This year, the team at Sub Stances has been busy writing articles, traveling and working - but we’ve also been doing some reading of our own. Throughout the year, each of us has traveled to and from different countries with a book in tow. It was a tough call, but after talking amongst ourselves, we’ve come up with four books that we felt were the best books we read last year. So what have we been reading? Check out our top four from below (and don’t forget to add them to your Amazon wishlists!)
Josephine Bush: 1984 by George Orwell
The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell's prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of "negative utopia" -a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel's hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions -a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.
Gabriella Gricius: All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein
Published just months before President Nixon’s resignation, All the President’s Men revealed the full scope of the scandal and introduced for the first time the mysterious “Deep Throat.” Beginning with the story of a simple burglary at Democratic headquarters and then continuing through headline after headline, Bernstein and Woodward deliver a riveting firsthand account of their reporting. Their explosive reports won a Pulitzer Prize for The Washington Post, toppled the president, and have since inspired generations of reporters.
Jessica Hoefer: One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.
Florane Lavend’homme: "La Nostalgie Heureuse" by Amélie Nothomb.
Amélie Nothomb est née à Kobé en 1967. Dès son premier roman Hygiène de l’assassin paru en 1992, elle s’est imposée comme un écrivain singulier. En 1999, elle obtient avec Stupeur et tremblements le Grand Prix de l’Académie française. La nostalgie heureuse est son 22ème roman.
Our Head Writer, Josephine Bush, attended a UN event this past Friday, September 22nd, and got us the scoop on four books you absolutely have to add to your reading lists. Take your pick from environmental reads like "No Impact Man" to something that challenges your own beliefs on a topic like inequality. Each of us on the Sub-Stances team is going to be taking one book and reading it over the next month and we’ll report back. Let us hear your thoughts on these books. Have you read them? What do you think about them?
By Colin Beaven
What would it be like to try to live a no-impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Is living this way more satisfying or less satisfying? Harder or easier? Is it worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed or can our culture reduce the barriers to sustainable living so it becomes as easy as falling off a log? These are the questions at the heart of this whole mad endeavor, via which Colin Beavan hopes to explain to the rest of us how we can realistically live a more “eco-effective” and by turns more content life in an age of inconvenient truths.
By Janine Di Giovanni
In May of 2012, Janine di Giovanni travelled to Syria. It would mark the beginning of a long relationship with the country, starting with her coverage of the peaceful uprising and continuing as the situation quickly turned into one of the most brutal, internecine conflicts in recent history. Drawn to the stories of the ordinary people caught up in the conflict, Syria came to consume her every moment, her every emotion.
By Joseph E. Stiglitz
America currently has the most inequality, and the least equality of opportunity, among the advanced countries. While market forces play a role in this stark picture, politics has shaped those market forces. In this best-selling book, Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz exposes the efforts of well-heeled interests to compound their wealth in ways that have stifled true, dynamic capitalism. Along the way he examines the effect of inequality on our economy, our democracy, and our system of justice. Stiglitz explains how inequality affects and is affected by every aspect of national policy, and with characteristic insight he offers a vision for a more just and prosperous future, supported by a concrete program to achieve that vision.
By Paul Collier
It is one of the most pressing and controversial questions of our time —vehemently debated, steeped in ideology, profoundly divisive. Who should be allowed to immigrate and who not? What are the arguments for and against limiting the numbers? We are supposedly a nation of immigrants, and yet our policies reflect deep anxieties and the quirks of short-term self-interest, with effective legislation snagging on thousand-mile-long security fences and the question of how long and arduous the path to citizenship should be. Immigration is a simple economic equation, but its effects are complex. Exodus confirms how crucial it will be that public policy face and address all of its ramifications.
Prepare to reimagine American history in Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad.” The menace of slavery is all too familiar to the protagonist, Cora, as she risks death and punishment by running away to the North. Instead of providing his readers with the traditional view of the Underground Railroad, Whitehead introduces us to an actual railroad that runs underneath the states.
Each state has its own perils to bare. Whitehead creates characters that open up new worlds of what it meant to be a conductor or engineer- like how their motivations might not be as pure as originally perceived. Whitehead also introduces his audience to how each individual found their way to the Railroad and why they are there as Cora makes her way up North. Each new experience forces Cora to reevaluate what slavery means, how it exists as this malignant cancer upon the Union and what it means to feel American when she isn’t even considered a citizen.
Although it is a work of fiction, Whitehead demonstrates that slavery has and will continue to always remain a part of American history. There is no way to erase the brutalities that slavery inflicted upon a large part of the American population, which still exists in forms of inequalities, today. How we ought to grapple with the future is the question the book poses to us. Whitehead leaves it to us to find the answer.
Whether you’re looking for a book that delves deep into rediscovering identity or an exciting story that details Cora’s escape from the slave-catcher Ridgeway, “Underground Railroad” fulfils both. It might not be the story you expected - nevertheless, the “Underground Railroad” is a story that you should read, especially since the United States is continuing to try to find its own identity.