REBEL LIBRARY: MAY 2022
A DEGROWTH SPECIAL
See all of our book recommendations from previous months in our Rebel Library Archive
This month, alongside our in-house degrowth-themed edition of Rebel Library, we are delighted to share the recommendations of two authors recommending seven books. Charlotte Du Cann and Nick Hunt are both part of The Dark Mountain Project.
Charlotte Du Cann is a writer, editor and co-director of the Dark Mountain Project. She also teaches collaborative non-fiction, and radical kinship with the other-than-human world. Her new book After Ithaca is out in May and is available from Sumeru Books.
Nick Hunt is an author whose books include Walking the Woods and the Water, Where the Wild Winds Are, The Parakeeting of London: An Adventure In Gonzo Ornithology and Outlandish. His new collection Loss Soup and Other Stories is published in May and is also available from Sumeru Books.
After Ithaca by Charlotte du Cann
What happens when the heroes disappear, when the battle for the city is over, when you return to the island and find a box in your hands? There was an instruction once that told us why the box should never be opened. But you don’t believe those stories anymore. You always open the box.
After Ithaca is a non-fiction work – part memoir, part essay, part travelogue – that follows a real life journey of descent in a world on the tip of crisis. It is set in the Peruvian rainforest, in the backrooms of Suffolk towns, in Japan, in France, Australia, in the desert borderlands, in borrowed houses and Occupy tents, in kitchens and burial chambers, underneath a lemon tree on an abandoned terrace…
The book revolves around the four initiatory tasks of Psyche, set by Venus, the goddess of love and justice: four territories that map this search for meaning and coherence in a time of fall. Each chapter starts with a memory of place as a clue to the investigation: the recovery of a relationship with wild nature, with being human, a kind of archaeology for the pieces of self that lie missing beneath a broken storyline, like the shards of a pot.
It is a personal story and also a social story, about the relinquishment of a certain world, that looks at writing as an existential practice: showing how myth can be a technique for finding our lost voice, our medicine of how to put a crooked thing straight.
How to pull ourselves out of the wreckage, and start again.
A journalist is invited to the fabled Dinner of Loss to drink a viscous soup made of lost and extinct things. In the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a nihilistic sea captain becalms himself on a plastic sea, while in an English fishing village a senile Blackbeard reminisces about his bloodthirsty glory days. The failed conquistador Cabeza de Vaca sheds his personality on the swampy coasts of the New World, and in a cabin in the woods a couple are haunted by the ghosts of Homo erectus, Neanderthals and other extinct hominids. Elsewhere, a legendary beast is dragged from a Welsh mountain lake…
The fourteen stories in Nick Hunt’s debut collection of short fiction travel from sixteenth-century Mexico to a post-collapse near future, from a visionary supermarket to life on other planets. All of them revolve around different forms of loss. By turns blackly funny, disquieting and fantastical, Loss Soup and Other Stories is a journey through the Anthropocene, climate chaos and the Sixth Extinction to the strange new worlds that might lie beyond.
The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh
‘Something between a history book and a fable about consumerism, The Nutmeg’s Curse tells the story of how rapacious greed for spices led the Dutch East India Company to seize control of Indonesia’s Banda Islands – then the world’s only source of nutmeg – in the 17th century. Ghosh prises apart this overlooked history to draw a series of troubling links between the spice trade, imperialism, capitalism, climate change and war. He is a brilliant storyteller, and this striking and disturbing book helps us understand how the modern world came to be.’ ~ Nick
The Overstory by Richard Powers
‘This novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize, begins with the mass death of trees: the North American chestnut blight, which killed up to 4 billion trees at the start of the 20th century. While this book is very much about people – weaving together the interconnected stories of nine human protagonists – trees are the real subjects (not the objects) of the narrative, and Powers takes the reader deep into their inner lives, following the mycelial threads that link the human to the arboreal. This book genuinely changed how I saw the world: for weeks after finishing it, I could hardly walk down a street without stopping to stare at a tree, awestruck and dumbfounded, astonished that I could ever have taken their extraordinary presence for granted.’ ~ Nick
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarcuk
‘An ecological detective story set in a small Polish village, this strange, twisted, darkly brilliant novel –revolving around a nature-loving old woman obsessed with the poems of William Blake – infuriated the right-wing hunting lobby in Poland, which is as good a reason as any to buy a copy. One of the most original, exciting and surprising books I’ve read for years.’ ~ Nick
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso
‘To decolonise a culture, you have to deal with the Underworld. It’s easy to forget that our ‘civilised’ educated democracies are underpinned by the ancient Greek gods’ lust for domination and amusement. Books that reveal how we are unconsciously trapped in the mechanics of power are mostly deep imaginative prose works that can bring this dark ‘material’ out into the light. Roberto Calasso’s astonishing remix of the classical myths, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, runs from the rape of Europa by Zeus to the Olympian carnage of heroes at the siege of Troy, and returns the gods to their enthralling amoral role in the drama of human affairs.’ ~ Charlotte
The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
‘Equally immersive and devastating is W.G. Sebald’s masterpiece The Rings of Saturn. The narrator walks a metaphysical path along the coastal edge of Suffolk, past its abandoned great houses and fishing fleets, placing his melancholic gaze on the underbelly of the Empire. A journey that weaves into the lives of poets and philosophers, Sir Thomas Browne’s skull, the Empress Tzu, the silkworm industry of Norwich, the bombing of German cities in WWII, the invisible cruelty of hierarchies that keep us caught in the repeating wheel of history.’ ~ Charlotte
Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance by John Berger
‘Even though I have been looking at a world rocked by oil dependency and climate change for over a decade, the books I return to are about ways of being human that endure, that show a glimpse of the future embedded in time/physical. Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance is a slim book about a journey to Palestine written with the spare poetry and intellectual fire of old age. John Berger goes to the front line and sees for himself how the Palestinian people are living. He looks at the hyperreality of the media, the business of war, at poverty and privilege. He stands by a group of donkeys and by a young boy watering aubergines under olive trees and locates himself in an ancient land. He sits at his writing desk at night and addresses the dead revolutionary artists he once knew. The future is fraternal, he says. He is 79 years old and he is still a Marxist and reading these pages you know why. When the storm advances, hold everything dear, he is telling us. The people that matter, the trees that matter, the life that matters.’ ~ Charlotte
‘As consequences of civilisation squeeze modernity in a death grip, connecting with the ancestral world, breaking out of our box of time, is perhaps the most radical act any of us can do.
In his startling manual Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, Tyson Yunkaporta describes five ways of seeing from an Aboriginal perspective – kinship mind, storytelling mind, dreaming mind, ancestor mind and pattern mind. All five help perceive the land and ourselves within it, kin with creatures, rivers, rocks and sky. This knowledge is embedded in ritual, storytelling and practice that hold communities and cultures together, so human beings can be ‘custodial’ for places and living beings. We have a thousand-year clean up ahead of us, Yunkaporta tells us, and generously hands us the imaginative tools to begin the work.’ ~ Charlotte
Our New Rebel Library Recommendations for this month: a DEGROWTH book list
Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World by Jason Hickel
Our planet is in trouble. But how can we reverse the current crisis and create a sustainable future? The answer is: degrowth. By shining a light on ecological breakdown and the system that's causing it, Hickel shows how we can bring our economy back into balance with the living world and build a thriving society for all.
Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist
In Doughnut Economics, Oxford academic Kate Raworth identifies the seven critical ways in which mainstream economics has led us astray – from selling us the myth of ‘rational economic man’ to obsessing over growth at all costs – and offers instead an alternative roadmap for bringing humanity into a sweet spot that meets the needs of all within the means of the planet.
Degrowth by Giorgos Kallis
The term “degrowth” has emerged within ecological and other schools of economics as a critique of the idea (and ideology) of economic growth. Degrowth argues that economic growth is no longer desirable – its costs exceed its benefits – and advocates a transformation of economies so that they produce and consume less, differently and better. In this book the central claims of the degrowth literature are discussed alongside some key criticisms.
Exploring Degrowth: A Critical Guide by Vincent Liegey & Anitra Nelson
As politicians and corporations obsess over growth objectives, the degrowth movement demands that we must slow down our economies, our politics and our cultures to live within the Earth’s limits. This book navigates the practice and strategies of the movement, looking at its strengths and weaknesses. Covering horizontal democracy, local economies and the reduction of work, it shows us why degrowth is a feasible project.
The World After GDP by Lorenzo Fioramonti
GDP has become the benchmark of success and a powerful ordering principle at the heart of the global economy. But the convergence of major economic, social and environmental crises has exposed the flaws of our economic system which values GDP above all else as a measure of prosperity and growth.
In this book, political economist Lorenzo Fioramonti sets out his vision of a world after GDP. From a new role for small business, households and civil society to a radical evolution of democracy and international relations, Fioramonti sets out a combination of top-down reforms and bottom-up pressures whose impact, he argues, would be unprecedented, and would make possible a more equitable, sustainable and happy society.
In Defense of Degrowth: Opinions and Manifestos by Giorgos Kallis, edited by Aaron Vansintjan
Giorgios Kallis is one of the leading thinkers of the degrowth movement. This book is a compilation of his essays, articles, blog posts and ‘minifestos’ The book also features debates and exchanges between Kallis and degrowth detractors.
Entropia: Life Beyond Industrial Civilisation by Samuel Alexander
When industrial civilisation collapsed in the third decade of the 21st century, a community living on a small island in the South Pacific Ocean found itself permanently isolated from the rest of the world. With no option but to build a self-sufficient economy with very limited energy supplies, this community set about creating a simpler way of life that could flourish into the deep future. Determined above all else to transcend the materialistic values of the Old World, they made a commitment to live materially simple lives, convinced that this was the surest path to genuine freedom, peace, and sustainable prosperity. Seven decades later, in the year 2099, this book describes the results of their remarkable living experiment.
Liberation from Excess: The Road to a Post-Growth Economy by Niko Paech
In his counter model of a post-growth economy, sustainability researcher Niko Paech calls for restrictions upon industrial value added processes and for patterns of self-sufficiency to be strengthened. He argues that this form of economic activity would not only be more frugal but also more stable and environmentally friendly.
Free e-PDF available from the publisher’s website.
Post-Growth Living For an Alternative Hedonism by Kate Soper
Climate change is inextricably linked with the consumerist, capitalist society in which we live. How do we stop the impending catastrophe and how can we create a movement capable of confronting it head-on? Post-Growth Living For an Alternative Hedonism is plea for a new and ecologically sustainable vision of the good life.
The Future is Degrowth: A Guide to a World Beyond Capitalism by Matthias Schmelzer, Andrea Vetter & Aaron Vansintjan
Offering a counter-history of how economic growth emerged in the context of colonialism, fossil-fuelled industrialisation, and capitalist modernity, The Future Is Degrowth argues that the ideology of growth conceals the rising inequalities and ecological destructions associated with capitalism, and points to desirable alternatives to it. This book provides a vision for post-capitalism beyond growth. It charts a path forward through policies that democratise the economy, “now-topias” that create free spaces for experimentation, and counter-hegemonic movements that make it possible to break with the logic of growth.
Poem of the Month
The Month of May
by Wendy Cope
‘O! the month of May, the merry month of May…‘
-Thomas Dekker (d. 1632)
The month of May, the merry month of May,
So long awaited, and so quickly past.
The winter’s over, and it’s time to play.
I saw a hundred shades of green today
And everything that Man made was outclassed.
The month of May, the merry month of May.
Now hello pink and white and farewell grey.
My spirits are no longer overcast.
The winter’s over, and it’s time to play.
Sing ‘Fa la la la la,’ I dare to say,
(Tried being modern but it didn’t last)
‘The month of May, the merry month of May.’
I don’t know how much longer I can stay.
The summers come, the summers go so fast,
And soon there will be no more time to play.
So carpe diem, gather buds, make hay.
The world is glorious. Compare, contrast
December with the merry month of May.
Now is the time, now is the time to play.
See all of our book recommendations from previous months in our Rebel Library Archive
Contact the Rebel Library at: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”
~ Wendell Berry