Continuing this idea from an earlier post I’m going to keep on posting pictures and short little reviews of the books I read over periods of time. These two photos roughly stretch from about August to December of 2012 and excludes all the various books and articles I’ve been reading for grad school.
In the first photo I’d say my favorite books there are Lukacs’ Lenin, C.L.R. James’ The Black Jacobins and Smash the Church, Smash the State. The first because, as I’ve indicated before I really like Lukacs’ earlier stuff and his insights are amazing. The Black Jacobins is a Marxist classic that is a must read. And the last, being a collection of verbal histories of the early years of the Gay Liberation Front and the Queer movement, is just a fascinating look at the politics and struggles of those times by the people that lived them. Other decent books up there might be Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class, partially because its such a classic, but also there are some interesting insights and caparisons that can be made between the slums of industrializing England in the 19th century and the modern sprawl of ‘third world’ slums in the 21st. The little orange books under Engels is actually Alexandra Kollontai’s autobiography, its rather short and nothing that fantastic. The biggest disappointment of the bunch would have to be Neil Davidson’s How Revolutionary were the Bourgeois Revolutions. This monster of a tome was really not what I had expected or wanted. I had been expected an in-depth history of the so-called Bourgeois Revolutions that got really into the meat of history, politics and dialectics of that age. What I got was more a history of the history, an academic book that charted the history of thought on revolution while presuming that the reader already had substantial knowledge on the actual history of these events. Basically I finished it out of pure perseverance.
For this second photo, I’d say my favorite books would have to be Sex at Dawn, The Bending Cross, Live Working or Die Fighting and maybe The American Road to Capitalism. The first is really quite fantastic, though it does fall into the problem at times of glorifying the “noble savage”, it does illuminate some really interesting insights on human pre-history and our evolution. The idea that we evolved in societies of high level of promiscuity and egalitarian communalism is a very powerful idea. The second one, the Eugene Debs biography, is such a fantastic look at this man’s life, ideas and accomplishments. This is the person that really brought socialism to a mass American audience for the first time. He’s the one who figured out how to speak Socialism in the language of American, if you will. Live Working or Die Fighting has an interesting way of comparing and contrasting modern labor struggles in the rapidly growing working class of the ‘third world’ with the early and celebrated years of the (mostly) European labor movements. The author also has a very non-sectarian way of talking about all these different early labor struggles and organizations that you don’t often see, like his chapter on the Bund for instance. Beyond that there are some decent books in this photo, such as Trotsky’s Marxism and Mountain Justice, but that’s about it.