Feature

Indie Books to Help You Navigate the News

Independently Published Current Event Books

Ever feel like you need context during our crazy news cycles of late? Find yourself high-tailing it to Wikipedia to make sense of an article? Keeping track of everything going on in the world is hard enough, and sometimes we need more than a quick Google search to understand the complexities and currents that shape the world issues surrounding us. Luckily, there are many superb books put out by indie presses, universities, and self-published authors that tackle difficult subjects head on. These indie books are here to help you understand the current state of affairs.

The following indie books will help you wrap your mind around a variety of topics, from the rise of ISIS to the homeless. Share your favorite issue-based books in the comments below. 


 

ISIS: A History

By Fawaz A. Gerges (Princeton University Press)

"For those not closely following the regional politics and social movements of the Middle East, the rise of ISIS seemed swift, unexpected, and savage. And while journalists have done excellent work at reporting on the Islamic State’s brutal regime and its appeal for recruits, a deeper and more nuanced historical look has been missing. Fawaz Gerges’ ISIS: A History is a crucial read for understanding the conflict, especially for those who have no prior knowledge with which to contextualize the rise of ISIS. Using his deep insight into the region, Gerges explains the unique set of circumstances that birthed ISIS, including failures on the part of Western leadership to stop its rise in early days."

- Lauren White

 


Hopeless but Optimistic: Journeying through America's Endless War in Afghanistan

By Douglas Wissing (Indiana University Press)

Award-winning journalist Douglas A. Wissing’s poignant and eye-opening journey across insurgency-wracked Afghanistan casts an unyielding spotlight on greed, dysfunction, and predictable disaster while celebrating the everyday courage and wisdom of frontline soldiers, idealistic humanitarians, and resilient Afghans. As Wissing hauls a hundred pounds of body armor and pack across the Afghan warzone in search of the ground truth, US officials frantically spin a spurious victory narrative, American soldiers try to keep their body parts together, and Afghans try to stay positive and strain to figure out their next move after the US eventually leaves. As one technocrat confided to Wissing, “I am hopeless—but optimistic.”

Wissing is everywhere in Afghanistan, sharing an impressionistic view from little white taxis coursing across one of the world’s most mine-ridden places; a perilous view from outside the great walls surrounding America’s largest base, sequestered Bagram Air Field; and compelling inside views from within embattled frontline combat outposts, lumbering armored gun trucks and flitting helicopters, brain trauma clinics, and Kabul’s Oz-like American embassy. It’s Afghan life on the streets; the culture and institutions that anneal them; the poetry that enriches them. It includes the perspectives of cynical military lifers and frightened short-timers; true believers and amoral grabbers; Americans and Afghans trying to make sense of two countries surreally contorted by war-birthed extractive commerce.

Along with a deep inquiry into the 21st-century American way of war and an unforgettable glimpse of the enduring culture and legacy of Afghanistan, Hopeless but Optimistic includes the real stuff of life: the austere grandeur of Afghanistan and its remarkable people; warzone dining, defecation, and sex; as well as the remarkable shopping opportunities for men whose job is to kill. 

 

As Ohio Goes: Life in the Post-Recession Nation

By Rana B. Khoury (The Kent State University Press)

"Politics today seem more divided than ever before. Think pieces and articles analyzing data are in abundance. As Ohio Goes puts names and proverbial faces (though actual faces might have been nice) to the political turmoil. From cities to the countryside, Rana Khoury talks to the people of one the nation's most economically troubled yet influential states. This is an interesting read that takes you beyond the headlines and magazine articles."

- Amy Shamroe

 

Painting By Numbers: How to Sharpen Your BS Detector and Smoke out the "Experts"

By Jason Makansi (Layla Dog Press)

"While As Ohio Goes focuses on the people at the heart of data, Painting by Numbers offers a practical approach to navigating numbers and statistics. Anecdotal experience resonates. Data is cold and can be manipulated. Jason Makansi offers an accessible and comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to deal in facts but also wants to understand where those facts come from. He cuts through the smoke and mirrors to teach readers how to spot the good from the dubious."

- Amy Shamroe

 

Chasing Utopia: The Future of the Kibbutz in a Divided Israel

By David Leach (ECW Press)

"David Leach’s look into the kibbutz communes of Israel is a powerful read, and an excellent way to take a fresh look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Driven by a break-up, Leach winds up seeking the paradise of a communal work farm in Israel, chasing his own utopia. His subsequent experiences provide him with a special insight into the war-torn region, despite his claim that he is also outside, a westerner looking in. The personal tone of the book - peppered with humor, anecdotes, and striking characters - does not impede Leach from maintaining a distance and neutrality that is much needed in discussions of this conflict. This account of the decline of kibbutzes is a great read to deepen your understanding of Israel."

- Lauren White

 

American Surveillance: Intelligence, Privacy, and the Fourth Amendment

By Anthony Gregory (University of Wisconsin Press)

To defend its citizens from harm, must the government have unfettered access to all information? Or, must personal privacy be defended at all costs from the encroachment of a surveillance state? And, doesn’t the Constitution already protect us from such intrusions? When the topic of discussion is intelligence-gathering, privacy, or Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the result is usually more heat than light.

Anthony Gregory challenges such simplifications, offering a nuanced history and analysis of these difficult issues. He highlights the complexity of the relationship between the gathering of intelligence for national security and countervailing efforts to safeguard individual privacy. The Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures offers no panacea, he finds, in combating assaults on privacy—whether by the NSA, the FBI, local police, or more mundane administrative agencies. Given the growth of technology, together with the ambiguities and practical problems of enforcing the Fourth Amendment, advocates for privacy protections need to work on multiple policy fronts.

 

Crook Country: Racism and Injustice in America's Largest Criminal Court

By Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve (Stanford University Press)

"Police relations with communities have been scrutinized more and more in the media and through activist movements in recent years. As a result, our criminal courts and staggering incarceration rates are being examined as well. Based on years of observation and investigation, Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve uses Chicago-Cook County as a study of the faults in our venerated justice system. Don't pick this up expecting to find the heroes of your favorite Law & Order franchise, as Crook County does not sugar coat the mechanizations that allow for poor minorities to receive anything but a fair trial."

- Amy Shamroe

 

America Abandoned: The Secret Velvet Coup That Cost Us Our Democracy

By Jill Cody (Writing Endeavors)

The American people have been abandoned. Behemoth corporations, the disgustingly rich, the media, Congress, and the Supreme Court have withdrawn their support from "We, the People", in spite of their duty, allegiance, or responsibility to American citizens.

Billionaires and corporations are flourishing as they abandon loyalty to employees and American citizens. The same wealthy people and corporations are hoarding billions of dollars offshore to avoid paying taxes while privatizing their profits and subsidizing their losses. By doing so, they are intentionally abandoning their civic responsibility for the obscene accumulation of profit, and are impeding the government's ability to serve the public good. 

 

Catching Homelessness: A Nurse's Story of Falling Through the Safety Net

By Josephine Ensign (She Writes Press)

"Homelessness in America is a surprisingly divisive issue. There is a sentiment among many, born out by studies and polling, that the poor and homeless only have themselves to blame for their circumstances. At the same time, over the last twenty years income volatility has gone up by 30% putting more Americans one paycheck, or one disaster, away from poverty. Over the same period, drastic cuts to America's mental health system have created a crisis of another kind. In Catching Homelessness, Josephine Ensign tells her story of first treating the homeless in the South as a nurse to becoming homeless herself. This memoir not only examines Ensign's experience, but also dives into the financial and social implications of how America deals with the issue of homelessness. This is a fascinating read that is also a great primer for those unfamiliar with the aggravating and complicated system people work within to help those who need it the most."

- Amy Shamroe


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