12 Books to Pierce the Filter Bubble

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Alex Acks

Contributing Editor

Alex Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. They've written for Six to Start and been published in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Shimmer, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Alex lives in Denver with their two furry little bastards, where they twirl their mustache, watch movies, and bike. Twitter: @katsudonburi Website:

For the last one year and three months, those of us on the lefty side of the political spectrum have been told, often by various media outlets, that we need to step out of our bubble and understand the Trump voters. That we maybe need to go to that bar in Pennsylvania that the New York Times Opinion staff heads to every time they want to write another finger-wagging editorial and rub shoulders with people who wear red hats. There’s been a real dearth of that same media hand-wringing about wanting to get MAGAs out of their comfortable Fox-and-Breitbart bubble, which seems really unfair.

But you know, reading expands the mind. It breaks the bubble. And here are some books that would be great to airlift to the Times‘s favorite bar or give to your relative of choice if you want to make Christmas dinner extra spicy this year.

lies my teacher told me coverLies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen

An oldy but a goody, as my dad used to say. A friendly, episodic look at the ways nonfiction books (particularly textbooks) have been spun to have a particular bias, particularly toward the myth of ongoing social progress and American cultural tall tales. Doubly recommended because it offers skeptical tools that are great for combatting confirmation bias. A new edition was recently released, updated for a post–9/11 world.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Arguably aimed at your relative who needs a passive-aggressive book gift, this answers a lot of questions and explains a lot of concepts that elude people ensconced in filter bubbles that don’t include many black voices.

stamped from the beginningStamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

More of the advanced course with lots of history, exploring how we got to where we are today, and the evolving faces of racism throughout American history. (Honestly, I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone, whether they need their filter bubble popped or not.)

Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy by Robert H. Frank

If you’re as tired as I am of hearing about bootstraps and how people aren’t successful because they just don’t work hard enough, here’s the perfect book to wing at someone’s head or leave passive-aggressively under their dinner plate.

Double feature! Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow and War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence by Ronan Farrow

These books really address the same thing from two different angles, namely the recent trend of treating the American military like a multitool that can fix every foreign problem, while the State Department’s role in diplomacy has become further diminished.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle AlexanderThe New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

An absolutely damning look the way mass incarceration has taken the place of segregation in America, and a good challenge to the “law and order” mythos.

“They’re Bankrupting Us!”: And 20 Other Myths about Unions by Bill Fletcher Jr. or From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: A Short, Illustrated History of Labor in the United States by Priscilla Murolo and A. B. Chitty

For all the talk about the “white working class” (funny how often it’s glossed over in angsty editorials just how much of the working class isn’t white), there’s a severe lack of acknowledgment about why the working class is in such bad shape—and a big part of that is the gutting of unions.

men-explain-things-to-me-coverMen Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Essays about the experience of being female in the modern era, starting with mansplaining and showing how it’s connected to much darker things.

The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America by Sarah Kendzior

Probably the least tongue-in-cheek suggestion on this list and the most accessible to the conservative friend you’ve had occasional screaming matches with when the conversation turns to politics. This collection of essays addresses issues near and dear to those on the left, such as income inequality, from the  context of the midwest.

Becoming by Michelle Obama coverBecoming by Michelle Obama

Okay, now I’m just trolling. (Do it. How can you say no to this book? Do it do it.)