Marxism and Mistletoe: A Holiday List of Books for the Lefties in Your Life
Kristen R. Ghodsee Recommends Cory Doctorow, Malaika Jabali, Angela Saini, and More
Holiday shopping for all of your family and friends is never easy, but the ideologically committed can present unique challenges. If you need to buy a gift for a would-be smasher of patriarchy, white supremacy, or capitalism (or all three!), look no further. Even if they despise the wasteful consumerism of the season, you can still surprise them with a thoughtful 2023 title to add to their revolutionary bookshelf.
For the young and commie-curious:
This short, spunky, and insightful volume is lushly designed and illustrated by Kayla E. It’s the perfect introductory primer to why the free-market sucks. A former attorney and now the Senior News and Politics Editor at Essence Magazine, Jabali guides the reader through an honest and eye-opening assessment of how our current economic system is like a toxic partner we all need to dump.
For the modern Marxist:
Kevin Ochieng Okoth, Red Africa: Reclaiming Revolutionary Black Politics
A slim volume that provides a lucid overview of the works of Black revolutionary writers and theorists like Eduardo Mondlane, Amílcar Cabral, Walter Rodney and Andrée Blouin. Red Africa makes a compelling case for a contemporary politics of racial justice that draws on the important but largely overlooked legacies of Marxist-inspired anti-imperialist struggles in the twentieth century.
For the intersectional feminist:
Angela Saini, The Patriarchs: The Origins of Inequality
(Beacon Press 2023) Saini is an award-winning British science journalist whose accessible book provides a sweeping survey of the latest biological, anthropological, and archeological evidence available to reveal the origins and contingency of patriarchy as a system of power and domination. The Patriarchs lays bare the continued workings of heterosexual men’s power around the world, and how violently this system defends its continued privilege by rigidly upholding gender binaries and the patrilineal and patrilocal nuclear family.
For the anarchist:
David Graeber, Pirate Enlightenment, or The Real Libertalia
The posthumously published book by the late, great anarchist anthropologist (co-author of the bestselling The Dawn of Everything) is a provocative exploration of the history of pirate settlements in Madagascar where Graeber conducted his ethnographic fieldwork for his doctoral research. By critically reexamining pirate ideas and practices of radical self-government, Graeber challenges us to rethink the origins of the European Enlightenment, providing a refreshing vision of how humanity can thrive in the absence of coercive authority.
For the bookish social theorist:
This remarkable doorstop of a book is an ambitious and anti-gender-essentialist reimagination of evolutionary anthropology with women at the center. A breathtakingly smart and lively work, Eve manages to suck you into an entire universe of contemporary scientific debates about the species-defining importance of female reproductive choice, about why human (and orca) menopause is among “the biggest mysteries in modern biology,” and why old-fashion sexism is no longer doing the job it was “evolved to do.”
An inclusive and sensitive text, the six-hundred-plus-page book blows apart many myths and misconceptions about why contemporary humans behave the way we do.
For the hacktivist:
Cory Doctorow, The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation
This book delivers a searing indictment of the business model of companies like Meta, X, and other big tech platforms. Doctorow reveals–in his urgent and evocative prose–how we have allowed corporations to hold our interpersonal communications hostage to support their profits.
But rather than just a diatribe against the nefarious machinations of social media, Doctorow proposes a realistic solution in the concept of “interoperability,” which would force all platforms to communicate with each other openly. In Doctorow’s vision of a freer internet, we could all leave Twitter and Instagram when we wanted without having to sacrifice the communities we built there.
For the XR environmentalist:
Nick Fuller Googins, The Great Transition
This exciting debut Cli-Fi novel is set in a near future when the planet has averted total catastrophe by reaching net zero emissions. The story follows a young woman named Emi living in the post-capitalist utopia of Nuuk, Greenland, but not everything is as it seems. The same greedy industrialists and financiers who once brought the Earth to the brink of extinction are growing in power and influence, and Emi’s parents, heroes of the Climate Corps, are drawn into a complex web of intrigue as they travel to New York City.
A page-turner chock full of optimistic ideas for how we can reimagine our collective future, The Great Transition is a necessary antidote to climate doom and nihilism.