New year, new you, new books.
With 2020 finally laid to rest, it’s time to broaden your mind with some compelling reads. If you’re stuck on where to start, here are seven non-fiction books that will hopefully help you understand the world little better: from local history to the famous Green New Deal and the impending recession.
1. Poetry From The Future – Sverko Horvat
Climate change. Far-right politics. Racial injustice. These are just some of the pressing issues we are facing in the 21st century. Leftist activists argue that the solution is moving beyond a world that priorities free markets at the expense of everything else. In Poetry From The Future, Croatian philosopher Sverko Horvat offers a compelling vision on how to tackle the 21st century’s biggest challenges. Written in a clear and concise style, it’s a passionate yet practical, historically-grounded call for radical political action.
What makes this read stand out its departure from the dryness and seriousness associated with non-fiction. It’s got ample references to literature, history but also pop music, punk culture, cinema and TV series. Even if you don’t agree with its calls, it’s still a greatly insightful read.
2. Malta: Women, History, Books and Places by Susanna Hoe
In order to understand how far we’ve come, we have to look back in time. This read is for those who want to delve into Malta’s fascinating but undersold history, particularly the underappreciated lives of women. From the first she-chemist in the 17th century to the free-roaming nun and painter Maria DeDedominici, Susanna Hoe’s Malta: Women History, Books and Places is an entertaining and educative read – perfect before bedtime.
3. A Planet To Win: The Green New Deal by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen and Thea Riofrancos
You’ve probably heard of the Green New Deal by now, but what is it beyond a buzzword?
A Planet To Win offers a pragmatic breakdown of this ambitious plan to save the earth from climate destruction. It calls for the end of the global fossil fuel industry, the creation of green jobs and landscapes of renewable energy, free public transport and no-carbon housing.
It argues that securing a Green New Deal in the U.S could strengthen climate justice movements worldwide. Luckily, with the new Biden administration set to enter the White House in just a few weeks, the future is looking bright (and green).
If you feel inspired to get involved with climate activism after reading this book, be sure to check out the work of organisations like Xtinction Rebellion and Moviment Graffiti.
4. A Memoir From Malta’s Prison: From A Cage, On A Rock, In A Puddle by Daniel Holmes
A Lovin Malta first; Daniel Holmes’ A Memoir From Malta’s Prison: From A Cage, On A Rock, In A Puddle is an unnerving true story on what life is like inside the walls of Corradino Correctional Facility.
The Welshman who was imprisoned for growing cannabis at home describes the chaos and madness in prison; be it the drug abuse, powerful criminals or the neglect to its inmates. His debut memoir offers the world a first-ever glimpse into what it’s like in Malta’s most secretive institution and the aftermath of unforgiving cannabis laws.
5. The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm by Les Payne
Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Les Payne, this freshly-published and poignant read is a nearly thirty-year long search to paint a demystified portrait of American civil rights activist Malcolm X.
Through hundreds of hours of interviews with family, classmates, cellmates, members of the Nation of Islam and political leaders, Payne presents an essential historical picture. The work’s title is inspired by a phrase uttered by Malcolm X when he saw his Hartford followers rise up with purpose “as if the dead were truly rising” to fight the tides of racism.
The book will help you understand one of the twentieth century’s most important political figures. It’ll also help you understand the world’s new waves of anti-racism movements.
6. Feminism for the 99% by Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, and Nancy Fraser
In just 100 pages, three leading feminist scholars cut through the noise of corporate feminism with a captivating call for grassroots activists to come together for a better tomorrow. It’s the perfect gateway to those who want to understand the term feminism a little deeper than what it spurred on social media, without getting too theoretical.
Feminism for the 99% argues that the social struggles of the world are inseparably connected, as they all fight against the myriad of symptoms of capitalism. Therefore, the world needs an intersectional, anti-capitalist, anti-racist and anti-sexist movement to stand a chance.
Even if you don’t agree with the principles, reading more can only make you better. And if you do agree with it, go and join a women’s NGO in Malta!
7. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
When we speak about castes, we often imagine ancient systems that dictate societies like India. Another Pulitzer-prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson shows that there are unspoken yet blatant systems of castes that permeate beyond the East.
In this riveting read, Wilkerson explores, through excellent researched stories and narratives, how America’s past and present are shaped by a rigid hierarchy of people – beyond race, class and sex. She describes eight pillars roots in all civilisations including divine will, bloodlines, stigma.
She documents how Nazis analysed racial systems in America to plan the exile of Jews; the health costs of the castes and their effects on culture and politics. It’s a surprising yet enlightening project that everyone should read – also because she details ways we can move beyond these systems.
8. The Corona Crash by Grace Blakeley
It’s no news: COVID-19 has left the global economy in a near-freefall, leading to the worst recession since World War 2.
In The Corona Crash, outspoken economist Grace Blakely warns that we simply can’t “go back to the way things were”, because things weren’t good to begin with. With 100 million across the world face being pushed to extreme poverty while tech giants like Google eclipsing entire economies in profits, the time to shake up the system is now, Blakely argues.
In a nutshell, it’s a rather harrowing read of realities of inequality and ends with a call for the structural changes embodied by the Green New Deal.
9. Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey
Here is a chilling and reckoning memoir to chew on. Immerse into the world of former poet laureate Trethewey, who describes her mother’s brutal murder at the hands of her stepfather. It’s an intimate and tragic story of a poet finding her feet amid the devastating incident.
This book is an exploration of grief and the rippling effects of racism and domestic abuse. It’s urgent, written in beautiful prose and is guaranteed to tug right at your heartstrings.
10. Silicon Values by Jillian York
If you really want to understand the world, you need to understand the cutting impact of technology in our lives.
In Silicon Values, York looks at how our digital rights are undermined by corporations and platforms that have more access to our personal details than any state in all of human history. Through the book, she argues for more protection of citizens against the harvest of our most precious commodity: our personal data.
It’s a heavy but insightful read, and will probably make you think twice about skipping the terms and conditions on the sites you use.
10. Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope by Johann Hari
Mental health illnesses have never been so common as they are today. But what if all that we’ve been told about anxiety and depression are wrong?
Journalist Johann Hari is all too familiar with mental struggles, taking medication for anxiety and depression since he was a teenager. In Lost Connections, he journeys to from the homeless living in Las Vegas tunnels to Amish communes of Indiana and an uprising in Berlin, speaking to a myriad of people and experts to find reasons for them and solutions that offer real hope.
In a nutshell, this vivid personal odyssey will help you understand that these common illnesses aren’t just a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Do you have any books to recommend?