How Sex, Politics, Money and Religion are Killing Planet Earth

Reading List

The following is a list of books and articles I am currently reading.  I will be adding to the list periodically.  Links are provided to for informational purposes only.  Buy books from independent book sellers whenever possible.

I apologize for being derelict in my duty posting on the reading list. Here are a few of the highlights from what I have been consuming lately:

Mormon America by Richard and Joan Ostling. I scoured the online bookshelves to try and find an unbiased and comprehensive analysis of the Mormon faith and history. I can recommend this book for anybody who is looking for such a resource. It is criticized by some non-Mormons for being too lenient with some of the more controversial aspects of the religion, but it is also criticized by some Mormons for being too critical. I always presume that a work that is criticized on all sides of a political or other spectrum is probably an objective source.

The Republican Brain by Chris Mooney. Thanks to Jim Bailey for the recommendation. As a liberal, I have to note that the title of this book is somewhat inflammatory and elitist. I am sure Mooney would cop to the same conclusion. The book is actually a fairly objective synopsis of recent advents in psychiatry, genetics and behavioral science and is a must read for anybody interested in smoothing the polarized and dysfunctional nature of contemporary politics in the United States. I disagree with Mooney on some points (particularly his arguments on fracking and nuclear energy), but find the brain and behavioral science fascinating.

Dreams by Derrick Jensen. Whether you believe in realities beyond objective classification or not, Derrick Jensen's ode to dreams is, like much of his writing, a visceral pleasure to read. Jensen's words dance in the mind like massaging fingers. In this book, Jensen pays tribute to the entities that visit him beyond the waking and physically detectable realms. He claims they are his source of creativity and inspiration. The sheer beauty of his prose and the delight his words inspire makes one think he may be correct.

The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations by Eugene Linden. Humans have a tendency to view earth's climate as a steady and reasonable entity that can be relied upon to behave in predictable patterns. We do this because we observe climate over the course of a lifetime, rather than throughout geological history. In reality, climate is an ornery beast, likely to change from the slightest provocation, and as climate scientist Wally Broecker notes, "we are poking it with a stick." In this book, author Eugene Linden explores other advanced civilizations that collapsed when they failed to adapt to a changing climate. The book serves as a wake up call to the contemporary world. Whether or not one believes that climate change is happening because of humans or not, we need to prepare to adapt.

Fixing Climate: What Past Climate Changes Reveal About the Current Threat and How to Counter it by Wallace S. Broecker and Robert Kunzig. Written by one of the world's leading climate scientists (Wally Broecker), this book provides insight into the scientific discoveries surrounding climate change in the past half century and reveals the mechanisms by which global warming and ice ages are related.

The Discovery of Global Warming by Spencer R. Weart. A great read for anybody who is interested in an objective history of the science behind climate change. Contrary to popular conspiracy theories, the science supporting carbon dioxide's contributions to atmospheric warming is over a century old. It is not a new idea spawned by the United Nations to bring down global capitalism. This book outlines the science from its beginnings in pre-industrial France, where an astrophysicist, doing calculations with a pencil and paper discovered and named "the greenhouse effect." Although moderately technical, the book reads like a narrative history. Nobody should be allowed to have an opinion on climate change until they read this comprehensive book.

As Nature Made Him - The Boy Who was Raised as a Girl by John Colapinto. In this year 2000 landmark biography, author John Colapinto meticulously records the saga of David Reimer, a young man who suffered a serious accident as an infant during a botched circumcision that effectively burned off the baby's penis. At the time, the conventional psychological wisdom was that nurture, not nature, defined a person's sexual identity, and Reimer's parents were persuaded to raise the child as a girl. This work is a quintessential masterpiece on gender identity and the age-old arguments between nature and nurture.

Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams. Williams' prose reads like poetry. In this beautifully-crafted work, she outlines the plight of what was once one of North America's most abundant species, the prairie dog. Heading the way of the passenger pigeon, the various species of prairie dog now struggle on the verge of extinction. As the title suggests, Williams has an uncanny ability to find beauty in a broken world.

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson (also author of Men Who Stare at Goats). This latest book by investigative journalist Jon Ronson has been getting a lot of positive press, so I figured I would download a copy this weekend. Within 24 hours from downloading, I had finished the book. Fascinating. Through a series of synchronistic events, Ronson finds himself in the company of Scientologists, psychopaths, psychologists and corporate CEOs (often the distinctions are blurred). Ronson's reporting gives some compelling insights into the motivations behind some of the world's most powerful people.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. I first read this award-winning masterpiece when it came out several years ago. It has now been re-released in a new edition. Diamond is an anthropologist with extensive personal perspective into myriad cultures across geography and time. Certain failures of humanity are universal and lead inevitably to societal collapse. On a brighter note, examples do exist where people, against many odds, live sustainably within their habitats.

The Earth Shall Weep by James Wilson. Anybody who continues to be enthralled by the American narrative needs to be sure to include this incredible book to their inventory of information. We seem to forget, dismiss or otherwise disinherit the inconvenient truth that we acquired this land that we are so proud of via one of the most heinous genocide campaigns in human history. I extend the greatest, heartfelt thanks to blog reader Tsisageya for recommending this book to me.

A History of Celibacy - From Athena to Elizabeth I, Leonardo da Vinci, Florence Nightingale, Gandhi and Cher by Elizabeth Abbott. I picked up this book at a used bookstore for $1, intrigued by the title. Determined to plod my way through for the historical context, I was incredibly surprised at how interesting this talented author makes the subject matter. Who knew celibacy could be so interesting? I can't put it down.

The Natural Superiority of Women by Ashley Montagu. Written in the 1950's by a man, the title is a bit offensive to most males in contemporary society, but the reader needs to put the title into the context of the misogynist times in which it was written. Montagu qualifies his title by turning all of the male-supremacist suppositions on their heads. An interesting read, particularly in light of the era in which it was written.

Lives per Gallon - The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction by Terry Tamminen. Wouldn't it be great to have an unlimited supply of crude oil that we could extract and use without any environmental consequences? This is the mythology the oil and gas industries would like us to buy into. Tamminen outlines all of the fallacies of the industry myths succinctly and in a highly readable format.

Oil 101 by Morgan Downey. While this lengthy book reads like a textbook (and probably is one at some universities), it definitely answers any question a person might ever have about the oil industry. Anybody who thinks we can drill our way to energy independence should read this book written by an oil industry professional.

Why is Sex Fun? The Evolution of Human Sexuality by Jared Diamond. Diamond is a brilliant anthropologist. While this is not his most profound work, it is nevertheless an entertaining read. Diamond explores such questions as, Why is the human male penis disproportionately larger than that of other apes? and Why don't men breast feed their babies? Anyone who enjoys Diamond's work will appreciate this short and sweet essay that can be consumed in a single evening.

American Fascists by Chris Hedges. Hedges is one of the most eloquent journalists in the world today. Unlike a lot of non-fiction, Hedge's prose is highly readable. In this work, the author authentically records much of the fundamentalist American Christian dogma, largely by quoting the religious leaders of the movement in their own words. The Christian conservative right will not be satisfied until they have installed a theocracy as the government of the United States. This is an eye opening work for anybody concerned about the direction our democracy is taking.

Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho. In what initially seems like a departure from his usual fable-like style, Coelho tells the story of a Brazilian prostitute, Maria. Maria's young adult hopes, fears and insecurities are familiar snippets from the deep recesses of every psyche brought to life. As the story develops, Coelho does not disappoint. His uplifting prose delivers the punch of enlightenment we have grown to anticipate from this gifted author. His message - we all prostitute ourselves looking towards an imagined future while selling the precious time we will never get back to others. Beautiful.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I originally started reading this book (again) to look for a quotation for the recent Mythology of Individualism post but quickly got sucked up into Hesse's beautiful prose and couldn't put it down. A nice re-read in these troubling times.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach.  Bonk is a comical look at scientific sexual research through the ages.  It provides information that qualifies as "too much information" on many counts but in a light-hearted, easy to read format that doesn't make the reader feel like taking a shower.  A good light and informative read.  Thanks to Tina Randall for the recommendation.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  I must admit it is a struggle working my way through this monolith.  The blatantly obvious and shallow characters are only matched by the outrageous simplification of theme (i.e. all the selfish capitalists are productive, attractive and brilliant while those who support social causes are inept and weak).  The pain I am experiencing reading this icon of neoliberalism is coupled with the fact I purchased the Kindle edition thereby giving money to this hateful woman's legacy.  But, I do think we cannot criticize unless we give an ear to the voice of the opposition, so I persevere.

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn.  In celebration of the life of Howard Zinn, who died about a year ago, I am rereading his classic, 1980 work.  A People's History should be the required history text for every high school student in America, but of course, it never will be.  Rather than emulating the history lessons that have been penned by the victors of imperialism, Zinn focuses on the perspective of the disenfranchised, allowing for a more-realistic assessment of the realities upon which the United States was founded.

The Vanishing Face of Gaia by James Lovelock.  Lovelock is the famous author of the Gaia hypothesis, which theorizes that the Earth is a living, self-regulating entity in the same vein as each of her myriad organisms.  In this latest book, Lovelock concludes that by warming, the planet is doing what it must to rid itself of the human scourge.  While I find issue with many of the points Lovelock makes in the book, it is nevertheless, a very compelling read.

Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 by Alfred W. Crosby.  This work is an interesting and easy to read summary of the imperial expansion of European culture and how that expansion has affected the living biosphere.  Much of the European impact upon the global landscape is due to the importation of domesticated species, but the book also contends with cultural as well as biological impacts.

The Civilization of the Goddess:  The World of Old Europe by Marika Gimbutas.  This encyclopedic work, published in 1991 is a comprehensive analysis of Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures across Europe based on thoughtful scrutiny of all the archaeological artifacts unearthed in the region.  Gimbutas' landmark work forms the basis of much of the later body of work that brings to life the truth of our European ancestors.  For much of human history, the Earth herself was our God.

The Empathetic Civilization:  The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis by Jeremy Rifkin.  An optimistic and extensively researched work on the nature of human culture.  Rifkin argues that the natural human condition is one that tends towards community and relatedness rather than the rabid individualism and selfishness that characterizes today's world.  This dichotomy, in his opinion, offers our final hope for the future.

A Language Older Than Words by Derrick Jensen.  In this year 2000 publication, Jensen outlines the plight of the abused and exploited multitudes of human and non-human victims of our modern civilization.

Endgame, Volume 2: Resistance by Derrick Jensen.  Volume 2 serves as a call to action.  Having carefully argued that civilization is the cause of all Earth's people problems, Jensen now contemplates the solutions to the primary problem.  The Endgame books are a must read for those interested in forcing their personal comfort zones out of the box.

Black Elk Speaks as told by John G. Neihardt.  Black Elk was a Oglala Sioux holy man who lived at the time of the white man's aggressive westward expansion.  This volume outlines Black Elk's life and visions in his own words as recorded by Neihardt.

Animal Speak - The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews.  This volume is a great encyclopedic source for information regarding animal spirit archetypes.  Introductory passages outline the methodologies and history of the craft of interpreting animal messages.

The Wimp Factor by Stephen J. Ducat.  As a professor of psychology, Ducat has observed the phenomenon of irrational phallus worship and how it informs the anxieties of his patients.  He extends his findings to the wider societal institutions of politics and religion.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb - Crumb's graphic novel version of the original story should be required reading for all Sunday School students except it's rated R.  It's not rated R because he has diddled with the text.  In fact, he has the verbatim King James version, but his illustrations reveal in no uncertain detail the inherent brutality in the holy book.  A masterpiece.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers - A fascinating story of a Muslim family living in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina.  Everybody who fears the Patriot Act should read this work.

Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici - Federici has researched an extensive collection of trial documents from the witch hunts of medieval Europe and formulates a fascinating hypothesis relating the rise of capitalism to the greatest mass murder of women in history.

The Bhagavad Gita - Translated by Eknath Easwaran - Wow.  I can't believe I waited so long to read this work.  This staple of Hinduism outlines beautifully the real battle of good and evil - the battle waged within a man's psyche.

Endgame, Volume 1:  The Problem of Civilization by Derrick Jensen - Jensen is one of few people who can write beautifully about such a pessimistic subject.  He spares no details in his synopsis that we and our planet are all doomed, but does so with the eloquence of a poet.  I am getting writer's cramp from jotting down so many quotations.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - While Tolkien in the forward to 50th anniversary addition denies deliberate use of deeper meaning or allegory, this statement is hard to believe.  I am currently interested in the corrupting influences of excessive power, and I think Tolkien's masterpiece is a beautiful representation of this particular frailty of humanity.

Archetype Revisited: An Updated Natural History of the Self by Anthony Stevens - Stevens is a Jungian (sort of) psychologist who concisely lays out Jung's often difficult to understand theories of the archetype.  Stevens further reinforces Jung's ideas with recent advancements in science.

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingslover - I just love Barbara Kingslover, always a pleasure to read.

The Grand Design by Leonard Mlodinow and Steven Hawking - Hawkins latest in which he boldly expresses a version of the universe that requires no higher intelligence for existence, an interesting, if sometimes tedious read.

Threshold by Thom Hartman - Hartman describes concisely our world on the brink - an informative, but a bit depressing read.

Muhammad:  A Story of the Last Prophet by Deepak Chopra - Written as a historical novel, Chopra draws from historical data to create an easy to read and interesting assessment of Muhammad with a surprisingly objective tone, which allows the reader to draw their own conclusions.  Great read.


  1. Hi Kathleen,
    Followed your link from TPM. I rarely post because of the contentious nature of some folks.
    I liked your answer to "S" who is conflicted with her christian values and environmentalism. You treated her with a nice measure of respect and common decency.
    Nice reading list....try Jared Diamond..."Guns, Germs and Steel" and "Collapse"
    I'll bookmark your site and share with others.
    Best, jack

  2. Jack,
    Thank you for your suggestions. I love Jared Diamond. I also apprecaite your positive feedback. Sometimes I fall short, but I always try to remind myself that nobody should think they have an exclusive eye on the truth. And therefore, we should treat the opinions of others with respect, even if don't agree. I will look forward to an ongoing conversation.

  3. Kathleen, very much enjoyed your comments on Socialism posted to The Atlantic "What Makes Nations Thrive" - Excellent. Reading list is
    truly fine, maybe add some Vonnegut!

  4. Tim, Thanks for the recommendation. I have not read any Vonnegut since high school. You are right, I need to dust something off and add the excellent author to my reading list.

  5. Book recommendations for you since you like Diamond, Lovelock etc. I probably don`t need to recommend the Odum brothers.

    "The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image" by Leonard Shlain (I think he is on to something important)

    "Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate" by William F. Ruddiman (a worthy addition to the climate change discussion which I discovered at

    And anything by R. Buckminster Fuller (I know he`s difficult to read but he is worth it)

  6. securecare, Thank you so much for the suggestions. I have actually read a book by Leonard Shlain "Sex, Time and Power," which was an excellent and informative read. I will check out "The Alphabet Versus the Goddess" and your other recommendations. I wish there were more hours in the day.

  7. Great reading list!! I'm going on my library site right after this post as there are some I haven't read and a few I should re-read.

    If I suggest a book: "Paradise Found: Nature in America at the Time of Discovery" by Steve Nicholls: 2009. I should warn you though -- it made me cry.

  8. Since my lover had strongly suggested I read We the Living to capture her quintessentially Russian/anti-communist point of view, consequently I wondered if her favored author Ayn Rand would show up on your blog's reading list. Sure enough, Atlas Shrugged is a hot item these days, in movies (bad ones, I hear), political commentary (i.e., Maureen Dowd's Atlas Without Angelina/comparisons with Congressman Ryan), and in Tea Party thinking.

    Personally, I think that on many levels, Rand's glorified selfishness would have been a good thing to practice in my own daily life. Admittedly, my altruism (coupled with low self-esteem) has led to my own undoing, mostly because I wrongfully made the assumption that in taking care of others, my own needs would be taken care of. That is just bosh.

    In earlier days, my entertainment partner used to call me "Freebee the Clown" because I did so many non-profit gigs; Later, when I became a psychic, people would annoyingly show up at my abode or place of work and say, "Read me!" (or "Heal me"). And I never felt compelled to charge.

    Somewhere along the line, I realized that personal bankruptcy came not so much from bad business decisions, nor from abuse of credit--but from not asking for enough money for my services--if at all. And I am in my late 40's coming to this realization.

    So maybe Rand was partially right.

    The good part of this is, I had been out of the political arena for many years, and this stupid Rand stuff has thrust me back in, putting me all into a tizzy, trying to grapple at the fact that my lover is completely on the other side of not only the economic but political spectrums. I find myself sometimes reluctantly agreeing with her over some of Obama's bad, socialist-leaning decisions, and am trying to make sense of how this relates (or crosses the bridge) to where I am from--without compromising sacred values.

    I just hope all this contradiction won't lead to our undoing. But perhaps, that is part of the attraction.

  9. Rich, Thank you very much for the recommendation. I will check it out.

  10. Anonymous, I think it is brilliant that you are keeping an open mind. You seem to be a possessor of original, critical thoughts. I would however, suggest you look up and study the meaning of the word "socialism." It is a term very misused in contemporary political dialogue, particularly by those on the right. Nothing, and I mean nothing President Obama has done during his Presidency qualifies, unfortunately. And socialism is not synonymous with fascism or totalitarianism either. I wish you luck with your relationship, but it does seem as if you might be the only one opening your mind to other ideas.

  11. Killing Mother—

    I understand what socialism means, and was implying that Obama uses socialist-leaning rhetoric to deliver his message. His “we are in this all together” comment really bothered me, because we are really NOT in this all together, at least until the playing field is leveled. Obama may be using sound-bites in an early campaign effort for re-election. And the fact that Obama chose to hide his Islamic ties just when he was under the spotlight is typical and troublesome.

    Health insurance package Obama-care may sound socialist, but is actually “force[s] individuals to buy one-size-fits-all government defined insurance,” (Capretta, Levin.)

    I personally do not espouse socialism exactly, per se, but a revamped democratic capitalism (see

    I know the difference between socialism, totalitarianism, and fascism. But I also know that when groups of individuals have tried to employ concepts of socialism, that bloody violence often ensues. Then totalitarianism follows. So perhaps that is why many people see the three as synonymous. History has shown the connection between them.

    In my humble opinion, it may take environmental devastation (both man- and God-made) to bring all the players to the table. It is tragic that I have reached this conclusion.

    You were right about my relationship. After a heated argument with my lover this weekend at a bookstore care, she immediately purchased Coulter’s book: Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America.” Our relationship is now over. The values rift is too great between us.

  12. Anonymous, your points are all well taken. I would submit that our cultural brainwashing indoctrinates us to believe that capitalism is democratic, but history doesn't bear this out. Capitalism is a dog eat dog pseudo social-Darwinian philosophy in which the strong prey upon the weak. Colonialism, slavery and contemporary near-slave labor conditions in third world countries all bear this out. It is a fatally-flawed economic system.

    I would also argue that our cultural capitalist programming focuses on the socialist systems that have not been equitable and democratic, rather than shining light on the larger picture in which socialist systems foster equality and justice. Modern Scandinavia is a fine example, but there are also numerous examples to be found in indigenous cultures both extant and extinct across the globe.

    And please enlighten me about Obama's Islamic ties. Other than the far-right propaganda on this subject, I have not heard any convincing evidence. His father, who he barely knew, was a Muslim. And besides, why should someone's religion have anything at all to do with their ability to govern? I would argue IMHO that our fundamentalist Christians are much scarier than moderate,rational Muslims.

    Your feedback is very informative, and I really enjoy your perspective. I hope to hear more from you. Sorry about your relationship, but it sounds like it is for the best. Unless you want to spend your life bending over backwards, it's useful to have a partner that will at least meet you halfway.

  13. My understanding is that Obama was "hiding" his Islamic ties to maintain popularity-- that is what bothered me, not any implication that he might be Islamic. And I have heard but not confirmed that he may have an interest in Islamic indoctrination in this country similar to what Bin Laden proposed. I am not anti-Islamic. I am anti-religious domination of any kind. I of course agree with you that the Christian right is scary. You seem to imply that I am coming from a centrist or to-the-right point of view but actually I am not...I don't think that capitalism as it now operates is the answer, but I do believe in small scale free enterprise, Calvert fund type investments, and micro-lending to folks abroad. I would love to read up more on Scandinavia and anticipate your suggestions on reading material on how they did it. Thanks : )

  14. Anonymous, Thank you for the information. I obviously need to spend more time on Obama conspiracy websites. I really think the Islamic connection thing is total bunk. If anything, I suspect the President is probably an agnostic, which according to most of the American population, is the most despised belief system of all (including atheists). I think it's sad he has to pretend otherwise.

    I too have no problem with small-scale free enterprise. When Adam Smith wrote "The Wealth of Nations," the publicly-traded corporate monsters that now rule the world did not exist. He never intended for his free-market ideology to apply to such predatory entities. He must be rolling over in his grave like Jesus.

    Anyway, I will look forward to more conversations.

  15. Mother, I'm glad to see you back (at least part time) from your studies. I promise to complete your survey if you take a look at my blog entry I posted today.

    I hope you have a good weekend while staying cool.


  16. Thanks for answering the questionnaire KD! You had some great insight on some of the points. And, your blog is very good. You should spend more time working on it:)

  17. interesting list.. a suggestion: read Gai Eaton's 'Islam and the Destiny of Man'.

  18. Thank you Dawn. I am always looking for interesting material.

  19. Hi again,

    I was wondering if you had seen Naomi Klein's article (on the nation, but reposted on alternet):

    I thought it was amazing! Thanks for your reading list too.

  20. Hi Eam,
    I am sorry it has taken me this long to respond. Thanks for the link. Great article!