My Top Books of 2020 - Part 2: Black Lives Matter, Feminist and Politics
I like books. This is Part 2: Black Lives Matter, Feminist and Politics of what I’ve been reading last year. You can see Part 1: Business Innovation and Leadership here. I also like recommendations so please leave a comment and tell me what I should be reading in 2021!
My top 3 picks
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
Why I’m no Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo Lodge - The history lesson you didn’t get in school. A hugely provocative and insightful retelling of British history, critically including the legacy that slavery and racism have left in our current-day institutions. Some of this I was vaguely aware of, much of it was heartbreakingly news to me. Made me really look hard at our current systems and see systemic inequality in a new and more informed way. I think I now understand what systemic racism actually is and why it’s my responsibility to do what I can to destroy it.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo - White fragility describes the defensive angry reaction white people often have to conversations about race and racism. DiAngelo’s stories are hauntingly familiar. I found being able to name this emotion and behaviour hugely powerful because it gives you a basis on which to recognise it, and to figure out what to do about it. This book helped me reflect on how I can develop my own attitude, and how I can be a better ally by not unwittingly colluding in others racist white fragility.
How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford - an exploration of race from a Geneticist’s perspective. Very interesting mythbusting of the most popular racist pseudoscience. Explains why there is no real biological basis for race, that how we think of race today is a completely social construct and how abuses and misrepresentation of science led to racist policies and institutions. Despite the title I don’t think anything in here would actually help win any arguments with a racist! It’s far too rational and evidence-based. If you’re after tips for changing hearts and minds I don’t think this is it.
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez - The default human is male. This book gives devastating and infuriating example after example of the impact this has to our everyday lives. Spoiler alert - women suffer. From car safety ratings being actual nonsense if you’re a woman in the driving seat, to drug trials only using men, resulting in women later taking the drugs experiencing lethal side effects. Essential reading for anyone who would rather the women in their life didn’t die as a result of being invisible in the data sets that drive policy and practice decisions.
Dear Ijeawele; or a feminist manifesto in 15 suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - a letter written to the authors friend Ijeawele when she asked for advice on how to raise her daughter feminist. The 15 suggestions are all good advice for anyone and have a strong theme of being open, being curious, and celebrating what makes you, you.
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates - Laura Bates created the Everyday Sexism project which collects and publishes examples of sexism. This book includes lots of awfully real stories submitted to the project and demonstrates the link between the most frequent, ‘everyday’ incidents and the most serious and extreme. ‘Rape culture’ is a term that has penetrated the mainstream and this book is the best and most comprehensive explanation of what that actually is I’ve come across. Ever wondered why feminists get so riled up about ‘harmless street harassment’? Read this and it’ll become really clear to you.
Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates - Laura Bates, the creator of the Everyday Sexism Project, has received threats of sexual violence, torture and death ever since the project’s inception. In this book she goes undercover in the murky and terrifyingly anger-hate filled world of online incels (involuntary-celibates) to understand where this behaviour comes from and what attracts people to this point of view. She discovers a sophisticated network of women-hating extreme misogyny that is systematically pulling in young vulnerable men and intentionally radicalising them to commit violent acts of terrorism. The most terrifying thing is how many authorities don’t even count misogynistic driven violence as terrorism, despite meeting the definitions by which Islamist and more recently extreme right-wing terrorism is judged. Utterly terrifying, sobering and important.
Unspeakable by John Bercow- biography of John Bercow, former Speaker of the House of Commons. What stood out to me was having the courage to change your mind: reflecting on your past, taking responsibility and apologising. I think it’s super powerful to see people very publicly able to admit: “I was wrong, I didn’t understand, now I do and here’s what I now believe.” It's something we don’t see enough of.
A Spy in Moscow Station by Eric Haseltine - Written by former US Intelligence employee this is a de-classified account of impressive Russian spycraft around the US Embassy in Moscow in the 1970s. It tells of how technical arrogance and disbelief at Russian sophistication, combined with bureaucratic in-fighting within the US government, resulted in the US being left uncomfortably vulnerable to Russian espionage for far longer than they could have been. A fascinating true story recounted as a sort of mystery thriller. A stark reminder of the damage that self-interested corporate politics can cause.
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein - A very detailed and well researched chronicle of both the origins and subsequent attempts to implement neo-liberalist economies. Neo liberalist philosophy is all about minimising market intervention in the belief that markets will self-regulate and inevitably lead to better outcomes for all. Unfortunately that’s not how all the experiments so far have worked out. From South America to China to Poland, neoliberalism has gone hand in hand with violence, oppression and increasing inequalities, with a small number of ‘disaster capitalists’ profiting out of the misery of others. Klein presents a very convincing and devastating narrative which inevitably has attracted a predictable backlash. Even if a handful of the examples were discounted this is still an important cautionary tale against blind corporate greed, corruption and a complete lack of learning from experience.
Don’t be Evil: The Case Against Big Tech by Rana Foroohar - Don’t be Evil is Google’s unofficial motto. It’s used ironically as the title because this book is all about surveillance capitalism and how all the big tech companies are harvesting and selling data on us, often without our knowledge or consent. That’s not the only angle, it also covers the key anti-trust and anti-monopoly arguments that have been all over the press the last couple of years. How the big players like Amazon, Facebook and Google own whole ecosystems and just buy-up or kill any competition.
I also love non-fiction recommendations, here’s what I've been reading;
Dystopian / apocalyptic sci-fi
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Redemption of Time by Baoshu
The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Vox by Christina Dalcher
Q by Christina Dalcher
A Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds by Suzanne Collins
Snow-crash by Neal Stephenson
(A bit) more uplifting sci-fi
The Lady Astronaut Trilogy: The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky, The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
Fledgling by Octvia Butler
The Murderbot Diaries: Network Effect by Martha Wells
The Belt Books 1 and 2 (of 4): Entanglement and Entropy by Gerald M. Kilby
Here, and Now, and Then by Mike Chen
(Definitely more uplifting) Fantasy
The 10,000 Doors of January by Alex E. Harrow
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
A People’s History of Heaven by Subramanian Mathangi
Go back to Part 1: Business Innovation and Leadership.