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.






Hillbilly Elegy
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.






The Unwinding
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





White Rage
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. 






Impossible Subjects
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.






Cruel Optimism
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





Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat from Mayflower to Modern (Kersplebedeb) By J. Sakai Cover Image
ISBN: 9781629630373
Availability: On hand at one or more locations, see product page for details
Published: PM Press - September 11th, 2014

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right By Arlie Russell Hochschild Cover Image
ISBN: 9781620972250
Availability: Not In Stock - Usually ships in 3-5 Days
Published: New Press - September 6th, 2016

How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy, and Society By Manning Marable, Leith Mullings (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Manning Marable, Leith Mullings (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9781608465118
Availability: On hand at one or more locations, see product page for details
Published: Haymarket Books - October 27th, 2015

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis By J. D. Vance Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062300546
Availability: Not In Stock - Usually ships in 3-5 Days
Published: Harper - June 28th, 2016

The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America (Politics and Society in Modern America #64) By Margot Canaday Cover Image
ISBN: 9780691149936
Availability: On hand at one or more locations, see product page for details
Published: Princeton University Press - July 25th, 2011

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America By George Packer Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374534608
Availability: Not In Stock - Usually ships in 3-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - March 4th, 2014

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide By Carol Anderson Cover Image
Not Available
ISBN: 9781632864123
Published: Bloomsbury USA - May 31st, 2016

Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America - Updated Edition (Politics and Society in Modern America #105) By Mae M. Ngai, Mae M. Ngai (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Mae M. Ngai, Mae M. Ngai (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9780691160825
Availability: Not In Stock - Usually ships in 3-5 Days
Published: Princeton University Press - April 27th, 2014

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life By Richard Hofstadter Cover Image
Not Available
ISBN: 9780394703176
Published: Vintage -

The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics By John B. Judis Cover Image
ISBN: 9780997126440
Availability: On hand at one or more locations, see product page for details
Published: Columbia Global Reports - October 5th, 2016

Cruel Optimism By Lauren Berlant Cover Image
ISBN: 9780822351115
Availability: On hand at one or more locations, see product page for details
Published: Duke University Press - October 11th, 2011