59 books like Challenges of Ordinary Democracy

By Karen Tracy,

Here are 59 books that Challenges of Ordinary Democracy fans have personally recommended if you like Challenges of Ordinary Democracy. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

June Carolyn Erlick Author Of A Gringa in Bogotá: Living Colombia's Invisible War

From my list on classics for understanding Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I accidentally fell in love with Latin America, a love that has lasted my lifetime. When I was young, I lived in a Dominican neighborhood in New York, learning Spanish from my neighbors. After I graduated from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism I got a job covering the Cuban community in New Jersey because I spoke Spanish. Eventually I ended up living in Colombia and then Managua as a foreign correspondent. Now I edit a magazine at Harvard about Latin America. It's not just the news that interests me; I love the cadence of the language, the smell and taste of its varied cuisine, the warmth of the people, the culture, and, yes, soccer.

June's book list on classics for understanding Latin America

June Carolyn Erlick Why did June love this book?

Greg Grandin is a historian's historian, a brilliant researcher, a captivating writer. It's honestly hard to pick which of his books to feature here. But since The End of the Myth won the Pultizer Prize, I'll choose it as my favorite. What I loved about this book is that it gives me a new perspective about the history of my own country—about which, frankly, I do not know that much—and the region I have reported on for most of my life, Latin America. He makes connections and does so in a compelling fashion.

The book focuses on the United States and the border, but it sheds much light on how the myth of manifest destiny has shaped the way we think of ourselves and our relationship with our southern neighbors.

By Greg Grandin,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The End of the Myth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

A new and eye-opening interpretation of the meaning of the frontier, from early westward expansion to Trump’s border wall.

Ever since this nation’s inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States’ belief in itself as an exceptional nation – democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America hasa new symbol: the border wall.

In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history…


Book cover of Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life

Gerard A. Hauser Author Of Vernacular Voices: The Rhetoric of Publics and Public Spheres

From my list on why ordinary citizen voices matter to a democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the grandson of a political refugee. My grandfather was a gunrunner in the Greek resistance to Turkish occupation of Chios prior to the 1st Balkan War. His guerilla activity placed his life in danger. He fled pursuit by the Turks, which led to his eventual emigration to the United States. From childhood my family experience was of lively discussions that were inflected by my grandfather’s experience of resistance and US citizenship. They sparked my fascination with the role of citizen voices in a democracy. That was a main focus of my academic career, teaching rhetoric for more than 40 years at Penn State University and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Gerard's book list on why ordinary citizen voices matter to a democracy

Gerard A. Hauser Why did Gerard love this book?

The idea of citizenship is vague and can be complicated. Sometimes it refers to a person recognized as a natural-born or naturalized denizen of a nation, sometimes the right to cast a ballot, sometimes law-abiding behavior, sometimes civic engagement, and, too seldom, engaging in public work. Bellah and his associates conducted a series of interviews with ordinary citizens across the US to ascertain their understanding and values with respect to private and public (citizenly) life.

Overwhelmingly, those interviewed (mostly white, middle-class Americans) attached great value to their private lives, while acknowledging the importance of civic participation. They commonly expressed a belief that they should be publicly involved. However, when they discussed public life, they had a limited range of ideas about what that participation might look like, especially compared to the rich descriptions they offered for private life and why they valued it so. 

Among others, Habits raises the question…

By Robert N. Bellah,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Habits of the Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1985, "Habits of the Heart" continues to be one of the most discussed interpretations of modern American society, a quest for a democratic community that draws on our diverse civic and religious traditions. In a new preface the authors relate the arguments of the book both to the current realities of American society and to the growing debate about the country's future. With this new edition one of the most influential books of recent times takes on a new immediacy.


Book cover of Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy

Gerard A. Hauser Author Of Vernacular Voices: The Rhetoric of Publics and Public Spheres

From my list on why ordinary citizen voices matter to a democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the grandson of a political refugee. My grandfather was a gunrunner in the Greek resistance to Turkish occupation of Chios prior to the 1st Balkan War. His guerilla activity placed his life in danger. He fled pursuit by the Turks, which led to his eventual emigration to the United States. From childhood my family experience was of lively discussions that were inflected by my grandfather’s experience of resistance and US citizenship. They sparked my fascination with the role of citizen voices in a democracy. That was a main focus of my academic career, teaching rhetoric for more than 40 years at Penn State University and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Gerard's book list on why ordinary citizen voices matter to a democracy

Gerard A. Hauser Why did Gerard love this book?

Putnam and his Italian colleagues studied the performance of Italy’s regional governments over a 20-year period. They asked why some democratic governments succeeded while others failed. They thought differences in success would correlate with a region’s economic vitality. Instead, they found that a strong civic community was a better indicator of success. When citizens sought information from reliable news sources, they tended to interact with one another on political matters.  Informed interaction encouraged trust in political dialogue and encouraged engagement in public affairs. 

Equally, when citizens had access to networks of secondary associations, where they interacted with strangers, they were more likely to have a greater sense of solidarity with, and trust and tolerance for their fellow citizens. When these conditions were absent and social relations were more vertical (relying on a leader) than horizontal (relying on community members), democracy didn’t work. Making Democracy Work shows how vernacular rhetoric that…

By Robert D. Putnam, Robert Leonardi, Raffaella Y. Nanetti

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Democracy Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do some democratic governments succeed and others fail? In a book that has received attention from policymakers and civic activists in America and around the world, Robert Putnam and his collaborators offer empirical evidence for the importance of "civic community" in developing successful institutions. Their focus is on a unique experiment begun in 1970 when Italy created new governments for each of its regions. After spending two decades analyzing the efficacy of these governments in such fields as agriculture, housing, and health services, they reveal patterns of associationism, trust, and cooperation that facilitate good governance and economic prosperity.


Book cover of Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts

William Clare Roberts Author Of Marx's Inferno: The Political Theory of Capital

From my list on understanding how power works.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a teacher, a student, and a reader by trade (that is, a university professor), and I spend most of my time trying to understand social and political power: why some people have it, and others don’t, how it circulates and changes (gradually or suddenly), why it sometimes oppresses us and sometimes liberates, how it can be created and destroyed. I mostly do this by reading and teaching the history of political theory, which I am lucky enough to do at McGill University, in conversation and cooperation with some wonderful colleagues.

William's book list on understanding how power works

William Clare Roberts Why did William love this book?

I think Scott is one of the most creative social scientists working today, and this book is probably his strongest work.

Scott flips the script and focuses attention on the strategies subordinates use to navigate and deal with the power of their social superiors. He has great faith in the abilities of ordinary people to mock and hoodwink the powerful and to create for themselves little refuges from kings, bosses, and overlords.

I go back to this book all the time because it is a treasure trove of wonderful anecdotes, too.

By James C. Scott,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Domination and the Arts of Resistance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A splendid study, surely one of the most important that has appeared on the whole matter of power and resistance."-Natalie Zemon Davis

Confrontations between the powerless and powerful are laden with deception-the powerless feign deference and the powerful subtly assert their mastery. Peasants, serfs, untouchables, slaves, laborers, and prisoners are not free to speak their minds in the presence of power. These subordinate groups instead create a secret discourse that represents a critique of power spoken behind the backs of the dominant. At the same time, the powerful also develop a private dialogue about practices and goals of their rule…


Book cover of Ill Wind

GG Collins Author Of Anasazi Medium

From my list on the American Southwest respecting the culture & land.

Why am I passionate about this?

The American Southwest never gets old. Exploring any of the Ancestral Pueblo sites is like walking back in time. Anasazi Medium takes the reader there. I love the land and the culture that has brought us to the present. My character, Santa Fe reporter Rachel Blackstone, reflects this. She is sarcastic at times, can be funny, and has her poignant moments as she copes with a “talent” she never wanted. In Anasazi Medium, I concocted a mixture of mystery, Hopi traditions and a journalist’s eye to entertain and inform. What resulted is a climate mystery in the most water-challenged state in the U.S. and a high adventure read. 

GG's book list on the American Southwest respecting the culture & land

GG Collins Why did GG love this book?

Nevada Barr’s mysteries are so colorful I feel like I’m there with Anna Pigeon, solving the mystery and hiking the Anasazi ruins. Barr’s love of the land, wherever her stories take me, creates a real sense of place. In Barr’s Ill Wind, Anna has transferred to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Barr brings authenticity to this series because she had a career as a park ranger. In a new park, Anna is missing her cat and lamenting the party life of her younger co-workers when a colleague is killed. One of the things I like about Anna is that she is so well written. Because of this, I feel I know her.

By Nevada Barr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ill Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lately, visitors to Mesa Verde have been bringing home more than photos--they're also carrying a strange, deadly disease. And once it strikes, park ranger Anna Pigeon must find the very human source of the evil wind.


Book cover of Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West

Rachel Kovaciny Author Of One Bad Apple

From my list on women in the wild west.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved learning about the Old West for as long as I can remember. Is this because I was born a few miles from the spot where Jesse James robbed his first train? Or is it because my family watched so many classic western movies and TV shows when I was a kid? Either way, writing books set in the Old West is a natural fit for me. I love researching the real history of that era just as much as I love making up stories set there. In fact, I write a column about the real history of the Wild West for a Colorado-based newspaper, The Prairie Times.

Rachel's book list on women in the wild west

Rachel Kovaciny Why did Rachel love this book?

I love learning about people who dedicate themselves to helping others, and the eagerness of these two young ladies to share knowledge is so inspiring! I really like the personal connections in this book too – the author is writing about her own grandmother.

Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood grew up in wealthy families, graduated from college, and wanted to be helpful and useful to people outside their own circles. So, they answered an advertisement for teachers at a new school in a rural Colorado community. Though neither of them had any teaching experience or training, off they went, armed only with their intelligence, determination, and willingness to do hard work. 

By Dorothy Wickenden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nothing Daunted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1916, two restless society girls from Auburn, New York headed out to the Rockies in North-western Colorado to teach in a new schoolhouse. Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood went to grade school and Smith College together, spent eight months on a grand tour of Europe in 1910 and, bored with formal luncheons and chaperoned balls, not yet ready for marriage, they answered an ad for schoolteachers. They travelled by train to Denver, and then rode horses for three days up to the remote school where their students, the children of homesteaders, came to school in rags and bare feet.…


Book cover of From a Distance

Davalynn Spencer Author Of An Improper Proposal

From my list on Western romance rugged heroes and fiery heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, I fell in love with horses. As a teen, I fell in love with a cowboy. That’s how I became the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters and wrote for rodeo magazines. Today I write historical cowboy romances. The Western way of life is down-to-earth, honest, and God-fearing—even in our contemporary world, and I’ve written several of those stories as well. But my favorite challenge takes me back to the 1800s when life was simpler. Not easier, just simpler even though people faced the same emotional challenges we face today. I love writing about their journeys and encouraging readers that there is hope.

Davalynn's book list on Western romance rugged heroes and fiery heroines

Davalynn Spencer Why did Davalynn love this book?

I love happy endings and that’s why I read romance—Western romance from simpler, not easier, times. There is always a struggle, an honest hero who is not afraid to fight for what is right and protect the helpless, and a woman who doesn’t want the rugged cowboy/lawman/rancher telling her what she can or cannot do. They are a perfect match but it takes at least one of them a while to figure it out.

That’s exactly what I found in Tamera Alexander’s From a Distance. I was repeatedly startled, anxious, sympathetic, and angry. Alexander is masterful at interlacing passion, promise, and pain in a way that ties up even unexpected loose ends. And I must say, this book had the best ending of all!

By Tamera Alexander,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From a Distance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Determined to become one of the country's premier newspaper photographers, Elizabeth Westbrook travels to the Colorado Territory to capture the grandeur of the mountains surrounding the remote town of Timber Ridge. She hopes, too, that the cool, dry air of Colorado, and its renowned hot springs, will cure the mysterious illness that threatens her career, and her life. Daniel Ranslett is a man shackled by his Confederate past, and he'll do anything to protect his land, and his solitude. When an outspoken Yankee photographer captures an image that appears key to solving a murder, putting herself in danger, Daniel is…


Book cover of Hell's Belles, Revised Edition: Prostitution, Vice, and Crime in Early Denver, With a Biography of Sam Howe, Frontier Lawman

Randi Samuelson-Brown Author Of Market Street Madam

From my list on the dark side of the Wild West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I recall the exact moment when my interest sparked about frontier prostitution and Denver’s underbelly — a friend mentioned the ‘bad blood’ in her family — an ancestor who was a second-rate madam and who employed her own daughters. The quest started. Who were these women, and why did they make the choices they did? I’ve spent years chasing down traces of the old west’s prostitutes, fascinated by their identities and lives. The west had opportunities for women who were willing to take chances. As a fifth-generation Coloradoan, I hoped to capture the story of these enterprising and overlooked women, their lives, and the world around them.

Randi's book list on the dark side of the Wild West

Randi Samuelson-Brown Why did Randi love this book?

This is a no-holds-barred account of prostitution in Denver’s Market Street district with all the accompanying Wild West behavior this implies. Secrest’s account is well researched, the photographs are fascinating, and it brings the seedy side of old Denver back to life! Be prepared for rather graphic descriptions of “the trade” replete with accounts of alcohol, drugs, and varying forms of violence and crime. A must-read for people interested in Denver’s History, the Wild West, or frontier prostitution.

By Clark Secrest,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hell's Belles, Revised Edition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This updated and revised edition of Hell's Belles takes the reader on a soundly researched, well-documented, and amusing journey back to the early days of Denver. Clark Secrest details the evolution of Denver's prostitution, the gambling, the drug addicts, and the corrupt politicians and police who, palms outstretched, allowed it all to happen. Also included in Hell's Belles is a biography of one of Denver's original police officers, Sam Howe, upon whose crime studies the book is based.

 

The popular veneer of Denver's present-day Market Street - its fancy bars, posh restaurants, and Coors Field - is stripped away to…


Book cover of Woman Between the Worlds: A Call to Your Ancestral and Indigenous Wisdom

Daina Middleton Author Of Grace Meets Grit

From my list on ambitious women embracing their authentic selves.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been passionate about personally and professionally lifting women up throughout my career. Today, it is how I spend my time and energy – in a way that makes a difference to those individuals and the greater world. Books have always filled my insatiable desire to continuously learn and explore mysterious, unknown worlds. As a writer, I read books to expand my understanding and push my comfort zones. I also read them so that I can share with others what I have learned in the hopes they will have a positive impact on them – a pay-it-forward of sorts. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!

Daina's book list on ambitious women embracing their authentic selves

Daina Middleton Why did Daina love this book?

As someone who has deep ties to Mother Earth and the outdoors, this book spoke to my soul whose roots are attached to some primitive calling.

Apela shares her lifelong journey of connecting with the essence of indigenous spirituality and culture and her passionate work to communicate, conserve, and celebrate sacred indigenous ways.

It made me think about the cost of living in our modern world and how healing Earth begins from within.

By Apela Colorado,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Woman Between the Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Apela Colorado shares her knowledge and experiences of indigenous wisdom and promotes an understanding between the indigenous and modern world perspectives.

A ceremonial journey to reconnect with the essence of indigenous spirituality and awaken to its beauty, power and potential in contemporary society.

In this book, Apela Colorado, the inspirational authority on indigenous wisdom, shares her lifelong journey of connecting with the essence of indigenous spirituality and culture. From China to Alaska, Benin to France, Apela recounts her passionate work to communicate, conserve, and celebrate sacred indigenous ways, all while reawakening to the wisdom of her Native American and French…


Book cover of The Perfect Father: The True Story of Chris Watts, His All-American Family, and a Shocking Murder

Dianne DeMille Author Of Path of the Devil: Camino del Diablo

From my list on true crime and corruption.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an educator and author of many books, I was asked to write a book about the spiritual journey of a DEA agent with two PIs. They were determined to end a notorious Cartel organization operating along the U.S. Southwestern border. For over five years the two Private Investigators (PI) and DEA Agent Larry Hardin prepared the case for prosecution. The case hit one roadblock after another when presented to five different U.S. Attorneys for prosecution. The books listed below will appeal to similar customers and show connections of the criminal underworld and how the judicial system function’s; finding a way to bring them to justice. News junkies, historians, and true crime enthusiasts will enjoy reading these stories told by those who investigated the activities. 

Dianne's book list on true crime and corruption

Dianne DeMille Why did Dianne love this book?

This book is about the horrific murder of Chris Watts' wife and children. Many details of the case give the reader a birds-eye view of the situation, without dramatizing the events. Living in Southern California, I remember hearing the news about these murders and cannot understand how someone could do it. Such a sad story.

By John Glatt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Perfect Father, New York Times bestselling author John Glatt reveals the tragedy of the Watts family, whose seemingly perfect lives played out on social media―but the truth would lead to a vicious and heartbreaking murder.

In the early morning hours of August 13th, 2018, Shanann Watts was dropped off at home by a colleague after returning from a business trip. It was the last time anyone would see her alive. By the next day, Shanann and her two young daughters, Bella and Celeste, had been reported missing, and her husband, Chris Watts, was appearing on the local news,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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