Lisa Lucas, the head of the National Book Foundation, is telling people to read something different. There have been a number of studies that suggest that reading fosters empathy and helps people feel connected to the world. Some doctors have even been prescribing literature to help fight loneliness and mild cases of depression. At a time that people feel so divided from each other there’s a small and simple way to understand where other people are coming from: reading. Lucas says “We all need to be reading across the lines we’ve drawn in our lives.” Here are a few to get you started:
Nickel and Dimed: on (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich is a modern classic that deftly portrays the plight of America’s working-class poor. Author Barbara Ehrenreich decides to see if she can scratch out a comfortable living in blue-collar America. What she discovers is a culture of desperation, where workers often take multiple low-paying jobs just to keep a roof overhead.
In Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Hochschild the renowned sociologist Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into the heart of the bayou of Lake Charles, Louisiana, a stronghold of the conservative Right.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. From the author’s own evolving understanding of the subject over the course of his life comes a bold and personal investigation into America’s racial history and its contemporary echoes.