Welcome to my Best of 2010 Book List, my annual brag on my talented and prolific friends and colleagues. This year’s list includes some business books, a couple of books on education, several on activism and empowerment, a few on journalism and writing, and a pair of children’s books. Enjoy!
Elaine Partnow The Quotable Woman: The First 5,000 Years. The Quotable Woman, Revised Edition gathers great quotations from thousands of women [including Yours Truly….] throughout history, from Eve to the present day. It is a treasure trove of both familiar and unexpected quotations on nearly every subject imaginable-from friendship, love, politics, and religion to education, the arts, and women’s role in society. Contributors are presented in chronological order by the year of their birth, then alphabetically within each year. Indexes allow readers to find quotations by subject and contributors by name, occupation/profession, and nationality/ethnicity
Edwidge Danticat. Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work From Publishers Weekly (starred review): ”In Danticat’s many remarkable stories and pensées from the gut, one locates the inimitable power of truth. Authorship becomes an act of subversion when one’ s words might be read and acted on by someone risking his or her life if only to read them. Danticat reminds us that, in a cruel twist of fate, her native Haiti, earthquake-and-poverty-torn, gained independence, in a bloody slave uprising, not long after the U.S. did: our ties, usually unexamined, run painfully deep. Whether eulogizing her family, writing on leading journalist Jean Dominique’ s assassination and exiled author Marie Vieux-Chauvet, or discussing Madison Avenue Primitive Jean-Michel Basquiat, Danticat documents what it means for an immigrant writer to create dangerously for immigrant readers who read dangerously, awakened and no longer participants in a culture of historical amnesia.”
Fortunes of Change: The Rise of the Liberal Rich and the Remaking of America. Amazon.com: “David Callahan contends that something big is happening among the rich in America: they’re drifting to the left. When Callahan set out to write a book on the new upper class, he expected to profile a greedy and reactionary elite—the robber barons of a second Gilded Age. Instead, he discovered something else. While many of the rich still back a GOP that stands against taxes and regulation, liberalism is spreading fast among the wealthy.”
Acceptance: A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges–and Find Themselves (paperback edition released 2010). A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist spends a year with a legendary high school guidance counselor who gets kids into the right colleges by focusing on self-discovery rather than test scores, grades, and the other traditional tools of the trade Gwyeth Smith, known as Smitty, has made a national reputation by flouting the conventions of the college application ritual. David L. Marcus follows Smitty and “his” kids around Oyster Bay High, a diverse public school in Long Island, New York, as he works his unique magic on their applications and their lives.
Little Bunch of Madmen: Elements of Global Reporting, by Mort Rosenblum. Interest groups, noble and not, prepackage faux-news from skewed points of view. Governments bypass pesky reporters to go straight to the public. Guesswork and lies stand unchecked and unchallenged. This is cheaper than sending reporters to where real news happens. But we cannot afford the inevitable cost of shutting our eyes to reality. This little book is for people who are not prepared to desert. It is a practical textbook for journalists on reporting beyond borders. And, more, it is a general guide for citizens who want to keep track of their world
By World Policy Journal Editorial Board Chairman Seymour Topping. On the Front Lines of the Cold War: An American Correspondent’s Journal from the Chinese Civil War to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam was published in March 2010 and reviewed by the San Francisco Examiner. “This book is terrific. Few journalists have ever witnessed as many epic turning points in history from the front line. There’s no substitute for having a first-rate mind on the scene. No one in government or the press over the last half century has confronted the haunting lessons of leadership–success and failure–better.” –Tom Curley, President and CEO, The Associated Press.
The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation. By Sharon Lerner, who was a fellow a member of an informal nonfiction writing workshop that really improved my own writing throughout the late 1990s. Why life is harder on American families than it’s been in decades—the book that takes the blame away from moms and puts it where it really belongs. Pressed for time and money, unable to find decent affordable daycare, wracked with guilt at falling short of the mythic supermom ideal-working and non-working American mothers alike have it harder today than they have in decades, and they are worse off than many of their peers around the world. Why? Because they’re raising their kids in a family-unfriendly nation that virtually sets them up to fail. The War on Moms exposes the stress put on families by an outdated system still built around the idea that women can afford not to work. It tells the truth that overworked, stressed-out American moms need to hear—that they’re not alone, and they’re not to blame.
Share This! How You Will Change the World With Social Networking Deanna Zandt, who like me is an alumna of the Womens Media Center Progressive Womens Voices program, delves into exactly what people are and are not looking for in online exchanges: How to be a good guest. What to share. Why authenticity is more important than just about anything, including traditional notions of expertise or authority. She addresses some common fears, like worrying about giving too much about yourself away, blurring the lines between your professional and personal life, or getting buried under a steaming heap of information overload. And she offers detailed, nuts-and bolts “how to get started” advice for both individuals and organizations.
Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists By Courtney Martin (also a PWV alumna). From Publishers Weekly: “Martin (Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters) attempts to galvanize a new generation of activists, exhorting them to abandon puffy “save the world” rhetoric in favor of action. A passionate champion for social justice work of all stripes, she profiles eight activists who have managed to “soothe the critics and pessimists in their own heads and act,” among them Rachel Corrie, the young American crushed to death under an Israeli bulldozer while protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes.”
Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream. By World Policy Institute Senior Fellow Bill Powers. Booklist: “Take four giant steps forward. Turn right; do it again. Turn right again; repeat. Right; repeat. Now imagine living in a space roughly the size of the area just paced off. Without electricity or running water. In the middle of nowhere. … Living among other “wildcrafters”—organic farmers, furniture artisans, and eco-developers—Powers learned firsthand what it means to be self-sufficient in the midst of a nation that profligately squanders its resources and looks askance at those who choose to live deliberately.”
WPI Senior Fellow Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s anthology Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010 is a compilation of women’s contemporary travel literature set in the most far-flung of places, from an icy Ecuadoran volcano-top to a cozy Persian kitchen. This book won the Gold Prize for Best Travel Essay in the Independent Book Publishers Awards.
Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions (updated and revised edition) Written by Priscilla Hayner, former WPI fellow, this is “THE” book on truth commissions. When Unspeakable Truths was first published in 2001, it quickly became a classic, helping to define the field of truth commissions and the broader arena of transitional justice. This second edition is fully updated and expanded, covering twenty new commissions formed in the last ten years, analyzing new trends, and offering detailed charts that assess the impact of truth commissions and provide comparative information not previously available. Placing the increasing number of truth commissions within the broader expansion in transitional justice, Unspeakable Truths surveys key developments and new thinking in reparations, international justice, healing from trauma, and other areas. The book challenges many widely-held assumptions, based on hundreds of interviews and a sweeping review of the literature. This book will help to define how these issues are addressed in the future.
Higher Education?: How Colleges are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids- And What We Can Do About It By WPI Senior Fellow Claudia Dreifus and Andrew Hacker. After visiting colleges across the nation, prestigious and little known, the authors criticize the “caste system” at many colleges and the power of the “professioriate,” which is used to make life easier for tenured professors, often by reducing their contact with and obligation to students. One result: while parents pay exorbitant tuition, many tenured professors are taking yearlong sabbaticals at full pay, leaving teaching assistants and visiting professors to do the actual teaching. Among other questionable practices: student-to-faculty ratios bloated by inclusion of administrative staff and diverting money from academics for the “amenities arms race.”
End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations? By WPI Senior Fellow Ian Bremmer. From Publishers Weekly: “The power of the state is back, announces Bremmer (The Fat Tail), president of the Eurasia Group, in this sobering examination of the threat the emerging powers of China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia pose to the free market. … He weighs how free market economies can compete and concludes on a hopeful note, laying out a powerful case for the superiority of regulated free markets above state capitalism and a clear prescription for how the U.S. can defend its competitive advantage in the future.
Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World By WPI Board Member Zachary Karabell and Aron Kramer. “Today’s business landscape is changing in fundamental ways: Natural resources are growing ever more scarce and expensive. Technology and changing consumer expectations are making transparency a fact of life. The rise of emerging economies creates vast market opportunities for companies—and better living standards for hundreds of millions. In Sustainable Excellence, Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell tell the stories of the companies who are transforming themselves by responding to these paradigm shifts and in the process shaping the future.”
No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power By Gloria Feldt. Feminist icon Gloria Feldt pulls no punches in her new book, which encourages women to step into positions of power and leadership—now. In No Excuses, she argues that the most confounding problem facing women today isn’t that doors aren’t open, but that not enough women are walking through them. From the boardroom to the bedroom, public office to personal relationships, she asserts that nobody is keeping women from parity—except themselves. Through interviews, historical perspective, and anecdotes, No Excuses examines why barriers to equality still exist in American society. Feldt employs a no-nonsense, tough-love point of view to expose the internal and external roadblocks holding women back, but she doesn’t place blame; rather, she provides inspiration, hope, and courage—as well as concrete “power tools”—the 9 ways, with one highlighted in each chapter—to aid women in securing equality and justice for themselves.
Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business By Nancy Lublin, who like me is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum. Publishers Weekly: “Lublin, CEO of the youth volunteering organization Do Something and founder of Dress for Success, shows organizations how to get more done with less of everything, especially money and personnel, while keeping innovation, passion, and creativity high. Sharing insightful stories and strategies from her own experiences and from stars in the not-for-profit world such as Billy Shore from Share Our Strength, Wendy Kopp from Teach for America, and John Lilly from Mozilla, she debunks the most prevalent myth in business today—that salary drives great performance and stellar productivity.”
Road from Ruin: How to Revive Capitalism and Put America Back on Top By fellow WEF YGL Matthew Bishop and Michael Greene, who take a step back and analyze what can be learned from financial crises of the past—from the Tulip Craze of the seventeenth century through the Great Depression of the 1930s, Japan’s Great Deflation, and the Long-Term Capital debacle of the 1990s to the unprecedented interventions of the government during the past year—to set the agenda for a reformed twenty-first-century capitalism. The result is an enlightening perspective on what set us on the road to ruin, as well as road signs to guide us back to prosperity.
The Irrational Economist: Making Decisions in a Dangerous World. By WEF YGL Erwann Michel Kerjan. A select group of scholars, innovators, and Nobel Laureates was asked to address challenges to rational decision making both in our day-to-day life and in the face of catastrophic threats such as climate changes, natural disasters, technological hazards, and human malevolence. At the crossroads of decision sciences, behavioral and neuro-economics, psychology, management, insurance, and finance, their contributions aim to introduce readers to the latest thinking and discoveries. The Irrational Economist challenges the conventional wisdom about how to make the right decisions in the new era we have entered.
Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. Enthralling and explosive, Prophets of War is an exposé of America’s largest military contractor, Lockheed Martin. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his famous warning about the dangers of the military industrial complex, he never would have dreamed that a company could accumulate the kind of power and influence now wielded by this behemoth company. Former WPI Senior Fellow William Hartung’s meticulously researched history follows the company’s meteoric growth and explains how this arms industry giant has shaped US foreign policy for decades.
And, to wrap up, two books for younger readers:
Craig Kandell. Whim, Woe, and Wonder: Tales for the Ever-Present Child Have you ever wondered what happens to your socks when they disappear in the dryer, why some paths one takes in life are difficultly reversible, if short can be sweet, why simplicity is virtuous, why it’s OK to let your actions speak for themselves, why so many obstacles must be overcome before absconding for a weekend, if it’s OK to be different, why humility has its hmmph, why one must often do for themselves in order to do something right, or why it’s OK to say “No” in order to remain focused on what’s important? Whim, Woe And Wonder addresses these and other very important questions, conundrums and quandaries. (If you’ve seen the great photo of Nina in a canoe with her buddy Radar, a big black lab mix –Craig is Radar’s dad.)
Do Something: A Handbook for Young Activists By Nancy Lublin, Vanessa Martir and Julia Steers. Kids want to do it. Parents want their kids to do it. Schools often require kids to do it. So do it: Do something and change the world. And here’s how, in a fist-in-the-air book for every young activist. DoSomething.org knows exactly how to reach kids. The largest Internet-based teen service organization, it supports 750,000 projects, receiving 15 million visitors a month, and, for the first time ever, broadcasting a Do Something Awards show on VH1. Do Something! takes aim at the next generation of do-gooders. Written in a lively, in-your-face style, designed to be edgy and hip, it’s the kind of interactive, educational book every parent will feel good about giving because it shows kids how to get involved, in language they understand.Tags: bookshelf