I’ll list here my current reading list. I have to admit it’s not my priority activity these days, prefering music overall. I tend to read essays, not much fiction. I’m also in a strike of eco-related readings right now.
I tend to read several things at the same time, and leave and retake topics as my intest demands. (Dates in arvelie format)
I’m currently reading:
██████____ 60% The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction - Walter Benjamin
██████____ 60% El emperador de todos los males. Una biografía del cáncer - Siddhartha Mukherjee
N: Super interesting book, very well written, about cancer. I got it in the Spanish translation out of convenience. It has proben so far a good example of how medicine has always been more a method, or a practice, than a science itself, even if its based on scientific knowledge (I can feel Feyerabend intensely breathing while saying this, by the way). Anyway, it reads almost alone.
██████____ 50% Degrowth & Strategy - Various Authors
N: After the dissapointment of The Future Is Degrowth, I started this one. I have the paperback edition, but you can read it for free here.
I left it abandoned for a long while, but I took the chance of a long travel to give it a push. Its interest depends on the specific article: some are too vague, others are good but too short, and others are great. I enjoyed the various classifications of political degrowth action better than the discussions about the degrowth movement in general.
01X01 Estrella distante - Roberto Bolaño
N: Breaking my long non-fiction run.
01V12 Historia del poder político en España - José Luis Villacañas
N: It took me about a year to tackle this 600 pages behemoth surveying ~700 years of political history in the iberian peninsula and Spain. What a read. Honestly, I barely remember about 90% of the book: too many names, too much information. It’s still interesting as an eagle’s view of this disorganized little country of ours, its flaws and overall terrible gobernance. I have to admit, it also became more and more interesting as you it the end of it (XIXth century), as you start to recognize modern tendencies and the heritage of political trends. I’m not sure I can recommend it to anyone but the most hardcore of social science enthusiasts, but it was worth reading nevertheless.
01S08 El Eternauta - Héctor Germán Oesterheld & Francisco Solano López
N: I got this as a gift the other day. The first graphic novel in Spanish, a staple of Argentinian culture with a long legacy. It’s a pulp science fiction story, a gripping tale of supervivence and resilience with a great premise. There are some things that are a bit dated: all the interesting characters are men, and the story flows quickly but in constant cliffhanging bumps (it was released periodically over the years), but appart from that it’s pretty much a colossal masterpiece of the medium.
01Q08 The corrosion of Character - Richard Sennet
N: A bit dated, but still a key text on the personal consequences of neoliberal capitalism.
01O10 Cultura ingobernable - Jazmín Beirak
N: Some brief notes here.
01M05 Sin energía - Antonio Turiel
N: I like Turiel. I think there is value to what he’s done over the years, and despite other’s view (see just below for a book basically written with him in mind), I do think he’s a movilizing figure more than a force of fear - he himself emphasizes this aspect at the end of all the various talks he has given. That said, Petrocalipsis is better at lying its core hypothesis - Sin energia is quick to read but not too different from following his twitter feed. It was also clearly written at the verge of the energetic crisis of Europe, with is now temporarily closed, at least until the next demand peak, so the book is more short-sighted. Wouldn’t recommend unless you are already familiar with the rest of the current Spanish ecological debates, nor as a first approximation to Turiel’s influence in peak oil/climate change circles.
01M05 Contra el mito del colapso ecológico - Emilio Santiago Muin
N: Plenty to say about this one in fact. As soon as my notes are clean I’ll post them here.
01M00 Science in a Free Society - Paul Feyerabend
N: A friend lended me this book on philosophy of science, saying it’s highly stimulating and interesting. Very thought-provoking! though I have my grips with it. Notes here
01L06 Trabajo sexual / Contra el trabajo - Morgane Merteuil
N: Short, interesting book. Notes here.
01K12 En esa época - Sergio Bizzio
N: A recommendation by a friend. A short, deeply weird novel about Argentina Zanja de Alsina, a surrealist tidbit of the colonial history of Argentina. Let’s just say, it kickly derails. Saying anything more would be spoiling the book.
01K01 Vivir peor que nuestros padres - Azahara Palomque
N: A short manifesto on grieving a stolen future … or rather, acknowledging that that future was never possible under Bussiness As Usual scenarios. I think I’ve submerged myself quite a bit on the climate change, so I don’t think any of this was new for me. Azahara Palomeque writes quite well though IMHO, so you might enjoy her perspective as a gentle intro to the topic.
Funnily, I was mostly reminded of a good friend’s theater play that played on these topics. I might gift him the book one of these days.
01H13 Crítica de la razón precaria: La vida intelectual ante la obligación de lo extraordinario - Javier López Alós
N: I’m in this book and I don’t like it. It’s a bit less systematic than I usually expect from an essay, and seems focused on the very specific situations of humanities academics, but still, some passages resonate deeply.
01H09 Vida en un clima iliberal - Luis G. Prado
N: Less cohesive than Crepúsculo en Budapest, but still worth reading.
01H07 Crepúsculo en Budapest - Luis G. Prado
N: A very short book on the downfall of hungarian democracy. A fairly good summary of Hungary’s past and present under the geci.
01H01 Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms - Gerard Russell
N: A great account of the richness of religious practices in the Middle East. I loved it. Very nice writing, kind of a personal account of modern and old praticioners from the lens of a british diplomat that somehow must be so sympathethic that he manages to get invited into any house in the Middle East.
Brief notes here.
01F01 Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas - Natasha Dow Schüll
N: Fascinating read, superbly written, and a bit devastating. I’ll try to transcribe my notes around it to the website’s wiki soon.
00Z03 Shape up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters - Ryan Singer
N: A book detailing Basecamp’s methodology of software team managing. It can be read in an afternoon, and it’s also freely available here. The methodology looks interesting - I normally loath SCRUM and the shenanigans that their evangelists propose, so I was curious what other people do instead. The 6-week cycle of core functionalities in small (3 people) autonomous teams looks like a good idea (but no clue how it would integrate with Jira and the like), and overall it’s looks like a very organic way to organize work at the ground. If I get the chance I’ll try to implement something similar and see if it works.
00Y08 The Future Is Degrowth: A Guide to a World Beyond Capitalism - M. Schmelzer, A. Vansintjan, A. Vetter
N: Not a good book, to be honest - it does well in covering the critics to growth, but not nearly enough in dwelving in the fundamental contradictions underlying degrowth movements. Meaning, if you know about degrowth and are more or less convinced on its critiques to growth, you won’t take much from this book - else, I don’t think you’ll be convinced by it. It ends up reciclying lots of common socialist/communist/anarchist talking points, like the idea that a communal project in Catalonia is a meaningful step towards degrowth. Quick notes here, though I note that I didn’t take too much out of it.
00X11 Book of rhymes: The poetics of Hip-hop - Adam Bradley
N: Normally I post some notes on my readings, but I don’t think I can add much on this. I recommend it to anyone wanting to understand rap as a poetic art better - as a non-native English speaker, it’s something I have a hard time paying attention to sometimes, even when I did a literature BA ages ago. The examples and discussions on forms, styles and the culture of rapping are spot-on and easy to understand.
00Q11 How to blow a pipeline: Learning to Fight in a World on Fire - Andreas Malm
N: A manifesto for fossil infrastructure sabotage. Pretty much agree. No die-in has brought this line down, sadly. This book feels like a (rightful) dig against XR’s painfully comfortable methods (and that’s coming from someone who is actively involved in XR and participates in those methods…).
This one is the natural conclussion of the marxist analysis of
Fossil capital is much sharper though, and makes a better case for blowing up a pipeline, but of course comparing a reworked thesis of +600 pages with a three-chapter manifesto that can be read in an afternoon is not fair.
(Also: ban those goddamn private jets)
00Q08 Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming - Andreas Malm
N: A marxist reading on the emergence of industrialism in the UK, emphasizing the relationships between power as energy and power as relathionships of class dominance. Maybe that doesn’t sound very appealing to you, but Andreas Malm is very, very precise and knows what he’s talking about. Much better, if you ask me, than Smil’s Energy and Civilization, because it’s asking and answering questions rather than drowning you in useless data. The last chapter gave me vertigo. Next in the list of climate books: How to blow a pipeline.
As usual, notes compiled here
00O02 Energy and Civilization: A History - Vaclav Smil
N: Long, very factual book on the history of energy, that for sure is - not more. Not sure if the one the world needs, considering the issue of climate change is only mentioned by the end, but if the topic insterests you you’ll have plenty to learn from it, if you are willing to go through its 600 pages. Easy to read, if a tad heavy on numbers. In perspective, the effort of reading isn’t worth it unless you are really really into energy. I’ll be interesting to contrast it with Andreas Malm Fossil Capital, which is in my to-read list. My thoughts and conclussions after reading it can be found here.
00K02 Rusia frente a Ucrania: imperio, pueblos, energía - Carlos Taibo
N: Written before the war started, this makes for a good intro to the recent history of both Russia an Ukraine. The writing style is sometimes convoluted, but the content is good and usually balanced as far as I understand. Plus, the book is not too long.
00J12 Dilla Time - Dan Charnas
N: Some notes here, but they don’t reflect fully my appreciation of this book. It also heavily influenced what I listened to at the same time.
I loved all bits of it, and totally recommend it to anyone remotely interested in Dilla, hip hop, jazz, African-American culture or drumming. It has totally changed the way I listen to some of my favourite artists and made me discover lots of mind-blowing music. It has also given me a great perspective on microtiming/micro-scale changes on rhythm and how they relate to broader (Afro-)american culture. Dila Time is also superbly researched and well written. Can’t recommend enough, in general. In fact, if you can’t to get a copy for any reason and you are reading this, feel free to drop me a mail and I’ll even send you my copy for free (within reasonable posting office costs).
00J02 Innate - Kevin Mitchell
N: Finally finished this one - I had it pending since it came out. I’m feeling very ambivalent about it, mostly for personal reasons. I really like how it’s structured and written, but my PhD has kind of burned most of the interest in the topic of Neuroscience and Genetics by this point. Still, I managed to get interested in most chapters, even if some were hard to power through (particularly the last one, on disorders). It also didn’t really told me anything I wasn’t aware of. Overall I did enjoy the experience of hearing about these topics again, and I am glad I read it, but I think I won’t touch another science-related book in a long time.
00H05 Técnica y tecnología - Adrián Almazán
N: Notes here (in spanish).
N: Reading this took ages. I can see the appeal.
00F06 Colapso - Carlos Taibo
N: Nice intro, but a bit disappointing. Iberia vaciada was more interesting, if also a bit too short. CT tends to write concise books apparently.
00F00 Maus - Art Spiegelman
00B05 Iberia vaciada: Despoblación, decrecimiento, colapso - Carlos Taibo
Energy and Human Ambitions on a Finite Planet- Tom Murphy
N: I really, really didn’t want to start reading YET ANOTHER book on degrowth, but I started skimming over this (freely available here) and found it so good that I ended up wanting to read it entirely. In practice, once I reached the more social bits I got a bit saturated, since I was reading way better texts on that.
It’s a textbook on the physics of energy, basically, but it makes a huge effort to remain accessible. More importantly, the math inside is, in general, fun. I really like the approach to math pedagogy Tom Murphy takes here, making sure to introduce just enough information for the argument’s sake. Each chapter is short enough to be understandable and/or quickly understood, and the concepts are explained plainly. It also includes exercises at the end of each chapter, and, in general, quite thought-provoking ones.
As far as I’ve read, the mitigation chapters are less interesting - they seem to emphatize individual action to reduce energy use. That’s OK, of course, but I wished it mentioned protest somehow. Anyway, I haven’t reached them in the end, that’s just my impression based on very briefly reading the upshoot at the end of the last chapters.
El Profesor A. Dońda - Stanislaw Lem
N: It can be read in an afternoon, yet it’s been sitting in my night table for eons, so I decided to give up on it. A light satirical sci-fi tale that is in general fun but lands the joke about half the time for me (but then, it’s a story about chance, apparently traceable to Lem’s wider framework of thought).
From Bacteria to Bach and back - Daniel Denett
N: this one was actually a re-read. This book always loses me at the point it starts to focus on cultural memes. It’s a nice topic, but I’m not sure I’m sold on the idea, or that it interests me so much - I enjoy much more the evolutionary talk, even when I already know much of it.
Books I’d like to read in the future:
- Free Agents, the new Kevin Mitchell book (I’m genuinely excited about this one!)
- William Ophusl: Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity
- The Growth Dellusion - David Pilling
- Les Collapsologues et leurs ennemis - Bruno Villalba
- Una filosofía del miedo - Bernat Castany
- More science fiction, in general
- We have never been modern - Bruno Latour
- Speculative Everything - A. Dunne, F. Raby
- La muerte del artista - William Deresiewicz
- Quantum Computing Since Democritus - Scott Aaronson
- The Guns of August - Barbara Tuchman
- Zero to founder
- The craft of science writing
- A. H. Louie’s More Than Life Itself
- Decrecimiento: del qué al cómo - Adrián Almazán & Luis González Reyes
- Utopías Hispanas (see index here
- Genji monogatari
- Cultura fósil - Jaime Vindel
- Defending Science - Within Reason. Between Scientism and Cynism
- Climate Leviathan:A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future
- The imperial mode of living - Ulrich Brand, Markus Wissen
- The Lugano Report
- I am a strange loop - Douglas Hofstadter
- The Beauty of Games - Frank Lantz
- The three books of the Comité Invisible
- Naomi Klein’s Doppelganger
- How Life Works: A User’s Guide to the New Biology - Philip Ball