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The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  599 ratings  ·  79 reviews
The incomparable Rebecca Solnit, author of more than a dozen acclaimed, prizewinning books of nonfiction, brings the same dazzling writing to the essays in Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness. As the title suggests, the territory of Solnit’s concerns is vast, and in her signature alchemical style she combines commentary on history, justice, war and peace, and explorat
Kindle Edition, 344 pages
Published October 28th 2014 by Trinity University Press (first published August 12th 2014)
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Julie Christine
Radicals often speak as though we live in a bleak landscape in which the good has yet to be born. Not only is there an alternative, but it’s here and always has been.

This collection of 29 essays, previously published in a variety of literary venues, demonstrates Rebecca Solnit's virtuosity as an compassionate intellectual, a keen and critical observer of the human condition, and a preeminent force in American letters.

Solnit is neither a politician nor an academic. She is not a researcher nor an
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You will forgive me for rating all of Solnit's books 5 stars... she's just so good: so real, so evocative, so much of this time on earth. This, her latest collection of essays, is so rich it's difficult to represent it here, save to say I will read this again and again before I'm finished with it. There are essays on so many things, from the meltdown in Fuskushima to the meltdown in the Icelandic economy; about climate change, Hurrican Katrina and the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico; the creep ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are so many facets to Ms. Solnit's writing and I feel terribly inept in my own, that I fear that I cannot do this book justice via review. She writes about things that are important and has a gift for melding the history and science of her subjects with humor or plea as appropriate. When I first considered the book, already inclined to buy it because Trinity University Press publishes books that resonate with me, two passages sold me, "It's true what you heard about macrame. Partly some mu ...more
Jenn C.
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my introduction to Solnit's writing, and now all I can say is I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do to read all of her stuff. I fell in love with her mind, her writing style, and she left me wondering why I don't know more about, well, everything. Her writing is stimulating and challenging in the sense she leaves you wanting to know more, wanting to do more, to contribute more to this world we inhabit. Her fluid themes of hopefulness and her ability to always pull the positive o ...more
This book is all over the place. And by this I mean physically all over the place. From Iceland, to Japan, to San Francisco, to Detroit, to New Orleans, to México, she has opinions on many themes, and while I found some of them inspiring, others were a little pretentious.

I really enjoyed the good parts, her thoughts on Thoureau being one of my favorites, but those essays on Iceland I just could not get myself interested in, and the one apologizing to Mexico (me being a Mexican) I found very gra
Surabhi Tewari
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first book written by Rebecca Solnit that I read and I must say I loved her writing. Although the essays were on topics such as drugs, real estate, Mexico, etc. the language was so poetic that I actually kept a marker to highlight paragraphs that I could quote and revisit. Also, the depth of the writing was quite impressive. From now on she is definitely one of my favourites.
Dec 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to adore this collection of Solnit's essays, as I have so much of her writing in the past, but I...didn't. There is much here to admire, and certainly enough to love to make it worthwhile, but there's also a pervasive didacticism I didn't find in her other writings. The essays vary from long-form internet polemics to absolute magical gems, and overall I'm certainly not sorry I took the time -- but I'll admit that I wanted more from the collection (what a name! what a delicious name!) th ...more
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
I’m giving this a 4.5. While I didn’t love every one of the 30 or so essays here, all were interesting, and the ones I loved, I loved a lot. I won’t bother listing my favorites because I think every reader will have their own if they like this sort of thing: thoughtful, insightful, and well-written pieces on economics, art, grassroots political movements, war, social justice, community, and the environment. Those that resonant deeply will depend upon one’s particular interests and passions, but ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: requested
Reading this collection in 2020, 6 years after it came out and 10-15 years after many of the essays were originally published, gave it an oddly dated feeling. Some of the discussions are still timely, some feel surprisingly dated, and most, to me, were in-between. I guess this is common - post-2016, some of the complaints about the Bush, to say nothing of Obama, eras just seem...smaller (certainly not all!). Anyway, occasionally the writing was beautiful or the topic was profound, so there's ple ...more
George K. Ilsley
A collection of diverse essays. Especially enjoyed the Iceland pieces, and the Arctic expedition. Learned a lot about mercury and gold mining in California —which makes me wonder if mercury is equally not talked about in the Klondike gold rush, and still polluting that watershed.
A strong collection of essays. Solnit is a major talent; however, her writing feels stronger when she is observing outside the US.
Reading is also travelling, with the eye along the length of an idea. p210

The encyclopedia is a perfect format for RS to give free range to the prodigious scope of her interests.
Not that she is a dilettante, for her attention is deep as it is wide.

For us, perhaps, the Golden Calf is the belief that the current economic system produces wealth rather than poverty. p107

RS doesn't just fling a statement down without considerable backup. Her exquisite sense of justice finds its way off limits, and
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want to travel the world
This took awhile. My reading of this widespread collection coincided with returning to work in the midst of COVID-19, which was certainly a source of preoccupation. Places I normally read (buses, restaurants, coffee shops) have been off-limits, and my evenings have been largely spent watching videos on YouTube. But this was a very worthwhile read, with some essays having an almost uncanny relevance to The Way We Live Now (starting to read "Concrete In Paradise", an essay about the Bay Area's tie ...more
I will read every essay she writes if I come across it on the internet. I did tire of them all together in a book, though. To her credit, the essays are well-chosen to reflect recurring themes.
Rebecca Solnit is reclaiming non-fiction. She maintains that the word describing the genre is dumbed-down. I am still discovering her range and versatility. She explores how we tell stories about "our history, our powers, and our possibilities.”

The title of this anthology arises from her belief that nonfiction is spacious territory that she roams: from realms of "investigative journalism to prose poems; manifestos to love letters, from dictionaries to packing lists." There are thirty essays here
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as the civil disobedience protests in Baltimore were unfolding, which was a rather apt time. A large chunk of the essays in Solnit's "encyclopedia" examine the myth of looting. In the process she exposes the media and cultural fixation on property over people, arguing that in most cases (and it's important to note that her case studies are natural disasters, the Haitian earthquake and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans) during catastrophes civil society emerges to fill in the vacuum le ...more
I started this book and frankly ran out of gas before getting deeply into it. Now it is due and I must return it to the library.

The opening essay, "Cyclopedia of an Arctic Expedition," is breathtaking. It is structured as a set of encyclopedia entries - alphabetical, of course, and complete with "see" and "see also" entries - which you'd think would be staid and dry. But the writing is gorgeous and I found myself reading both forward and backward to connect all the observations. I can envision u
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
I should've abandoned the book upon a minute's reflection on its pretentious title.

I'm definitely kicking myself that I didn't abandon it after reading the incredibly pretentious introduction. She sounded so utterly full of herself that I was surprised she hadn't capitalized the word "writer."

I plugged along, and thought the opening essay, about her trip to Antartica, was moderately interesting, even though I didn't fall in love with one sentence. Then, the second essay was a rather dated one ab
I became a big fan of Solnit after reading The Faraway Nearby. Her essay, 'Men Explain Things To Me' is a bookmarked favourite. ( )

My interest in this collection specifically came about after reading Brain Pickings piece on Solnit's essay, 'We're Breaking Up.' (Read the essay on Solnit's website here: ). Of course, what is covered in this book goes far beyond this essay. Solnit's subjects are wide and her interests deep. A great t
Corie Sanford
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard for me not to love everything Solnit writes. She has a fluid and perceptive way of interweaving literature, history, and psychology; one of my favorite essays in this collection connects the lonely homemaking of Martha Stewart with gender and home in The Odyssey and religious retreats both modern and past. Solnit is intelligent, well-researched, but she allows questions to connect and lead her work, rather than assumptions about meaning.
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Rebecca Solnit. Ever eloquent, full of heart but completely rational. Of firm resolve, but willing to be forgiving (when appropriate). She successfully marries the dreamlike movement of an enchanting story with the lucidity of a razor sharp analysis. Every. Single. Time. What I admire most about her is that she doesn’t sound angry, some of her writing is fueled by fire, but there’s no hate behind it. She’s one of the few people that always seems to write about politics in a healthy way. She’ ...more
Donovan Colegrove
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Eclectic and Revolutionary

This book is a collection of essays by one of my favorite authors that essentially deals with the relationships we have between each other and the world we occupy. It asks us to consider whether we want to go on occupying the same world or attempt to remake it into something better. Large sections of this book are fairly bleak and depressing, but there is hope to be found in odd places - the poor revolutionaries of Mexico, the downfall of the rich and powerful in Icelan
Sarah Lugthart
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me Adam Curtis was stuck in my mind a lot this year, so I think it was good I countered it with some of the ideas of Solnit. I especially was touched by her articles on the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan, and her ideas on alternative economies and the situation in Iceland gave me a more broad perspective. Her article on urban gardening made my rethink my position: do I hide between the nice things surrounding me or should I use this position more to make a difference. Curtis makes me t ...more
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read Solnit's "Men Explain Things To Me" and my response was, "More. Please!" I love these essays. For one, some are centered on San Fransisco and I lived there many lifetimes ago when it was still an ideal place for a struggling single mother to raise a mixed-race child. And then there's the way Solnit, expressing herself sublimely, makes you feel really pissed off at the status quo while managing to suggest reasons for joy and hope. More. Please!
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Rebecca Solnit is an amazing author, but these are heavy essays requiring time to parse, and process. Part travel diary, part anti-war narrative, part aggressive environmentalism, these essays speak to the tragedy that is the current state of the world, and to the hope that can be found in those fighting back.
Alger Smythe-Hopkins
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
The usual mix of heady optimism about current trends and gimlet-eyed analysis of just what the hell is wrong with the currently wrong with the world that one expects from Solnit. Enjoyable, even if the 'current events' in the collected essays are feeling oddly dated across the short span of the Obama-Trump divide.
Patricia Murphy
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An erudite collection

I love the way Solnit approaches topics. She eases into each essay with musicality, poetry, imagery, and personal narrative making every point more poignant. It’s nice to get a collection of her previously published works together in one place to see the wide variety of topics and styles she masters.
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hope, wrapped in unimaginable pain; promising holds on a near-featureless face; the promise that the people around us are better than we imagine them to be, and that we are inventive enough (and, maybe-just-maybe, powerful enough) to—together—find a way to higher ground in time.

I’ll be chewing on the details of these stories for quite some time.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are essays about a range of topics (mostly centered on the idea of place, and how places shape us and our politics), and Solnit's thoughtful and often poetic musings about these make subjects that can sometimes be intimidating (revolution, social inequality, etc.) engaging even to non-experts. Lots of food for thought in here, and little arrows to point you to further reading.
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first of her books I've read and I'll be looking for more. The essays were written from 2008 -2014 and range all over the place literally - Iceland, North America, Japan - and figuratively. She writes about recoveries from natural disasters and prolonged problems caused by a variety of events.
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-lit
Solnit's prose is incredible. All these essays are good reads. I would model my writing off of this. I don't share her political views, but I learned a lot and it's refreshing to hear well articulated social and political commentary.
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Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering  and walking, hope and disaster, including  Call Them By Their True Names (Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction),  Cinderella Liberator,  Men Explain Things to Me, The Mother of All Questions,  and  Ho ...more

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