I haven’t posted on this blog in forever, yet again. I’ll call it a New Year’s resolution to blog more often, but as you know, many resolutions, including possibly this one, are never followed through on. Since reading is something I like to do and something I think is valuable for the common good, I've decided at this year-end to post 11 book recommendations (it was going to be 10, but I needed room for one more) for the New Year, with a sentence or two to explain why each book is worth reading. I have listed only books I’ve had a chance to read from cover to cover. These books were not all published in the past year, and some are quite a bit older than that. These are also not necessarily my favourite books of all time, though a number of them would probably make that list. Here goes (in no particular order):
1. "The Political Mind" by George Lakoff
A great read by an American neurologist on how language choice can be used to give voters/citizens a positive impression of progressive political policies. An extremely useful read to anyone involved in politics. HIGHLY recommended.
2. "Misquoting Jesus" by Bart Ehrman
Recounts the history of the making of the Christian New Testament and thoroughly lays out why the books included in it cannot rationally be taken as inerrant.
3. "The Great War for Civilisation" by Robert Fisk
A gigantic book recounting his decades of reporting for British media outlets throughout the Middle East, as well as the background context to the events he covered. Pretty much gives you a history of the entire Middle East for the past 100 year when all is said and done.
4. "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley
This is the only fiction book on my list, since I haven’t been reading many. This one is a classic and a very quick read. Sit down with it for a day or two and take it in.
5. “Deadly Spin” by Wendell Potter
This book doubles as a tip guide for political communications and a history of health care in the United States. Potter was a top communications executive for private health care giant CIGNA until he left to become one of the country’s most prominent supporters of single payer universal public health care. He’ll likely be touring across Canada in the spring, so read it before he comes!
6. “Moral Minority” by David Swartz
This is an intriguing history of the many branches of progressive Christianity in the United States and how they came to be overshadowed by the “religious right” beginning with Ronald Reagan’s 1980 electoral victory. It’s a great reminder that Christianity wasn’t always a very public part of politics, and even after it became so, it was far from inevitable that conservatives would be the ones to capitalize on it the most.
7. “On Six Continents” by James Bartleman
These are the memoirs of one of Canada’s longest-serving diplomats, who worked in countries around the world. It’s not a very ideological read of any sort but is highly entertaining and engaging for the many stories he tells to show what it was like to spend a life in Canada’s foreign service.
8. “Memoirs” by Pierre Trudeau
The nature of the book is obvious by its title. It’s a quick and easy read and recounts his incredible life both before and after becoming Prime Minister of Canada. It’s a timely reminder of who he was while many or comparing him to his son, Justin. Hint: the two have very little in common on their resumes.
9. “Grant Notley” by Howard Leeson
This book is the closest I’ve found to a history of Alberta’s NDP. It’s very well-written. It recounts the life of a former Alberta NDP leader who was highly respected by politicians and Albertans of all stripes before he tragically lost his life in 1984.
10. “Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics” by Warren Kinsella
Despite his constant treatment of the Liberals and the NDP as essentially having the same values, a lot can be learned from this book about high-level political campaigning (media, messaging, images, etc – ie. not “ground campaigns”). Most of the book recounts Kinsella’s experiences as one of the federal Liberal Party’s top strategists during the Chretien years.
11. "Christianity and the Social Crisis" by Walter Rauschenbusch
The author of this book was one of the founders of the Social Gospel movement in the United States in the early 1900s. It was a huge influence on many progressive political leaders in North America, including J. S. Woodsworth, Tommy Douglas, and Martin Luther King Jr. It's a must-read for those wanting to understand the roots of modern progressive Christianity.
There are many others books that could have been on this list. Feel free to offer me suggestions on what I should read next (though I currently have no shortage on that list). Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think if you get a chance to read some of these.
Best wishes for the New Year!