What I'm Reading / December 2015

I don't blog as often I'd like to, so I thought I'd bridge the time between posts by putting together a list of some of the interesting things I've been reading recently. The first installment has politics, biology, literature, and, of course, music. 

Samuel Moyn, "Beauty and the Costs of Extreme Altruism." Moyn looks at the morality and psychology of those who devote their lives to helping others, particularly to distant strangers.

Scott Atran, “ISIS Is a Revolution.” In Aeon, Atran pushes against the series of articles that refuse to take ISIS seriously. People are eager to dismiss ISIS as “medieval” or built on “contradictions” or “marginal,” suggesting that it’s doomed to fail (soon). Atran compares ISIS to other historical revolutionary movements and suggests there’s no clear reason to think ISIS will defeat itself in the short-term. Best part: considering the real appeal of ISIS to its recruits.

Jeet Heer, “The New Utopians.” In The New Republic, Heer writes about Kim Stanley Robinson and several other science fiction writers who focus on the relationship between humanity and potential environmental disaster.

Ben Crair, “What’s a Species, Anyways?” Again The New Republic. This is a case study of the efforts to save the red wolf in the Eastern United States. These efforts call into question the ways we think about conservation, evolution, and biology. I think one of the great shifts in our moral thinking about nature is going to be away from concepts like endangered species and toward ecological flow

Sharon Ruston, “The Science of Life and Death in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” On The Public Domain Review, which is a treasure for the curious, Ruston makes the case that Frankenstein is not fantastical in the way we think of it now. Rather, Percy and Mary Shelley participated in a contemporary debate about the boundary between life and death, which are not as clear-cut categories as we might think.

Ann Powers, “An Outsider Remakes Nashville’s Traditional Sound.” Great interview with Dave Cobb over at NPR Music. Cobb produced three of the best country records of the last two years: Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free, and Chris Stapleton’s Traveler.

Last one. I write over at my friend’s blog, Shadows & Noise, about music. We have a long running tradition of posting lists of our favorite music of the year. My Year in Music 2015 went up a couple of weeks ago. Find a new favorite album over the holidays!

*Photo is from the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris.