Freckles in April: Thoughtful Books for Troubled Times

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Thoughtful Books for Troubled Times

As a politically progressive ex-Mormon in Mesa, Arizona, I am used to being the black sheep. I may have tweaked my social media feeds into a bit of an echo chamber as of late, but I can't do that with my real life. My friends and family are predominantly religious conservatives, parents at preschool pick-up wear "Hillary for Prison" shirts, and I've worked out next to people who angrily denounced brands that took social stances I stand behind.

It's uncomfortable.

I mostly stay quiet. I am non-confrontational, almost to a fault. But sometimes (rarely! But sometimes), a chance for real conversation arises and I try to be prepared. I try to listen. I try to understand.

It's even more uncomfortable.

But life isn't supposed to be comfortable. And things aren't going to get better if we all insist on comfort, on not listening to other ideas, other experiences. So here are some books for navigating that discomfort and helping us to reach across to the other side.

Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind

I'm a huge Haidt fan- his work is both fascinating and accessible. This book builds upon his Moral Foundations Theory and does a really good job of explaining how good people can end up believing completely opposite things. It's non-partisan - you'll come away feeling validated in your beliefs but also understanding why the things that other people believe are also valid. I read this one early last year and I think I'm due for a re-read.

Justin Lee's Talking Across the Divide

Lee is a gay evangelical Christian and thus is uniquely positioned at the crux of both the left and the right. He's known for his efforts to build bridges between LGBTQ+ and evangelical communities and his book is a master class in both listening and empathy. His recommendations are solid and gave me a lot to think about and practice.

Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

I know I JUST recommended this one but it's relevant to this post. Justification plays a large part in politics and this one goes hand-in-hand with Haidt's book. We need to examine our self-justifications and also be able to see the justifications of those around us. This book is also really good at pointing out the power of apologizing and taking responsibility which I think we all need a little more of that these days.

Tribe by Sebastian Junger

This book is about veterans, PTSD, and the difficulty many soldiers have in coming home, all of which is timely and pertinent to today's sociopolitical climate where concern for veterans has been politicized and weaponized. But he also talks about the deep divides we're experiencing, how they're hurting us and where he thinks they come from. This book isn't perfect and there are some solid criticisms out there, but I loved it and it made me think about how I'm contributing to the divide. It's also quite short and a fairly quick and easy read.

Also, an excellent blog post worth the (not inconsiderable) time it takes to read- I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup from Slate Star Codex

Any books or podcasts or other resources you'd like to add?


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