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Reading List December 26, 2019

Ten Years of Must Reads

Our editors’ picks from the past decade: Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Robin Kelley, and more. Plus, find out which was voted as our readers’ favorite.
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A lot can change in ten years. A decade ago, Boston Review had just transitioned from being a broadsheet to a glossy, and next month we will be celebrating the thirteenth issue in our new book format. We’ve also eliminated all ads, added a brand new Arts in Society section, revamped our website, and converted to being a membership organization.

We still have the same commitment to free and open access, intellectual rigor, and engaged debate—via our trademark forums. So as we head into our forty-fifth year, we want to celebrate with a look back at some of our favorites of the past decade. From Noam Chomsky on the responsibility of intellectuals after 9/11, to our forum on why empathy can be a bad thing, the following were all ambitious efforts and help chart a decade of thinking. Today they represent key entries in the Boston Review canon.

We also asked our members to vote for their favorite essay of the past ten years. Many thanks to all who took part! Scroll down to find out who they chose as their winner…

—Rosie Gillies


Our Members’ Favorite

What Did Cedric Robinson Mean by Racial Capitalism?
by Robin D. G. Kelley

In this key essay from 2017, Boston Review contributing editor Robin D. G. Kelley explores the work of Cedric Robinson, and his belief that capitalism and racism did not break from the old order but rather evolved from it to produce a modern world system of “racial capitalism.”

The essay served as an introduction for Race, Capitalism, Justiceour very first redesigned issue from January 2017 (and the first to sell out!) and helped pave the way for Boston Review’s reputation as a publication dedicated to unpicking racial capitalism. It couldn’t be a more fitting winner!

• • •

Twelve More Must Reads

The Checkpoint
by Oded Na’aman

“At the checkpoint, omnipotence is the power to create orders, not merely to enforce them.” An IDF veteran reflects on whether clearheaded judgment is possible under a military occupation.

• • •

The President’s House Is Empty
by Bonnie Honig

“The White House is a public thing to be used by the president. But Trump and his family chose to go private. And in so doing, they incurred costs that they then passed on to the public.”

• • •

The Erotics of Mentorship
by Marta Figlerowicz and Ayesha Ramachandran

“Intellectual magnetism often shades into erotic attraction. Such attachments are not reducible to predatory behavior and, at their best, bring out our best selves.”

• • •

The Defeat of Reason
by Tim Maudlin

Reestablishing the authority of reason and evidence is the most difficult of all tasks. How do you convince a whole culture that it is deluded?

• • •

Standardized Testing Can Be Good—But Only If We Put Students First
by Lelac Almagor

“By testing kids individually, we would reframe testing as a source of information rather than evaluation.”

• • •

Against Empathy
a forum with Paul BloomElizabeth BruenigPeter SingerLeslie Jamison, and more.

“Most people see the benefits of empathy as too obvious to require justification. This is a mistake.”

• • •

#Milosexual and the Aesthetics of Fascism
by Daniel Penny

“Milo is singular: an ultra right-wing pundit with a high-femme persona who is embraced by a political bloc contemptuous of homosexuals.”

• • •

The Mythical Whiteness of Trump Country
by Elizabeth Catte

The logic of J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is rooted in an enduring and dangerous myth about race in Appalachia.

• • •

The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Redux
by Noam Chomsky

If the responsibility of intellectuals is to speak about crimes in which we are implicated, how should we speak of 9/11?

• • •

Black Panther Is Not the Movie We Deserve
by Christopher Lebron

A movie unique for its black star power depends on a shocking devaluation of black American men.

• • •

Rescuing Economics from Neoliberalism
by Dani Rodrik

“The looseness of the term neoliberalism means that criticism of it often misses the mark—and risks throwing out some of its useful ideas.”

• • •

How to Think About Empire
an interview with Arundhati Roy

“India, where farm laborers commit suicide, and where it is safer to be a cow than it is to be a woman, is still being celebrated as one of the fastest growing economies in the world.”

Our weekly themed reading lists present the best of Boston Review’s archive and get emailed to members every Sunday, and sometimes make their way to our website too. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

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