Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit on Hope in Print

December 24, 2007

[Note for Tomdispatch readers: For anyone following the recent revelations in baseball’s steroid scandal, it’s definitely the moment to revisit Robert Lipsyte’s all-too-relevant sports-‘n-drugs triple-header: Shooting Up on Jock Culture, How We Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Bomb, and We Know What You Did Last Summer.

By the way, this is where 2007 ends for Tomdispatch — on a booklist of hope. The site will be closed for two weeks. Expect the next Tomgram on January 2, 2008. Tom]

I first met Rebecca Solnit on-line. She sent an essay in to Tomdispatch in 2003, not long after the invasion of Iraq began, just as so many who had demonstrated against the onrushing war were packing their bags and heading home in despair. It was called Acts of Hope: Challenging Empire on the World Stage, and, soon enough, it would expand into a little gem of a book — one that changed the way I looked at the world — Hope in the Dark, Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.

Consider that work the secret thirteenth companion to Solnit’s 12 book choices below — her “secret library of hope” — which offer a reader encouragment not to curl up in despair when faced with a grim world. And here’s a bit of small-scale synergy that brightens my own life. My favorite bookstore on the planet, City Lights in San Francisco, is putting up a “Secret Library of Hope” window display of Solnit’s suggestions, with most of the books specially stickered and available inside (along with this essay).

As someone who regularly wears a “City Lights Books” baseball cap in New York City, I can hardly imagine a more enjoyable response to a Tomdispatch post — except for your e-letters which pour in regularly. I always read them and I try my best to answer, when I’m not swept away. I’ve taken to calling them “the university of my later years.” So let me offer Tomdispatch readers a small thank-you for every one of those letters, for all the support, encouragement, and criticism you’ve offered this year, for the tips on articles or books I might have missed, for the descriptions of lives I’d otherwise never know about and places I’ll never get to, for the just-after-publication catching of mistakes and errors, for passing Tomdispatch posts on to friends, colleagues, and those who disagree, for every small act you’ve taken to mitigate the damage being done on, and to, this planet, for every small space for hope you’ve created in me. Tom

The Secret Library of Hope

12 Books to Stiffen Your Resolve

By Rebecca Solnit

Hope is an orientation, a way of scanning the wall for cracks — or building ladders — rather than staring at its obdurate expanse. It’s a worldview, but one informed by experience and the knowledge that people have power; that the power people possess matters; that change has been made by populist movements and dedicated individuals in the past; and that it will be again.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.