Reading is to the mind, so said 17th century English essayist, poet and playwright Joseph Addison, what exercise is to the body. It’s a common refrain about the importance of reading for human brain function repeated in essence by everyone from Lisa Simpson to Tyrion Lannister. But in our frenetically-paced, digital world, reading just seems hard, and it only gets harder the less you do it. We’re living in a culture of skim reading, or worse, headline reading, at a time when the world is facing problems that require our collective minds to be at their sharpest, their most critical and their most open.
“Beyond its effects on brain functioning, reading can also increase our capacity to manage problems we encounter,” says Dr James Collett, psychologist and RMIT lecturer. “When we read, we are challenged to think from different perspectives and to assimilate new information, which means we must consider it in the context of information that we already know and do our best to resolve conflicts and contradictions.”
In a divided world increasingly dominated by misinformation, disinformation, and “alternative facts”, reading offers knowledge, know-how and, most importantly, the capacity to understand. These six, new release non-fictions reads, which span from the analytical and thoroughly researched to the intimate and the personal, are a place to start.
With the Falling of the Dust, by Stan Grant
Journalist Stan Grant wields years of experience in observing and chronicling life across the globe to bring us this important, courageous book that deals with a world on the precipice of crisis. With the Falling of the Dust explores what is driving our world to catastrophe – from threats to democracy, the rise of authoritarianism and resurgent white supremacy, to the global pandemic and looming economic failure. It’s a book that fears the worst but hopes – and searches – for the best. (Harper Collins)
White Feminism: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and Who They Leave Behind, by Koa Beck
For white women, the electoral data from the most recent US election is damning, and the message from African-American and Indigenous women, activists, artists, writers and educators around the globe is clear: white women need to do more work to achieve an equitable society. Koa Beck’s debut book, it follows, couldn’t come at a more crucial moment. The former Vogue.com.au executive editor and Jezebel editor-in-chief traces the history of feminism and dissects pop-culture, sending out a strong call to action for white feminists to dismantle their own supremacy. (Simon & Schuster)
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, by Bill Gates
This book is an urgent, authoritative, accessible roadmap for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe. Gates draws on a decade spent studying the causes and effects of climate change, as well as the knowledge of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science and finance. (Penguin)
My Year of Living Vulnerably, by Rick Morton
Part self-help book, part treatise on love and forgiveness, this book from acclaimed journalist and author Rick Morton shares lessons learned during a twelve-month journey to ‘rediscover love’ after being diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Laced with Morton’s trademark attention to nuance, compassion and unashamed honesty, My Year of Living Vulnerably is a fresh and timely reminder of the importance of love to our lives. (Harper Collins).
Aftershocks,by Nadia Owusu
This deeply intimate memoir examines the fault lines of trauma through the life experiences and cultural history of author Nadia Owusu, who grapples with the ripple effect – both personal and generational – of loss, grief and family secrets. It’s a brave piece of writing that inspires vulnerability at a time when finding capacity to tell our own stories might be more transformative than ever. (Simon & Schuster)
Let Me Tell You What I Mean, by Joan Didion
This collection brings together, for the first time, twelve pieces from the iconic and influential Joan Didion, originally published between 1968 and 2000. Topics span the news, politics, personal anecdotes and Didion’s own self-doubt, bringing clarity and colour to our current world in the way only exacting and prescient writing like hers can. (Harper Collins)