It wouldn’t be possible to publish The Nation without the critical help of our peerless interns. Their energy, passion, ideas and engagement are reflected in print each week and literally around-the-clock at thenation.com. We also rely on our interns to tell us what’s hip, what music we should be listening to and what new (or old) authors we should be considering. Now we’re sharing the knowledge by asking our summer group to tell us what they’re reading this summer and why.
Max Rivlin-Nadler, Queens, NY
Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscape for Politics, by Rebecca Solnit.
I’ve only spent a few days exploring the American West, Solnit’s topic for most of these essays. Even for that short time, it was tough to ignore the attention to ecology that open space demands. Solnit’s essays fill that apparent “openness” with a history of murder, environmental degradation, nuclear pollution and protest. The idea of the West is that it’s a blank slate, but Solnit just has to scratch that surface a little bit to reveal something beautiful, terrifying, archaic and not quite yet lost. But close.
Zoë Schlanger, Bethel, CT
The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
I was handed The Power of Habit by my neighbor Amy after I expressed frustration over a recent procrastination marathon (it was the week of final exams). While not a self-help book, it certainly eliminated the feeling that reorganizing my bookshelf instead of studying phases of eutrophication was somehow irreparable behavior. Each chapter is a precisely written piece of journalism on the latest scientific research on why we form habits, with stories about medical marvels, political solidarity and how corporations like Target, for example, use habit data to predict what individual customers will want to buy before they even know it themselves. A recent episode of This American Life highlights an excellent chapter from the book about the mechanics of one woman’s descent into gambling addiction, and is well worth a listen.
A chronic book-starter, I’m also digging into Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, sporadically poking around a collection of Gabriel García Márquez’s short stories, and am halfway through Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project, which has been an absolute adventure.
Lucy McKeon, Princeton, NJ
Tar Baby, by Toni Morrison
I’m currently reading Tar Baby as part of a larger project to read her complete works. I admire the masterful way her narratives are also vehicles for political argument. So far, we are in the Caribbean with Jadine and Son—two black Americans from different worlds—but will follow the main characters to Manhattan and then to the Deep South, exploring questions of gender, race, nationalism and diaspora along the way. I’ll also soon be starting Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark—a defense of hope in a pessimistic political climate—just handed to me by Tom Engelhardt.