The Argus Reads: November

Compiled by Sam Mathers, News Editor


  1. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

“Psychologists call it ‘learned helplessness’ when a person believes, as I did during my youth, that the choices I made had no effect on the outcomes in my life.”

Why You Should Read It: This is one of the few books that I’ve been assigned to read and have actually enjoyed during my academic career. In his memoir, J.D. Vance guides his readers through the story of how an Appalachian hillbilly becomes a Yale Law graduate. Vance’s novel touches on issues regarding class

PC: Savanah Tillberg

struggle and the poverty cycle in America. Vance introduces his readers to hillbilly culture and throughout the book explains their traditions, beliefs, and relationships. Vance’s book provides a unique perspective into an elusive and often misrepresented demographic of Americans. His book addresses issues such as financial struggle, mental health, addiction, and the implications of middle-class expectations on lower-class families. Hillbilly Elegy is an easy, yet enlightening read that is sure to end up in your favourites pile—if it’s given the chance.

  • Savanah Tillberg, Arts and Culture Editor


  1. M Train, Patti Smith

“As I said good-bye I realized I missed that particular version of me, the one who was feverish, impious. She has flown, that’s for sure.”

Why You Should Read It: I cannot adequately describe the beauty that is Patti Smith’s M Train. A nonlinear collection of memories, dreams, and polariods, it is a work she has described as “a roadmap to [her] life.” The story of Smith’s life is bizarre and filled with happenstance. She writes of the people she has known and admired, both real and fictional, alive and dead. She writes of the places she has been, from her favourite

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table at the Greenwich Village café she frequents, to Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul, and the grave of Sylvia Plath. She writes of loss – her husband, the past, her favourite black coat. Her anecdotes range from her obsession with the detective show The Killing and the kinship she feels with the Sarah Linden, to a mysterious letter she receives that leads to her membership in a secret society honouring the memory of polar scientist, Alfred Wegner.  It is at times hazy and confusing, yet at others, it is sharp and precise. It makes both perfect sense and none at all.

  • Sam Mathers, News Editor


  1. Overcoming Perfectionism, Ann Smith

“If you value learning new things, using your gifts, and being yourself, it is important to practice mindfulness (i.e. staying in the present). When you are in this moment, anything is possible. Say to yourself, it isn’t happening now, and take the next step in the right direction of your dream.”

Why You Should Read It: This book is all about understanding that being a perfectionist, either overt or covert, may limit someone’s ability to enjoy life fully. Smith provides the options of creating balance in life, through the development of an awareness of the qualities that keep many people stressed and unhappy.

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This awareness is meant to help the reader see the beauty in their essential self, which remains beyond all achievement or failure. Smith helps the reader work toward deepening inner peace, while still accomplishing their goals.

  • Jaina Kelly, Staff Writer


  1. People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

“I don’t see her anymore. We don’t even go through the motions. Ozren had been right about one thing: some stories just don’t have happy endings.”

Why You Should Read It: In her novel People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks seamlessly blends historical fiction, drama, and romance. The novel takes the reader on a journey through time and space as the

PC: Sabrina Nordlund

protagonist uncovers a story told by the pages of a book. The book in question is the Sarajevo Haggadah, and the protagonist is a world renown conservator working in Bosnia during the civil war in 1996. In each chapter, Brooks jumps to a different character in a different time period whose life was greatly impacted by the Haggadah. She breaks up the intensity and suspense of the novel with side stories of love and family. Without losing her reader in the complexity of the story, Brooks teaches lessons on history, love, and sacrifice. This book is an excellent one to read over the winter holidays as it will leave you questioning what you know while still appreciating what you have.

  • Sabrina Nordlund, Social Media and Web Coordinator


  1. Remarkable Creatures, Tracy Chevalier

“Your knowledge may be self-taught and come from experience rather than books, but it is no less valuable for that.”

Why You Should Read It: Set in the early 1800s and based on historical people, Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier follows the story of Ms. Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning, who become unlikely friends through their shared passion for fossil hunting on the coast of England. Ms. Philpot is a relatively wealthy woman but is socially outcast for being an unwed spinster as well as for her “unladylike pursuit” of combing the shoreline in search of fossil treasures. Mary, on the other hand, a young girl from a poor family, hunts for fossils to stock her family’s shop and help keep bread on the table. The novel explores class and gender norms, and the struggle to find one’s place in society. This relatively light read still conveys a certain depth to it, as both main characters navigate challenging family and social dynamics that push them to feel more comfortable with the solitary life of fossil hunting than with engagement with the living.

  • Hillary Jones, Contributor