So let me explain. It has become a sort of tradition and practice of mine to post pictures of my accumulated reading accomplishments over a period of time to facebook. This came out of what I refer to my “10 months of unemployment hell” period in my life. After graduating from college in the worse recession in 80 years I was mostly unemployed and stuck at home for a while. I felt depressed, alienated and totally worthless. So as a means to gain some sense of meaning in my time, I started reading heavily and posting these pictures to make myself feel more productive and such. I continued doing it even after I moved South and found a job. The funny thing is that past a certain point this actually become a convenient way to keep track of what I have read and when. So I’m posting these pictures – which cover my reading from about the Summer of 2010 to the Summer of 2012 – to use them as a recommendation source for the favorite books I’ve read during these past 2 years. Now this isn’t saying anything negative against those that I specifically don’t mention, I’m just listing my absolute favorites.
So starting with picture 1, the big choice is obviously Capital, Vol 1 by Marx. If you’re a radical and you haven’t read this yet then get off your ass. Its certainly a hard read, I worked on it off and on for 6 months, but its needed. There is so much in there to unpack and think about. Also Ecology and Socialism by Chris Williams. Fantastic introduction to the subject of eco-socialism and anti-capitalist environmentalism. Most of the other books were solid as well like The Eighteenth Brumaire and Permanent Revolution, but I think that’s good for honorable mentions.
For picture 2 the main event is without a doubt Marx’s Ecology by Foster. If Ecology and Socialism is a great appetizer to environmental socialism, then this book is really the main course. Its fantastic, one of my favorite books, and you learn so much about materialism and dialectics in the process. There is plenty of reasons to hate Stalinism, loads really, but if you want one more read The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution. By the end of reading this history of the 1927 Chinese revolution, my copy had primarily expletives written in the margins (I write notes in my books) against the idiocy of the Stalinists. Still great read. Who doesn’t love stories about women kicking fascist ass, I know I do, Partisanas, what more do you want to hear. Also The Wretched of the Earth and both Shawn’s and Roy’s books of essays are worthy of mention.
Zombie Capitalism, the last book by Chris Harman, is probably one of the best books of the economic crisis and Marxists economics out there. Its not the easiest read for people new to the subject, but its certainly comprehensive. Detroit: I Do Mind Dying is an American radical classic, up there with Teamsters Rebellion on the history of the American labor movement and The Autobiography of Malcolm X on the history of Black emancipation. The ABC of Communism is really interesting. It’s kind of a snapshot of the mindset of the Bolsheviks at that moment in time (1922) right before things really started to go to shit. Its also interesting in the way that this book was the Comintern’s version of like our The Meaning of Marxism, an all purpose introduction to your politics.
For 4, there’s really no books I wouldn’t recommend for one reason or another. Philosophical Arabesques by Bukharin is such a fascinating while heart wrenching read. Its so hopeful while being written by a guy waiting for execution. The German Revolution is a monster, but this is an amazing case study in the twists and turns in revolutionary strategy. The Palestine Communist Party is an interesting history of the failure to form a Jewish/Palestinian party in the time period before Nakba. And on a side note, I need to start reading more Kautsky.
Trotsky’s My Life was the first autobiography I’ve read since Malcolm X’s back in high school, and it started me on this autobiography kick for while. The History of American Trotskyism by Canon is a fascinating picture into basically how you build a revolutionary party from scratch. Who doesn’t love John Brown, if you don’t you’re on the wrong blog because he’s a personal hero. Old Man is great little biography/history of the man and his heroic attempt to free the slaves, by any means necessary as it were. Alexandra Kollontai is such a fascinating figure, a woman advocating free-love, female empowerment, woman’s liberation and feminism about 60 years before it was cool. Too bad she become a Stalinist though.
Marxism and Freedom is a book on a subject very close to me. I’ve been thinking and preparing to write something on Socialism and Freedom for sometime. In truth, this book is more of a summary of the authors views on Marxism and Marxist history in general, but still worth a read. One of the points I’m always trying to get to people is that you need to ground radical ideas into people’s experiences. You need to say Socialism while speaking American. Eugene Debs knew how to do that better then anyone, so if you want to learn how to make amazing speeches, read Eugene V. Debs Speaks. The history Communists in Harlem during the Depression is a living manual on how to build anti-racist, class struggle across race lines and how to be a truly anti-racist organization. It also has some points of inspiration for some pretty innovative tactics. But it is also again a testament to the failures of Stalinism.
To be blunt, I prefer Hammer and Hoe to Communists in Harlem. The later is great an all, but there is more of a focus on the Popular Front period where the CPUSA was cozying up to liberals and intellectuals. In the former the CPUSA is in freakin Alabama organizing amongst share-croppers in incredibly adverse conditions. Its just a little more bad ass. The issues of Cuba have never really interested me, but I found Samuel Foster’s Cuba Since the Revolution a good introduction to the issue from a critical, yet still left perspective.
More autobiographies! The Rebel Girl by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Memoirs of a Revolutionary by Victor Serge are both fantastic and worthy reads. Serge especially gives an interesting loyal critical view of the Bolsheviks that its worthy of consideration. Much has been written about The New Jim Crow, if there is any book out there now that’s going to spark a new civil rights movement, its this one. If Marx’s Ecology is the book for Marxist materialism, then The Algebra of Revolution is the book for Marxist dialectics. The neo-malthusians like Derrick Jenson are everywhere these days in the environmental movement, and books like Too Many People? are whats needed to properly combat them. Honorable mention also goes to the Hal Draper collection of essays and History of Class Consciousness by Lukacs.
In the future I think I’ll keep up this method. Post a picture of my reading accomplishments for a given period and do a short review. That way I can do a more thorough explanation thoughts on these books instead of here where its just a quick overview.