Chicago Booth’s Book Club Co-Chairs want to entertain, educate, and inspire you with their Best Books of 2020 Picks.
- December 23, 2020
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
Reason for choosing it: Mena Poonaki, a fellow Boothie and I were heading to the Great Smoky Mountains for our very first backpacking trip. I had mapped out our 64-mile hiking loop, booked our campsites, studied the terrain but was still nervous about the unknown mishaps that could occur in the woods. I was looking for a travelogue and one of my friends recommended this book. Bill Bryson sets out with his friend Katz to hike the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. Bryson digs up a whole lot of background detail and trivia about the trail. This audiobook pressed all my favorite buttons: humor, adventure, danger, storytelling, and nature.
Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein
Reason for choosing it: Ezra Klein is one of the great public communicators and political commentators of our time and this book is no exception. In the year 2020, it’s not novel to say that the United States is feeling polarized and this book delves into the history of American polarization, how identity affects politics and polarization, and how our systems and incentives are set up to encourage polarization. This book is for anyone looking for an engaging and rigorously researched framework to understand modern history as we live it.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Reason for choosing it: I am a massive Tolkien fan, and for several years I would read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy once a year. As we all know, this year has been incredibly challenging and stressful and I have found that in the midst of all this, re-watching old shows that I love and re-reading my favorite books gave me a great level of comfort. I wasn’t really able to make time for the trilogy, but have immensely enjoyed re-reading The Hobbit and finding some comfort—however temporary—in Middle Earth. While fantasy may not be everyone’s cup of tea, perhaps consider picking up one of your old favorites and giving it a re-read during break.
The Women with Silver Wings by Katherine Sharp Landdeck
Reason for choosing it: This well-researched book brings to light the contribution of Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II. Although they were not able to participate in combat, they played the important task of training pilots and ferrying aircraft, which helped fill the shortage of pilots after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It contains personal stories that provide insight into their struggles during the war and their fight to be recognized as WWII veterans post-war. This non-fiction book takes us back in time and makes us vicariously experience their journey through the formation, achievement, and disbandment of the WASP group.
Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman
Reason for choosing it: Humankind: A Hopeful History is written by Rutger Bregman, Dutch historian and the author of Utopia for Realists. Bregman challenges what we have been presented as evidence of humans’ cruel nature and makes an argument for humans’ inherent goodness. The book brings awareness to our negativity bias, which can lead us to forget the extent of people’s compassion and capacity to default to being kind.
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