[Thanks to Picklefactory for getting me Chernow!]
Alexander Hamilton. Yep, that’s right, I am the trash of the thing.
I highly recommend reading Chernow if you’re a fan of Hamilton; there’s a lot of great character details and it’s very fun to see where Miranda drew his inspiration for various lines from. Things that didn’t make it into the musical: Hamilton/Lafayette; Hamilton confessing the Maria Reynolds affair to Jefferson and Madison, in salacious detail, while they said “…you really don’t need to tell us all of this…”; Hamilton supported the Alien and Sedition Acts, because he is my Problematic Fave; Hamilton is literally the only reason we have a functioning economic system; Burr and Eliza both had habits of staring at busts of Hamilton; Aaron Burr was a feminist; Aaron Burr filled his letters to his daughter with information about the hundreds of women he was sleeping with; Eliza consents to anything Angelica and Alexander might do together except that he love her more than he loves Eliza (“and that you are too reasonable to expect”).
One aspect which very much annoyed me is that Chernow has a different interpretation of Alexander Hamilton than I do, and so I spent a lot of time going “Wait, no, ‘Eliza adores both Angelica and Alexander’ is not a good argument for why her sister and her husband never had sex! Lots of people are extremely cheerful in the weeks leading up to a suicide attempt! Argh!”
The Forever War. Haldeman’s book is one of the most clever uses of a speculative element for a thematic purpose that I’ve ever seen. The book is about the feeling of coming back from Vietnam and everyone’s listening to different music and arguing about different political beliefs and making pop culture references you don’t get; the speculative element is (essentially) time dilation, so that when the hero gets back from the Space Wars society is literally two hundred years in the future. I very much appreciated the hero– a heterosexual– having to command soldiers from the heterophobic future who call him the Old Queer.
A Disability History of the United States. While I’m not familiar with Native American history enough to critique it properly, the chapter on Native Americans came off very much as “Native Americans are a culturally unified group of noble savages who all had the political views that I, the author, possess”. However, other chapters were fascinating: Deaf people briefly managed to convince the WPA that they ought to be an exception to its no-disabled-people rule on the grounds that they were not disabled but rather a minority linguistic community; deinstitutionalization was largely a product of conscientious objectors (a group selected for their idealism and altruism) working in asylums during World War II. Favorite passage, about a group of disabled soldiers in the Civil War:
In the midst of battle, Colonel Johnson’s commander sought reassurance from Johnson that his men would not retreat: “Will your invalids stand?” the general asked via a messenger. “Tell the general,” Johnson replied with deadpan humor, “that my men are cripples, and they can’t run.”
The Devil and Dan Cooley/Hell on High. Not nearly as good as the first book in the series; still enjoyable reads. Annoyingly, they do not feature Dayne, the protagonist of the first book, who is my favorite. And there isn’t nearly enough about Devil’s Point, the demon-run theme park. To be honest, I just want a five hundred page book explaining how the demon-run theme park works.
Heir to the Empire/Dark Force Rising. It is really great reading a book series that I’d last read in elementary school, because I keep having vague senses of “I think this character is evil” and “doesn’t this character end up getting married to the person she’s trying to murder?” and “oooh, I remember that scene!” Thrawn is, of course, the single best villain in Star Wars. Thrawn’s famous “studying species’s art to learn their weak points” strategy is actually mostly used for color and as a hook to make him a more memorable villain; Thrawn’s actual competence is mostly a product of the fact that he’s the only member of the entire Empire to have read a management guide other than How To Kill Friends And Influence People Via Force-Choking. Also I continue to have a crush on Mara Jade.
More Than Two. A very good polyamory advice book sadly marred by its psychiatric ableism. The section on dating mentally ill people, summarized: “you have to disclose your mental illness or if you’re a caregiver of a mentally ill person. Don’t become your partner’s therapist. Mental health issues can make relationships difficult and sometimes intractable.” I mean, I don’t disagree with any of that (except maybe the bit about therapy, which sort of comes off as “it’s okay to support your partner about Regular Sad, but as soon as it becomes a special Crazy Sad you have to call in a trained professional”). However, it seems to me like one also ought to put in “and also many poly people are in happy relationships with mentally ill people. Polyamory can be good for mentally ill people, because it allows them to spread out the burden of caretaking more easily. And being a relatively functional crazy person gives you a head start on all the CBT skills we spent the rest of this book explaining,” all of which are also true and give a little more balanced perspective on dating crazy people. (Also, it kept talking about “enabling” mentally ill people to not seek treatment, which, ugh.)
The best part of reading advice books, of course, is finding out all of the horrible life choices you’re not making. More Than Two delivers: from the man who told his heterosexual wife “we’ll have a one penis policy and you’ll become bisexual!” to the man who saw his wife come home happy from a first date and then forbade her from ever speaking to the person she went out with again to the man with a forty-five-page list of rules that his partners had to abide by. I think the common thread in a lot of these relationships is people who have managed to go through their entire lives without realizing that “Person did Thing, which caused me to be upset” is not the same thing as “Person did something wrong”, much less “I have a right to forbid Person from ever doing Thing again”. I would suggest that this is perhaps a sign that one ought not date neurotypicals, on account of most of us crazy people figure that out by the time we’re sixteen, but unfortunately I am not as much of a jerk as the authors of More Than Two.
The Whole Lesbian Sex Book. Fun fact: I first read this book in middle school when I had just figured out I was bisexual and, like a good nerd, had gone to research the subject of having sex with girls in the library. It’s a pretty comprehensive introduction: it covers everything from the exact mechanics of fisting to to how to make sure your sex parties are disability-friendly. (Do you have an ASL interpreter, by any chance?) While some of the information is out of date– the only thing that changes faster than Internet resources is acceptable trans terminology– overall it’s a book I’d recommend to most women who are considering having sex with women.