catch and kill, by ronan farrow

“Is this the way the world works?” she wondered. “That men get away with this?”

o happy day

A lazy morning in bed with cups of tea and books and Alice cat, followed by Rebels Within and lattes at Craftsman & Wolves. (Two dogs came in: “Wolves! Truth in advertising.”)

To the house, where Jeremy expressed glee over the extremely solarpunk radiant floor and hot water heating system, while I sat on the stairs daydreaming, only for our starchitect Bonnie to show up unexpectedly for a look around. We all agreed that it is turning out to be a very cute house indeed.

To the barn, for a lazy amble on Bentley. Freya my war mare has a new family, and family photos were being taken in the golden hour. Freya, fat and happy, was striking warlike poses. “This is my person. This is my dog.” God bless the war mares and starchitects and wolves and craftsmen and rebels, every one.

an annotated bibliography of the inside of my head

You know those books that you can’t stop thinking about, won’t shut up about, and wish everyone around you would read? The ones that, if taken in aggregate, would tell people more about you than your resume?” Yeah, I do. Here are some of mine. (I’m going with the obscure ones. If you haven’t already read Dark Emu and The Body Keeps the Score, go, do.)

Nuclear Rites (1996) – Hugh Gusterson embedded himself as an anthropologist at Lawrence Livermore National Labs. He talks about bomb tests as rites of passage for the weapons scientists, and I find myself thinking about this whenever I think about douchebag VCs investing in horrorshows like Uber. A Cold War kid, I saw The Day After on TV and followed the news trickling out of the Chernobyl disaster. I couldn’t conceive of why anyone would build such fucking appalling weapons. This book helped me understand, at least a little.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (1998) – I constantly quote Michael Frayn’s “In a good play, everyone is right.” This is a book-length version of the same idea. Her doctors had one framework for understanding Lia Lee’s epilepsy, and her Hmong family had another. However kind and well-intentioned Westerners think we are, when we tacitly assume the superiority of our version of the truth, children die.

Depression: A Public Feeling (2000) – This book introduced me to “political depression”, the idea that anxiety and grief are a wholly reasonable reaction to the destructive and hypercompetitive economies in which we are forced to live. The first chapters are a poetic memoir of one of the author’s depressive episodes, and I find myself reading them over and over. I’ll always be grateful that Ann Cvetkovich gave me a way of thinking about my relationship with my landscape of origin as a settler seeking to right the wrongs of the past.

The Language of Blood (2003) – A wrenching memoir that changed the way I think about transracial adoption and motherhood. If you like it, see also All You Can Ever Know.

Mother Nature (2005) – An anthropologist and primatologist considers the evidence for how best to raise children. A book of radical kindness. If you like it, see also A Primate’s Memoir.

Postwar (2006) I’ve called this the missing manual for Generation X. It provides the context for the political climate in which we were born – the fading of the postwar consensus and peace dividend, setting the stage for the attack on social institutions by Thatcher and Reagan, and the collapse of the social contract that brought us to where we are. You’re not going to like this book, exactly. It’s hard work and heartbreaking. Judt died before seeing his worst fears fulfilled, but if you want more, his student Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands is basically the prequel.

This House of Grief (2014) – Another dumb joke of mine is that Mad Max: Fury Road is a keenly observed documentary of my childhood. This book is, however, a keenly observed documentary of the middle-class Australia in which I grew up, its lonely and angry men, its frightened and angry women, and the horrors it inflicts on its children. In some ways it’s the distillation of everything I’ve talked about here: the slaughterhouse of empire, and ways in which it drains our private lives of meaning.

Horses in Company (2017) – Lucy Rees, who wrote some of my favorite pony books when I was a child, has spent the intervening thirty years catching up on new science around equine ethology. Much as alpha wolves and cocaine-addicted rats illustrate the stress of being an experimental subject rather than authentic wild animal behavior, the received wisdom about dominant and submissive horses reflects domestic animals under resource constraint. Rees argues that wild horses, who can eat the grass beneath their feet, live in the real-world version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and that in this state of nature they’re feminist matriarchal gestalt entities. I jest, but only a little. If we could take violence out of the way we interact with animals and children, maybe we could take it out of the way we interact with one another.

the voice that thunders, by alan garner

When the British were deprived of their American Colonies, they were at a loss for a gulag in which to dump their political dissidents, especially the Irish, their petty thieves and social inadequates. Australia was a godsend, better even than America. It was as good as the other side of the moon.

heron’s head in the storm

The Bay doesn’t always remind you that it’s saltwater, but today there was surf.

If you looked into the wind…

…you’d get sideways raindrops in your eyes.

It was glorious.

the horse, by wendy williams

…horses form intimate social bonds, just as elephants do. With horses, though, those bonds, while strong, are also quite fluid. As with humans, friendships come and go…

maybe you should talk to someone, by lori gottlieb

Many patients secretly wish to be their therapist’s only patient. Or, at least, the favorite—the funniest, most entertaining and, above all, most beloved.

to be taught, if fortunate, by becky chambers

You wonder if you’re a bad daughter, a bad friend, a selfish asshole placing her own intellectual wankery above the living, breathing people who poured everything they could possibly give into her, and were rewarded with the sight of her walking away forever. You never answer that question, and you never will. You strap into your rocket ship anyway. Somehow, you leave.

speedboat, by renata adler

The whole magic of a plot requires that somebody be impeded from getting something over with.

wayward son, by rainbow rowell

I’m not sure I’ve ever been this drained. It takes so much magic to stay alive in America.

braiding sweetgrass, by robin wall kimmerer

From the very beginning of the world, the other species were a lifeboat for the people. Now, we must be theirs.

insurgent empire, by priyamvada gopal

Common ground, even shared human feeling, is not a given, but is arrived at through imaginative work.

the cruel prince, by holly black

I think of the future I thought I was going to have and the one yawning in front of me like a chasm.

lady in the lake, by laura lippman

That’s basically the story of every woman’s life, right? You become your mother or you don’t. Of course, every woman says she doesn’t want to be her mother, but that’s foolish. For a lot of women, becoming their mothers simply means growing up, taking on responsibility, acting like an adult is supposed to act.

the australian ugliness, by robin boyd

The trouble is a deep unawareness, and a wish to remain unaware, of the experience of living here, now.

lost children archive, by valeria luiselli

Something changed in the world. Not too long ago, it changed, and we know it. We don’t know how to explain it yet, but I think we all can feel it, somewhere deep in our gut or in our brain circuits. We feel time differently. No one has quite been able to capture what is happening or say why.

command and control, by eric schlosser

“The computerization of society,” the technology writer Frank Rose later observed, was essentially a “side effect of the computerization of war.”

ancestral medicine, by daniel foor

If you find yourself drawn toward the tendency to help or “do something,” you might instead work to increase your capacity to sit with others’ suffering

atomic accidents, by jim mahaffey

It seems unfortunate, but nothing was learned from the Chernobyl disaster.

chernobyl, by serhii plokhy

even today we do not know which of the strategies the Soviets tried and the technical solutions they implemented actually worked. Could some of them have made things worse?