Live Well, Do Good

Columnist Shares Top 10 Winter Reading List

Brandon Sun, February 5, 2018 – David McConkey

Five years ago, I shared a Top 10 list of recent books that had led me to a better understanding of the world. Time to do it again!

I am happy to report that all these books are available – or are on order – at the Brandon Public Library. As well, some are also at the library as ebooks or audio books. And I am happy to note that several of these books are by Canadians, including one by a local author.

Perhaps some of these titles or topics will pique your interest for some winter reading!

Here is my list:

  The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason by Ali A. Rizvi (2016). Rizvi is a Pakistani-Canadian who clearly addresses an important subject. This book is an excellent introduction to the religion of Islam and an exploration of how Muslims can flourish in the modern world. (I reviewed this book in 2017.)
  Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (2014). More people are living longer and more want to have more say about the last phase of their life. American doctor Gawande diagnoses the problems in the medical system and prescribes solutions. (Reviewed in 2015.)

  Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work that Matters, and Make Smarter Choices about Giving Back by William MacAskill (2016). This groundbreaking book challenges individual donors and charities to give and to do better. It also challenges young people to make their work lives more meaningful. (Reviewed in 2017.)

  Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall (2014). I recommend this as an excellent explanation of the problem. Marshall, a climate activist, recounts meeting climate change deniers to better understand them. He also tries to comprehend why the decades-long campaign to persuade the public of the importance of climate change has gone so wrong. Warning: unsettling reading. 

  The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris (2014). And, a related book: The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why they Matter by David Sax (2016). Both Harris and Sax are Canadian writers in their 30s. Both look at what we lose when we are immersed in a digital environment and what we can gain when engaged in the real world. (Absence was reviewed in 2015.)

  Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (and Yours) by Harold Johnson (2016). Saskatchewan author Johnson says what many would rather not hear: for years, much of the narrative about Indigenous people in Canada has revolved around alcohol abuse. More: alcoholism is not a disease. What to do? “We have to change the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves and about alcohol.” (Reviewed in 2017.)

  Fragment by Craig Russell (2016). This novel is an internationally acclaimed contribution to the growing genre of climate change fiction. Russell is a friend and local author. The story: because of global warming, a giant iceberg breaks off from Antarctica. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens! Thoughtful, creative, page-turning.

  On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century by Timothy Snyder (2017). This short book is a powerful statement about what a country can lose with the appearance of an authoritarian-minded leader like Donald Trump. There is hope: we can create a resilient civil society by our everyday actions. (Reviewed in 2017.)

  The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis (2016). Lewis can tell a great story, which is why several of his books (like Moneyball) have been made into movies. The story here is about two professors – Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – who changed how we think about how we think. Tversky died in 1996, but Kahneman has carried on, in 2011 writing Thinking, Fast and Slow.

* * * 

See also:

Reflections on Themes from Top 10 Book Lists

Deepening Our Thinking in the Internet Age: Ten Tips

The Medium is the Message?

One Last Look at a Wild and Wacky Year for Words

Cultural Interaction Can Have Positive Impact

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