Books to Give this Holiday Season to Help Understand the World We’ve Found Ourselves in (and to Help Reimagine a Better One)

As we say goodbye to a truly dystopian year (and then some), here is a reading list for those who want to look forward to a better year in 2020. This list has been arranged in no particular order and is certainly not exhaustive. Tweet your favorites to @RDispatches.

How to Be an Antiracist (One World) by Ibrahim Kendi

Hand this book to your well-heeled Episcopalian aunt in Portland who sports a Black Lives Matter sign on the front lawn while paying her Latinx housekeeper minimum wage. Then read it yourself and learn how we all can work toward genuine racial equality.

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators (Little, Brown and Company)by Ronan Farrow

Gift this to your creepy Tom Clancy-loving uncle. He’ll love this book because you know how much these armchair warriors get off on machismo thrillers. But maybe, just maybe, Farrow’s kickass reporting about the challenges he faced in covering the Harvey Weinstein case will help him understand why non-consensual touching is not A-OK.

Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power  (Metropolitan Books) by Anna Merlan

The perfect gift for those looking for a solid, well-researched, and measured approach to debunking conspiracy theories. Armed with this book, you’ll be a master at the holiday dinner table as you offer gentle corrections to all your militant relatives who see life in black & white.

Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right (Bloomsbury Publishing) by Anne Nelson

This book is for your evangelical relatives and friends who havent gone fully over to the dark side. Maybe this work can help them understand why so many of their evangelical leaders still support the president. (Hint: follow the money.) The path will lead them to the Council for National Policy, whose membership list reads like a who’s who in the Trump administration.

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation (Convergent Books) by Nadia Bolz-Weber

For that holy hipster friend in search of a new kind of a/theistic Christianity who doesn’t want to go back and read the works of Phyllis Trible, John Boswell, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, bell hooks, and other pioneering scholars who’ve written on the intersection of human sexuality and Christianity for decades.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (Vintage paperback issued in 2019) by Anand Giridharadas

Should you know any Bill Gates types (or those who worship their philanthropic good deeds), hand them this book. Doubtful you can change the minds of the 1% but perhaps this book can open the eyes of those who idolize these do-gooders as to exactly how massive wealth contributes to growing global inequalities despite these leaders’ glowing TED Talks.

Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks (Harper Collins) by Diana Butler Bass
Give this to the Marianne Williamson fan on your gift list. They will be grateful they have enough privilege to be able to walk the spiritual progressive path in search of new thoughts.

The Testaments (Nan A. Talese) by Margaret Atwood

For that friend who got couch-locked after binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale, give them this sequel. This glorious romp picks up fifteen years after the end of the book on which the Hulu series was based. Hopefully, your friend will garner the energy to create the happy ending Atwood depicts. But first, they’ve got to get off that couch, put on their pussy hat, and fight like hell in 2020.

Donald Builds the Wall by Eric Metaxas and Tim Raglin

Just kidding! Please don’t. Think of the children.