what they’re reading: 2019 pritkzer award candidates book recommendations

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What they’re reading: 2019 Pritkzer Award candidates book recommendations

At the 2019 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award ceremony, each candidate recommended a book. Here’s the list, for anyone who wants to think like a young environmental genius, and just in time for Cyber Monday.

Arthur Middleton
“Benito Cereno” by Herman Melville

  • Nearly everything we do – especially in politics – is rooted in a view of human nature. This book helped me see that we make very subjective choices about our view of human nature, that we do so wearing blinders, and the results can be disastrous.

Asha Frank 
“Dreamland Barbuda” by Asha Frank

  • Dreamland Barbuda is important to me because it tells an alternative way of life that has been cherished by the local people for over 300 years. Barbuda, an island in the eastern Caribbean, is one of the few places in the world where the whole island practices communal ownership. In 2017, Barbuda was destroyed by the Atlantic’s most dangerous storm ever, Hurricane Irma. As a result, the islanders are now facing disaster capitalism and cultural genocide as their land is being taken for development. It is a story quite relevant during a time where countries are having to reconsider large- scale manufacturing and the better management of natural resources.  

Christa Hasenkopf
“Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson 

  • “Seveneves” is a story that has a simultaneously pessimistic and optimistic take on how humanity tackles civilization-scale disasters. And it involves space!

Emma Kennedy
“Being a Beast” by Charles Foster 

  • What’s it really like to be a badger? In this powerful, quirky book, Englishman Charles Foster goes to incredible lengths – including snacking on earthworms! – to find out. The premise is light-hearted, but as Charles pushes his fierce desire to “be a beast” to greater extremes, this book takes us beyond geeky exploration of the science behind the animals behaviour, and connects us deeply with nature as we get a glimpse of the world from another perspective. As we gradually become more disconnected from our wild world, we’re losing something important and I think this book helps remind us to connect. As a zoologist and passionate environmental campaigner, this book resonated with me, and I hope you’ll love it too, and will be inspired to go have a snuffle in the bushes! 

Faith E. Florez
“Chasing the Harvest: Migrant Workers in California Agriculture” by Gabriel Thompson

  • I picked this book because it follows trends of farmworker activism, from the days of the United Farm Workers (UFW), with leaders like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and contrasts  this to what we’re experiencing now in 2019, as farmworkers are almost invisible despite their contributions to one of the most back-breaking industries, agriculture. This book is a reminder of how important the narratives of farmworkers are, depicting them as voices to be celebrated for their resilience in trying to forge a new path for their children and future generations outside the fields of California.

Gator Halpern
“Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari

  • “Sapiens” looks at our society from a new perspective and shows how the power of our collective imagination can drastically shape our world. 

Han Chen
“Women & Power: A Manifesto” by Mary Beard

  • The book offers interesting historical background on men’s fear of women speaking in public, from sexism on Twitter to “man-splainers” to national politics.

Hindou Oumariou Ibrahim

  • Hindou shared an oral story that her grandmother tells in the above video. This history follows her grandpa, grandma and her ma’s migration from Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.

Jasmine Crowe
“21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John Maxwell

  • The versatility of this book makes it a great read for new leaders as well as experienced leaders. There are clear foundational principles that everyone can benefit from.

Ka’ila Farrell-Smith
“Capitalism: A Ghost Story” by Arundhati Roy

  • The international environmental justice movement needs to have a dialogue surrounding the dire impacts of capitalism and its  dependency on the NGO and non-profit industrial complex. This concise storytelling by Roy outlines the violent and inhumane reality in India, and what similar impacts will be on our future here in the United States and at a planetary scale. 

Kaushik Kappagantulu
“Measure What Matters“ by John Doerr

  • Culture is the bedrock of the success of your business. Pick objectives and key results that will guide your output with right culture.

Kira Sadler
“Where the Wild Things Were” by William Stolzenbug 

  • A compelling read about the ecological disruption caused by the extermination of predators. 

May Boeve
“Democracy in Chains” by Nancy MacLean

  • I recommend this book to many people because of its explanation of how the Right wing in the US systematically set up its agenda to win a set of unpopular ideas. It breaks down corporate power and how it was built over a long period of time– and funded by the oil industry.

Nik Strong-Cvetich
“Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan 

  • It is the coming-of-age surf and travel memoir of a New Yorker writer, and highlights the change of these amazing coastal places and why they matter to the world. It is the first legitimate look into the complex world of international surf destinations and why these places/ecosystems matter.

Sahithi Pingali
“Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell

  • Explore the complexity behind greatness – and be reminded that anyone can achieve it. (bonus: next read is “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin)

Samantha Wright
Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

  • I love this book. It reminds me of what it means to overcome adversity, the power of teamwork, and how life can be defined by just a few precious moments.

Sara Eckhouse
“The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson

  • Essential reading to understand the ongoing legacy of slavery and racism in our country, and how we have failed to reckon with it.

Sarah Bellos
“Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes” by Dana Thomas

  • Captivating stories with real-world implications, showing how our fashion choices leave a trail of impact across the world. A combination of hope for innovation and technology to solve some of our challenges, without forgetting the people component needed for all change to really take place!

Sofia Elizondo
“The Lessons of History” by Will and Ariel Durant

  • After spending a lifetime writing 11 volumes on the Story of Civilization and the Story of Philosophy in the mid 20th century, Will and his wife Ariel wrote a delightful book with the lessons they gathered from 5,000 years of world history. In their words, they “made note of events and comments that might illuminate present affairs, future probabilities, the nature of man, and the conduct of states.” It is a lot of wisdom packed in a mighty little book. 

Varshini Prakash 
“Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

  • These last reflections before King was assassinated are powerful. As a brilliant strategist, our movements have learned a lot from him. It’s a quick read, very well written and inspiring.