This summer, Jezebel is having guest authors from a range of genres stop by to make summer reading recommendations. Today’s guest is Rose Eveleth, host of the podcast Flash Forward, with a list heavy on science, technology, and humans’ perennially complicated relationship to both. In April, Eveleth released Flash Forward: An Illustrated Guide to Possible (and Not So Possible) Tomorrows, which explores where various technologies are realistically headed and what quandaries that might pose for humanity, thought-experiment style. Eveleth’s essays are interspersed with work by graphic artists, working through the sorts of possibilities and dilemmas that the future might bring. Her recommendations for Jezebel readers range from ecology to astronomy to writing advice.
Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
I’ve returned to this book many times in the past few years, and each time it feels like it offers something new. This spring I belatedly joined the houseplant brandwagon, and rereading Braiding Sweetgrass this time deepened my appreciation for both the care plants require and the resilience they can offer. Kimmerer is a beautiful writer, and you can feel her connection and understanding of ecology and nature incredibly deeply through the book.
Flash Forward listeners will sometimes joke that I’ll find a way to talk about animals in almost every episode. And it’s not untrue. Should we be doing facial recognition on monkeys? Do animals deserve privacy? Emma Maris’s new book Wild Souls has been an absolute delight because it takes on these questions (and many others) in an incredibly satisfying, nuanced way. There are no easy answers when it comes to our thorny relationship with the non-human creatures out there, but I feel like I can at least grapple with them a little better thanks to this book.
I have a love/hate relationship with writing advice books. I can’t stop reading them, foolishly searching their pages for some perfect, singular secret that will solve whatever writing problem I am having at the moment. But while there is (annoyingly!) no one thing that can make writing easy and amazing, Charlie Jane Anders’s book did something possibly better: it made me want to write. The book is full of incredible joy, wisdom, and energy. I was lucky enough to get an early copy (it’s out in August) and I highly recommend pre-ordering if you sometimes (okay, maybe a lot of the time) find yourself wallowing in sadness and wondering how anybody could write while the world burns.
Alice Wong has spent the last few years talking about how disabled people are oracles, and this essay collection is essential reading for anybody who cares about making better futures. The voices in the book are incredibly varied and don’t even always agree with each other, which is one of the things I love about this book—it reminds you that disability isn’t a monolith, but rather a huge group of people with all kinds of lives and experiences.
One of my deepest science-nerd shames is that it takes a lot for me to want to pick up a physics book. But as soon as I heard that Prescott-Weinstein had a book out, I knew I was going to read it. And of course the book is incredible, weaving between accessible explanations of physics, slicing through some of the deepest problems in science, and proposing a new way forward. Usually, physics books make me cry from frustration, but this one made me cry from hope.
I have been a fan of Jillian Weise’s irreverent, cutting work for years now and I was really excited to read her latest book of poems. Then I lost the book in a bookshelf reorganization and only found it again a few months ago and it was like finding $20 in your pocket. The poems in this book span the gamut from laugh-out-loud funny to soul-crushing, and sometimes a single poem manages to be both.
I would be absolutely remiss to make a list of my summer reads without putting Octavia Butler on it. Anybody who wants to learn about how to imagine the future should read everything Butler has written. Parable of the Sower feels especially, depressingly, relevant as we veer into a summer where the impacts of climate change are finally hitting home in the United States.
It’s about to be the summer Olympics, which always stirs up a lot of feelings for me. The Olympics are an imperialist nightmare. I also cannot get enough of watching humans do things with their bodies that seem absolutely impossible. This Olympics we’ve already seen the ugly side of sex testing rear its head, and Testosterone is an essential read for anybody who wants to engage with that conversation, providing a fascinating history and reality check on the highly mythologized hormone.