Readalikes: You’re Wrong About

I’m a high school librarian with an obsession with the podcast You’re Wrong About. For the uninitiated, You’re Wrong About is a podcast where journalists “reconsider an event, person or phenomenon that’s been miscast in the public imagination.” Originally it was hosted by Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes, and they’ve covered everything from the Satanic Panic to Princess Diana to Newsies to disco, and everything in between. 

I love doing book recommendations, so I decided to put together a little readalikes list for my students. If you like You’re Wrong About, you’ll probably like these books, too. They debunk historical and cultural myths in engaging ways. Thanks to all who replied to my twitter thread with suggestions.

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story created by Nicole Hannah-Jones

In late August 1619, a ship arrived in the British colony of Virginia bearing a cargo of twenty to thirty enslaved people from Africa. Their arrival led to the barbaric and unprecedented system of American chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the source of so much that still defines the United States.

The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning “1619 Project” issue reframed our understanding of American history by placing slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. This new book substantially expands on that work, weaving together eighteen essays that explore the legacy of slavery in present-day America with thirty-six poems and works of fiction that illuminate key moments of oppression, struggle, and resistance. The essays show how the inheritance of 1619 reaches into every part of contemporary American society, from politics, music, diet, traffic, and citizenship to capitalism, religion, and our democracy itself.

This is a book that speaks directly to our current moment, contextualizing the systems of race and caste within which we operate today. It reveals long-glossed-over truths around our nation’s founding and construction–and the way that the legacy of slavery did not end with emancipation, but continues to shape contemporary American life.

Featuring contributions from: Leslie Alexander – Michelle Alexander – Carol Anderson – Joshua Bennett – Reginald Dwayne Betts – Jamelle Bouie – Anthea Butler – Matthew Desmond – Rita Dove – Camille T. Dungy – Cornelius Eady – Eve L. Ewing – Nikky Finney – Vievee Francis – Yaa Gyasi – Forrest Hamer – Terrance Hayes – Kimberly Annece Henderson – Jeneen Interlandi – Honorée Fanonne Jeffers – Barry Jenkins – Tyehimba Jess – Martha S. Jones – Robert Jones, Jr. – A. Van Jordan – Ibram X. Kendi – Eddie Kendricks – Yusef Komunyakaa – Kevin M. Kruse – Kiese Laymon – Trymaine Lee – Jasmine Mans – Terry McMillan – Tiya Miles – Wesley Morris – Khalil Gibran Muhammad – Lynn Nottage – ZZ Packer – Gregory Pardlo – Darryl Pinckney – Claudia Rankine – Jason Reynolds – Dorothy Roberts – Sonia Sanchez – Tim Seibles – Evie Shockley – Clint Smith – Danez Smith – Patricia Smith – Tracy K. Smith – Bryan Stevenson – Nafissa Thompson-Spires – Natasha Trethewey – Linda Villarosa – Jesmyn Ward

Chasing the Truth: A Young Journalist’s Guide to Investigative Reporting: She Said Young Readers Edition by Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, adapted by Ruby Shamir

Do you want to know how to bring secrets to light?

How journalists can hold the powerful to account?

And how to write stories that can make a difference?

In Chasing the Truth, award-winning journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey share their thoughts from their early days writing their first stories to their time as award-winning investigative journalists, offering tips and advice along the way. Adapted from their New York Times bestselling book She Said, Chasing the Truth not only tells the story of the culture-shifting Harvey Weinstein investigation, but it also shares their best reporting practices with readers. This is the perfect book for aspiring journalists or anyone devoted to uncovering the truth.

Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, Jason Stanford

Three noted Texan writers combine forces to tell the real story of the Alamo, dispelling the myths, exploring why they had their day for so long, and explaining why the ugly fight about its meaning is now coming to a head.

Every nation needs its creation myth, and since Texas was a nation before it was a state, it’s no surprise that its myths bite deep. There’s no piece of history more important to Texans than the Battle of the Alamo, when Davy Crockett and a band of rebels went down in a blaze of glory fighting for independence from Mexico, losing the battle but setting Texas up to win the war. However, that version of events, as Forget the Alamo definitively shows, owes more to fantasy than reality. Just as the site of the Alamo was left in ruins for decades, its story was forgotten and twisted over time, with the contributions of Tejanos–Texans of Mexican origin, who fought alongside the Anglo rebels–scrubbed from the record, and the origin of the conflict over Mexico’s push to abolish slavery papered over. Forget the Alamo provocatively explains the true story of the battle against the backdrop of Texas’s struggle for independence, then shows how the sausage of myth got made in the Jim Crow South of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As uncomfortable as it may be to hear for some, celebrating the Alamo has long had an echo of celebrating whiteness.

In the past forty-some years, waves of revisionists have come at this topic, and at times have made real progress toward a more nuanced and inclusive story that doesn’t alienate anyone. But we are not living in one of those times; the fight over the Alamo’s meaning has become more pitched than ever in the past few years, even violent, as Texas’s future begins to look more and more different from its past. It’s the perfect time for a wise and generous-spirited book that shines the bright light of the truth into a place that’s gotten awfully dark.

Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol by Mallory O’Meara 

Strawberry daiquiris. Skinny martinis. Vodka sodas with lime. These are the cocktails that come in sleek-stemmed glasses, bright colors and fruity flavors–these are the Girly Drinks.

From the earliest days of civilization, alcohol has been at the center of social rituals and cultures worldwide. But when exactly did drinking become a gendered act? And why have bars long been considered “places for men” when, without women, they might not even exist?

With whip-smart insight and boundless curiosity, Girly Drinks unveils an entire untold history of the female distillers, drinkers and brewers who have played a vital role in the creation and consumption of alcohol, from ancient Sumerian beer goddess Ninkasi to iconic 1920s bartender Ada Coleman. Filling a crucial gap in culinary history, O’Meara dismantles the long-standing patriarchal traditions at the heart of these very drinking cultures, in the hope that readers everywhere can look to each celebrated woman in this book–and proudly have what she’s having.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History Of The United States For Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Jean Mendoza, Debbie Reese

Going beyond the story of America as a country “discovered” by a few brave men in the “New World,” Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reveals the roles that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity.

The original academic text is fully adapted by renowned curriculum experts Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza, for middle-grade and young adult readers to include discussion topics, archival images, original maps, recommendations for further reading, and other materials to encourage students, teachers, and general readers to think critically about their own place in history.

Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong by James W Loewen 

From the author of the national bestseller Lies My Teacher Told Me, a completely updated–and more timely than ever–version of the myth-busting history book that focuses on the inaccuracies, myths, and lies on monuments, statues, national landmarks, and historical sites all across America.

In Lies Across America, James W. Loewen continues his mission, begun in the award-winning Lies My Teacher Told Me, of overturning the myths and misinformation that too often pass for American history. This is a one-of-a-kind examination of historic sites all over the country where history is literally written on the landscape, including historical markers, monuments, historic houses, forts, and ships. New changes and updates include:

– a town in Louisiana that was the site of a major but now-forgotten enslaved persons’ uprising

– a totally revised tour of the memory and intentional forgetting of slavery and the Civil War in Richmond, Virginia

– the hideout of a gang in Delaware that made money by kidnapping free blacks and selling them into slavery

Entertaining and enlightening, Lies Across America also has a serious role to play in contemporary debates about white supremacy and Confederate memorials.

Savage Appetites: True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe

In Savage Appetites, Rachel Monroe links four criminal roles–Detective, Victim, Defender, and Killer–to four true stories about women driven by obsession. From a frustrated and brilliant heiress crafting crime-scene dollhouses to a young woman who became part of a Manson victim’s family, from a landscape architect in love with a convicted murderer to a Columbine fangirl who planned her own mass shooting, these women are alternately mesmerizing, horrifying, and sympathetic. A revealing study of women’s complicated relationship with true crime and the fear and desire it can inspire, together these stories provide a window into why many women are drawn to crime narratives–even as they also recoil from them.

Monroe uses these four cases to trace the history of American crime through the growth of forensic science, the evolving role of victims, the Satanic Panic, the rise of online detectives, and the long shadow of the Columbine shooting.

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee

Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy–and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis of 2008 to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a root problem: racism in our politics and policymaking. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out?

McGhee embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, tallying what we lose when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm–the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Along the way, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. This is the story of how public goods in this country–from parks and pools to functioning schools–have become private luxuries; of how unions collapsed, wages stagnated, and inequality increased; and of how this country, unique among the world’s advanced economies, has thwarted universal healthcare.

But in unlikely places of worship and work, McGhee finds proof of what she calls the Solidarity Dividend: the benefits we gain when people come together across race to accomplish what we simply can’t do on our own. The Sum of Us is not only a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here but also a heartfelt message, delivered with startling empathy, from a black woman to a multiracial America. It leaves us with a new vision for a future in which we finally realize that life can be more than a zero-sum game.

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