Here you will find a selection of the books I’ve read this year. The first five titles are non-fiction followed by five fiction titles. The fiction titles are predominately science fiction or fantasy but are easy crossovers for those who don’t typically read genre fiction.
Our History is the Future by Nick Estes
The author of this book is a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. We begin with the 2016 #NoDAPL movement in North Dakota but soon move through the history of settler colonialism and the hundreds of years of Native resistance that continues to this day. Estes places the reader right in the story and in the places of this long history. A very relevant read within todays environment. This book draws you to the present through the lens of history.
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt
Dr. Eberhardt is a professor of psychology at Stanford University. You don’t have to be a racist to be biased. This is a book about unconscious bias and how it plays out in the lives of all people. Grounded in scientific and investigative work, we also read from the personal experiences of the author–a black woman in America. We discover the “tragic consequences of prejudice” and that’s not the fault of a few “bad apples.” A very readable and informative title.
Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing by Dr. David Treleaven
The author is an educator and psychotherapist whose work focuses on the intersection of trauma, mindfulness, and social justice. Rooted in research and scholarship, combined with personal stories and clinical methods, we are taken on a journal of trauma healing. The book is based around five principles – window of tolerance, shift attention to support stability, keep the body in mind, practice in relationship, and understand social context. It is in this last one where we take a deep dive into trauma events experienced by marginalized social groups. Get out your highlighter for this one.
Mr. Clark is an eco-communitarian anarchist writer, activist, and educator from New Orleans. He is professor emeritus of philosophy at Loyola University. This book is a collection of essays that explores empire, earth justice, indigenous struggles, and awakening our consciousness. His essays on Chiapas and Black Panthers are particularly enlightening. And as a resident of New Orleans, his insights into the racial aspects of Hurricane Katrina are clear and direct. For the awakening, we take a dive into Buddhism, Solstice, and Rumi. “The books shows that conventional approaches to global crisis on both the right and the left have succumbed to processes of denial and disavowal.” We need large-scale regeneration “rooted in communities of liberation and solidarity.” There is much here to ponder and also be inspired by.
A New Yorker staff writer, he spends several years in and out of extremist groups in the United States. All about the alt-right ‘news’ creators. The bulk of the story takes place leading up to the election of Trump. As a journalist, the story is engaging and easy to read even if we may be uncomfortable with some of the disclosures. Deeply researched through getting to know the people putting out the propaganda. At times you could tell the author was very uncomfortable with the work. Here you will learn about white supremacy, manipulation of social media, and about unregulated big tech. This book is disturbing.
Agency by William Gibson
Gibson is a well-established speculative fiction writer. Agency “is a ‘sequel and a prequel’ to his previous novel The Peripheral, reusing the technology from the novel to explore an alternative 2017 where Hillary Clinton won the 2016 Presidential Election.” There are two different plots lines, one set in 2017 and a second set in the post-apocalyptic 22nd century (where they are meddling in 2017). We also have a well-evolved AI system.
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Blue and Red are on opposite sides of war. A war fought through time. It is a story of treachery, of love, and of poetry. Written in the form of letters between to the two characters. It is a book to read slowly and savor the words, the imagery, and the tragedy of love and war. The book is a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2020), a Nebula Award for Best Novella (2019), and a Locus Award Nominee for Best Novella (2020).
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
This story primarily takes place in the early 1900s in the northeast. The young January Scaller is growing up in a mansion while her father travels the world looking for curiosities. It is about her looking to find out who she is and what her place is in the world. The book evolves as a mystery as we learn more about her parents and the man she lives with in the mansion. We learn of secret doors that lead to love, adventure, and danger. A strange and beautiful tale. The book is a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2020), a Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2019), and a Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2020).
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Political intrigue. Buried and exposed memory. A powerful empire and a small society with secret technology. All told through the voice of a young and skilled ambassador – Mahit Dmare. But there is more than one voice inside Mahit as we learn about a hidden technology secret. It is all at once a mystery, a story of empire, and also of love. Who will be saved? It is an “interstellar mystery adventure.” The book is a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2020), a. Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2019), and a Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2020).
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
The book tells the story of a snarky young Gideon and her childhood rival, the Reverend Daughter of The Ninth House. Technically there is space travel in this book, but 99% of the book takes place on one planet where members of each of the nine houses are put into play in a test of wits and skill. A true mystery and whodunit. If you don’t care for teenage snark, it might be a rough read. But it’s a fun book. The book is a Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2020), a Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2019) and a Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2020).