Recommendations from TESA: What’s Andrew Reading?

TESA’s worker-owners consume a lot of media: from books to movies to games and more. Much of it impacts how we perceive the world and the work we do. So we wanted to share with you what we’ve been reading, watching, and playing. With wide ranging topics from cultural history to education to science fiction, we think you’ll find something of interest. Starting us off is TESA worker-owner Andrew Stachiw, who has honed in on some books he’s recently read.

9780143118763Ill Fares the Land

Tony Judt

As a student of history, I have always been a big fan of Tony Judt’s work, and his ability to present complex narratives, data, and contested historical memory in a style that pushes for clarity and analysis.  Ill Fares the Land is a book written for “young people,” and its exploration is well summarized by Judt’s statement:

“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?”

Ill Fares the Land one of Judt’s first books after his diagnosis of ALS, and it reads as more of an impassioned conversation with the reader than a history book. Judt’s well researched and explained chapters show why we are where we are as a society while asking: what we will do next?

The Word for World is Forest

Ursula K. Le Guin

To say the least, we are all huge fans of Ursula K. Le Guin at TESA.  Just a couple minutes of UKLG time will go a long way to show you how she has taken such an important role for us (you can also watch the video below).  The Word for World is Forest was published in 1976 – based on a novella nominated for a Nebula Award in 1972 – and is part of her Hainish Cycle, which includes The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. Set on Athshe, centuries in our future, or as the colonizing logging groups from Earth have named it, New Tahiti, The Word for World is Forest explores topics of militarism, slavery, imperialism and xenophobia, just to name a few. These narratives are played out through the contact and conflict that emerges between the colonizers from Earth and the native Athshe. Like the best science fiction, Le Guin takes us on a journey through our own global history and explores where we are headed as a species.

The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th Century America

Paul E Johnson & Sean Wilentz

For me, it always comes back to history. In a time of runaway capitalism, increasing polarization and widespread religious fundamentalism, it can be all too easy to forget that the more things change the more they stay the same. The Kingdom of Matthias served to remind me that we have been on this road for a long time – the 19th century in the US was a time full of up heavel, not to mention in the rest of the world!

The Kingdom of Matthias reads like a novel, and follows the life of Robert Matthews, later known as the Prophet Matthias. The story takes place in the 1830s in New York, and explores a variety of topics including religious revivals, emerging market capitalism, the working class, gender, the norms of domesticity, and so much more. Oh, and did I mention the sex scandals, murder, and courtroom drama? Truly, this book has it all, and it was a widespread phenomenon of the time, controlling the front pages for months – a veritable 19th century reality show. Through religious awakening and the ascendancy (and downfall, of course) of the Prophet Matthias, the reader is taken on an unforgettable tour of the American cultural landscape. This book is a page turner and even had a last page shocker.

The Dew Breaker

Edwidge Danticat

This was an excellent book, both stylistically and in regards to the story itself.  The book revolves around a member of infamous Haitian torturers called the “Dew Breakers” that were given free reign during the time of the repressive Duvalier regimes. The book is told from a variety of perspectives and during a range of time periods, which allows for an honest and unflinching on the ways trauma, violence, and identity play out over time. I don’t want to give too much away about the characters or structure of the novel, as I found the gradual unveiling of the characters to be one of the most compelling elements of the book.  This was one of the best books I have read this year, and after finishing I immediately wanted to work my way through the entire Danticat collection at the library.

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