March Books: Stefan Zweig, how to clean your house, and some PhD stuff

I got some reading done this month! (Three of those books are admittedly context reading for my thesis, but I’m counting them because I read them cover to cover.) It’s super motivating to see that stack of books! Sometimes I need to force myself to sit down and just read for a couple of minutes, even though my mind is rattling down this laundry list of stuff I still need to do, so it’s good to have some sort of visual affirmation.

6) Seeing Like A State, James C. Scott

This book was recommended to me by a fellow PhD student after hearing my thesis presentation, and it was just such a valuable addition to the theoretical backing of my thesis. James C. Scott analyzes large-scale plans by different states to modernize and organize supposedly “backwards” communities in regards to agriculture and city living, and how these plans from above inevitably clashed with historically grown communities and traditional methods of farming, often with devastating consequences. While these plans often originate from a vision of bettering humanity, it was fascinating to see how they mostly ended up methods to better control people.

7) Sternstunden der Menschheit (Decisive Moments in History), Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig is one of my favourite authors. I love and treasure The World of Yesterday. It documents the end of the Habsburg monarchy, but at the same time it’s a deeply personal tale about losing the world you grew up in. Zweig also wrote a lot of historical biographies. This book is a collection of historical miniatures about moments in time where the choice of one person altered the course of history. As a historian, it was sometimes a bit hard to read these literary retellings and not go “uh, citation please” or “you might wanna tone down the flowery language, buddy”, but I admit I was captivated by some of these miniatures. For example, Cicero’s last stand and eventual failure in the fight for the Roman Republic was gripping and, honestly, heartwrenching. Zweig has this undisputable talent to give these distant historical figures their humanity back. That said, the story of Claude Joseph Rouget, the composer of the Marseillaise who turned into an anti-revolutionary, especially tickled my fancy. I just love the irony in that.

8) Andy Warhol, Stefana Sabin

This was one of Phil’s books I hadn’t read yet. I picked it up when I needed something to read for a short train ride, and figured this brief overview of Warhol’s life would do the trick. And brief it is. It ticks off all important stages of Warhol’s life, but I didn’t feel like it gave me any special insight into his mind (and that’s what makes an biography fascinating!). Then again, I must admit I don’t particularly care for Warhol, or his art.

9) Kolonialismus. Geschichte, Formen, Folgen (Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview), Jürgen Osterhammel/Jan C. Jansen

My thesis is about the Banat, a South-Eastern European region the Habsburgs acquired at the beginning of the 18th century, and their large-scale plans to install power and reform agriculture there. I’ve been thinking a lot lately if this was a form of colonialism, and looked for a book the closely define that term for me. It gave me some ideas for my argument, but I think I’ll have to do some further readings to develop my thoughts.

10) Unfuck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess, Rachel Hoffman

While I’ve been living on my own since I was 20, this is the first time I had a (somewhat) bigger space to keep orderly and clean. I honestly struggle with it, and how to fit running a household between writing my thesis, working at the after school care center, and my beginning involvement in community politics. It’s a work in progress. 😉 Meanwhile, I’ve adopted her 20/10 method, which works well so far, and decided to stop stressing myself when the apartment’s still messy in the evening.

11) Dan hier ist beser zu leben als in dem schwaben land. Vom deutschen Südwesten in das Banat und nach Siebenbürgen, Annemarie Röder

Another book for my thesis, an exhibition catalogue with a collection of essays (of varying quality), that I’ve had for a while but never read cover to cover.

12) Über das Glück, Hermann Hesse

I had a Hesse phase as a teenager, but when reading this book these days all I could think was how holier-than-thou and sanctimonious he was. This book is a collection of essays, poems and quotes by Hesse about the topic of happiness, and it wasn’t my cup of tea.

13) Das kleine Sabotage-Handbuch von 1944: Die besten Tricks des amerikanischen Geheimdienstes im Kampf gegen Hitler (The Simple Sabotage Field Manual), US Office of Strategic Services

This is a short manuscript published my the United States secret service in 1944 on how to subtly sabotage the Nazis as a run-of-the-mill citizen. I couldn’t help but chuckle about the passages on sabotaging bureaucracy (call a lot of meetings and promote stupid people!) because that’s basically how it’s still run today, right?

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