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Recommended Reading

Article Table of Contents

I’ve read many books over the years. Thousands. Here’s a few that I find myself referencing/recommending.Periodically, I refresh this list. It’s changed over the years years.

the list you are about to read is heavily reworked, based off this older list: josh.works/recommended-reading-original-list

These are the books I cannot un-read, which shape me today.

I’ll read any book, for any reason, and if I “like” it is almost a complete afterthought. The real question is - can I glean something of value from it? Can I sift and find something, anything that is helpful to me? That increases my understanding or imagination, or is an engaging-enough story?

If I can, I’m pleased with the experience. I read English texts quickly, and easily, by the way. 1

Anyway, plunge into a book only if reading seems pleasant-enough to make the effort worthwhile. No sweat either way, you’ll get a sense of some things just by surfing book titles, I’m ‘just’ surfacing a list, one or two of which might catch your eye, and if it does and you click through to amazon or good reads or the library and find a review that seems 🤓🧐 and you have a nice few hours of reading, congrats to us both. 🎉

I also used a Kindle Paperwhite with a nice magnetic cover (easy to transport, read while waiting around, I carry it in my purse/hip bag/fanny pack), and am pretty good with my library card/Libby, and enjoy reading for sometimes purely dissociative purposes.

This list is categorized in no particular order.

Denver/Regional things #

I lived in Golden 2015-2022. Even ran for city council in 2017, then did another round of prodding at the machine, informed mostly by Robert Moses, in 2021, after buying a house there late in 2020. Stories are fascinating, here’s some specific to Denver, Colorado, and Golden:

Denver (as did every other municipality ) fully implemented the zoning document outlined in The Atlanta Zone Plan: Report Outlining a Tentative Zone Plan for Atlanta

In the above blog post, I reference this twitter thread:

The existence of r-1 and r-2 housing, which ‘in industry’ is widely known to mean ‘single family housing’ and ‘possible multi-family, like adus, condos, etc’ will cause your blood to boil.

The guy that invented r-1 housing originally called it ‘r-1: white’. R-2, he designated “colored”.

The system has shifted a little since then, but it’s clear as can be that the plan from the 1922 ‘atlanta zone plan’ is what got ‘ratified’ by the supreme court in 1926, ambler v. euclid, and it’s what hums along in America today.

it’s why this whole regime is called ‘euclidean zoning’. It isn’t a reference to Euclidean geometry, it’s a reference to euclid, ohio. They’re saying the quiet part out loud, and drafting on fake science terms for propagandistic value.

Euclidean zoning sounds so scientific. 🤢 It’s implementing a plan with a simple goal:

The above race zoning is essential in the in interest of the public peace, order and security and will promote the welfare and prosperity of both the white and colored race. Care has been taken to prevent discrimination and to provide adequate space for the expansion of the housing areas of each race without encroaching on the areas now occupied by the other.

r1 zoning, single family zoning goes hand-in-hand with a certain road design, and ‘commercial’, ‘industrial’, ‘residential’ segregation, in order to create race segregation.

It’s such a fragile system of belief and reasoning. Even most of the people inside, propping it all up, must be so tired of it.

General food things #

Did you know mitochondria constitute half the dry weight of your body? The little high-school biochem drawings are also wrong - for some cells, mitochondria make up 2/3rds non-nucleic volume! I wasn’t aware.

For me, the grand conclusion of most of these books:

most days I mostly eat some sauted mushrooms, brocoli, zucchini, sardines, eggs, almonds, s&p, evoo, kimchi, sometime in the early afternoon, first meal of the day, then do ‘whatever’ for dinner. Black coffee or espresso, almond milk or heavy cream if needed for taste. Tea, or veggie Bouillon cubes.

Salmon is the ‘other’ meat I eat. I eat almost zero other meat, and have not purchased for myself anything but salmon and sardines for years.

I cook on a lodge 10” cast iron pan with this very specific dexter-russell 4”x2.5” pancake turner, and because I use adequate/tons of olive oil, the pan is always oiled and cleanable with the metal turner.

I can scrape it clean/flat and never even run it under water. It lives on the stove-top, I cook once or twice a day in it, and never clean it or have to put it away. It is extremely low-effort, low-demand, and delicious. I’ve cooked for dozens of people over the years, most report to enjoy my cooking.

Housing and finance and securitizations and bank fraud #

These are not all books but desperately worth the read. There’s a lot more I could say/have said about this space. Is anyone surprised that a club of settler colonialists used their club privileges to maintain a position of power over non-club members?

  1. “The 30-Year Mortgage is an Intrinsically Toxic Product” by Byrne Hobart,
  2. Government Policy, Housing, and the Origins of Securitization, 1780 - 1968 by Sarah Lehman Quinn tells the story of ‘regimes and attempted regimes of social control via housing<>financial policy`, which puts many of this century’s financial tooling developments in an interesting context.
  3. All the “money” comes from/goes to the banking fraud of treating customer’s deposits as loans. It’s not really money, it’s mis-allocated real resources, the misallocation of which has real world consequences that self-correct the original error. (‘the economic cycle’)
  4. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America I have beef with the book title. (“Our” government?) and some of the prescriptive bit, but as far as being able to build an emotional understanding of the ‘land back’ argument, this is a good one.
  5. American Municipal Zoning Codes are full of memetic copies of some social tooling that came out of Atlanta in 1922. The thing outlined by the Atlanta Zone Plan was ‘ratified’ in the supreme court in Euclid v. Ambler, 1926, and carries on in plain and obvious sight, slightly hidden from some people, today, in 2024.

Self-concept and existing in the western world #

I read the canon of any given topic that climbs high enough on my list of priorities to learn about. Here’s the ones that keep coming up in conversation, or my own mind, on the topic of ‘emotionally immature people’, ‘trauma’, ‘emotional neglect’, blah blah blah.

I got a bit of the standard ‘raised in a religious death cult’ cultural package, installed from birth. You or someone you know might be better off for reading some of these books. They were a boon to me.

You can get all/most of these books on Libby (a library app) and can send them for free to your kindle paperwhite, anywhere in the world. Or torrent the book epubs via the current piratebay mirror, and use calibre to convert/transfer them to your kindle paperwhite.

If your library doesn’t have the book, google [library system] request book form. I’ve asked the local-to-me library systems to add many books over the years, and many were easily added. One didn’t have an ebook option, and I didn’t re-request for a physical version, and sometimes if they think it won’t get read often enough they might say no.

So, you could drop a few hundred dollars on books at the high end, or possibly spend not a single dollar on any of these. I like physical copies of books, sometimes, and will mark them up, sometimes quite heavily. But lots to be gained from ebook versions or audio book versions and library versions and more.

What counts as a good-enough relationship with others, at various developmental stages? What counts as inadequate? What to do? These books sorta get at that topic. I might start by reading the Goodreads pages, or reviews, and seeing if anything grabs your eye.

parsing yours/others religious abuse/shame, and the vast overlap with the conditions fostering colonialism #

I was raised in a a high-control religious cult. Similar to: Under Pressure: What is it like to be child in a Religious Authoritarian home?

It’s a form of emotional or mental colonialism, supplanting the will/social attitude that was there (or would otherwise be there) with something preferred by the authorities.

Certain people tried intensely to replicate their way of thinking/being in others. These books give a nice, dispassionate snapshot of the size of the USA’s colonial footprint. At the time of authorship of one of the Chalmers Johnson books, the US had over 700 full-on military bases around the world.

It hurts so much to even think about, the size of the horrors done, in pursuit of empire around the world.

the above three books are about american empire, very worth reading, and helps clarify and make legible the layers of propaganda common around these american institutions.

So much for colonialism and supremacy abroad, lets talk about it done at home.

The tooling for parents to install social control ‘packages’ was physical assault, abandonment (actual or threatened), or later shame and punishment (actual or threatened), along with subtle presence and absence of warmth-approximating attitudes.

Figuring out how to repair the damage isn’t trivial. To that end, here’s some books, about Evangelicalism, whiteness, colonialism, and the willingness to coerce.

It’s worth remembering that early american police forces were nothing but deputized slave patrols. Evangelicals usually perceive the police as friendly to them, which means (😬) that evangelicals support slave patrols, and ‘patrol energy’. It’s very perceivable in home environments in ways that land as shocking to those who had alternative experiences. Myself and many others often find a ‘self-policing inner narrative’ or ‘the masters gaze’ following us around. It’s worth tying it straight back to the colonial ‘tool’ of social control, the conceptual compression is best in that framing.

When the white, slave-holding population is so vastly outnumbered by their slaves, it takes some creativity and sustained effort to prevent uprisings and rebellions.

The role of a slave patrol in a slaving society was to harass the majority population, find the most ‘willful’ slaves, and humiliate and degrade them (without killing them, of course. their labor had value) so that they would serve as a reminder to the other slaves, with their broken bodies and souls, of the cost of resistance.

A dog maiming the legs of an ‘uppity’ slave, or a load of birdshot fired across the arms of a slave that wasn’t sufficiently deferential, would leave scars, and a limp, and a maimed countenance, and any other slave that saw the scars would know what had happened, and what might happen again.

In some counties in the slave-holding american south, 15% was white, 85% was black. The white people were terrified of the threat of the slaves accruing power to themselves and taking action to improve their situation. Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution is a sobering read to help calibrate on the sort of tension that was in the air.

The attitudes these white people had towards their slaves morphed and changed over time, but still persist today, and are partially forced into the minds of all children, especially with religious dogma and shame.

For example, a common statement/belief/after-the-fact intellectual-justification for slavery by some european settler colonialists was:

God placed the white man over the black man for the benefit of the black man

this embodied belief, plus the belief in the concept of authority, led to white people pretending to “get mad” at black people when the black people didn’t act thankful for the white man’s domination.

Please see, again, Samuel Cartwright’s stunning contribution to the psychological sciences with Drapetomania

Of course, supremacy thinking wasn’t just “white over black”, it was also “men over women”, “parents over children”, “fathers over the entire family”, and more. It’s chivalry and nobility culture mixed with Anselm’s ‘satisfaction atonement’ justification of violence, mixed into a dominance hierarchy… soup.

Lots of the modern world of hierarchical, authoritative structures are nothing but insane people doing incredible leaps of logic to convince themselves and their victims that the oppression in a given society was good, inevitable, ordained by God and logic.

These kinds of people are dangerous to the children that they raise, the people that they ‘help’.

That means, though, that when you want to undo some of the damage they did to your soul, it’s best to ‘go to the source’ and see what kinds of things white people said about their own domination when they were not embarrassed or ashamed by it, but actively colluded with other white people to further their domination over their victims.

the books that might aid in deconstructing religious/cultural shame #

To that end, consider reading any the following, if they look interesting to you:

  1. The Origins of Proslavery Christianity: White and Black Evangelicals in Colonial and Antebellum Virginia
  2. The History of White People
  3. They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South

There’s also lots of propaganda around the ‘privilege’ of being part of a state (as long as you’ve achieved sufficient status within that state). If you sometimes find status games de-dignifying, read:

  1. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States
  2. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

Aver reading some of, or all of, these books, you’ll be able to more naturally engage in de-shaming thought patterns, and might be able to find a bit more peace inside your own mind, a sense of solace from the ‘toxic inner critic’, or ‘colonizer’s voice’ that our parents often force into our heads at a tender age.

Recognizing coercion #

Coercion is often rooted in entitlement. If there’s a power dynamic involved, it devolves into abuse or neglect. Can be salient. Mixed in with coercion are often beliefs about authority, obedience, ‘the right way to do it’.

“Emotionality and gender issues and patriarchy & supremacy thinking” #

I’m not sure how to introduce these books. In my opinion, it’s easy to say they’re essential reading if you find yourself to be a women (or female-passing, or feminine, or not sporting a penis) in the modern world.

Really, though, the books amount to:

ways that hierarchical power structure + violence common in the world hurts everyone, here’s how to recognize it and ways to perhaps respond.

Read the list, you might see why I say this:

But it sounds insane to say “women might want to read these books, but men, you know, just… keep on scrolling”.

Presumably, if you’re a man/have a penis, and reading this page, you are sensitive enough to appreciate that society is worse off to the degree that it conforms to hierarchical norms organized around a willingness to use violence.

Some of the ideas within these books might benefit your relationship with others, though like all of the books on this list, you’ll find your blood boiling a bit as you read.


uggg even using english dictates a certain frame on gender issues. I dislike anything that feels like frame control, and things that sound like fabricated conflict.

a lot of ‘modern stuff’ feels distinctly american, and is “just” what happens when settler colonialism + nobility/purity culture gets ‘buried’ or ‘stuck’ somewhere.

Something that is undoubtedly true is ‘supremacy/oppressor cultures are entirely devoid, necessarily, of the capacity to recognize and hold space for grief visible in the world around them, else they would necessarily self-correct2

or, ‘supremacy culture is institutionalized emotional trauma, cptsd + an embodied belief in the legitimacy of authority/political authority’

Not sure how to introduce this post, other than… it’s long, but might be worth a skim: Three Hundred Ways It Can Hurt to Be a Man — Introduction.

The way power dynamic exploitation gets encoded in certain american/western/male-ish ‘norms’ in culture is brutal. I only recently found a book written in 2006 titled: Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Year Disguised as a Man. It was an instant download-and-read. It shows how bad the emotional landscape is for a vast swath of people living in the USA. ‘3

Children #

Children are an oppressed class.

I used to think it was self-evident to more people than this seems evident to.

lots of adults internalize the bad things they experienced, normalize it, and push it down on the children around them. I overhear it in adult/child interactions all the time, especially now that I have a young child.

I find the taking children seriously twitter account (and website) to be a good resource for appreciating children as a class, seeing/witnessing them better. Witnessing us better. Ivan Illych’s Deschooling Society and Tools for Conviviality are coherent, as well.

I was a child, not so long ago, and can still easily access enjoyable, child-like ways of being. I prize and guard and protect this part of myself, as the world is devastatingly cruel to children. (can’t play in streets. compulsory school. war, capitalism, supremacy, it takes parents and friends from them, temporarily or permanently.)

Movies and TV Shows #

This is the catch-all for “not-books/not-reading”, but my gosh obviously ‘reading’ is just a certain form of relating, I give non-reading works as much priority, weight, dignity, appreciation as I do books. Usually more.

I was forced to watch war movies growing up, and as an adult. It is extremely rare that I am in a mood for any sort of depiction of violence in a movie. Most movies made in the USA openly support statist, militaristic, imperialistic narratives. I did a lot of long flights in the last year, watched/observed many different movies being watched around me. Even kids movies feature, regularly, jaw-dropping amounts of violence. Gotta start the propaganda young!

Here’s some things I’ve watched, enjoyed, would re-watch. This list ~will probably grow with time~ has now been updated several times as additional beta is gleaned.

Studio Ghibli #

I didn’t even hear of Studio Ghibli until I was quite old, and am now happily working on watching the entire 25 piece anthology. I’ve seen maybe half. As you might imagine, there’s lots Eden loves about these shows.

Studio Ghibli is a production studio that made animated movies, starting in 1984, based in Japan. It’s refreshingly non-western.

Noteworthy starting points could be Kiki’s Delivery Service, Pom Poko, My Neighbor Totoro, Tale of Princess Kaguya.

I usually prefer them in the original japanese, with english subtitles. Sometimes I’ll tell Eden what’s being said, when we’re watching together, if she wants me to, and we’re watching together. I’m exploring finding good english dubs for the best ones, turns out there might be good ones.

I had exclusively poor experiences with Ghibli + english dubs, but My Neighbor Totoro in english is excellent, especially with a child, of course.

HBO Max has a lot of studio ghibli. I agree with Lawrence Lessig: Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity, thus after suffering through HBO max and forced english dubs and UI changes for a while, I ‘gave up’ and torrented at least some of the entire collection, so I can have fine-grained control over subtitles and audio tracks via vlc, and didn’t have to navigate crappy smart TV menus again.

I usually look up the movie on Wikipedia before I watch it, to help contextualize/orient myself to time/place/context in which the movie was created.

My Neighbor Totoro #

My Neighbor Totoro (wikipedia)

I think my daughter watched it first at ~2.5 years old, sat enraptured almost the whole way, we spoke about it extensively after.

The file I torrented only included the original audio, which isn’t helpful for an english-speaking toddler, even though she’s gotten along pretty well in japanese-language movies, or with me voicing via subtitles a bit.

I think the best english audio is what I’ve found on Amazon prime - $4 to rent, $16 to buy:

https://www.amazon.com/My-Neighbor-Totoro-English-Language/dp/B08123SMCH

I also found a different english dub online for free, but really dislike the voices, and find it unwatchable:

https://archive.org/details/totoro-fox-dub

The latter voices the toddler in diminishing, stereotyped ways, and the dad’s voice feels equally mis-fitting to the context, while the amazon dub feels ‘right’.

OK, here’s how I got the file with the right audio, so I can just cmd+space (open alfred) [space]my n[tab][return] file-search query my n focus first result, default open file in vlc.

Eden learned this routine with the Grinch (she really liked the 2018 version, as did I, watched it many times, knows it takes no time at all to get playing. I really like the theme song, and it has lots of clever moments that )

the search I ran to get the options: https://thepiratebay3.co/s/?q=my+neighbor+totoro

what I ended up downloading:

My Neighbor Totoro - Streamline - FOX English Dub.mp4 (update nvm, wrong dub, don’t love this one)

The way of the househusband #

Oh my gosh I’m ruined by this show. The Way of the HouseHusband

i watched it via netflix

extremely dignifying and clever. I’m over the moon with it, giggle to myself all the time. Former Yakuza, leaves gangs and becomes a house husband, takes himself seriously, is taken seriously.

the end of chapter 3, episode 1. 🤣 It’s available via english dubs or subs, I’ve enjoyed it in both in different ways.

My gosh I laughed at this regularly, thought it was great and very dignifying to all, and deliciously non-normative.

You mean to tell me the ways of the yakuza and the way of the househusband are connected??? TEACH MEE!!!

chapter 9, episode 2

You’ll absolutely love it, or despise it, but you’ll get a good few minutes either way. You cannot not.

The U.S. and the Holocaust (ken burns) #

The U.S. and the Holocaust Documentary by Ken Burns, I watched via Amazon Prime Video. Vast swaths of the US population, and the world, openly supported hitler in his supremacist ethnic cleansing of ‘his’ lands. _he openly approved of how the native, black, and homosexual populations in the USA were ‘being handled’ by the american people. (ethnic cleansing, ethnic cleansing, and trait cleansing, respectively, via all possible means of social control).

He said things like:

Our Danube is like their Mississippi!

referring to the american expulsion of native people across the mississippi, to Oklahoma. (well, until oil was discovered there, then ‘america’ wanted the land back)

Henry Ford was a HUGE fan of Hitler, and Hitler had a poster of Ford in his office!

Henry Ford bought a newspaper with the second-highest distribution in the USA, a weekly periodical in America and ran a 90 part weekly series about “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem”!!!!!!

The white people running the government of the USA, + the wealthy white people not in the government, via the department of state, and other means, tried it’s hardest to keep those pesky undesirables from eastern europe out of it’s shores and away from it’s women. If there were not so many jews stuck in germany when hitler started really killing them (as he was collabing with Ford to get help in doing), less everyone would have died.

“anti immigration laws” were the anvil, pinning those people in place for hitler’s hammer.

43 states in the USA had laws ON THE BOOKS “requiring” (justifying) the forced sterilization of people deemed ‘unfit’ [by wealthy white eugenicists]. the last vestige of these laws were removed from the books in 2014.

People that say “protect our neighborhood character” are drafting on the exact same eugenicists in the 1910s, advocating for a program of eugenics, saying “protect our race and our women from them!”

They wrote books like “The Passing of the Great Race”, saying “if we don’t act now, and quickly, our great race will be destroyed, especially by these uncouth asiatic non-white jews!”

Everyone was down with ‘regimes of social control’, and the current manifestation I’ve been noodling is road networks and zoning. I have stuff going at substack, or write about it here sometimes.

  1. not everyone has interest/skills/english reading skills to make any of this list a good fit. I’m less into reading now than I was once, fwiw. I don’t sound out individual words, nor do I sound any words out, in my head, as I read. I also experience my own inner world similar to the author of this post about aphantasia. I read for content and information without a single image passing through my imagination. I only recently learned that this is not the same experience everyone has. I can capture large fractions of lines of text ‘at once’ and process a page quite fast. Not everyone reads at this particular speed, and some people have a vastly different experience with the books they do read. 

  2. I maintain They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South is indispensible for understanding broad swaths of American culture, and western culture. (slavery was rooted in the enlightenment, and of course systems of slavery shaped the world around themselves, then to now) 

  3. it’s not normal, how many things are done in the USA. That a settler-colonialist mindset baked into social structures would have many harmful, visible effects on a society is a given. men/women dynamics. parent/child. authority/obedient, nobility/peasant, english-speaking/non-english-speaking, white-passing/non-white-passing. Bleh.