George Saunders’ Resistance Reading

Authors pick books that bring solace and understanding in an age of rancor.

Graeme Robertson/ Zuma Wire

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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 some selections from George Saunders, who spent five years reading about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln for his truly unique latest novel.

Latest book: Lincoln in the Bardo
Also known for: Tenth of December
Reading recommendations: I Will Bear Witness, by Victor Klemperer: The journal of a Jewish academic that shows the way a country slides into dictatorship and mass violence in real time. It all happens with courtesy and in a spirit of banal aggression. But it happens just the same.

Faithful Ruslan, by Georgi Abramov: A tour de force done in the voice of a Siberian work-camp guard dog that is a profound glimpse at what authoritarian rule looks like from the inside.

Anton Chekhov’s short stories, just because, in dark times, it’s important for people in resistance to fortify themselves with beauty, if only to remind ourselves that kindness, nuance, and ambiguity are real things. In particular: the beautiful trilogy consisting of “The Man in a Case,” “Gooseberries,and “About Love.

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison: This gorgeous and daring work of art served for me, years ago, as a kind of Compassion On switch, reenacting a notion I’d often felt as a Catholic kid, which was: Our ability to empathetically imagine the experiences and feelings of other people argues that our habitual feelings of separateness are actually delusional.
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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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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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