Why We’re Polarized

Ezra Klein

★★★★

Klein presents a thoughtful and well argued framework for considering how we became so, well, polarized, backed up by sociology, psychology, and a bit of projection. I appreciated the lengths he went to frame his argument objectively, and you can decide for yourself if the fact he ended up exactly where you might expect is bias or not; on the one hand it holds together for me, but the book itself then causes you to double check whether that is your unconscious working against you. I removed a star because he doesn’t lead the reader through that reckoning but this won’t stop me from recommending the book full throatedly.

Outlawed

Anna North

★★★

I saw someone refer to this as the new Lonesome Dove (which, for any fan of Western American literature, is quite the compliment). Suffice it to say, it's not that, but it is a fun narrative and easy read. The author borrows from American folklore to spin a new tale, which is great until that structure gets in the way of the story itself towards the back half of the book.

Good And Mad

Rebecca Traister

★★★★

I always enjoy when Rebecca Traister pops up in a podcast or show I tune into, so her book was a total guilty pleasure. There’s something healthy and cathartic to being given the permission to just FEEL angry, to wield it or to set it aside, but to admit that it exists. If you don’t go into this book sharing her opinions then I doubt you will leave with them. That wasn’t an issue for me for I devoured this like a rich slice of cake.

The Color of Law

Richard Rothstein

★★★★

I love a good Wonky book that reads like a narrative. Rothstein doesn’t disappoint. The content of the book is laid out in a highly structured way that brings the reader back to his core thesis instead of getting lost in factual details, and his argument is well presented. One thing I wasn’t prepared for: how often I recognize examples of the continuance of the policies and biases presented in the book (and the lingering sense of anger).

Where The Water Goes

David Owen

★★★

I really wanted to like this book. I’m immensely curious about ways local policy and regional development affect water use and infrastructure in the west. Besides for some interesting anecdotes, the author does not present anything new to the discourse. I managed to finish the book, but I don’t imagine returning to it for a re-read the way I have Cadillac Desert.

The Vanishing Half

Brit Bennett

★★★★★

It’s no surprise that this novel was the darling of the summer. It’s a masterpiece. I’ve revisited it since and every time I find some new theme or interpretation. I can’t wait for the HBO adaption.

The Yellow House

Sarah M. Broom

★★★★

It was interesting to read this following another memoir that I didn’t enjoy as much. Both are melancholy stories rooted in family tragedy and intergenerational poverty. Unlike in Educated, which reeks of apologizing contempt towards the institutions behind the author’s troubles, Sarah M. Broom writes of her family, community, and life experience with compassion and awareness–guiding the reader through the laws and structural injustice behind her circumstances. *Note: I followed this with The Vanishing Half and The Color of Law, and highly recommend reading the three books together.

Such A Fun Age

Kiley Reid

★★★★

I really don’t know how I'm supposed to feel about finishing this book, but also I think that’s the point? It's definitely contemporary, from the core narrative to the tropes behind each character. As I was reading, I could place White people I know or are aware of in each of the corresponding roles. I appreciate that the author doesn’t make excuses for any of her White characters, but she also does’t laden her White readers with lingering guilt. It just–sits there, which is more uncomfortable but also more accessible. And for that I find myself coming back to think about the book more often than I might if that wasn’t the case.

American Wolf

Nate Blakeslee

★★★★★

I vaguely remember when wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone’s greater ecosystem back in the 90’s, and as a resident of the American West I’m familiar with the politics of encounters between humans and animals. The author takes you through these issues with care and compassion, but he takes the reader beyond that to bring the sociology and personality of wolves to the forefront. I cried at the end and joined a Facebook group to learn more about the Yellowstone wolf packs, in case you needed further evidence of how much this book will affect you.