Help me build a post-Trump reading list
November 20, 2016 4:20 PM   Subscribe

After Trump's victory, I feel the need to study, reflect, examine my assumptions about the world, and seek insight and solace. I'm looking for books that will help.

I'm looking for works of political philosophy, history, sociology, economics, or even fiction and sci-fi. I'm interested in empirical, theoretical, and literary analyses of previous periods of cultural / economical / geopolitical upheaval, accounts of how people experienced those times, and how they coped.

Although I want to leave this question somewhat open-ended, right now I'm eyeing "Ill Fares The Land", "The Big Sort", "The Origins of Totalitarianism", and "The Gulag Archipelago" - to give some idea of the kind of books that I'm after.
posted by tempythethird to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
I'm rereading Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I'm typing on my phone so I can't write an overview but check out the link.
posted by catrae at 4:26 PM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've just finished The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and found it an interesting (re)read in the current environment.

It's dystopian vision of the US where a fundamentalist Christian group run the country and women are cast into one of a small number of very defined roles. The story is told from the point of view of a "Handmaid", one of the group of people tasked with bearing the country's children.

I've read it many many times, but the last time was 15 years ago. That many years later, one of the things that particularly struck me about the book is that a great deal of it is about women enforcing the patriarchy. It was an upsetting read in the wake of the election but also somewhat empowering (there's talk of a Fanfare discussion).

It's hard not to see it as bizarrely prophetic (one hopes not!).
posted by prettypretty at 4:54 PM on November 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

I've been thinking a lot about The Story of Jane lately. It's about an underground abortion service that ran in and around Chicago in the years before Roe v. Wade. I read it when it came out in 1997, and it really helped me understand about how crucial the ability to control one's own reproductive destiny is to the liberation and equality of folks with uteri. I think I want to read it again.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 5:09 PM on November 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

A friend recently highly recommended The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt to me. I haven't started reading it yet, but I have it on hold at the library!
posted by twill at 5:51 PM on November 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Hack Education has a syllabus for Educational Technology (and technology in general) Under Trump.
posted by sibilatorix at 6:10 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, Haymarket Books has a Stop Trump Reading List.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:12 PM on November 20, 2016

Not directly relevant to Trumpism, but I've found myself thinking about Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt lately. It has a lot to say about times of upheaval and the question of human moral progress.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:34 PM on November 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

I just came across two lists earlier today: fiction & poetry, nonfiction
posted by neutralmojo at 6:40 PM on November 20, 2016

Here's a 15-week course syllabus assembled by two historians - Trump Syllabus 2.0
posted by naju at 7:02 PM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

This breakdown of the urban-rural dynamic includes quite a few book recommendations, including those I've recommended a hundred times in the last week (The Politics of Resentment), those that are on my to-read list (Hillbilly Elegy), and those that are new to me (Those Who Work, Those Who Don't).
posted by brozek at 7:14 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

The work of Christopher Lasch—who HRC mentioned in an interview earlier this year, actually—has never felt more vital to me than it does now, especially The True and Only Heaven, a somewhat critical look at the history of "progressivism" and "populism" as concepts in American politics. Lasch was a Marxist who in mid-career came to believe that populist impulses, properly understood, were necessary to check the advance of capitalism on American life.

In True and Only Heaven, which was written in 1991 (he died in 1993), he correctly identifies a bunch of weaknesses in the existing order that could be exploited by a right-wing figure like Trump and (importantly for me, at least, right now) offers a prescription for what could overcome it. Reading it this year I sometimes found it difficult to remind myself he wasn't writing it in 2016.
posted by Polycarp at 7:43 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit.

Solnit reminds us of how changed the world has been by the activism of the past five decades.
With Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit makes a radical case for hope as a commitment to act in a world whose future remains uncertain and unknowable. Drawing on her decades of activism and a wide reading of environmental, cultural, and political history, Solnit argued that radicals have a long, neglected history of transformative victories, that the positive consequences of our acts are not always immediately seen, directly knowable, or even measurable, and that pessimism and despair rest on an unwarranted confidence about what is going to happen next.

Originally published in 2004, now with a new foreword and afterword, Solnit’s influential book shines a light into the darkness of our time in an unforgettable new edition.

posted by czytm at 7:57 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have mentioned it a few times on here - The Mandarins (good summary).
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:28 PM on November 20, 2016

The hidden injuries of class by Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb.
posted by umbú at 9:02 PM on November 20, 2016

They Thought They Were Free is a book about Nazi-era individuals on the home front -- it's dated & a bit melodramatic in parts, but it's a secondhand account by someone who lived in Germany immediately after the war, and has several firsthand accounts about the urge to bury your head in the sand.

Hitlers Thirty Days to Power is something I am in the process of rereading -- the very last month before Hitler took control, there were still several opportunities for history to be different.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 9:17 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. More about understanding Trump's popular support than about Trump himself, but enormously valuable.

Synopsis: the cognitive apparatus you use to make decisions about right vs. wrong is evolutionarily older than, and more powerful than, the cognitive apparatus you use for enlightened, rational reasoning. Just as quirks in your visual cognition apparatus can be exploited in optical illusions to make you see things that you know, rationally, to be incorrect, conflicts between your moral intuition and your rational thought process tend to be decided in favor of your moral intuition and rationalized after the fact.

Haidt identifies six different sorts of moral decision-making axes:
care vs. harm;
fairness vs. cheating;
loyalty vs. betrayal;
authority vs. subversion;
sanctity vs. degredation;
liberty vs. oppresssion.

Haidt's primary result is that America's "liberals" tend to make moral decisions by considering mostly the first two axes in the list, while America's "conservatives" tend to weight all six factors equally; this allows conservative politicians to connect with voters in ways which liberals find baffling.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:54 PM on November 20, 2016 [9 favorites]

Brian Eno makes some recommendations.
posted by shibori at 11:22 PM on November 20, 2016

The sci-fi of The Subprimes feels very close at hand. I also think there is something to reading about people who are really different from you-- not looking to confirm what you already know or explain away, but really learn where this is coming from in a human-sized way (would that, uh, both sides would do this). For me, the book that did that was The Good Soldiers.

Also overdue reads now bumped to the top of the list: Between the World and Me and Citizen
posted by athirstforsalt at 11:28 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hurrah for the Blackshirts! is about how Britain nearly - but didn't quite - plunged headlong into fascism between the wars. I'm finding it quite... enlightening.
posted by Catseye at 2:21 AM on November 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Excellent article with books listed (haven't seen anyone else point out that criticism of the police is (largely) class-based, which in retrospect is so obvious).
posted by andrewcooke at 2:55 AM on November 21, 2016

Last and First Men. For similar reasons for the excellent recommendation of the Years of Rice and Salt above - big picture stuff about change and turmoil through over a dozen human species.

But the most lasting agony of this war was suffered, not by the defeated, but by the victors. For when their passion had cooled the Americans could not easily disguise from themselves that they had committed murder. They were not at heart a brutal folk, but rather a kindly. They liked to think of the world as a place of innocent pleasure-seeking, and of themselves as the main purveyors of delight. Yet they had been somehow drawn into this fantastic crime; and henceforth an all-pervading sense of collective guilt warped the American mind. They had ever been vainglorious and intolerant; but now these qualities in them became extravagant even to insanity. Both as individuals and collectively, they became increasingly frightened of criticism, increasingly prone to blame and hate, increasingly self-righteous, increasingly hostile to the critical intelligence, increasingly superstitious.

Thus was this once noble people singled out by the gods to be cursed, and the minister of curses.

posted by plep at 3:13 AM on November 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

I recently read The Origins of Totalitarianism for academic reasons, but it is disturbingly on point for current politics. One thing to note is that there's been a fair amount of pushback on Arendt's account of anti-semitism which comprises the first 3rd of the book as her analysis relies on some sources which are themselves anti-semitic.
posted by nangua at 4:20 AM on November 21, 2016

I've been thinking a lot about Infinite Jest. A third of the book is centered around intercontinental conflict between Canada, Mexico, and the US. All of this involves a former entertainer named Johnny Gentle who is a germaphobe who has been elected president. The entire book is set within this dystopia.
posted by holmesian at 7:30 AM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Peter Pomerantsev's Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible is barely historical - it's a surreal memoir about working in Russian television during the early Putin years - but understanding modern Russia seems more important than ever, and the media landscape there feels like a preview of where we might be heading.
posted by theodolite at 8:33 AM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

A few on my to read list:

-Ratfucked - which is about redistricting/gerrymandering
-Hillbilly Elegy
- the way we never were - American families and the nostalgia trap
-the American way of poverty - how the other half still lives
-under the affluence

A few I've enjoyed/recommended recently:
-the influencing machine (a nonfiction graphic novel about the history of modern media)
-the divide: American injustice in the age of the wealth gap
-freedom is a constant struggle - Furegson, Palestine, and the foundations of a movement
-just mercy - a story of justice and redemption

If you google "black lives matter reading list" or "black lives matter syllabus" you'll find some great recommendations about race in America put together by folks more knowledgable than I am - I've been working off several of those lists for a while. Lots of folks on good reads also publish great boon lists organized by topic.

Also, speaking from personal expirence - just a reminder to allow yourself to enjoy media for pure entertainment from time to time, too. I can get caught up in feeling like I have to READ AND KNOW EVERYTHING and then it starts to feel hopeless.

(Sorry for typos or weird formatting, I'm on mobile)
posted by nuclear_soup at 10:18 AM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd like to second The Handmaid's Tale and honestly most of Margaret Atwood's other work. I also saw a great list recently called 25 Works of Poetry and Fiction for Anger and Action. It features Atwood as well as people like Ursula K. Le Guin, Maya Angelou and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I'm excited to dive in a bit deeper because it looks to be chalk full of stories investigating how individuals wrestle power away from the hegemony.
posted by crossswords at 10:41 AM on November 21, 2016

I'm in the middle of White Trash, Berlin Diary, The Keys to the White House, and The Rise and Fall of American Growth.
On my To-Read list are Hillbilly Elegy, To Make Men Free, and The Politics of Resentment.
posted by ikahime at 11:15 AM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I posted this in the grief and coping thread: 20 SFF reads to get you through the stages of grief. Features (MeFi's own) Scalzi, Rowling, Leckie, Jemisin, Le Guin, Butler, etc.
posted by Pink Frost at 11:31 AM on November 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Resistance, Rebellion, and Death by Albert Camus
The Joke by Milan Kundera
How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed by Slavenka Drakulic
Germans into Nazis by Peter Fritzsche
Also: pretty much anything written by Vaclav Havel

I also came by one or two reading lists designed for this purpose that look like they've also got a pretty good cross section of works to check out. Good luck!
posted by helloimjennsco at 12:46 PM on November 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Look up my question on books for American History, folks here gave some great suggestions. I strongly recommend the Oxford collection, as many suggested; I am currently reading that and it is amazing.
posted by metajim at 1:03 PM on November 21, 2016

I read The Big Sort when it first came out, and it resonated. Since then, however, there have been several studies that claim the hypothesis of the book is simply not true. Somewhere on Metafilter is a comment with a link though I can't find it now.
posted by wittgenstein at 3:59 PM on November 21, 2016

You say you are looking for "insight," so I will assume that includes insight into why people voted for him. In that regard, Strangers in their Own Land looks like it would be useful. I haven't read it myself, although I intend to.
posted by Dolukhanova at 7:57 AM on November 22, 2016

I think Adam Curtis might interest you.

Curtis says that his favourite theme is "power and how it works in society", and his works explore areas of sociology, psychology, philosophy and political history.

BBC: Blog / Filmography
posted by beesbees at 6:22 AM on November 28, 2016

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