December books included just two non-fiction entries. Not captured are the many, many Christmas stories I read aloud, or my ongoing progress with the behemoth that is Self-Determination Theory
Eating Animals — this is an in-depth account of factory farming, with particular emphasis on the very cruel mistreatment of animals (vs., say, climate impacts). The author is a vegetarian and argues that vegetarianism is the only way to avoid moral complicity with the abusive treatment of animals in factory farms. Interestingly, he spends a fair amount of time highlighting ethical farm operations that prioritize giving their animals a good life and humane slaughter and acknowledges that eating meat raised in this way is not necessarily immoral. But practically speaking, these kinds of operations make up such a small fraction of meat production in America that if you are a meat-eater, factory-farmed meat is almost sure to find its way into your diet. It was an interesting read, and my main takeaway was just how difficult it is for producers outside the factory farm system to actually achieve more humane practices, given industry norms.
Out of Office — Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel’s new book is subtitled, “The big problem and bigger promise of working from home,” but it’s not really about remote work as such, but the problems with the American culture of knowledge work, wherever it happens to take place (I say American because I think some of their observations are less true elsewhere in the Anglosphere, and certainly will be less true in Western European cultures). They accurately diagnose a lot of challenges, and especially the fact that most challenges are not about any one workplace, but embedded in the culture more generally. They explore some tactical solutions in the workplace, but their broader thesis is that we need to look to the broader community to create meaning and balance in people’s lives, which necessarily requires working much less. I am so philosophically aligned with much of what they write, but I want to lean harder on the workplace as a source of community. I agree that it’s fraught, that a company is not a family, that we can’t conflate our sense of self with our jobs. But I also think it’s inevitable that for most adults, work will consume 25-35 hours a week, and it’s impossible for any hobby or community affiliation to deliver that kind of intensive, consistent time together that is the foundation of great relationships. So many of my most cherished friendships have come from the workplace, and I’m reluctant to throw that particular baby out with the bathwater of toxic cultures of overwork.