Books to Watch | March 22, 2022
March 22, 2022
This week, our choices are:
All the White Friends I Couldn't Keep : Hope—and Hard Pills to Swallow—About Fighting for Black Lives by Andre Henry, Convergent (JAG)
When the rallying cry “Black Lives Matter” was heard across the world in 2013, Andre Henry was one of the millions for whom the movement caused a political awakening—and a rupture in some of his closest relationships with white people. As he began using his artistic gifts to share his experiences and perspective, Henry was grieved to discover that many white Americans—people he called friends and family—were more interested in debating whether racism existed, or whether Henry was being polite enough in the way he used his voice.
In this personal and thought-provoking book, Henry explores how the historic divides between Black people and non-Black people are expressed through our most mundane interactions, and why this struggle won’t be resolved through civil discourse, diversity hires, interracial relationships, or education. What we need is a revolution, one that moves beyond symbolic progress to disrupt systems of racial violence and inequality in tangible, creative ways.
Sharing stories from his own path to activism—from studying at seminary to becoming a student of nonviolent social change; from working as a praise leader to singing about social justice—and connecting those experiences to lessons from successful nonviolent struggles in America and around the world, he calls Black people and people of color to divest from whiteness and its false promises, trust what their lived experiences tell them, and practice hope as a discipline as they work for lasting change.
Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything—Even Things that Seem Impossible Today by Jane McGonigal, Spiegel & Grau (DJJS)
The COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most disruptive events in human history, has made it more challenging than ever to feel prepared, hopeful, and equipped to face the future with optimism. How do we map out our lives when it feels impossible to predict what the world will be like next week, let alone next year or next decade? What we need now are strategies to help us recover our confidence and creativity in facing uncertain futures.
In Imaginable, Jane McGonigal draws on the latest scientific research in psychology and neuroscience to show us how to train our minds to think the unthinkable and imagine the unimaginable. She invites us to play with the provocative thought experiments and future simulations she’s designed exclusively for this book, with the goal to:
- Build our collective imagination so that we can dive into the future and envision, in surprising detail, what our lives will look like ten years from now
- Develop the courage and vision to solve problems creatively
- Take actions and make decisions that will help shape the future we desire
- Access “urgent optimism,” an unstoppable force within each of us that activates our sense of agency
Imaginable teaches us to be fearless, resilient, and bold in realizing a world with possibilities we cannot yet imagine—until reading this transformative, inspiring, and necessary book.
The Journey of Humanity: The Origins of Wealth and Inequality by Oded Galor, Dutton Books (EPP)
For most of our existence, since our emergence as a distinct species nearly three hundred thousand years ago, the basic thrust of human life was defined by the pursuit of survival and reproduction. It has long been the prevailing wisdom that prosperity rose gradually.
In actuality, the astounding ascent in living conditions in the past two centuries has been the product of an abrupt transformation rather than of a process that gained momentum, incrementally. Most people in the 18th century led lives more comparable to those of their distant ancestors than to those of their present-day descendants.
Over this two-hundred-year period, a split-second in human existence, per capita incomes have soared in the most developed regions and on Planet Earth as a whole. And yet, growth in the past two hundred years has been defined by inequality, with a large divergence in per capita income across world regions.
The Shame Machine: Who Profits in the New Age of Humiliation by Cathy O'Neil, Crown (GMC)
Shame is a powerful and sometimes useful tool: When we publicly shame corrupt politicians, abusive celebrities, or predatory corporations, we reinforce values of fairness and justice. But as Cathy O’Neil argues in this revelatory book, shaming has taken a new and dangerous turn. It is increasingly being weaponized—used as a way to shift responsibility for social problems from institutions to individuals. Shaming children for not being able to afford school lunches or adults for not being able to find work lets us off the hook as a society. After all, why pay higher taxes to fund programs for people who are fundamentally unworthy?
O’Neil explores the machinery behind all this shame, showing how governments, corporations, and the healthcare system capitalize on it. There are damning stories of rehab clinics, prisons, drug and diet companies, and social media platforms—all of which profit from “punching down” on the vulnerable. Woven throughout is the story of O’Neil’s own struggle with body image and her recent decision to undergo weight-loss surgery, shaking off decades of shame.
With clarity and nuance, O’Neil dissects the relationship between shame and power. Who does the system serve? Is it counter-productive to call out racists, misogynists, and vaccine skeptics? If so, when should someone be “canceled”? How do current incentive structures perpetuate the shaming cycle? And, most important, how can we all fight back?