What We Editors Are Reading

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Recorded by Martha O’Hehir

Molly Brown
I just finished reading one book and am trying to read two more at the same time!  All well-written, enlightening, and inspiring.

Mutual Aid – The Other Law of the Jungle, by Pablo Servigne and Gauthier Chapelle
This book reads like an adventure novel, with some many fascinating stories of cooperation and mutual aid among and between species, even between plants and animals.  The authors also report on research of mutual aid and cooperation among humans, and what supports cooperation and what gets in the way.  One of the most interesting findings is that competition between individuals may benefit the more aggressive or selfish person, but societies that practice cooperation survive and thrive better than competitive, aggressive societies. Read and find out why!

The Dawn of Everything – A New History of Humanity, by David Graeber and David Wengrow.
I had to get this book after reading numerous enthusiastic reviews about it.  As I read it, I am rediscovering how much I love history, especially history about people and cultures (as opposed to military heroes, kings, and presidents).  An added delight: The Dawn of Everything challenges conventional beliefs about early human consciousness, intelligence, and lifestyles—and I tend to enjoy anything that upsets our apple carts, our comfortable paradigms. Although I’ve only read 160 of the 526 pages (not counting 150 pages of notes and references and another 17 pages of index), I’m already sensing a theme emerging, similar to what I’ve found in Mutual Aid and The Patterning Instinct by Jeremy Lent: there is no such thing as “human nature,” especially in regards to cooperation vs. competitiveness, aggression vs. peace-loving.  Humans societies appear through our 200,000 years on Earth in so many different forms, with so many different values and organizations, that is is impossible to say any one way is “natural” and others are aberrations.  We’re all over the map!  And different conditions give rise to different adaptations and creative responses.  I actually find that quite hopeful: we really can create a more sustainable, just, and humane way of life; we only have to choose collectively how we want to live, and the kind of world we want to leave to our descendants.

Finding the Mother Tree- Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, by Suzanne Simard
Like The Dawn of Everything, I read so many rave reviews and mentions of this book that I had to buy a copy, and can barely lay it down. Simard blows apart the comfortable assumptions on the part of those of us raised in European/American paradigms of white and human supremacy as she details her meticulous research and findings about the amazing intelligence and communication networks of trees and mycorrhizae (aka. mycelia), as well as other intimately interconnected plants and animals.  She writes of her personal journey into the world of the forest, with stories about family members, photos from childhood, and other details that bring her explorations and insights alive.  In this way, she speaks directly to me, to my heart as well as my intellect.  Thank you, Suzanne!!

Recorded by Martha O’Hehir

Erin Holtz Breackman
During this winter yoga session of classes, I have been reading from Thich Nhat Hanh’s most recent bookZen and the Art of Saving the Planet. Filled with a lifetime of learning, practice, insight, and teaching, he could leave us with no greater parting gift – or call to action – than this one.



Recorded by Martha O’Hehir

Karina Lutz
I’m always reading 10+ books at a time. Major predictors if I’ll finish it: it’s a library book, with a deadline, and my book group’s reading it, ditto.

I’m loving poetry:
Ada Limon’s Bright Dead Things
Jim Brown’s Language Be My Bronco
Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem
Jericho Brown’s The Tradition
Looby Macnamara’s 
Strands of Infinity: Poetry to Reconnect

and fiction:
Virgina Woolf’s A Haunted House 
and I just finished Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book.

As for nonfiction, I’m rereading Susan Griffin’s early ecofeminist poetic treatise Woman and Nature for this issue, taking a second try at Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory, which I enthusiastically lent to someone half way through a few years ago, and they never returned it. Next up is On Freedom by Maggie Nelson, after hearing Ezra Klein interview her about it. It’s a fascinating nondual take on an American lightning rod. And I just picked up Medical Nemesis by Ivan Illich for a book of oral history of alternative medicine pioneers I’m hoping to write.

Recorded by Martha O’Hehir

Martha O’Hehir
 I am reading Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, by Joanna Rogers Macy (1983). I have unprocessed fears and trauma from “The Cold War era.” Written in 1983, Joanna named the elephant(s) in the room: not just the Bomb Threat, but also the extinctions that were coming to consciousness after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published. And not only those, but she also saw already how the colonization and extraction practices of the “First World” (global north)  were causing massive disruption in the Global South, then called the “Third World” countries. This book elaborates the psycho-spiritual-cultural reasons we struggle(d) to acknowledge and speak of our pain for the world, and one can see the seminal beginnings of the Work That Reconnects. I am reading this as a preparation to facilitate sessions using the spiral to deal with growing climate /eco-grief as an additional existential threat. 

 I am also reading All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by  Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson (2021). This book is a compendium of women’s voices via essays and poetry, illustrated by Madeleine Jubilee Saito. It is a repository of sanity and solutions, a treasure box of gems to encourage, strengthen and support “the relational web between us, which needs to be nurtured.” The book is cleverly annotated and the authors have provided more references and resources for collective reading on their website www.allwecansave.earth.

I am also reading Paul Levy’s (2021) recently published Wetiko: Healing the Mind-Virus That Plagues our World. “Wetiko” originated as a word used by native peoples to describe what they observed in colonists’ and settlers’ behaviors, which appeared as a virus of the mind resulting in the attitude and unconstrained impulse of “Subjugate, Enslave, Extract, Consume.” Levy also describes how the Coronavirus-19 pandemic demonstrates in reality how wetiko works: like a physical virus, it has no life of its own, but can only do its work through a cooperating human host. Wetiko as a construct has proved to be a useful concept for Spiral work: in seeing with new and ancient eyes, especially as we examine our own culpability for suffering and climate change through participating in a wetiko-based culture. Additionally, Levy says, “The great dissolver of wetiko is compassion,” echoing Joanna Macy’s call to us to allow ourselves to feel and honor our pain for the world, which leads to compassion and a transformation of our being which allows us to go forth with courage and action. If the Great Unraveling can be seen as the unraveling of wetiko, then we can be quite optimistic, seeing with new eyes how we can accelerate a new sustainable way of living on planet earth by starting with ourselves and dismantling wetiko within. And what, says, Levy, is the greatest power over wetiko? Awakened creative imagination. 

Recorded by Martha O’Hehir

Evangelia Papoutsaki
My books-to-read pile is fast increasing while the books I am still reading pile is not going down fast enough but I am happy to be surrounded by so many wonderful books. 
I just finished Osho’s(2001) Awareness: The Key to Living in Balance which I enjoyed very much as it served as a reminder of how meditation heightens awareness and “presencing.” Here is a quote: “The whole Eastern methodology can be reduced to one word: witnessing. And the whole Western methodology can be reduced to one thing: analyzing. Analyzing, you go round and round. Witnessing, you simply get out of the circle.” A good reminder to an academic who is training to analyze everything!

I am still going through Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations (2021, in 5 volumes), I loved David Abram’s contribution in Vol. 1: Planet about Wild Ethics and Participatory Science: thinking between the body and the breathing earth. “Wild Ethics has more to do with a simple humility towards others-an alternative openness not just towards other persons but also toward the inexhaustible otherness of the manifold beings that compose this earthly world.” His books, The Spell of the Sensuous (1997) and Becoming Animal (2011) are the only two books I take with me when I do my fieldwork on small islands; they are like bibles reminding me to stay close to nature, becoming part of nature. 

And I am re-reading after many years The Poisonwood Bible (2008) by Barbara Kingslover: what a masterpiece and a good reminder of the evils of colonization and missionaries inflicted on a whole continent. Narrated through the voices of the female members of the household of a Baptist missionary in Congo, the book juxtaposes these female narratives against the multiple manifestations of patriarchy. Brilliantly written and solidly packed with symbolism.  
And the book I am now starting is The Vagina by Naomi Wolf. Cultural history but also a fiercely courageous portrait of female sexuality through her own personal narrative. A great follow-up to her older bestseller, The Beauty Myth. I am so looking forward to getting to the conclusions part: reclaiming the Goddess where she mentions her visit to Crete (my ancestral island) that was the epicenter of Goddess worship of the ancient Minoan civilization that antedated the ascent of the Aryan male-dominated pantheon of gods of classical Greece and also the harsher patriarchal workshops of the Hebrews. I think it’s time I go back to my ancestral island to trace the inner Goddess of my ancestors! 

I shall not mention my long list of Buddhist texts, my ongoing practice… but I did enjoy re-reading Awakening the Buddha Within by Surya Das and the work of  Thich Nhat Hanh whose passing away touched me deeply. 

Recorded by Martha O’Hehir

Rebecca Selove
My current readings are mostly related to research. I read several novels during my break in December, and will mention this one: Now in November, the first novel written by Josephine W. Johnson. She won the Pulitzer Prize (1935) which she wrote at age 24. I found it in a thrift store, not that I was looking for it. She was living on a farm “outside” of St. Louis in an area that is now quite urban, and near where I lived. The book is about a family with four daughters who were middle-class and urban, who moved to a farm during the Depression and had great difficulties with poverty and crop failures. The story is told through the eyes of Marget, who alternates between describing challenges and tragedies of their lives and the lives of their neighbors, and being enchanted by the natural world. I thought it was a remarkable and wonderful book. 

I have also been following Caring Bridge entries from and for Tallu Schuyler Quinn, accessible via Google.  Many of her entries are going to be published in her forthcoming book What We Wish Were True.

Recorded by Martha O’Hehir

Carolyn Treadway
I am reading about a new book co-edited by Dahr Jamail and Stan Rushworth: We Are The Middle of Forever: Indigenous Voices from Turtle Island on the Changing Earth. It will be published by The New Press early in April. I can’t wait to have this book in my hands! 

Dahr is author of The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption and of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq. He has also been part of WTR for many years. Stan is an indigenous teacher of Native American literature and author of Diaspora’s Children and Going to Water: The Journal of Beginning Rain. For the new book, together they have interviewed twenty indigenous leaders, whose voices and wisdom the book amplifies and promotes.

Here is what The New Press says about the book:

An innovative work of research and reportage, We Are the Middle of Forever places Indigenous voices at the center of conversations about today’s environmental crisis. The book draws on interviews with people from different North American Indigenous cultures and communities, generations, and geographic regions, who share their knowledge and experience, their questions, their observations, and their dreams of maintaining the best relationship possible to all of life. A welcome antidote to the despair arising from the climate crisis, We Are the Middle of Forever brings to the forefront the perspectives of those who have long been attuned to climate change and will be an indispensable aid to those looking for new and different ideas and responses to the challenges we face.

I believe that all people urgently need to learn and follow indigenous teachings and guidance on how to relate to our Earth, our only home. This book may become an essential “guidebook” for that purpose.

Another treasure I’ve been watching (not reading) is a 54 minute documentary movie, Living in the Time of Dying, filmed by Michael Shaw. Making this documentary was Michael’s response to learning the probability of global climate collapse. He conveys our climate situation in an open, honest, compassionate, reverent manner. In the film he interviews Dahr Jamail, Stan Rushworth, Jem Bendell, and Catherine Ingram, as well as telling his own story of making the film. It is excellent and very powerful. I highly recommend it.

Anyone can view the documentary at: https://www.livinginthetimeofdying.com/documentary


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