Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Spines for Spine: My Book Plans

As my previous post-election posts have suggested, I'm feeling a little dejected (and a lot angry) right now. I've been in numerous Facebook debates about tone policing and the purpose of protest. Even many of the brilliant pieces of commentary and analysis shared across social media have been overwhelming me to the point of distraction.

I made a vow to spend less time there and more time reading books.

That didn't feel quite concrete enough, so I made a plan. Starting three days ago, I have a three-book rotation. One nonfiction book to make me reflect on the past and its relationship to the present, one fiction book to make me reflect on my values and the risks to them, and one philosophical text to make me think about the future.

As I finish any one of the three, I'm going to replace it with another book that fits the same broad category.

Here's what I've got going on right now:

Past to Present (Nonfiction): Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow

I've already read several pieces on this topic, and I recently watched (and highly recommend) the excellent documentary The 13th around similar issues, but this book is quickly becoming a seminal text on the topic of institutionalized racism and the criminal justice system, so I decided it's high time I dig into it.

It helps that an area activist book club chose it as our first read. I'm hoping to be able to have some smart and difficult conversations with insightful people soon, especially as private prison stocks soared once news got around that Trump was the president-elect. I anticipate this is a fight that will require constant attention.

 Values and Risks (Fiction): Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

I should have read this already. I don't know how I made it through so many American literature classes without it ever being a requirement, and I don't know how I have made it through so much feminist exploration since without picking it up on my own, but here we are. I'm reading it now.

It is a chilling time to read this for the first time, indeed. What should feel like an absolutely absurd dystopian view of the future surrounding women's rights and the politicizing of women's bodies instead feels like echoes of reality.

The Future (Philosophy): Calum Chace's The Economic Singularity

There has been a lot of talk about the "forgotten" working class in America, the people who are hoping their manufacturing and labor industry jobs will be returned to them. We have scapegoated (with varying degrees of accuracy) immigrants, globalization, and increased environmental regulations for taking the bread and butter away from "real" Americans, but we are not really talking about the fact that we're solidly on our way toward a technological revolution that may well make all jobs obsolete. The working class will be hit first, but everything from transportation to interpretation, from being a lawyer to being a nurse is on its way toward automation.

There are plenty of things we need to ask ourselves as this science fiction becomes reality, but one of the concerns is economic: what does the American mantra of "work hard=success" (already inaccurate and used as a tool of oppression) mean when there is no hard work left to do? That's what I'm hoping to think about by reading this book.

So those are my reading plans. I'll share any insights I have along the way, but I also welcome suggestions for what to add to each category as I move through these texts. I also welcome conversations from anyone who is also reading these books right now. 

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