Books have always been hard for me to let go of. I used to think the spines on the shelf could and therefore should reflect the story of my life. They take me back to the days when my only windows to the outside world were the ones on shelves.

Now, the story of my life is much bigger than what fits in my apartment, and I no longer feel the need to carry my past with me into each future moment. In fact, I have found it liberating to whittle down these titles to just the ones that I want with me in the present. It feels amazing to see objects that have played an important role in my life go on to other places where they still have a role to play.

This is the second round of the second purge in the last two years. What friends don’t take will go either to our new library at Impact Hub Seattle or to the Little Free Libraries around my neighborhood. If you want any, please speak now!

***PREVIOUSLY TAKEN (for my head-records):***
The Street of Crocodiles, Bruno Schulz
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Big Sur, Jack Kerouac
The Tartar Steppe, Dino Buzzatti
Berlin Tales, translated by Lyn Marven, purchased–where else?–in Berlin
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer
The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham
Baudolino, Umberto Eco
Prague, Arthur Phillips
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
The Inheritance of Loss, Kirin Desai
King Leopold’s Ghost, Adam Hochschild
Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, Jillian Lauren
Kitchen Confidential
, Anthony Bourdain
The Prince, Machiavelli
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott


TAKEN! Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence, whose noble cause was, as he wrote in its first introduction, for: “men and women to be able to think about sex, fully, completely, honestly, and cleanly.” We’re still not there yet, are we? This is the original printing press-published erotica, long before 50 Shades and far better written. Don’t take it if you won’t love it.

TAKEN! Everyman, The Ghost Writer, and American Pastoral, Philip Roth.

TAKEN! Suite Francaiseby Irene Némirovsky, a book whose own story is nearly as remarkable as the story it depicts (which you can preview here, in the trailer for the film of the same name, starring Michelle Williams). Némirovsky fled Paris with her family during German occupation and lived in the countryside before being arrested and transferred to Auschwitz, where she died. The book was published in 2004 by her daughter, who found two novellas in what she had thought was her mother’s diary. It is remarkable.

Kaddish for an Unborn Child, by Imre Kertész, who survived both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, the first survivor to win a Nobel Prize.

TAKEN! The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac. A gift that I’m ready to pass on, nearly five years after the Summer of the Epic Post-Breakup Road Trip.

TAKEN! The Joke, by Milan Kundera.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey.

TAKEN–by my lovely neighbor, no less, who’s earning his PhD in theater and shared how much he loved the way Racine adapted Phaedra from its original Greek version into the neoclassical French style. This is fun! Iphigenia, Phaedra, and Athaliah, plays by Jean Racine. I bought this at a bookstore in Princeton, New Jersey, where I had seen Iphigenia during a visit. I thought maybe someday I’d learn French or write plays. Funny.

TAKEN! Against Gravityby Farnoosh Moshiri. Iran meets Texas? Beautiful prose.

TAKEN! Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

TAKEN! Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie.

TAKEN! A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, by Julian Barnes. Yes, this book is remarkable. It meant a great deal to the man who gave it to me. That same man offered to introduce me to Sheryl Sandberg and do many other nice things for me including maybe even take me to the Grammys but only after a proposed late dinner on a Saturday night followed by drinks at his place. Suffice it to say that I’m more interested in living my very own honest life than in accompanying a very rich man to the end of his. That story has nothing really to do with the book, which I hope will find a good home.

TAKEN! The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace. Yes, I read it. Oddly, it’s the only book-length work of DFW I’ve ever read.

TAKEN! This Is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz.

TAKEN! My Antonia, by Willa Cather.

The Ponder Heart, by Eudora Welty.

TAKEN! Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. A delightful novella about the big cannery in Monterrey, California. I bought the book in Monterrey itself, in the middle of a road trip, and finished it within two. This one comes with lots of good memories and a recommendation for a trip down the PCH.

TAKEN! Animal Farm, by George Orwell. Owned since high school. Yes, really.

Literature from the “Axis of Evil,” an anthology. I was living in DC and I think I picked this up at Kramerbooks. I just loved the cheekiness of the title.

The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival, by Ken Wheaton. I bought this because Ken is a friend, read it all the way through because it was fun & funny, and would love for someone else to enjoy it next.

TAKEN! The Force of the Past, by Sandro Veronesi. Also hardcover, with a pretty cover, and falls into the category of “Italian fiction,” which I wanted to want to know about but never followed through on.

My Jim, by Nancy Rawles. I saw her speak and loved the voice, but I never read it. That’s not nice to books or local writers. Nancy deserves better.

The Hour I First Believed, by Wally Lamb. (Hardcover.) I have this friend who I love and used to spend a lot of time with. We were gym buddies and bike buddies and dance buddies, and she’s one of the most vibrant humans I’ve ever met. She loved this book, so when I found a copy for $1, I bought it. I never cracked it open. She also loved Dexter and Breaking Bad. My point is, it’s okay and even great to have friends whose tastes you don’t share.

TAKEN! The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. The basis for the film featuring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Christopher Reeve, which I did not see but would bet blows Downtown Abbey out of the water when it comes to British servant/master and servant/servant and master/politics drama. A worthy airplane read.

TAKEN! One Day, by David Nicholls–one of the most fun books I’ve ever read. I can describe it only as “If Taylor Swift’s ‘You Belong With Me’ were a book, and a good one.” I did not see the movie, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book, which I purchased at the tiny airport in Kristiansand, Norway, and read on my way back to Warsaw, in 2009. It’s very much a romance and a romp through modern love. I have no shame about owning it, and neither should you.

/ International Affairs & Development General

Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen.

The Bottom Billion, by Paul Collier.

Soft Power, Joseph Nye. Heavily underlined.

TAKEN! A Problem from Hell, Samantha Power.

TAKEN! Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World, by John McNeill. This is the best of the international affairs books on this list. This is an incredible account of climate change, urbanization, and politics. I’d prefer to see it go to someone close to me.

/International Finance & Business

Out of Gas, David Goodstein. For anyone who wants to be able to talk smart about fossil fuels and the petroleum industry.

TAKEN! The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea, by Economist editors John Micklethwaite and Adrian Woolridge. A good summary, from the jacket text: “… the authors reveal how innovations such as limitations on liability have permitted companies to rival religions and even states in importance, as they govern the flow of wealth and control human affairs–all while being largely exempt from the rules that structure our lives.”

The Chastening: Inside the Crisis that Rocked the Global Financial System and Humbled the IMF, by Paul Blustein. Also exceptional. More: “While the IMF and its overseers at the Treasury and the Fed have sought to cultivate an image of economic masterminds coolly dispensing effective economic remedies, the reality is that as markets were sinking and defaults looming, the guardians of global financial stability were often floundering, improvising, and feuding among themselves.”

And, if you want to get really deep into global finance…

Bailouts or Bail-Ins? Responding to Financial Crises in Emerging Markets, by Nouriel Roubini and Brad Setzer.

/Eastern Europe & Russia

The Polish Revolution, Timothy Garton Ash.

Breaking Ground: An Immigrant’s Journey from Poland to Ground Zero, by Daniel Libeskind. I bought this immediately after visiting the Jewish Museum he designed in Berlin.

The Chechen Wars, Matthew Evangelista.

Capitalism and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, a collection of essays that I bought because my research advisor, Stephen Hanson, edited it.

Gibel’ Imperii (Collapse of an Empire), by Yegor Gaidar (hardcover, in Russian). In 2006, I went for a meeting at the Open Society Foundation’s office in Moscow. The office walls were lined with these books. If I’m not mistaken, that office was shutting down, and they were trying to move these quickly out the door and into people’s hands. I must have taken five copies. This is the last surviving.

Homo Zapiens, by Victor Pelevin. This is fiction, but it really belongs here. (Here’s why.)

/Asia (Broadly Defined)

TAKEN! Portrait of a Turkish Family, Irfan Orga.

The Idea of India, Sunil Kilnani.

TAKEN! First They Killed My Father, Loung Ung. Purchased streetside in Phnom Penh.

/Middle East

Dubai, by Jim Krane.

Pity the Nation, Robert Fisk’s massive, comprehensive work on Lebanon and the Civil War (1975-1990).

TAKEN! The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tolan. My favorite book about the conflict in Palestine. Period.

TAKEN! One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, by Tom Segev. To date, the most comprehensive work I’ve read on the origins of Israel–well-written and fascinating.

TAKEN! Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East, Rashid Khalidi. Leads us right into our next category.


The Fall of Baghdad, Jon Lee Anderson.

Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq, George Packer. (Hardcover.)

Naked in Baghdad, Anne Garrels. (My favorite of the this bunch.)


TAKEN! Descent into Chaos, Ahmed Rashid.

TAKEN! My Brother, My Enemy, Philip Smucker.

TAKEN! Afghanistan, Stephen Tanner.

/U.S. Politics

The Price of Politics, Bob Woodward. (Hardcover.)

Cooking with Grease, Donna Brazile.


Now They Tell Us: The American Press and Iraq, by Michael Massing.

What Is Happening to News? by Jack Fuller of the Chicago Tribune. (Hardcover.)

The Creation of the Media, by Paul Starr.

/Religion & Philosophy

The Essential Koran.

The Metaphysical Club, by Louis Menand.

Illuminations, Walter Benjamin.

The Philosophy of Art, by Hegel.


The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan. Complete with notes and underlines from a confused young woman just discovering feminism!

TAKEN! The Sheik’s Batmobile, by Robert Poplak, an exploration of how American culture is perceived around the world.

Candyfreak, by Steve Almond. An easy read and the reason I know about Valomilks, which you can buy at Zetigeist in Pioneer Square and are stupidly delicious.

Epitaph for a Peach, by David Mas Masumoto.

Killing Yourself to Live, by Chuck Klosterman, who taught me how to be cool before I realized I didn’t care about being cool.

Foreign Language Learning & Resources

Easy French Reader.

The Berlitz Self-Teacher: French.


TAKEN! Living Language: Portuguese (cd’s and book).

TAKEN! Lonely Planet Phrasebook: Brazilian Portuguese.


301 Polish Verbs.


501 Russian Verbs.

Essential Russian Grammar.


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