10 books to pick up for a better 2021

December 30, 2020

Datebook: 10 books to pick up for a better 2021
By: Rachel Leibrock

A global pandemic. Social unrest. An election that left democracy hanging in the balance. The year 2020 unfolded, day by day, as an age of reckoning.

As the new year approaches, it feels like we can rest. There’s a COVID-19 vaccine; ongoing discourse on race, gender and class; and a new administration headed for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Not so fast. Our collective work for anti-racism, equity, science (and, let’s face it, common sense) is far from over. Here are 10 books to pick up in 2021 because the work isn’t done; it’s just getting started.

‘Julian Bond’s Time to Teach: A History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement’
By Julian Bond; Photographs by Danny Lyon
(Beacon Press; 400 pages; $29.95)

Civil rights activist Julian Bond died in 2010, but his lessons endure. Bond, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives and State Senate, also co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for more than a decade, and taught the history of the civil rights movement at the University of Virginia. “Julian Bond’s Time to Teach” (Jan. 12) compiles his original lecture notes into a motivational guide for modern activists in the age of Black Lives Matter.

‘Run to Win: Lessons in Leadership for Women Changing the World’
By Stephanie Schriock and Christina Reynolds
(Dutton; 368 pages;$27)

Want to be a real force for change? In “Run to Win” (Jan. 12), Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, which organizes to get women elected to political office, and Christina Reynolds, its vice president of communications, guide readers through the processes needed to run — and win. The book includes a foreword by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

‘The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto’
By Charles M. Blow
(Harper; 256 pages; $26.99)

Author and New York Times columnist Charles Blow has penned a call to action for Black Americans — and anyone else who seeks radical progress. The Louisiana-born writer writes about eradicating racial hierarchy in “The Devil You Know” (Jan. 26), billed as a “manifesto.” It’s a must-read in the effort to dismantle deep-seated poisons of systemic racism and white supremacy.

‘The Removed’
By Brandon Hobson
(Ecco; 288 pages; $26.99)

If we tell ourselves stories to expand our worldview, then modern literature is one of society’s most powerful tools. Rich in Cherokee folklore, Brandon Hobson’s latest novel, “The Removed” (Feb. 2), is the story of a teenage boy killed by police and the ways grief haunts his family. Hobson’s novel centers the story on the family’s upcoming annual bonfire, a date that marks both their son’s death and the Cherokee National Holiday, which commemorates the signing of the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma after the Trail of Tears forced migration ended.

‘Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing From White Supremacy’
by Rachel Ricketts
(Atria Books; 384 pages; $27)

Rachel Ricketts’ “Do Better” (Feb. 2) takes on anti-racism work through a “spiritually-aligned” perspective. Ricketts, a self-described “queer Black woman, global disruptor, speaker, healer,” wrote the book as a tool for fighting racial injustice and white supremacy “from the inside out.”

‘Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future’
By Elizabeth Kolbert
(Crown; 256 pages; $28)

Elizabeth Kolbert received the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for “The Sixth Extinction,” which examined the effects of fossil fuel consumption on Earth’s species. In “Under a White Sky” (Feb. 9) she asks if we can save nature by changing it. For research, the New Yorker staff writer traveled the world to learn more about the relationship between humankind and the spaces it occupies. Whether exploring a tiny pool of water in the Mojave or asking physicists about the possibility of shooting small diamonds into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back to space, Kolbert’s approach brims with optimism.

‘No Planet B: A Teen Vogue Guide to the Climate Crisis’
By Lucy Diavolo
(Haymarket Books; 219 pages; $15.95)

This entry on the climate change shelf is aimed at teens and young adults. Edited by Lucy Diavolo, Teen Vogue’s news and politics editor, this essay collection is for those poised to inherit a scorched Earth. “No Planet B” (Feb. 9) examines the subject through a feminist, anti-racist scope; the pieces here touch on topics such as “Recycling Isn’t Going to Stop Plastic from Destroying the Earth” and “Greta Thunberg Wants You — Yes, You — to Join the Climate Strike.”

‘Birthing a Movement: Midwives, Law, and the Politics of Reproductive Care’
By Renée Ann Cramer
(Stanford University Press; 288 pages; $30)

Recent changes on the U.S. Supreme Court mean reproductive rights once again face perilous legal challenges at the federal level. Renée Ann Cramer brings deep archival research and personal narratives to “Birthing a Movement” (Feb. 16). At its crux, the book examines the connections between activism and inconsistent state laws to make the case for federal regulation.

By Melissa Febos
(Bloomsbury Publishing; 336 pages; $27)

Melissa Febos’ latest book is a memoir, but it also serves as a history lesson of sorts. In “Girlhood,” (March 30), an illustrated essay collection, she picks at the ways women are taught to be “female” — and what it means to remove oneself from such expectations. Febos’ lyrical, meditative writing makes it all the easier to ponder her critical questions and explorations.

‘Central America’s Forgotten History: Revolution, Violence, and the Roots of Migration’
By Aviva Chomsky
(Beacon Press; 296 pages; $26.95)

The Central American migration crisis remains a focal point in the ongoing debate about exploitation and moral obligation. Chomsky, a professor of history at Salem State University, comes from a line of distinguished thinkers. Her parents are linguists Noam and Carol Chomsky. Consider “Central America’s Forgotten History” (April 20) an educational primer on the past and a tool for moving forward. Chomsky’s sharp eye for detail takes readers as far back as the Spanish conquest to study, among other topics, the direct impact of U.S. interventions and policies.