These days it seems like all of humanity just needs to take a deep breath. In addition to genuine geopolitical turmoil and social unrest, we seem destined to violently disagree with one another on virtually every issue. Granted, none of this is new. Politics necessarily entails disagreement, but one would be hard pressed to think of a time in which people were more ideologically divided. So what’s the verdict? Are we living through the end times? Or are we succumbing to the same paranoia that plagued generations passed? If there’s an answer, it’s only discoverable through reading! Here are 5 books to get you through our politically tense times.
In a now famous Guardian article about her famous dystopian novel, Atwood claimed that “I made a rule for myself: I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist. I did not wish to be accused of dark, twisted inventions, or of misrepresenting the human potential for deplorable behaviour.” With this quote in mind, The Handmaid’s Tale becomes all the more terrifying. Atwood picked the worst of the worst from every oppressive government, creating the perfect storm of theocracy. The effect is a stark reminder of the tenuity of moder society, and how easily it may regress back to more tribalistic ways.
Considered by some to be the quintissential dystopian novel, Orwell’s opus can be seen as a signal flare to future generations warning of the pitfalls of censorious government. In its time, it was a fiery criticism of the tyrannical Soviet Union, but is easily malleable to apply to our own tumultuous times.
Michel Houellebecq is somewhat of an iconoclast in French literature. His novels reliably trigger a media tirade hellbent on branding him with a scarlet ‘B’ for bigot. His latest novel, Submission, was no exception. In a tragic coincidence, Houellebecq appeared on the cover of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, the day eight of its employees (one of whom was Houellebecq’s good friend) were murdered by Jihadists. The book itself is set in France in the year 2022, amidst a vicious election season. Nationalists, Nativists, Socialists, and the Muslim Brotherhood, are all vying for office, and instances of terror in the city are commonplace. To the surprise of usual critics, the book is not a criticism of Islam. Rather, it is a meditation on the decline of Western society, and the end of the Christian era.
We think we’ve got it bad, but the sixties was about as tense as any era. America was divided along virtually every racial, economic, and ideological line, but somehow they pulled through in one piece. Watchmen is one of the best accounts of that trumoil to date.
Mention this guy at a Philosophy seminar, and you’ll be met with a chorus of “Ooohh, that guy.” Mr. Zizek is a renegade intellectual, whose fusion of Psychonalytic and Marxist theory to interpret the Postmodern world, has branded him a bit of a nutter in some circles. This thing is no easy read, at 520 pages, it doesn’t help that Zizek’s writing is basically impenetrable. The verdict is still out. Is he a prophetic genius? A navel gazing theorist? Nobody can say for sure. One thing is for sure though: his books make you think.