the high sierra: a love story (kim stanley robinson)

i’m a fairly recent convert to KSR’s stuff. i’ve loved all of it and this is no exception. this is the first bit of non-fiction i’ve read by him. honestly, i don’t know if he has more. having done a limited amount of hiking in the sierra’s, i was hooked and burned through this a bit faster than i expected to.

a book like this kind of makes you question your life decisions.

notes of a native son (james baldwin)

i bought this on a trip and rediscovered it on the shelf in lanesboro. it’s a quick and very engaging read. there’s a lot of spot on criticism in these essays. gone also are the times where we had smart dudes on TV beating each other up with intellectual arguments.

the spy who came in from the cold (john le carre)

a spy story that ages incredibly well.

desert solitaire (edward abbey)

this dude was a park ranger in the 1960s in arches national park. at times funny, at times surprisingly liberal takes on race relationsions. he doesn’t like his fellow humans. in short, chock full of one dude’s philosophy. i think he had a pretty solid collection of books to read when he was squirreled away in his trailer in the desert.

the swedish art of aging exhuberantly (margareta magnusson)

she seems like a really nice swedish lady with all her wits about her and a penchant for practicality. honestly, a very pleasant read, but not particularly enlightening.

her notion of death cleaning though … yeah, that shit’s gold.

the optimist’s telescope (bina venkataraman)

this could probably have been about 60% shorter. there were so many illustrative anecdotes that bounced all over the place that at times the overall message was lost. it kind of feels like this should have been a long form article of the last chapter with the balance of the book being deep links to all the supporting anecdotes.

notable items:

  • corporations are being led about by the need to hit quarterly earnings targets. (dur… welcome to late stage capitalism) the durable corporations and contrarian investors have a very different view here. to which i say … “where is the contrarian AI that i’ve been promised?!?”
  • we need to be taking into consideration the impacts of our actions on future generations and enshrining this in our institutions. a cogent argument can be made for a UN council to that effect. (a la - ministry for the future)
  • there’s stuff we’re doing now that will clearly have impacts on future generations for thousands if not millions, of years. if you’re optimistic about humanity. we need a different mindset in terms of how to enable this kind of thinking and planning. e.g., the long now project, how to mark nuclear waste sites for future generation, alien visitors, et al.

how to blow up a pipeline (andreas malm)

a quick read. malm meanders about in getting to their point … yes, there needs to be a point at which violence against property likely needs to be undertaken. he appears to be very much in the doer camp here as a member of end gelande. malm is sharply critical (i think deservedly so) of strategic pacifists like bill mckibben. there were several - “oh shit, i need to google that” - diversions through the course of the book. malm did his homework and i learned some really interesting adjacent history here.

notable here for me, were some interesting ramblings thru the history of non-violence and how it’s largely whitewashing (gandhi), riddled with hypocrisy (more gandhi) and where it seemed to be effective (e.g., the civil rights protests of the 60s) it was backstopped by what looked like far more violent engagement on the back side. so, non-violence with the ever looming thread of violence.

the last chapter on avoiding despair could have been lopped off. the jonathon franzen and roy scranton despair apologists probably aren’t compelling to someone who’s plowed through 130-odd pages of disassembling mckibben hand wringing.

having read this during the recent protests in france re: their moving the retirement age back to 64 instead of 62, i’m inclined to think the french are onto something.

oh. no instructions for actually blowing up a pipeline are provided within the book.

red mars (kim stanley robinson)

yeah, still rolling on KSR. this is a pretty epic ride. there’s a lot of world building going on here and you’re only getting

intimations (zadie smith)

picked this up on a trip and cruised through it in a day-ish on the train. this is a fun little collection of essays from the pandemic period on by zadie smith. i’m a bit ashamed to admit that i haven’t really read any of her novels. i keep getting distracted and leaving the book somewhere. but i do love her essay materials.

ending fossil fuels (holly jean buck)

this book goes all over the place. the punchline is that net zero isn’t enough. well, duh. we’ve been pumping so much carbon into the atmosphere and will continue to do so that we’re pretty effectively fucked. this does examine the complementary propositions and the politics of some of this from a variety of angles. much of this needs unpacking.

there was an aside about building political coalitions with the rural areas that bears revisiting.

In Defense of Public Lands: The Case against Privatization and Transfer (steven davis)

i’ve been vaguely aware of the push extractive industries have been making to get their mitts on public lands. while i happen to agree with the author, it kind of feels like a charicature of the privatization advocates has been put forth. but … the more i dig into this, the more dead on it seems.

The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation (cory doctorow)

if you’ve been following cory doctorow for any period of time, this hits on a lot of the same hobby horses. on balance there’s a lot to agree with him here. there’s not much in terms of new ground that’s trod here. this had the vibe of needing to generate some cash as opposed to coming up with some new concepts that get explored deeply.

to be fair, i kind of feel like i should go back and see if i missed something. on the other hand, i’m kind of close to this stuff.

the comfort crisis (michael easter)

it’s been a while since i’ve read something that exploded the subsequent reading list as much as this book. i thought this was a men’s health meets malcom gladwell kind of thing about the first 50 pages in. it got a lot more interesting than that, quickly. with discourses into hunting that were a little on the trivial side of things, he hits on the importance of being outdoors, how we’ve been distancing ourselves from an active life lived outdoors and our societal distancing from death. which includes a hard look at what we need to do in order to be able to live our lives more intentionally. there’s a surprising amount to unpack here.

i’ll likely start with the edward abbey books, they’re quick and fun. there’s some buddhism stuff to sink into here as well. damn.