Here at Flood Media we spend a lot of time reading, buying, lending, borrowing, and talking about books. Given that we have an entire website now where we can write about ANYTHING WE WANT, we thought it was high time to engage in the online version of cornering someone at a party and foisting a copy of your favourite book on them, assuring them that it'll "change your life, honestly, just read it, it's amazing." With that in mind, we asked some of our editors and contributors for the one book they'd recommend reading this year.
Natalie: Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction by Thom Van Dooren
Thom Van Dooren’s (@thomvandooren) beautiful, moving, and confronting account of cross-species entanglements in the Anthropocene explores precarity, loss, and grief through the stories of five different kinds of birds. Van Dooren’s book attempts to address, or to start to address, the gaps in our thinking and feeling around extinction – what it is, what it means, what our responsibilities are in the unfolding mass extinction event – which he describes as a “slow unraveling”, rather than a cataclysm. His book is rich with care and attentiveness but not sentimentality; he includes a brutal and unflinching look at the body counts associated with attempts to conserve particular species, and calls on us to hold ourselves accountable to the choices we make with our actions and inactions. Resisting easy answers, Van Dooren’s work emphasises the importance of thinking through our ecological entanglements and responsibilities through particular proximities – these relations are situated, and the ways in which we are at stake to one another varies across places, times, and scales. Read it and weep – I did.
- The Ends of The World by Déborah Danowski and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro
- Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet edited by Anna Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan and Nils Bubandt
Anni: The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin
The second edition of Corey Robin’s work on the politics and philosophy of the conservative movement is a vital addition to a leftist’s reading list. In this book, which is considerably more linear and coherent as a text than the first edition, Robin outlines his decisive analysis of the reactionary as a figure - both reading with and against conservative writers and thinkers to develop a coherent account of the development of conservative ideology as an explicit reaction to the rise of modernity and the spectre of revolution in the modern age.
In doing so, Robin paints a picture of the reactionary a contradictory figure - who is a crusader for capitalism, but deeply alienated by its cultural product; who is a defender of civilisation but so often an outsider; a stalwart enemy of revolution - but often admires revolutionaries more than the elites of their own societies.
If we want to seriously account for the current global fascist period, and develop a real strategy to confront reactionary forces, we need serious theoretical accounts of conservatism - and Robin’s book is indispensable.
Liam: Instruments for Doing Politics by Marta Harnecker
This is really not so much a book as a little pamphlet of 419 numbered dot points that you can read online for free. Conceived as a didactic text, Instruments for Doing Politics really clearly and methodically outlines a perspective for revolutionary political strategy that avoids narrow electoralism as well as facile insurrectionism - or any form of fetishisation of a particular tactic or strategy. For Harnecker, “the art of politics is precisely the capacity to create a correlation of forces increasingly more favourable to the revolutionary process" and she explores this perspective through a number of different concepts and historical examples. Theoretically influenced by Gramsci and Althusser, Harnecker has also been deeply embedded in the mass struggles in Venezuela and across Latin America, so even though much of what she's saying are generalisations, they have been forged and refined in the concrete struggle against imperialism and capitalism and for a better world.
Shelley: Undoing Border Imperialism by Harsha Walia
Everyone who does grassroots organising needs to read this thicc asf* book because it talks about ways of organising for specific causes that don’t ignore the context/ history/ systems/ place. Specifically it talks about refugees/ anti-colonial migrant justice and frames the whole thing around “No one is illegal, borders are illegal” etc. Also it’s broken up by short poems and stories and is super accessible for non-academics like ME.
*The book is ~metaphorically thicc~ - it’s actually pretty short.
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
- The Origins of Others by Toni Morrison
Joanna: Ten Days That Shook The World by John Reed
I first read this when I was an impressionable teen and fully believed that the world communist revolution was, at most, decades away. Even as a slightly less impressionable adult, it’s still easy (and highly enjoyable) to get swept away in the emotions and romance of the early days of the Russian Revolution, as told firsthand by American journalist John Reed. The quote that’s always stayed with me is from when Reed is on his way back to Petrograd from Tsarskoye, following the collapse of the Provisional Government.
Across the horizon spread the glittering lights of the capital, immeasurably more splendid by night than by day, like a dike of jewels heaped on the barren plain.
The old workman who drove held the wheel in one hand, while with the other he swept the far-gleaming capital in an exultant gesture.
“Mine!” he cried, his face all alight. “All mine now! My Petrograd!”
Nicole: The Socialist Challenge Today: Syriza, Sanders, Corbyn by Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin
There is something really powerful about being able to envisage a path from where we are now to socialism. This book can help you do just that.
I heard Leo Panitch on Novara Media’s All the Best podcast earlier this year. He spoke about the necessity of the Left engaging with, and working to transform, the state if it ever hopes to truly challenge the power of global capital. He was speaking to core issues of the Left that I find myself mulling over almost too often. Panitch, with Gindin, expands on these ideas in The Socialist Challenge Today. Critically analysing Syriza, Sanders and Corbyn, this book grapples with the challenges facing the Left today, explores its recent failings and maps out a path to democratic socialism. A real must read for anyone who wishes to organise for large-scale structural change in a globalised world largely controlled by capital.
A final note: You might have noticed that none of the links we've provided here were from Amazon. While there's certainly no ethical consumption under capitalism, Amazon workers have recently been on strike, and we'd encourage you not to cross that virtual picket line if you can help it. Lord knows there are lots of other places to buy books on the internet (our bank statements will attest to it) so go forth and accumulate!