Best Books of 2020: Part 2

Best Books of 2020: Part 2

This is my second installment of the best books of 2020. See Part 1 here. If you’re curious about all the books I’ve read in 2020, see this page.

1. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson


This is hands-down the best book I read in 2020. While the book is aptly subtitled “The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” you won’t truly appreciate the epic-ness of the story unless you delve into it. The Great Migration that Isabel Wilkerson is talking about is the migration of Blacks from the South to the North throughout the 20th century in America. For this book, she conducted more than 1200 interviews with individuals who either were part of the migration themselves, or those whose lives were touched by this phenomenon. Yet she packages her research beautifully in the story of three individuals, bringing us along the ups and downs of their incredible lives.

Don’t be discouraged by the book’s length–it is a page-turner. Further, this will be one of the most important books you’ll ever read in your life. Note: This book was also featured in my Reading Guide to Antiracist Books.

I would describe Hong’s writing as fierce, because first, she is so incisive in her analysis of the Asian American experience–both as victims and perpetrators of racist attitudes. Second, her analysis is weaved into poignant story-telling. To me, her sentences come blazing out of the page, and I relish the burn from this fiery book. Minor Feelings is an important contribution in the wider multi-way conversation on race.

This is a little-known, under-told history of the decades-long struggle for equity in my particular community of faith. I so appreciate Calvin Rock’s contribution in outlining the context of key events in the denomination’s history with regards to Blacks and Whites’ leadership. Before this book, I, like many others in the community of faith, had only superficial understanding (or rather, misunderstanding) of the racial dynamics in the church. This book is eye-opening, to say the least.

An Important read for you who are fellow Seventh-day Adventists, or others who may want to see an example of how race relations play out in a faith community.

What you’ll find in this extraordinary telling of Mandela’s life is an example of tenacity, a kind of charismatic stubbornness that shrewdly aggravates the power it wants to change (i.e., apartheid). With humor and winsomeness, Mandela graces us with stories of his life, who he is, how he thinks and does things. It’s a fascinating study on activism and how to change the world.

As a member of a faith community that keeps the Sabbath ritual (i.e., ceasing from work from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown), I’ve always found it ironic that most of my favorite books on the Sabbath are by writers who are outside of my own community of faith. Often, Sabbath books in my church tend to be cerebral and academic, whereas my favorite ones tend to be poetic.

Well, this book bucks the trend. It is both resourceful in the academic sense, but also poetic and profound. It synthesizes wonderfully the many facets of the Sabbath, the various schools of theological thoughts on each facet, and the author’s commentary on the prevailing views. In an exhausting year that is 2020, Sabbath carries an extra special significance in retaining and restoring our humanity (more on this in an upcoming post), and it has been a welcome relief to immerse myself in the topic of rest.

 

Favorite Books Lists

2020: Best Books of 2020 Part 1, Best Books of 2020 Part 2.

2019: Best Books of 2019 Part 1, Best Books of 2019 Part 2.

2018: Best Books of 2018 Part 1, Best Books of 2018 Part 2.

2017Best Books of 2017 Part 1, Best Books of 2017 Part 2.

2016Best Books of 2016 Part 1Best Books of 2016 Part 2.

2015Best Books of 2015 Part 1Best Books of 2015 Part 2.

 

*Amazon Product links on this blog are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!

 

Best Books of 2020: Part 1

Best Books of 2020: Part 1

This is my first installment of the best books of 2020. If you’re curious about all the books I’ve read in 2020, see this page.

1. How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi


Also featured in my Reading Guide to Antiracist Books. A must-read for this moment that we inhabit. Kendi’s parsing of definitions and overlapping concepts brings so much clarity to the complex spheres that race touches. 

I love investigative journalism stories. This book is the riveting behind-the-scenes account of Kantor and Twohey’s reporting on sexual harassment and abuse by Harvey Weinstein. 

Also an unbelievable story behind Ronan Farrow’s reporting on Weinstein. Incredible reporting that also revealed systems that protect the rich and powerful.

If you want to take a break from current issues and read an entertaining science book that evokes wonder, this is the book for it. This book is highly readable and informative, unveiling the hidden, scientific magic of everyday items like your utensils, chocolate, and more. It reminds me Hope Jahren’s quote in Lab Girl, “Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.”

Nate Silver, the man behind FiveThirtyEight.com, outlines fundamental principles on how we should relate to data. It is incredibly insightful, providing lasting lessons as we go deeper into the age of big data. The book is first published in 2012, but its insights become even more relevant now. (It even has a chapter on epidemic and data).

Insightful reflections from a variety of individuals on how the Christian faith can engage culture, more specifically a divided culture.

 

Often science and faith are pitted against each other. But that is not the only conversation that takes place. The other framing of the relationship between science and faith, one that I connect with more, is the one Tippett presents in this book: the connection between science and spirituality. 

Favorite Books Lists

2020: Best Books of 2020 Part 1, Best Books of 2020 Part 2.

2019: Best Books of 2019 Part 1, Best Books of 2019 Part 2.

2018: Best Books of 2018 Part 1, Best Books of 2018 Part 2.

2017Best Books of 2017 Part 1, Best Books of 2017 Part 2.

2016Best Books of 2016 Part 1Best Books of 2016 Part 2.

2015Best Books of 2015 Part 1Best Books of 2015 Part 2.

 

*Amazon Product links on this blog are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!

 

Best Books of 2019: Part 2

Best Books of 2019: Part 2

It’s the second round-up of the best books of 2019. Below are my favorites from the second half of the year. To see the list from the first half of the year, go to this post. And if you’re curious about all the books I’ve read in 2019, check out this page.

 

1. Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

Winners Take All is a thought-provoking book that makes you think about what kind of society we live in and what kind we want to live in. Anand Giridharadas is one of the main voices in the growing conversation on the role of the billionaire class in philanthropy and in “changing the world.” Some of the poignant questions the author asks: Should we trust billionaires to solve societal problems, when it is in their interest to preserve the status quo rather than promote changes that would eat into their profit? Instead of doing more good, how about doing less harm? Where does the idea that changing the world has to always be a win-win proposition (i.e., do well by doing good) come from? This book takes a critical look at “changing the world” when it is understood in a narrow, market-based paradigm that seeks to profit from it instead of giving something that true changes often require, true sacrifice. 

For more resources on the topic, check out these conversations:

When the Market is Our Only Language from On Being with Krista Tippett

Interview with Ezra Klein

Future Perfect podcast Season 2: Philanthropy vs. Democracy

I’m not a big science fiction reader, but I will read everything that Ted Chiang writes. Exhalation is his second collection of short stories after his first, which was one of my favorites in 2017. His stories have this breathtaking quality about them. Each story is a world unto its own, and Chiang is so good at making each world’s laws and rules consistent. But at the core of these stories are deep human questions that emerge whether the characters interact with time travels, parallel multiverse, or artificial intelligence. At the end of the book, Chiang includes some notes on how each story originated, which provide a glimpse of how his fascinating mind works.

For more, listen to his interview on the New York Times Book Review podcast:

Fiction About Unprecedented Situations 

Arlie Hochschild is a sociologist who spent years immersing herself in Lake Charles, Louisiana, a community that strongly supports the Tea Party. As an academic from Berkeley, she seeks to understand a community, and individuals in that community, that are as different as can be to her political leaning. Her exploration, which she calls climbing an “empathy wall,” is generous and deeply human. What she uncovers is their “deep story,” reality as it is felt by each person she comes to know in this book. 

As a foreigner in America, one of my perpetual learning goals is to understand the society I’m a part of, its histories, narratives and “deep stories.” This is one of those valuable books in this respect, as it covers stories of lives that are not commonly covered in mainstream channels. 

Check out this conversation from the On Being podcast:

The Deep Stories of Our Time 

A great biography on the life of Ulysses Grant.

Read a nice review of the book here.

A lovely memoir on family, identity, and belonging. As a baby, Nicole Chung was adopted and raised by a white family. She grew up well loved, but also with a sense of not completely belonging or understood. She searched, and found, her birth (Korean) family as an adult, and in the process, explored the complexities of being a transracial adoptee and the different shades that “family” can mean.

 

A great follow up to the Ulysses Grant biography, this book tells the story of Andrew Garfield’s quick rise to the presidency and his murder quite early on in his presidency. He did not immediately die; what transpired after he was shot was an interweaving dynamic between politics, medical care (and their respective power struggles), and mental illness (on the side of his assassin).

 

A gripping story of a slave’s escape from bondage, traversing several states, each with their own promises and horrors. It won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for a very good reason.

This book is a wonderful discovery; I had never heard about The Moth before this book. The Moth is a storytelling phenomenon in which each person tells a personal story on stage. There’s something powerful in the first-person telling of one’s life. This book is a collection of these stories, lightly edited for print. 

Check out The Moth’s YouTube channel here.

Favorite Books Lists

2020: Best Books of 2020 Part 1, Best Books of 2020 Part 2.

2019: Best Books of 2019 Part 1, Best Books of 2019 Part 2.

2018: Best Books of 2018 Part 1, Best Books of 2018 Part 2.

2017Best Books of 2017 Part 1, Best Books of 2017 Part 2.

2016Best Books of 2016 Part 1Best Books of 2016 Part 2.

2015Best Books of 2015 Part 1Best Books of 2015 Part 2.

 

*Amazon Product links on this blog are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!