Last Minute Gift? Give Knowledge

When I talk to young people I tell them if by the time they are forty years old when they look in the mirror if they don’t see their best teacher they did something wrong. I’m not going to sell math short and I agree with the emphasis put on STEM but reading is far and away the most important academic skill. Basically, if you can read you can teach yourself almost anything.

The other day I was contemplating how many valuable books I read in 2019. It was an exceptional year for nerdy reading! I didn’t keep count but I will estimate I read somewhere between 40 and 50 books in 2019. 15 made it to the Recommended Reading list on this site. That is no easy task. First a book has to make it to my reading list. Then it has to be non-fiction to be considered. It has to be very good and teach me something(s). Perhaps most difficult, it also has to apply in the world of politics and policy. With all that in mind let’s explore.

Here is a listing of the books that made it to the list in 2019 including the year published complete with an extremely brief description of what it covers. The oldest book is from 2015, most have 2019 or late 2018 publishing dates.

A World In Disarray by Richard Haass. (2017) Dr. Haass explores the international political scene.

Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015) The book is basically a letter to his son explaining what it is like to be a black man in America.

Blowout by Rachel Maddow (2019) Initially a book about the fossil fuel industry and its international impact but it ended up being so much more.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow (2019) Arguably the book on sexual assault in the workplace. The bonus is that it reads like a thriller novel.

Dopesick by Beth Macy (2018) The seminal book on the opioid crisis. To paraphrase a good friend’s advice to me, be prepared to be pissed off when you read this.

Empty Planet by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson (2019) This book will make you view population differently and perhaps more accurately.

Kochland by Christophe Leonard (2019) As the title implies it is a study of Koch Industries but it is not just a hit job. You will come away with a better understanding and some bit of admiration for Koch Industries.

One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson (2018) Dr. Anderson studies voter suppression especially as it relates to race in this compact (158 page) work.

People, Power and Profits by Joseph Stiglitz (2019) Nobel Prize winning economist Columbia Professor Stiglitz combines the economy, the influence of money and its effect on all of us in an understandable book.

Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss (2018) An enlightening look at how wars shape presidencies and how presidents “shape’ wars.

The Battle For Our Better Angles by Jon Meacham (2018) Seemingly ever the optimist Meacham implores Americans to listen to their better angel.

The Plot To Betray America by Malcolm Nance (2019) The final book in a trilogy that explores foreign election interference and American complicity in it. Nance is a largely undiscovered national treasure.

The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder (2018) Having lived overseas extensively and fluently speaking several languages Yale Professor Snyder is uniquely qualified to lead us on an exploration of Russia’s attempts to influence western countries.

War on Peace by Ronan Farrow (yes the same Ronan Farrow) (2018) For at least the early 21st century this is the book on the State Department and American diplomacy or what’s left of it.

Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas (2019) Indian born Giridharadas takes a look at the inequity in America that is difficult to ignore. Another book I read on a friend’s recommendation and after reading it I thanked him.

These 15 are not the only books worth reading and learning from. Besides, there is no sin in reading for pleasure. Please visit your local independent bookseller and if you don’t see something that looks perfect for “Uncle John” ask them for help. They can use the business and in return you will get a wonderful gift. Unlike the big corporations they will plow a significant portion of their profits back into your mutual community.

This article was written well ahead of publishing in order to accommodate my year end hiatus and is the property of Its content may not be used without citing the source. It may not be reproduced without the permission of Larry Marciniak.