What to Read in Light of Trump: Understanding What Happened
All of us at Book Culture were shocked and unsettled by the election results earlier this month. As booksellers, we believe there are books for every situation, so we immediately started thinking about what books to turn to now; this is the first in a series of posts about books to read in reponse to Trump's election. For this first installment, we thought about what to read to try to understand what's happened.
Read the second installment, on fighting back, here.
by J. Sakai
Racism, xenophobia and genocidal imperialism are founding principles of this nation, and ignorance of this fact will not help us "get out of this mess." Read Settlers today. --Michael
Strangers in Their Own Land
by Arlie Russell Hochschild
Noted sociologist Hochschild here turns her attention to "red state America." This election has been a reminder to many of us that we live in a bubble--read this book to see what the country looks like from the other bubble.
How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America
by Manning Marable
Given that our president-elect has pointed to his "business skills" as his main qualification for the presidency, and that he began his career being sued by the Justice Department for practicing housing discrimination, this book seems appropriate.
by J.D. Vance
I haven't read this yet, but by all accounts Vance is a really compelling and eloquent writer. Hillbilly Elegy tells the story of one family from Trump's target audience: white, working-class families in areas ravaged by the loss of industry and plagued by alcoholism, addiction, underemployment and a growing feelings of resentment and being left behind.--Devon
The Straight State
by Margot Canaday
Our new vice president-elect rose to prominence in Indiana on a loudly anti-LGBT platform. In this book, Margot Canaday describes how the federal government came to regulate and penalize homosexuality during the twentieth century, giving rise to the Mike Pences of today.
by George Packer
The Unwinding is a true feat of journalism, a microcosmic history of the decline of American institutions -- unions, public schools, locally-owned businesses, manufacturing. Why is it that hard work no longer guarantees a chance at a better life? Why does "the system" seem rigged in the interests of big money and corporations? George Packer, a staff writer at The New Yorker, answers these questions through deep profiles of five subjects (including the infamous Peter Thiel), investigating the real, felt experience of Americans living through these changes.There's a reason it won the National Book Award: it's a superb, eye-opening book.--Ryan
by Carol Anderson
Anderson wrote this book as a response to the media's focus on African-American anger in the wake of Ferguson, while ignoring the true cause of the events there: white rage. "With so much attention on the flames," she says, "everyone had ignored the kindling." Read this to understand the anger that was a driving force in this election.
by Mae M. Ngai
Ngai is a professor of history at Columbia and this, her most famous book, examines the invention of "illegal aliens" as a category. If you're trying to understand how people became so worried about undocumented immigrants that building a wall was an appealing campaign promise, read this book.
Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
by Richard Hofstadter
Hofstadter's 1963 cultural history of anti-intellectualism in the U.S. is perennially relevant. While you're at it, read one of his other classics, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, as well.
The Populist Explosion
by John B. Judis
Judis's new book, from Columbia Global Reports, links Trump's election to gowing tide of populist victories around the world. Drawing on research from the U.S., Spain, France, and Denmark, this book could not be more timely.
by Lauren Berlant
Lauren Berlant's excellent book begins, "A relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing." This seems like an excellent way to describe many individuals' relations to the American democratic system at the moment. Beyond this opening system, Berlant provides an excellent account of our optimism, pessimism, and attachments that characterize ordinary life in the contemporary United States. I'm not sure how we will get out of our current crisis, but Berlant's book provides one example of a thinker asking the questions that will help us do so. Keep following Berlant's work to understand the inadequacy of the "American Dream" and how we respond to it. --Adam
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