Daniel Alarcón’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’s what the Peruvian American novelist Daniel Alarcón, who is also an executive producer for NPR’s Radio Ambulante, had to share with us.

Latest book: At Night We Walk in Circles
Also known for: Lost City Radio
Recommended reading: Nazi Literature in the Americas was one of the first of Roberto Bolaño’s books I ever read, and for that reason alone I remember it fondly. It’s hilarious, disturbing, bizarre, humane—a faux encyclopedia of failed attempts to use art to justify fascism. Those who’ve read Distant Star will recognize the themes, and even a few of the characters.

James Baldwin, The Last Interview: No one is as trenchant and unforgiving and sharp about race and love and class in America as Baldwin.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood: Sometimes I think dystopian literature is the only literature we can write these days. That Atwood’s masterpiece feels so resonant today, more than 30 years after it was published, is singularly depressing. Read it as a cautionary tale.

Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt
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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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