S-Town’s John B Mclemore: A Reading List

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Like many, I was completely blown away by the podcast S-Town and deeply moved by the life of its central character, John B McLemore.

Being me, I immediately focused in on the books and stories mentioned in the show. Here’s a list (and yeah, its going to reveal some information about the show)


Rose for Emily, William Faulkner  I’ll just quote the show’s narrator, Brian Reed here: “narrated by the gossipy collective townsfolk of imaginary Jefferson Mississippi who tell the tale of Ms. Emily Greerson, an unmarried middle age outcast who lives alone with her father and who after he dies wholes up in her house for years.”


The Necklace, Guy de Maupassant Reed again: “about a woman who longs for a much grander, more spectacular life than the one she has, and gets it, for a single night, only to have to pay for it, dearly, for the next ten years.”


The Renegade, Shirley Jackson. Reed: “about a woman who recently moved from the city to a small country town whose family dog, lady, is accused one more of killing a neighbor’s chickens, the woman listens in growing dread throughout the day as townsperson after townsperson laughs at the torture and death that will befall lady as a result including finally, the woman’s own children who describe to lady’s face in grave detail how they will use a spiked collar to chop off her head.


Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx Olan Long, John B’s close friend, sends John B this classic story of two cowboys who fall in love, but because of life, and homophobia, and fear, never get to fully be together.  A book John B would describe as “the grief manual.”


An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore John B was obsessed with climate change, and read about it voraciously. Reed mentions this amongst other books John would refer to in their conversations.


Going Dark, Guy McPherson John also referred to the works of Guy McPherson, who I’ll admit I wasn’t familiar with until listening to this show. McPherson is an academic who taught at the University of Arizona. He’s also a radical climate change activists. I haven’t read any of McPherson’s books, but he’s often described as a radically critical of western society and a having a bit of an apocalyptic view of future of the world.


Walking Away From Empire, Guy McPherson Another McPherson book referred by John. This one a memoir of sorts about his transformation from mainstream ecologist to radical “friend of the earth”.

It’s clear from listening to John speak that he was incredibly well read. I’m sure I only scratched the surface with this short list, but I hope it gives some insight into this fascinating and tragic man.

Steve Bannon: A Reading List

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There’s a lot of talk about Steve Bannon being the intellectual force behind the Trump administration. With Harvard Business School and Goldman Sachs on his resume, he’s certainly a smart guy. He’s also profoundly dangerous if you believe in things like, say, the Constitution, human rights, or basic human decency.

I’m always fascinated with the intellectual lives of public figures, but when Bannon named dropped obscure neo-fascist crazy man Julius Evola the other day, I got really interested in what, exactly, this man so close to the president reads.

What Bannon reads, or claims to read, can help us understand what he believes, but it can also tell us how he wants to be seen. For example, according to various sources, he’s a voracious reader. I don’t know if that’s true. I haven’t been able to find much on what he’s actually read. But even if it isn’t, it tells me he wants to be seen (unlike the President) as someone who reads.

Below is what I’ve been able to gather from various news sources. If you know more, please get in touch.

The Art of War, Sun Tzu – Shocker, defense hawk ultra-nationalist likes classic text of military theory.

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, William Strauss and Neil Howe – Every Bannon article mentions his interest in this book by two amateur historians that posits that history moved in 80-100 year cycles of birth, life, and destruction and rebirth. Guess where Bannon thinks we are right now.

Anti-Fragile, Nicholas Nassim Taleb – Funny enough, this is one of the few Taleb books I haven’t read. While Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness diagnose the phenomenon of “black swans” and how our failure to understand them hurts us, Anti-Fragile is (so I understand) more of a guide of how to act in a world of Black Swans. Bannon apparently hands this out to aides. Trump is pretty much the quintessential black swan phenomenon, so I went ahead and order this today.

The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam – Bannon was seen reading this history of the Vietnam War in an airport around Christmas. I haven’t read this, but my understanding is Best and Brightest focuses on the errors made by Washington experts in executing the Vietnam strategy. Interesting read for a man who would weeks later orchestrate the disastrous Muslim travel ban.

Bhagavad Gita, — One associate from Bannon’s days in the Hollywood recalls his interest in the concept of dharma, or one’s role in life. Bannon found this concept in his reading of this classic Hindu text. You could make the argument that Bannon’s interest int he cycles of history can be seen in his interest in both this book of karmic rebirth, and the Fourth Turning. Or it could just be random. There’s a whiff of traditionalism in his interest in this stuff, but it isn’t strong enough to really make the case.

Reagan’s War, Peter Schweizer – A Reagan biography focusing on the President’s anti-communism. Bannon made this into the film In the Face of Evil and Schweizer would go on to work for Bannon’s Government Accountability Institute and write Clinton Cash.


Time To Get Tough, Donald Trump – Trump’s campaign book from 2015. I assume Bannon read it before gushing over it on the Brietbart site.

Other Thinkers

I’m not going to list here all the right wing nut jobs he’s praised on Breitbart, just the most interesting or important

Michael Anton – the author of the piece that is viewed by many as the best intellectual defense of voting for Trump “The Flight 93 Election”. During the campaign, Anton was so worried about being outed as a Trump supporter he wrote under the pen name Publius Decius Mus. Now, he works in the White House.

Julius Evola – We don’t know whether or not Bannon has read Evola, but we do know he’s familiar with his ideas. Evola was a no joke self-described fascist and one of the leading writers of post-war fascist thought. He was also bonkers sex magic practitioner. Evola is best known for Revolt Against the Modern World. I’m not going to link to his books because dude is actually really bad news, but here’s a page I put together of resources on post-war fascism and neo-Nazism.

Alexander Dugin – Called by some the theoretician of Putin’s Russia, Dugin is another dodgy character that we know Bannon is familiar with, but has perhaps not read. Dugin is, like Evola, really, seriously, a fascist. Like it is not up for debate. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory. I’m not linking to that garbage either.

Jean RaspailBannon has also repeatedly name dropped Camp Of Saints, a novel by Jean Raspail “about the end of the white race” through mass immigration to Europe. Yeah you can buy this on amazon, but I don’t link to racist novels.