How would you describe 2020? Alarming, chaotic, enraging or all of the above? Here are some books to help you make sense of it all. Editors of YES magazine chose these books.


 All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis 

”A splendid offering of wisdom, warmth, and inspiration to reshape our vision of climate futures, All We Can Save is a skillfully curated collection of essays, poems, and illustrations that is decidedly feminine in its character and feminist in its approach. In her essay, “Sacred Resistance,” contributor Tara Houska writes, “Much of the space we call ‘the climate movement’ appears to be modeled after the same systems of inequity and separation we find in our society.”


Caste: The Origins of our Discontents

“Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents invites a reappraisal of how we view race in this country. The book is eminently relevant in these fraught times, where the topic of race is everywhere. Yet Wilkerson never uses the words “race” or “racism” to describe the experience of African Americans, continuing an approach she took in her previous work, The Warmth of Other Suns. Rather she writes about “upper caste” and “lower caste” to describe Jim Crow hierarchy, where everything you could or couldn’t do was based on what you looked like.”


Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary

“When hospital staff in a chaotic urban ER left Timothy Snyder awaiting treatment for 17 hours, he came close to death, fading in and out of consciousness. Turns out his bloodstream was infected from a liver abscess that had been noted, but not treated, when his burst appendix was removed two weeks earlier at the same hospital. Friends asked why this eminent Yale historian hadn’t called in a favor to get the medical attention he needed sooner. But leveraging privilege hadn’t occurred to Snyder, best known for On Tyranny, his book about threats to democracy.

In the weeks that followed, as COVID-19 spread across the United States, Snyder battled his malady and made notes on ours—a medical system of extreme inequality, designed to maximize profit, that makes everyone sicker. The result is Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary. You’ve heard that health care is a human right. Snyder brings rage and empathy to his assertion that health is also necessary to liberty.”


The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart 

“Alicia Garza’s new book is the perfect answer to the question: Where do I start when it comes to organizing and movement building? What can I do?

In The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart, Garza uses her own story to describe the ebbs and flows of movements: building a base, organizing around an issue, taking action, and creating positive change. Going from a sexual-health peer educator in high school to community work in the Bay Area to co-founding Black Lives Matter, possibly the largest social movement in U.S. history, Garza shares the victories and challenges she’s experienced. Power, she writes, is the ability to affect the conditions of our own lives and the lives of others.”

(This article is from YES December 2020 and reprinted under their Creative Commons agreement.)