Life-changing 2015 Reads
(Not all published in 2015)
Against Chill — Alana Massey: “No chill” was my 2015 motto and it was pretty much all Massey’s fault. (https://medium.com/matter/against-chill-930dfb60a577#.58jiqpqvr)
“In recent years, ‘chill’ has become one of the most desirable qualities in a romantic prospect. But it is a garbage virtue that will destroy the species.”
The Ghost Network — Catie Disabato: Read this in a park in the summer and it was perfect. It drummed up that exuberant joy that I used to feel when I read, before I only read to be relevant, before I only read to have a smart quip to make at a table of editors and writers.
Playing the Whore — Melissa Gira Grant: I read this and just kept saying “holy shit, I didn’t even know …” This incredible piece of journalism was a scales-falling-from-my-eyes awakening.
“A housewife maintains her legitimacy by not seeking a wage, and a hooker breaks with convention by demanding one. They are both diminished and confined by the same system that would keep women dependent on men for survival. And they could free themselves from that system together.”
The Story of My Teeth — Valeria Luiselli: Reading this brilliant book was like being inside a carnival and its ending imploded my skull.
Woman at Point Zero — Nawal El Saadawi: Read this off a tweet from Mona Eltahawy (who gave the most life-changing talk of 2015 at the Brooklyn Book Festival). Best recommendation I can imagine. Disappeared into the book in one sitting, came out crying and angry and hopeful.
SELFIE — Rachel Syme: Most of my year was spent talking about selfies with Rachel. What Rachel produced was colossal, surprising and radical. (https://medium.com/matter/selfie-fe945dcba6b0)
“Nothing destabilizes power more than an individual that knows his or her own worth.”
King Kong Theory — Virginie Despentes: Every line of this book is fire. It’s what inspired almost all of my thoughts and passions in 2015.
The Origin of Capitalism — Ellen Meiksins Wood: The truth is that most of my opinions on culture and economics are sophomoric. There was a possibility, at one time, right after college, I could say something novel and rigorous. Working and maturing into the efficient, mechanical adulthood demanded by an expensive city robs you of most of your intellectual capital. You’re left with talking-point opinions to regurgitate from Twitter and TV, NPR karaoke. 2015 was the year I decided to get smarter. This book was my dive back in.
“What transformed wealth into capital was a transformation of social property relations.”
What is Islam — Shahab Ahmed: Having spent most of my young adulthood studying Jewish and Christian mysticism (and its importance for modern philosophies of mathematics and language), I went into 2015 without knowing anything about Islam. This incredible book completely changed that ignorance, illuminating a new world of metaphysical sophistication and beauty in Islam.
The Rise of the Islamic State — Patrick Cockburn: ISIS and the Western forces that shaped and seeded its extremism are some of the most compelling issues of our time.
Al-Qaeda is an idea rather than an organization and this has long been the case
Part of God’s Plan: How Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar Portray Black Faith — David Turner: I’d previously listed a different, equally excellent Turner piece on Vince Staples but I think this is the piece that rang out for me. This is the some of the best writing about music or grace or America and its all packed into roughly 12 paragraphs. (http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/941-part-of-gods-plan-how-vince-staples-and-kendrick-lamar-portray-black-faith/)
Rap is inherently a nihilistic art form. What else could one expect of music from the disenfranchised that primarily concerns itself with examining a world that doesn’t care about them? Yet the nihilism is curtailed when an artist offers a way out of the pain.