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2020 Book Concierge: 4 Current Events Recommendations

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Looking for a book to curl up with just about now? I mean, you can't spend all of your time listening to the music of BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music. NPR's Book Concierge has nearly 400 recommendations. Some of our colleagues have recommended four new books about current events for your reading pleasure.

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ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I'm Eric Deggans, NPR's TV critic. And I've also done a lot of work looking at how race, media, politics and society come together, so I was really excited to pick up this book called "Me And White Supremacy" by Layla Saad. Of course, since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police earlier this year, we've had this huge civil rights reckoning where people have asked, how do I recognize systemic racism in my world, in my community, and how do I fight it? And this book does a great job of walking readers through definitions, questions and concepts that you need to understand to realize how racial stereotypes are embedded in American society, to take a look at how we reflexively reference these stereotypes in our own thinking and to figure out how to dismantle them and oppose them wherever you are, in whatever community you're living in.

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LIZ BAKER, BYLINE: Hi, my name is Liz Baker. I'm a producer on the National Desk. The book I'm recommending is "Breath: The New Science Of A Lost Art" by James Nestor. It is about something that we all really take for granted, or at least I do, and never thought about, which is breathing and our respiratory system. With coronavirus being a respiratory illness, it seemed like pretty good timing for this kind of book about breath. This book takes the science that is maybe not super-accessible, you know, in medical journals or scientific articles, and it breaks it down into super-accessible chunks, including techniques of what you can do, right? There's breathing really fast. There's breathing really slow. There's holding your breath. There's breathing through your nose versus breathing through your mouth. And he breaks it down, showing the science and showing practically what it does to your body by doing it himself, which is both impressive and a little bit scary because some of the experiments he puts himself through sound just terrible.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: I'm Greg Myre, and I'm an NPR national security correspondent. The book I'd like to tell you about is "The New Map," and it's by Daniel Yergin. Now, he's been writing in sweeping terms about global energy markets for decades. Yet this book, like his previous ones, is actually about so much more. He begins with a visit to tiny DISH, Texas. That's the site of the first successful fracking operation back in 1998, which launched a new era that's made the U.S. the world's largest energy producer. But it's also a book about climate change. Yergin walks the reader through the battles to control the electric car market and countries that are making solar and wind power part of the mainstream. And ultimately, Yergin shows us how energy markets explain world politics. From Middle East conflicts to China's obsession with the South China Sea, he breaks them down through the lens of energy. Daniel Yergin writes about energy, but his stories are really a master class on how the world works.

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, BYLINE: Hi. I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji, co-host and senior producer of NPR's Code Switch podcast. And I'm proud to say that I loved Karla Cornejo Villavicencio's book. In "The Undocumented Americans," Karla writes about the Americans who never get recognized as such because of their immigration status, people who live interesting, complicated lives but are only considered workers, laborers, if they're thought of at all. Having lived the life of an undocumented American herself, Karla weaves her story with those of other undocumented people she meets in five different cities across the United States. Their names have been changed, and it's possible their stories have changed a bit, too. In "The Undocumented Americans," Karla leaves it up to us to decide what's fact, what's fiction and whether that even matters. Her approach to nonfiction and her writing style are innovative, electric. You will feel it all when you read this book.

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SIMON: There you have it, four books for people interested in diving deep into current events. We heard Shereen Marisol Meraji recommending "The Undocumented Americans," Greg Myre talking about "The New Map," Liz Baker, who recommended "Breath," and Eric Deggans recommending "Me And White Supremacy." For the full list of NPR Book Concierge recommendations, check out npr.org/bestbooks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.