I love books so much, but the ones I have actually gotten around to reading and reviewing in the past five years are so few compared to my ever-growing to-be-read list! I usually wait until I’ve finished a book to talk about it, but I am just so excited to read these books (some of which I already own and some I do not).
I wrote years ago that I was disappointed that so few of my books were by women, and especially by any authors of color. I’m so happy to finally be rounding out my book collection with more diverse voices across race and gender, as well as across genres! My book collection started off as mostly centering on atheism and religion, but it has since expanded onto topics related to science, society, and history. Without further ado, here is just a fraction of the books on my to-be-enthusiastically-read list, as well as some insights on how exactly I come across all these books in the first place.
1. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
I’ve known about this book since I first got into Christian history. I’m particularly excited to learn about this “hidden” part of Christianity, especially because it will be my first departure in the field from the many works of Bart Ehrman (which I am also eager to explore further).
2. On Her Knees: Memoir of a Prayerful Jezebel by Brenda Marie Davies
Brenda is a progressive Christian YouTuber, my admiration for whom I have expressed numerous times on this blog so far. I feel like I know so much about her already through watching her videos and having virtually “met” her through her Patreon Zoom parties. I can’t wait to learn the full backstory of how she was raised in purity culture-ridden Evangelicalism, left on a self-described “trampage”, got out of an abusive marriage, and finally found her peace on the progressive side of Christianity.
3. For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World by Sasha Sagan
I discovered this book when learning about the legacy of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan (both of whom we will encounter later on this list). Sasha’s book really caught my attention; what could it possibly be like to have such iconic scientists as parents? I’m looking forward to both her memoir looking at life through humanistic eyes and her analysis of many of the rituals that we often don’t think twice about in our modern world.
4. Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language by Seth Lerer
Speaking of parts of modern life whose origins feel lost in time, I was thrilled to find Inventing English. I’ve recently found myself on the linguistics and language history side of TikTok, and when I get small teasers into fields like this, I tend to want to go deeper by reading full books about them. I searched specifically for a book on how we got from Old to Middle to modern English, and I think Inventing English has it all.
5. Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science—from the Babylonians to the Maya by Dick Teresi
Throughout my education and even in my independent reading in recent years, the story of science is almost always told to me through a Western, male-dominated lens. I got a taste of the stories of lesser-known (to me) scientists in Cosmos (throughout the two books and three TV series), so I’m excited to fill in the side of science that I’ve missed with Lost Discoveries.
6. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: A Search for Who We Are by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan
I included Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors on the list as the representative of the five or so more Carl Sagan books that I have yet to read (but I think this one is next). Since I read Cosmos last July, Sagan has quickly become my favorite author, as well as a prominent topic or inspiration for many blog posts. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors will be my first book written by him together with Ann Druyan, and the first that doesn’t focus on astronomy.
7. A Most Interesting Problem: What Darwin’s Descent of Man Got Right and Wrong about Human Evolution by various authors, edited by Jeremy Desilva
This is one of the many incredible books that I’ve found through the awesome work of the Leakey Foundation. They streamed a virtual event promoting this book last month, with presentations from some of the authors of the book. A Most Interesting Problem is exactly what the subtitle says: a look back at The Descent of Man 150 years later, discussing what Darwin got right and wrong. I’m particularly keen to see the Darwinian anti-dogmatism of the scientific community (that creationists deny) and the dismantling of Darwin’s racist and sexist thinking.
8. Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College by Jesse Wegman
I passed on this book the first few times I saw it featured at Half Price Books. I thought, “I agree that we should abolish the electoral college, so I don’t know why I would need to be convinced.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I always like to learn the best arguments for, history behind, and insights on, what I believe. I have a feeling Let the People Pick the President will be an eye-opening but infuriating read.
9. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt
I’ve had this sitting on my shelf for a couple of years, ever since I found it in the ex-library section of a mall bookstore. I find the topic to be quite overwhelming, so I’ve been a bit nervous to start. Nevertheless, I know that understanding the importance of women’s reproductive rights is paramount in the time and place that I’m finding myself in.
10. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
As the importance of feminism and women’s rights has been on the rise, it’s felt as if consideration of non-white women hasn’t been there among white feminists (all the way back to the suffragettes). I believe that Hood Feminism will be a helpful resource for me as I strive to be a more intersectional feminist—one who advocates for all women of all races, ages, classes, gender identities, sexual orientations, abilities, and religions.
11. Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color by Nina G. Jablonski
This is another book that I discovered through the Leakey Foundation, this time through their wonderful human origins podcast, Origin Stories. The episode entitled “Skin” was much more interesting and revelatory than the title lets on. In it, Penn State anthropology professor Nina Jablonski presented the prehistory of how the spectrum of human skin color evolved and the history of how people with different amounts of melanin have been treated in society. I was amazed by the presentation, and if this book is anything like it, then I’m sure that it will amaze me, too.
12. How to Argue With a Racist: What Our Genes Do (and Don’t) Say About Human Difference by Adam Rutherford
Do you know what’s better than a book that uses science to debunk racist ideas? Two books that use science to debunk racist ideas. In How to Argue with a Racist, Adam Rutherford provides genetics-based answers to give the next time you encounter a racist whose only arguments are based in pseudoscience.
13. The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
Out of everything on this list, The Disordered Cosmos is the book that I am most excited to read at this very moment in time. I recently came across it on my favorite independent bookstore’s website listing new releases by Black authors, and I immediately knew I needed it. This book is particularly intriguing because my perception is that it is about physics, astronomy, Star Trek, and how science needs to be a more accepting space for women and people of color. I just bought it yesterday as my reward for making it through the week, and I am so eager to get started!
14. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
I know this book is incredibly popular right now as it is, but it also feels like the natural follow-up to Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning that I recently read. I’ve learned the history of antiracists and why I must do my very best to be one, and this book will tell me how.
15. Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab
For a few months now, I have followed Nedra Tawwab’s amazing Instagram page, where she shares her insights as a therapist, especially pertaining to how to set healthy boundaries with yourself and others. If she can share that much wisdom through Instagram posts, then I can’t wait to see how much I can learn from this book, which was released just this last week.
While I listed 15 books here, there are far more on my shelves and wish lists that I can’t wait to dive into. What nonfiction books are you excited to read? Which of these have you read, and which do you think I should read next? Let me know in the comments, and check out my Goodreads for more book inspiration!
Note: I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of these publishers, and I did not include any links for where to buy the books. I recommend you support your local independent bookstore with any shopping you have! If that is not an option for you, I also like to buy books at Thriftbooks, Half Price Books, or Barnes and Noble. I know it is convenient, but I try my best to avoid supporting Amazon whenever I can, especially when there are so many other great options for books.