By Ralph Nader
December 22, 2021
The most important books exposing real injustices are often the least read. Nearly all of the hundreds of thousands of neighborhood book clubs insist on only reading and discussing works of fiction. They don’t want hard feelings over disagreements.
Major book awards and prizes rarely select books addressing corporate crimes and what to do about them.
Not surprisingly, you rarely read about these books or see or hear about them on television and radio shows, including PBS and NPR. Corporate funders prefer convenient alternatives such as art, culture, history, and entertainment.
The following recent books connect us to the grim reality, pulling us back from myths and virtual reality escapes to the societal mirror we all must face for the common good of today and tomorrow.
1. Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America by Eyal Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021. Someone has to do the dirty work for society’s survival. But these workers get paid too little and are unprotected so they become casualties.
2. The Hidden History of American Oligarchy: Reclaiming Our Democracy from the Ruling Class by Thom Hartmann, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2021. No one presents the forgotten history of evil corporate power more concisely and relevantly than the erudite daily radio talk show host, Thom Hartmann. Try him and see.
3. Power to the People: A Young People’s Guide to Fighting for Our Rights as Citizens and Consumers by Richard Panchyk, Seven Stories Press, 2021. Give an eye-opening gift for teens and for those a little older. Surprise them.
4. The Profit Paradox: How Thriving Firms Threaten the Future of Work by Jan Eeckhout, Princeton University Press, 2021. The author demonstrates how the unbridled market power of giant corporations has “suffocated the world of work,” which could lead to disastrous market corrections and political turmoil.
5. Unsettled: How the Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Failed the Victims of the American Overdose Crisis by Ryan Hampton, St. Martin’s Press, 2021. Ryan Hampton – a victim himself – shows what must be done to hold these dangerous corporate hucksters accountable and help prevent the human casualties of such avaricious profiteering.
6. Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing by Peter Robison, Doubleday, 2021. Robison takes you inside the Boeing company and its decaying monetized culture. He reaches inside the manslaughtering stealth software that took over the planes from their pilots and drove one new 737 MAX on a death trip into the Java Sea and another 737 MAX deep into Ethiopian farmland.
7. First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat by Christopher W. Shaw, City Lights, 2021. Shaw showcases the magnificent historical contributions of Benjamin Franklin’s grand idea as background to the struggle between a people’s post office and the grasping corporate supremacists. Shaw shows ways for the people to prevail.
8. Twelve Ways to Save Democracy in Wisconsin by Matthew Rothschild, University of Wisconsin Press, 2021. Learn practical steps to shift political and electoral power to all the people, not just Wisconsinites, from a long-time progressive activist and writer.
9. 100% Democracy: The Case for Universal Voting by E.J. Dionne Jr., and Miles Rapoport, The New Press, 2022. They make the case for voting as a legal, civic duty which can dissolve all the proliferating obstacles to and the current suppression of voting. Universal voting is a one-stop antidote to massive corruption of our elections and the billions of bigoted, commercial dollars infesting the corrupters with impunity.
10. Un-American: A Soldier’s Reckoning of Our Longest War by Erik Edstrom, a West Point graduate, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020. This galvanizing call to our country makes a broad and deep case against militarism, boomeranging empire, and its devouring of America. You’ll want to read this declaration of conscience, facts, and reason – twice!
11. Our Class: Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison by Chris Hedges, Simon & Schuster, 2021. Hedges exposes the problems that plague our society’s criminal injustice system. He is a truth-teller and thinker who knows our country has to do better.
12. Closing Death’s Door: Legal Innovations to End the Epidemic of Healthcare Harm by Michael J. Saks and Stephan Landsman, Oxford University Press, 2021. The third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer, is from avoidable errors by the healthcare industry. The authors carefully calculate the loss from health harm is about 400,000 lives every year plus more avoidable injuries and diseases afflicting survivors. Federal and state governments do almost nothing about this preventable toll.
13. Old Growth: The Best Writing About Trees From Orion, Orion Magazine, 2021. Trees will look very different to you after reading this collection of essays about their intelligence, resiliency, offerings, necessity, and adversaries. Don’t be surprised if on your walks soon, you find yourself hugging them.