Divided We Fall’s 2021 Holiday Booklist

Photo by Pixnio
Photo by Pixnio

St. Thomas Aquinas warned hominem unius libri timeo or “beware the man of a single book.” Too often, we form our opinions on a topic based on a single book or article, or even worse — just the headline! At Divided We Fall, our readers know better than this. That is why, for the third year in a row, we are proud to publish our Divided We Fall Holiday Booklist. Check out these must-read titles on the topics of bipartisanship and civil discourse. Enjoy! 

  • The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, by Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett, 2020. Putnam and Garrett use statistical analysis and storytelling to demonstrate how accelerating inequality, unprecedented political polarization, vitriolic public discourse, a fraying social fabric, and public and private narcissism are preventing the creation of a more egalitarian, cooperative, and generous civil society in the United States. This book is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the larger historical context of where we came from, where we are, and where we are going as a country.
  • The Politics Industry: How Political Innovation Can Break Partisan Gridlock and Save Our Democracy, by Katherine Ghel and Michael Porter, 2020. Most people believe that our political system is a public institution with high-minded principles and impartial rules derived from the Constitution. In reality, it has become a private industry dominated by a duopoly — the Democrats and the Republicans — incapable of delivering solutions to America’s key economic and social challenges. In “The Politics Industry,” Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter show how the political system functions and how the duopoly has led to the devastating outcomes we see today. They propose true political innovation around two key areas: how our elections work and how we make our laws. Read this nonpartisan guide to the American political system today.
  • The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global History from Antiquity to Today, by David Stasavage, 2020. Historical accounts of democracy’s rise tend to focus on ancient Greece and pre-Renaissance Europe. “The Decline and Rise of Democracy” draws from global evidence to show that the story is much richer — from the Americas before European conquest to ancient Mesopotamia to pre-colonial Africa. Delving into the prevalence of early democracy throughout the world, Stasavage makes the case that understanding how and where these democracies flourished — and when and why they declined — can provide crucial information not just about the history of governance but also about the ways modern democracies work and where they could manifest in the future.
  • The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization, by Peter Coleman, 2021. In “The Way Out,” psychologist Peter Coleman explores how conflict resolution and complexity science can help us deal with seemingly intractable political differences. He explains why we are stuck in this rut and the unexpected ways that deeply rooted oppositions can and do change. Leveraging personal accounts from experience working on entrenched conflicts with lessons from leading-edge research, “The Way Out” is a vital and timely guide to breaking free from the cycle of mutual contempt in order to navigate and heal the difficult divides in our homes, workplaces, and communities.
  • What We Owe Each Other: A New Social Contract for a Better Society, by Minouche Shafik, 2021. Whether we realize it or not, all of us participate in the social contract every day through mutual obligations among our family, community, place of work, and fellow citizens. Today, however, our social contract has been broken by changing gender roles, technology, new models of work, aging, and the perils of climate change. Shafik takes us through stages of life we all experience — raising children, getting educated, falling ill, working, growing old — and identifies the key elements of a better social contract that recognizes our interdependencies, supports and invests more in each other, and expects more of individuals in return. “What We Owe Each Other” provides practical solutions to current challenges and demonstrates how we can build a better society together.
  • Purple Solutions: A Bipartisan Roadmap to Better Healthcare in America, by Daniel Sem, 2020. Why is healthcare so expensive in America, and what is the solution to this out-of-control cost curve? Republicans and Democrats cannot agree, yet rational compromise is desperately needed. In “Purple Solutions,” a collection of experts has come together to share their thoughts and expertise on how to reform healthcare in America. Viable bipartisan solutions to healthcare reform are presented — we just need to change our mindset and then convince our elected officials to compromise and work towards giving us better healthcare in America. Read how bipartisanship can solve one of our most pressing problems as a nation.
  • Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism 1932–1965, by Eric Schickler, 2016. Few transformations in American politics have been as important as the integration of African Americans into the Democratic Party and the Republican embrace of racial conservatism. The story of this partisan realignment on race is often told as one in which political elites ― such as Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater ― set in motion a dramatic and sudden reshuffling of party positioning on racial issues during the 1960s. “Racial Realignment” instead argues that top party leaders were actually among the last to move and that their choices were dictated by changes that had already occurred beneath them. Drawing upon rich data sources and historical research, Eric Schickler shows that the two parties’ transformation on civil rights took place gradually over decades.
  • Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, by Adam Grant, 2021. Psychologist Adam Grant investigates how we can embrace the joy of being wrong, bring nuance to charged conversations, and build schools, workplaces, and communities of lifelong learners. Too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt and listen to opinions that make us feel good instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat to our egos, rather than an opportunity to learn and surround ourselves with people who agree with our conclusions. “Think Again” is an invitation to let go of views that no longer serve us well and prize mental flexibility over foolish consistency.
  • A Road to Nowhere: The Idea of Progress and Its Critics, by Matthew W. Slaboch, 2017. Since the Enlightenment, the idea of progress has spanned right- and left-wing politics, secular and spiritual philosophy, and almost every school of art or culture. The belief that humans can make lasting improvements — intellectual, scientific, material, moral, and cultural — continues to be commonplace in our age. However, events of the preceding century have called into question this faith in the continued advancement of humankind. Slaboch explores the contemporary relevance of the critique of progress and the arguments for and against political engagement in the face of uncertain improvement, one-way inevitable decline, or unending cycles of advancement and decay.
  • Free Speech: And Why You Should Give a Damn, by Jonathan Zimmerman, 2021. Historian Jonathan Zimmerman and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Signe Wilkinson tell the story of free speech in America and make the case for why we should care about it today. Through an accessible combination of storytelling and images, Zimmerman and Wilkinson demonstrate how, throughout our history, we have been quick to deplore people who offend or frighten us, but that the biggest danger to America comes not from speech but from censorship. Free speech allows us to criticize our leaders; consume the art, film, and literature we prefer; and, perhaps most importantly, it allows minorities to challenge the oppression they suffer. Learn why if any of us are censored, none of us are free.

If you enjoyed this list, please see our 2019 and 2020 Holiday Booklists. Happy holidays!

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DWF Editorial Staff

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