How was your reading month? Mine was pretty good, featuring a mix of political nonfiction and translated fiction from Germany and Argentina.
The Machinery of Freedom by David D. Friedman
I’m always interested in reading about different political and economic systems—it seems quite important, since the status quo is leading to planetary destruction. Unfortunately, Friedman’s anarcho-capitalist utopia didn’t sound like a society I’d like to live in, but was refreshing to see small-government, free-market libertarianism taken to its logical conclusion.
The Lime Tree by Cesar Aira
This wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it anyway. I thought it was a novel, but it’s actually a “fictional memoir”, so there wasn’t really much of a plot, but there were some beautiful childhood memories and descriptions of life in small-town Argentina just after the fall of Perón. For a more coherent account, see Caroline’s review, which inspired me to read the book in the first place (although clearly I wasn’t paying attention to the part where she says it’s a fictional memoir, not a novel!).
Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights by Molly Smith & Juno Mac
Should we legalise prostitution, regulate it, or further criminalise it? These are questions that get asked a lot, but as this book shows, people rarely ask sex workers themselves. The result is that even well-intentioned legislation often harms sex workers and makes their lives more dangerous. I thought that Revolting Prostitutes would tell me more about the struggle and activism among sex workers, but it was more of an examination of different systems and their pros and cons, coming out on the side of decriminalisation, and this was very interesting to read, especially since the authors are sex workers themselves and write from an often ignored or marginalised perspective.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
This book was so good and so important that I just want to have a box of copies to hand out to people. It really excavates why so many white people baulk at any mention of the “R” word and become defensive, tearful or angry. DiAngelo explains how racism came to be falsely associated only with consciously hateful acts by bad people, so that people who think of themselves as good and liberal react with horror and rejection when confronted with their own racism. DiAngelo shows that racism is a system of power that envelops us all, demonstrating how to accept your own position within that power system and learn to move on from the useless guilt and defensiveness and instead start talking constructively about racism and working to undo its power.
The Lamentations of Zeno by Ilija Trojanow
Given that climate change is the biggest existential threat facing us right now, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been more good climate-change fiction. In fact, sometimes it seems weird to me to be writing about anything else.
So I was happy to discover The Lamentations of Zeno, in which a climate scientist gets tired of measuring the destruction of glaciers and taking tourists to the Antarctic and decides to take matters into his own hands. I didn’t love everything about this book (review to follow), but I can recommend it overall.
Class War Conservatism & Other Essays by Ralph Miliband
Unfortunately, the name Miliband is now mostly associated with the tepid Tory-lite compromises that led to electoral disaster in 2015 and enabled the Conservatives to take the country into Brexit. So it was interesting to read these essays by Ralph Miliband, socialist intellectual and father of Ed and David. They’re mostly from the 1970s and early 1980s, so a lot of the arguments and events are now very dated, but some things, such as the divisive class war being very successfully waged by the rich against the rest of us, are still as relevant as ever.
Quite an eclectic month of reading, and I’d recommend most of these books, but the one that stands out for me is White Fragility. It felt strange to examine and think about whiteness, and that in itself was eye-opening.
For more book bloggers’ month-end roundups, check out the list on Feed Your Fiction Addiction. And let me know your favourite read of the month in the comments below.