We asked a range of authors, artists, and poets to name books that bring solace or understanding in this age of rancor. Two dozen or so responded. Here are picks from the climate change expert, editor, and blogger extraordinaire Joe Romm.
Latest book: Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know
Also known for: Founding and editing of ClimateProgress.org
Reading recommendations: As a blogger, I am drawn toward collections of short essays. The last time this country was so divided, the greatest orator and writer ever elected president repeatedly shared his thoughts on what the country needed to do to preserve liberty. Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings, edited by Roy Basler and Carl Sandburg, is one of the best collections. It includes classics like the Gettysburg Address alongside lesser-known gems like “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions,” in which a 28-year-old Lincoln explains the danger to the Republic of a demagogue just like Trump.
A Collection of Essays, by George Orwell: Orwell is so relevant today, 67 years after his death, that he was, as of late, ranked as Amazon’s No. 1 author in both “classics” and “contemporary” literature and fiction! He is also the greatest essayist of the last century, and few essays speak better to our alternative-facts president than 1946’s “Politics and the English Language,” in which Orwell explains why “in our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.”
Brave New World Revisited, by Aldous Huxley: Brave New World, published in 1932, envisioned a dystopian future for humanity. In 1956, Huxley published a series of essays on the topic that are as relevant today as Orwell’s, with titles like “Propaganda in a democratic society” and “Subconscious persuasion.” A particular must-read is Huxley’s 1949 letter to Orwell about which of their dystopias would turn out to be more prescient.
The complete series: Daniel Alarcón, Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Ana Castillo, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Michael Eric Dyson, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, William Gibson, Mohsin Hamid, Piper Kerman, Phil Klay, Alex Kotlowitz, Bill McKibben, Rabbi Jack Moline, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Peggy Orenstein, Wendy C. Ortiz, Darryl Pinckney, Joe Romm, Karen Russell, George Saunders, Tracy K. Smith, Ayelet Waldman, Jesmyn Ward, and Gene Luen Yang.