Books

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% Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas - Natasha Dow Schüll
N: Fascinating read, superbly written. Compilating lots of notes on thisn that will eventually end up here.

██████____ 50% El Profesor A. Dońda - Stanislaw Lem
N: Short story - can be read in an afternoon, yet somehow it’s been in my to-finish list for some weeks already for some reason (a bit dated, maybe?). 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).

██________ 20% 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, specially the sections on the

__________ 5% Degrowth & Strategy - Various Authors

N: After the dissapointment of The Future Is Degrowth, I started this one. So far it’s already more useful, I’d say, as it acknowledges most of the blind spots the other one had (but it’s too early to tell). I have the paperback edition, but you can read it for free here.
I’m taking my time with this one, given how long and heavy it is, and how saturated I got on the topic these last months.

I’ve read:

2022

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. 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).

00F12 Dune
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

I’ve abandoned:

2023

██████____ 60% 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.

2022

From Bacteria to Bach and back - Daniel Denett
Abandoned at: ███████___ ~80%
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: