We present our staff reading list with picks from members of the Pluto team. From theory to biography, history to global politics, all our selections are available on our website!
Jallad by Tasneem Khalil
Kieran O’Connor, Publicist
From the chillingly euphemistic ‘encounter specialists’ in India, to the weaponised flanks of the Royal Nepalese Army, this book is a timely, rigorous assault on the brutalities exacted on hundreds of thousands of people in South Asia by state agents, helped in kind by the US, the UK, Israel and China who back these regimes. Muscular, fearless and rigorous, Jallad is an incredibly timely and essential book.
The Rent Trap by Rosie Walker and Samir Jeraj
Simon Liebesny, Sales Director
The book I wish I had read years ago is The Rent Trap. In my time I have squatted, lived in a housing co-op, rented a room, rented a flat and eventually got a mortgage. All of these have been and still are precarious; the word mortgage literally means “a pledge unto death”. There is no security in “security”. As Rosie Walker and Samir Jeraj show in a clear and yet eviscerating guide to the world of private renting, we are constantly at the whim and mercy of faceless people in glass offices, who care not a whit about how ordinary people are supposed to live from day to day. A dangerous cocktail made up of the recklessness of governments combined with the greed of private landlords and agents will leave a scar on this generation and on those to come. The Rent Trap is the antidote.
White City, Black City by Sharon Rotbard
Melanie Patrick, Designer
I love this book — it’s brilliantly written and totally fascinating. Sharon Rotbard tells the history of two cities — Israel’s Tel Aviv and Palestine’s Jaffa — through their buildings. The book explains how the white modernist architecture of Tel Aviv has been deliberately misrepresented and ultimately used as a tool to erode Palestinian’s right to their homes, land and cultural heritage. Written with immense restraint and precision it is a very moving book, as well as a fascinating introduction to the political implications of architecture in general.
Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center by bell hooks
Neda Tehrani, Editorial Assistant
bell hooks’ classic Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center is essential reading for contemporary feminists reflecting on why the movement has a long way to go today. This foundational text articulates the failures of mainstream feminist theory to encompass the experiences of the minorities, who exist on what hooks refers to as ‘the margins’, centralizing instead the experiences of those who live ‘at the centre’. Challenging dominant notions of what constitutes political solidarity and sisterhood, this book articulated personal feelings of exclusion, while also pushing me to face the question of whether or not my own feminism was inclusive and able to contribute to a mass movement for women’s liberation. hooks makes the compelling case for establishing feminism as a radical political movement over and above achieving short-term goals that present feminism as seemingly appropriate to the majority, arguing that its success resides in considering the intersection of race, gender and class, and its wider relationship to capitalism. An all-time personal favourite, this groundbreaking book expanded the definition of feminism itself, reminding us of the potential for a grassroots movement that acknowledges, rather than ignores divisions, in order to ultimately overcome them.
The Chaplin Machine by Owen Hatherley
Emily Orford, Marketing Manager
When Owen came to us with this manuscript, I considered the content. At home, on the wall of my room was a poster of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, or Los Tiempos Modernos, that I had bought in Cuba a few years past. Next to that, on my desk was a bust of Lenin. I spent some time considering the parallels. Then I read Owen’s book, and I found that the esoteric alleyways and connections in my head between, for example, Vertov’s worship of the methods of cinematic production, and Chaplin’s deconstruction of the capitalist mode of production could be woven together… with the added bonus of many a political point to be made of the whole thing… well, I’m just glad we got to publish the book! I urge you to get your hands on one of the strangest books on political cinema that exists.
Bobby Sands: Nothing But An Unfinished Song by Denis O’Hearn
Chris Browne, Marketing Executive
Back in March Pluto published a new edition of Denis O’Hearn’s excellent biography of Bobby Sands. It had been ten years since the first edition came out and the centenary year of the 1916 Easter Rising seemed like a good time to re-issue it. But it was only when I read the new foreword from Mumia Abu-Jamal, and O’Hearn’s own preface, that it immediately struck me just how important this book has been for so many people: it has resonated, perhaps unsurprisingly, with thousands of inmates in US ‘supermax’ prisons, who after reading the book as part of a self-organised academic course, took inspiration from the struggles of Bobby Sands and the Irish blanketmen in Long Kesh prison in the ’70s and ’80s. Organising across racial lines within prison, many of those in solitary confinement went on hunger strike, quickly winning basic demands, such as the right to touch their loved ones during visits.
Reading the book, it quickly becomes apparent why it has had such a profound effect on so many people. O’Hearn has captured the atmosphere of the time and the vibrancy of his subject: a militant anti-imperialist who held onto his humanity through a bitter struggle, and whose death sent reverberations around the world.
The Fanon Reader by Frantz Fanon
Florence Stencel – Wade, Sales and Marketing Assistant
Homi K. Bhaba writes in his introduction to the 1986 Pluto edition of Black Skin, White Masks that; ‘It is not for the finitude of philosophical thinking nor for the finality of a political direction that we turn to Fanon. Heir to the ingenuity and artistry of Toussaint and Senghor, as well as the iconoclasm of Nietzsche, Freud and Sartre, Fanon is the purveyor of the transgressive and transitional truth.’ It is this truth or frankness that I admire in Fanon’s writing. Knowledge is power and Fanon’s illumination of the structures of power and its beholders demonstrates the political intent of his intellectual project. Fanon informed my thinking about the political nature of subjectivity and of cultural representation. He is a great historian of colonialism and chronicler of its continuities. He has borne an influence on cultural studies, political theory, psychoanalysis and literary theory, which goes to show the need for a critical introduction such as this.