by Eric Ginsburg
1. This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible by Charles Cobb Jr. Basic Books, 2014
I originally planned to double major in peace and conflict studies (and history) in college, and my best friend joked that I focused on the conflict aspect. Certain ideas about armed self-defense weren’t exactly popular at my Quaker alma mater, and I really wish I could give this book by an esteemed journalist and former civil rights organizer to my 19-year-old self for the sake of better classroom discussion.
2. Miami by Joan Didion. Vintage, 1998
The best present I received for my birthday last year was a collection of books by Joan Didion, an author I hadn’t read before and now count among my favorites. Didion’s incisive and gripping descriptions in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Salvador and The White Album — the first three books in the collection that I’ve already finished — radiate painstaking beauty. I haven’t even looked at what Miami, the next book chronologically in the selection, is about. No matter: I know I’ll love it.
3. I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell. Louisiana State University Press, 1987
I had the honor of interviewing former NC Poet Laureate Fred Chappell for Triad City Beat’s Summer Reading Guide this year, but I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never read any of his prose (I really hope he doesn’t read this). I have a copy of his novel, I Am One of You Forever, on my bookcase and meant to read it prior to the interview, but summer and its oppressive humidity struck me down when I wasn’t looking.
4. Talking to Myself by Studs Terkel. The New Press, 1995
The late oral historian Studs Terkel can be almost singlehandedly credited with drawing me into reading history. Before being introduced to his epic Working in a high school class, “social studies” class was no more than an experiment in boredom. Terkel masterfully brought the voices of working Americans alive in his work. I loved Division Street, about his native Chicago, and Hope Dies Last, and so I await his memoir Talking to Myself with great expectations.
5. Belles of Liberty by Linda Beatrice Brown. Women and Wisdom Foundation Inc., 2013
The subtitle for this book may say it all: Gender, Bennett College and the Civil Rights Movement in Greensboro, North Carolina. Clearly a must-read for anyone living in the Triad. I expect it is a natural follow up to William Chafe’s Civilities and Civil Rights, which is also about the movement in Greensboro. Brown is a professor at Bennett, and I plan to interview her once I finish reading this.
6. Whatever Junot Diaz writes next
I don’t even know if Junot Diaz, a Dominican-American fiction writer and professor at MIT, is working on a next book, but I sure as hell hope so. I can’t remember reading anything so rich with humor, insight and humanity. I started with his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, moving quickly through Drown and This Is How You Lose Her. I struggle to pick a favorite, but collectively they helped push me towards reading substantially m