Books you should read this summer, to understand our world…

If you have been paying attention to what is going on in our world, you will realize that a LOT has changed in the past year. Both domestically as well as internationally, politics, society and social movements have thrown a lot of surprises (and disappointments) that have called into question the role of institutions, individuals and groups of people, who are supposed to “do the right thing,” but are not.

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Unless one has had a very broad base of knowledge and reading, it is hard to understand and cut through the fake narratives and propaganda that is put out by interest groups and governments. Here is a partial list of some books that have helped me, in the recent past, to cut through the clutter. I hope you find them useful.

Some of the most pressing issues that face our world, and which continue to challenge peace and prosperity are: climate change, the genocide in Gaza, role of the U.S. in our world as well as political developments in many different countries which can be described as far-right or fascist. Here are some books that can help us think through some of these developments.

Individual failures and institutional level blunders characterize our generation, all the while brave individuals put their lives & careers on the line, do stand for justice and fairness. Given this, here are some books that have helped me make sense of the world and continue to offer some hope. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

  1. Bad Stories, Steve Almond – A short read by Almond asks us “Why do we have such bad leaders and governments,?” and this book was written when Trump was elected to his first term. Now, as we stare at a possible second Trump presidency, this question becomes even more relevant. Check out this book for some answers. His thesis : It is because we tell ourselves bad stories about ourselves and our world.
  2. Collapse, Jared Diamond – This is a part anthropological book and part thriller, written in a very reader friendly manner. Check out Jared Diamond’s books in general, but this one in particular, about our choices to mess up our environment and the world. It is all a matter of choice, he argues.
  3. Perilous Power, Noam Chomsky and Achcar : This book could have been written today and still make sense. Given the over-reach of American power, this reminder by Chomsky on the need for American power to constraint itself is a welcome one. Check out this book.
  4. Ten Myths about Israel, Ilan Pappe – a short but very important book on some of the myths about Israel. For starters, the myth that Israel is a democracy. Given that this myth is repeated without any questioning, it is key that we examine it, critically. This book does a great job of this, and other myths.
  5. The hundred years war on Palestine, Rashid Khalidi – a very important book written from a Palestinian perspective on the colonization of Palestine and how we are in the current situation.
  6. Covering Islam, Edward Said – A key book to understand much broader issues of Islamophobia, media framing and other issues pertaining to Islam and Arabs, Middle East. A classic.
  7. How Fascism works. Jason Stanley : As we witness the rise of far-right movements in France, Germany, and even in the U.S., this book is key to unpacking some of the reasons why fascism is on the rise, globally.
  8. Media Control, Noam Chomsky – Chomsky’s claim to fame rests in his deconstructing propaganda. As we live in the most propagandized society in the world, his work is more relevant than ever. Give it a read. Better still, but this book.
  9. Modi’s India – Christopher Jeffrelot –  The rise of Hindu nationalism and the Hindutva movement is the most divisive movement in our lifetimes. That this is happening in the world’s largest democracy is a matter of great concern. This book offers a detailed analysis of why this happened.
  10. Power and Restraint in China’s rise – Chin-Hao Huang. As China emerges as a global power and its influence grows globally, it is well worth spending some time understanding the reasons for it. This book does a good job of it.

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