Critical Mass

John Freeman’s What To Read This Fall

By John Freeman

“The Shock Doctrine,” by Naomi Klein (Metropolitan Books) This towering study of the symbiotic relationship between late capitalism and American military intervention ought to become required reading for anyone who has the sneaking suspicion that Iraq really is about the money. Klein (pictured left) is part of the team behind “The Take.” You can watch a video about “The Shock Doctrine” here. You can also read excerptshere and here and here at the Guardian.

“One Hundred and Forty-Five Stories in a Box,” by Dave Eggers, Sarah Manguso, and Deb Olin Unferth (McSweeneys, November). Gorgeously packaged, tidy in size, these three slip-cased story collections look like flash fiction for commuter rides and short trips. Eggers' short short fiction is usually prety fun, I've enjoyed Manguso's poetry but am totally unfamiliar with Unferth. And I suppose that's the point of putting this trio together. Smart publishing.

“The Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932,” by John Richardson (Knopf, November). Outside of Robert Caro’s life of LBJ, Richardson’s ongoing study of Picasso is probably the most ambitious and magnificent biographical project in the world. This I'm saving for a week where I can read it and it alone.

“The Journals of Joyce Carol Oates: 1973-1982,” edited by Greg Johnson (Ecco, October). She is a million candle cone of talent, shining forty miles in the sky. Culled from journals she kept in the '70s and early '80s, these journals allow us to stare straight down into that powerful filament — her working mind.

“Exit Ghost,” by Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin, October). Roth has put his alter ego through hero worship, writer’s block, divorce, and the meltdown of America. Now he is putting Zuckerman to rest in this bleak, cackling volume.

“Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth: Poems: 2004-2006.” By Adrienne Rich (Norton, October) Every two to three years, Rich reinvents her line, going further out than before, and yet she almost always manages to bring us with her. To me, her work no longer has the oracular directness she became famous for, but it's become more interesting and subtle when it works.

“Learning to Love You More,” by Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher. (Prestel) For the past five years, July and artist Harrell Fletcher have posted over 60 creative “assignments” on their website, ranging from “Write Yesterday's Obituaries” to “Take a Picture of the Sun.” This book collects some of the 5,000 entries which have piled in from Tel Aviv and Texas and beyond in a kind of montage which is striking and occasionally beautiful.

–John Freeman is president of the National Book Critics Circle.