As we move further into the summer, it's time to move deeper into your reading. In this list we've paired books that should sit side-by-side on your bookshelves. Reading them together will deepen your understanding of a particular idea or concept, enhancing your reading experience.
Read Vivek Chibber's extraordinary book on the dynamics and politics of capitalism alongside Isabelle Garo's powerful analysis of Marx's political thought and communist strategies.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s endorsement of Samuel Stein’s study of gentrification and real estate says it all: “Capital City places gentrification in a structurally extensive and intensive urban geography of dispossession. All who struggle for the right to the city should read this book, and realize afresh how capitalism saving capitalism from capitalism must provoke our political imagination.” But what is any understanding of urban geography and cities without Henri Lefebvre? Christian Schmid's study of Lefebvre’s theory of space and of the urban is the perfect theoretical companion to Stein’s work.
As we rebuild our lives in the wake of Covid-19 and face the challenges of ecological disaster, how can the left win a world fit for life? Planet on Fire is an urgent manifesto for a fundamental reimagining of the global economy. The Great Adaptation tells the story of how scientists, governments and corporations have tried to deal with the challenge that climate change poses to capitalism by promoting adaptation to the consequences of climate change, rather than combating its causes. Both these books, when read together, present a new politics capable of tackling environmental breakdown.
In his powerful class analysis of the climate crisis, Matthew T. Huber argues that the carbon-intensive capitalist class must be confronted for producing climate change. Here, we have paired it with Who Will Build the Ark?:Debates on Climate Strategy from 'New Left Review'—a series of landmark texts first published by New Left Review, bringing together radical left voices including Nancy Fraser and Robert Pollin (watch an interview with the editors—Benjamin Kunekl and Lola Seaton—here).
Can radical green models generate the social leverage needed to do so? Or, as Mike Davis puts it: Who will build the Ark?
Described by Judith Butler as a "monumental work", Shon Faye's The Transgender Issue has changed the conversation around trans justice and trans rights. Isabelle Lorey's work looks deeper at democracy in the present tense; specifically its borders of "sexism and racism, homo-and transphobia, colonialism and extractivism." Both these books are feminist political theories of and for our time and, when read together, offer total clarity on why we need to build a political system for the liberation of all.
*please note: The Transgender Issue is not published by Verso outside of North America.
One hundred years after the Russian Revolution the Soviet Union remains the most extraordinary, yet tragic, attempt to create a society beyond capitalism. Yet its history was one that for a long time proved impossible to write. More than just a simple linear history, The Soviet Century traces all the continuities and ruptures that led from the founding revolution of October 1917 to the final collapse of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It is a master-class in understanding the structures and intricate workings of the Soviet system. We’ve paired this with Kristin Ghodsee’s Red Valkyries: a book that brings a vital feminist perspective to our historical understanding of the Soviet Union, exploring the history of socialist feminism in Eastern Europe more broadly.
After the feminist art collective LASTESIS created their performance "A Rapist in Your Path" in their native Chile, it went viral across the globe, becoming the anthem of the grassroots feminist movements in South America. Set Fear on Fire is their manifesto. Here, we bring this contemporary visionary manifesto into conversation with Feminism or Death: the radical ecofeminist manifesto from Francoise d’Eaubonne, originally published in 1974.
Heralded as a new masterpiece and the most important Brazilian novel of this century, Crooked Plow is a fascinating and gripping novel about the lives of subsistence farmers in the Brazil's poorest region, three generations after the abolition of slavery. Without Fear of Being Happy: Lula, the Workers Party and Brazil —a vital history of The Brazilian Workers Party—brings vital insight into the political conditions that inform this compelling novel.
How to Be a Revolutionary, another politically charged novel from our Verso Fiction publishing, connects contemporary Shanghai, late Apartheid-era South Africa, and China during the Great Leap Forward and the Tiananmen uprising. Travellers of the World Revolution: A Global History of the Communist International —a book about the global fight for freedom—is the ideal companion.
Critically-acclaimed, and much beloved, Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again challenges our assumptions about women’s desire. In today’s crucial moment of renewed attention to violence and power, Katherine Angel brings a much-needed rigorous and nuanced perspective. In a similar vein, What We Don't Talk About is a searing indictment of modern sexual politics. Both books will broaden your understanding of sex, desire, violence and sexual politics.
How do we find out who we are within this digital era? Where do we create the space to explore our identity? How can we come together and create solidarity? The glitch is often dismissed as an error, a faulty overlaying, but, as Legacy Russell shows, liberation can be found within the fissures between gender, technology and the body that it creates. Girl Online is the perfect book to read after Glitch Feminism. Told via the arresting personal narrative of one woman negotiating the (cyber)space between her identities as girl, mother, writer, and commodified online persona, Girl Online is written in a plethora of the online styles, from programming language to the blog/diary, from tweets to lyric prose, taking in selfies, social media, celebrity and Cyberfeminism.
Tony Wood’s Russia Without Putin is absolutely incisive in its masterful analysis of Putin, Russia, and what lies between the two. It pairs brilliantly with Dissidents among Dissidents: Ideology, Politics and the Left in Post-Soviet Russia by Ilya Budraitskis, one of the country’s most prominent leftist political commentators. Including a preface from Tony Wood, this book looks at how the fall of the USSR and the long dominance of Putin has reshaped Russian politics and culture.
Health Communism is a searing analysis of health and illness under capitalism from hosts of the hit podcast “Death Panel”. Beatrice Adler-Bolton and Artie Vierkant argue for a new global left politics aimed at severing the ties between capital and one of its primary tools: health. Bringing a theoretical perspective, Politics of Immunity lays down a major challenge to the ways in which the immunity of the self and the social are imagined. These books together will change how you think about health, power, capitalism, and the body.
The Frankfurt School are never far from our philosophical minds; these two books together will solidify your understanding of their formidable intellectual contribution to European Marxism more widely. Grand Hotel Abyss combines biography, philosophy, and storytelling to reveal how the Frankfurt thinkers gathered during the rise of fascism, and their continued relevance today. Perry Anderson’s Considerations on Western Marxism has got to be the best intellectual history of European Marxism, focusing particularly on the work of Lukács, Korsch and Gramsci; Adorno, Marcuse and Benjamin; Sartre and Althusser; and Della Volpe and Colletti, together with other figures within Western Marxism from 1920 to 1975.
What if we could do better than the family? This is the question that sits at the heart of Sophie Lewis’s Abolish the Family. Tracing the history of family abolitionist demands, Lewis reminds us of the anti-family politics of radical feminists like Shulamith Firestone and the gay liberationists. There could be no better book to sit alongside this than Michèle Barrett and Mary McIntosh's The Anti-Social Family: a classic feminist work exploring the nuclear family, republished as part of our Feminist Radical Thinkers set.
In Ten Myths About Israel radical Israeli historian Ilan Pappe examines the most contested ideas concerning the origins and identity of the contemporary state of Israel. Not by Omission: The Case of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War—first published in Hebrew in 1975 and now available in English with an introduction by Noam Chomsky—traces the policies and attitudes that led to the 1973 Arab-Israel war. Read together, both books bring a solid and necessary understanding to the history of the region.
The massive uprising following the police killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020—by some estimates the largest protests in US history—thrust the argument to defund the police to the forefront of international politics. It also made The End of Policing a bestseller and Alex Vitale, its author, a leading figure in the urgent public discussion over police and racial justice. Never before has there been so much support for abolishing the police. What must follow is a conversation about the future of mass incarceration. Captives: How Rikers Island Took New York City Hostage reveals the long history of racial oppression and unaccountable violence in the Rikers Island jail complex. Both these books will solidify your understanding of the oppression and violence lying at the heart of these connected systems, and why we need to put resources into communities themselves.
We live in times of increasing inscrutability. In New Dark Age, James Bridle offers us a warning against the enlightened digital futures we were promised: we are, in fact, looking at an age of complex uncertainty, predictive algorithms, surveillance, and the hollowing out of empathy. Jonathan Crary's work builds on this, dismantling the presumption that social media could be instruments of radical change. Both books are necessary reading as we try to understand this disastrous terminal stage of global capitalism.
What does political agency mean for those who don’t know what to do or can’t be bothered to do it? The Concept of the Social develops a novel account of collective emancipation in which freedom is achieved not through knowledge and action but via doubt and inertia. Imperium: Structures and Affects of Political Bodies brings a vital theoretical perspective: drawing on Spinoza’s political philosophy and especially his two central concepts of multitudo and imperium.
Franny Nudelman’s fascinating book explores the problematic status of sleep for soldiers damaged by the trauma of warfare. Leading on from this, Nadia Abu El Haj’s Combat Trauma: Imaginaries of War and Citizenship in post-9/11 America is a rigorous and incisive study of combat trauma and American militarism. Both books reveal new nightmarish perspectives on militaristic society.
Osip Mandelstam is considered, by many, to be the greatest Russian poet of the 20th century. His personal and political life is graphically portrayed in Ralph Dutli's biography. Once you have finished with that book, it makes sense to move onto the work of Valery Podoroga—one of the most important thinkers of his generation. Mimesis is his most famous work—translated into English for the first time in this book.
Cannibal Capitalism is a brilliant synthesis of Nancy Fraser's many pathbreaking contributions to a Marxian theory of capitalism. In it she charts the voracious appetite of capital, tracking it from crisis point to crisis point, from ecological devastation to the collapse of democracy, from racial violence to the devaluing of care work. Søren Mau is the theorist to read in conversation with Fraser’s work. Building on a critical reconstruction of Karl Marx’s unfinished critique of political economy and a wide range of contemporary Marxist theory, Mute Compulsion sets out to explain how the logic of capital tightens its stranglehold on the life of society by constantly remoulding the material conditions of social reproduction
David Harvey’s latest book is an indispensable companion to the Grundrisse-widely thought of as Marx’s most challenging text. The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx: 1843 to Capital is the perfect complementary book: tracing the development of Marx's economic ideas from the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts to the completion of the Grundrisse.
In After Work, Helen Hester and Nick Srnicek lay out how unpaid work in our homes has come to take up an ever-increasing portion of our lives—how the vacuum of free time has been taken up by vacuuming. Examining the history of the home over the past century, they show how repeated efforts to reduce the burden of this work have faced a variety of barriers, challenges, and reversals. After reading you will certainly have questions around the concept of “productivity”. Kate Soper’s Post-Growth Living is the perfect follow-up: laying out new vision of society, one that decouples prosperity from endless growth.
Americans are in the midst of a world-historic drug binge. Quick Fixes blows away the pharmacological fog to take a sober look at how drugs have shaped American society. Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press examines the CIA’s chilling history with the drug trade.
Liberal antiracism has proven powerless against structural oppression. After reading What Is Antiracism? there will be no doubt in your mind that antiracist movements can only flourish in an anticapitalist future. A natural companion to this book, is the earlier antiracist work of Manning Marable. Beginning by looking back at African-American politics and the fight against racism of the recent past, he argues powerfully for a 'transformationist' strategy, which retains a distinctive black cultural identity but draws together all the poor and exploited in a united struggle against oppression.
Capitalism, by the twenty-first century, has brought us an era of escalating, overlapping crisis—ecological, political, social—which we may not survive. In this brilliant, wide-ranging conversation, political philosophers Nancy Fraser and Rahel Jaeggi identify capitalism as the source of the devastation and examine its in-built tendency to crisis. A next step is, of course, to revisit (or visit for the first time!) Marx’s Political Writings. The edition above brings together all of his essential political and historical writings in one volume.