Worldview Shapers | Knowledge is Power: Nonfiction November 2023, Week 4

Worldview Shapers | Knowledge is Power: Nonfiction November 2023, Week 4

Nonfiction November 2023 continues with Week 4: Worldview Shapers, which I am proud to host!

Here’s your prompt:

One of the greatest things about reading nonfiction is learning all kinds of things about our world which you never would have known without it. There’s the intriguing, the beautiful, the appalling, and the profound. What nonfiction book or books have impacted the way you see the world in a powerful way? Is there one book that made you rethink everything? Do you think there is a book that should be required reading for everyone?

Worldviews, changed and shaped

I’ve been excited to get another opportunity to host after my first round last year. Fitting with our theme of continuing evolution, I’ve adjusted my prompt a bit. I received some criticism from a Nonfiction November participant in my Worldview Changers prompt:

Another topic I struggled with. My issue is that I feel like a worldview doesn’t just “change”, it gets shaped. And it’s a long process. I haven’t had a struck-by-lightning, large-scale worldview changer in book form, although I suppose that’s possible.

This critique motivated me to rename my prompt from Worldview Changers to Worldview Shapers. Of course, one book will almost never change your entire worldview. Only the flimsiest worldview would turn fully around after one book. But maybe it’s my background in—and the dozens of stories I’ve heard from—the conservative Christian church that tells me that there are times when a single book can rock your world (and, yes, your flimsy worldview). And if that has happened to you, I’ve got to know what book that was.

One book everyone should read

The blogger went on, however, surprising me with how much my prompt upset them.

Now about this: “Do you think there is one book that everyone needs to read for a better understanding of the world we live in?”

No, no, a thousand times no. I’m bothered by these kind of questions, because there’s something so reductive in the idea that everyone will be affected by something in the same way as everyone else, or that everyone needs to develop their understanding similarly, or that we all should be gearing towards the same viewpoint. I don’t like to presume that others need learning on the same topics that I do. Lived experience is an incredible and valuable thing, and it’s why we should all read and explore as widely as we can, and I think that includes asking other people about their worldviews or seeing out various perspectives, rather than assuming everyone could benefit from the same thing you did.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this kind of simplification is why we end up bombarded with lists like 100 books everyone should, or worst, must, read and then they’re all just Jane Austen and The Great Gatsby, with some implied guilt thrown in if you don’t like or want to read them. No thank ya!

As I hide my clickbait-titled post 30 Books Every Atheist Should Read guiltily behind my back, I feel the need to defend my question. I actually thought of this question after seeing an earlier blog post from this same blogger who wrote of a book, “just know I think it should be required reading for absolutely everyone.” So when I saw this reaction to my prompt, I was a bit taken aback.

I didn’t come here just to complain about this Nonfiction November 2022 blog post (but it has been in my mind for a year). I find that it is an interesting jumping-off point for my own worldview shapers. That blogger wrote, “there’s something so reductive in the idea that everyone will be affected by something in the same way as everyone else, or that everyone needs to develop their understanding similarly, or that we all should be gearing towards the same viewpoint. I don’t like to presume that others need learning on the same topics that I do.”

Your viewpoint is not valid

But is that true? If something is earth-shattering enough, shouldn’t we all be affected by it? Shouldn’t we all be developing an understanding of things, of histories, that matter—through books or whichever means we learn best? When the books you read are about topics like humanity’s greatest atrocities—like genocides, for example—are there multiple valid viewpoints?

No, there are not.

This brings me to the worldview shapers that I want to highlight this week: books on Palestine.

The covers of 6 books about Palestine sitting on a light blue backdrop. Light in Gaza:  Writings Born of Fire, Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics, Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement, Palestine: A Socialist Introduction, On Anti-Semitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice, and Boycott Divestment Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights

These books were such an obvious choice for me in this prompt, because they are actively shaping my worldview right now. (I’m starting with Palestine: A Socialist Introduction.) They demonstrate that something does not have to change your entire worldview in order to shape it. I have known of the struggle for Palestinian liberation for a while but knew virtually nothing about it. When I started to absorb a little bit more about it by virtue of being in the progressive space, I didn’t know enough to defend Palestine or explain why Israel is a racist state.

I knew that it was, though, when I attended the all-things-social-justice Netroots Nation conference in Chicago last July, when activists protested the “progressive except for Palestine” US Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky speaking during a keynote.

Free Palestine

Folks were chanting “Free Palestine” and “Israel is a racist state” while covering the camera with the Palestinian flag.

It was beyond tense, and my anxiety was overwhelming just being in the room. When it was clear that the keynote would not be able to continue, my colleagues and I, like many in attendance, gave up and left. We were greeted by a protest in the hallway.

Without the tension of blatant disobedience, the energy in the hall was electric.

I knew that I did not want to be on the opposing side of this.

While it would be a lot easier, though, it is not enough—as a progressive white woman in the US—to “know in your gut” that Israel is a racist state. That’s where these books come in.

Fighting bombs with books

When there is a genocide happening across the world from me, it’s hard to know what exactly I can do to help stop it. Of course, I can contact my representatives (like John Fetterman, who I helped elect but who doesn’t represent me) and share things to my Instagram stories, but I can always, always read. Reading doesn’t feel at all like protesting in the streets, but it’s just as important. It’s solemn, and it’s hard, and it can be slow at times. It’s not energizing like that room in Chicago was.

Does that mean I think everyone needs to read these exact books? No. I do think that everyone should educate themselves by their preferred method, whether it be reading, watching webinars, or, yes, finding legitimate sources through Instagram or TikTok. (See the list below to get started.)

At the risk of sounding cliche, the opposition wants you to not know your history. They want you to be able to think Palestinians are oppressors, that Israel are stewards of the land they’re bombing, that we need two states, that there is a war. There is no war. There are not two sides.

That’s why knowledge is power. That’s why we fight bombs with books. This is the issue that I need to educate myself on. What’s yours?

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

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A non-sponsored, non-affiliate list of sources for a Free Palestine:

24 thoughts on “Worldview Shapers | Knowledge is Power: Nonfiction November 2023, Week 4

  • November 20, 2023 at 6:43 am

    Thanks for this list, I really want to do some reading about this topic.

    If I say there’s a book I think everyone should read (and I have, thought rarely), I don’t mean I expect or desire everyone to react to it in the same way I did or end up with the same thoughts and worldview as me. I mean it’s such important information to know or such a valuable story to hear that everyone should have an experience of it, and make up their own mind. However, I don’t believe there’s any book that everyone will enjoy or agree with. That’s plainly impossible!

  • November 20, 2023 at 9:02 am

    I love week 4 of this challenge so I can see which books have shaped others. I appreciate the tweak you made this year from change to shape. I didn’t consciously notice it, but I did notice how easily my choices came, so maybe that was why?

    When I saw your books’ topic this week, I inwardly cringed. Because it’s a toughie; I’m so ignorant on it. AND I’m jumping in with your suggestions! I know so little about Palestine; I want to learn more. I appreciate your guidance to this curated set of books I can start with.

    This is so, so true on so many issues: “Reading doesn’t feel at all like protesting in the streets, but it’s just as important.” Hooray for you hosting us this week, Rebekah!

  • November 20, 2023 at 9:54 am

    I have a shelf on Goodreads that I have named “Level Up”. When I read a book that opens major new insights for me and helps me see things in a new way, I list it there. Right now there’s ten books on the shelf, including “Godel Escher Bach” and “Thinking Fast and Slow”.

  • November 20, 2023 at 11:34 am

    Brilliant. I totally agree with you. When we say, everyone should read a certain book, we all mean we hope that many people read the book and learn about the subject. Like about Palestine. I’ve read a lot of books about that conflict and also mention them in my post, though I have another subject this year. Still, you said it all in your subtitle: “Knowledge is Power” or – like it has been said for centuries: “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword”. Let’s hope so.

    In any case, thank you so much for doing this. And don’t take that critic too hard, he/she does not seem so convinced about their POV themselves. Plus, we’ve had this topic before and many people participated, so I think most of us like it.

    Here is my Worldview Shapers post.

  • November 20, 2023 at 11:44 am

    I’m bookmarking this page so I can check out the books on Palestine later on. I really wanna read and learn more about it all and those seem perfect to start with. Thanks so much for sharing these!

    • November 20, 2023 at 7:12 pm

      Of course! A couple of them are free on Haymarket Books right now. That’s where I found them 😊

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  • November 20, 2023 at 1:24 pm

    I really like the change in wording however I’m sorry that you had that quite attacking comment last year! Goodness me. I mean, sometimes you do have your worldview changed by a book or a couple of books – for example I read two books on transgender issues in 2022 which really changed how I thought and led me to seriously re-evaluate some stuff, and also one on drag, which I’d traditionally had a problem with then had some realisations about. Your Palestine books are of the moment and a very useful resource. And I hope this week goes really well for you!

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  • November 22, 2023 at 8:11 am

    #fightingbombswithbooks is a great hashtag! It could even be expanded to other topics like #fightingprejudicewithbooks. A very insightful post!

  • November 22, 2023 at 3:30 pm

    As another commentor mentioned, THIS weeks’ topic is going to feature a LOT of really interesting topics and books to feed new knowledge and shape new understandings. Thank you.

    • November 27, 2023 at 10:25 am

      I’ve now added most of these to my tbr. Thank you.

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  • November 28, 2023 at 9:15 pm

    This is an excellent post and I love your thoughts, books, and response to the comments that were made. It is amazing isn’t it, how deeply someone’s comments can impact us? For what it is worth, your posts and hosting last year changed my reading for a YEAR. A year!

    Growing up in America, it is remarkable how much we only hear the Israel perspective. A few years ago, a friend recommended a number of books on Palestine that really changed my perspective.

    Thanks again for hosting this year!

    • November 29, 2023 at 7:12 pm

      I’m so glad you found my posts last year useful! 🥰

      And Israel is a master at controlling the narrative so reading books like this can take away that power they have 😉

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