Tommy’s top 5 essential readings for a livable future

By Livable Futures Co-Director, professor Thomas S. Davis

1. Against Purity

By Alexis Shotwell, University of Minnesota Press

This is a phenomenal book that both critiques purity in its multiple forms—bodily, political, aspirational—and offers other ethical modes that begin with and deepen our entanglements. What I appreciate most about this book is its argument that lifestyle choices around ethical eating, energy use, and consumption are not only acts of liberal depoliticization, but are fundamentally de-collectivizing.

2. Ecosocialism

By Michael Löwy, Haymarket Books

The scale of the climate crisis is not something we can solve remotely through individual choices; a capitalist energy transition will not be a just energy transition. So how do we imagine democratic and just climate futures? I’ve been especially interested in new thinking from the left that advocates for a decarbonization of our energy system that prioritizes democratic control, the decommodification of energy, and decolonization. Other good reads in this space include “Ecosocialism or Bust” by Thea Riofrancos, Robert Shaw, and Will Speck, and “Five Principles of a Socialist Climate Politics” by Matthew Huber.

3. Cruel Fiction

By Wendy Trevino, Commune Editions

Trevino and the other writers publishing with Commune Editions are redefining the formal and conceptual possibilities of what was once called “committed art.” Uncompromisingly political, this batch of poems exposes the material, visceral hellscapes of detention camp, winds its way through the complexities of popular culture, and gives us “Revolutionary Letter,” which has become my morning affirmation.

4. Borne

By Jeff VanderMeer, MCD Books

A flying bear. A blue fox. A sea anemone/squid/pulsing glowing piece of biotech. A contaminated, post-apocalyptic world where the human species is defeated and will most certainly not inherit any future. Even in this decidedly unlivable future, VanderMeer asks us to think about how we form attachments, why we need them, and why survival might mean letting go of humanist concepts of intimacy and futurity. No one is writing fiction like VanderMeer and VanderMeer has never written a book as stunning as Borne.

5. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

By Ross Gay, University of Pittsburgh Press

Ross Gay threads together everydayness, the minor wonders of the natural world, and social and political pressures. But his poetry also exudes joy; it revels in pleasures large and small. This is the first book of poetry that I read cover to cover in many years. I have read from it at least once a week since buying it in April 2018.