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Us and Our World

These nonfiction books take us all across the globe and inside our own minds to show us how the world works.


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I Alone Can Fix It

- by Carol Leonnig

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The definitive behind-the-scenes story of Trump's final year in office, by Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig, the Pulitzer-Prize winning reporters and authors of the #1 New York Times bestseller, A Very Stable Genius.

"Chilling." - Anderson Cooper
"Jaw-dropping." - John Berman
"Shocking." - John Heilemann
"Explosive." - Hallie Jackson
"Blockbuster new reporting." - Nicolle Wallace 
"Bracing new revelations." - Brian Williams
"Bombshell reporting." - David Muir


The true story of what took place in Donald Trump's White House during a disastrous 2020 has never before been told in full. What was really going on around the president, as the government failed to contain the coronavirus and over half a million Americans perished? Who was influencing Trump after he refused to concede an election he had clearly lost and spread lies about election fraud? To answer these questions, Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig reveal a dysfunctional and bumbling presidency's inner workings in unprecedented, stunning detail.
 
Focused on Trump and the key players around him--the doctors, generals, senior advisers, and Trump family members-- Rucker and Leonnig provide a forensic account of the most devastating year in a presidency like no other. Their sources were in the room as time and time again Trump put his personal gain ahead of the good of the country. These witnesses to history tell the story of him longing to deploy the military to the streets of American cities to crush the protest movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, all to bolster his image of strength ahead of the election. These sources saw firsthand his refusal to take the threat of the coronavirus seriously--even to the point of allowing himself and those around him to be infected. This is a story of a nation sabotaged--economically, medically, and politically--by its own leader, culminating with a groundbreaking, minute-by-minute account of  exactly what went on in the Capitol building on January 6, as Trump's supporters so easily breached the most sacred halls of American democracy, and how the president reacted. With unparalleled access, Rucker and Leonnig explain and expose exactly who enabled--and who foiled--Trump as he sought desperately to cling to power.
 
A classic and heart-racing work of investigative reporting, this book is destined to be read and studied by citizens and historians alike for decades to come.

Perversion of Justice

- by Julie Brown

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"A gripping journalistic procedural... Spotlight meets Erin Brockovich." --Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times

"Julie K. Brown's important book offers not just a definitive account of the Epstein case, but a compelling window into her own experiences as a dogged reporter at a regional newspaper, facing off against powerful interests set against her reporting." --Ronan Farrow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Catch and Kill

Dauntless journalist Julie K. Brown recounts her uncompromising and risky investigation of Jeffrey Epstein's underage sex trafficking operation, and the explosive reporting for the Miami Herald that finally brought him to justice while exposing the powerful people and broken system that protected him.

For many years, billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's penchant for teenage girls was an open secret in the high society of Palm Beach, Florida and Upper East Side, Manhattan. Charged in 2008 with soliciting prostitution from minors, Epstein was treated with unheard of leniency, dictating the terms of his non-prosecution. The media virtually ignored the failures of the criminal justice system, and Epstein's friends and business partners brushed the allegations aside. But when in 2017 the U.S Attorney who approved Epstein's plea deal, Alexander Acosta, was chosen by President Trump as Labor Secretary, reporter Julie K. Brown was compelled to ask questions.

Despite her editor's skepticism that she could add a new dimension to a known story, Brown determined that her goal would be to track down the victims themselves. Poring over thousands of redacted court documents, traveling across the country and chasing down information in difficulty and sometimes dangerous circumstances, Brown tracked down dozens of Epstein's victims, now young women struggling to reclaim their lives after the trauma and shame they had endured.

Brown's resulting three-part series in the Miami Herald was one of the most explosive news stories of the decade, revealing how Epstein ran a global sex trafficking pyramid scheme with impunity for years, targeting vulnerable teens, often from fractured homes and then turning them into recruiters. The outrage led to Epstein's arrest, the disappearance and eventual arrest of his closest accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell, and the resignation of Acosta. The financier's mysterious suicide in a New York City jail cell prompted wild speculation about the secrets he took to the grave-and whether his death was intentional or the result of foul play.

Tracking Epstein's evolution from a college dropout to one of the most successful financiers in the country--whose associates included Donald Trump, Prince Andrew, and Bill Clinton--Perversion of Justice builds on Brown's original award-winning series, showing the power of truth, the value of local reportage and the tenacity of one woman in the face of the deep-seated corruption of powerful men. 

They Said This Would Be Fun

- by Eternity Martis

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
Winner of the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Nonfiction
Nominated for the Evergreen Award

A powerful, moving memoir about what it's like to be a student of colour on a predominantly white campus.


A booksmart kid from Toronto, Eternity Martis was excited to move away to Western University for her undergraduate degree. But as one of the few Black students there, she soon discovered that the campus experiences she'd seen in movies were far more complex in reality. Over the next four years, Eternity learned more about what someone like her brought out in other people than she did about herself. She was confronted by white students in blackface at parties, dealt with being the only person of colour in class and was tokenized by her romantic partners. She heard racial slurs in bars, on the street, and during lectures. And she gathered labels she never asked for: Abuse survivor. Token. Bad feminist. But, by graduation, she found an unshakeable sense of self--and a support network of other women of colour.

Using her award-winning reporting skills, Eternity connects her own experience to the systemic issues plaguing students today. It's a memoir of pain, but also resilience.

This Is Your Mind on Plants

- by Michael Pollan

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The instant New York Times bestseller

"Expert storytelling . . . [Pollan] masterfully elevates a series of big questions about drugs, plants and humans that are likely to leave readers thinking in new ways."--New York Times Book Review

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Pollan, a radical challenge to how we think about drugs, and an exploration into the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants--and the equally powerful taboos.


Of all the things humans rely on plants for--sustenance, beauty, medicine, fragrance, flavor, fiber--surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate or calm, fiddle with or completely alter, the qualities of our mental experience. Take coffee and tea: People around the world rely on caffeine to sharpen their minds. But we do not usually think of caffeine as a drug, or our daily use as an addiction, because it is legal and socially acceptable. So, then, what is a "drug"? And why, for example, is making tea from the leaves of a tea plant acceptable, but making tea from a seed head of an opium poppy a federal crime?

In This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan dives deep into three plant drugs--opium, caffeine, and mescaline--and throws the fundamental strangeness, and arbitrariness, of our thinking about them into sharp relief. Exploring and participating in the cultures that have grown up around these drugs while consuming (or, in the case of caffeine, trying not to consume) them, Pollan reckons with the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants. Why do we go to such great lengths to seek these shifts in consciousness, and then why do we fence that universal desire with laws and customs and fraught feelings?

In this unique blend of history, science, and memoir, as well as participatory journalism, Pollan examines and experiences these plants from several very different angles and contexts, and shines a fresh light on a subject that is all too often treated reductively--as a drug, whether licit or illicit. But that is one of the least interesting things you can say about these plants, Pollan shows, for when we take them into our bodies and let them change our minds, we are engaging with nature in one of the most profound ways we can. Based in part on an essay published almost twenty-five years ago, this groundbreaking and singular consideration of psychoactive plants, and our attraction to them through time, holds up a mirror to our fundamental human needs and aspirations, the operations of our minds, and our entanglement with the natural world.

The Comfort Book

- by Matt Haig

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A manual of reflections for an increasingly stressful world
Nothing is stronger than a small hope that doesn't give up.

The Comfort Book is a collection of little islands of hope, a gathering of consolations and stories that give us new ways of seeing ourselves and the world. 

Matt Haig's mix of philosophy, memoir and self-reflection builds on the wisdom of philosophers and survivors through the ages, from Marcus Aurelius to Nellie Bly, from Emily Dickinson to James Baldwin. 

This is the book to pick up when you need the wisdom of a friend or the comfort of a hug, or just want to celebrate the messy miracle of being alive.  

Books Promiscuously Read

- by Heather Cass White

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The critic and scholar Heather Cass White offers an exploration of the nature of reading

Heather Cass White's Books Promiscuously Read is about the pleasures of reading and its power in shaping our internal lives. It advocates for a life of constant, disorderly, time-consuming reading, and encourages readers to trust in the value of the exhilaration and fascination such reading entails. Rather than arguing for the moral value of reading or the preeminence of literature as an aesthetic form, Books Promiscuously Read illustrates the irreplaceable experience of the self that reading provides for those inclined to do it.

Through three sections--Play, Transgression, and Insight--which focus on three ways of thinking about reading, Books Promiscuously Read moves among and considers many poems, novels, stories, and works of nonfiction. The prose is shot through with quotations reflecting the way readers think through the words of others.

Books Promiscuously Read is a tribute to the whole lives readers live in their books, and aims to recommit people to those lives. As White writes, "What matters is staying attuned to an ordinary, unflashy, mutely persistent miracle; that all the books to be read, and all the selves to be because we have read them, are still there, still waiting, still undiminished in their power. It is an astonishing joy."

The Cruelty Is the Point

- by Adam Serwer

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o From an award-winning journalist at The Atlantic, these searing essays make a damning case that cruelty is not merely an unfortunate byproduct of the Trump administration but its main objective and the central theme of the American project.

"No writer better demonstrates how American dreams are so often sabotaged by American history. Adam Serwer is essential."--Ta-Nehisi Coates

"Trump summoned the most treacherous forces in American history and conducted them with the ease of a grand maestro."

Like many of us, Adam Serwer didn't know that Donald Trump would win the 2016 election. But over the four years that followed, the Atlantic staff writer became one of our most astute analysts of the Trump presidency and the volatile powers it harnessed. The shock that greeted Trump's victory, and the subsequent cruelty of his presidency, represented a failure to confront elements of the American past long thought vanquished. 

In this searing collection, Serwer chronicles the Trump administration not as an aberration but as an outgrowth of the inequalities the United States was founded on. Serwer is less interested in the presidential spectacle than in the ideological and structural currents behind Trump's rise--including a media that was often blindsided by the ugly realities of what the administration represented and how it came to be. 

While deeply engaged with the moment, Serwer's writing is also haunted by ghosts of an unresolved American past, a past that torments the present. In bracing new essays and previously published works, he explores white nationalism, myths about migration, the political power of police unions, and the many faces of anti-Semitism. For all the dynamics he examines, cruelty is the glue, the binding agent of a movement fueled by fear and exclusion. Serwer argues that rather than pretending these four years didn't happen or dismissing them as a brief moment of madness, we must face what made them possible. Without acknowledging and confronting these toxic legacies, the fragile dream of American multiracial democracy will remain vulnerable to another ambitious demagogue.

Nice Racism

- by Robin Diangelo

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Building on the groundwork laid in the New York Times bestseller White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo explores how a culture of niceness inadvertently promotes racism.


In White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo explained how racism is a system into which all white people are socialized and challenged the belief that racism is a simple matter of good people versus bad. DiAngelo also made a provocative claim: white progressives cause the most daily harm to people of color. In Nice Racism, her follow-up work, she explains how they do so. Drawing on her background as a sociologist and over 25 years working as an anti-racist educator, she picks up where White Fragility left off and moves the conversation forward.

Writing directly to white people as a white person, DiAngelo identifies many common white racial patterns and breaks down how well-intentioned white people unknowingly perpetuate racial harm. These patterns include:

   o rushing to prove that we are "not racist"
   o downplaying white advantage
   o romanticizing Black, Indigenous and other peoples of color (BIPOC)
   o pretending white segregation "just happens"
   o expecting BIPOC people to teach us about racism
   o carefulness
   o and feeling immobilized by shame.

DiAngelo explains how spiritual white progressives seeking community by co-opting Indigenous and other groups' rituals create separation, not connection. She challenges the ideology of individualism and explains why it is OK to generalize about white people, and she demonstrates how white people who experience other oppressions still benefit from systemic racism. Writing candidly about her own missteps and struggles, she models a path forward, encouraging white readers to continually face their complicity and embrace courage, lifelong commitment, and accountability.

Nice Racism is an essential work for any white person who recognizes the existence of systemic racism and white supremacy and wants to take steps to align their values with their actual practice. BIPOC readers may also find the "insiders" perspective useful for navigating whiteness.

Includes a study guide.

The Storm Is Upon Us

- by Mike Rothschild

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"I hope everyone reads this book. It has become such a crucial thing for all of us to understand." --Erin Burnett, CNN

"An ideal tour guide for your journey into the depths of the rabbit hole that is QAnon. It even shows you a glimmer of light at the exit." --Cullen Hoback, director of HBO's Q: Into the Storm

Its messaging can seem cryptic, even nonsensical, yet for tens of thousands of people, it explains everything:  What is QAnon, where did it come from, and is the Capitol insurgency a sign of where it's going next?

On October 5th, 2017, President Trump made a cryptic remark in the State Dining Room at a gathering of military officials. He said it felt like "the calm before the storm"--then refused to elaborate as puzzled journalists asked him to explain.  But on the infamous message boards of 4chan, a mysterious poster going by "Q Clearance Patriot," who claimed to be in "military intelligence," began the elaboration on their own.
 
In the days that followed, Q's wild yarn explaining Trump's remarks began to rival the sinister intricacies of a Tom Clancy novel, while satisfying the deepest desires of MAGA-America.  But did any of what Q predicted come to pass? No. Did that stop people from clinging to every word they were reading, expanding its mythology, and promoting it wider and wider? No.
 
Why not? Who were these rapt listeners? How do they reconcile their worldview with the America they see around them? Why do their numbers keep growing? Mike Rothschild, a journalist specializing in conspiracy theories, has been collecting their stories for years, and through interviews with QAnon converts, apostates, and victims, as well as psychologists, sociologists, and academics, he is uniquely equipped to explain the movement and its followers.
 
In The Storm Is Upon Us, he takes readers from the background conspiracies and cults that fed the Q phenomenon, to its embrace by right-wing media and Donald Trump, through the rending of families as loved ones became addicted to Q's increasingly violent rhetoric, to the storming of the Capitol, and on.
 
And as the phenomenon shows no sign of calming despite Trump's loss of the presidency--with everyone from Baby Boomers to Millennial moms proving susceptible to its messaging--and politicians starting to openly espouse its ideology, Rothschild makes a compelling case that mocking the seeming madness of QAnon will get us nowhere. Rather, his impassioned reportage makes clear it's time to figure out what QAnon really is -- because QAnon and its relentlessly dark theory of everything isn't done yet.

The Plague Year

- by Lawrence Wright

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From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, and the pandemic novel The End of October: an unprecedented, momentous account of Covid-19--its origins, its wide-ranging repercussions, and the ongoing global fight to contain it

"A book of panoramic breadth ... managing to surprise us about even those episodes we ... thought we knew well ... [With] lively exchanges about spike proteins and nonpharmaceutical interventions and disease waves, Wright's storytelling dexterity makes all this come alive." --The New York Times Book Review

From the fateful first moments of the outbreak in China to the storming of the U.S. Capitol to the extraordinary vaccine rollout, Lawrence Wright's The Plague Year tells the story of Covid-19 in authoritative, galvanizing detail and with the full drama of events on both a global and intimate scale, illuminating the medical, economic, political, and social ramifications of the pandemic.
 
Wright takes us inside the CDC, where a first round of faulty test kits lost America precious time . . . inside the halls of the White House, where Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger's early alarm about the virus was met with confounding and drastically costly skepticism . . . into a Covid ward in a Charlottesville hospital, with an idealistic young woman doctor from the town of Little Africa, South Carolina . . . into the precincts of prediction specialists at Goldman Sachs . . . into Broadway's darkened theaters and Austin's struggling music venues . . . inside the human body, diving deep into the science of how the virus and vaccines function--with an eye-opening detour into the history of vaccination and of the modern anti-vaccination movement. And in this full accounting, Wright makes clear that the medical professionals around the country who've risked their lives to fight the virus reveal and embody an America in all its vulnerability, courage, and potential.
 
In turns steely-eyed, sympathetic, infuriated, unexpectedly comical, and always precise, Lawrence Wright is a formidable guide, slicing through the dense fog of misinformation to give us a 360-degree portrait of the catastrophe we thought we knew.

Last Best Hope

- by George Packer

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A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

"[George Packer's] account of America's decline into destructive tribalism is always illuminating and often dazzling." --William Galston, The Washington Post

Acclaimed National Book Award-winning author George Packer diagnoses America's descent into a failed state, and envisions a path toward overcoming our injustices, paralyses, and divides


In the year 2020, Americans suffered one rude blow after another to their health, livelihoods, and collective self-esteem. A ruthless pandemic, an inept and malign government response, polarizing protests, and an election marred by conspiracy theories left many citizens in despair about their country and its democratic experiment. With pitiless precision, the year exposed the nation's underlying conditions--discredited elites, weakened institutions, blatant inequalities--and how difficult they are to remedy.

In Last Best Hope, George Packer traces the shocks back to their sources. He explores the four narratives that now dominate American life: Free America, which imagines a nation of separate individuals and serves the interests of corporations and the wealthy; Smart America, the world view of Silicon Valley and the professional elite; Real America, the white Christian nationalism of the heartland; and Just America, which sees citizens as members of identity groups that inflict or suffer oppression.

In lively and biting prose, Packer shows that none of these narratives can sustain a democracy. To point a more hopeful way forward, he looks for a common American identity and finds it in the passion for equality--the "hidden code"--that Americans of diverse persuasions have held for centuries. Today, we are challenged again to fight for equality and renew what Alexis de Tocqueville called "the art" of self-government. In its strong voice and trenchant analysis, Last Best Hope is an essential contribution to the literature of national renewal.

Magdalena

- by Wade Davis

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From the award-winning, bestselling author and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence for more than a decade, a book that brings vividly to life the story of the great Río Magdalena--illuminating Colombia's complex past, present, and future

Travelers often become enchanted with the first country that captures their hearts and gives them license to be free. For Wade Davis, it was Colombia. Now Davis shares his travels on the mighty Magdalena, the river that made possible the nation. Along the way, he finds a people who have overcome years of conflict precisely because of their character, informed by an enduring spirit of place, and a deep love of a land that is home to the greatest ecological and geographical diversity on the planet. Only in Colombia can a traveler wash ashore in a coastal desert, follow waterways through wetlands as wide as the sky, ascend narrow tracks through dense tropical forests, and reach verdant Andean valleys rising to soaring ice-clad summits.

Both a corridor of commerce and a fountain of culture, the wellspring of Colombian music, literature, poetry and prayer, the Magdalena has served in dark times as the graveyard of the nation. And yet, always, it returns as a river of life. At once an absorbing adventure and an inspiring tale of hope and redemption, Magdalena gives us a rare, kaleidoscopic picture of a nation on the verge of a new period of peace. Braiding together memoir, history, and journalism, Wade Davis tells the story of the country's most magnificent river, and in doing so, tells the epic story of Colombia.

Holding Change

- by Adrienne Mare Brown

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In our complex world, facilitation and mediation skills are as important for individuals as they are for organizations. How do we practice them in ways that align with nature, with pleasure, with our best imagining of our future? How do we attend to generating the ease necessary to help us move through the inevitable struggles of life? How do we practice the art of holding others without losing ourselves? Black feminists have answers to those questions that can serve anyone working to createchanges in our world, changes great and small; individually, interpersonally, and within our organizations.

Holding Change is about attending to coordination, to conflict, to being humans in right relationship with each other, not as a constant ongoing state, but rather as a magnificent, mysterious, ever-evolving dynamic in which we must involve ourselves, shape ourselves and each other. The majority of the book is sourced from brown's twenty-plus years of facilitation and mediation work with movement groups.

Includes contributions by Autumn Brown, Sage Crump, Malkia Devich-Cyril, Ejeris Dixon, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Prentis Hemphill, Micky ScottBey Jones, N'Tanya Lee, and Makani Themba

Islands of Abandonment

- by Cal Flyn

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A beautiful, lyrical exploration of the places where nature is flourishing in our absence

Some of the only truly feral cattle in the world wander a long-abandoned island off the northernmost tip of Scotland. A variety of wildlife not seen in many lifetimes has rebounded on the irradiated grounds of Chernobyl. A lush forest supports thousands of species that are extinct or endangered everywhere else on earth in the Korean peninsula's narrow DMZ.

Cal Flyn, an investigative journalist, exceptional nature writer, and promising new literary voice visits the eeriest and most desolate places on Earth that due to war, disaster, disease, or economic decay, have been abandoned by humans. What she finds every time is an "island" of teeming new life: nature has rushed in to fill the void faster and more thoroughly than even the most hopeful projections of scientists.

Islands of Abandonment is a tour through these new ecosystems, in all their glory, as sites of unexpected environmental significance, where the natural world has reasserted its wild power and promise. And while it doesn't let us off the hook for addressing environmental degradation and climate change, it is a case that hope is far from lost, and it is ultimately a story of redemption: the most polluted spots on Earth can be rehabilitated through ecological processes and, in fact, they already are.

Helgoland

- by Carlo Rovelli

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"Rovelli is a genius and an amazing communicator... This is the place where science comes to life." -Neil Gaiman

"One of the warmest, most elegant and most lucid interpreters to the laity of the dazzling enigmas of his discipline...[a] momentous book" -John Banville, The Wall Street Journal


A startling new look at quantum theory, from the New York Times bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and The Order of Time.

One of the world's most renowned theoretical physicists, Carlo Rovelli has entranced millions of readers with his singular perspective on the cosmos. In Helgoland, he examines the enduring enigma of quantum theory. The quantum world Rovelli describes is as beautiful as it is unnerving.

Helgoland is a treeless island in the North Sea where the twenty-three-year-old Werner Heisenberg made the crucial breakthrough for the creation of quantum mechanics, setting off a century of scientific revolution. Full of alarming ideas (ghost waves, distant objects that seem to be magically connected, cats that appear both dead and alive), quantum physics has led to countless discoveries and technological advancements. Today our understanding of the world is based on this theory, yet it is still profoundly mysterious.

As scientists and philosophers continue to fiercely debate the meaning of the theory, Rovelli argues that its most unsettling contradictions can be explained by seeing the world as fundamentally made of relationships rather than substances. We and everything around us exist only in our interactions with one another. This bold idea suggests new directions for thinking about the structure of reality and even the nature of consciousness.

Rovelli makes learning about quantum mechanics an almost psychedelic experience. Shifting our perspective once again, he takes us on a riveting journey through the universe so we can better comprehend our place in it.

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