Recommendations from Mark H

Newer isn’t always better. Are you a reader that gravitates to the latest releases? There’s nothing wrong with this, but take a look at these titles from the recent past and see what you may have missed. Non-fiction is an umbrella term that includes everything from self-help books to cookbooks and everything in between. Of course, many of these titles will quickly become dated.

Below is an array of non-fiction titles published in the past few years that have, in my opinion, stood the test of time and are still relevant today.

Winners Take All book jacketWinners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing The World by Anand Giridharadas

Celebrated journalist Anand Girdharadas tackles several issues from the corporate world in this thought-provoking book. The central theme revolves around the illusion of billionaire philanthropy as a force for social good. In a nutshell, Girdharadas shows how these financial elites are responsible for much of the inequality in society, but claim to be fighting that same inequality through their charitable foundations.

This paradox shows how billionaire philanthropy is more about solidifying power and eroding democracy than any altruistic notions. This is only one of several topics that Girdharadas prophetically deconstructs. Even though this book was published in 2018, it’s still relevant today and can be related to the recent downfall of the crypto sector. In general, Giridharadas shows that the elites in our society must be held accountable and we should be skeptical of their, seemingly, charitable intent.

A Mind Spread out on the Ground book jacketA Mind Spread Out On The Ground by Alicia Elliott

This visceral work of non-fiction is haunting, confrontational, and deeply personal. Elliott’s writing style is quite original and she is able to meander through periods of her life while deconstructing difficult and profound topics. Anyone who questions the enduring legacy of colonialism and intergenerational trauma on Indigenous communities should read this.

Mixed-race ancestry, poverty, depression, the process of writing, gentrification, teen pregnancy, and so much more are gracefully depicted and deconstructed in a relatively short book. Every word matters and Elliott chooses them carefully to have a lasting impact on the reader. What makes this book so remarkable is how she is able to use intimate details of her personal life to explain complex systemic issues that are just as relevant today as they were at the time of publication.

Bullshit Jobs book jacketBullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber

You will never look at your job the same way after reading this. Funny titles aside, this book is an expansion of the 2013 essay Graeber wrote in Strike magazine. It certainly struck a chord with many since it quickly went viral and Graeber recorded many testimonials that became the basis of this supremely interesting book.

According to Graeber, a “bullshit job” is, “… so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though…the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case”.  We tend to think of government jobs and their maze of bureaucracy as pointless, but Graeber shows how the corporate and private sectors are the new breeding ground.

If Graeber were still alive, we would write a follow-up related to remote work and other shifts in workplace culture following the pandemic. If you’ve never read any of Graeber’s work, you’ll likely want to read more after finishing this.

All Things Consoled book jacketAll Things Consoled by Elizabeth Hay

Elizabeth Hay, an acclaimed Canadian novelist, wrote this memoir about becoming the caregiver for her aging parents. She explores the role-reversal that many children experience when a parent approaches end-of-life. This process will always be relevant to readers, but it is especially relevant in Peterborough due to the aging population and the high number of people experiencing the same situation.

It’s a memoir in the sense that it explores a specific time and place, but it is also a deep dive into Hay’s entire family history, including uncomfortable topics like abuse. Due to this, I wouldn’t recommend it to someone looking for a light read, but it is beautifully written and a rewarding experience. I believe it will still be relevant decades from now.

Looking for the Stranger book jacketLooking For The Stranger: Albert Camus And The Life Of A Literary Classic by Alice Kaplan

Have you ever wanted to read a book about writing a book? Look no further and learn the story behind one of the most influential novels of the 20th century; Albert Camus’ The Stranger (published in the UK as The Outsider).

It turned Camus’ into a literary icon and brought the absurdist philosophy to a wider audience, but there are many lesser-known details surrounding the novel’s inception that Kaplan details in this fascinating book. You’ll learn about Camus’ early years as a journalist covering criminal courts in Algeria, the real murder trials that would inspire the novel, his relocation to France, and how the book The Stranger was, initially, met with mixed reviews and later rose to prominence. All of these details gave me an entirely new perspective on one of my favourite novels.

The Art of Leaving book jacketThe Art Of Leaving by Ayelet Tsabari

There are countless coming-of-age memoirs available on our shelves, but this one is something special. Tsabari’s journey of self-discovery is only a small part of what this book has to offer. Tsabari searches for a sense of belonging that she never felt in her home of Israel, compulsively travels the world and never stays anywhere long enough to settle or grow attached.

Through this seemingly aimless journey, we learn a great deal about the inequality and discrimination within Israeli society and the experience of the Mizrahi community. This is an important book since it displays the complexity of the Jewish experience and the diversity within this ethnoreligious identity that some may be unaware of. Above all, this timeless memoir beautifully illustrates something we all long for; a sense of home and belonging.

Queen Of The Ring book jacketQueen Of The Ring by Jeff Leen

I must give credit to my co-worker Michael F for recommending this biography; it was an unexpectedly rewarding reading experience. It’s a well-researched account of female professional wrestler Mildred Burke.

Her accomplishments predate the women’s liberation movement, and this account of her life shows an unlikely and somewhat unrecognized feminist icon. Her life story features the fearless determination of a champion who faced considerable challenges inside and outside the ring.

You don’t need to be a fan of sports to enjoy this book since it also dissects the evolution of gender roles in American society through the mid 20th century. Cast aside your assumptions about wrestling and get ready for a biography that is equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.