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nott theodore

Non Fiction Book Recommendations

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nott theodore

Non Fiction is something I've been reading more of recently, and with the wide range of interests of members here, I thought it would be great for us to have a thread to post our recommendations in!

 

(Please remember to include a note if any of these books cover sensitive topics that might be difficult or triggering for other members, making sure you follow the Site Guidelines ^_^ )

 

[b]Title:[/b]
[b]Author:[/b]
[b]Genre:[/b]
[b]Year published:[/b]
[b]Summary:[/b]
[b]Why I would recommend it:[/b] 

 

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grumpy cat

Title: cadillac desert: the american west and its disappearing water
Author: marc reisner
Genre: history, environment, science, politics
Year published: 1993
Summary: i'm going to c&p from goodreads here because i suck at summaries :I

Quote

The story of the American West is the story of a relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecologic and economic disaster. In Cadillac Desert Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers, lured by the promise of paradise, and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city's growth. He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the competition to transform the West.

Based on more than a decade of research, Cadillac Desert is a stunning expose and a dramatic, intriguing history of the creation of an Eden—an Eden that may be only a mirage.

Why I would recommend it: i actually came across this book when i was reading the water knife by paolo bacigalupi which was heavily inspired by cadillac desert. it's a fascinating story about the development of the american west and its dependency on water (obviously). i'm actually not sure how many people would be interested in this since i may be looking at it from a planning/urban development perspective but probably everyone who is interested in the environment, the dwindling water supply and just generally in some american history might find it interesting. i'm always a bit wary of rec'ing non-fiction books since it's difficult to judge who would like it and all that :P

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just.a.willow.tree

Title: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
Author: Trevor Noah
Genre: autobiography (ish, more like a series of memoirs that cover his life?)
Year published: 2016
Summary: from goodreads:

Quote

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Why I would recommend it: It's extremely well-written, poignant, and funny, and he describes the difficulties of his childhood with more details than I've ever heard him tell in his stand-up, or on the Daily Show. It's an entirely different political world in South Africa, and he lays it all out especially clearly. I really love this book. ❤️

Edited by just.a.willow.tree
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lebensmude
[b]Title:[/b] Without You There Is No Us: My Time With the Sons of North Korea's Elite
[b]Author:[/b] Suki Kim
[b]Genre:[/b] Memoir, Autobiography, Culture
[b]Year published:[/b] 2014
[b]Summary:[/b] Suki is sent to North Korea as a teacher and its basically a telling of her day to day life interacting with these students and what it was like to witness how people in North Korea lived 
[b]Why I would recommend it:[/b] There's not a lot of books on North Korea and the people who live there and the conditions that they live in so I think its a nice change in the genre of non fiction.
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lebensmude

Title: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson

Genre: Science, Physics

Year published: 2017

Summary: What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Why I would recommend it: i thought it was a really good book for people who perhaps aren't science people but are still curious about physics, it's very dumbed down while still keeping all of the important concepts and being easy to understand i think it's a good book to ease into the world of science. and if you listen to the audiobook, you get the bonus of listen to neil's smooth-as-butter voice

 

Title: Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race

Author: Reni Eddo-Lodge

Genre: Social Justice, Feminism, Race

Year published: 2017

Summary: In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren't affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: 'Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race' that led to this book.

Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.

Why I would recommend it: it's a very beginner look at racism for anyone who's trying to educate themselves more on the matter, it wasn't anything that i hadn't heard before but the author puts everything you've ever thought in a very eloquent and coherent way and addresses very argument that she's ever heard and it was just nice to have what i've thought but couldn't articulate to people when trying to make a point and it's an interesting look at racism in britain because you never really hear about racism in places outside of america.

 

Title: Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland

Author: Christopher Browning

Genre: History, World War II, Psychology

Year published: 1993

Summary: Ordinary Men is the true story of Reserve Police Battalion 101 of the German Order Police, which was responsible for mass shootings as well as round-ups of Jewish people for deportation to Nazi death camps in Poland in 1942. Browning argues that most of the men of  RPB 101 were not fanatical Nazis but, rather, ordinary middle-aged, working-class men who committed these atrocities out of a mixture of motives, including the group dynamics of conformity, deference to authority, role adaptation, and the altering of moral norms to justify their actions. Very quickly three groups emerged within the battalion: a core of eager killers, a plurality who carried out their duties reliably but without initiative, and a small minority who evaded participation in the acts of killing without diminishing the murderous efficiency of the battalion whatsoever.

While this book discusses a specific Reserve Unit during WWII, the general argument Browning makes is that most people succumb to the pressures of a group setting and commit actions they would never do of their own volition. 

Why I would recommend it: this is the only book that i've read so far on this specific topic of the second world war and i thought it was a really great look at how you can turn average people like you and me into cold-blooded killers. it takes a very objective and rational look at what factors could've played a role in this with sound arguments for and against every theory discussed. it has a lot of minute detail of everything this battalion did almost day to day and the kinds of acts that they had to commit. idk for me i thought it was a really interesting read and i'd definitely recommend.

 

Title: What Happened

Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton

Genre: Politics, Autobiography

Year published: 2017

Summary: Hillary describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward. With humor and candor, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet—the rituals, relationships, and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. She speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age, and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics.

She lays out how the 2016 election was marked by an unprecedented assault on our democracy by a foreign adversary. By analyzing the evidence and connecting the dots, Hillary shows just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the outcome, and why Americans need to understand them to protect our values and our democracy in the future.

Why I would recommend it: as someone who's not Americana, my grasp on american politics isn't as strong as probably someone who lives there so for me it was a very different and inside look into what specifically was going on during the american elections while hillary was running and how everything that happened was orchestrated and how it all eventually lead to her losing. she talked about doing a lot of things in this book that i'd had literally no idea of her doing at all because it either never made it to the news or it never showed up on any of the platforms that i was on online. i think if you want a more in-depth view of the 2016 elections this would be good

 

Title: Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Author: Susan Cain

Genre: Psychology

Year published: 2012

Summary: At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts--from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves

Why I would recommend it: i'm a big nerd for psychology and i absolutely loved this, the writing style was really witty and engaging so you can rip through this book in one sitting easy. and personally i thought i gained a lot of understanding about myself as an introvert and it was interesting to see just how much we benefit from people being introverts and how much we design our whole world around extroverts and force people into that kind of personality and attitude when we would be better off letting people have more alone time. i recommend this to literally everyone i will not shut up.

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Guest Noelle Zingarella

Title: Steven Caney's Ultimate Building Book

Author: Steven Caney

Genre: Science, Engineering

Year published: 2006

 Summary:  (from the dust jacket) Ever wonder how a suspension bridge can cross a gap thousands of feet wide? Want to know how to build a comfortable lounge chair out of cardboard boxes? Or what keeps a massive cathedral dome from collapsing? Discover the answers to these and many more questions in Steven Caney's Ultimate Building Book, a wonderfully comprehensive exploration of design, construction, and invention that will stimulate the curiosity of children and adults alike. Much as David Macaulay's blockbuster The Way Things Work did for machines and devices a decade ago, this definitive volume from best-selling author Steven Caney details the ins and outs of construction in all its fascinating forms. Packed with exciting building projects guaranteed to engage anyone from age 4 to 104, the Ultimate Building Book gives easy-to-follow instructions for creating amazing models and toys that are as much fun to make as they are to play with! Readers are also introduced to a wide variety of household materials and tools that can be used for building, along with fascinating insights into the architectural and design properties of everything from drinking straws to yurts.

Why I would recommend it: The projects in this book are just so fun. They use easily available materials (for the most part) and they teach all sorts of concepts. My 8 and 10 year olds can complete most of the projects on their own, and the book covers a wide range of building projects. 

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Aphoride

Title: Invisible Women

Author: Caroline Criado Perez

Genre: Science, Feminism

Year published: 2019

 Summary: taken wholesale from the Waterstones website :P 

Quote

Imagine a world where your phone is too big for your hand, where your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body, where in a car accident you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured, where every week the countless hours of work you do are not recognised or valued.

If any of this sounds familiar, chances are that you're a woman.

Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population. It exposes the gender data gap - a gap in our knowledge that is at the root of perpetual, systemic discrimination against women, and that has created a pervasive but invisible bias with a profound effect on women's lives.

Award-winning campaigner and writer Caroline Criado-Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the impact this has on their health and well-being.

From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media, Invisible Women reveals the biased data that excludes women. In making the case for change, this powerful and provocative book will make you see the world anew.

Why I would recommend it: This is a brilliant look at data and how it works to undermine women at all levels - whether consciously or unconsciously - in the biases that are not only in-built into the things we use and the things we do, but the data that we use - believing it to be impartial and accurate - to make these things and design the world we live in as a whole. Some of the things will shock you because it seems so obvious that it's not the same and wouldn't be the same - like, for example, that car driver seats are designed only to keep male bodies safe, thus assuming that all drivers are male - but others are more insidious. A good, detailed, exposing book which will make you think about data and how and why and who it includes next time you look at some. 

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sibilant

Title: Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code

Author: Ruha Benjamin 

Genre: Social Sciences, Technology

Year Published: 2019

Summary:

Quote

From everyday apps to complex algorithms, Ruha Benjamin cuts through tech-industry hype to understand how emerging technologies can reinforce White supremacy and deepen social inequity.

Benjamin argues that automation, far from being a sinister story of racist programmers scheming on the dark web, has the potential to hide, speed up, and deepen discrimination while appearing neutral and even benevolent when compared to the racism of a previous era. Presenting the concept of the “New Jim Code,” she shows how a range of discriminatory designs encode inequity by explicitly amplifying racial hierarchies; by ignoring but thereby replicating social divisions; or by aiming to fix racial bias but ultimately doing quite the opposite. Moreover, she makes a compelling case for race itself as a kind of technology, designed to stratify and sanctify social injustice in the architecture of everyday life.

This illuminating guide provides conceptual tools for decoding tech promises with sociologically informed skepticism. In doing so, it challenges us to question not only the technologies we are sold but also the ones we ourselves manufacture.

Why I would recommend it: I feel like this is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how technology perpetuates inequities within societies. It's not a deeply technical book, more based on analysis of patterns found that are linked to technology than really getting into the nuts and bolts of technology itself. I've really appreciated the frameworks Ruha Benjamin presents to understanding how modern technology (especially Big Tech--Google, Facebook, etc.) uphold white supremacy. There are so many horrific but incredibly illuminating examples! Also a very engaging read. (You should read this, in particular, if you've seen the news about the ban of facial recognition technology use by government, especially police).

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magemadi

Title: Everything At Once 
Author: Bill Nye (the Science Guy)
Genre: biographical, scientific
Year published: 2017
Summary: 

Quote

Look at the world through Bill Nye’s eyes, and your perspective will never be the same again. In [book], an inspiring walk through science, history, and personal reflections, Bill shows us how we can regain the power of critical thinking in this uncritical age. We can attain enormous goals as a nation, as a society, and as citizens if we follow the right approach. By embracing our need to do “everything all at once,” we can blend curiosity, patience, and creativity to examine problems from every angle and create change.


Why I would recommend it: okay so I’m only halfway through this book so far but I love it! He shares great anecdotes about growing up as a boy and through his college years and early employment jobs. He uses those experiences to relate an important idea or way of thinking to the reader in such a cool, sciency-but-not-really way that makes it such an enjoyable read. If we all had his zest for changing the world for the better, never cutting corners, and doing everything all at once, I’m sure we’d be better off as a society! Would highly recommend if you ever watched and loved his tv show from the 90s that got showed frequently on sub days in school. ☺️

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sibilant

Title: Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

Author: Cathy O’Neil

Genre: Social sciences, technology

Year Published: 2016

Summary:

Quote

A former Wall Street quant sounds an alarm on mathematical modeling—a pervasive new force in society that threatens to undermine democracy and widen inequality.
 
We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives—where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance—are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated. But as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this shocking book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can’t get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his race or neighborhood), he’s then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a “toxic cocktail for democracy.” Welcome to the dark side of Big Data.
 
Tracing the arc of a person’s life, from college to retirement, O’Neil exposes the black box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society. Models that score teachers and students, sort resumes, grant (or deny) loans, evaluate workers, target voters, set parole, and monitor our health—all have pernicious feedback loops. They don’t simply describe reality, as proponents claim, they change reality, by expanding or limiting the opportunities people have. O’Neil calls on modelers to take more responsibility for how their algorithms are being used. But in the end, it’s up to us to become more savvy about the models that govern our lives. This important book empowers us to ask the tough questions, uncover the truth, and demand change.

Why I would recommend it: Whether we know it or not, we all live in a society where data is constantly being collected about us and used to shape our lives. This book is a great way to understand all the ways that that data may be used against us individually and us as a society. It’s a very accessible read for a non-technical person, mostly based around very illustrative examples! I would recommend reading it before Race After Technology; WMD provides a basis for understanding technology as a biased entity and RAT really beautifully expounds upon this idea.

am I going to keep spamming this thread with data/tech-related books? you betcha :P

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Raspberry_cordelia

Title: Hidden Figures

Author: Margot Lee Shetterly

Genre: history, biography

Summary:

Quote

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

Why I Recommend It:

So often Black women are erased from history, and their stories deserve to get told.  Shetterly does not mince words about how the women were treated back then, but she also highlights their sheer intelligence and resilience.  Hidden Figures is an incredibly real story - it's not just a feel-good, we're all equal story, and the fact that it took so long to be told shows that.  However, it is also incredibly powerful.  Moreover, Shetterly is an engaging writer, and you really get pulled into the story.

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sibilant

Title: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds

Author: adrienne maree brown 

Genre: self-help (kinda), social justice...tbqh, this book defies genres.

Summary:

Quote

Inspired by Octavia Butler's explorations of our human relationship to change, Emergent Strategy is radical self-help, society-help, and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live. Change is constant. The world is in a continual state of flux. It is a stream of ever-mutating, emergent patterns. Rather than steel ourselves against such change, this book invites us to feel, map, assess, and learn from the swirling patterns around us in order to better understand and influence them as they happen. This is a resolutely materialist “spirituality” based equally on science and science fiction, a visionary incantation to transform that which ultimately transforms us.

adrienne maree brown, co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements, is a social justice facilitator, healer, and doula living in Detroit.

Why I recommend it: There have been a few books in my life that have been truly transformative, and this is absolutely one of them. This is a pretty atypical book; it’s structured basically without any structure at all—the author even suggests in the preface that it’s totally ok to just like the concept of the book rather than reading the book, or to skip around and read non-linearly. 

Probably the best description for this book is a guide towards reshaping the way that we think about activism and collective action and our ability to shape change in the world. The book does a lot of work in asking you to question your fundamental assumptions about the world and instead build a vision of the world that is based around love. It is not a step-by-step guide, but rather an invitation into introspection. The intro draws upon their experiences as an activist and organizer. 

There’s a lot that strikes me about this book and it’s really hard to describe why it’s so powerful. I guess the most succinct way of putting it is that this book gives you incredibly powerful and helpful models for thinking about societal structure and the way harm and love are perpetuated in societies, and strategies for thinking about how to change these structures—and posits, fundamentally, that change is natural, and that we have the power to shape change.

if you’re at all interested in exploring radical visions for the future, or just learning a lot about yourself, I really highly recommend this book. The language is very simple and easy to read; it’s like you’re having a conversation with the author. Let me know if you start reading it so we can flail together ^_^

P.S. the author is fucking rad. They’re a Black queer activist, organizer, and doula. And their blog is the shit. Just trust me.

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maraudertimes

Title: Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error
Author: S.M. Casey/Steven M. Casey
Genre: Computers and Technology/Design
Year published: 1998 for second edition but also 1993 for first edition (i think)
Summary: really long, in a spoiler tag

Spoiler

A disturbing share of technological disasters are caused by incompatibilities between the way things are designed and the way people actually perceive, think, and act. Structurally sound aircraft plummet to the earth, supertankers run aground in calm weather, and the machines of medical science maim unsuspecting patients - - all because designers sometimes fail to reflect the characteristics of the user in their designs.
Designers and the public alike are realizing that many human' errors are more aptly named designed-induced' errors. Most consumers experience the frustration of using many new products; amusing stories about programming a VCR, operating a personal computer, or finding the headlight switch on a rental car are heard in everyday conversation. The problems consumers experience with modern everyday things are shared by the users of large-scale technologies where the consequences of design can go well beyond simple matters of inconvenience or amusement.

In the new second edition of Set Phasers on Stun' and Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error, noted designer and author Steven Casey has assembled 20 factual and arresting stories about people and their attempts to use modern technological creations. Although the operator or pilot usually gets blamed for a big disaster, the root cause can frequently be found in subtle characteristics of the device's human interface.' Technological disasters can often be traced directly to the interplay between people and the design of a device - - be it an airliner cockpit, the controls in an industrial plant, a spacecraft's instruments, a medical system, a nuclear reactor, or even a commercial dishwashing machine.

Why I would recommend it: I was tasked with reading this for class, which obviously means I'm going to hate the book, except that I didn't? I suppose it helps that I'm interested in product design seeing as I'm in school for it, but the amount of screw ups that led to (usually) death that could've easily been prevented is astounding.

I also really like QA and that's what I'm going into, and a big part of my day is asking myself "will a regular user with no prior knowledge of this product reasonably be expected to perform well?" and although it's not exactly based around that, the book really emphasizes human error, and how the human aspect of products is what can sometimes be overlooked. And when you overlook how dumb people can be (myself included), it's always a good idea to take precautions before the "unthinkable" happens!

Anyways, if you're at all interested in design, or human error, or just want to learn about some really out there stories that will completely blow your mind, highly recommend. I've reread it about 5 times and it's one 'textbook' I'll never part with.

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nott theodore

I can't believe I started this topic and never posted in it :P 

 

Title: Reasons to Stay Alive

Author: Matt Haig

Genre: self-help, mental health

Summary: (taken from the Waterstones website)

Quote

What does it mean to feel truly alive?

Aged 24, Matt Haig's world caved in. He could see no way to go on living.

This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

"I wrote this book because the oldest cliches remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven't been able to see it ...Words, just sometimes, really can set you free." - Matt Haig

Why I recommend it: So a friend recommended this book to me a few years ago, and honestly - wow.  It's one of the best accounts of suffering with depression that I've ever read.  I read it and related to it instantly, but it's also a brilliant tool for understanding depression (and anxiety) for people who don't experience it - I've recommended it to plenty of people since and they've found it really informative and enlightening.  One thing I love about it is that it's written in short chapters - sometimes relating events independent to the author's own experience, sometimes lists, etc. - which are really great and accessible to read even when you're struggling yourself.  Sometimes one of the hardest things about mental illness is the feeling of isolation it brings, and this book does a wonderful job of reminding you that you're not alone in the struggle.

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sibilant

@maraudertimes if you’re interested in reading more books related to ethical technology/ethical design of technology, let me know :D I’ve read so many!

 

Title: How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Author: Jenny Odell

Genre: self-help (kinda), social sciences, technology

Summary:

Quote

This thrilling critique of the forces vying for our attention re-defines what we think of as productivity, shows us a new way to connect with our environment and reveals all that we’ve been too distracted to see about our selves and our world.

When the technologies we use every day collapse our experiences into 24/7 availability, platforms for personal branding, and products to be monetized, nothing can be quite so radical as… doing nothing. Here, Jenny Odell sends up a flare from the heart of Silicon Valley, delivering an action plan to resist capitalist narratives of productivity and techno-determinism, and to become more meaningfully connected in the process.

Why I would recommend it: How To Do Nothing is often mistaken as a book about unplugging from social media—when it’s really a lot bigger than that. It’s less about social media and more about how we are so conditioned to The Grind that we have trained ourselves to only value ourselves when we are being productive. It’s an incredibly damaging mindset, of course, and the author breaks down all the ways that it hurts us (and hurts some of us more than others). It’s an incisive analysis and an incredibly engaging read; very revelatory! Highly recommend. Especially if you’re someone who is used to working a lot and has constructed your identity around work (whether knowingly or unknowingly).

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nott theodore

@sibilant I want to read that book so badly (and all of the books you've recommended in this thread, to be honest)!

 

Title: How to Be An Antiracist

Author: Ibram X. Kendi

Genre: anti-racism (society, everything I guess?)

Summary: (taken from the Waterstones website)

Quote

Not being racist is not enough. We have to be antiracist.

In this rousing and deeply empathetic book, Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option: until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem.

Using his extraordinary gifts as a teacher and story-teller, Kendi helps us recognise that everyone is, at times, complicit in racism whether they realise it or not, and by describing with moving humility his own journey from racism to antiracism, he shows us how instead to be a force for good.

Along the way, Kendi punctures all the myths and taboos that so often cloud our understanding, from arguments about what race is and whether racial differences exist to the complications that arise when race intersects with ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality. In the process he demolishes the myth of the post-racial society and builds from the ground up a vital new understanding of racism - what it is, where it is hidden, how to identify it and what to do about it.

Why I recommend it: I have to be honest, I'm still only part way through this book because I'm doing my best to work through it and understand it, but it is brilliant.  Kendi breaks down some concepts that are likely difficult to someone who's new to anti-racism reading (I've come across some before, but I count myself as a complete novice for the purposes of my own education) into useful themes, chapters and structures.  The context (especially when it comes to laws and specific cases) is centred around the US, which has increased my own knowledge of the situation there, but the history of racism and the construction of race is one that has universal significance, and I've found it really useful to read and learn about.  While Kendi's a professor researching in this area, I think this book is also really accessible for those who aren't coming at it from that background - the chapters all include stories from Kendi's personal experience and the human aspect is really useful in making this discussion easier to understand in an everyday context.  This is hopefully the first of many books I'm planning on reading on this topic, but so far I've found it's a great place to start.

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sibilant

@nott theodore I never actually fully got through How to Do Nothing, so if you’d like to read it together, I’m down! ^_^

Yet another rec... :P 

Title: Data Feminsim

Author: Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein

Genre: Technology, data, feminism, social sciences

Summary:

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A new way of thinking about data science and data ethics that is informed by the ideas of intersectional feminism.

Today, data science is a form of power. It has been used to expose injustice, improve health outcomes, and topple governments. But it has also been used to discriminate, police, and surveil. This potential for good, on the one hand, and harm, on the other, makes it essential to ask: Data science by whom? Data science for whom? Data science with whose interests in mind? The narratives around big data and data science are overwhelmingly white, male, and techno-heroic. In Data Feminism, Catherine D'Ignazio and Lauren Klein present a new way of thinking about data science and data ethics—one that is informed by intersectional feminist thought.

Illustrating data feminism in action, D'Ignazio and Klein show how challenges to the male/female binary can help challenge other hierarchical (and empirically wrong) classification systems. They explain how, for example, an understanding of emotion can expand our ideas about effective data visualization, and how the concept of invisible labor can expose the significant human efforts required by our automated systems. And they show why the data never, ever “speak for themselves.”

Data Feminism offers strategies for data scientists seeking to learn how feminism can help them work toward justice, and for feminists who want to focus their efforts on the growing field of data science. But Data Feminism is about much more than gender. It is about power, about who has it and who doesn't, and about how those differentials of power can be challenged and changed.

Why I would recommend it: This is a super recently released book (released March 2020) but is an awesome primer to anyone who works with data and want to understand feminist perspectives about data, and feminists who want to understand the power of data within feminism. I think, generally, for anyone, though, the book has a lot to teach about understanding how technology and designed systems (aka, society as a whole) give powers to some and take powers away from others. Also fun fact, for a while this book was open edit access so I left a few comments offering feedback, some of which I think have actually been edited! (The fact that it was open edit like that should indicate something about the values that underpin this book; it’s a very participatory equity-focused book!).

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Raspberry_cordelia

Title: Sophie Scholl and the White Rose

Author: Annette Dumbach, Jud Newborn

Summary: 

Quote

In 1942, five young German students and one professor at the University of Munich crossed the threshold of toleration to enter the realms of resistance, danger and death. Protesting in the name of principles Hitler thought he had killed forever, Sophie Scholl and other members of the White Rose realized that the 'Germanization' Hitler sought to enforce was cruel and inhuman, and that they could not be content to remain silent in its midst. With detailed chronicles of Scholl's arrest and trial before Hitler's Hanging Judge, Roland Freisler, as well as appendices containing all of the leaflets the White Rose wrote and circulated, this volume is an invaluable addition to World War II literature and a fascinating window into human resilience in the face of dictatorship.

Why would I recommend it:

I'm still reading this one, but it is an absolutely riveting true story about the White Rose, and an empowering narrative about resistance and the different forms it can take.  The White Rose was an intellectual, non-violent resistance group who fought the Third Reich with words, and they were also an excellent example of youth rebellion.  You learn about the backstories of various members of the White Rose and you see why they reached the point where they decided to start a resistance.  It's definitely still relevant today and I would encourage everyone to learn more about the White Rose, they really were an awesome group.

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sibilant

^ Excited to read the above!

Title: A Paradise Built in Hell: Extraordinary Communities Built in Disaster

Author: Rebecca Solnit

Genre: Social sciences, history

Summary:

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A startling investigation of what people do in disasters and why it matters

Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster--whether manmade or natural--people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? What makes the newfound communities and purpose many find in the ruins and crises after disaster so joyous? And what does this joy reveal about ordinarily unmet social desires and possibilities?

In A Paradise Built in Hell, award-winning author Rebecca Solnit explores these phenomena, looking at major calamities from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco through the 1917 explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She examines how disaster throws people into a temporary utopia of changed states of mind and social possibilities, as well as looking at the cost of the widespread myths and rarer real cases of social deterioration during crisis. This is a timely and important book from an acclaimed author whose work consistently locates unseen patterns and meanings in broad cultural histories.

Why I would recommend it: If you’ve never read Rebecca Solnit’s work, omg you have to??? She’s so incredibly succinct and elegant with stunning and sharp clarity. This is an excellent pandemic read because it helps you understand what crisis feels like and why you’re reacting the way that you are, and helps you shape a hopeful vision for a world post-pandemic. I especially appreciate Solnit’s analysis of how no natural disaster is actually “natural”; it only becomes a disaster when the systems we construct fail us. If you’re seeking to understand the real depths of humanity and society, this book has a lot to teach you!

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Aphoride

Title: The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu

Author: Charlie English

Genre: History, heritage studies, museology

Summary:

Quote

The fabled city of Timbuktu has captured the Western imagination for centuries. The search for this `African El Dorado' cost the lives of many explorers but Timbuktu is rich beyond its legends. Home to many thousands of ancient manuscripts on poetry, history, religion, law, pharmacology and astronomy, the city has been a centre of learning since medieval times.

When jihadists invaded Mali in 2012 threatening destruction to Timbuktu's libraries, a remarkable thing happened. A team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the precious manuscripts into hiding. Based on new research and first-hand reporting, Charlie English expertly tells this story set in one of the world's most fascinating places, and the myths from which it has become inseparable.

Why I would recommend it: It's a non-fiction book which doesn't entirely read like a fiction book. Weaving in two strands of 'story' - the tales of the European travellers who went to Timbuktu, risking everything to get to a city they thought would be paved in gold, and the librarians and archivists trying to save the manuscripts from the Timbuktu libraries, both private and public collections - it paints a story that combines both the reckless, obsessive exploration of an ever-expanding colonial Europe, and the equally reckless, obsessive plots and plans to save Mali's heritage. There's a twist, though: while the book is told through information taken from interviews between the author and the protagonists, there are issues - fabrications to stories, embezzlement, miscommunication? At the end, it leaves you with something of a reminder that history is rarely simple, but that it's equally important to be protected. 

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nott theodore

Title: A Short History of Nearly Everything

Author: Bill Bryson

Genre: popular science

Summary: (taken from the Waterstones website)

Quote

Of the billions and billions of species of living things that have existed since the dawn of time, most - 99.9% it has been suggested - are no longer around. Life on Earth, you see is not only brief, but dismayingly tenuous.

Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization - how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us.

Bill Bryson's challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and see if there isn't some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science.

The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space, A Short History of Nearly Everything is the biggest-selling popular science book of the 21st century, and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.

Why I recommend it: As someone who is very much not a scientist, I've loved reading this book.  It adopts the cosy, colloquial style that Bryson usually uses in his travel writing and uses it to explain, in layman's terms, the history of the earth - how the earth and humans got to be here today, and the history of the scientific (and geological) developments along the way.  One thing I love about it is that it's not condescending - it makes interesting comparisons that make things easier to understand, the writing style is really compelling, and Bryson consults with and quotes experts rather than setting himself up as one.  It's a really great read if you have a vague understanding of/interest in the subject but haven't delved into it for a while.

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Aphoride

Title: A Just Defiance

Author: Peter Harris

Genre: Biography/True Story, Crime & Criminology, Politics & Government

Summary:

Quote

1987, Pretoria. Four young black men have just been arrested for a horrific string of political murders. There's no doubt that they're guilty of everything they're accused of - and more. But in a society riven by brutal repression and racial tensions, are they assassins or freedom fighters? Peter Harris is the lawyer called upon to defend them and, as he constructs his case to save them from the death penalty, he comes to understand the violence they encountered growing up in the townships and the chain of events that led them to join the ANC, undergo training at Zuma's camps in Angola, and return to their homeland to execute some of the apartheid regime's most notorious figures. Harris intercuts the story of their trial with flashbacks to the squad's operations and a deadly counterplot to reveal a campaign carried out with ruthless efficiency.

Why I would recommend it: When I first started uni to study law, we were assigned this book to read for one of our first modules on critical legal thinking - not only because of the criminal trial at the heart of it, but also because of the surrounding questions: when the law is morally, emotionally, truthfully wrong, can it ever be just? Can it and should it be upheld? Are you bound to recognise a law which dehumanises you? What happens when politics overtakes law and law falls behind - is it doomed to simply repeat upholding the same, flawed and invalid conclusions? It's a book which is more than law and crime and politics; it's a fundamentally human book and, ultimately, it's not really about the right or wrong of the four men at the heart of it - the questions it asks are bigger than that and more complex than that. A brilliant, heart-wrenching, conflicting and thought-provoking book. 

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Raspberry_cordelia

Title: Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

Author: Kory Stamper

Genre: Lexicography (Dictionary), Autobiography

Summary:

Quote

While most of us might take dictionaries for granted, the process of writing them is in fact as lively and dynamic as language itself. With sharp wit and irreverence, Kory Stamper cracks open the complex, obsessive world of lexicography--from the agonizing decisions about what and how to define, to the knotty questions of usage in an ever-changing language. She explains why small words are the most difficult to define (have you ever tried to define is ?), how it can take nine months to define a single word, and how our biases about language and pronunciation can have tremendous social influence. Throughout, Stamper brings to life the hallowed halls (and highly idiosyncratic cubicles) of Merriam-Webster, a world inhabited by quirky, erudite individuals who quietly shape the way we communicate. A sure delight for all lovers of words, Word by Word might also quietly improve readers grasp and use of the English language."

Why I Recommend It: This book tell the absolutely fascinating tale about how words are defined.  At first glance, working an office job with minimal interaction would probably be super mundane, but Stamper makes it so interesting - because it is!  She talks about her own journey to becoming a lexicographer, and explains the difficulties of her jobs (defining "by" can take much, much longer than "contemporaneous," for reasons you can probably guess).  Bonus: she makes it clear to pedants that dictionaries define how a word is used, not how it's supposed to be used.

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Cassius Alcindor

Title: War of Wars: The Epic Struggle Between Britain and France 1789-1815

Author: Robert Harvey

Genre: History

Year Published: 2006

Summary: Robert Harvey brilliantly recreates the story of the greatest conflict that stretches from the first blaze of revolution in Paris in 1789 to final victory on the muddy fields of Waterloo.
On land and at sea, throughout the four corners of the continent, from the frozen plains surrounding Moscow and terror on the Caribbean seas, to the muddy low lands of Flanders and the becalmed waters of Trafalgar, The War of Wars tells the powerful story of the greatest conflict of the age.

Why I Recommend It: This was at the top of my quarantine reading list. It's a long one at around 900 pages, but it has to be that long to cover the scope that it does. This book gives you a comprehensive overview of one of the lengthiest and most pivotal conflicts in world history, and does so in a manner that is engaging and not dry.

In addition to the historical significance, this conflict also had a lot of literary significance. It provides the setting for some of my favorite fic series, such as Bernard Cornwell's "Sharpe" and C.S. Forester's "Horatio Hornblower," not to mention the backdrop that most of Jane Austen's work is set against.  

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lebensmude
On 8/1/2019 at 6:54 AM, nott theodore said:

Title: The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Author: Michelle Alexander

Genre: Politics, History, Sociology, Social Movements

Year published: 2012

Summary: "Jarvious Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole."

As the United States celebrates the nation's "triumph over race" with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status--much like their grandparents before them.

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community--and all of us--to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

Why I would recommend it: This book is a great source of education on understanding the political and social climate of America today. Despite this being published in 2012, everything spoken about in this book is still relevant today and pretty much covers everything you need to know about how the justice system in America is designed to target black and brown people and how this affects the rest of their lives. I found it really eye-opening and a fresh perspective to the topic of race that was a little different from other books on race. It's a really engaging book, I found it quite difficult to put down the book myself and wanted to read as much as possible every time I sat down with the book.

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