Progressive Summer Reading List 2017

February 1, 2018


Due to technical difficulties, we were a little late sending out our annual Progressive Summer Reading List, and even later getting it up on the website, but here it is.

We’ve got some terrific suggestions to ease you back into the working year ahead.

Our thanks to staff, Research Fellows, Research Committee Members and Board Members for these suggestions.​


The Last Man in Europe by Dennis Glover

April, 1947. In a run-down farmhouse on a remote Scottish island, George Orwell begins his last and greatest work: Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Forty-four years old and suffering from the tuberculosis that within three winters will take his life, Orwell comes to see the book as his legacy – the culmination of a career spent fighting to preserve the freedoms which the wars and upheavals of the twentieth century have threatened. Completing the book is an urgent challenge, a race against death.

A terrific first novel by Per Capita Research Fellow Dennis Glover, who masterfully captures the language of Orwell to produce a compelling portrait of one of the greatest writers of all time. Anyone who loves Nineteen Eighty Four can’t afford to miss this – Emma Dawson, Per Capita Executive Director.

The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa

Set in the 1860s, The Leopard tells the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution. The dramatic sweep and richness of observation, the seamless intertwining of public and private worlds, and the grasp of human frailty imbue The Leopard with its particular melancholy beauty and power, and place it among the greatest historical novels of our time.

Proof that from Machiavelli on, the Italians understood the eternal verities of politics – Maxine McKew, Per Capita Board Member

….and from the vault:

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

“Nothing quite like this has ever been published before,” proclaimed The Guardian about the Neapolitan novels in 2014.

Against the backdrop of a Naples that is as seductive as it is perilous and a world undergoing epochal change, Elena Ferrante tells the story of a sixty-year friendship between the brilliant and bookish Elena and the fiery, rebellious Lila with unmatched honesty and brilliance.

The four books in this novel cycle constitute a long, remarkable story, which is currently being made into television series.

Set in post-war Naples, the books tell the story of two girls’ lives as shaped by extreme poverty, family violence, gender expectations and the class conflict and social upheaval of 20th century Italy – Myfan Jordan, Per Capita Manager of Social Innovation Projects


Advanced Introduction to Post Keynesian Economics by J.E. King

A terrific book that serves two very valuable purposes. The first is to give us the history and current state of Post Keynesian economics – a body of work that offers an alternative to the dominant neoclassical economics (the academic arm of neoliberalism). The second, is to explain why we need pluralism in economics. As John King is fond of saying, economics is the only social science that has a dominant school of thought that largely excludes alternative approaches. This costs the discipline enormously.

This one’s for the economically inclined and, though it’s clearly and simply written, assumes a basic level of understanding of mainstream economics (and a willingness to question it) -Warwick Smith, Per Capita Research Economist

Dream Hoarders by Richard V. Reeves

It is now conventional wisdom to focus on the wealth of the top 1 percent—especially the top 0.01 percent—and how the ultra-rich are concentrating income and prosperity while incomes for most other Americans are stagnant. But the most important, consequential, and widening gap in American society is between the upper middle class and everyone else.

Reeves defines the upper middle class as those whose incomes are in the top 20 percent of American society. Income is not the only way to measure a society, but in a market economy it is crucial because access to money generally determines who gets the best quality education, housing, health care, and other necessary goods and services.

An illuminating look at the rise of inequality in the US and the resulting class divisions that are tearing at American society – Emma Dawson, Per Capita Executive Director (also nominated by Rod Glover, Chair of the Per Capita Research Committee)

Game of Mates: How favours bleed a nation by Cameron Murray and Paul Fritjers

Anybody who pays even a little attention to politics knows the system includes several kinds of institutionalised corruption. Game of Mates systematically lays out the ways in which government decision makers in Australia, both elected and in the bureaucracy, can use their discretionary decision making to give ‘grey gifts’ to their mates. The value of these grey gifts is enormous and spreads across numerous industries, not least of which are real estate, mining, banking and transport.

Despite the frustrating and sometimes enraging subject matter, Game of Mates is an easy, and even enjoyable read – Warwick Smith, Per Capita Research Economist

Happiness For All? by Carol Graham

How the optimism gap between rich and poor is creating an increasingly divided society

The Declaration of Independence states that all people are endowed with certain unalienable rights, and that among these is the pursuit of happiness. But is happiness available equally to everyone in America today? How about elsewhere in the world? Carol Graham draws on cutting-edge research linking income inequality with well-being to show how the widening prosperity gap has led to rising inequality in people’s beliefs, hopes, and aspirations.

A scholar of poverty in the developing world turns her attentions to inequality in her own country. The best book on inequality I read this year – Tim Lyons, Per Capita Research Fellow

Stop Fixing Women by Catherine Fox

Wage inequality between men and women seems one of the intractables of our age. Women are told they need to back themselves more, stop marginalising themselves, negotiate better, speak up, support each other, strike a balance between work and home. This searing book argues that insisting that women fix themselves won’t fix the system, the system built by men. Catherine Fox does more than identify and analyze the nature of the problem. Her book is an important tool for male leaders who say they want to make a difference.

Fox pulls no punches in this timely books. She doesn’t just re-state the problem, but provides some solutions showing how business and political leaders could actually make real change that will have benefits across society – Allison Orr, Outgoing Per Capita Operations Manager

The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley

Europe is facing a wave of migration unmatched since the end of World War II – and no one has reported on this crisis in more depth or breadth than The Guardian‘s migration correspondent, Patrick Kingsley. Throughout 2015, Kingsley traveled to 17 countries along the migrant trail, meeting hundreds of refugees making epic odysseys across deserts, seas and mountains to reach the holy grail of Europe. This is Kingsley’s unparalleled account of who these voyagers are. It’s about why they keep coming, and how they do it. It’s about the smugglers who help them on their way, and the coastguards who rescue them at the other end. The volunteers that feed them, the hoteliers that house them, and the border guards trying to keep them out. And the politicians looking the other way.

Patrick tells the stories of the journeys of a number of people fleeing from different countries. He does this in a very personal and moving way. It is really the story behind the headlines – Marion Webster, Per Capita Board Member

The Shipwrecked Mind by Mark Lilla

We don’t understand the reactionary mind. As a result, argues Mark Lilla in this timely book, the ideas and passions that shape today’s political dramas are unintelligible to us.

The reactionary is anything but a conservative. He is as radical and modern a figure as the revolutionary, someone shipwrecked in the rapidly changing present, and suffering from nostalgia for an idealised past and an apocalyptic fear that history is rushing toward catastrophe. And like the revolutionary his political engagements are motivated by highly developed ideas.

An important work on a topic we on the left need to understand thoroughly in the current environment. Lilla traces the intellectual and political contours of reaction, and makes the important distinction between reactionaries and conservatives – Tim Lyons, Per Capita Research Fellow

Twitter and Tear Gas by Zeynip Tufekci

A firsthand account and incisive analysis of modern protest, revealing internet-fueled social movements’ greatest strengths and frequent challenges

To understand a thwarted Turkish coup, an anti–Wall Street encampment, and a packed Tahrir Square, we must first comprehend the power and the weaknesses of using new technologies to mobilise large numbers of people. An incisive observer, writer, and participant in today’s social movements, Zeynep Tufekci explains in this accessible and compelling book the nuanced trajectories of modern protests—how they form, how they operate differently from past protests, and why they have difficulty persisting in their long-term quests for change.

A leading thinker about Surveillance Capitalism and the authoritarian potential of technology examines the ways that social movements are different in the digital age – Tim Lyons, Per Capita Research Fellow

We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic,including “Fear of a Black President,” “The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America.

Regardless of the recent criticism of Coates by Cornel West, there is no denying his hugely influential voice on issues of race and national identity in America. This collection of essays is a must-read for anyone seeking to make sense of current American politics – Emma Dawson, Per Capita Executive Director (also nominated by Jacob Varghese, Per Capita Deputy Chair)



Total Propaganda: Basic Marxist Brainwashing for the Angry and the Young by Helen Razer
Pushy old communist Helen Razer offers an introduction to the thought of Marx for Millennials, and anyone else tired of wage stagnation, growing global poverty and economists writing desperate columns saying everything would work better, if only we stopped eating sandwiches.

A great introduction to Marxism for Millennials and anyone else who didn’t know that someone born 200 years not only predicted many of the crises capitalism now finds itself in, but identified crisis as an integral part of the capitalist economic model – Myfan Jordan, Per Capita Manager of Social Innovation Projects