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Summertime and the Reading is Easy

June 21, 2011

4-minute read

Staff at the CCPA would like nothing better than to curl up with a good book (or 10) this summer. Since today is the first day of summer, we thought we’d share some of our favourite summer reading suggestions for progressives. What's on your reading list this summer?

Armine Yalnizyan, Senior Economist, CCPA: Public Finance, C.F. Bastable, Macmillan and Company, London, England 1932 (3rd edition) and Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman, Penguin 1985.

Since today's economic news often has me asking "why" more often than "what-the-f$%^," I'm on a reading binge in economic history. A stunning find has been C.F. Bastable's Public Finance, written in 1932. It’s a superb summary of how humans have funded collective projects from time immemorial. It's made me decide to re-read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations from front to back.  I know, I know, it's the summer! Well consider this then, also on my "must re-read" table and bound for the cottage: Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. I'll return to my 1985 Penguin edition, but you can readily find an update.

Bruce Campbell, Executive Director, CCPA: Treasure  Islands: Dirty  Money, Tax Havens,  and the  Men  Who  Stole the  World, Nicholas Shaxson, 2010

An exposé on tax havens that is so powerful The Guardian's George Monbiot calls this one of the most important book published in the UK in 2010.

David Macdonald, AFB Coordinator, CCPA: 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang, Bloomsbury Press 2010

A great overview of commonly held beliefs about capitalism that upon further investigation turn out to be far from the truth.  It is written in an easy to understand way without graphs or numbers.  Instead it is able to communicate surprisingly complex ideas in easily digestible ways.  Since there are 23 chapters to match its 23 things, it is a great book to pick up in short bursts.

Trish Hennessy, Director of Strategic Issues, CCPA: Ill Fares The Land, Tony Judt, Penguin Press 2010 and The Great Depression: A Diary, Benjamin Roth, Public Affairs Books, 2009

Ill Fares the Land is an inspiring, thoughtful call to action for progressives, written by one of the best essayists of our time, the now departed Tony Judt. He begins with the lament: “Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: Is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them.” The entire book is a good reminder of what’s important, and a great way to stoke the creative fires during the summer break.

The Great Depression: A Diary is just that – the diary of a young lawyer in the 1930s who, as the book jacket says, “watched as the world around him was thrown into financial and social chaos”. He wrote a daily diary, which brings to life the mistakes of the Dirty Thirties and the lessons learned from that experience. Reading it on the heels of the global economic meltdown makes the book all the more relevant today.

Christine Saulnier, Executive Director, CCPA Nova Scotia: Neoliberalism and the everyday life by edited by Susan Braedley and Meg Luxton McGill-Queens UP, 2010 and Broke But Unbroken: Grassroots Social Movements and Their Radical Solutions to Poverty, August Dwyer, Fernwood, 2011 and The Hermit of Africville: The Life of Eddie Carvery, Jon Tattrie; Pottersfield Press, 2010 and Reparations by Stephen Kimber, Harper Collins Canada, 2007 and More Money Than Brains: Why Schools Suck, College is Crap, and Idiots Think They're Right.

Neoliberalism and the everyday life: Figuring out how to frame resistance to neoliberalism includes making the political personal; plus I am looking for a good feminist read on neoliberalism that goes beyond what we said in the 80s and 90s.

Broke But Unbroken: Grassroots Social Movements and Their Radical Solutions to Poverty: The write-up says this book  “encourages us to learn the lessons they offer about successfully challenging power and changing the world.” Need I say more?

The Hermit of Africville: The Life of Eddie Carvery: A little closer to home, this is a creative nonfiction book; this was said about it in the Coast: “Nova Scotians have built a fantasy history of escaped American slaves fleeing to the land of non-discrimination, says Tattrie, and think Nova Scotia is to this day uninfected by racism. The Africville story gives the lie to that story, and Tattrie tells it brutally and beautifully.”

If you want a fantastic fictional account of Africville then I recommend Reparations by Stephen Kimber.

And, last but not least, I recommend reading Laura Penny’s latest nonfiction book More Money Than Brains: Why Schools Suck, College is Crap, and Idiots Think They're Right. She sure knows how to cut through it. . . And remember you can hear her in person at the CCPA-NS Gala Fundraiser October 6, 2011.

Erika Shaker, Director of the Education Project, CCPA: Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism, Jessica Yee, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2010

Against a backdrop exposing a 500+ year legacy of colonization and oppression, Feminism FOR REAL explores what has led us to the existence of “feminism”, who gets to decide what it is, and why. With stories that make the walls of academia come tumbling down, it deals head-on with the conflicts of what feminism means in theory as opposed to real life, the frustrations of trying to relate to definitions of feminism that never fit no matter how much you try to change yourself to fit them, and the anger of changing a system while being in the system yourself.



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