Political additions to my 2019 book list

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve finished two political books. They are being added to my 2019 book list.

And Yet… (2015) by Christopher Hitchens

COVER_1Published posthumously, this is either the second or third collection of Christopher Hitchens’ essays that I’ve read. I do believe that I found the others more interesting. It’s not that the writing is bad but they often failed to catch my attention. Partly this is because the topics he writes about are often far from those that I am familiar with. On the one hand, that does make reading them good for growing my general knowledge but, on the other, with no framework to fit them into, they fade far more quickly from my mind than other pieces that I have read.

Two of the essays did catch my eye; both written in 2008 and both attacking Hillary Clinton. I don’t think I was paying all that much attention to politics back then but it was interesting how the essays could just as easily have been published far more recently. But I guess a lot feels like it’s just repeating itself these days. This year sees a new Godzilla, a remake of Child’s Play and a new take on Spider Man. That’s not even mentioning Disney’s, completely unnecessary and unwanted, remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King.

There was a third essay that I found particularly interesting. All the way back in 2004, Hitchens wrote about how we should embrace partisan politics and mudslinging and he lamented how big issues were ignored because no one wanted to be controversial. Given the way politics has shifted now, particularly in the US, I couldn’t help wondering whether he would still encourage polarisation.

The Communist Manifesto (1848, translated 1888) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

COVER_2The Communist Manifesto was originally published in German in 1848 before being revised and translated many times but the 1888 translation is, apparently, the standard English version. As it is one of the most influential political works – and very short – I figured I really should read it. On the whole, I found it disappointing.

It’s written in a rather strange manner. I didn’t find most of it to be particularly clear or relevant, especially as it often addresses events and situations which were contemporary over 100 years ago. The overarching theme is still relevant but I didn’t feel that they really made their future desirable. At best I had reserved agreement with some of their points but the way it was all presented was quite off putting.

To me, it was a huge contrast with The Conquest of Bread where Peter Kropotkin outlined his ideas of anarchist communism. While there were certainly some areas that were not completely clear, his message was for more positive and the ideal world that he described seemed far more desirable than that of Marx and Engels.

2019 Book List

A new year means a new set of books. As in 2017 and 2018, I am recording the books that I read; partly for my own record and partly that it might help someone else find a book that sounds interesting.

24/03/2019 Added Black Leopard Red Wolf and The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Started An Atheist Revolution.

06/05/2019 Added In A Dog’s World and The Time He Desires.

27/05/2019 Added And Yet… and The Communist Manifesto.

27/09/2019 Added Dissident Signals and A Plea For The Animals

28/12/2019 Added On Anarchism and Anarchism: A Beginner’s Guide

21 Lessons For The 21st Century (2018) by Yuval Noah Harari

Book1I got this one for Christmas. It’s a collection of essays, written by an Israeli historian, covering various topics, including truth, religion, terrorism, equality, war and education. Nearly all of the essays are interesting and raise many questions worth pondering. It’s a lot shorter on answers than questions but it certainly stimulates the mind.

One of the major topics that bothers him is what will happen when big data/AI and biotech combine. He sees the merger of the fields as likely creating an inequality that can’t easily be overcome. He fears that the wealth concentrated in the hands of a few will allow them to modify their biology to be superior while AI and robots will mean that workers are unnecessary making the masses functionally and politically irrelevant. Aside from that there are many other great essays on important topics, such as how the current rise of nationalism is fundamentally incapable of tackling issues like climate change which affect many and require a widespread, co-ordinated response. Continue reading

New book read: The Conquest of Bread

A new addition to my 2018 book list.

The Conquest of Bread (1892, translation 1926) by Peter Kropotkin

51dfnj8cs7l-_sx331_bo1204203200_Despite some inconsistencies, what I do know is that Peter Kropotkin is the English version of the name of a Russian prince who gave that up to become an anarchist and a communist. His philosophy was detailed in several books, including The Conquest of Bread which was originally published in French in 1892. I believe the English translation which I read (also available on Project Gutenberg) was published in 1926.

The books two main themes are communism – the communal ownership of the means of production, the elimination of class and money and the distribution of goods to fulfil the needs of all members of society – and anarchism – the elimination of all forms of government in favour of equality and free association between people. This bares similarities to the predominant Marxist form of communism but is not exactly the same and nearly every reference to Marxism in the book is in a negative sense. Continue reading

2018 Book List

One reason I can be glad of the two weeks I spent with my family in South Africa is because it gave me some time to catch up on some reading. It was also hot, so I didn’t actually write anything but we’ll forget that. Let’s start the 2018 book list!

12/05/2018 Added The Conquest of Bread

26/05/2018 Added A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

7/07/2018 Added one-and-a-half books

29/07/2018 Added The Fact of Evolution

22/09/2018 Added A Wasteful Death and Straight Men

28/12/2018 Added reWritten and Just For Fun

Thank you, Jeeves (1934) by PG Wodehouse

51xuergtiil-_sx322_bo1204203200_I remember my interest in reading the Jeeves and Wooster stories came from a small extract in one of the English comprehension pieces we did at school. There wasn’t much there but there was something about it that made me curious and I was disappointed when I couldn’t find any copies of the books at the time. Continue reading