A COVID-19 Reading List


“You have reached the Montana Unemployment Insurance department, due to unforeseen circumstances we are unable to take you call right now. Please try again later…beep beep beep”

It’s been over two weeks since the Grand Targhee Resort suddenly closed and I joined the masses of people trying to apply for unemployment due to the COVID-19 crisis to no avail. I’ve been splitboarding as much as possible, trying to do it responsibly, meeting partners at the trailhead instead of carpooling and staying 6 feet apart and keeping objectives super mellow to minimize risk of avalanche or injury; finishing some latent crafting projects; cooking; walking the dog, who is happy he has someone for post-breakfast cuddles; and scrolling my phone… I’m starting to feel the uncontrollable urge to pick fights with friends of friends in ridiculous arguments about face mask use and the coronavirus stimulus package. I think it’s time for #socialmediadistancing. So, here are a few books I’ve read and enjoyed in the past year that I think are relevant to the current situation. (Click the photo of each book for my Amazon affiliate link.)

The Fifth Risk

This 2018 book examining the transition to the Trump Administration after the 2016 election was terrifying when I read it last fall, but now it just seems prescient. The book argued that the biggest problem with the Trump Administration is not just blatant corruption and crony capitalism but how the systematic gutting of the federal administrative agencies is exposing the country to unprecedented risk. With stories of the unsung heroes in the federal bureaucracy whose unsexy and low paying (compared to the private sector) jobs keep everything we take for granted working, Lewis’ book was a Cassandra-esque plea for the importance of government and governance in the face of neo-liberal orthodoxy that “government is the problem, not the solution” and a bunch of cynics who thought it would be better to elect Trump and “burn it all down” rather than vote for Hilary and politics as usual. And here we Americans are: in the middle of a global pandemic with no coherent strategy, lacking basic healthcare supplies, while the President of the United States of America spreads unscientific misinformation and acts like a mob boss. We are now reminded that government is not just the egos of the flip-flopping, power-hungry politicians we all love the hate, but should be a provider of essential services to keep our communities safe and functional.

This Changes Everything

Naomi Klein’s book argues that neo-liberal capitalism and market globalization are fundamentally incompatible with taking any serious efforts to address the climate crisis. We need to fundamentally rethink capitalism, shed our growth for growth’s sake mindset and realign our values if we are going to save human civilization (not the planet, folks!) from the climate crisis. She challenges conventional market-based solutions like cap-and-trade, dashes our hopes for a billionaire technologist savior, criticizes big green non-profits for selling out to greenwash major polluters (including oil and gas companies), and argues that environmental issues are social justice issues. For example, what is good for climate is not NGOs in rich countries buying up the Amazon rainforests for cap-and-trade and fencing off the indigenous people from their subsistence way of life, but allowing those people to live their more sustainable lives without pressuring them to join the global economy and burn down the rain forest to farm beef for MacDonald’s hamburgers. A lot of her ideas may have sounded very extreme until a couple weeks ago, but if we are willing to shut down the global economy for COVID-19 when convinced it is a matter of life of death, what if we treated climate change like the matter of life or death which it is? And in the midst of the current economic shut down and sheltering in place, can’t you start to imagine a life not defined by consumption and an identity not defined by your job?

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

A funny, entertaining read about a cynical, narcissistic woman who lives a life of extreme social distancing and doesn’t deign to conform to social norms, who discovers what it means to have friends and confront your deepest fears.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

A therapist goes to a therapist. I read this to try to find out “what is talk therapy?”, since I am interested in trying it. We might all need some therapy after this crisis. Also, funny, relatable personal stories will help restore your faith in humanity if your local mutual aid volunteers haven’t already.