Read Harder Challenge: Read a Book of Social Science

Read Harder Challenge: Read a Book of Social Science

Hi everybody. I’m Maria Cristina, one of the
contributing editors at book riot, and this is a read harder 2018
recommendation video, brought to you by the good people over at Libby, the one
tap reading app from overdrive. I am personally enamoured of Libby. It’s
a fantastic app that’s on my phone, it’s on my iPad, I’ve got it hooked up to my
library card. That, that was super easy to do. No pain, no fuss. I even, just the other day, was running out of time on an
audiobook that I was listening to and was able to, through Libby, renew it for
another 21 days. So Yeah, my, my boy cats are having themselves a little brawl
there. So Libby is just a fantastic place, not only to consume your library loans,
but also to manage them, I discovered recently. So thank you to
Libby for creating this amazing app that I use every day, but also for sponsoring
read harder 2018. And the subject of today’s recommendation video is the task
that asks you to read a book of social science. For this task I could tell you
to go out and read Freakonomics or one of those books about why
Scandinavians are so much better than everybody else when it comes to being
happy. Or are they more depressed? I’m not entirely sure where that pendulum is at
right now. But instead I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight what I
consider to be the greatest strength of this non fiction genre at this particular
moment in time. And that is social science’s ability to write
about issues that are controversial and politically polarizing in a way that
allows compassion for human fallibility to coexist with extensive footnotes and
bibliographies. But, you know what, I think all of the books I’m gonna talk about today
have endnotes and that’s the one strike against them because footnotes are superior. That is the hill I will die on. So this is what we’ve got. This one is
becoming nicole and the subtitle here is the transformation of an American family.
It’s apt because this is not only about how a child who was designated male at
birth transitions in her preteens but how that process impacted her parents
and her twin brother. There’s a lot here if you are someone who is still trying
to wrap your head around what it means for a person to be transgender. There’s a
lot here if you are a person who is trying to support a loved one who
happens to be trans. And, more than that, it’s also a portrait of the journey we’re
on as a society to revise an outdated, inaccurate and ultimately hurtful notion
of gender as this binary fixed thing. Next up we’ve got girls and sex. And I
have not read this book. I heard an NPR interview with the author and I
mentioned to my spouse that it sounded like a really interesting book and he
actually went out, read it, and was immediately convinced that this is
required reading for everybody. But I put it on the back burner. I figured that
I was too old and my daughter was too young for this to be immediately relevant to me. I’m not on a college campus. I am not
in high school receiving inadequate sexual education, you know? It just, I’m
glad that this book exists but it didn’t necessarily feel like it was something I
needed to read right this very minute. In the two years since it’s been published,
though, the me too movement has made me so much more aware of the pervasive
cultural messages that we get about girls and sex and how damaging those can
be for everyone in our society. And, and so this is is actually next up on my
personal reading list. Just Mercy is about excessive punishment and mass
incarceration. It’s written by a lawyer who has spent his entire career
advocating for what amounts to victims of our flawed criminal justice system.
We’re talking innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted, mentally ill
people on death row, children who have been given life sentences, mothers who
are prosecuted for stillbirths and just overall racial and economic biases in
the judicial system. Something that I learned from this book that completely
surprised and shocked me is that in many states, death row inmates do not have a
right to counsel. So if you can’t afford a lawyer, you just don’t have one. And so
I’m just incredibly in awe of this guy and his nonprofit. And you should read
this book and go, go check out the work that he is still doing today. This
is evicted. And in it a sociologist follows eight different families as they get evicted and evicted and evicted over and over
again and the ways in which that impacts their day-to-day life and overall
well-being or lack thereof. It underscores how housing instability can
lead to employment instability for the adults in a household and educational
instability for the children in a household and all sorts of psychological
instability. It shows how these ill effects just keep on cascading through
so many facets of our society. Eviction itself, for example, not the threat of
homelessness, but the process of eviction, being evicted is a significant
precursor of suicide. In fact researchers found that suicides attributed to
evictions and foreclosures doubled between 2005 and 2010. And that’s just The thing is, too, is that this
disproportionately affects women of color and their children. And I just, I’m
getting really mad just talking at you about this. So I need all y’all to go out
and read this and pressure your policymakers to do better. So next we’ve
got five days at memorial. Very specifically, it is about what took place at this
hospital during Hurricane Katrina. And it’s written by a doctor, both MD and PhD.
And she writes about these medical matters with authoritativeness but also
it’s very accessible. More generally, there’s a lot to be learned about crisis
management at medical facilities when there’s a pandemic or a natural disaster.
I mean, seas are rising and it’s going to become more and more
important that we have backup plans for our backup plans for our backup plans.
And who is it that decides what those plans are and what values and priorities
are embodied by those plans? Is it going to be medical professionals at these
individual institutions? Is it going to be lawmakers at the state level or
the federal level? There’s, there’s a lot to be concerned about. She mentions here
that when Sandy hit New York, there was a hospital administrator who was told that
should there be a citywide power failure, the backup generators could only handle
six outlets in the ICU. So she needed to make a list to choose which six of the
50 patients in the ICU would get to plug their ventilators in in the event of a
citywide power outage. And just, that’s one hell of a bioethical Gordian knot. So
these are my recommendations to fulfill your read a book of social science task
for read harder 2018 brought to you by Libby. And if you have
read any of these or plan to pick up one of these and read them, please let us
know in the comments. I am eager to know what you think or if you have any
other recommendations for works of social science, especially if they tackle
current events. Thanks for watching.

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  1. Just Mercy and The New Jim Crow should be required reading for everyone—our justice system needs serious overhauling.

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