9 Books to Read to Understand the World & Politics Better
Even though I know it’s important, keeping up with the news can sometimes be boring. Competing in speech and debate tournaments on a weekly basis has become routine, but preparing and researching was challenging to navigate at first. In the extemporaneous speaking category, which has the literal intent of keeping up with current events, the 30 minutes given to write a speech on a proposed question became a sport of cramming in the information that I would forget as I was about to enter the room instead of information I should have known beforehand. The event and outcomes often feeling like a constant hassle and a session of confusion led me to exploring options that didn’t end in complete chaos. Thus, came a revelation: truly understanding. Which led me to more intensive reading and connection.
Besides the forced realization that reading and keeping up with quick paced changes in our world, politics, and understanding all that it encompasses matters on a deeper level, politics matter because of how the decision of one can impact a million. A million voices can change the political landscape and choices in return. Politics and the news matter because they give a voice to those who don’t have one to speak for themselves, and they create a sense of alertness on issues often pressured to be silenced. Politics and the news together matter because they shapes perspectives. Current events are something we constantly hear about– whether on TV, a pop-up notification on our phones, or in class. Sometimes they are unrecognized or not understood at all. With the complexity of what the world has evolved to be, the level of recognition of important events is no longer comprehended. Rather than learning in depth, it is often easier to label it as an issue somewhere, somehow, or somewhat rather than understanding the occurrences, true implications, and who truly is complicit. Recognizing and understanding the political issues and current events of our times are imperative because, if not, no action can be taken, and the issue remains unresolved. In order to make sure you’re up to speed, here’s a ~summer reading list~ to comprehend politics on a deeper level.
1) The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes
This approachable and not-full-of-policy book discusses Obama’s presidency in a way that is honest and honorable. Told through the lens of foreign policy advisor and speechwriter for both consecutive terms, Rhodes is able to tell the story of the transition from idealism to realism during a time of hostility and upset allies. According to the The New York Times, the author serves as “a charming and humble guide through an unprecedented presidency.”
2) The Assault on Intelligence by Michael V. Hayden
Using his experience as the former CIA director, Hayden discusses the threat that the United States is currently facing in the American intelligence community. The book points out the problems that democracy can face if there is a lack of truth. Set in the present while pointing out the consequences of the past, the book details just how consequential having no American Intelligence and less government checks can be in the future.
3) The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú
Based on his personal realization of being complicit, Cantú is able to describe the dehumanizing factors at the border’s detention centers. Being a part of the Border Patrol, Cantú is able to understand the intention behind detaining immigrants and the restrictions imposed by the landscape. The book is able to captivate the inhumane perspectives and illogical fallacies behind border detention centers. The New York Times writes, “A must-read for anyone who thinks ‘build a wall’ is the answer to anything.”
4) Rising Out Of Hatred by Eli Saslow
As someone raised in a house that passed down a white nationalism ideology to each generation, Eli Saslow depicts the experience of Derek Black– a homeschooler whose views came to fruition when he attended college. With a father that founded Stormfront –the largest online white supremacy group– and a godfather that was a KKK Grand Wizard, he gave up everything that was personal to force him to change his worldview. With a country more divided and polarized than ever before, this book sheds a perspective of what can be done about a perspective shared by many.
5) The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani
With the Trump administration entering the White House in 2016, a new era of post-truth has come. Providing context in the form of a diagnosis, Kakutani analyzes the cultural factors that contributed to what is politics today and how truth has become a rarity in politics. Focusing on trends seen in our everyday lives such as social media, television, pieces of literature, and media, in general, it sheds light on how truth is no longer a norm.
6) The Age of Walls by Tim Marshall
Analyzing both physical and non-physical borders that are seen in different continents, this book shows the connection between their truthful intention, its impact on politics or international news, and the connection between the beginning of borders to the current news we hear about in the media. Using the context of geography within regions, this book links what is often overlooked or never looked at in the first place.
7) How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Zibblat
A book on people and power, this book outlines how gaining power in a democracy in some cases means that the person in power can undermine the institution’s set standard to further personal agendas or obtain even more power. Written by two professors who have studied the fall and rise of democracy for 20 years, this book introduces the idea that the fall of a legitimate democracy is no longer something spurred by a revolution-rather it is a set precedent in a slow and steady pace in which branches of power are either stripped of rights or are delegitimized.
8) On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
A book is written with parallels made between the past and present, Snyder intelligently writes a book that doesn’t directly call out the 45th president but still writes with the intention of foreshadowing what will happen if actions aren’t questioned and action isn’t taken. The author, a historian, provides imperative insight into how to use past mistakes made by countries as a way to learn and to have a call to action to preserve democracy.
9) The Future is History by Marsha Gessen
Following a story of then and now in a country where people were promised better days (The American Dream, anyone?), Gessen looks to the nation of Russia and provides a cautionary tale. The book is able to showcase a reflective perspective between the past and the future while tying it all into the fact that the rate at which the aggressiveness within the nation is increasing is hauntingly similar to that of the past. Welcoming a new strain of authoritarianism through politics, it indicates how Russia is on the verge of repeating past actions rather than learning from them.
With the world constantly changing, keeping up with and understanding the basis aids in awareness, the ability to take action, and a better comprehension on what occurs in the world- even if we may not be directly impacted. If you delve into these 9 books, I guarantee they will help you develop an interest in understanding and enjoying the reading of current events as well as many more social, political, and economic disparities and factors that contribute to society, the environment and much more.