Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber

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Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: How we could all be working a 20 hour week but instead we’re creating even more useless middle manager roles, and also the history of humans and work.

What made me pick it up: It had an intriguing title that seemed like it might be…. uh…. relatable.

My favorite parts: I actually really like the historical lens this book has about how humans have done work throughout history and how we got to this “standard” 40-hour week. Spoiler: it’s a ridiculous social construct we could all agree to change, and boy do I wish we would. I do not have a bullshit job, since mine actually helps people, but like most jobs mine does have bullshit aspects. The author is actually talking about jobs that straight up have no purpose, and sometimes no real tasks, yet we keep creating more of them because of progress and capitalism. Doing nothing is more torturous to humans than extreme manual labor – as he shows. He also examines the concept of being able to monetize time and “own” someone else’s hours per day. It’s a frustrating, pointless, slavery-esque notion that we should seriously re-examine. More than anything this book might make you finally take that leap to be your own boss so you can escape this societal entrapment. Unless you, too, have student loans. *sigh*

Who it’s great for: Working adults. Anyone who wonders if there is a better way.

Erica’s rating: four shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

She Caused a Riot by Hannah Jewell

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Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: Women from history that were badass but also often overlooked or forgotten in the male- and white-centric retellings.

What made me pick it up: I love reading compendiums of awesome women.

My favorite parts: This book is hilarious. I highly recommend it on audio — performed expertly by Rachel Beresford. It has just the right level sarcasm for me and a very healthy dose of #yesallmen. If you are in the mood to find some feminist sisters to make you feel like carrying on, pick up this book. I also really enjoyed that it truly was about a bunch of women I’d never heard of, instead of the usual suspects. That made it even more informative and intriguing. Since it’s about history, these stories do not all have happy endings and some unfortunate parallels can be made to the present day. It can be disheartening, but let’s turn it into empowerment instead.

Who it’s great for: Women of all ages. And men, too. Maybe especially men.

Erica’s rating: five shells


Find this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Banana by Dan Koeppel

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Originally published in: 2007

What it’s about: I’m here to sadly report that the banana is at risk of dying off. Current practices aren’t sustainable and a suitable replacement has yet to be found or created. In the meantime the bad fungi are taking out this slow to evolve fruit.

What made me pick it up: Well I’d heard about this banana problem and wanted to learn more. Also it is a book about bananas. And I needed a new audiobook.

My favorite parts: Learning so much history of the banana. Like that we don’t have the good tasting one (that one died off when our grandparents were young). That they are hard to reproduce. That GMOing might be the only way to create a sustainable new banana. And most importantly that much of the developed world subsists on these. If we lose them, yes our smoothies will be a tad more boring but people will starve. People are already starting this process in parts of Africa losing their bananas.

My least favorite parts: There is a lot in here that is uncomfortable to downright despicable about Big Ag and American power in the developing world which will rightfully disgust you. I’m not sure if the right course of action is to boycott bananas or keep buying them, but it is clear something needs to change.

Who its great for: Trivia nerds. Banana lovers. History, agriculture, and food science geeks.

Erica’s rating: four shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Shaking Things Up by Susan Hood

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Originally published in: 2018

What it’s about: Fourteen women and girls who have changed the world throughout history.

What made me pick it up: It was about women and girls who have changed the world.

My favorite things: I always love reading about women who have had an impact on history, especially when they are unfamiliar to me, as some in this book were. The one I enjoyed the most was about a librarian (of course) — Pura Belpré was the first bilingual public librarian in New York City. It’s even better when the inspirational women you’re reading about reflect your career path. In this case, it made me that much prouder of all these great individuals and their work. The stories are written in verse, with little bios at the bottom of the pages and vibrant illustrations. There is so much to enjoy in this book!

Who it’s great for: Women and girls of all ages.

Erica’s rating: four shells


Find this book in your local library.


 

Quackery by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A look back through history at some of the questionable medical and pseudo-medical practices.

What made me pick it up: How could I not? It was full of miscellany which is my favorite thing and it was about medicine something which endlessly fascinates me. Perfect combo.

My favorite things: It’s so informative! I learned so many horrific things that I can now share awkwardly at social gatherings. And it was told with such candor and humor. The authors acknowledge that a lot of the things mentioned in this book are totally bananas, and have a brief laugh at how off the mark they were, but they also make a point to say that the science didn’t exist yet and people were unfortunately doing the best they could. The ampules of human (cadaver) fat almost made me lose my lunch though, not gonna lie.

Who it’s great for: Science, medicine, and history minded individuals who can stomach a lot of detailed information and discomforting descriptions of some practices.

Erica’s rating: four shells


Get this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: A collected biography of some great female icons throughout history.

What made me pick it up: It seemed like a fitting book to kick off my 2018 reading with.

My favorite things: I liked that this profiled Claudette Colvin, who predated and inspired Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat. It’s always great to see women who are not the usual reference points for a specific time in history also get their stories told.

Who it’s great for: Everyone. Especially little girls who need role models from all walks of life.

Erica’s rating: four shells


Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder

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Originally published in: 2017

What it’s about: Tyranny and actions you can take to prevent it.

What made me pick it up: I was looking for new downloadable audiobooks and this one was quite short (less than two hours).

My favorite things: Give to charities, join organizations of shared interests, travel, read. This book has many good, and somewhat unexpected, lessons and suggestions on how to keep your country (any country, although specifically aimed at Americans) from devolving into a tyrannical, fascist state. It leans heavily on examples from pre-WWII Europe, especially Nazi Germany, which can be hard to stomach for the simple fact that it feels so familiar and we know how atrocious it ended up being. This is less political than you might expect, but it does spend some time pointing out behaviors in current American leadership that mimic those that led to disastrous consequences in other countries in the past. It’s short enough and generalized enough to make it worth dipping into by readers on both sides of the aisle.

Who it’s great for: Anyone who feels like we are far too polarized for our own good. Fans of history, politics, current affairs, or international relations

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Get this book in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers by James Gulliver Hancock

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Originally published in: 2014

What’s it about: A visual biographical encyclopedia of innovative individuals throughout history.

What made me pick it up: I was intrigued when I stumbled across it while browsing an ebook and downloadable audiobook collection curated to inspire writers during NaNoWriMo.

My favorite things: Hancock believes that the objects and people that individuals surround themselves with can be very revealing. He enhances the understanding of notable historical figures by focusing on these aspects of their lives, rather than simply on their achievements. Hancock’s cartoonish drawings are an engaging jumble of small images that help to paint a picture of each subject’s life.

Who it’s great for:  Readers intrigued by the daily lives of famous artists and thinkers. Fans of graphic biographies.

Abby’s rating: three-and-a-half-shells


Find this in your local library or on Amazon (affiliate link).


 

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

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Originally published in: 2012

What it’s about: A group of 50 African-American soldiers who were tried for mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions in the Navy during WWII after a catastrophic explosion and how it led to the desegregation of all military forces for the US.

What made me pick it up: It was part of a Stand Strong & Stand Together collection of Overdrive titles the library offered in the wake of the Charlottesville tragedy and it was short.

My favorite things: This story was so well told. I am really into learning more of the stories I never learned in school about civil rights heroes and this is one. These men stood up for better treatment for people of other races and prevailed. Not without hardship or penalty and despite threat of death. It tells an important story that your small, personal decisions can benefit larger groups and have lasting positive repercussions.

Who it’s great for: History buffs. Civil rights students. Readers looking for diverse books.

Erica’s rating: five-shells


Find this book on Amazon(affiliate link) or in your local library.


 

Unbound by Ann E. Burg

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Originally published in: 2016

What it’s about: A family who escaped slavery and their journey to join the colony of maroons in the middle of Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp to live freely.

What made me pick it up: A coworker came down to tell me she was working on her book talk for it and I realized I had read the author’s previous work (Serafina’s Promise) and love a novel in verse so I took it from her when she offered and checked it out.

My favorite things: This book is powerful. The verse nature of the writing makes it go very quickly. The first-person narration helps bring to life the experience of slavery for Grace. As someone who once was a nine-year-old who had trouble keeping her thoughts in her head and not saying whatever she thought, it really brought home how that once had much worse consequences. I could relate to all of Grace’s emotions — especially guilt. Even though you are fairly certain of the outcome, it’s still an edge-of-your-seat read as Grace and her family flee for their lives.

Who it’s great for: Anyone who wants to learn more about a lesser known group of runaway slaves/slave settlement. Readers who want an emotional portrayal of the slavery and runaway experience.

Erica’s rating: four-shells


Get this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.