Margaret Atwood’s Resistance Reading

Authors pick books that bring solace and understanding in a time of rancor.

We asked a range of authors and creative types to name books that bring solace or understanding in this age of rancor. More than two dozen responded. Here are picks from the visionary novelist, essayist, and Twitter aficionado Margaret Atwood.

Latest book: Hag-Seed
Also known for: The Handmaid’s Tale

      Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt

Recommended reading: In times of great anxiety, what could be better than The Lord of the Rings? A horrible tyrant. An obsession with power. Nine dead guys running errands for him. Small folks doing their bit. It’s okay to have pointy ears. And it comes out all right at the end. Or sort of all right. So comforting! To go along with it, A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin. Do not forget the enemy that comes from within you. But if recognized and named, it can be neutralized. 

From the real life end of things, Darkness At Noon, by Arthur Koestler. How totalitarianisms brainwash people into caving in. Remember Stalin’s show trials? Maybe not, but now you will. Not exactly consoling, but forewarned is sometimes forearmed. More recently: Do Not Say We Have Nothing, by Madeleine Thien. Living through Maoist China by the skin of your teeth, plus music. Small mercies help.

And, for perspective, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick: An arrogant, narcissistic, crazed captain bent on revenge tackles the life force of Nature, and loses. Too bad that the ship is named after an extinct Manhattan tribe, and that it is the Ship of State. It sinks, taking all with it but the lone narrator. Don’t let it happen!
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The complete series: Daniel Alarcón, Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Ana Castillo, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Michael Eric Dyson, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, William Gibson, Mohsin Hamid, Piper Kerman, Phil Klay, Alex Kotlowitz, Bill McKibbenRabbi Jack Moline, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Peggy Orenstein, Wendy C. Ortiz, Darryl Pinckney, Joe Romm, Karen Russell, George Saunders, Tracy K. Smith, Ayelet WaldmanJesmyn Ward, and Gene Luen Yang.

 

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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