Daaaamn, 2021 is fast-approaching! As I have mentioning in my old social media accounts and in my previous daily blogs here, one of my goals for 2021 is to quit social media for good. For one, I want to look at another perspective on my own creativity without consuming a lot of inspirations. Second, I want to substitute mindless social media scrolling (and consuming potential fake news and non-essential life updates from people I don’t actually know irl) with reading actual books.

During the last day of classes last school year, one of the last words of advice I left to my students is to read a goddamn book instead of looking up for quick answers over the internet for your questions about life, the society, and the world. “Each one of us, no matter how qualified we are, has an equal privilege to post any kind of information on social media and the internet. On the other hand, authors were able to publish books for a reason. Plus, books underwent rigorous reviews, and chances are, the information we would consume from them will be far worth it than the information we consume from social media. So, class, read a goddamn book.”

Sometimes I just need to take my own advice. I believe 2020 was the year when I read the least number of books. Before I start feeding you with all my pandemic-related dramas and excuses to justify my lack of reading actual books this 2020, let’s just move forward because I am very excited to share my 2021 Reading List!

My 2021 Reading List: Self-Help, Cultures, International Relations, and the Classics

I purchased an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 4 because holding an actual book with a clip-on reading light at night felt very inconvenient to me. However, I wasn’t able to read a lot with my Kindle so far since I purchased it. I still find myself reading stuff with the pdf reader of my laptop so that I can easily transfer some thoughts and ideas to the presentation slides I’ll be showing to class.

I did not have a proper reading goal.

I’ve had a lot of times I went out to have some coffee by myself but I always forget to bring the damn Kindle.

In short, 2020 has been my least ambitious year of all, reading-wise.

Stumbling upon Bill Gates’ Goodreads author profile has given me access to all the books he has read and reviewed. Bill Gates was known to read a lot of books and practically the God of efficiency and time management. I fell in love and I got more inspired to read more this year.

I am an academic, so therefore reading books has been part of my daily life. I have to read a lot to have something to teach. I have to read a lot so that I know what studies have already been conducted and what studies can I initiate. I have to read a lot so keep up with new information about my discipline. A huge part of my job requires reading and analyzing things I read.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the 30 books I vow to read this coming 2021. Since I teach International Relations and Southeast Asian Studies, a lot of these books are about international politics, cultures, and wars. Also, since I am a very ‘artsy’ person and I am forever a ‘work-in-progress’, I included several self-help and creativity-themed books. Please allow me to paste the synopsis of the books I got from Goodreads. I promise I’ll try my best to write my own synopsis and review of these books after I finish reading them.

1. The Finnish Way: Finding Courage, Wellness, and Happiness Through the Power of Sisu by Katja Pantzar

MY 2021 READING LIST:

An engaging and practical guided tour of the simple and nature-inspired ways that Finns stay happy and healthy–including the powerful concept of sisu, or everyday courage

Forget hygge–it’s time to blow out the candles and get out into the world! Journalist Katja Pantzar did just that, taking the huge leap to move to the remote Nordic country of Finland. What she discovered there transformed her body, mind and spirit. In this engaging and practical guide, she shows readers how to embrace the “keep it simple and sensible” daily practices that make Finns one of the happiest populations in the world, year after year.

Topics include:

*Movement as medicine How walking, biking and swimming every day are good for what ails us–and best done outside the confines of a gym
*Forest therapy Why there’s no substitute for getting out into nature on a regular basis
*Healthy eating What the Nordic diet can teach us all about feeding body, mind and soul
*The gift of sisu Why Finns embrace a special form of courage, grit and determination as a national virtue – and how anyone can dig deeper to survive and thrive through tough times.

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s a better, simpler way to find happiness and good health, look no further. The Finns have a word for that, and this empowering book shows us how to achieve it.

2. Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond

MY 2021 READING LIST:

In his international bestsellers Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse, Jared Diamond transformed our understanding of what makes civilizations rise and fall. Now, in his third book in this monumental trilogy, he reveals how successful nations recover from crises while adopting selective changes — a coping mechanism more commonly associated with individuals recovering from personal crises.

Diamond compares how six countries have survived recent upheavals — ranging from the forced opening of Japan by U.S. Commodore Perry’s fleet, to the Soviet Union’s attack on Finland, to a murderous coup or countercoup in Chile and Indonesia, to the transformations of Germany and Australia after World War Two. Because Diamond has lived and spoken the language in five of these six countries, he can present gut-wrenching histories experienced firsthand. These nations coped, to varying degrees, through mechanisms such as acknowledgment of responsibility, painfully honest self-appraisal, and learning from models of other nations. Looking to the future, Diamond examines whether the United States, Japan, and the whole world are successfully coping with the grave crises they currently face. Can we learn from lessons of the past?

Adding a psychological dimension to the in-depth history, geography, biology, and anthropology that mark all of Diamond’s books, Upheaval reveals factors influencing how both whole nations and individual people can respond to big challenges. The result is a book epic in scope, but also his most personal book yet.

3. The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped our World by Vincent Bevins

MY 2021 READING LIST:

The hidden story of the wanton slaughter — in Indonesia, Latin America, and around the world — backed by the United States.
In 1965, the U.S. government helped the Indonesian military kill approximately one million innocent civilians. This was one of the most important turning points of the twentieth century, eliminating the largest communist party outside China and the Soviet Union and inspiring copycat terror programs in faraway countries like Brazil and Chile. But these events remain widely overlooked, precisely because the CIA’s secret interventions were so successful.

In this bold and comprehensive new history, Vincent Bevins builds on his incisive reporting for the Washington Post, using recently declassified documents, archival research and eye-witness testimony collected across twelve countries to reveal a shocking legacy that spans the globe. For decades, it’s been believed that parts of the developing world passed peacefully into the U.S.-led capitalist system. The Jakarta Method demonstrates that the brutal extermination of unarmed leftists was a fundamental part of Washington’s final triumph in the Cold War.

4. Burmese Days by George Orwell

MY 2021 READING LIST:

Set in the days of the Empire, with the British ruling in Burma, Orwell’s book describes corruption and imperial bigotry. Flory, a white timber merchant, befriends Dr Veraswami, a black enthusiast for the Empire, whose downfall can only be prevented by membership at an all-white club.

5. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

MY 2021 READING LIST:

“Diamond has written a book of remarkable scope … one of the most important and readable works on the human past published in recent years.”

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and a national bestseller: the global account of the rise of civilization that is also a stunning refutation of ideas of human development based on race.

In this “artful, informative, and delightful” (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed writing, technology, government, and organized religion—as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war—and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth Club of California’s Gold Medal

6. The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century by Thant Myint-U

MY 2021 READING LIST:

Precariously positioned between China and India, Burma’s population has suffered dictatorship, natural disaster, and the dark legacies of colonial rule. But when decades of military dictatorship finally ended and internationally beloved Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi emerged from long years of house arrest, hopes soared. World leaders such as Barack Obama ushered in waves of international support. Progress seemed inevitable.

As historian, former diplomat, and presidential advisor, Thant Myint-U saw the cracks forming. In this insider’s diagnosis of a country at a breaking point, he dissects how a singularly predatory economic system, fast-rising inequality, disintegrating state institutions, the impact of new social media, the rise of China next door, climate change, and deep-seated feelings around race, religion, and national identity all came together to challenge the incipient democracy. Interracial violence soared and a horrific exodus of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fixed international attention. Myint-U explains how and why this happened, and details an unsettling prognosis for the future.

Burma is today a fragile stage for nearly all the world’s problems. Are democracy and an economy that genuinely serves all its people possible in Burma? In clear and urgent prose, Myint-U explores this question—a concern not just for the Burmese but for the rest of the world—warning of the possible collapse of this nation of 55 million while suggesting a fresh agenda for change.

7. Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination by Adom Getachew

MY 2021 READING LIST:

Decolonization revolutionized the international order during the twentieth century. Yet standard histories that present the end of colonialism as an inevitable transition from a world of empires to one of nations—a world in which self-determination was synonymous with nation-building—obscure just how radical this change was. Drawing on the political thought of anticolonial intellectuals and statesmen such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, W.E.B Du Bois, George Padmore, Kwame Nkrumah, Eric Williams, Michael Manley, and Julius Nyerere, this important new account of decolonization reveals the full extent of their unprecedented ambition to remake not only nations but the world.

Adom Getachew shows that African, African American, and Caribbean anticolonial nationalists were not solely or even primarily nation-builders. Responding to the experience of racialized sovereign inequality, dramatized by interwar Ethiopia and Liberia, Black Atlantic thinkers and politicians challenged international racial hierarchy and articulated alternative visions of worldmaking. Seeking to create an egalitarian postimperial world, they attempted to transcend legal, political, and economic hierarchies by securing a right to self-determination within the newly founded United Nations, constituting regional federations in Africa and the Caribbean, and creating the New International Economic Order.

Using archival sources from Barbados, Trinidad, Ghana, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, Worldmaking after Empire recasts the history of decolonization, reconsiders the failure of anticolonial nationalism, and offers a new perspective on debates about today’s international order.

8. Animal Farm by George Orwell

MY 2021 READING LIST:

A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned –a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.
When Animal Farm was first published, Stalinist Russia was seen as its target. Today it is devastatingly clear that wherever and whenever freedom is attacked, under whatever banner, the cutting clarity and savage comedy of George Orwell’s masterpiece have a meaning and message still ferociously fresh.A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned –a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.
When Animal Farm was first published, Stalinist Russia was seen as its target. Today it is devastatingly clear that wherever and whenever freedom is attacked, under whatever banner, the cutting clarity and savage comedy of George Orwell’s masterpiece have a meaning and message still ferociously fresh.

9. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

MY 2021 READING LIST:

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.

10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

MY 2021 READING LIST:

Brave New World is a dystopian novel by English author Aldous Huxley, written in 1931 and published in 1932. Largely set in a futuristic World State, inhabited by genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel anticipates huge scientific advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation and classical conditioning that are combined to make a dystopian society which is challenged by only a single individual: the story’s protagonist.

11. Our Bodies, Their Battlefields by Christina Lamb

MY 2021 READING LIST:

From Christina Lamb, the coauthor of the bestselling I Am Malala and an award-winning journalist—an essential, groundbreaking examination of how women experience war.

In Our Bodies, Their Battlefields, longtime intrepid war correspondent Christina Lamb makes us witness to the lives of women in wartime. An award-winning war correspondent for twenty-five years (she’s never had a female editor) Lamb reports two wars—the “bang-bang” war and the story of how the people behind the lines live and survive. At the same time, since men usually act as the fighters, women are rarely interviewed about their experience of wartime, other than as grieving widows and mothers, though their experience is markedly different from that of the men involved in battle.

Lamb chronicles extraordinary tragedy and challenges in the lives of women in wartime. And none is more devastating than the increase of the use of rape as a weapon of war. Visiting warzones including the Congo, Rwanda, Nigeria, Bosnia, and Iraq, and spending time with the Rohingya fleeing Myanmar, she records the harrowing stories of survivors, from Yazidi girls kept as sex slaves by ISIS fighters and the beekeeper risking his life to rescue them; to the thousands of schoolgirls abducted across northern Nigeria by Boko Haram, to the Congolese gynecologist who stitches up more rape victims than anyone on earth. Told as a journey, and structured by country, Our Bodies, Their Battlefields gives these women voice.

We have made significant progress in international women’s rights, but across the world women are victimized by wartime atrocities that are rarely recorded, much less punished. The first ever prosecution for war rape was in 1997 and there have been remarkably few convictions since, as if rape doesn’t matter in the reckoning of war, only killing. Some courageous women in countries around the world are taking things in their own hands, hunting down the war criminals themselves, trying to trap them through Facebook.

In this profoundly important book, Christina Lamb shines a light on some of the darkest parts of the human experience—so that we might find a new way forward. Our Bodies, Their Battlefields is as inspiring and empowering is as it is urgent, a clarion call for necessary change.

12. The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler-Colonial Conquest and Resistance, 1917-2017 by Rashid Khalidi

MY 2021 READING LIST:

A landmark history of one hundred years of war waged against the Palestinians from the foremost US historian of the Middle East, told through pivotal events and family history.

In 1899, Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi, mayor of Jerusalem, alarmed by the Zionist call to create a Jewish national home in Palestine, wrote a letter aimed at Theodore Herzl: the country had an indigenous people who would not easily accept their own displacement. He warned of the perils ahead, ending his note, “in the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.” Thus Rashid Khalidi, al-Khalidi’s great-great-nephew, begins this sweeping history, the first general account of the conflict told from an explicitly Palestinian perspective.

Drawing on a wealth of untapped archival materials and the reports of generations of family members – mayors, judges, scholars, diplomats, and journalists – The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine upends accepted interpretations of the conflict, which tend, at best, to describe a tragic clash between two peoples with claims to the same territory. Instead, Khalidi traces a hundred years of colonial war on the Palestinians, waged first by the Zionist movement and then Israel, but backed by Britain and the United States, the great powers of the age. He highlights the key episodes in this colonial campaign, from the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the destruction of Palestine in 1948, from Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon to the endless and futile peace process.

Original, authoritative, and important, The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine is not a chronicle of victimization, nor does it whitewash the mistakes of Palestinian leaders or deny the emergence of national movements on both sides. In reevaluating the forces arrayed against the Palestinians, it offers an illuminating new view of a conflict that continues to this day.

13. Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia, and the Cold War by Taomo Zhou

MY 2021 READING LIST:

Migration in the Time of Revolution examines how two of the world’s most populous countries interacted between 1945 and 1967, when the concept of citizenship was contested, political loyalty was in question, identity was fluid, and the boundaries of political mobilization were blurred. Taomo Zhou asks probing questions of this important period in the histories of the People’s Republic of China and Indonesia. What was it like to be a youth in search of an ancestral homeland that one had never set foot in, or an economic refugee whose expertise in private business became undesirable in one’s new home in the socialist state? What ideological beliefs or practical calculations motivated individuals to commit to one particular nationality while forsaking another?

As Zhou demonstrates, the answers to such questions about ordinary migrants are crucial to a deeper understanding of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Through newly declassified documents from the Chinese Foreign Ministry Archives and oral history interviews, Migration in the Time of Revolution argues that migration and the political activism of the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia were important historical forces in the making of governmental relations between Beijing and Jakarta after World War II. Zhou highlights the agency and autonomy of individuals whose life experiences were shaped by but also helped shape the trajectory of bilateral diplomacy. These ethnic Chinese migrants and settlers were, Zhou contends, not passively acted upon but actively responding to the developing events of the Cold War. This book bridges the fields of diplomatic history and migration studies by reconstructing the Cold War in Asia as social processes from the ground up. 

14. They Will Have to Die Now: Mosul and the Fall of the Caliphate by James Verini

MY 2021 READING LIST:

A searing narrative of the Battle of Mosul, described by the Pentagon as “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”

In this masterpiece of war journalism based on months of frontline reporting, National Magazine Award winner James Verini describes the climactic battle in the struggle against the Islamic State. Focusing on two brothers from Mosul and their families, a charismatic Iraqi major who marched north from Baghdad to seize the city with his troops, rowdy Kurdish militiamen, and a hard-bitten American sergeant, Verini describes a war for the soul of a country, a war over and for history.

Seeing the battle in a larger, centuries-long sweep, he connects the bloody-minded philosophy of the Islamic State with the ancient Assyrians who founded Mosul. He also confronts the ways that the American invasion of Iraq not only deformed that country, but also changed America like no conflict since Vietnam.

15. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

MY 2021 READING LIST:

In this must-read book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, educators, students, and business people both seasoned and new that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a focused persistence called grit.

Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.

Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently bemoaned her lack of smarts, Duckworth describes her winding path through teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not genius, but a special blend of passion and long-term perseverance. As a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Duckworth created her own character lab and set out to test her theory.

Here, she takes readers into the field to visit teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers; from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to the cartoon editor of The New Yorker to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that not talent or luck makes all the difference.

16. A Great Place To Have A War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA by Joshua Kurlantzick

MY 2021 READING LIST:

The untold story of how America’s secret war in Laos in the 1960s transformed the CIA from a loose collection of spies into a military operation and a key player in American foreign policy.

In 1960, President Eisenhower was focused on Laos, a tiny Southeast Asian nation few Americans had ever heard of. Washington feared the country would fall to communism, triggering a domino effect in the rest of Southeast Asia. So in January 1961, Eisenhower approved the CIA’s Operation Momentum, a plan to create a proxy army of ethnic Hmong to fight communist forces in Laos. While remaining largely hidden from the American public and most of Congress, Momentum became the largest CIA paramilitary operation in the history of the United States. The brutal war, which continued under Presidents Kennedy and Nixon, lasted nearly two decades, killed one-tenth of Laos’s total population, left thousands of unexploded bombs in the ground, and changed the nature of the CIA forever.

Joshua Kurlantzick gives us the definitive account of the Laos war and its central characters, including the four key people who led the operation—the CIA operative who came up with the idea, the Hmong general who led the proxy army in the field, the paramilitary specialist who trained the Hmong, and the State Department careerist who took control over the war as it grew.

The Laos war created a CIA that fights with real soldiers and weapons as much as it gathers secrets. Laos became a template for CIA proxy wars all over the world, from Central America in the 1980s to today’s war on terrorism, where the CIA has taken control with little oversight. Based on extensive interviews and CIA records only recently declassified, A Great Place to Have a War is a riveting, thought-provoking look at how Operation Momentum changed American foreign policy forever.

17. Power to the People: How Open Technological Innovation is Arming Tomorrow’s Terrorists by Audrey Kurth Cronin

MY 2021 READING LIST:

Never have so many possessed the means to be so lethal. The diffusion of modern technology (robotics, cyber weapons, 3-D printing, autonomous systems, and artificial intelligence) to ordinary people has given them access to weapons of mass violence previously monopolized by the state. In recent years, states have attempted to stem the flow of such weapons to individuals and non-state groups, but their efforts are failing.

As Audrey Kurth Cronin explains in Power to the People, what we are seeing now is an exacerbation of an age-old trend. Over the centuries, the most surprising developments in warfare have occurred because of advances in technologies combined with changes in who can use them. Indeed, accessible innovations in destructive force have long driven new patterns of political violence. When Nobel invented dynamite and Kalashnikov designed the AK-47, each inadvertently spurred terrorist and insurgent movements that killed millions and upended the international system.

That history illuminates our own situation, in which emerging technologies are altering society and redistributing power. The twenty-first century “sharing economy” has already disrupted every institution, including the armed forces. New “open” technologies are transforming access to the means of violence. Just as importantly, higher-order functions that previously had been exclusively under state military control – mass mobilization, force projection, and systems integration – are being harnessed by non-state actors. Cronin closes by focusing on how to respond so that we both preserve the benefits of emerging technologies yet reduce the risks. Power, in the form of lethal technology, is flowing to the people, but the same technologies that empower can imperil global security – unless we act strategically.

18. Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven: Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement and Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement by Ming-sho Ho

MY 2021 READING LIST:

In 2014, the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan grabbed international attention as citizen protesters demanded the Taiwan government withdraw its free-trade agreement with China. In that same year, in Hong Kong, the Umbrella Movement sustained 79 days of demonstrations, protests that demanded genuine universal suffrage in electing Hong Kong’s chief executive. It too, became an international incident before it collapsed. Both of these student-led movements featured large-scale and intense participation and had deep and far-reaching consequences. But how did two massive and disruptive protests take place in culturally conservative societies? And how did the two “occupy”-style protests against Chinese influences on local politics arrive at such strikingly divergent results?

Challenging Beijing’s Mandate of Heaven aims to make sense of the origins, processes, and outcomes of these eventful protests in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Ming-sho Ho compares the dynamics of the two movements, from the existing networks of activists that preceded protest, to the perceived threats that ignited the movements, to the government strategies with which they contended, and to the nature of their coordination. Moreover, he contextualizes these protests in a period of global prominence for student, occupy, and anti-globalization protests and situates them within social movement studies.

19. The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un by Anna Fifield

MY 2021 READING LIST:

The behind-the-scenes story of the rise and reign of the world’s strangest and most elusive tyrant, Kim Jong Un, by the journalist with the best connections and insights into the bizarrely dangerous world of North Korea.

Since his birth in 1984, Kim Jong Un has been swaddled in myth and propaganda, from the plainly silly–he could supposedly drive a car at the age of three–to the grimly bloody stories of family members who perished at his command.
Anna Fifield reconstructs Kim’s past and present with exclusive access to sources near him and brings her unique understanding to explain the dynastic mission of the Kim family in North Korea. The archaic notion of despotic family rule matches the almost medieval hardship the country has suffered under the Kims. Few people thought that a young, untested, unhealthy, Swiss-educated basketball fanatic could hold together a country that should have fallen apart years ago. But Kim Jong Un has not just survived, he has thrived, abetted by the approval of Donald Trump and diplomacy’s weirdest bromance.

Skeptical yet insightful, Fifield creates a captivating portrait of the oddest and most secretive political regime in the world–one that is isolated yet internationally relevant, bankrupt yet in possession of nuclear weapons–and its ruler, the self-proclaimed Beloved and Respected Leader, Kim Jong Un.

20. Likewar: The Weaponization of Social Media by P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking

MY 2021 READING LIST:

Social media has been weaponized, as state hackers and rogue terrorists have seized upon Twitter and Facebook to create chaos and destruction. This urgent report is required reading, from defense expert P.W. Singer and Council on Foreign Relations fellow Emerson Brooking.

21. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

MY 2021 READING LIST:

Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It’s the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.

In this timely and enlightening book, the bestselling author of Deep Work introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives.

Digital minimalists are all around us. They’re the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don’t feel overwhelmed by it. They don’t experience “fear of missing out” because they already know which activities provide them meaning and satisfaction.

Now, Newport gives us a name for this quiet movement, and makes a persuasive case for its urgency in our tech-saturated world. Common sense tips, like turning off notifications, or occasional rituals like observing a digital sabbath, don’t go far enough in helping us take back control of our technological lives, and attempts to unplug completely are complicated by the demands of family, friends and work. What we need instead is a thoughtful method to decide what tools to use, for what purposes, and under what conditions.

Drawing on a diverse array of real-life examples, from Amish farmers to harried parents to Silicon Valley programmers, Newport identifies the common practices of digital minimalists and the ideas that underpin them. He shows how digital minimalists are rethinking their relationship to social media, rediscovering the pleasures of the offline world, and reconnecting with their inner selves through regular periods of solitude. He then shares strategies for integrating these practices into your life, starting with a thirty-day “digital declutter” process that has already helped thousands feel less overwhelmed and more in control.

Technology is intrinsically neither good nor bad. The key is using it to support your goals and values, rather than letting it use you. This book shows the way.

22. Cuba Libre: A 500-Year Quest for Independence by Philip Brenner and Peter Eisner

MY 2021 READING LIST:

This timely book provides a balanced and deeply knowledgeable introduction to Cuba since Christopher Columbus’s first arrival in 1492. With decades of experience studying and reporting on the island, Philip Brenner and Peter Eisner provide an incisive overview for all readers seeking to go beyond stereotypes in their exploration of Cuba’s politics, economy, and culture. As Cuba and the United States open their doors to each other, Cuba Libre gives travelers, policy makers, businesspeople, students, and those with an interest in world affairs an opportunity to understand Cuba from a Cuban perspective; to appreciate how Cubans’ quest for independence and sovereignty animates their spirit and shapes their worldview and even their identity. In a world ever more closely linked, Cuba Libre provides a compelling model for US citizens and policy makers to empathize with viewpoints far from their own experiences.

23. The Muslim Brotherhood and the West: A History of Enmity and Engagement by Martyn Frampton

MY 2021 READING LIST:

The Muslim Brotherhood and the West is the first comprehensive history of the relationship between the world’s largest Islamist movement and the Western powers that have dominated the Middle East for the past century: Britain and the United States.

In the decades since the Brotherhood emerged in Egypt in the 1920s, the movement’s notion of “the West” has remained central to its worldview and a key driver of its behavior. From its founding, the Brotherhood stood opposed to the British Empire and Western cultural influence more broadly. As British power gave way to American, the Brotherhood’s leaders, committed to a vision of more authentic Islamic societies, oscillated between anxiety or paranoia about the West and the need to engage with it. Western officials, for their part, struggled to understand the Brotherhood, unsure whether to shun the movement as one of dangerous “fanatics” or to embrace it as a moderate and inevitable part of the region’s political scene. Too often, diplomats failed to view the movement on its own terms, preferring to impose their own external agendas and obsessions.

Martyn Frampton reveals the history of this complex and charged relationship down to the eve of the Arab Spring. Drawing on extensive archival research in London and Washington and the Brotherhood’s writings in Arabic and English, he provides the most authoritative assessment to date of a relationship that is both vital in itself and crucial to navigating one of the world’s most turbulent regions.

24. The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres, 1965-66 by Geoffrey B. Robinson

MY 2021 READING LIST:

The Killing Season explores one of the largest and swiftest, yet least examined, instances of mass killing and incarceration in the twentieth century–the shocking antileftist purge that gripped Indonesia in 1965-66, leaving some five hundred thousand people dead and more than a million others in detention.


An expert in modern Indonesian history, genocide, and human rights, Geoffrey Robinson sets out to account for this violence and to end the troubling silence surrounding it. In doing so, he sheds new light on broad and enduring historical questions. How do we account for instances of systematic mass killing and detention? Why are some of these crimes remembered and punished, while others are forgotten? What are the social and political ramifications of such acts and such silence?

Challenging conventional narratives of the mass violence of 1965-66 as arising spontaneously from religious and social conflicts, Robinson argues convincingly that it was instead the product of a deliberate campaign, led by the Indonesian Army. He also details the critical role played by the United States, Britain, and other major powers in facilitating mass murder and incarceration. Robinson concludes by probing the disturbing long-term consequences of the violence for millions of survivors and Indonesian society as a whole.

Based on a rich body of primary and secondary sources, The Killing Season is the definitive account of a pivotal period in Indonesian history. It also makes a powerful contribution to wider debates about the dynamics and legacies of mass killing, incarceration, and genocide. 

25. A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 by William R. Trotter

MY 2021 READING LIST:

In 1939, tiny Finland waged war – the kind of war that spawns legends – against the mighty Soviet Union, and yet their epic struggle has been largely ignored. Guerrillas on skis, heroic single-handed attacks on tanks, unfathomable endurance, and the charismatic leadership of one of this century’s true military geniuses – these are the elements of both the Finnish victory and a gripping tale of war.

26. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

MY 2021 READING LIST:

You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.

27. Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon

MY 2021 READING LIST:

In his previous books Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work!, both New York Times bestsellers, Austin Kleon gave readers the keys to unlock their creativity and showed them how to become known. Now he offers his most inspiring work yet, with ten simple rules for how to stay creative, focused, and true to yourself—for life.

The creative life is not a linear journey to a finish line, it’s a loop—so find a daily routine, because today is the only day that matters. Disconnect from the world to connect with yourself—sometimes you just have to switch into airplane mode. Keep Going celebrates getting outdoors and taking a walk (as director Ingmar Bergman told his daughter, ”The demons hate fresh air”). Pay attention, and especially pay attention to what you pay attention to. Worry less about getting things done, and more about the worth of what you’re doing. Instead of focusing on making your mark, work to leave things better than you found them.

Keep Going and its timeless, practical, and ethical principles are for anyone trying to sustain a meaningful and productive life.

28. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon

MY 2021 READING LIST:

In his New York Times bestseller Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon showed readers how to unlock their creativity by “stealing” from the community of other movers and shakers. Now, in an even more forward-thinking and necessary book, he shows how to take that critical next step on a creative journey—getting known.

Show Your Work! is about why generosity trumps genius. It’s about getting findable, about using the network instead of wasting time “networking.” It’s not self-promotion, it’s self-discovery—let others into your process, then let them steal from you. Filled with illustrations, quotes, stories, and examples, Show Your Work! offers ten transformative rules for being open, generous, brave, productive.

In chapters such as You Don’t Have to Be a GeniusShare Something Small Every Day; and Stick Around, Kleon creates a user’s manual for embracing the communal nature of creativity— what he calls the “ecology of talent.” From broader life lessons about work (you can’t find your voice if you don’t use it) to the etiquette of sharing—and the dangers of oversharing—to the practicalities of Internet life (build a good domain name; give credit when credit is due), it’s an inspiring manifesto for succeeding as any kind of artist or entrepreneur in the digital age.

29. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

MY 2021 READING LIST:

No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving–every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Here, you’ll get a proven system that can take you to new heights.

Clear is known for his ability to distill complex topics into simple behaviors that can be easily applied to daily life and work. Here, he draws on the most proven ideas from biology, psychology, and neuroscience to create an easy-to-understand guide for making good habits inevitable and bad habits impossible. Along the way, readers will be inspired and entertained with true stories from Olympic gold medalists, award-winning artists, business leaders, life-saving physicians, and star comedians who have used the science of small habits to master their craft and vault to the top of their field.

Learn how to:
*  make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy);
*  overcome a lack of motivation and willpower;
*  design your environment to make success easier;
*  get back on track when you fall off course;
…and much more.

Atomic Habits will reshape the way you think about progress and success, and give you the tools and strategies you need to transform your habits–whether you are a team looking to win a championship, an organization hoping to redefine an industry, or simply an individual who wishes to quit smoking, lose weight, reduce stress, or achieve any other goal.

30. Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar by Virginia Vallejo

MY 2021 READING LIST:

A revealing memoir of Colombian television journalist Virginia Vallejo’s affair with the “King of Cocaine,” notorious Medellín drug lord, Pablo Escobar. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.

At 33, Virginia Vallejo was media elite. A renowned anchorwoman and socialite, and a model who appeared on magazine covers worldwide, Vallejo was the darling of Colombia’s most powerful politicians and billionaires. Meeting Pablo Escobar in 1983, and becoming his mistress for many years, she witnessed the rise of a drug empire that was characterized by Escobar’s far-reaching political corruption, his extraordinary wealth, and a network of violent crime that lasted until his death in 1993.
     In this highly personal and insightful story, Vallejo characterizes the duality of Escobar’s charm and charisma as a benefactor to the people of Colombia, and the repulsion of his criminal actions as a tyrannical terrorist and enemy of many world leaders. Told from the present day perspective, and reflecting on her cooperation with the US Department of Justice, in 2006, as she testified against high-ranking Colombian ministers on trial for conspiracy and murder, Vallejo offers a compelling work of intimate reflection and critical journalism–a unique perspective on the Colombian drug wars and the endlessly fascinating figure, Pablo Escobar.

My 2021 Reading List: Wish Me Luck!

Feel free to send me an email at sherlynmaehernandez@gmail.com if you want to have copies of these books! Also, feel free to share your own reading list at the comments section. Good luck to us and let’s have a productive 2021 ahead! 🙂

my 2021 reading list

2 thoughts on “My 2021 Reading List (Daily Blog #5)”

  1. Called by to leave my thanks for your recent decision to follow Learning from Dogs. Thank you!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome! I’m enjoying the Picture Parade posts! 🐶

      Reply

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