Reading List: October 2018 - 10 Things to Read and 1 Thing to Do This Month

I read a lot. Here's my best-of list for the past month.


This is not a thing to read, but a thing to do. Get out there next Tuesday (11/6) and vote.

  • Check your registration, find your polling place, and get voting reminders from

  • See what your ballot will look like on voting day and research the candidates and ballot questions at Ballotpedia

Public Health

  • The Wisdom of Whores by Elizabeth Pisani — This amazing book chronicles the AIDS epidemic as a public health crisis from an insider’s perspective. H/t to Carissa, who recommended the book to me years ago.

Environment & Climate Change

Urban Planning/Transit/Walking

Art & Debt

“But the Trump era isn’t one of extreme order. Rather, it is hysterically surreal – wildly disorganized and abusively unpredictable, with hirings and firings and public displays of rage and porn stars and, occasionally, the darkest comedy.”

— from Alissa Quart’s essay Hysterical surrealism? A pop culture for our age of economic insecurity (The Guardian)

After you read that, watch Sorry to Bother You and read Dolan Morgan’s Investment Banking in Reverse.


“Sages, too, endure the same mundane circumstances as we—they fall sick, suffer injuries, meet with unwelcome changes—but their wisdom sees past the incidental to the universal, to the certainty of change that is best coped with by equanimity. Wisdom does not alter the world; it lets the sage transcend the world.”

from Longing for Certainty: Reflections on the Buddhist Life by Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano


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Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer” is the climate change anthem of 2018

In July, Childish Gambino (aka musician/actor/writer/force of nature Donald Glover) released a new single called “Feels Like Summer.” The animated video, released last month, features cameos, so to speak, from a wide range of hip-hop artists and—in a loaded moment—Michelle Obama.

There’s so much happening in the video that it’s easy to miss some of what Gambino is doing lyrically. This was true to an even greater extent, of course, for “This is America,” Gambino’s powerful meditation on gun violence, race, and the perception of black entertainers in America. There’s no shortage of complex, historically-informed lyrical and visual messages in “This is America.” So much has been written about the song and video that the New York Times actually published an article that aggregates some of the better analyses.

As a follow-up, “Feels Like Summer” is almost subdued and you could easily mistake it for a simple anthem celebrating the joys of the season (cue Will Smith wiping his car down in the video). But the more you listen to the lyrics, the clearer it is that this is a song about, among other things, climate change and the need to immediately shift our behavior in order to save each other and the planet.

In the first verse, you get a hint of what’s to come: Seven billion souls that move around the sun / Rolling faster, faster and not a chance to slow down / Slow down / Men who made machines that want what they decide

In the second verse, Gambino makes it clear that this song is about the ways in which we’re destroying the world around us. He touches on global warming, the lack of potable water in many parts of the world (see the recent water crisis in Cape Town), the ongoing decline in bee populations, and recent news of an uptick in bird extinctions: Every day gets hotter than the one before / Running out of water, it's about to go down / Go down / Air that kill the bees that we depend upon / Birds were made for singing / Waking up to no sound / No sound

Before the choruses, there’s a repeated set of lyrics that varies each time. It shifts between an acknowledgment that the world is changing no matter what we do and a message that we can have an impact by actively creating positive change:  

  • Oh, I know you know that pain / I'm hopin' that this world will change / But it just seems the same / (It is not the same)

  • Oh, I hope we change / I really thought this world would change / But it seems like the same

  • On the third repetition, as the song fades out, the final lyric is simple Oh, I hope we change

Now, I’m not claiming that this is the first or only song to address these issues. That said, to have someone with Donald Glover’s popularity and sheer lyrical intelligence dropping tracks about climate change is huge.

Climate change is already affecting day-to-day life for many people and it could reach catastrophic levels in the next 20 years. Despite all this, it’s often low on the list of issues that matter to people in the United States. It also doesn’t help that climate change has been framed repeatedly as scientifically contested (it’s not) and partisan (again, no).

If we continue to see and hear messages of urgency and hope from artists like Donald Glover, maybe climate change will become an issue that we all agree needs our immediate attention and action. Oh, I hope we change.

Reading List: September 2018 - 10 Things to Read This Month

Reading List: August 2018 - 11 Things to Read This Month

I read a lot. Here's my best-of list for the past month.


Environment & Climate Change

Health & Medicine

Urban Planning


  • Strange Children by Dan Brady — A beautiful, spare debut collection of poetry about love, loss, acceptance, and how we make and maintain a family in the face of adversity.



See all of my monthly reading lists

Reading List: July 2018 - 11 Things to Read This Month