What Not to Read During This Year’s Election Campaign


Even those of us who have read a fair amount of history have plenty of lacunae. After all, a lot of stuff has happened since the glaciers receded and someone accidentally discovered that if you picked the little seedy bits off of some plants and tossed them away, they’d grow into new plants.

Anyway. A couple of weeks ago I needed something new to read, and the choice came down to a gauzy bit of fiction or a history of Reconstruction. I chose the history. What a mistake. In the middle of a depressing election that’s turning largely on the politics of racial resentment and the loss of white supremacy, I’m taking the occasional breather by reading about possibly the most depressing era in American history—which, of course, turns pretty much entirely on the politics of racial resentment and the loss of white supremacy. And it’s not like this will have a happy ending or some kind of surprise twist. I know how it’s all going to turn out, after all. I think maybe I should have waited.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe it’s the ideal read during Trumpmania. And with 150 mg of venlafaxine coursing through my body each day, I’m able to remain in a pretty chipper mood regardless. Better living through chemistry, my friends.