27 RTB Books in Dark Times 4: David and John Plotz

Aside from being John’s (younger, brighter, handsomer–and definitely hirsuter) brother, what has the inimitable David Plotz done lately? Only hosted “The Slate Political Gabfest“, written two books (“The Genius Factory” and “The Good Book“) and run the amazing travel website, Atlas Obscura.

panda bad, horse good: David Plotz feeds a new friend

So, what is he reading? The fully absorbing “other worlds” of Dickens and Mark Twain tempt David, but he goes another direction. He picks one book that shows humanity at its worst, heading towards world war. And another that shows how well we can behave towards one another (and even how happy we can be…) at “moments of super liquidity” when everything melts and can be rebuilt. He also guiltily admits a yen for Austen, Rowling, and Pullman–and gratuitously disses LOTR. John and David bond about their love for lonnnnnnng-form cultural history in tSo, what is he reading?he mold of Common Ground. Finally the brothers enthuse over their favorite book about Gettysburg, and reveal an embarrassing reenactment of the charge down Little Round Top.

Mentioned in this episode:

Charles Dickens, “David Copperfield

J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit

Mark Twain, “Huckleberry Finn” (1884)

Barbara Tuchman, “The Guns of August” (1962, but about 1914)

Emily St. John Mandel, “Station Eleven” (2014)

Jon Moallem, “This is Chance” (March 2020; on the great Alaska earthquake)

The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964

Isabel Wilkerson,. “The Warmth of Other Suns” (2010) (David delightedly discovers it on his bookshelf..)

J Anthony Lukas, “Common Ground” (1986) (the mothership of the long-form cultural history that DP and JP both adore)

Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice” (1813)

J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter series

Michael Shaara, “The Killer Angels” (1974)

Listen to the episode here:

Read the transcript here:

Pick your Plotz

Upcoming: Books in Dark Times conversations with SF great Kim Stanley Robinson and Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Recent Recall This Book episodes include conversations with Zadie Smith, Cixin Liu and Samuel Delany.

Author: plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

One thought on “27 RTB Books in Dark Times 4: David and John Plotz”

  1. Dr. Plotz, I came to this podcast because I am a sticky fan of your brother, his work and the podcast he host at the Political GabFest. I really like your discussions and your guests. After I discover yours, I have been listening to many of your past episodes. It is amazing how in these uncertain times, for me, a book has to bring lightness and the comforts of familiarity and happy times. For me that is going back to my latinamerican back bone, so I am reading Romulo Gallegos – Cantaclaro, Eva Luna by Isabel Allende and La Tregua, by MArio Benedetti. Can’t wait for next episodo. Stay safe.

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