Hoo doggie do I love lying in bed and reading some of my favorite books. I had been doing so little of this cherished activity that I set a goal to read 52 books in 2019 and I am happy to report that I DID IT.
Here are the seven books that really made an impression on my thinking on what it means to be a better person, as well as some practical takeaways on how to put that into action to help make the world a better place.
1. Fight Like a Mother by Shannon Watts (and, also, me—I was her writing collaborator)
I am so inspired by Shannon Watts and everyone who is part of the organization she started, Moms Demand Action. I had the good fortune to be her writing collaborator and getting a look at the work she does, and the mindset she brings to it inspired me to get off the sidelines and get involved in issues I care about. It is a very large reason why, in 2019, I testified at the state house in defense of a bill I care deeply about (at 1:45 am, no less) and spent so many hours doing activism work afterward. I look forward to doing more of the same in 2020.
2. How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
Wow. This book makes so plain the thinking, the history, and the drivers of racism through research, analysis, and personal narrative. It also makes plain what the work we have to do to dismantle it is, both within ourselves and in society. Kendi makes the heavy lifting of simplifying something as charged and systemic as racism look easy. I’ll be referring back to this book for a long time. Definitely one to own.
3. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Robin Diangelo does a masterful job at calmly and clearly poking holes in everything we think about race and racism. I had to re-read many of its 150 pages because they made something invisible, visible, and my brain cells had to re-wire on the spot (kind of like looking at an image with a 3D pic hidden inside it). We have a lot of growing up to do, white people. The world will be so much better for it when we do.
4. Shrill by Lindy West
I love this book. I love Lindy West! So hardcore and so vulnerable. It was cool to me to see how your average nice person can take such strong stands for the things she cares about and to go along with her during that evolution. She’s got a new book coming out soon; can’t wait.
5. Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
Really got me thinking about things, like white women’s tears (a term I hadn’t heard before and now…I see it everywhere), and how the double whammy of patriarchy and racism affects black women. I admire Cooper’s ability to break something down intellectually, emotionally, and with humor. I appreciated the opportunity to look at society through her lens and am thankful for the opportunity to have done so.
6. Me & Mom & Me by Maya Angelou
What a treat to hang out in Maya Angelou’s presence. I did not realize what a truly extraordinary life she had led. Reading this made me see – again, because it’s something you realize and then forget and then re-consider – that we’re not defined by merely our ‘work.’ Having a rich, interesting, and yes, sometimes painful life makes us multi-faceted and that always enriches the work we do while we’re here.
7. Maid by Stephanie Lamb
Really solid storytelling and such a good window into what it’s like to live in poverty in America and the importance of a support system and how frustrating this system can be. As inspiring as Stephanie Land’s story is, and as much as I admire her tenacity, I wish there could have been even a brief acknowledgment that as hard as things were for her, she had the benefit of being white and a little exploration of how that made her hard time easier (I think it would have been helpful to point out there is white privilege even in poverty). Also, I will forever do more to clean up for the person who cleans our house.
See What Books I Am Currently Reading
(If you geek out on reading too, you can see all the books I read here, on goodreads.com.)
What books did you read in 2019 that changed the way you thought and acted? I’d love to hear them—either Tweet me @katehan
IN THE NEWS
I’ve been thrilled to be featured in a few articles this past month:
These 7 Podcasts Will Help You Achieve Your 2020 Goals (FastCompany.com)
Etiquette Refreshers Every Guest Needs Before the Holidays (Martha Stewart Living)
How to Be a Better Person in the New Year (JenniferMargulis.net)
I got a really lovely and thoughtful response to my article 9 Gifts To Help You Be a Better Person, on Any Budget.
A reader named Alicia wrote:
“I love what you do, and find you podcast refreshing and real. However, I have to disagree with you on ideas 6 & 7 [which were a vegetarian cookbook and a meal service that delivers meat-free meals to your door]. Eating less meat to better the planet isn’t necessarily true. Ruminant animals are better for soil health and sustainable ranching on land that isn’t good for farming is a better use of resources than disturbing water tables to water land that really just shouldn’t be farmed. I implore you to explore the work of Diana Rogers, Joel Salatin, and the Savory Institute for more information on this.”
To which I say, thank you for writing in, Alicia, I LOVE hearing what resonates and what doesn’t. You are right; raising animals for meat isn’t environmentally problematic in and of itself, it’s just conventionally raised meat that is. And it is possible to eat meat that has been raised in a sustainable way. The issue is, the meat from pastured animals costs more money and aren’t widely available.
How I would like to refine my original advice is to suggest that we all eat less conventionally-raised meat (animals raised on feed lots) and vote with our dollars to encourage the farmers who are already using sustainable practices and inspire other farmers to make the switch so that the meat we eat takes less of a toll on the environment.
And while science is always evolving, there is evidence that too much animal protein isn’t great for long-term health, so adding in more meat-free meals is a good idea too. I’m not saying you should be vegetarian or vegan, just to clarify. Only that you consider making more of your meals each week meat-free.
BETTER THAN RESOLUTIONS
Finally, this week is Better Than Resolutions Week on the How to Be a Better Person podcast. Every day this week I’m sharing one simple thing you can do to make a list of big-picture goals that are doable – come listen in and get started on making 2020 a fabulous start to the 2020s!