending in London next week). Very current and wide ranging survey of post-photography, the post digital, image-making and vision, generally, AI image generation and machine vision, drone photography and other currents in image making, including reference to major thinkers in all these areas. Unfortunately full of hyper-intellectually dense but empty and meaningless bits of misunderstood and misused terms and technologies, using metaphysical conceits to conjoin them misleadingly. I hope the talk proves less annoying.
  • You Are Here: Art After the Internet, edited by Omar Kholeif – interesting collection of essays and a few projects that treats the so-called post-internet world of art. A few quite good essays and some lesser ones. To some extent it suffers from the very internet acceleration and ephemerality which it attempts to map, given the nine years that have elapsed since its publication.
  • Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare: How Evolution Shapes our Loves and Fears, Gordon H. Orians – an evolutionary biologist looks at how our Pleistocene origins on African savannas shapes our tastes, preferences and aesthetics, with less direct discussion of aesthetics than I was hoping for.
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson – an important book that casts American racism in terms of the self reinforcing attributes of caste systems, with reference to India’s and the Nazi regime. It is unfortunately a bit repetitive but its detailed examination of the many tentacles and modes of caste within the US, historically and today make for a compelling case and call to action.
  • A couple more articles from my course reading list:
    • The Digital Image in Photographic Culture: Algorithmic photography and the crisis of representation, Daniel Rubinstein and Katrina Sluis – intriguing look at how digital photography differs from analog in terms of the broken indexicality of the digital.
    • Post-Photographic Presences, or How to Wear a Digital Cloak, Haidy Geismar – short article exploring the use of digital photographic technologies in re-animating a Maori cloak, with interesting discussion of indexicality vs presence, spirituality and community through contemporary network technologies.
  • Silence, Thomas Perry – another heart-pounding thriller from Perry with some unexpected twists at the end.
  • Gangsterland, Tod Goldberg – an amusing (and slightly terrifying) tale of a Chicago Mafia hitter hiding out as a Rabbi in Las Vegas. Well done!

October 2023

  • What is liminal space? The nostalgia aesthetic used in the most watched cartoons, Rashmi Haralalka – a short article that conflates the art of liminal spaces with kidcore and nostalgia. For Haralalka liminal spaces don’t evoke the anomie of in-between non-spaces but the nostalgic warmth of the backgrounds from fondly remembered cartoons and TV shows of youth.
  • Relational Aesthetics, Nicolas Bourriaud – I had thought this might be relevant for my work this semester but it transpires it’s another piece of Gallic semiotic, philosophic word salad. Moving on from the potential for art to engage us in social relations, Bourriaud spins unlikely combinations of psychoanalytic and anti-capitalist jargon, giving them his own arcane definitions, sneers condescendingly at those who might disagree or produce other forms of art, and uses Guattari’s subjectivities to defend his non-falsifiable and empty declarations. I don’t recommend it.
  • The Truth About Lorin James, Alison Lurie – an interesting novel about a woman in the NY art world researching a planned biography of a brilliant, dead woman painter and seeking to find her own truth as much as her subject’s. From the late 1980s, it betrays its age with a peculiar portrayal of feminism, vacillating between robustness and shocking self-doubt. It’s not clear to me whether this reflects Lurie’s own sense or merely the state of (NY) women’s lib in the mid ’80s; it paints an unflattering portrait of women’s attempts to break free of patriarchy, I think.
  • Vicious Circle, Robert Littell – another thriller from Littell, this one particularly apt at the moment. The first woman President of the US has knocked heads together to create a working plan for a Palestinian state whilst protecting Israel. Meanwhile fanatics on both sides can’t abide it and strangely parallel terrorists are actively attempting to scupper the deal before it can be executed.
  • Sea of Tranquility, Emily St.John Mandel – another interesting short novel from Mandel, dealing with a glitch, music, time, pandemics and, probably, her own experience of writing an incredibly popular novel about a pandemic presciently before Covid-19.
  • Secret/Wish, the problem of the object in relational aesthetics, Landi Raubenheimer – interesting article on the successes and failures of an artwork that sought to embody the principles of Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics with a spectator-built event/work of art.
  • Let us eat cake, Anthony Luvera – a bookroom object based on a collaborative, photography-based effort among the Northern Ireland LGBTQ+ community.
  • Herbie’s Game, Timothy Hallinan – the 4th Junior Bender tale. Well written with some nice literary flourishes, a good yarn and amusing. A nice entertainment and break from photography theory.
  • Contemporary Photography and Theory: Concepts and Debates, Sally Miller – another book from my course reading list. Some interesting discussion and debate but some of the more theoretical debates late in the book, especially the Lacan-related psychoanalytic stuff, are such non-falsifiable, phantasmic flights of sophomoric mental masturbation they made me want to scream.
  • The PhotoPerformer: The Performance of Photography as an Act of Precarious Interdependency, Manuel Vason – PhD by Publication recommended by Emmanuelle Waeckerlé who supervised with Jean Wainwright, two of my teachers. An interesting exploration of performance/photography that was a tad too nebulous for my taste but intersected with issues I’m working on in my current projects.
  • Photography and Collaboration: From Conceptual Art to Crowdsourcing, Daniel Palmer – an interesting and well written study of the ways in which photographic authorship have varied since the 1960s, starting with a set of potential sources or modes of authorship, each chapter moves on to examine 3 artists who play with different modes of creative partnership, collaboration, social engagement, metaphotography, and other techniques that undermine traditional concepts of sole authorship.
  • The Civil Contract of Photography by Azoulay, Ariella, Chad McCracken – I thought I was downloading her book but it turned out simply to be a short review of it in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Just as well, as you can see below that in July I had to skip to the end in Azoulay’s Civil Imagination. Sontag talked about criticism as “the revenge of the intellect upon art,” and Azoulay’s writing illustrates this beautifully, while still exploring important issues in the production of photography across 500+ pages.
  • The Fame Thief, Timothy Hallinan – another amusingly told Junior Bender mystery, this time expanding on the character Irwin Dressler from the last novel, who is loosely based on a real mob lawyer and fixer in Hollywood. An enjoyable bit of entertainment with old film references.
  • Dead Aim, Thomas Perry – another of his taut thrillers. Perhaps not so credible as others I’ve read.
  • Media and the Ecological Crisis, Eds. Richard Maxwell, Jon Raundalen, Nina Lager Vestberg – I was unable to find a recommended article by Nina Vestberg so read this book instead. Some interesting new thoughts and awareness but such a poorly edited and patchy collection that it was ultimately dissatisfying.
  • more articles for school work:
    1. Joan Fontcuberta: post-photography and the spectral image of saturation, Camila Moreiras – also watched Fontcuberta video, From Here On, which explains the post-photographic quite well
    2. The Post Photographic Condition: Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal, Tracy Valcourt
  • The Water Room, Christopher Fowler – another of the delicious Bryant and May mysteries, this one full of the arcana and history of London’s many ancient (but still extant) rivers.
  • A miscellany of articles for school, trying to learn about the post-digital:
    1. Digital Art Now: Histories of (Im)Materealities, Christiane Paul – A history (and pre-history) of digital art and its materiality/immateriality. Some interesting points but I’m unpersuaded about the significance. I think new AI-generated artwork and the metaverse are the first instances of technologies that actually embody (so to speak) many of the concepts discussed in the article.
    2. Perspectives on the postdigital: Beyond rhetorics of progress and novelty, Sy Taffel – recommended reading from our teacher – I thought this was terrible. Similar to the “systems” material we read last year, academic writing about digital culture from someone who evidently has never read Orwell and over uses long Graeco-Latinate multi-syllabic words to impress, in long, badly formed sentences with multiple, superfluous prepositional clauses, ultimately saying very little.
    3. Post-Digital Humanities: Computation and Cultural Critique in the Arts and Humanities, David Berry – couldn’t make heads or tails of this.
    4. Autonomy and Space – Hans Haacke’s systems aesthetics, Florian Cramer – An early piece, not really about the post-digital from a well know post-digital critic. I wrote a screed about this in my journal. I think it was nonsense.
    5. After the artefact: Post-digital photography in our post media era, Greg Shapley – very helpful overview of the origins and meanings of the post-digital.
    6. Digital Realities and Virtual Ideals: Portraiture, Idealism and the Clash of Subjectivities in the Post-Digital Era, Euripides Altintzoglou – an interesting look at post digital portraiture by way of Rancière’s Regimes of the Arts.
    7. Regimes of the Arts, Jean-Philippe Deranty – good introduction to Rancière’s concept.
    8. The Aesthetic Dimension: Aesthetics, Politics, Knowledge, Jacques Rancière.

September 2023

  • Castle in the Air, Donald E Westlake – a short, well-executed heist farce from 1980 by a writer I enjoy. As amusing and well written as it was, I’m not sure whether it was the story which did not age well, or me, but I found it a slog to get through.
  • How Photography Became Contemporary Art: Inside an Artistic Revolution from Pop to the Digital Age, Andy Grundberg – An interesting personal view, very New York-centric, of the development of art’s use of photography and photography as art from a leading photography critic. Of particular interest is his distinction between what he calls connoisseurs and contextualists.
  • The Last Detective, Robert Crais – another Elvis Cole and Joe Pike adventure, this time including the police detective who featured in Demolition Angel.
  • Blind Spot, Teju Cole – An interesting book of photographs taken around the world interspersed with prose commentary that meditates and ruminates at the intersection of poetry, art, and politics. Somewhat reminiscent of Sebald who I first learned of in some of Cole’s earlier essays, in the combination of fiction that quotes broadly from history and the arts with photographs that may or may not illustrate the subject under discussion.
  • On Green Dolphin Street, Sebastian Faulks – a love story, told against the backdrop of the US presidential election of 1960, the Cold War and post-war Britain. I had never heard of Faulks when I read a glowing review of his latest book in The Guardian and chose this to start with, based largely on the title and memories of Miles Davis’ rendition of the old standard.

August 2023

  • Eddie’s Boy, Thomas Perry – another in the Butcher’s Boy series. he past comes back to haunt our hero murderer. Another taut thriller although I’m finding such yarns increasingly hard to swallow.
  • photo text text photo: The Synthesis of Photography and Text in Contemporary Art, edited by Andreas Hapkemeyer and Peter Weiermair – I happened upon this at the University library and thought it might be relevant to my text photomontages but it was ultimately disappointing. It is the show catalogue of an exhibit of text-y photographs at the end of the 20th century put on by 2 German museums. Unfortunately, the reproductions are not large enough or good enough to really read all of the text and the explanatory materials aren’t helpful.
  • on Landscape and Meaning, Richard Misrach – another of the Aperture Photography Workshop Series and one of the best. Misrach’s discussions of how he pursues ideas photographically is truly inspiring and gave me a number of ideas for things I’d like to explore with a camera.
  • No Plan B, Lee and Andrew Child – another fast and furious Reacher thriller, the first I’ve read co-written with Child’s son. An entertaining diversion, although Reacher’s willingness to hurt or kill bad guys (who are drawn to richly deserve it) is beginning to pall.
  • on the Portrait and the Moment, Mary Ellen Mark – another in the Aperture Photography Workshop Series, this one was quite good again. She really helps you understand how she’s looking at the world while composing, or constructing her images and what type of working style she and her students bring to their work.
  • Face On: Photography as Social Exchange, Mark Durden and Craig Richardson, editors – interesting examination of the social relations that exist between photographic artists and their subjects, among contemporary portrait artists deliberately attempting to alter the traditional roles. While I found the central conceit interesting, I remain unpersuaded that most of these attempts really achieve their aims in the absence of written artists’ statements explaining them, which strikes me as missing the point of the medium.
  • on Composition and Improvisation, Larry Fink – another in the Aperture photography workshop series (see Todd Hido, below). This one was not as impressive as Todd Hido’s. It had some observations on what made some of his pictures work, and quite a bit of philosophy of picture taking but was less successful at showing the cultivation or development of work in a way one could easily apply to one’s own practice.
  • Street Photography From Atget to Cartier-Bresson, Clive Scott – a writer recommended to me by a technical tutor, the book ostensibly attempts to differentiate street photography from documentary photography, particularly Parisian street photography, by way of painting (particularly the Impressionists) and literature (Proust, Baudelaire, Apollinaire) and a discussion of the many temporal modes and moods of the street photography of this era (roughly 1860-1960). While there were many interesting ideas, I found it difficult to get through, with a lot of peculiarly French subjective meditations (á la Barthes), by contrast with a book like Dyer’s The Ongoing Moment which I found thoroughly enjoyable.
  • The Old Success, Martha Grimes – a late entry (#25) in a series that is meant to revolve around pubs, although the Old Success Pub in this one plays a nugatory role. An American writer, her Richard Jury novels are based in England and this one read almost as a parody of an old fashioned British whodunit, more than The Knowledge (#24), which I remember quite enjoying.
  • on Landscapes, Interiors and the Nude, Todd Hido – I picked up this book almost at random, browsing at the school library but I really enjoyed it. Hido describes his working practices, how he develops picture concepts, collections of pictures, tells stories and puts together books in an easy, conversational way. It’s a book for photographers. It’s not really about the genres of the title but it is about how he made pictures in those genres, if that distinction makes sense.
  • Redemption and Utopia: Jewish Libertarian Thought in Central Europe, Michael Löwy – a fascinating look at the nexus of messianic-anarchist thought at the turn of the 20th century, with Walter Benjamin as the fulcrum between such diverse Jewish-German(ic) writers and thinkers as Kafka, Gershom Scholem, Martin Buber, Erich Fromm, Georg Lukács, and others, less well remembered today, using the concept of elective affinities to illuminate the correspondence among the currents of thought.
  • Forty Thieves, Thomas Perry – another enjoyable thriller from Perry, well written and almost credible, this time involving two couples on either side of a mystery that both joins and separates them.

July 2023

  • Photography and its Violations, John Roberts – extremely abstract and metaphysical, full of sesquipedelian, Latinate words like “nonistrumentalized,” “nonheteronomous,” enculturalization,” dehierarchization,” and “nonrelationality,” which force you to decompose them into their component parts to parse their meaning (where Orwell and I would have preferred shorter Anglo-Saxon ones). He also tends to impute human actions or motivations to these abstractions. As new chapters began I sometimes felt I had a grasp on the argument but then, a couple of pages in I was lost. I think I’m not supposed to feel bad about taking documentary photographs as long as they’re tied to true, Left values.
  • Clement Greenberg: A Political Reconsideration, Louis Battaglia in SHIFT | Queens Journal of Visual & Material Culture – a chance reference to this 25-page article in John Roberts’ The Violations of Photography, which I’m in the middle of, led me to this interesting reevaluation of Greenberg together with its survey of the mid-20th century cultural-political zeitgeist.
  • The Word is Murder, Anthony Horowitz – the first in a series (including Magpie Murders) of whodunit mysteries where the author himself is a Watson-like documenter of a brilliant, if inscrutable, detective.
  • The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Charlotte Cotton – Looks at contemporary photographic (and not so photographic, “postInternet” artists’ work, describing how each reflects concerns with the medium and context of photography with, usually, a single image to illustrate the work of each artist discussed. Maddening art-critic language, making multi-syllabic adjectives out of nouns rather than thinking about a better, more concise and understandable way to convey her meaning, but a useful compendium.
  • Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay – I confess I couldn’t read all of this book skipping from about Chapter Two (of four) to the Epilogue. A philosophical and political examination of photography in the context of the Palestinian plight, examining the roles of photographers, subjects, and viewers. One of those dense, French, Cartesian, hyper-rational texts of impossible logical leaps. Nevertheless, it makes the telling point that by focusing our vision on the oppressed Palestinians we are failing to focus on the regime that not only oppresses them, but implicates “innocent” Israelis in that oppression by hiding and obfuscating the nature of the subjugation (I think).
  • Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel – a strange and enjoyable novel stitching together the lives and times of several characters before and after a catastrophic pandemic alters human civilization irrevocably, tied together with Shakespeare’s King Lear
  • Bank Shot, Donald E Westlake – another amusing caper for the fatigued Dortmunder, great quick vacation read.
  • The Wild One, Nick Petrie – another Peter Ash thriller in which his PTSD again gives him superpowers. A faraday cage made out of tin foil, really? Please!
  • The Company, Robert Littell – a novelistic history of the CIA up to the early 1990s, capturing many of their most epic failures but, ultimately, swallowing whole the mythology of “the American Way,” cowboy antics and the notion that the ends justify the means (while piously pretending not to).

June 2023

  • Put On by Cunning, Ruth Rendell – Wexford is obsessed with an impossible impostor, before all is revealed.
  • By Its Cover, Donna Leon – Commissario Brunetti investigates rare book thefts and murder.
  • Redhead by the Side of the Road, Anne Tyler – a well-written short novel, novella perhaps, telling the story of a middle-aged man who hasn’t figured life out.
  • Little Elvises, Timothy Hallinan – another enjoyable entry in the Junior Bender series, a smart-mouthed burglar and detective for crooks has to juggle 3 criminal investigations, his love life and his relationship with his precocious teenage daughter.
  • Silent Coup: How Corporations Overthrew Democracy, Claire Provost and Matt Kennard – the basis for a new exhibit by the brilliant Peter Kennard. Charts not just the privatisation of the state but the usurpation of democratic control by corporate, non-state players globally. States are now agents of transnational corporations rather than their regulators.
  • Brain Energy, Christopher M Palmer, MD – an interesting “self-help” book that looks at the difficulties of categorizing, diagnosing and treating mental diseases and finds underlying them all problems of metabolism and, specifically mitochondrial health, suggesting a range of treatment regimes from, diet and exercise to meditation, medication and life purpose.
  • The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, Lawrence Block – Another Bernie Rhodenbarr the burglar mystery with all the usual fixins, good NY couleur locale, literary jokes and general good humor.
  • The Golden Egg, Donna Leon – from 2013 but one of the best Commissario Brunetti’s mysteries I’ve read in a while, with lots of subtle psychology and a surprising outcome.
  • Small Town, Lawrence Block – a post 9/11 mystery, with lots of New York local color and a surprising amount of steamy sex, but definitely up to the Block standard.
  • On the Abolition of All Political Parties, Simone Weil, with essays by Czeslaw Milosz and Simon Ley – an impassioned plea against the logically ineluctable dishonesty of political parties by one of the 20th century’s most fascinating intellectuals.
  • City of the Mind, Penelope Lively – an excellent novel. What Joyce did for Dublin, Lively does here for London, imbricating it in the stream of consciousness of a London architect and father, with differing perceptions of time and the city, and voices from past Londons enriching the timeless story.

May 2023

  • The Madman of Bergerac, Georges Simenon – feeling lazy after walking the Cornwall coast for 8 miles a day, I relaxed with a short, early Inspector Maigret.
  • Nobody’s Perfect, Donald E Westlake – an older Dortmunder tale, this one gone hilariously awry in the manner of Hiaasen or Elmore Leonard.
  • Art and Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland – a great, short book on the difficulties of making art and how to overcome the many fears that prevent one from continuing.
  • Look For Me, Lisa Gardner – My first Gardner murder mystery. A good yarn told from multiple perspectives. An unfortunate tendency to tell rather than show, but a definite page turner.
  • The Burglar, Thomas Perry – fun murder mystery, told by a burglar who becomes involved.
  • The Modern Concept of History, Hannah Arendt – just a short article really, I read following up on the Peter Kennard exhibit based on it. Explores the history of our (Western) conception of history, comparing contemporary perspectives with those of the Greeks and evaluating beside our perspectives on science in the context of humanity’s place in the world.
  • Nobody Runs Forever, Richard Stark – another taut Parker novel, as it turns out immediately preceding Dirty Money which I read a couple of weeks ago.
  • Demolition Angel, Robert Crais – I’d been expecting a Joe Pike and Elvis Cole mystery but got something new. A heart-pounding mad bomber mystery.

April 2023

  • Homicide Trinity, Rex Stout – 3 short but enjoyable, if somewhat musty, murder mysteries. They seemed familiar so perhaps I read them already, though it’s not listed below.
  • The Music Room, Dennis McFarland – A novel in which a thirty-year old man becomes unmoored when his brother commits suicide and traverses his drunken family’s history to find himself.
  • Dirty Money, Richard Stark – a short, sharp noir thriller, starring Parker. Not one word too many.
  • The Book of Form and Emptiness, Ruth Ozeki – a remarkable novel of voices and Zen, in which Walter Benjamin plays a part as well as Zen emptiness (mu) from my haiku project. Plays with questions of text and authorship as well. Excellent!
  • Gone Tomorrow, Lee Child – another suspenseful Jack Reacher yarn. As usual requires no little suspension of disbelief and global realities but hard to put down.
  • Hanna Höch, – a collection of essays on her work, with some of her writings and interviews but mostly plates that show her work. An important collagist and photomontagist of the 20th century and potentially useful to my project this semester.
  • Good Behavior, Donald E Westlake – one of the Dortmunder stories, dry and amusing. Good fun and aging slightly better than some others of the era (1985).

March 2023

  • The art of interruption: Realism, photography and the everyday, John Roberts – An academic history of photography and criticism from a class-based perspective. I have to admit to skating over some of the opaque and arcane debates within Russian early-Leninist circles. Written in an anti-Orwellian style of periphrasis, the author never uses a short, concrete Anglo-Saxon word where a long Latinate one with supernumerary syllables can be used instead. From a chapter on Jeff Wall’s photographs, for instance, we have, “Marx’s complex theory of totality is a fallibilistic attempt to understand the specificity of the discrete ontological levels of society as a historical process,” and, a page later, “The totalising of consciousness, then, offers a particular dialogic address for the spectator.” Mostly impenetrably dense, there were a few nuggets of insight I gleaned and an awareness of a class-based perspective.
  • The Once and Future Spy, Robert Littell – Another great one from Littell. This one, something of a tour de farce, both showing the cleverness of the secret services and mocking their depravity. With some excellent historical and literary echoes as well.
  • The Rings of Saturn, W. G Sebald – a most unusual novel, with no apparent plot or driving mystery, in which a protagonist who may or may not be the author, walks England’s Eastern coast, along the way regaling with all manner of tenuously linked bits of history from Thomas Browne’s Urn Burial to the Dowager Empress of China, supported by fuzzy old photographs apparently documenting the fantastic tales.
  • Silverview, John le Carré – his last and quite good. The usual clever and subtle English bonhomie, and this time, perhaps, a certain wistfulness for a Service that has lost its guiding raison d’être.
  • The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes – Another brilliant novella (?) from Barnes meditating on time, memory, and remorse with his usual deep insights into the human psyche casually delivered along the way.
  • The Finance Curse: How Global Finance is Making Us All Poorer, Nicholas Shaxson – a scathing indictment of the financialisation of the global economy. While he ends on a hopeful note for the opportunities to fix things, it paints a pretty grim picture of how the wealthy have taken over everything, massively increased inequality, and tightly proscribed the scope for remediation.
  • Warlight, Michael Ondaatje – A novel of postwar England in which a young man attempts to reconstruct his mysterious and interrupted boyhood and family history. Well written and literary (by the author of The English Patient), although not as satisfying for me as hoped.
  • The Ongoing Moment, Geoff Dyer – a remarkable book that meditates on the ways in which photographs and photographers commune with each other across time and common themes. It re-inspired me at a low-point in my MFA.
  • A Purple Place for Dying, John D MacDonald – another old Travis McGee tale. Good story but it’s harder and harder to stomach the sorts of attitudes to women that passed for enlightened in 1964.
  • The Debriefing, Robert Littell – a taut, short espionage thriller of the Soviet era, clever and well written and reminiscent in some ways of the best of early le Carré.
  • Visual Dissent, Peter Kennard – stunning e-book of Kennard’s history of political art that is truly inspiring. All these works take on major issues, mostly through photo-montage. I would love to see if I can connect with him somehow.

February 2023

  • Research in Photography: Behind the Image, Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana – a lot of resources for the research to be done and professional practices to be developed behind the creation of photography. Unfortunately, many of the web resources provided are already defunct.
  • Tear It Down, Nick Petrie – Another Peter Ash adventure, this time attempting a racially charged situation. Story very engaging but as far as the race part goes, and the violence, made me a little uncomfortable here and there.
  • Art Photography, David Bate – an interesting overview of the historical relations between art and photography with, for my taste, a little too much fealty to the hyper-intellectualism of the likes of Foucault and Victor Burgin. This school of thought likes to demonstrate that the very hotness of heat makes it cold, the whiteness of white renders it black.
  • Liberalism: A Counter-History, Domenico Losurdo – a remarkable, scholarly assessment of the history of classical liberalism and its entanglement with genocidal racism.

January 2023

  • Unto Us a Son is Given, Donna Leon
  • Speech Police, David Kaye
  • The Investigator, John Sandford
  • The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt
  • The Informant, Thomas Perry
  • The Law of the Land: The Evolution of our Legal System, Charles Rembar
  • Persuader, Lee Child

December 2022

  • Paleopoetics: The Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination, Christopher Collins
  • Surviving Autocracy, Masha Gessen
  • Tripwire, Lee Child
  • The Affair, Lee Child
  • Pronto, Elmore Leonard
  • Illuminance, Rinko Kawauchi
  • Cui Cui, Rinko Kawauchi
  • Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes [again]
  • Crudo, Olivia Laing

November 2022

  • The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin
  • Light it Up, Nick Petrie
  • Time, Eva Hoffman
  • The Aesthetics of Disappearance, Paul Virilio
  • Utatane, Rinko Kawauchi
  • A Peculiar Indifference: The Neglected Toll of Violence on Black America, Elliot Currie
  • Architecture of Time, Hiroshi Sugimoto
  • Empire of Signs, Roland Barthes
  • Driving on the Rim, Thomas McGuane
  • Girl Pictures, Justine Kurland
  • Critical Theory Today, Lois Tyson

October 2022

  • Die Trying, Lee Child
  • Dead Lions, Mick Herron
  • Echo Burning, Lee Child
  • The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt
  • Running Blind, Lee Child
  • The Unfolding, A M Homes
  • Out of the Wreckage, George Monbiot
  • Anxious People, Fredrik Backman
  • A Deadly Shade of Gold, John D MacDonald

September 2022

  • The Camera: Essence and Apparatus, Victor Burgin
  • Understanding a Photograph, John Berger
  • Ways of Seeing, John Berger
  • The Postscript Murders, Elly Griffiths
  • The Sentry, Robert Crais
  • The Retreat of Western Liberalism, Edward Luce
  • Bad Boy Brawly Brown, Walter Mosley
  • Bad Actors, Mick Herron
  • The Empty Copper Sea, John D MacDonald

August 2022

  • Eternal Life, Dara Horn
  • Photography: A Critical Introduction (6 ed.), Liz Wells, editor
  • First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, Slavoj Žižek
  • The General’s Daughter, Nelson DeMille
  • A Dangerous Man, Robert Crais
  • The Unbanking of America, Lisa Servon
  • Metzger’s Dog, Thomas Perry

July 2022

  • The Heavens, Sandra Newman
  • 24/7, Jonathan Crary
  • Native Tongue, Carl Hiaasen
  • A Famished Heart, Nicola White
  • Ways of Seeing, John Berger
  • Case Histories, Kate Atkinson
  • Understanding a Photograph, John Berger
  • Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate, Adam Jentleson
  • The Godwulf Manuscript, Robert B Parker
  • It’s Time to Fight Dirty, David Faris

June 2022

  • Crashed, Timothy Hallinan
  • A Trick of the Light, Louise Penny
  • The Knowledge, Martha Grimes

May 2022

  • Harlem Shuffle, Colson Whitehead
  • The Short Life and Curious Death of Free Speech in America, Ellis Cose
  • Slough House, Mick Herron
  • The Walkaway, Scott Phillips
  • The Last Voice You Hear, Mick Herron
  • Nobody Walks, Mick Herron
  • The Catch, Mick Herron
  • Joe Country, Mick Herron
  • Dead Street, Mickey Spillane

April 2022

  • French Exit, Patrick deWitt
  • The Sentence Is Death, Anthony Horowitz
  • Bright Orange for the Shroud, John D MacDonald
  • Box 88, Charles Cumming
  • The Anomaly, Hervé Le Tellier
  • Suburban Dicks, Fabian Nicieza
  • The Moon in the Gutter, David Goodis
  • The Intuitionist, Colson Whitehead
  • Deadeye Dick, Kurt Vonnegut

March 2022

  • The Drifter, Nick Petrie
  • Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Jaron Lanier
  • Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism, Robert Kuttner
  • Lullaby Town, Robert Crais
  • The Dark Hours, Michael Connelly
  • The Runaway, Nick Petrie
  • 1979, Val McDermid

February 2022

  • Nothing to See Here, Kevin Wilson
  • Burning Bright, Nick Petrie
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
  • The First Rule, Robert Crais
  • Clock Without Hands, Carson McCullers
  • Alone Street, Gregory Crewdson

January 2022

  • On Fascism: 12 Lessons from American History, Matthew C MacWilliams
  • Midnight Mile, Dennis Lehane
  • The Loo Sanction, Trevanian
  • Guilty Minds, Joseph Finder
  • The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies and the Fate of Liberty, Daron Acemoglu & James A Robinson
  • Gutshot Straight, Lou Berney
  • Hit and Run, Lawrence Block
  • The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, David Talbot

December 2021

  • Maigret Hesitates, Georges Simenon
  • St Patrick’s Day Murder, Lee Harris
  • Leonard Cohen: The Mystical Roots of Genius, Harry Freedman
  • The Devil You Know, Charles M Blow
  • The Nomination, William G Tapply
  • Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari
  • Hour of the Assassin, Matthew Quirk
  • Talking to my Daughter About the Economy or, How Capitalism Works – and How it Fails, Yanis Varoufakis
  • Eighth Dwarf, Ross Thomas
  • Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, Ruth Ben-Ghiat
  • A Bitter Feast, Deborah Crombie

November 2021

  • White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi
  • Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, Francis Fukuyama
  • The Detective and the Chinese High-Fin, Michael Craven
  • Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court, Amy Bach
  • Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann
  • Tropic of Night, Michael Gruber

October 2021

  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt
  • Summer, Ali Smith
  • The Garden Party, Katherine Mansfield
  • Spring, Ali Smith
  • Lush Life, Dallas Murphy
  • Winter, Ali Smith
  • Autumn, Ali Smith
  • Death Benefits, Thomas Perry
  • Dead Irish, John Lescroart
  • The Stranger Diaries, Elly Griffiths

September 2021

  • Oranges and Lemons, Christopher Fowler
  • Daylight, David Baldacci
  • The Lost Shtetl, Max Gross
  • The Ice Swimmer, Kjell Ola Dahl
  • To Have or to Be?, Erich Fromm
  • How You Say It, Katherine D Kinzler
  • Black Buck, Mateo Askaripour

August 2021

  • Final Account, Peter Robinson
  • The Quick Red Fox, John D MacDonald
  • Teeth of the Dog, Jill Ciment
  • Deacon King Kong, James McBride
  • Stalking the Angel, Robert Crais
  • Hooked, Michael Moss
  • Bird in a Cage, Frédéric Dard
  • What’s Your Pronoun? Beyond He & She, Dennis Baron
  • The Monkey’s Raincoat, Robert Crais
  • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ernest J Gaines
  • A Shadow Intelligence, Oliver Harris

July, 2021

  • The President’s Dossier, James A. Scott
  • Electric Barracuda, Tim Dorsey
  • The Sum of Us, Heather McGhee
  • The Conjure-Man Dies, Rudolph Fisher
  • Even Dogs in the Wild, Ian Rankin
  • How to Live Safely In a Science Fictional Universe, Charles Yu
  • The Pardon, James Grippando
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
  • Through a Glass, Darkly, Donna Leon
  • Night of Fire, Colin Thubron
  • Winterkill, Ragnar Jonasson
  • New England Bound, Wendy Warren

June, 2021

  • The Life of the Mind, Christine Smallwood
  • Speedboat, Renata Adler
  • The Wolf, Lorenzo Carcaterra
  • But What if We’re Wrong, Chuck Klosterman
  • Lost and Wanted, Nell Freudenberger
  • A Thousand Pardons, Jonathan Dee

May, 2021

  • Wherever You Go, Joan Leegant
  • Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies, Dick Gregory
  • Moonflower Murders, Anthony Horowitz
  • Fatal Invention, Dorothy Roberts
  • Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen
  • Butcher’s Moon, Richard Stark
  • Ask the Parrot, Richard Stark
  • The Burglar in Short Order, Lawrence Block
  • Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan
  • The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Number9Dream, David Mitchell

April, 2021

  • Near Enemy, Adam Sternbergh
  • Too Many Cooks, Rex Stout
  • D, Michael Faber
  • Parishioner, Walter Mosley
  • Begin Again, Eddie S Glaude Jr
  • The Tenth Commandment, Lawrence Sanders
  • Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, Michael Walzer

March, 2021

  • Out of Sight, Elmore Leonard
  • My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
  • The Mother of All Questions, Rebecca Solnit
  • Crying Out Loud, Cath Staincliffe
  • Lake Success, Gary Shteyngart
  • House of Correction, Nicci French
  • Quichotte, Salman Rushdie

February, 2021

  • Shut Your Eyes Tight, John Verdon
  • Picnic Comma Lightning, Laurence Scott
  • Snow, John Banville
  • The Holdout, Graham Moore
  • The Battle for Human Nature, Barry Schwartz

January, 2021

  • Photo Work: Forty Photographers on Process and Practice, Sasha Wolf, editor
  • The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Nine Shiny Objects, Brian Castleberry
  • Little Gods, Meng Jin

December, 2020

  • Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin
  • IQ, Joe Ide
  • Six Days of the Condor, James Grady
  • The Order, Daniel Silva
  • Age of Anger: A History of the Present, Pankaj Mishra
  • The Silver Swan, Elena Delbanco
  • Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, Anand Giridharadas
  • Serafim and Claire, Mark Lavorato
  • The Kill Artist, Daniel Silva
  • Improvement, Joan Silber
  • The Dakota Winters, Tom Barbash
  • The Memory Police, Yoko Ogawa
  • Naked Came the Florida Man, Tim Dorsey

November, 2020

  • The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, Danny Lyon
  • The Overstory, Richard Powers
  • November Road, Lou Berney
  • Galápagos, Kurt Vonnegut
  • Too Many Women, Rex Stout
  • American Spy, Lauren Wilkinson
  • Night Boat to Tangier, Kevin Barry
  • Day of the Dead, Nicci French
  • Everywhere You Don’t Belong, Gabriel Bump
  • Friday on My Mind, Nicci French
  • The Bookshop, Penelope Fitzgerald
  • Escape Clause, John Sandford
  • Holy Ghost, John Sandford

October, 2020

  • Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, Lawrence Block
  • The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling, Lawrence Block
  • How Fascism Works, Jason Stanley
  • And Sometimes I Wonder About You, Walter Mosley
  • The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish
  • The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, Tim Wu
  • Mumbo Jumbo, Ishmael Reed
  • The Consciousness Instinct, Michael S. Gazzaniga

September, 2020

  • Forest Dark, Nicole Krauss
  • Nightmare in Pink, John D MacDonald
  • Dunbar, Edward St. Aubyn
  • Rose Gold, Walter Mosley
  • In Praise of Doubt: How to Have Convictions Without Becoming a Fanatic, Peter Berger & Anton Zijderveld
  • Let Me Be Frank With You, Richard Ford
  • The High Window, Raymond Chandler
  • Fearless Jones, Walter Mosley
  • Past Tense, Lee Child
  • The Antagonist, Lynn Coady
  • White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg 
  • Baroni, Alfred Harris
  • Asymmetry, Lisa Halliday
  • A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines
  • The Keeper of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen

August, 2020

  • Gordon Parks: The Atmosphere of Crime, 1957, Sarah MeisterNicole FleetwoodBryan StevensonGordon Parks
  • Persons Unknown, Susie Steiner
  • Reader, Come Home, Maryanne Wolf
  • The Pale Criminal, Philip Kerr
  • A German Requiem, Philip Kerr
  • World Without Mind, Franklin Foer
  • Paradise, Toni Morrison
  • Jazz, Toni Morrison


non-FictionMysteriesOther Fiction
Everybody LiesJourney into FearMr. Vertigo
The Velvet Rope EconomyThe Light of DayThe Book of Evidence
Empire of ThingsA Coffin for DemetriosOpen City
The Origins of TotalitarianismThe Case of the 7 WhistlersVoltaire’s Calligrapher
Picture ThisMurder in the MaraisThe Names
Between the World and MeBurglars Can’t be ChoosersJeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
From Bacteria to Bach and BackThe Burglar in the LibraryJuneteenth
The Origins of Political OrderThe Burglar on the ProwlDinner at the Center of the Earth
SapiensThe White TrilogyFirst Person
Capital in the 21st CenturyRed HookThe Comedians
The Blank SlateThe Black EchoThe Ministry of Fear
Enlightenment NowTrunk MusicThe Quiet American
The Stuff of ThoughtThe Last Good KissA Horse Walks into a Bar
Food RulesShadows Still RemainThe Library at Mount Char
The Omnivore’s DilemmaBuried on Avenue BProdigal Spy
The Evolution of EverythingManhattan is my BeatOur Kind of Traitor
Prime Green: Remembering the 60sThe Remorseful DayCall for the Dead
A People’s History of the USBlood RainSmiley’s People
The Age of Surveillance CapitalismMurder in the Queens ArmesIs this Tomorrow
The CompanyThe Double GameMr Paradise
The Signal and the NoiseBroken HarborThe Photograph
The Black SwanPayment in BloodThe Hike
DataclysmFor the Sake of ElenaTough Guys Don’t Dance
Breaking the SpellCareless in RedTangerine
Thinking Fast and SlowThe Woman from PragueSo You don’t get Lost in the Neighborhood
LiberalismExit LinesWoman with a Blue Pencil
The Moral LandscapeMagpie MurdersAt Swim Two Birds
Consciousness ExplainedA Firing OffenseAppointment in Samarra
A Short History of Nearly EverythingA Mind to MurderThe Expats
The Language InstinctA Certain JusticeThe Tragedy of Arthur
The Red QueenSacred and ProfaneBleeding Edge
The End of FaithMoonlight MileThe Mathematician’s Shiva
Why We BuyBy its CoverThe Speed of Light
$uperHubsIn Big TroubleSuper Sad True Love Story
Inside the Dream PalaceInnocent BloodOn the Lisbon Disaster
 First Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship: Elite Politics and the Decline of Great PowersThe Last DetectiveJailbird
 The ChillThe Golem and the Jinni
 Accident on the A35The Imperfectionists
 The Marx SistersThe Rise and Fall of Great Powers
 Silver MeadowShylock is My Name
 Corpus ChristmasThe Boy Who Saw
 The RuinThe Searcher
 Little GreenThe Circle
 NemesisCall Me Zebra
 So Say the FallenTishomingo Blues
 Killing OrdersThe Blind Assassin
 Critical MassThe Robber Bride
 DisappearedRadio Free Vermont
 Déjà DeadSolar Bones
 From Doon with DeathInherent Vice
 Wolf to the SlaughterAbsurdistan
 The Best Man to DieThe Story of Lucy Gault
 An Unkindness of RavensA Gentleman in Moscow
 The Veiled OneThe Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe
 McNally’s Secret 
 Buried Prey 
 Stolen Prey 
 Extreme Prey 
 The Late Monsieur Gallet 
 Heat Lightning 
 Whose Body? 
 The Judge’s House 
 Last Seen Alive 
 The Locked Room 
 Not Quite Dead Enough 
 Murder by the Book 
 If Death Ever Slept 
 And Four to Go 
 Homicide Trinity 
 Outsider in Amsterdam 
 Think of a Number 
 Shut Your Eyes Tight 
 Wolf Lake 
 King Solomon’s Carpet 
 Finnegan’s Week 
 The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper 
 The Laughing Policeman 
 Calamity at Harwood 
 Pale Gray for Guilt 
 The Hot Rock 
 Please Pass the Guilt 
 The Long Lavender Look 
 Eight Perfect Murders 
 Gumshoe on the Loose 
 Fletch’s Moxie 
 Many Rivers to Cross 

Photography Books

Some of the favorite books of photographs in my collection (starting unabashedly with t

  • The Nature of Cities, Adam Isler, Lulu, 2009
  • Camera Obscura, Adam Isler, Blurb, 2010
  • Early Color, Saul Leiter, Steidl, 2006 – this is a book I repeatedly turn to for inspiration
  • The Last Resort, Martin Parr, Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2009
  • The Americans, Robert Frank, Steidl edition, 2008
  • Eye, Mind, Spirit: The Enduring Legacy of Minor White, Nathan Lyons, ed., Howard Greenberg Gallery, 2008
  • Helen Levitt, Helen Levitt, powerHouse Books, 2008
  • Friedlander, Peter Galassi, Museum of Modern Art, 2005
  • Women, Annie Liebovitz -photographs, Susan Sontag – essay, Random House, 1999
  • Sergio Larrain, Agnès Sire, Aperture, 2013
  • The Suffering of Light, Alex Webb, Aperture, 2011
  • Modern Color, Fred Herzog, Hatje Cantz, 2017
  • A Kind of Rapture, Robert Bergman, Pantheon, 1998
  • East 100th Street, Bruce Davidson, Harvard University Press, 1970
  • Shtetl in the Sun, Andy Sweet, Letter16 Press, 2018
  • Only Human, Judy Dater, Marymount Institute Press, 2017
  • Kitchen Table Series, Carrie Mae Weems, Damiani and Matsumoto Editions, 2016

Books of photography criticism:

  • The Ongoing Moment, Geoff Dyer – a remarkable book that meditates on the ways in which photographs and photographers commune with each other across time and common themes. It re-inspired me at a low-point in my MFA.
  • Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images, 4th ed., Terry Barrett, McGraw Hill, 2006
  • The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Aperture, 1999
  • Why People Photograph, Robert Adams, Aperture, 1994
  • Inside the Photograph: Writings on Twentieth-Century Photography, Peter C. Bunnell, Aperture, 2009
  • The Nature of Photographs: A Primer, Stephen Shore, Phaidon, 2008
  • The Photographer’s Eye, John Szarkowski, Museum of Modern Art, 2007

 And some books on making pictures that I have found helpful:

  • The Passionate Photographer: Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great, Steve Simon, New Riders, 2012
  • Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision, David DuChemin, New Riders, 2009
  • The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes, Andy Karr and Michael Wood, Shambhala, 2011
  • The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos, Michael Freeman, Focal Press, 2007
  • The Photographer’s Mind: Creative thinking for better digital photos, Michael Freeman, Focal Press, 2011
  • The Photographer’s Vision: Understanding and Appreciating Great Photography, Michael Freeman, Focal Press, 2011
  • The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression, Bruce Barnbaum, Rocky Nook, 2010
  • On Street Photography and the Poetic Image, Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, Aperture, 2014

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