So, I haven’t done a great job keeping up with my writing plans for the year, but this falls in line with all of our New Year’s goals generally speaking. That being said, I saved some money and lost 50 pounds, but the writing? It’s killing me.
Although I haven’t kept my reading journal up, I have managed to get through a number of interesting books. The best one I’ve read so far was Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. This book was recommend to me by my brother, but it took me a while to get around to reading it. When I finally did, however, I could hardly stop, and when I finished, I was filled with the overwhelming sense that I need not worry about writing because everything has already been said. Of particular note were the questions of the status and future of science and technology. The path is somewhat ominous, but not without hope of pushing humanity towards a more humane technological future.
After reading this book, I immediately went to Harari’s first book: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. This one was good too, but I find it difficult to keep my mind engaged with the finer details of evolution, and so I was more prone to search for the nuggets of insight in this book. There are lots. Looking at human evolution in terms of revolutions–the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution, the fomenting of religion and politics, and the scientific revolution–Harari challenges the underpinnings of human society from its roots to its current multivalent branches. A masterpiece in the investigation of the underside of ‘normal’, this book is the epitome of interdisciplinary integration.
In no particular order, my reading list since the start of the year has also included the following titles:
Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World by Rutger Bregman. This book has gotten much press since Bregman’s appearance at Davos where he challenged the taxpaying habits (or lack thereof) of the billionaires seeking to improve the world. Taxes are the single best route to broad-scale improvement, he argues. His book elucidates the arguments and potential benefits of a universal basic income in an inspiring, if somewhat rose-colored glasses-like.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman was somewhat dry throughout as he related insights from his long career in cognitive science. What was fascinating, however, is the extent to which we as human have such little control over our decision making. Even though I kind of knew this, the impact of this insight has yet to be grappled with to any real extent, either individually or as a society.
The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau was an absolute blast. In fact, I am thinking of assigning this book to my students. It’s not an incredibly academic text, but the practical wisdom is clear, concise, and entirely actionable. I love to assign books that give ideas to chew on rather than claim to espouse truths about the world. All the things I talk about are in here, and can be contextualized nicely within Interdisciplinary Studies.
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister was a gift from a friend. I read this with rapt attention as I prepared and delivered a talk a the National Organization for Women’s Florida State Conference. My talk was on radical sexuality, or the need to call out what I see as a re-inscription of regressive gender and sexual politics in the potentially revolutionary #MeToo movement. I loved this book even while somewhat disappointed in the dampened radicalness of its timbre.
This works out to be a bit more than one book per month. Perhaps I could up the pace a bit, but this is what’s comfortable. It works out to about an hour of reading a day, but that doesn’t include the journal articles, online articles, etcetera. The trick is to turn my interaction with all of this into a piece of written work that conveys my own insights, but I am finding this so very challenging. I sit in front of the screen with a plan in mind yet a lack of words to execute my thoughts. I don’t know why I am finding this to be such a struggle.
Part of the problem has to do with the act of composition itself. As soon as I beginning to write, I think of where my thoughts are coming from, or the sources to which they’re connected, in other words. This is the same problem I have with writing music. Every time I start to compose I am reminded of another familiar song. I do not feel authentic. Is it simply a lack of confidence? Perhaps, but I think there’s more to it. I think writing is a social thing, and I simply need more interaction with others. Not just through books, but through conversation, the sharing of ideas, and challenges.
What’s next on my reading list? Here’s what I have in mind:
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, by Rebecca Traister
This is all I have for now. Suggestions are very welcome.
I forgot one! The first one I read this year…The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I know this is a classic, but I had never read it. I still don’t really get it, but it’s in the bag. Confession: I do read in a classic sense. Like with a book in my hand or my tablet and Kindle; however, I have discovered a secret. Well, it’s not that much of a secret really, but it’s audiobooks. I workout a fair bit, having lost @50 pounds the past year (did I mention…? 😉 ), and so my workout time has become somewhat sacred. I am using Scribd, an app that has numerous print-ish books and often the corresponding audiobook. I love this option. I typically listen to the audiobook at 1.5 or 2 times the regular speed, and if there’s something I want to re-visit or study more in-depth I turn to the written text. I think I’m paying 9$ a month for my subscription. Worth every penny so far!