paper trail

What Obama Is Reading This Summer

Katie Kitamura (photo: Martha Reta)

As D.C. museums begin to reopen, the Washington Post Podcast talks with poet-editor-essayist Kevin Young, the new director of the National African American Museum of History and Culture (and the author of the forthcoming poetry collection Stones).

In an interview at the New Yorker, political philsopher and author Jan-Werner Muller (What Is Populism?), who “offers a new way of looking at Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Jair Bolsolaro, and other right-wing leaders.” “Any of us can criticize the decisions of voters and, with regard to some of the leaders you just mentioned, there’s obviously plenty to criticize,” Muller says. “My concern is that—how to put this politely—for a certain type of liberal, this has sort of opened the floodgates for basically indulging a lot of clichés from late-nineteenth-century mass psychology in terms of, oh, of course we always knew the people are so irrational, they’re always waiting for the great demagogue to seduce them.”

Barack Obama has released his 2021 summer reading list, which includes books by Kazuo Ishiguro, Benjamín Labatut, Te-Ping Chen, and Katie Kitamura.

At The Nation, Judith Butler, Maggie Doherty, Ajay Singh Chaudhary, and Gabriel Winant pay tribute to cultural theorist and author Lauren Berlant, who died on June 28. As Butler writes: “The structuring contradiction of contemporary social life, according to Berlant, is that the very people struggling to establish an economic livelihood are filled with a sense of their expendability, consistently find themselves cast out of ever-shrinking safety nets and undergoing a systematic degradation of their lives that includes a devastation of their very sense of value. Berlant tracks how economic contradictions suffuse emotional life, ways of hoping and losing, but they also show how strong emotional investments keep such systems in place.”

The best-selling print book of 2021 so far is Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds.