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OWelcome, dear reader, to the second issue of Hitting the Books Quarterly. This time around, we’ve got seven layers of delightful literature for you, starting with a harrowing investigation into the heart of California’s firestorms, followed by some savvy advice on how to best burn your Facebook bridges, then a chance to say goodbye. to Earth’s billionaire class as they race for the stars, hoping never to return. But that’s not all, we also have some stellar sci-fi titles to share, as well as The dawn of everything which Engadget’s editor, Devindra Hardawar, describes as “dense, but certainly worth reading”.
California Burning: The Fall of Pacific Gas and Electric – and What It Means for the US Electric Grid -Katherine Blunt (Amazon)
California’s wildfires caused an estimated $80 billion in property damage in 2021 alone, they’re only getting worse, and the state’s utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric, appears to be doing anything but help. After years of neglected maintenance, PG&E’s infrastructure has sparked numerous deadly fires in recent years, exacerbating an already existent climate crisis. In california burningnominated by Pulitzer WSJ Journalist Katherine Blunt delves into the sordid history of public service putting profits before public safety. Decades of mismanagement have brought California to this point, Blunt’s deeply documented account explains why. I had originally looked at this title for the regular snippet column, but the dang thing reads like a Grisham novel. Be sure to block out an afternoon as you won’t be able to put this one down.
With the general level of shit in the world today, we could all probably laugh and quit the internet for a while – touch the grass and so on. Comedian James Acaster’s latest book, James Acaster’s Guide to Quitting Social Media, Being the Best You Can Be, and Saving Yourself From Loneliness Vol 1, does both. You’ll (probably) laugh and quit the internet because you’ll read a book about how he quit social media in 2019 and how you can do the same while sparing yourself loneliness. Great.
Everything I need, I get from you – Kaitlyn Tiffany (Amazon)
Fans, stans and boybands, oh my. Everything I need, I get it from you is a fascinating look at the superfan subculture surrounding modern pop music bands from Atlantic personal writer Kaitlyn Tiffany. Fanclubs have been around since Roman times, but the advent of social media has allowed fandom to reach a surprisingly granular degree. Today’s superfans know what foods the Jonas Brothers are allergic to, have stories and jokes that only other BTS ARMY members will understand, and regularly engage in light subterfuge to play cards featuring featuring their favorite stars. Tiffany also explores the influence these hyper-connected executives of like-minded people have on internet culture as a whole, like why we spent weeks looking for Becky with the great hair.
Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires – Douglas Rushkoff (Amazon)
Let’s face it. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk aren’t developing spaceflight for the good of humanity, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t pushing his vision of a metaverse for anything resembling altruistic intent. They just want a bolthole for when things really start to go downhill, argues theorist Douglas Rushkoff. In his new book, The survival of the wealthyRushkoff examines what he calls “the mindset,” in which the world’s ultra-rich believe that they and their people will somehow be able to get out of the coming climate crisis – us, plebs, be damned – and discusses what the rest of us can do while the people with the power to avoid it are busy watching the exits.
You Sexy Thing – Cat Rambo (Amazon)
I believe in miracles and so do you with this brooding space opera from sci-fi luminary Cat Rambo. Billed as “Farscape meets The Great British Bake Off,” You sexy thing follows the exploits of Niko Larson, disgraced “10-Minute Admiral” of the Holy Hive Mind as she struggles to keep her crew of retired soldiers-turned-cooks-and-waiters safe, together, alive, and out of the Hive Mind brain collective jar, even as space stations explode around them, sentient bio-ships kidnap them, and vicious space pirates from Larson’s past seek revenge. Easily some of the best sci-fi movies I’ve read this year – tightly written with characters you can relate to and a pilot who immediately grabs you by the short hair and doesn’t let go. Plus, there are werelions.
Azura Phantom – Essa Hansen (Amazon)
Emma Hansen can’t stop writing absolute bangers. After its phenomenal debut in 2020, the harrowing space opera, Brilliant Nophek (who was shortlisted for a Stabby that year), Hansen returns to the Graven Multiverse with Azura Ghost. Its second effort catches up a decade after the events of the first book where our protagonist Caiden finds himself, and his sentient ship, still being chased through the stars by the Threi – as usually happens when imprisoning the leadership of the group in an impenetrable universe. pocket for 10 years. As the plot unfolds and events push his two greatest enemies toward an eventual alliance, Caiden must reunite with his own family and a long-lost friend who probably shouldn’t be trusted, in order to escape.
Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humankind – David Graeber and David Wengrow (Amazon)
Long-held visions of early civilizations as gullible hippies or hulking brutes offer only a monochromatic, superficial understanding of history – an understanding that grew out of a conservative 18th century backlash against dark people posing questions, no less – say David Graeber and David Wengrow in The dawn of everything. They then apparently spend the next 700 or so pages compiling their exhaustive list of evidence from their respective fields of archeology and anthropology in support of this position.