The Road to Unfreedom
In his 2017 bestseller, On Tyranny, Timothy Snyder looked at 20 lessons from the past to help us navigate today’s democracy. In The Road to Unfreedom, the Yale University Levin Professor of History delves even further into the stark and urgent questions of our current period, exploring the roads that lead to equality or oligarchy, truth or falsehood.
The Line Becomes a River
From 2008 to 2012, Francisco Cantú—the grandson of a Mexican immigrant—worked for the U.S. Border Control in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. In prose both honest and empathetic, he recounts the dehumanizing tasks he was asked to carry out before ultimately abandoning the work. Well-informed and deeply personal, The Line Becomes a River is Cantú’s call for compassion and a fuller understanding of immigration.
A Sin by Any Other Name
Robert W. Lee
Robert W. Lee, descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, grew up in the South with a famous name. Here, he chronicles his social justice coming-of-age journey as he reckons with white supremacy and its effects on his Christian faith. Lee’s memoir is a denunciation of the Lost Cause, a love letter to the South, and an invitation for others to reckon with their histories of racism.
The Hill to Die On
The divide between members of Congress has maybe never been so bleak, and Politico Playbook writers Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer expose just how low things got during the first two years of Trump’s presidency. With these levels of power struggles and deceit, The Hill to Die On might read like a fun cross between West Wing and Game of Thrones—only it’s real, and real people’s lives are on the line.
Named one of the best books of 2016, Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep roofs over their heads. These personal narratives are the jumping-off point for discussing poverty and the housing crisis that’s plaguing the nation, and just may be one of the most important books you’ll ever read.
I'm Still Here
Austin Channing Brown
I’m Still Here is Austin Channing Brown’s powerful narrative of growing up as a Black woman in middle-class white America. A racial justice leader helping organizations move toward actual inclusion—rather than mere empty statements—Brown delivers an impassioned manifesto that reaches inward to her own experience and outward into neighborhoods, schools, prisons, and boardrooms. She writes with hope and clarity, and urges readers to confront their complicity.
Omar El Akkad
This novel imagines the second American Civil War, which breaks out in a bleak future landscape in 2074. In Louisiana, one young girl is caught in the middle, placed in Camp Patience for displaced persons after her father is killed. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they seem, and soon Sarat is manipulated into being an agent of war. This novel is terrifying and dystopian, and somehow doesn’t seem that far away.
The Perfect Weapon
David E. Sanger
New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger traces the rise of cyberwarfare, now the weapon of choice for democracies and dictators alike. While he digs in to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, he takes a wider perspective to explain how we got here, and what these powers—and our vulnerability to them—could mean.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff traveled the U.S. for three years leading up to the 2016 presidential election and reported on the racial, political, social, and economic tensions that seemed to be ratcheting by the day. From the Mexican border to Ferguson to Flint, LeDuff painstakingly creates a nuanced portrait of today’s America at its most gritty and complicated.
Nancy Isenberg’s look at class in this country is an eye-opening investigation into economic disparity and entrenched social hierarchy that has existed, in some form or another, since our country was born. She examines the historical influence of poor whites in the U.S., from giving rise to the Republican party to being pitted against Blacks during reconstruction to shaping pop culture with shows like Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Isenberg argues that while racial disparity had a huge part in shaping this country, we’ve also maligned poor whites to even further place rich white men at the top of the pyramid.
Our country today is, in some ways, more different than it has been for centuries. There seems to be a confluence of issues taking America by storm: immigrant families separated and held in detention centers, a rise of alt-right sentiments, an increase in poverty, continued racial injustice, and a terrible housing crisis. Take the time to read one of these important books that shed light on these issues, including a novel that speculates what will happen if we turn on one another for a second Civil War.
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