In the wake of the election, we found ourselves turning to the shelves that line our halls and looking for books that might help us understand what happened, navigate the world ahead, and perhaps find comfort. We’ve rounded up some of our picks here.
Ari Berman’s detailed narrative history of what happened after the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) has never been more important. The year 2016 marked the first presidential election held in fifty years without the protections of two key provisions of the VRA, and Berman’s insights into counterrevolutionary schemes to undermine the franchise are vital to understanding the fight ahead. For more on the widespread voter suppression that has occurred since the publication of his book, read Berman’s political reportage at The Nation.
Donald Trump’s consistent racial dog whistles—his calls to deport immigrants, his thinly veiled anti-Semitic imagery, his refusal to disavow KKK endorsements—have led to the mainstream empowerment of white nationalist viewpoints, most visible in the post-election surge of racially motivated harassment and violence. Leonard Zeskind’s book traces the history of this movement.
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
“No one can say when the unwinding began—when the coil that held Americans together in its secure and sometimes stifling grip first gave way. Like any great change, the unwinding began at countless times, in countless ways—and at some moment the country, always the same country, crossed a line in history and became irretrievably different.” So begins George Packer’s National Book Award-winner, and this election seems to be just the sort of line in history of which Packer writes. His heartfelt, unforgettable portraits of several Americans, interwoven with sketches of public figures and collages inspired by John Dos Passos, tell the story of the past three decades. Praised by Dwight Garner as “the book that best explains the American that elected Donald Trump,” Packer’s book “hums with sorrow, outrage, and compassion.” (The New York Times)
The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks
Terry Tempest Williams
Donald Trump has pledged to “cancel” the Paris climate deal and gut the Environmental Protection Agency, and has floated several individuals with strong ties to the oil and gas industry as candidates for the position of Secretary of the Interior, tasked with managing and conserving federal land and national resources and overseeing agencies such as the National Park Service. Terry Tempest Williams’s meditation and manifesto on the power and promise of our wild lands can now be read as an urgent call to action to preserve the irreplaceable treasure that is the National Parks system.
To be fair, we would probably be recommending The Sellout, election or no: it just won the Man Booker Prize. But Beatty’s hard look at America’s complicated relationship to Blackness is particularly worth reading today.
The tenth parallel is a religious and ideological frontline—more than half of the world’s Muslims and 60 percent of the world’s Christians live along it. Eliza Griswold’s look at the meeting of faith and worldly power has implications for escalating interfaith conflicts in the United States.
If I Were Another
Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Fady Joudah
“No poet in our time has confronted the violent tides of history with greater humanity or greater artistic range than Mahmoud Darwish,” writes Michael Palmer. Darwish, a critically acclaimed and publicly beloved Palestinian poet, confronts the sweeping arc of history and the burdens of collective memory while honoring the individual experience.
In Headscarves and Hymens, journalist Mona Eltahawy makes a compelling case for a sexual revolution in the Middle East alongside a political one. Her call for intersectional action—throwing off the bounds of political, as well as gendered, oppression—is one that should resonate in Trump’s America.