The best books to shift your mindset and break down assumptions about how the world works

Who am I?

Having my assumptions fundamentally changed after reading a book is one of my favorite experiences. I have a BFA in design and I’ve always approached my assignments—logos, websites, home renovations—as a problem to be solved. What is a visual and functional solution that fits all the constraints (time, budget, purpose, materials, etc.)? The same part of my brain that likes figuring out elegant solutions to design problems also likes thinking about and re-examining cultural issues. For over 16 years, I’ve written about parenting (I’m a mother of six), design, living in France, and current events on my blog, in my newsletter, in Twitter threads, and on Instagram.

I wrote...

Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion

By Gabrielle Stanley Blair,

Book cover of Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think About Abortion

What is my book about?

In Ejaculate Responsibly, Gabrielle Blair offers a provocative reframing of the abortion issue in post-Roe America. In a series of 28 brief arguments, she deftly makes the case for moving the abortion debate away from controlling and legislating women’s bodies and instead directs the focus on men’s lack of accountability in preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Highly readable, accessible, funny, and unflinching, the result is a compelling and convincing case for placing the responsibility—and burden—of preventing unwanted pregnancies away from women and onto men.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Creation of Patriarchy

Gabrielle Stanley Blair Why did I love this book?

Oh how I love this book! It’s a clear-eyed look at the history of the world, examining when and why women lost their rights and autonomy as governments and societies developed. I think in my head, patriarchy had just always been around; a permanent fixture in our world. Thinking about patriarchy as a system that didn’t exist at one point, and that was created, really helped my brain comprehend the idea that a world that is not based on patriarchy is possible. The book makes clear that patriarchy is not inevitable, but was a deliberate choice, and that we can make another choice.

By Gerda Lerner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Creation of Patriarchy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When precisely did the ideas, symbols and metaphors of patriarchy take hold of Western civilization? When were women, so central to the creation of society, moved on to the sidelines? Where is the evidence to support the notion that male dominance over women is a natural state of things? Gerda Lerner's radical review of Western civilization shows that male dominance over women has nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with cultural and historical habits.
Dr Lerner draws her evidence from a host of archaeological, literary, and artistic sources, using them to pinpoint the critical turning points in…

Book cover of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Gabrielle Stanley Blair Why did I love this book?

I wish this book was required reading for every American. This book helped me reframe my understanding of racism in the U.S. by contextualizing it in terms of caste systems. It explains and compares three different caste systems—in India, in the U.S., and in the Third Reich in Germany. I had never heard the idea of caste applied to America before, and after reading this, I can’t think of America except in terms of caste. I now realize there are parts of American history and culture where the word ‘racism’ doesn’t quite communicate what’s happening. But understanding and using ‘caste’ in these instances, provides a much more accurate assessment. The better we understand our country’s real issues, the more likely we can address them.

By Isabel Wilkerson,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Caste as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"Powerful and timely ... I cannot recommend it strongly enough" - Barack Obama

From one of America's most celebrated and insightful writers, the moving, eye-opening bestseller about what lies hidden under the surface of ordinary lives

In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human…

Book cover of Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution

Gabrielle Stanley Blair Why did I love this book?

I’ve grown up with assumptions about the constitution that are flat-out wrong. I was taught the constitution was inspired, practically sacred, and that it’s the gold standard for governing documents. But this book shifted my mindset. The author readily acknowledges the strengths of the constitution, but is also unflinching in criticizing its flaws, and pointing out the hypocrisy of what the document says versus how it is interpreted. Can the constitution be improved, definitely yes! And this book gives me hope that it will be.

By Elie Mystal,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Allow Me to Retort as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Instant New York Times Bestseller

MSNBC legal commentator Elie Mystal thinks that Republicans are wrong about the law almost all of the time. Now, instead of talking about this on cable news, Mystal explains why in his first book.

"After reading Allow Me to Retort, I want Elie Mystal to explain everything I don't understand-quantum astrophysics, the infield fly rule, why people think Bob Dylan is a good singer . . ." -Michael Harriot, The Root

Allow Me to Retort is an easily digestible argument about what rights we have, what rights Republicans are trying to take away, and how…

Book cover of Project Hail Mary

Gabrielle Stanley Blair Why did I love this book?

I’ve never met an alien like the one in Hail Mary. This book made me rethink what an alien encounter could look like and it also made me shift my perspective on our senses and what it means to be ‘able-bodied’; it made me re-examine how beings relate to each other. For a creature so foreign, I was surprised at how emotionally attached I became to the alien. Bonus, Andy Weir is a master at writing about problem-solving.

By Andy Weir,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked Project Hail Mary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space…

Book cover of Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

Gabrielle Stanley Blair Why did I love this book?

This book blew my mind over and over again. It goes deep into how we use data and numbers to make decisions and policies, but because we don’t take gender into account when we gather or analyze the data, we’ve built sexism and discrimination into our systems. And it’s everywhere! There is sexism in how bathrooms are built, how snowplowing happens, how knee replacements are made. There are so many situations where I’ve assumed something that feels unfair or doesn’t make sense is just how it is, but this book changed that. At first glance, some of what’s described may seem trivial, but ultimately, these built-in biases cost women time and resources, and put us at significant risk.

By Caroline Criado Perez,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Invisible Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2019 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
Winner of the 2019 Royal Society Science Book Prize

Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development, to healthcare, to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives.

Celebrated feminist advocate…

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The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

By Maryka Biaggio,

Book cover of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

Maryka Biaggio Author Of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Historical fiction author Lover of hidden stories Research nerd Opera fanatic

Maryka's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Model Spy is based on the true story of Toto Koopman, who spied for the Allies and Italian Resistance during World War II.

Largely unknown today, Toto was arguably the first woman to spy for the British Intelligence Service. Operating in the hotbed of Mussolini's Italy, she courted danger every step of the way. As the war entered its final stages, she faced off against the most brutal of forces—Germany's Intelligence Service, the Abwehr.

The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

By Maryka Biaggio,

What is this book about?

Celebrated model Toto Koopman had beauty, brains, and fame. Born to a Dutch father and Indonesian mother, she took up the life of a bon vivant in 1920s Paris and modeled for Vogue magazine and Coco Chanel. But modeling didn’t satisfy her. Fluent in six languages, she was adventurous and fascinated by world politics.

In London she attracted the attention of Lord Beaverbrook, the William Randolph Hearst of England. She soon became his confidante, companion, and translator, traversing the Continent and finding herself caught in the winds of impending war. Beaverbrook introduced her to influential people, including a director at…

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