In 6 months Americans will go to the polls to vote for our next President as well as representatives, senators, and countless state and local officials. I decided to put together a list of books on political and social topics that I find informative on various issues. Of course, while I think these are important issues for the elections, some of them just aren’t going to be discussed by the candidates in this election, which all the greater shame.
At any rate, take a gander of this list. I highly recommend reading all of them. If you have suggestions for the election reading list, let me know in the comments.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as a letter to his son, Coates explains the many ways that bodies of African-Americans are controlled in the United States. It’s an insightful look into the reasons why the Black Lives Matter movement came into fruition, and the most important book on this list for everyone to read.
The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things by Barry Glassner
Contemporary politics in the United States is undergirded by a constant stream of fear whether it be terrorism, diseases, or crime (the latter often translating into a fear of black men). 24/7 media and politicians help spread this fear often in ways that distract the populace from more realistic concerns.
The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower by Robert Baer
In recent years, members of both parties have suggested the possibility of war with Iran. Did you know that Iran is twice as large and twice as populous as Afghanistan and Iraq put together? Iran is also much more unified with a stronger military, so Baer suggests that war with Iran would require an enormous outlay of money and military force, which would require popular support of a wartime footing akin to World War II. Baer suggests instead a realpolitik approach of recognizing Iran as a major player in the Middle East and working to form an alliance. Definitely a thought-provoking book.
Socialism is a scary word, yet it is active in the United States government and economy. Only in our case, it is large corporations that make enormous profits by getting taxpayer money.
Many people think that living “environmentally friendly” means living close to nature, but Owen illustrates that living in large cities is the best way for people to reduce their impact on the Earth’s environment. The reason is that dense urban living promotes using less space to house each individual, sharing of resources, and reducing driving, all of which results in cities having much lower per-capita carbon footprints than suburban or rural areas.
If you’ve ever wondered why in the past 25 years, more people are working more hours and barely getting by, while the rich get richer, even under Democratic presidents (and even in states with Democratic governments) this is the book for you.
The new Jim Crow : mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
The history of America is the history of African-Americans having restricted rights compared to white people, and that hasn’t changed despite the victories of the Civil Rights Era. Alexander details how the War on Drugs was used to create a a massive increase in Americans in prison and on prohibition that inordinately affects Black Americans. As a result, even when not imprisoned many African-Americans are denied opportunites for jobs, housing, and even the right to vote.
Public education is one of the most important services a government provides for its people, but in recent decades politicians in both parties as well as organizations funded by corporations and wealthy individuals have conducted a school “reform” movement that has been disastrous to public education. Ravitch exposes both the failures of this reform movement and alternative solutions to both improve public education and alleviate poverty.
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
Klein’s expose reveals how the adherents of neoliberalism use natural disasters, wars, and financial crises to push forward their goals of reducing government services to the bare bones and replacing them with exploitative for-profit corporations.
Straphanger : surviving the end of the automobile age by Taras Grescoe
The love of the automobile has caused the United States (and Canada) to fall behind much of the world in public transit systems. In Grescoe’s narrative he travels the world to various cities with succesful transit systems and offers advice on how they can be adapted in North American cities.
UnSpun : finding facts in a world of disinformation Brooks Jackson
Despite living in the Information Age, it’s become more difficult to separate fact from fiction as “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” UnSpun offers some solid strategies evaluating news and politics for factual accuracy.
As you may notice by now, many of my books deal with urbanism. I believe good cities for people to live and work in are a solution to a lot of our countries social, economic, and environmental problems. But for a city to be good, it has to be walkable. Speck’s book details what exactly “walkable” means and how it is best attained.