October 17, 2023
October 17, 2023
Finding the right book at the right time can transform your life or your organization. We help you discover your next great read by showcasing four recently released titles each week.
The books are chosen by Porchlight's Managing Director, Sally Haldorson, and the marketing team: Dylan Schleicher, Gabbi Cisneros, and Jasmine Gonzalez. (Book descriptions are provided by the publisher unless otherwise noted.)
This week, our choices are:
Dylan’s pick: The Big Fail: What the Pandemic Revealed About Who America Protects, and Who It Leaves Behind by Joe Nocera and Bethany McLean, Portfolio
In 2020, the novel coronavirus pandemic made it painfully clear that the U.S. could not adequately protect its citizens. Millions of Americans suffered—and over a million died—in less than two years, while government officials blundered; prize-winning economists overlooked devastating trade-offs; and elites escaped to isolated retreats, unaffected by and even profiting from the pandemic.
Why and how did America, in a catastrophically enormous failure, become the world leader in COVID deaths? In this page-turning economic, political, and financial history, veteran journalists Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera offer fresh and provocative answers. With laser-sharp analysis and deep sourcing, they investigate both what really happened when governments ran out of PPE due to snarled supply chains and the shock to the financial system when the world's biggest economy stumbled. They zero in on the effectiveness of wildly polarized approaches, with governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Ron DeSantis of Florida taking infamous turns in the spotlight. And they trace why thousands died in hollowed-out hospital systems and nursing homes run by private equity firms to “maximize shareholder value."
In the tradition of the authors’ previous landmark exposés, The Big Fail is an expansive, insightful account on what the pandemic did to the economy and how American capitalism has jumped the rails—and is essential reading to understand where we’re going next.
Jasmine’s pick: Gray Areas: How the Way We Work Perpetuates Racism and What We Can Do to Fix It by Adia Harvey Wingfield, Amistad
Labor and race have shared a complex, interconnected history in America. For decades, key aspects of work—from getting a job to workplace norms to advancement and mobility—ignored and failed Black people. While explicit discrimination no longer occurs, and organizations make internal and public pledges to honor and achieve “diversity,” inequities persist through what Adia Harvey Wingfield calls the “gray areas:” the relationships, networks, and cultural dynamics integral to companies that are now more important than ever. The reality is that Black employees are less likely to be hired, stall out at middle levels, and rarely progress to senior leadership positions.
Wingfield has spent a decade examining inequality in the workplace, interviewing over two hundred Black subjects across professions about their work lives. In Gray Areas, she introduces seven of them: Alex, a worker in the gig economy Max, an emergency medicine doctor; Constance, a chemical engineer; Brian, a filmmaker; Amalia, a journalist; Darren, a corporate vice president; and Kevin, who works for a nonprofit.
In this accessible and important antiracist work, Wingfield chronicles their experiences and blends them with history and surprising data that starkly show how old models of work are outdated and detrimental. She demonstrates the scope and breadth of gray areas and offers key insights and suggestions for how they can be fixed, including shifting hiring practices to include Black workers; rethinking organizational cultures to centralize Black employees’ experience; and establishing pathways that move capable Black candidates into leadership roles. These reforms would create workplaces that reflect America’s increasingly diverse population—professionals whose needs organizations today are ill-prepared to meet.
It’s time to prepare for a truly equitable, multiracial future and move our culture forward. To do so, we must address the gray areas in our workspaces today. This definitive work shows us how.
Gabbi’s pick: He/She/They: How We Talk About Gender and Why It Matters by Schuyler Bailar, Hachette Go
Anti-transgender legislation is being introduced in state governments around the United States in record-breaking numbers. Trans people are under attack in sports, healthcare, school curriculum, bathrooms, bars, and nearly every walk of life. He/She/They clearly and compassionately addresses fundamental topics, from why being transgender is not a choice and why pronouns are important, to more complex issues including how gender-affirming healthcare can be lifesaving and why allowing trans youth to play sports is good for all kids. With a relatable narrative rooted in facts, science, and history, Schuyler helps restore common sense and humanity to a discussion that continues to be divisively coopted and deceptively politicized.
Schuyler Bailar didn’t set out to be an activist, but his very public transition to the Harvard men’s swim team put him in the spotlight. His choice to be open about his transition and share his experience has touched people around the world. His plain-spoken education has evolved into tireless advocacy for inclusion and collective liberation. In He/She/They, Schuyler uses storytelling and the art of conversation to give us the essential language and context of gender, meeting everyone where they are and paving the way for understanding, acceptance, and, most importantly: connection. He/She/They is more than a book on allyship; it also speaks to trans folks directly, answering the question, “does it get better?” with a resounding yes, celebrating radical trans joy. Myth-busting, affirming, compassionate, and fierce, He/She/They is a crucial, urgent--and lifesaving--book that forever changes the conversation about gender.
Sally’s pick: I'm Speaking: Every Woman's Guide to Finding Your Voice and Using It Fearlessly by Jessica Doyle-Mekkes, Rowman & Littlefield
I’m Speaking is every woman’s guide to creating a clear, confident voice that is authentically hers and then using it fearlessly.
Full of effective, efficient, brain-science-based ways to make positive changes to your voice, in your head and coming out of your mouth, I’m Speaking also teaches the reader how to fearlessly use that voice, personally and professionally: ask for what you want and get what you need, speak up against toxicity, communicate everything better, have the difficult conversations, and cultivate resilience.
Imagine a world without the voices of Maya Angelou, Malala Yousafzai, Gloria Steinem, your mother, your best girlfriend, your midwife, your hair stylist. Do you know a woman whose voice isn’t essential to her career, her family, the world? Women’s voices are essential, and they are powerful. Every woman can harness that power. This is the only book written that gives women the exact tools necessary to solve the common vocal problems they face, and literally reprogram their brains and bodies to be more confident when speaking.
Think of how much more centered, how much more confident you would be knowing that you can deliver your message in a voice that makes people want to listen to you. Knowing that, regardless of situation, you can speak clearly and confidently, stay on track (or get back on), relax your body, and even enjoy the moment you’ve worked so hard for. Your voice is the secret weapon to success you’ve always had, but never knew how to use, til now.
WHAT WE'VE BEEN READING AT HOME
"Shielded by Joanna Schwartz. Schwartz provides around a dozen stories of people who were killed, severely injured, or traumatized by police, and she shows how the qualified immunity principle is basically a rule based on the assumption that if police officers and departments are actually held accountable for their behavior, they would be too vulnerable to false or petty civil suits against them. It is infuriating but eye-opening."
—Michael Jantz, Logistics Director