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My Favourite Summer Reads

This summer I was able to read a lot. This was partially due to the fact that my daughter became really good at playing at parks by herself and with other kids, leaving me to sit at picnic tables and read whatever book I brought along. Here are some (not all) of the things that I read and enjoyed from June to August.

1. After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux. This book had been sitting on my back-burner for a while. I bought it over a year ago but wasn't able to get to it until the beginning of the summer break. I was expecting something that, like so much French philosophy, would be unnecessarily turgid and sacrifice precision/rigour for obscurantism. But Meillassoux was pleasantly surprising: the book was focused, rigorous, and clear for anyone who is familiar with the philosophical canon. His argument against correlationism and for philosophical realism demonstrated a deep knowledge of both the analytical and continental traditions. I'm not sure whether or not I agree with all of his claims but I enjoyed his defense of vulgar materialism. A month later I read his Science Fiction and Extro-Science Fiction and was less impressed.

2. Joining Empire by Jerome Klassen. Another back-burner book that I finally read and was definitely not disappointed. It's a mystery to me why some Canadian political economists hold onto a left nationalist or dependency theory of the Canadian economy when it should be clear to anyone who has ever been an activist that Canada is an imperialist nation. Klassen puts every claim that Canada isn't imperialist into a big fucking garbage can, sets it ablaze, and lets us witness the stench of this burning pile of garbage analysis. If you already agreed that Canada was an imperialist nation in its own right (and not simply and adjunct to the US) then this book gives you empirical justification for the belief, if you didn't then this book will have changed your mind, and if you still don't then you're just living in denial.

3. Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher. A surprisingly short but punchy little treatise on the ways in which the capitalist end of history discourse conditions our apprehension of reality. I was expecting it to be much larger than 88 pages but liked the fact that Zer0 was willing to publish short-form analysis. While I have serious problems with Fisher's use of "Stalinism" as a concept (it's not a very good concept because it means multiple things at once and Fisher just uses it as a lazy device) I still appreciated his attempt to think through the ways in which we are conditioned to accept the strictures of capitalism as the limits of the real. Great meditation on the ideology produced by capitalist triumphalism.

4. Multiple short stories by Benjanun Sriduangkaew. Read a lot of fiction this summer but Sriduangkaew is the only author I feel that's worth noting in this post. Her last story of 2016, The Prince Who Gave Up Her Empire, was most probably her best story so far and I long to read her first novel. I wrote about her work recently on my other blog so I won't say much more except to note that I also ended up using her Under She Who Devours Suns as an analogical device for an article about my upcoming book.

5. Gramsci's Historicism by Esteve Morera. Already mentioned it here, so won't bother explaining in detail aside from saying that I liked it so much I'm currently ploughing through his recent Gramsci, Materialism, and Philosophy.

6. Revolution, Yes! Right Liquidationism, No! by Yogendra Dhakal. Although I just reviewed this book in the last post, I want to mention this book again. Not because I agreed entirely with the author's critique of the failed revolution in Nepal (often I felt like he was giving the wrong answers to the right questions, or even vice versa) but because there is very little published by critical insiders in the terminated Nepal PW and I think it is important to give these marginal voices a space––particularly when it concerns a revolution that fell from such great heights.

7. In The Dust of this Planet by Eugene Thacker. I liked the concept of "the horror of philosophy" more than the book itself, though I enjoyed the experience. I also enjoyed the fact that its title and cover were used by Jay-Z's costume designer in a video and, because of this signal boost, Glen Beck went on a [as usual uninformed] rant about the supposed "nihilism" of the left due to a book he clearly hadn't read. Parts of Dust reminded me of the things I liked in Ray Brassier's Nihil Unbound and other parts resonated with Meillassoux I'd read earlier. While it was not a book I think was truly great, I appreciated a number of the things Thacker was trying to do (not that I was in agreement with these things) as well as Zer0's willingness to publish these kinds of books.

As I noted above, between June and August I read much more than the books and stories I've listed but these were the ones that impressed me the most.