recommended reading

Here are some recommended reading lists on a small number of topics I’ve had the good fortune and privilege to study at length. Perhaps you’ll find something that interests you.

If I could recommend only one writer, it would be the late Mark Fisher, who taught me how to think and who continues to haunt everything I write. Other writers and thinkers who matter tremendously to me, yet who rarely appear below include Rachel Carson, Stanley Cavell, and Richard Rorty. Although relatively few of these lists include works of fiction, two further figures who have affected absolutely everything I write are J. G. Ballard and William S. Burroughs.

“The short course”

I consider these texts absolutely essential for coming to terms with the manifold conditions of our existence. These are core texts that inform and support everything that follows.

1. Jacques Rancière – The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation (1991, originally 1987)

Rancière shows us that learning and teaching are processes that exceed or even explode the historical, institutional constraints that transform education into a disciplinary operation by means of which an authoritative teacher supposedly transmits information to a docile, receptive student. In other words, Rancière disarticulates the process of learning from the various modes in which it is typically defanged. Instead, he shows how learning is the primary function of applied natural intelligence. If this is true, then how we approach not just formal education, but learning and teaching in all contexts, must change fundamentally. For example, instead of emphasizing certification, content, metricization, or standardization, a good teacher will focus on motivating students to exercise error-tolerant, interminable strategies of inquiry and revision. These are, in fact, strategies that everyone already employs, e.g., to navigate the world. More abstractly, Rancière argues that these apparently pedagogical insights translate into a radical conclusion about the human – namely, that all humans are equally naturally intelligent. This is because intelligence is not aggregative, such that an individual can be more or less intelligent than any other individual. Rather, intelligence is a basic faculty – the capacity to learn, or to update beliefs on the basis of interactive, motivated engagements with any content or problem whatsoever.

2. Paul Feyerabend – Against Method (2010, originally 1975)

Feyerabend shows us how the logic of inquiry proceeds without the assistance of any programmatic method at all – and he argues that it’s a good thing, too. He uses detailed case studies from the history of science to demonstrate the crooked path by means of which knowledge finds its way and then gets supplanted. However, Feyerabend’s point is not merely that the history of inquiry is a patchwork, but that how we form inquiries in the first place benefits tremendously from this condition of epistemological anarchism. Abductive and heuristic reasoning are the best tools we have for producing knowledge or pursuing inquiries. Accordingly, Feyerabend dismisses the refuge of methodology as a fantasy at best – and, more likely, a disciplinary tool by means of which generative ideation and perceptive speculation get shut down. (See also his “How to Be a Good Empiricist: A Please for Tolerance in Matters Epistemological” [1971].) Ultimately, and ironically, given his many late provocations to contrary, Feyerabend ends up disclosing his own profound loyalty to reason, understood properly. As Feyerabend famously claims, when it comes to epistemology and method, “Anything goes.” But this is actually a fundamental insight underlying the operation of reason, because reason is a contingent process according to which any prior belief or statement undergoes tests that produce its own revision.

3. Charles Sanders Peirce – The Essential Peirce, Volumes 1 [Selected Philosophical Writings‚ (1867–1893)] and 2 [Selected Philosophical Writings (1893-1913)] (1998)

4. Samantha Frost – Biocultural Creatures: Toward a New Theory of the Human (2016)

5. Reza Negarestani – Intelligence and Spirit (2018)

6. Manuel DeLanda – A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (1997)

7. Quentin Meillassoux – After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (2010, originally 2006)

8. F. W. J. Schelling – Philosophical Inquiries into the Essence of Human Freedom (2006, originally 1809)

9. Wilfred Bion – Experiences in Groups (1990, originally 1961)

10. J. L. Austin – How to Do Things with Words (1975, originally 1962)

Left political realism

I often find myself frustrated with how contemporary political theoretical vocabularies can serve as flybottles for our thinking. These texts break with, revise, and unsettle those vocabularies in highly generative ways.

Aeschylus – Oresteia (2013, originally 400s BCE) and Sophocles – Antigone (2013, originally c. 441 BCE)
Hannah Arendt – The Human Condition (2018, originally 1958)
Aristotle – Politics (2013, originally 300s BCE)
Cătălin Avramescu – An Intellectual History of Cannibalism (2009, originally 2003) and Grégoire Chamayou – Manhunts: A Philosophical History (2012, originally 2010)
Roberto Esposito – Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community (2010, originally 1998) and Immunitas: The Protection and Negation of Life (2011, originally 2002)
Jean-François Lyotard – Libidinal Economy (1993, originally 1974)
Niccolò Machiavelli – The Chief Works and Others, Volume I (1989, originally 1530s)
Friedrich Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (2011, originally 1886) and On the Genealogy of Morality (2017, originally 1887)
David Roden – Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human (2014)
Sheldon Wolin – Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought (2016, originally 1960)

The ecological crisis

Much of my work involves the ecological crisis. The ecological crisis is not reducible to climate change alone, for climate change is only a symptom of a deeper, relational crisis of nature that the dominant planetary culture embodies. Rather than abandoning the very idea of a philosophy of nature, such an approach needs to be contested, reclaimed, and reinvented. “It is only if thinking about nature always involves more nature than can be thought that nature is in fact being thought.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order, Volumes 1-4 (2002-2004)
Roberto Esposito – Bios: Biopolitics and Philosophy (2008)
Arran Gare – The Philosophical Foundations of Ecological Civilization: A Manifesto for the Future (2016)
Donna Haraway – “A Cyborg Manifesto” (1985) and Laboria Cuboniks – “Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation” (2014)
Paul Kingsnorth – Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays (2017)
Aldo Leopold – A Sand County Almanac (1968, originally 1949) and The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays (1991, originally 1904-1947)
Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright – Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future (2018)
Val Plumwood – Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (1993) and Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason (2002)
Jeff Vandermeer – The Southern Reach Trilogy (2014)
Lebbeus Woods – Radical Reconstruction (2001)

Ontology

Ontology is a philosophical term that refers to the study of various conceptual schemas of the real. The topic is abstract and complicated, but these texts will steer you well.

Gilles Deleuze – Difference and Repetition (2004, originally 1968) and The Logic of Sense (2004, originally 1969)
Heraclitus – Fragments in (1979, originally 500s-400s BCE)
David Lewis – On the Plurality of Worlds (1986) and Jacques Roubaud – The Plurality of Worlds of Lewis (1995, originally 1991)
Stephen Mumford – Laws in Nature (2004)
Jean-Luc Nancy – Being Singular Plural (2000, originally 1996)
F. W. J. Schelling – First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (2004, originally 1799) and The Ages of the World (2019, first draft originally 1811)
Gilbert Simondon – L’individuation psychique et collective (2007, originally 1989); for translated excerpts, see “The Genesis of the Individual” and “The Position of the Problem of Ontogenesis
Baruch Spinoza – Ethics in The Collected Works of Spinoza, Volume I (1986, originally 1664-1665)
Alfred North Whitehead – Process and Reality (1978, originally 1929)
William C. Wimsatt – Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations to Reality (2007)

War

At present, intellectual discourses about war are consistently underrated. Warfare is a paradigm case of a complex, theory-laden, and value-saturated material process that takes place at multiple spatiotemporal scales, and much can be learned from these discourses.

Antoine J. Bousquet – The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity (2010) and The Eye of War: Military Perception from the Telescope to the Drone (2018)
Caleb Carr – The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare against Civilians (2002)
Thomas Hammes – The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century (2006)
Chris Hedges – War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning (2002)
Sebastian Junger – War (2010)
David Kilcullen – Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla (2013)
Frans P. B. Osinga – Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd (2006)
Thucydides – The War of the Peloponnesians and the Athenians (2013, originally 400s BCE)
Sun Tzu – The Art of War (2007, originally 400s BCE)
Harold A. Winters – Battling the Elements: Weather and Terrain in the Conduct of War (2001)

2011

Giorgio Agamben – Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998, originally 1995)
Jacques Derrida – The Politics of Friendship (2006)
Philip K. Dick – The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (1982)
Michel Foucault – History of Madness (2006, originally 1961)
Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit (1980)
Alasdair MacIntyre – After Virtue (1981) or Whose Justice? Which Rationality (1988)
Jacques Rancière – Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy (1999, originally 1994)
Gillian Rose – Love’s Work (2011, originally 1995)
Carl Schmitt – The Concept of the Political (2007, originally 1932)
Slavoj Žižek – The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989)

Honorable mentions: Peter Brown – Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (2000, originally 1967), Hélène Cixous – “The Laugh of the Medusa,” John P. McCormick – Machiavellian Democracy (2011), Hanna Fenichel Pitkin – Fortune Is a Woman: Gender and Politics in the Thought of Niccolò Machiavelli (1984)

2012

Giorgio Agamben – The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government (2011, originally 2007)
Louis Althusser – Philosophy of the Encounter: Later Writings, 1978-1987 (2006)
Alain Badiou – Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism (2003, originally 1997)
Hans Blumenberg – Shipwreck with Spectator: Paradigm of a Metaphor for Existence (1996, originally 1979)
Herman Melville – The Confidence-Man (originally 1857)
F. W. J. Schelling – The Ages of the World (2000, originally 1815)
Carl Schmitt – Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation (1997, updated in 2015, originally 1954)
Clare Spark – Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival (2000)
Jacob Taubes – Occidental Eschatology (2009, originally 1947)
Urbanomic – Collapse: Philosophical Research and Development (ed. Robin MacKay), Volumes I-VII

Honorable mentions: Louis Althusser – Machiavelli and Us (2011, originally 1995), Ray Brassier – Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction (2007), Peter Fenves – Late Kant: Towards Another Law of the Earth (2003), Haruki Murakami – 1Q84 (2011), Alastair Reynolds – Chasm City (2003), Carl Schmitt – The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum (1950, 2003), Carl Schmitt – Theory of the Partisan (2007, originally 1963)

2013

Elizabeth Grosz – Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics and Art (2011)
Jack Judith Halberstam – The Queer Art of Failure (2011)
Nick Land – Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings, 1987–2007 (2011)
Bruno Latour – An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (2013)
Quentin Meillassoux – L’Inexistence divine (1997, digital circulation, excerpted in translation in 2011)
Reza Negarestani – Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (2008)
Isabelle Stengers – Thinking with Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts (2011, originally 2002)
Bernard Stiegler – Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus (1998, originally 1994)
Geoff Waite – Nietzsche’s Corps/e: Aesthetics, Politics, Prophecy, or, the Spectacular Technoculture of Everyday Life (1996)
Peter Watts – Starfish (1999)

Honorable mentions: Robert Aickman – The Collected Strange Stories of Robert Aickman (2000), Jack Judith Halberstam – Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (1995), Peter Hallward – Badiou: A Subject To Truth (2003), Peter Watts – Blindsight (2006)

2014

Sara Ahmed – The Promise of Happiness (2010)
Jessica Benjamin – The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination (1988)
Lauren Berlant – Cruel Optimism (2011)
Joshua Foa Dienstag – Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit (2006)
Lee Edelman – No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004)
Jill Frank – A Democracy of Distinction: Aristotle and the Work of Politics (2005)
Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House (originally 1959)
Ernst Jünger – The Forest Passage (2013, originally 1951)
Marion Milner – The Suppressed Madness of Sane Men (1987)
Donald Winnicott – Playing and Reality (2006, originally 1971)

Honorable mentions: Laird Barron, “The Forest” (2007), Philip Rieff – Freud: The Mind of a Moralist (1977, originally 1959), Steven Shaviro – Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics (2012)

2015

Neal Asher – Dark Intelligence (2015)
Mark Epstein – The Trauma of Everyday Life (2014)
Ernst Jünger – Eumeswil (2015, originally 1977)
Carolyne Larrington (trans.) – The Poetic Edda (2014)
Armand Marie Leroi – The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science (2014)
Thomas Pradeu – The Limits of the Self:Immunology and Biological Identity (2012)
Neil Roberts – Freedom as Marronage (2015)
Elaine Scarry – The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (1987)
Daniel W. Smith – Essays on Deleuze (2012)
J. Peter Euben – The Tragedy of Political Theory: The Road Not Taken (1990)

Honorable mentions: Neal Asher – The Technician (2011), Robert J. Richards – The Romantic Conception of Life: Science and Philosophy in the Age of Goethe (2002), Mick Smith – Against Ecological Sovereignty: Ethics, Biopolitics, and Saving the Natural World (2011)

2016

Jurgis Baltrusaitis – Aberrations: An Essay on The Legend of Forms (1989)
Manuel DeLanda – Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (2013, originally 2002)
Francis Fukuyama – Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy (2015)
Donna V. Jones – The Racial Discourses of Life Philosophy: Négritude, Vitalism, and Modernity (2011)
Paul Kingsnorth – The Wake (2014)
Jimmy Casas Klausen – Fugitive Rousseau: Slavery, Primitivism, and Political Freedom (2016)
Thomas W. Laqueur – The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains (2015)
Cixin Liu – The Dark Forest (2015, originally 2008)
Miguel Vattar – The Republic of the Living: Biopolitics and the Critique of Civil Society (2014)
Andrea Wulf – The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World (2015)

Honorable mentions: Andrew Culp – Dark Deleuze (2016), Richard Gavin – Sylvan Dread: Tales of Pastoral Darkness (2016), Aviezer Tucker and Gian Piero de Bellis (eds.) – Panarchy: Political Theories of Non-Territorial States (2015)

2017

Elisabeth Bronfen – Night Passages: Philosophy, Literature, and Film (2013, originally 2008)
CCRU – Writings 1997-2003 (2015, Urbanomic)
Philippa Foot – Natural Goodness (2001)
Alan Moore – Providence (2015-2017)
Joshua Ramey – The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal (2012)
William Clare Roberts – Marx’s Inferno: The Political Theory of Capital (2016)
James C. Scott – Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (2017)
Adam Scovell – Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange (2017)
Étienne Souriau – The Different Modes of Existence (2015, originally 1943)
Eduardo Viveiros de Castro – Cannibal Metaphysics (2014)

Honorable mentions: Greg Bear – Blood Music (2014, originally 1985), Richard Gavin – The Benighted Path: Primeval Gnosis and the Monstrous Soul (2015), Project Itoh – Genocidal Organ (2012, originally 2007), Tim Larkin – When Violence Is the Answer: Learning How to Do What It Takes When Your Life Is at Stake (2017), Sean McFate – The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order (2017), Matthew Levi Stevens – The Magical Universe of William S. Burroughs (2014)

2018

2019 so far

Richard Adams – Watership Down (1996, originally 1972)
Cinzia Arruzza – A Wolf in the City: Tyranny and the Tyrant in Plato’s Republic (2018)
Marcus Aurelius – Meditations (2003, originally 161-180 CE)
K.D. – Headless (2015)
Ludwig Klages – Of Cosmogonic Eros (2018, originally 1922)
Petra Mendik – A Bloody and Barbarous God: The Metaphysics of Cormac McCarthy (2016)
Michael Surya – Bataille: An Intellectual Biography (2010)

Honorable mentions: TBD