So, as is our holy duty as a literary and cultural website, we’ll be looking at the best and most important (these aren’t always the same) books of the decade that was in the coming weeks, even though we’re well aware of the task’s potential futility and interminable controversies. Lists will be used, of course.
After careful consideration, The affordable book marketing selected the books listed below (and several sessions). We reduced it to a short list. It was only expected with a field that size.
Written by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander was the first book I ever read. Since Alexander is an academic and the book is an academic work, I can still clearly remember its enormous impact on society as a whole.
It was made public during the Obama administration, a time when many (white) people held the utopian post-racialism as the new normal for racial relations in America. It is difficult to reflect on this zeitgeist, though, now that Donald Trump is the president of the United States (I still can’t believe I’m writing this).
In 2012, Alexander’s book exposed the persistence of the term “colorblindness” as a façade, a ruse, or merely another example of ignorance. She claims that rather than abolishing racial caste in America, we have simply reinvented it. Focusing on the widespread incarceration of black men, primarily as a result of the War on Drugs, is Alexander’s meticulous research. Black men are subjugated by the US government (the justice system), according to Alexander, who details how this is done by imprisoning them, robbing them of their rights, and then treating them like second-class citizens.
Through her work with the ACLU, she has learned that formerly incarcerated people would face prejudice (discrimination that is supported and justified by society), including restrictions on their ability to vote, serve on juries, receive food stamps, live in public housing, borrow money for school, and find employment.
“Whites Only” signs weren’t present like they were during Jim Crow. Her book, which reveals this more subtle but still abhorrent new form of societal control, is an essential, ground-breaking effort that not only exposes the deceitfulness of our infrastructure but also lays out precise steps for changing it.
Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Diseases.
Mukherjee examines the known history of cancer, from its early origins more than 5,000 years ago to the current conflicts between clinicians (and lack thereof).
Following a memorable encounter with a stomach cancer patient, Mukherjee began writing the book. To The New York Times, he revealed. “She continued, “I’m prepared to continue fighting, but I need to understand what I’m fighting.” It was embarrassing to go through it. I was unable to respond to her question or suggest a book that might. I was driven because I had to respond to her question. The book was written because it wasn’t there.”
His efforts received favourable feedback. A New York Times best-seller that took home the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2011 was The Emperor of All Maladies (the jury called it “An elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal, into the long history of an insidious disease that, despite treatment breakthroughs, still befuddles medical science.”).
Additionally, it received the inaugural PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award as well as the Guardian First Book Award. But more importantly, it was the first book about the most feared of all diseases that many laypeople (i.e., those who were not scientists, physicians, or whose lives had already been significantly impacted by cancer) had ever read. Despite the fact that science has advanced, it is still widely read and cited today.
Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
As a strong humanities person, I find it difficult to relate to scientific literature. What else is there to say besides the fact that both I and public education failed? I couldn’t help but think while reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks that if all scientific knowledge were presented in such an engrossing and intimate story, I’d be a doctor by now.
This book tells the tale of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who passed away from cervical cancer in 1951, and her unintentionally expanding human cells (known as HeLa cells), which are now employed by scientists everywhere. (I mean, theoretically, it’s possible.) HeLa cells have been used to make pharmaceutical treatments, gene mapping, vaccines, therapies, and a number of other scientific projects. In order to study how human cells respond to zero gravity, they were even sent into orbit.
Skloot has set a high bar for herself with this book. She writes about racism in medicine and medical ethics in general in addition to discussing Lacks and her (human, not just cellular) descendants and the (immortal) life of cells. The book’s coherence and intrigue serve as examples of Skloot’s writing prowess.
Eric Roston writes in his Washington Post review that “Immortal Life reads like a book.” “The style is straightforward, uncomplicated, and simple.” Despite the fact that it covers so much ground, it never seems bloated. Nearly ten years later, it is still a necessary book that is studied in medical schools, colleges, and high schools across the country. It’s a wonderful book and a remarkable achievement.
Author Timothy Snyder’s BLOODLANDS
It provides a useful counterpoint to Hannah Arendt’s notion of the banality of evil (which Snyder rejects and refutes with convincing evidence that Eichmann was more than just a faceless bureaucrat going about his business).
Snyder is able to combine knowledge from around the world and communicate fresh insights in ten different languages. But first, let me briefly describe this book before I continue to praise it: Bloodlands is a history of the mass killings that took place in the Double-Occupied Zone of Eastern Europe when the Soviets first arrived and killed everyone they wanted, and then the Nazis followed and killed everyone else.
By focusing on mass executions rather than genocide, Snyder can draw connections between totalitarian regimes and look into how small countries can suddenly shrink.