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14 Thought-Provoking Current Affairs Books Perfect for Social Action Book Clubs

Committed to changing the world? These stirring reads for your book club are a great place to start.

Ione Blaxall

The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide

By Dr. Steven W. Thrasher

For readers interested in: Medical justice, poverty, HIV-AIDS, medical marginalization, health-care access for all

Two years after COVID-19 first swept the globe, a series of questions demands to be answered. Why have some communities avoided severe infection while others suffer the brunt of the disease? What social factors played a role in hindering — or accelerating — the virus’s impact? In The Viral Underclass, acclaimed LGBTQ scholar and social critic Dr. Steven W. Thrasher draws on years of studying the criminalization of HIV to explore the ways race, class, gender, and sexuality produce a “viral underclass” of individuals who are disproportionately vulnerable to viral spread. Filled with powerful first-person accounts of survival, Thrasher’s “compelling and compassionate analysis” (Booklist, starred review) delivers an incisive critique of America’s health-care failings and humanizes the often overlooked while never losing sight of hope.

Black Skinhead by Brandi Collins-Dexter

Black Skinhead: Reflections on Blackness and Our Political Future

By Brandi Collins-Dexter

For readers interested in: Politics in America, racial justice, Black culture and identity, the future of Black votership in the Democratic Party

In her searing debut, former senior campaign manager for Color of Change Brandi Collins-Dexter presents an electric collection of essays that examines the fraying relationship between Black Americans and the Democratic Party. Black Skinhead brilliantly blends personal anecdotes with interviews, political analysis, and cultural critique to produce a multifaceted portrait of political disillusionment in the Black community. Exploring topics as far ranging as the lyrics of Kanye West and the stark reality of voter disenfranchisement, Collins-Dexter’s collection offers an honest and engaging look at identity and civic engagement and is a “must-read for anyone interested in politics and Black lives in America” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Publication date: 9/20/22

The January 6th Report

By Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, with analysis by David Remnick

For readers interested in: American politics, the January 6th insurrection, the future of American democracy

In the wake of the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol and the failed attempts of insurrectionists to thwart the peaceful transfer of power, a special congressional committee launched an investigation into how and why this act of domestic terrorism could occur. More than a year later, the committee now presents its final report to the world. Enhancing this eye-opening account is insightful political analysis from David Remnick, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The New Yorker. The January 6th Report is fundamental to understanding this historic event and the growing internal threat against American democracy.

The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World

By Max Fisher

For readers interested in: Technology, social media, psychology, political polarization

In The Chaos Machine, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Max Fisher presents an in-depth investigation into the human toll of social media and Big Tech’s race for profit. Fisher adeptly demonstrates his abilities as a reporter here, crisscrossing the globe to cover a topic as unwieldy as the Internet with remarkable clarity and detail. Fisher exposes the many ways technology has destabilized our systems of government, fanned the flames of division and extremism, and wreaked havoc on our minds. Fisher also champions the efforts of Silicon Valley whistleblowers and outsiders who are leading the fight against Big Tech.

Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial

By Corban Addison

For readers interested in: Industrial farming, environmental racism, environmental justice

Wastelands is a spirited David and Goliath tale of a small North Carolina town and its battle against a neighboring industrial agricultural operation that polluted the community for years. Journalist and author Corban Addison chronicles the legal fight carried out by a spirited group of friends and neighbors who unite to protect one another and stop the ecological devastation of their coastal plain community. Expertly written with the pacing of a legal thriller, Wasteland both inspires with hope and warns against a future of unchecked corporate greed and pollution.

The Trayvon Generation

By Elizabeth Alexander

For readers interested in: American racial relations, racial justice, and Black culture and identity

In The Trayvon Generation, celebrated author and educator Elizabeth Alexander crafts a “profound and lyrical meditation on race, class, [and] justice” (The New York Times) that reckons with the reality of violence faced by young Black Americans today. Skillfully weaving together her own words with stirring works of art, Alexander speaks directly to the plight of teenagers and young adults who have come of age in the last 25 years, a generation burdened by the brutality and racist violence that killed George Floyd and Trayvon Martin. Alexander examines how this violence impacts the minds of Black youth today, heightening their anxiety and causing lasting damage to their mental health. The author also offers a guiding light to the future, highlighting the necessity of art on the path toward a brighter society.

Salmon Wars: The Dark Underbelly of Our Favorite Fish

By Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins

For readers interested in: Environmental justice, climate change, marine ecology, the future of the food industry

Acclaimed author and private investigator Catherine Collins teams up with Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Douglas Frantz to plumb the depths of salmon farming and the slippery industry practices that feed our hunger for the fish. In Salmon Wars, the authors reveal the ways the Atlantic salmon industry pollutes the environment, harms consumers, and mistreats its product with parasite-infested cages and massive ocean feedlots. This piece of investigative journalism also profiles a cast of activists fighting to save our fragile coastal ecosystems and outlines the steps we can take as everyday consumers to disrupt the toxic cycle of industrialized fish farming.

America, Goddam: Violence, Black Women, and the Struggle for Justice

By Treva B. Lindsey

For readers interested in: Intersectionality, historical injustice, misogynoir

America, Goddam zeroes in on the plight of Black women and girls in America and the impact anti-Black racism, misogyny, and patriarchal greed have had on their lives. Author Treva B. Lindsey draws on her training as a Black feminist historian to trace the legacy of violence against Black women and to champion the work of Black women and girls who fight for liberation. Through personal stories, America, Goddam argues that justice cannot exist in America without a collective reckoning of the horrific violence faced by Black women.

Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality

By Julia Shaw

For readers interested in: LGBTQ+ community, bisexuality, identity, human rights, activism, sexuality

Bi is a rigorous examination of sexuality from Dr. Julia Shaw, a criminal psychologist at University College London and founder of the International Bisexual Research Group. The book draws from both science and popular culture to disprove common misconceptions about bisexuality. Shaw writes passionately and eloquently about her own experiences as a bisexual person and the struggle for the bisexual community to be recognized as its own independent identity. Engaging and informative, Bi should be required reading for anyone seeking to better understand who they are.

They Want to Kill Americans: The Militias, Terrorists, and Deranged Ideology of the Trump Insurgency

By Malcolm Nance

For readers interested in: The January 6th insurrection, Trump’s America, domestic terrorism in America, the future of American democracy

They Want to Kill Americans offers an unflinching look at what author Malcolm Nance calls TITUS: the Trump Insurgency in The United States. Nance attributes TITUS and the January 6th insurrection to President Donald Trump’s lies, his mockery of political opponents, and the heightened confusion and fear brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. While many Americans viewed Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory as a return to some semblance of civic normalcy, Nance strongly cautions against this kind of thinking, instead warning that the domestic threat against American democracy has only just begun.

The Inheritors: An Intimate Portrait of South Africa’s Racial Reckoning

By Eve Fairbanks

For readers interested in: Post-Apartheid South Africa, the legacy of racial injustice, international politics, societal reckoning

In The Inheritors, award-winning journalist Eve Fairbanks draws on her journalistic expertise to produce a sweeping investigation of South Africa’s transition from an apartheid state to a democratic society. Fairbanks’ psychologically probing account tracks this transformation through the eyes of three everyday South Africans, capturing both the seismic cultural shifts and the individual changes necessary for South Africa to move beyond its dark past. Throughout, the author’s “empathetic, comprehensive reporting shines” as she presents a highly personal current affairs book that offers universal “insight into how ordinary people build lives in the aftermath of political upheaval” (New York Times Book Review).

Profiles in Ignorance: How America’s Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber

By Andy Borowitz

For readers interested in: American culture, American politics, mass media, media literacy, political personalities

Humorist Andy Borowitz, hailed by CBS Sunday Morning as “one of the funniest people in America” and the author of the satirical news column “The Borowitz Report,” offers a devastatingly hilarious analysis of our country’s political ineptitude in this new release. Profiles in Ignorance tracks the alarming rise of ignorant leaders in America over the last 50 years, skewering their buffoonery while highlighting the very real damage they’ve done to American culture and government. Meanwhile, as more aspiring politicians swap out substance for smarminess, mass media compounds the issue by rewarding candidates for their stage presence. Yet not all hope is lost: Threaded through Borowitz’s dark political satire is a rousing call to action to reverse the trend before it’s too late.

Publication date: 9/13/22

Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America

By Maggie Haberman

For readers interested in: Donald Trump, political deep dives, personality politics, American democracy

What makes Donald Trump tick? Everyone seems to have an opinion. Yet Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman knows more about Trump and his vision of America than perhaps any other commentator, having spent years reporting on his rise to power. In this sensational new account, Haberman tracks Trump’s journey from his early years moving through Manhattan’s elite inner circles and his foray into politics to his ascent to the White House and his current post-presidency state of limbo. Confidence Man examines Trump’s motivations, his personality, and his connections, and how they combined to shape a movement that has baffled political pundits while capturing the attention and support of millions of Americans. 

Publication date: 10/4/22

American Resistance: The Inside Story of How the Deep State Saved the Nation

By David Rothkopf

For readers interested in: Donald Trump, politics, political corruption, American democracy

The Trump presidency was strikingly different from all other administrations in American history. For many government employees, it was an era defined by impossible choices about how to serve the U.S. government while protecting the American people. David Rothkopf’s American Resistance studies the unprecedented role that government officials played throughout the Trump era as safeguards of American democracy. The book reveals how harrowingly close the government came to falling apart and showcases the hundreds of individuals whose steadfast commitment to American democracy saved the country from a total collapse into authoritarianism.

Publication date: 11/1/22

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