In today’s age of twitter-rants and up-to-the-second news updates, setting aside time to read an old fashioned book can be tough. While there’s no substitute for the real thing, sometimes you just don’t have the time. Since April we’ve been chronicling and reviewing the best books on inequality bringing you the cutting edge ideas and analysis in a digestible and easy to understand format. Here are the books that stood out this year.
Why does practically everyone in this country know that inequality is rising and want to see it reversed, yet nothing is done? Jane Mayer takes this question head on with a meticulously researched account of the rise of the big money influences that now control our political system. Dark Money will make even the most jaded inequality watcher reach for their pitchfork in rage. A brilliant read for anyone looking to understand how “dark money” extends its reach throughout the political process.
Why do working class people vote against their material interests? What brought about the conservative backlash of 2009 that laid the groundwork for Trump’s victory? Arlie Hochschile wanted to know. So she embedded herself in the Tea Party south for years interviewing activists and ordinary people who were suffering the worst of economic stagnation. If you want to understand the sentiments of folks living in Trumplandia, start with Strangers In Their Own Land.
The stories we hear about inequality are every bit as powerful as the statistics and much more compelling. Chuck Collins presents his own story in Born on Third Base, of being born into the 1 percent, of deciding to give it all away, and of a life spent trying to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us. Along the way he lifts up stories of those he’s met along the way with an eye towards breaking down the cultural barriers that prevent us from embracing a more egalitarian and just society. Born on Third Base should be on the bookshelf of anyone concerned about rising inequality.
The United States has a heart problem. We need justice-loving people to come forward and act as moral defibrillators for the nation. That is the central argument of North Carolina’s Rev. William Barber who spent the past year barnstorming cities across the nation with his message of moral revolution. Barber is best known for leading the powerful Moral Monday movement in North Carolina. In The Third Reconstruction, Rev. Barber, was introduced to many by his fiery speech at the Democratic National Convetion that went viral, hopes to inspire readers to join with others to take action.
In the post-Trump era, it’s painfully obvious that the mainstream Democratic Party is out of touch with working class families. If only they’d listened to Thomas Frank. In Listen Liberal, Frank chronicles the party’s distinct shift (in focus, in attitude, and in solidarity) from blue-collar workers to white-collar beginning with Bill Clinton and continuing through Obama. It’s a lesson Hillary Clinton ignore to her own detriment and one anyone concerned about inequality should take to heart.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis came a foreclosure crisis that left millions of families out of their homes and stripped of their wealth. Why? David Dayen digs into the stories behind the headlines creating a page-turning narrative that’s hard to put down. Through the eyes of the Florida activists who uncovered some of the most egregious Wall Street transgressions, Dayen weaves together true stories of their grit and tirelessness making the book a prime candidate for a movie although the movie could never be as good as the book. If you liked Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, don’t miss Chain of Title.
Walking away from a fortune is hard to do, especially if you’re a self-described money addict. But that’s just what Sam Polk did leaving behind an incredibly lucrative Wall Street career in high finance for a more meaningful life. In For the Love of Money, Polk invites readers into his life, from his rough and tumble working class roots to his time at the tippity top of the economic ladder. An insightful look into the thoughts and feelings of the ultra-wealthy and an inspiring reminder that money can’t buy happiness.
What were your favorite inequality books this year?