Reading List

Verso Beach Reads

Verso_summer_reading-

Whether you’re looking for a basic beach read, a light read (like a 768pp biography of Marx), or a post-work visit to the beach, we have just the book for you right here! Or perhaps you’d rather fight them on the beaches, and take on the Boardwalk Empire?

Life’s a beach, so we’re proposing  beaches without borders, and Peace, Bread, and Beach! Buy them while you can, because the beach will be underwater soon. And if you’d prefer to stay in the city, poolside, then take a look under the pavement.

 

Basic beach

“An exhilarating page-turner… Grand Hotel Abyss is an outstanding critical introduction to some of the most fertile, and still relevant, thinkers of the 20th century.” – Washington Post

Merrifield shows us how the many spheres of our lives—work, knowledge, home, politics—have fallen into the hands of box tickers, bean counters and pedants. In response, he corrals a team of independent thinkers, wayward poets, dabblers and square pegs who challenge accepted wisdom.

In an age of increasing individualism, we have never been more alone and miserable. But what if the true nature of happiness can only be found in others? In Radical Happiness, leading feminist thinker Lynne Segal believes that we have lost the art of radical happiness— the art of transformative, collective joy. She shows that only in the revolutionary potential of coming together it is that we can come to understand the powers of flourishing.

In this hilarious, moving memoir, much-loved children’s poet and political campaigner Michael Rosen recalls the first twenty-three years of his life. He was born in the North London suburbs, and his parents, Harold and Connie, both teachers, first met as teenage Communists in the Jewish East End of the 1930s. The family home was filled with stories of relatives in London, the United States and France and of those who had disappeared in Europe.

Lyrical and bawdy, experimental and political, this extraordinary novel announces the arrival of a powerful new voice on the global literary stage.

It was 1969, and temperatures were rising across the factories of the north as workers demanded better pay and conditions. Soon, discontent would erupt in what became known as Italy’s “Hot Autumn.” Wrought in spare and measured prose, Balestrini’s novel depicts an explosive uprising. Introduced by Rachel Kushner, the author of the best-selling The Flamethrowers, We Want Everything is the incendiary fictional account of events that led to a decade of revolt.

The political autobiography of the insurgent presidential candidate.

A graphic novel of the dramatic life and death of German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg.

 

Light reads

In this essential new biography—the first to give equal weight to both the work and life of Karl Marx—Sven-Eric Liedman expertly navigates the imposing, complex personality of his subject through the turbulent passages of global history. A World to Win follows Marx through childhood and student days, a difficult and sometimes tragic family life, his far-sighted journalism, and his enduring friendship and intellectual partnership with Friedrich Engels.

Lefebvre's epic analysis of daily life under capitalism in one complete volume.

Originally published in 1965, Reading Capital is a landmark of French thought and radical theory, reconstructing Western Marxism from its foundations.

In 1973, faced with massive layoffs, workers at the legendary Lip watch firm in Besançon, France, occupied their factory to demand that no one lose their job. They seized watches and watch parts, assembled and sold watches, and paid their own salaries. Opening the Gates is the first account of all facets of the experience, drawing extensively on unpublished materials to reconstruct the vision and practice of those involved. The Lip workers’ struggle was the last widespread expression in France of the belief that creativity and moral autonomy are the driving force of social transformation.

In this established classic, sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello get to the heart of contemporary capitalism. Delving deep into the latest management texts informing the thinking of employers, the authors trace the contours of a new spirit of capitalism. They argue that beginning in the mid-1970s, capitalism abandoned the hierarchical Fordist work structure and developed a new network-based form of organization founded on employee initiative and autonomy in the workplace—a putative freedom bought at the cost of material and psychological security. 

A classic history of the role of Black working-class struggles throughout the twentieth century.

For twenty-five years, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World has been an essential primer on the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history of women’s movements in Asia and the Middle East.

Emily Apter develops a critical model of politics behind the scenes, a politics that operates outside the norms of classical political theory. She focuses on micropolitics, defined as small events, happening in series, that often pass unnoticed yet disturb and interfere with the institutional structures of capitalist parliamentary systems, even as they secure their reproduction and longevity. 

An international bestseller, originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women’s liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics. 

***NOT AVAILABLE IN NORTH AMERICA

High modernism is now as far from us as antiquity was for the Renaissance. Such is the premise of Fredric Jameson’s major new work in which modernist works, this time in painting and music, are pitted against late-modernist ones (in film) as well as a variety of postmodern experiments: all of which attempt, in their different ways, to invent new forms to grasp a specific social totality. 

 

Fight them on the beaches

A powerful challenge to the way we understand the politics of race and the history of anti-racist struggle. 

With racial justice struggles on the rise, a probing collection considers the past and future of Black radicalism.

A compendium of revolt and resistance: packed full of voices of dissent from every era of human history.

Longtime author and activist Heather Gautney was a Policy Fellow in Sanders’s Washington, DC, office and a volunteer researcher and organizer on his presidential campaign. In reviewing what enabled Sanders to reach out to an unprecedented number with a socialist message—and what stalled his progress—she draws lessons on the prospects and perils of building a progressive movement in the United States.

 A radical Latina perspective on race, liberation, and identity.

In the 2017 general election, Jeremy Corbyn pulled off an historic upset, attracting the biggest increase in the Labour vote since 1945. It was another reversal of expectations for the mainstream media and his ‘soft-left’ detractors. Demolishing the Blairite opposition in 2015, Corbyn had already seen off an attempted coup. Now, he had shattered the government’s authority, and even Corbyn’s most vitriolic critics have been forced into stunned mea culpas. For the first time in decades, socialism is back on the agenda—and for the first time in Labour’s history, it defines the leadership. 

With race and the police once more burning issues, this classic work from one of America’s giants of black radicalism has lost none of its prescience or power.

This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice—even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.

In a series of short chapters, each focusing on a single term, such as the beat, order, badge, throw-down weapon, and much more, authors David Correia and Tyler Wall present a guide that reinvents and demystifies the language of policing in order to better prepare activists—and anyone with an open mind—on one of the key issues of our time: police brutality. In doing so, they begin to chart a future free of this violence—and of police.

Investigative reporter David Neiwert has been tracking extremists for more than two decades. In Alt-America, he provides a deeply researched and authoritative report on the growth of fascism and far-right terrorism, the violence of which in the last decade has surpassed anything inspired by Islamist or other ideologies in the United States. The product of years of reportage, and including the most in-depth investigation of Trump’s ties to the far right, this is a crucial book about one of the most disturbing aspects of American society.

The Great Cowboy Strike subverts American mythology to reveal the class abuses and inequalities that have blinded a nation to its true history and nature.

An engrossing century-spanning narrative, Tear Gas is the first history of this weapon, and takes us from military labs and chemical weapons expos to union assemblies and protest camps, drawing on declassified reports and witness testimonies to show how policing with poison came to be.

This deeply researched account traces the evolution of disruptive protest since the Sixties to tell a larger story about the reshaping of the American left. Kauffman, a longtime grassroots organizer, examines how movements from ACT UP to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter have used disruptive tactics to catalyze change despite long odds.

 

Life's a Beach

El Salvador and Honduras have had the highest homicide rates in the world over the past ten years, with Guatemala close behind. Every day more than 1,000 people—men, women, and children—flee these three countries for North America. Óscar Martínez, author of The Beast, named one of the best books of the year by the Economist, Mother Jones, and the Financial Times, fleshes out these stark figures with true stories, producing a jarringly beautiful and immersive account of life in deadly locations.

The Age of Jihad charts the turmoil of today’s Middle East and the devastating role the West has played in the region from 2001 to the present. Beginning with the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, Cockburn explores the vast geopolitical struggle that is the Sunni–Shia conflict, a clash that shapes the war on terror, western military interventions, the evolution of the insurgency, the civil wars in Yemen, Libya and Syria, the Arab Spring, the fall of regional dictators, and the rise of Islamic State.

America’s leading essayist on the frantic retreat of democracy, in the fire and smoke of the war on terror.

In 2011, an elite group of US Navy SEALS stormed an enclosure in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden, the man the United States had begun chasing before the devastating attacks of 9/11. The news did much to boost President Obama’s first term and played a major part in his reelection victory of the following year. But much of the story of that night, as presented to the world, was incomplete, or a lie. The evidence of what actually went on remains hidden.

 

Beaches Without Borders

A heartbreaking, full-color graphic novel addressing one of the most pressing issues of modern times to make a compelling case, through intimate evidence, for the compassionate treatment of refugees and the free movement of peoples.

Teresa Thornhill volunteered at Hara Hotel, a makeshift camp on the Greece–Macedonia border. An Arabic speaker, she met Syrians from all walks of life as she distributed clothing and organized activities for children. One of the Syrians was Juwan, who would later walk through the mountains of Macedonia to safety in Austria. 

In Violent Borders, Jones crosses the migrant trails of the world, documenting the billions of dollars spent on border security projects and the dire consequences for countless millions. While the poor are restricted by the lottery of birth to slum dwellings in the ailing decolonized world, the wealthy travel without constraint, exploiting pools of cheap labor and lax environmental regulations. With the growth of borders and resource enclosures, the deaths of migrants in search of a better life are intimately connected to climate change, environmental degradation, and the growth of global wealth inequality.

An expansive investigation of the ways in which a newly configured right interconnects with anti-democratic and illiberal forces at the level of the state, Europe’s Fault Lines provides much-needed answers, revealing some uncomfortable truths.  What appear to be “blind spots” about far-right extremism on the part of the state are shown to constitute collusion—as police, intelligence agencies and the military embark on practices of covert policing that bring them into direct or indirect contact with the far right, in ways that bring to mind the darkest days of Europe’s authoritarian past. 

The extradition of terror suspects reveals the worst features of the security state.

Sixty years ago, the political theorist Hannah Arendt, an exiled Jew deprived of her German citizenship, observed that before people can enjoy any of the “inalienable” Rights of Man—before there can be any specific rights to education, work, voting, and so on—there must first be such a thing as “the right to have rights." Here five leading thinkers from varied disciplines—including history, law, politics, and literary studies—discuss the critical basis of rights and the meaning of radical democratic politics today.

 

Boardwalk Empire

Given the sensational reception of Piketty’s not-so-easily digested 800-page study, the question as to where the hype around the book comes from deserves to be asked. What does it get right? And what should we make of it—both of the book itself and of the criticism it has received? This introduction lays out the argument of Piketty’s monumental work in a compact and understandable format, while also investigating the controversies Piketty has stirred up. In addition, the two authors demonstrate the limits, contradictions and errors of the so-called Piketty revolution.

In The New Poverty investigative journalist Stephen Armstrong travels across Britain to tell the stories of those who are most vulnerable. It is the story of an unreported Britain, abandoned by politicians and betrayed by the retreat of the welfare state. As benefit cuts continue and in-work poverty soars, he asks what long-term impact this will have on post-Brexit Britain and—on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the 1942 Beveridge report—what we can do to stop the destruction of our welfare state.

Tony Norfield details, with shocking and insightful research, the role of the US dollar in global trading, the network of Britishlinked tax havens, the flows of finance around the world and the system of power built upon financial securities. Why do just fifty companies now have control of a large share of world economic production? The City explains how this situation came about, examining the history of the world economy from the postwar period to the present day. 

In his historical studies of the intersections of race, settler colonialism, and slavery, in his major chapter (with Elizabeth Esch) on race and the management of labor, in his detailing of the origins of critical studies of whiteness within Marxism, and in his reflections on the history of solidarity, Roediger argues that racial divisions not only tell us about the history of capitalism but also shed light on the logic of capital.

Offers a stark warning about the direction that the international economy is taking. Durand argues that the accelerated expansion of financial operations is a sign of the declining power of the economies of the Global North. The City, Wall Street and other centres of the power of money, he suggests, may already be caked with the frosts of winter.

In this accessible, brilliantly argued book, leading political economist Ann Pettifor explains in straightforward terms history’s most misunderstood invention: the money system.

After years of ill health, capitalism is now in a critical condition. Growth has given way to stagnation; inequality is leading to instability; and confidence in the money economy has all but evaporated.

 

Post-work visit to the beach

Tracing the complexity and contradictory nature of work throughout history.

Inventing the Future is a bold new manifesto for life after capitalism. Against the confused understanding of our high-tech world by both the right and the left, this book claims that the emancipatory and future-oriented possibilities of our society can be reclaimed. Instead of running from a complex future, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams demand a postcapitalist economy capable of advancing standards, liberating humanity from work and developing technologies that expand our freedoms.

Five-hundred-year anniversary edition of More’s Utopia, with writing from major science fiction writers.

Peter Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring it all tumbling down. Frase imagines how this post-capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism might actually entail.

 

Sandcastles that washed away

How can one think of art institutions in an age defined by planetary civil war, growing inequality, and proprietary digital technology? In Duty Free Art, filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl wonders how we can appreciate, or even make art, in the present age.

A lifetime’s encounter with artists: from prehistoric cave painting to the present.

Leading artists, theorists, and writers exhume the dystopian and utopian futures contained within the present.

These essays—extending the scope and arguments of Osborne’s Anywhere or Not At All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art—move from a philosophical consideration of the changing temporal conditions of capitalist modernity, via problems of formalism, the politics of art and the changing shape of art institutions, to interpretation and analysis of particular works by Akram Zaatari, Xavier Le Roy and Ilya Kabakov, and the postconceptual situation of a crisis-ridden New Music.

In this brilliant collection of diverse pieces—essays, short stories, poems, translations—which spans a lifetime’s engagement with art, John Berger reveals how he came to his own unique way of seeing. He pays homage to the writers and thinkers who infuenced him, such as Walter Benjamin, Rosa Luxemburg and Bertolt Brecht. His expansive perspective takes in artistic movements and individual artists—from the Renaissance to the present—while never neglecting the social and political context of their creation.

Planet/Cuba examines how art and literature have responded to a new moment, one both more globalized and less exceptional; more concerned with local quotidian worries than international alliances; more threatened by the depredations of planetary capitalism and climate change than by the vagaries of the nation’s government. Rachel Price examines a fascinating array of artists and writers who are tracing a new socio-cultural map of the island.

 

Peace, Bread, and Beach

Award-winning author China Miéville tells the extraordinary story of this pivotal moment in history.

On the centenary of the Russian Revolution, Tariq Ali explores the two major influences on Lenin’s thought—the turbulent history of Tsarist Russia and the birth of the international labour movement—and explains how Lenin confronted dilemmas that still cast a shadow over the present. 

With his characteristic brio and provocative insight, Žižek suggests that Lenin’s courage as a thinker can be found in his willingness to face this reality of retreat unflinchingly. In today’s world, characterized by political turbulence, economic crises and geopolitical tensions, we should revisit Lenin’s combination of sober lucidity and revolutionary determination. 

Reflecting on the fate of the Russian Revolution one hundred years after October, Ronald Grigor Suny—one of the world’s leading historians of the period—explores the historiographical controversies over 1917, Stalinism, and the end of “Communism” and provides an assessment of the achievements, costs, losses and legacies of the choices made by Soviet leaders.

Written in the white heat of revolutionary Russia’s Civil War, Trotsky’s Terrorism and Communism is one of the most potent defenses of revolutionary dictatorship. In his provocative commentary to this new edition the philosopher Slavoj Žižek argues that Trotsky’s attack on the illusions of liberal democracy has a vital relevance today.

 

The beach will be underwater soon

What does the good life—and the good society—look like in the twenty-first century?

How has capitalism devastated the planet—and what can we do about it? Nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives: these are the seven things that have made our world and will shape its future.

***NOT AVAILABLE IN NORTH AMERICA

How will climate change affect our lives? Where will its impacts be most deeply felt? Are we doing enough to protect ourselves from the coming chaos? In Extreme Cities, Ashley Dawson argues that cities are ground zero for climate change, contributing the lion’s share of carbon to the atmosphere, while also lying on the frontlines of rising sea levels. 

To further the struggle for climate justice, we need to have some idea how the existing global order is likely to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. Climate Leviathan provides a radical way of thinking about the intensifying challenges to the global order. Drawing on a wide range of political thought, Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann argue that rapid climate change will transform the world’s political economy and the fundamental political arrangements most people take for granted.

An attack on the idea that nature and society are impossible to distinguish from each other.

George Monbiot is one of the most vocal, and eloquent, critics of the current consensus. How Did We Get into this Mess? based on his powerful journalism, assesses the state we are now in: the devastation of the natural world, the crisis of inequality, the corporate takeover of nature, our obsessions with growth and profit and the decline of the political debate over what to do.

“The definitive deep history on how our economic system created the climate crisis. Superb, essential reading from one of the most original thinkers on the subject.” – Naomi Klein, author of No is Not Enough

Refuting the convenient view of a “human species” that upset the Earth system, unaware of what it was doing, this book proposes the first critical history of the Anthropocene, shaking up many accepted ideas: about our supposedly recent “environmental awareness,” about previous challenges to industrialism, about the manufacture of ignorance and consumerism, about so-called energy transitions, as well as about the role of the military in environmental destruction.

Finance. Climate. Food. Work. How are the crises of the twenty-first century connected? Jason W. Moore argues that the sources of today’s global turbulence have a common cause: capitalism as a way of organizing nature, including human nature.

How oil undermines democracy, and our ability to address the environmental crisis.

 

Under the Pavement

Everywhere we turn, a startling new device promises to transfigure our lives. But at what cost? In this urgent and revelatory excavation of our Information Age, leading technology thinker Adam Greenfield forces us to reconsider our relationship with the networked objects, services and spaces that define us. It is time to re-evaluate the Silicon Valley consensus determining the future.

In his brilliant new work, leading artist and writer James Bridle offers us a warning against the future in which the contemporary promise of a new technologically assisted Enlightenment may just deliver its opposite: an age of complex uncertainty, predictive algorithms, surveillance, and the hollowing out of empathy.

*** NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE IN NORTH AMERICA

In this brilliant, very original survey of the politics and meanings of urban landscapes, leading sociologist Göran Therborn offers a tour of the world’s major capital cities, showing how they have been shaped by national, popular, and global forces. Their stories begin with the emergence of various kinds of nation-state, each with its own special capital city problematic. In turn, radical shifts of power have impacted on these cities’ development, in popular urban reforms or movements of protest and resistance; in the rise and fall of fascism and military dictatorships; and the coming and going of Communism. 

Urgent, timely and compelling, Municipal Dreams brilliantly brings the national story of housing to life.  In this landmark reappraisal of council housing, historian John Boughton presents an alternative history of Britain. Rooted in the ambition to end slum living, and the ideals of those who would build a new society, Municipal Dreams looks at how the state’s duty to house its people decently became central to our politics. The book makes it clear why that legacy and its promise should be defended. 

Starting at the edge of earth’s atmosphere and, in a series of riveting studies, descending through each layer, Graham explores the world of drones, the city from the viewpoint of an aerial bomber, the design of sidewalks and the hidden depths of underground bunkers. He asks: why was Dubai built to be seen from Google Earth? How do the super-rich in São Paulo live in their penthouses far above the street? Why do London billionaires build vast subterranean basements? And how do the technology of elevators and subversive urban explorers shape life on the surface and subsurface of the earth? 

Michael Sorkin is one of the most forthright and engaging architectural writers in the world. In What Goes Up he takes to task the public officials, developers, “civic” organizations, and other heroes of big money, who have made of Sorkin’s beloved New York a city of glittering towers and increasing inequality.

The Autonomous City is the first popular history of squatting as practised in Europe and North America. Alex Vasudevan retraces the struggle for housing in Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Detroit, Hamburg, London, Madrid, Milan, New York, and Vancouver. He looks at the organisation of alternative forms of housing—from Copenhagen’s Freetown Christiana to the squats of the Lower East Side—as well as the official response, including the recent criminalisation of squatting, the brutal eviction of squatters and their widespread vilification.

Eric Hazan, author of the acclaimed Invention of Paris, takes the reader on a walk from Ivry to Saint-Denis, roughly following the meridian that divides Paris into east and west, and passing such familiar landmarks as the Luxembourg Gardens, the Pompidou Centre, the Gare du Nord and Montmartre, as well as forgotten alleyways and arcades. Weaving historical anecdotes, geographical observations, and literary references, Hazan’s walk guides us through an unknown Paris.

Brilliant and erudite, A Philosophy of Walking is an entertaining and insightful manifesto for putting one foot in front of the other.

Extrastatecraft is the operating system of the modern world: the skyline of Dubai, the subterranean pipes and cables sustaining urban life, free-trade zones, the standardized dimensions of credit cards, and hyper-consumerist shopping malls. It is all this and more. Infrastructure sets the invisible rules that govern the spaces of our everyday lives, making the city the key site of power and resistance in the twenty-first century.