Philosophy books often don’t get their due. They’re usually long, often badly written, frequently pompous and annoying, and sometimes even poorly edited. But 2014 has been a hallmark year for works of philosophy that can genuinely impact your life (even in the immediate future) without becoming self-help nonsense. These books deal try to change what is possible in politics, sex, feminism, art, and more.
Elaine Scarry, Thermonuclear Monarchy (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain is without question one of the most illuminating books we have about the body, language, and torture. A crude summary: a tortured body is a body that struggles to create its own world. Scarry’s new book suggests that nations with nuclear weapons are exacting a kind of torture on nations without them. It’s a mind-blowing argument against nuclear proliferation, and it goes so far as to recommend the eradication of our global nuclear arsenal.