Running behind on your holiday shopping? As in past years, here are some book ideas from the past year (past year for me, they’re not all new and one is quite old):
There’s a reason everyone is talking about Tara Westover’s “Educated.” In its totality it may not be representative or generalizable, but it is indisputably one hell of a story and a very well told one.
You hear a lot of talk about climate refugees, but some of the first ones may not be in some far flung place, they are living just a few hours from the nation’s capital on Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. In my experience it’s a unique place and in “Chesapeake Requiem” Earl Swift* chronicles the island, its people, and its story.
In “Winners Take All” Anand Giridharadas takes a look at elites and elite philanthropy. I might suggest that before we criticize them, whether it’s the Steyers or the Kochs, we should tip our hat to wealthy people deploying their money in an effort to improve conditions rather than hoarding it. But, people disagree on what improving conditions looks like and there are complicated questions and legitimate critiques all around, this book raises some of them. You may find Giridharadas’ take troubling but at the same time see his remedies as underpowered, which is why this is all more complicated than you probably read on Twitter.
Zora Neale Hurston’s “Barracoon” is a crazy book on a few levels. The story itself, about Cudjo Lewis, who was brought to the United States by slavers in 1860, the last of an illegal slave trade that had persisted for decades since Great Britain and then the United States outlawed it, is astounding. And then Hurston’s efforts to publish it and how it only came to be published in 2018 despite an editors note dated 1931 is a book in its own right.
The national debate about for-profits in education is mostly tendentious and tiresome. So books like Jonathan Knee’s “Class Clowns” are welcome additions. His take on the ins and outs of various recent business efforts, he chronicles four, is sharp and thought provoking.
Blair Braverman is a great follow on Twitter, engaging advice columnist for Outside, and in “Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube” you get her compelling backstory. A lot more than a dog sledding book.
In some circles RCTs are out of vogue in education and in others they were never in, but Andrew Leigh’s Randomistas reminds us that trusting what seems plausible can get you in trouble because the world is a delightfully complicated place (…more complicated than you heard on Twitter).
This last book is rough in places, as you might imagine from the title,“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” Yet Mark Manson’s essentialist message might be useful to the education sector or your own life. If you care about nothing you’re a sociopath, but if you care about everything you’re not effective. Getting the balance right can be tricky.
Bonus: Have a music lover in your life? You can do a lot worse than this list.