What it’s about: A look at the theoretical and literal outcomes of providing citizens with a universal basic income.
What made me pick it up: You’ve probably heard this come up repeatedly recently. If you’re curious about what it is or how it could work, like me, then pick up this book.
My favorite parts: Lowrey doesn’t shy away from the difficulties we would face implementing this or what caused us to get so mired in intractable social safety net programs we currently have. She does provide plenty of examples of more functional social programs abroad and how and why we might implement ones like them. Mainly, there’s no way you don’t walk away from this book without seriously reconsidering how your life and the lives of many people would be totally different if no one had to toil for their livelihood. Maybe you have to work some, but you wouldn’t worry that not working would cost you your home, health, or life. It certainly seems worth trying.
Who it’s great for: The curious. The undecided. The staunchly against.
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.
What it’s about: A woman who started a business while still in college and how she learned to be a successful leader through a series of failures.
What made me pick it up: The title.
My favorite parts: I really enjoyed the candor of the author while recounting her less than perfect moments. She was highly relatable and made an entrepreneurial path seem attainable if you were willing to work hard and define your values. I especially was drawn to the concept of company culture and how important it was to know what it was and support it at all costs. More workplaces should follow suit. This is a quick read but enjoyable, almost like sitting down with a friend to hear what she’s up to. If you’re wondering how to be a better leader or work the kinks out of your org pick this up.
Who it’s great for: Anyone who wants to be a better leader or wants to work the kinks out of their business. Readers who want to start a business and need inspiration to get started. Erica’s rating:
What’s it about: A quick guide to avoiding implicating yourself in criminal activity while talking to the police. Tl;dr don’t talk to the police. No really, don’t.
What made me pick it up: It is very short and the title intrigued me.
My favorite things: Duane tries to balance every critique of police interrogation techniques with positive words about their work. He doesn’t identify the police as a problem, but rather insists that they are very good at finding evidence – even when it implicates innocent people. Duane also offers very specific advice on what you do have to tell the police and when and how to effectively demand to speak with a lawyer.
Who it’s great for: Anyone curious about what you actually have to tell the police. A good primer for anyone worried about dealing with the police
What it’s about: Why you should follow your passion one tiny step at a time.
What made me pick it up: It was mentioned in When To Jump, which I read recently.
My favorite parts: This is colorful and short and full of inspirational quotes and the tiny push you might need to begin following your calling. You don’t have to quit your job or go on an intense spiritual journey or backpack around Asia for any period of time, unless you feel you really need to. Just get up a few minutes early to paint or write or do whatever it is you feel you need to do. See where it leads. I do appreciate reminders now and then that you can listen to your inner voice and see what it’s telling you without disrupting your entire world. Or maybe it will and that will also be a fun adventure.
Who it’s great for: Anyone wondering if this is it.
What it’s about: A book about “secular” mindfulness meditation and Harris’s work to share his beloved practice with those that want to try but have many excuses not to.
What made me pick it up: As a newbie mindfulness meditator I am curious about all books mediation-related.
My favorite parts: I like this for the reason laid out in the title – this is for fidgety skeptics. If you’ve tried and immediately not achieved enlightenment so you think you’ve failed – it’s for you. If you’d like to try but “just don’t have the time” – it’s also for you. It’s not mystical in any way but it does make it sound accessible by shouting down your excuses, providing strategies to help, and detailing examples of the ongoing struggles from long-term practitioners. You will want to keep trying because they extol how it has helped them. And if you’ve tried even a little bit you’ll know of what they speak. Meditation helps me be quieter in my mind and reactions and I heartily endorse any book that can bring that peace to others. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Who it’s great for: Anyone interested in meditation.
My favorite things: I learned so much about the inequalities in housing, the callousness of slum lords, and the huge impact an eviction can have on all areas of your life. Reading about how owning poor quality inner city apartment buildings is a cash cow whether your tenants stay or leave was disgusting. This book is told in stories, which makes it all the more accessible. Sure a treatise on unfair housing practices would’ve been informative, but it wouldn’t have been this visceral. You will react physically to some of the horrible living situations subjects find themselves in and with horror that we, as a society, do not help them find better. I liked all of the personal stories, even if they were heartbreaking. I appreciate the author’s ability to maintain objectivity, for the most part, but don’t think I have the stomach to do spend years watching these small personal tragedies unfold while only providing a small amount of assistance. Desmond makes a compelling argument, based on extensive research, that we could fund a voucher system that would alleviate this problem and put us on par with many other developed and even developing nations in providing a leg up to our poorest citizens if only we would reallocate some money. In short, BY NOT SPENDING ANYTHING MORE we could fix the horrible, demoralizing situations you will read about in this book. How can we do anything other?
Who it’s great for: Everyone. Especially those interested in poverty and its mysterious persistence in extremely wealthy America.
What’s it about: A personal memoir of surviving and recovering from an eating disorder and abuse.
What made me pick it up: I love graphic memoirs and find they are a great medium for exploring personal traumas
My favorite things: Green is achingly honest and relatable. Her art is both lovely and despondent. She sheds light on the reality that eating disorders are about more than food and that not all are textbook cases.
Who it’s great for: Readers struggling to understand mental illness in someone they love.
What it’s about: How spending as little as 30 minutes a week in nature can help us be happier.
What made me pick it up: I’m a nature girl. I grew up running through orchards and living outside in our yard. My favorite pastimes reinforce what this book tells me is true — nature helps. More of it is better.
My favorite things: I love that she includes the research. I love that there is research that says we need more, not less, exposure to nature and that it can lead to all sorts of health benefits like less depression and ADHD. It might even be equal to or better than meditation! I enjoyed that she tells it as her personal journey to find out what works and why and how to incorporate more of it into her life. It makes me want to add “go for a walk in the trees” to my to do list and “end up somewhere wild” to my travel plans.
Who it’s great for: Nature enthusiasts of all stripes. Tree lovers. Walkers. People who feel a bit off and are looking for a solution.
What’s it about: The life, death, and legacy of Erica Garner – the man whose death at the hands of the Staten Island police made headlines with the release of a video of his dying words; “I can’t breathe.”
What made me pick it up: I was already thinking about reading this, but I made it my top priority after his daughter, Erica, passed away in late December.
My favorite things: Though at times it feels a bit voyeuristic, Taibbi dives deeply into the lives and histories of numerous people involved in or impacted by Garner’s death. He is very thorough in his reporting in order to paint a more complete picture of exactly how and why Eric Garner dies.
Who it’s great for: True crime readers. Those interested in the human stories involved in racial profiling, police violence, and systemic discrimination.