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Summer of Books or How The World Became Spicy

7 min read

by Henry Bookcase

First Annual RabbleRouse News Summer Reading List

Hi, Henry Bookcase here. Recently RabbleRouse asked me if I would put together a summer reading list, and the thought of spending the summer reading sounded too attractive to pass up. But I thought that just a list of books and why I recommend them or a review wasn’t what I wanted to do. Instead, I’d rather invite you on a voyage.

If I were to wish a summer on a friend, new or old, I would want it to include some walks or hikes, cooking with friends, some poetry, some fiction to invite you to explore other worlds, and some ideas to chew on and discuss with friends. Clearly there will be books involved, but as a means to get out in the world, not to retreat from it.

I encourage you to find these books wherever you can, and definitely support your local library! If you choose to acquire them, you may need more shelf space. The practice of building shelves is part of my journey, and if you can use a router, a couple of 6 foot 1X10s and 1/2” plywood, some glue, some 1/4” plywood for the back and some stain and you are good to go.

First book on the trek is Grant Snider’s “I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf,” which I found from his Stray Books Comic, and is included in the book. This is a celebration of the joy of books, and how they take both a physical space in our world and a probably larger space in our hearts. 

I’ll be suggesting some detours as we make our way, and for this book, if you haven’t read Scott McCloud’s fantastic exploration Understanding Comics, that would be a fine pairing. And then read Grant’s Poetry Comics. We’ll visit poetry some more as the journey progresses.

Speaking of the journey, I hope your summer includes some walking or hiking. Frédéric Gros’ A Philosophy Of Walking (the John Howe translation) is our next jumping off point, at least as far as ways to think about walking.

Trail books for Inspiration

I would also recommend getting some trail books for inspiration for different places to go. The ones below are for Los Angeles as I no longer live in The Sprawl, but I’m sure there are local versions wherever you are.

Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing is a great perspective on how to unplug and get out to experience the world, your world. If you only did that and never came back to reading the other books, it would still be a fantastic summer of reading. I’m reminded of a hiking friend who said in the winter we hike in the Santa Monicas, in the early summer we hike in the Angeles, and when it gets too hot in August we go to museums. Take plenty of water and let your friends know where you are going.

Hiking in L.A., everybody hikes in L.A.

“100 Classic Hikes in Southern California…”

And when you get back from your walk, you may be hungry. Or reading this next section may make you hungry.

Possibility Ahead… Summer of Books

I love cookbooks just as much as I love maps. Both point to a possibility ahead, and like walking, cooking with someone you care about always makes the experience better.

I was turned onto Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty when I was asked to pick from a handful of recipes to make for an Easter dinner. I chose the Herb-Stuffed Tomatoes which turned out so well that I went out and found a used copy of the cookbook. The cookbook from Dona Tomas I learned about from a mention by Adam Savage – he also is a fan of Plenty.

I’m looking forward to making the Ensalada De Chayote, Elote, Y Tomates! (Personal note: I have been eating plant-based for a while but I think that limiting your explorations to only vegan cookbooks is a little like always taking the same route to visit friends – you miss the chance to see so much.)

Questlove’s something to foodabout is a favorite such exploration. He writes with a DJ’s perspective, mixing and matching, seeing how things rub up against each other, and making the whole greater than the parts.

So when you go down the YouTube rabbit hole about curry and end up watching an American chef who lives in Bangkok and used to cook in China, and this is on his bookshelf in the videos, it’s natural to want to find out more, right? That’s how I got to Mastering Sauces.

How The World Became Spicy

The Pandemic River of Books

Ok, back to the poetry. At some point as the pandemic river of books washed up on my doorstep, I was reading up about Complexity: The Emerging Science At The Edge Of Order And Chaos by M. Mitchell Waldrop or Melanie Mitchell’s Complexity A Guided Tour 

One of the recommendation algorithms suggested I read Beat Poets. In particular, I think it was Gary Snyder’s The Back Country that caught my attention, but I kind of went down the rabbit hole with some Ferlinghetti (Poetry As Insurgent Art) and Ginsberg (Reality Sandwich), but I keep coming back to Gary. Do you know any of his backstory?

Jarod K. Anderson’s Field Guide to the Haunted Forest is the kind of poetry that makes you want to rip the pages out and give them to your friends. Or if you can afford to, buy a stack of copies and give those to your friends (which benefits the poet as well as nourishing your friend’s souls.) I actually found I had saved a screenshot of one of them on my phone a while back. As Grant Snider shows in Poetry Comics, poems are a way of trying to wrap your arms around the world.

And now, on to some science fiction:

Dangerous Visions And New Worlds from my friends at PM Press is a great guide to Radical Science Fiction 1950-1985 and even if you just enjoy all the wild cover art it’s worth checking out. Ray Nayler’s The Mountain In The Sea lead me to read Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think. It will bend your mind.

Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower and The Truth And Other Stories from Stanislaw Lem are both on my summer reading list. (Full disclosure, I have not completed every single page of every book on this list. Walk alongside me on the journey.

Ah yes. How could I have forgotten to include music in the summer journey. Again, Questlove, this time with a historical look at music, from 1971 – 2021. As with any such exploration, getting someone’s perspective is always personal. What an amazing 50 years we got. Willie Nelson is a storyteller. With a guitar. I’m betting you have heard one or maybe many more of his songs. Glad to know he is still singing the stories.

This Is What It Sounds Like from Susan Rogers is a fantastic perspective from somebody who was part of an incredible time of making music and then went on to school to study the neuroscience behind why it makes us feel the emotions it does. Nolan Gasser is the architect of the Music Genome Project. If you want to get an idea about some of the algorithms behind what Pandora is picking for you, this is a good jumping off point.

And if you are up for mixing cooking and music, check out the playlist from Bryant Terry’s Vegetable Kingdom. A po’boy a long way from home, indeed. Black Keys, John Fahey, or Mississippi John Hurt – you choose.

OK, now into an exploration that not everyone will follow me on.

But the view from the mountaintop will be astounding.

Lorraine Daston’s Rules, A Short History Of What We Live By, followed by H.L.A. Hart’s The Concept of Law. I would suggest a guide on the latter, and that’s Jeffery Kaplan’s YouTube series Philosophy of Law. He’s a professor of philosophy at UNC Greensboro that I stumbled onto looking up stuff about ethics. (He’s writing a book, and if you visit his site, you can sign up to get a free copy HERE.)

John R. Commons Legal Foundations Of Capitalism will also be part of the uphill climb. I’m still working through that. (Side detour for perspective, Jonathan M. Katz’s Gangsters Of Capitalism followed by Adam Hochschild’s American Midnight set the stage for how that plays out, as Legal Foundations Of Capitalism was published in 1924, which leads to the top of this climb.)

Matt Stoller’s Goliath is, I think, a book a lot more people should read than will, but it’s part of the RabbleRouse spirit to put those things out there.

Maybe you should read this as well in The Yale Law Journal.

I think you should also chase down these other books because they will make the world a maybe more interesting place:

The Revolutionary Genius of Plants

The Light Eaters

The Water Seekers

Emergency: Reading the Popol Vuh in a Time of Crisis

How High We Go In The Dark

The Left Hand of Darkness

All of Simon Stalenhag’s books

Time Commences In Xilbalba

The Mushroom At The End of The World

Yes, Henry (Book)Case is a nom de plume. And it’s a final recommendation for you to figure out and enjoy.

*This post contains affiliate links and RabbleRouse News may receive a commission if you visit a link and buy something on our recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and we will only recommend people we trust. All opinions are our own.

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