Advice

On another bunch of books

Your book recommendations reignited my love of reading. Thank you. Will you be posting any more recommendations soon? It is September, after all.

 

Yes, yes. I love our September booklist tradition, especially in a month when I have a book of my own hitting the shelves. Here’s the latest snapshot of what I’ve been reading lately. As always, it’s a mixed bag. There should be a little something here for everyone:

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Change Your Story, Change Your Life by Carl Greer

The Red Book (Liber Novus) by Carl Jung

The Highest State of Consciousness edited by John White

The Divine Within by Aldous Huxley

Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Dreams from Bunker Hill by John Fante

Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha by Zen Master Sueng Sahn

The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

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Fun-Sized Advice

On more fun-sized advice

Do you give to charity? My friends (some of whom make more than I do) totally recoiled when I said I give a significant portion of my income to charity. I have zero idea how prevalent it is.
Yes. I give to Planned Parenthood, March of Dimes, and two local charities that I can’t name without revealing my location.

How do you tell someone to get over it (!!!) without coming across as harsh? My brother is heartbroken over someone he dated (drama the entire time) for like 3 months and I can’t keep being sympathetic. I know this makes me sound like a complete dick and I hate myself for it.
It requires that you be both empathetic and firm. Respect that the pain he feels is real while at the same time enforcing emotional boundaries that prevent him from wallowing in your presence. Say something like, “I understand that you’re still heartbroken, but you can’t bring that shit around me anymore.”

Is my life going to get better?
I can’t predict the future, and “better” is an impossibly subjective concept, but you can definitely change your circumstances. Start there and see what happens.

What is the title of the last one of those three books in your ‘stay wild’ photo? I can make two out: Triggers by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith and Diplomatic Pursuits by Joseph van Westphalen, but not the very last one.
The third book is Ernest Hemingway on Writing. (I love that my readers are such bibliophiles. You guys are impressive even when you’re being creepers.)

Why does Hillary act like she’s making history as if she’s the first rich white woman to succeed at the expense of marginalized women?
Oh, fuck off. Hillary isn’t perfect, but goddamnit, she is making history. If you can’t see that, then you’re blinded by that massive fucking chip on your shoulder.

Do you still do drugs sometimes like in your wild days or did you get over it?
Both. I’m over it, and I still party on special occasion. I’ve gone from a couple times a week to a couple times a season.

I’m addicted to you. I need more updates please! (sorry I know you have a life and whatnot but I NEED MORE.)
Patience, dear. I come and go in waves. Always have, always will.

 

 

 

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Advice

On books about the police

Can you recommend a good book on this “fuck the police” stuff? I want to look deeper into this.

 

Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko
If you only read one book about police in America, this is the one. It’s well researched, politically balanced, and it will let you decide for yourself whether you wanna say “fuck the police.”

Our Enemies in Blue by Kristain Williams
Again, if you’re only looking to read one book, this is another great one to consider. It’s also well researched and incredibly thorough, but its entire premise is “fuck the police,” and the author makes no excuses for his position.

Police Brutality: An Anthology edited by Jill Nelson
I haven’t read this, but it looks like a decent collection of essays.

Brotherhood of Corruption by Juan Antonio Juarez
Juarez is an unreliable narrator and a poor writer, but there is still a lot of brutal, street-level truth to be found in this book.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
This is a seminal work. A must read. It’s less about police and more about systemic racism, but you need to understand the big picture.

Crook County by Nicole Van Cleve
This hasn’t been published yet, but I got my hands on an advance copy and it’s a groundbreaking indictment of the court system.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This is a personal book about the realities of being black in America, but it’s beautifully written and touches on police violence, so it goes on the list.

Understanding Power: The Indispensible Chomsky edited by Mitchell and Schoeffel
Honestly, you can’t read enough Chomsky. This collection is a great starting point. Focus on his ideas about state power, but by all means, go wherever it takes you.

Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault
This book is the most difficult, but it’s also the most important. It’s a philosophical masterpiece about society’s relationship with incarceration. It will challenge you. Accept the challenge.

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Advice

On books about the middle east

Oh, Coquette. How can one possibly start to understand ISIS, ISIL, the Saudi regime, the Syrian crisis—hell, the entire Middle East as something more than a bewildering source of violence? I read The Grand Chessboard when you recommended it a while ago, but now I need something that helps me gain a little more perspective about that part of the world; I’m thinking about big-picture surveys of the history, political and economic control, and shifts in cultural and religious thought in that region. It’s a tall fuckin’ order, I know, and I recognize that I’ve got an icky Western stance that imagines a huge diverse part of the world as one big blanket mess that can somehow be understood through a few books. But I want to learn—or at least start. Any reading suggestions?

If you just want some general perspective on that part of the world, I’d recommend James Gelvin’s “The Modern Middle East.” (Be sure to get the fourth edition.)

If you want a little less history and a little more “Grand Chessboard” style politics, I’d recommend you go with Karl Yambert’s “The Contemporary Middle East.”

They’re both offer big-picture surveys of the region. With either book, you’ll learn a ton.

 

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Advice

On another bunch of books

Can you post some more book recommendations? You’ve already given me two of my all time favorite books (“Shock Doctrine” and “Veronika decides to die”).

 

Yep. It’s September, and like clockwork, you guys are asking me for books again. Here’s the latest snapshot of what’s on my bookshelf. As always, it’s a mixed bag. There should be a little something here for everyone:

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Sapiens: A History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Purity by Jonathan Franzen

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations by Jacob Shapiro

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

Bitch Planet #1 by Deconnick & De Landro

A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell

Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris

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Advice

On a capitalism reading list

“We are surrounded by capitalist tools. The trick is not using them for their intended purpose.” Would you make a reading list based on this, please?


Sure. Here’s a trio of easily accessible books that will give you a broad but critical overview of the current state of American capitalism:

Supercapitalism by Robert Reich

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

Profit Over People by Noam Chomsky

If you wanna go a bit further down the rabbit hole:

The Capitalism Papers by Jerry Mander

America Beyond Capitalism by Gar Alperovitz

And finally, if you’re in the mood for a challenging, interdisciplinary mindfuck, here’s the cherry on top:

The End Of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy by J. K. Gibson-Graham

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Advice

On things made by women

Breaking Bad has left me feeling a bit over-saturated by men’s crises, so I want to take a month where I exclusively think about things made by women. You’ve got taste, could you recommend me some good books, lectures, films, music?


Off the top of my head, try reading The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. Get your daily news from Rachel Maddow. If you can, catch “In A World…” while it’s still in theaters. Binge watch Top of the Lake and Orange Is the New Black on Netflix. Listen to Lorde’s new album on repeat.

That should make for a pretty decent month.

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Advice

On a bunch of books

I need some new books, and you are way overdue for another reading list. Pretty please!

Okay, okay. What is it about September? I’ve been getting this question at least once a day for a while now.

I don’t have time at the moment to put together a curated list, but I can give you a quick snapshot of what’s currently on my bookshelf. It’s a mixed bag. A few classics, a bunch of contemporary stuff, and a bit of non-fiction. Some are great. Some aren’t. All are worth reading for one reason or another:


The Easy Hour,
Leslie Stella

The Camera My Mother Gave Me, Susanna Kaysen

No Touch Monkey, Ayun Halliday

The Postmortal, Drew Magary

Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, Tom Robbins

Lionel Asbo, Martin Amis

The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac

The End of the Affair, Graham Greene

The Drunkard’s Walk, Leonard Mlodinow

Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann

Motley Crue: The Dirt, Nikki Sixx and Neil Strauss

Just Kids, Patti Smith

One Day, David Nicholls

The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Luis Alberto Urrea

Queen of America, Luis Alberto Urrea

Ecstasy, Irvine Welsh

Porno, Irvine Welsh

How To Stop Time, Ann Marlowe

Emergency Public Relations, Cindy Rakowitz

Meditations for Beginners, Jack Kornfield

Mindsight, Daniel J. Siegel, MD

Am I A Monkey?, Francisco J. Ayala

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, David Sedaris

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Advice

On answers out there

I was raised Catholic and was always told that there was a God, etc. I’m curious and I know there’s answers out there as to why a God wouldn’t exist but I don’t even know where to start. Any book suggestions?

Start with Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. It’s a small bite, easy to chew, and even easier to swallow. If you like his style, read The End of Faith. After that, try The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. If you want to keep going, read God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens.

While you’re at it, pick up a book on world religion. Study them all, and then try a little philosophy. Learn as much as you can about all the crazy shit people believe, and then learn as much as you can about the nature of belief itself.

It’s good that you’re curious, but you’re still in a place where you expect to find answers out there. There are no answers, kid. That’s kind of the whole point. The best you can do is seek to ask increasingly sophisticated levels of unanswerable questions.

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Advice

On getting your news.

Dear Coquette,

Where do you get your news? Growing up, I watched both my siblings reach a phase where they realized that the major news resources are heavily biased, so they jumped to the independent, conspiracy-theory-laden end of the spectrum and started eating it up just because it was different. As a result, I checked out altogether. I figured all news is biased, so why bother?

I know I’m not exactly helping the situation by asking someone else to spoon-feed me a news source I can trust, but I’m 22, and I’m tired of feeling sheltered and stupid. I don’t want to be willfully ignorant, but I know I’m naive and don’t have the critical thinking skills or instincts to know when a reporter is full of crap. I’m afraid that I’m the type to mindlessly buy whatever I’m told. How do I get my head out of my ass?

Congratulations. The very fact that you’re tired of feeling sheltered and stupid means you’ve already pulled your head out of your ass. The real trick now is to make sure you don’t shove it up someone else’s by blindly trusting any spoon-fed news source. 

Instead, you have to start trusting your own capacity for rational thought. Learn how to analyze the media. Ask questions. Challenge assumptions. Check sources. Most importantly, don’t get distracted by a little bias. Media bias is harmless when you can spot it, so quit whining about your naïveté and sharpen those critical thinking skills.

If you need a jumping-off point for becoming an independent thinker in the face of mass media, go pick up copies of “Manufacturing Consent” by Noam Chomsky, “Understanding Media” by Marshall McLuhan and “Letters to a Young Contrarian” by Christopher Hitchens.

Read them, reread them and then read them again. They may frustrate you at first, but don’t give up. Every time you hit an unfamiliar reference, light up Google and learn something. Remember, it’s not about what to think. It’s about a way to think.

I promise, you are capable of clear and independent thought. You don’t need to be spoon-fed anything. Once you trust in your own ability to analyze the media, you will be able to consume any source of news, chew it up, and spit out all the bias and bullshit.

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