Over the past few months I have read quite a bit. I guess I’m always in the process of reading at least 4 or 5 books, and depending on the seasonal work I’m engaged with, more or less.
I am in the process of teaching/designing 6 new classes (Introduction to Sociology, Contemporary Social Problems, Social Movements, Criminology, Social Change, Reflective Practice in Conflict Analysis), so while I am highlighting some texts below, I am also rapidly reviewing desk copies of an additional 10 books for these courses. To be honest, I haven’t been too impressed with the books I have surveyed (outside of the 3 included in the list below), but I do love the opportunity to see what’s out there.
So without further delay, here are a few titles which I burned my way through and which I am integrating into my courses over the next few weeks.
This book, I Saw Fire: Reflections on Riots, Revolt and the Black Bloc by Doug Gilbert, is amazing. I read it while I traveled in Spain, and finished it in under a week’s worth of train rides, sitting in the sun and stollen moments. Written from a first person perspective, Gilbert shares hard fought lessons about movement strategy, tactics and ideology through powerful prose and engaged analysis. Get this book!
This two smaller pamphlet-sized books were also part of the group of titles I could not put down. While I sped through On the Run quite quickly, I spent a very leisurely tour through Incognito: Experiences that Defy Identification, my favorite Little Black Cart title of the last order. Incognito, like GIlbert’s book, is written in a captivating personalized voice–individuals speaking of their own struggles via their own positionalities. This makes the various voices that make up Incognito to present as distinct, diverse and at the same time, very well curated. I loved reading Incognito while on the road as it provides textured accounts of clandestine transport, so I highly suggest it as a fantastic read to accompany a bus, train, car or boat ride wherever the road, sea or air may take you.
The writings of anarchist urban guerrilla Gabriel Pombo Da Silva is collected here in 13 little segments, including parts of his longer work, “Diaries and Thoughts of a Delinquent”. For those unfamiliar with Silva…get that sorted out quick, as his personal story is only eclipsed by his writing. His text is punchy, short, to the point, and like the previous authors, mixes in a bit of personal autobiography with his theory. An amazing mix.
This was a surprisingly good text that I am using in part for my Reflective Practice course. The chapter dealing with ‘memory work’ is very clearly laid out, and if you’re looking for a primer on methodological design and implementation focused on social change research, this is a good option. I have the last chapter to finish but I have learned a few approaches from this text, and it served as a refresher on a few I’m already using.
This is Orwell’s classic account of this time fighting with the Republican militias of revolutionary Spain during the 1930s Civil War. While I have read it in the past, I decided to revisit it after spending some time in western, central and southern Spain. Like all Orwell he chooses his words carefully, doesn’t waste the readers’ time, and tells stories like the best of them.
Though, I’m only about half way through this book, Political Sociology: Oppression, Resistance and the State, I have already decided to assign it as a mandatory read for my upcoming Social Change class. This is a great sociological text with obviously strong anti-authoritarian (i.e. anarchist) and critical theory influences. It is perfect for teaching about power and authority and the wasteland of representational politics.
This is another book I was evaluating for a course text, and while I have not decided to adopt it, it is still a great collection and I would highly suggest it. The chapters cover some key issues in the study of social movements, and are compressed enough for even the most attention deficit undergrad. I hope to use this book in a forthcoming Social Movements class, but for now it will wait on the bench.