- A Woman Like Her: The Story Behind the Honor Killing of a Social Media Star
- By Sanam Maher
Sanam Maher’s vivid, fast-paced book details the rise of Pakistan’s first social media celebrity, the society provoked by her digital persona, and the events which eventually led to her murder. The star Qandeel Baloch rose to fame with revealing images and taunts to religious figures. Her provocative posts, viewed by millions, were littered with death threats and derision, but people couldn’t stop watching. She was strangled in her sleep by her youngest brother in a so-called honor killing. Packed with evocative scenes recreated from hundreds of interviews, Maher probes the ways that Baloch both captivated and incensed Pakistani society.
Review: The forces that enabled the murder of Pakistan’s first social media star [The New York Times]
- Bridgital Nation: Solving Technology’s People Problem
- By Natarajan Chandrasekaran and Roopa Purushothaman
How do you creatively harness technology to solve 21st-century problems in a country like India? Chandrasekaran and Purushothaman have an answer: Use tech to bridge the gap between access and employment — two of the biggest challenges facing the country. By combining personal stories of characters across the vast country and inserting their own practical insights, the authors urge India’s leaders and Indians to reimagine themselves and embrace technology to enable creation of an entirely new set of industries that will in turn create fresh opportunities.
Review: Two writers push for a virtual bridge to connect diverse India [The Hindu]
- Travelling While Black: Essays Inspired by a Life on the Move
- By Nanjala Nyabola
Kenyan essayist Nanjala Nyabola tackles everything from migration and racial identity to traveling as a woman in a book that considers travel in a world where guidebooks are not written with you in mind. Nyabola describes the narratives about Africa that she encountered in over a decade of solo travel from Sicily to Kathmandu to New York and beyond, and how these limiting conceptions and exclusionary legacies shaped her ideas about herself and human movement in the world.
Review: This is not a travel memoir [The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]
- Bangkok Wakes to Rain
- By Pitchaya Sudbanthad
Sudbanthad’s time-traveling debut novel charts political, technological, and social change in Thailand. The atmospheric book begins with a feverish and misguided missionary and winds its way through the story of multiple generations loosely interconnected by a house in the heart of Bangkok. The novel moves forward in time with every chapter, each walking a slightly different storyline through the shape-shifting city. Readers ultimately land in a watery, high-tech future where humans choose to become cyborgs in a quest for immortality amid the flooded remains of the city that has been drowned by climate catastrophe.
Review: Bangkok, a city of memories [The Guardian]
- El Chapo: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Drug Lord
- By Noah Hurowitz
At this point, between Netflix shows, newspaper headlines, and unfortunate Sean Penn profiles, everyone knows the tale of El Chapo. Noah Hurowitz, who covered the trial for Rolling Stone, documents the Mexican drug lord’s rise and fall — and an underappreciated element of the saga. It turns out that the cartel leader was a technology junkie. He was obsessed with surveillance tech, at one point working with his personal IT assistant to try to install spyware on every computer in a nearby city. Unfortunately, as Hurowitz details in his riveting account, El Chapo’s love for gadgets — and Blackberry’s BBM in particular — ultimately led to his downfall.
Review: The rise and fall of Sinaloa cartel boss El Chapo [Publisher’s Weekly]
- Blockchain Chicken Farm
- By Xiaowei Wang
Part personal history and part technology reportage, this book brings readers on a journey through the technological landscape of rural China. Wang chronicles rural China’s evolving relationship with the technologies that are shaping the country and paints a picture of a rapidly changing countryside that defies stereotypes. Wang unravels the idea of “metronormativity,” the myth that urban and rural areas are divided, and shows how the countryside is what makes China’s megacities possible in the first place. Their documentation of the many unanswered questions posed by new technologies makes it clear that our shared future remains anything but certain.
Review: Peering into the future of tech and society in China [The Asian Review of Books]
- Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World
- Edited by Zahra Hankir
This eye-opening and emotional collection from 19 of the Middle East and North Africa’s top women journalists was compiled by one of their own, Lebanese-British journalist Zahra Hankir. The collected stories that describe their experiences reporting on the region defy clichés of typical foreign reporting, revealing the value of stories told by journalists who don’t need to bring interpreters to speak with their subjects. The book showcases the power of reporting done by women in a region where women are expected to follow prescribed conventions, and weaves a composite narrative about ambition, politics, death, and the work of documenting history.
- By Sayaka Murata
Following her critically acclaimed debut novel Convenience Store Woman, Murata explores a dystopian future set in Japan in which a young woman endeavors to break free of the expectations of The Factory, her term for society. The novel builds a vividly conceived and surprising parallel portrait of modern life in Japan, a page-turner by turns bold, intimate, and occasionally shocking. Murata’s characters find that, despite their best attempts, they can’t escape certain deeply ingrained beliefs.
Review: A dystopian novel that challenges taboos and refuses judgment [The Atlantic]
- Formation: The Making of Nigeria from Jihad to Amalgamation
- By Fola Fagbule and Feyi Fawehinmi
Fagbule and Fawehinmi bring historical personalities to life as they tell of the creation of colonial Nigeria, an under-discussed topic for Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike. The authors argue that slavery, violence, and instability have been pivotal power dynamics in shaping Nigeria’s history. The book describes the rise and fall of the empires that shaped Nigeria and takes an engrossing look at the events that transformed a collection of nations into a British colony in 1914.
Review: Formation runs, like the rivers Niger and Benue, through the rise and fall of empires [The Book Stall]
- Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass
- By Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri
This sweeping book takes a look at the invisible human labor behind the artificial intelligence products made by the world’s largest tech companies. Anthropologist Mary L. Gray and computer scientist Siddarth Suri expose the undeniable ties that bind giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Uber to an unseen workforce largely living in the Global South. Gray and Suri find that businesses that sell artificial intelligence deeply rely on “ghost work” like content moderation and algorithm training to sustain their products. Their book reveals how tech companies depend on this vast global workforce for something distinctly human: interpretation and creativity.
Review: How Silicon Valley’s successes are fueled by an underclass of ‘ghost workers’ [The Verge]
- Caste Matters
- By Suraj Yengde
The tentacles of the caste system touch almost every aspect of life in India, and for some, reach far beyond, as demonstrated by a landmark 2020 lawsuit that showed Dalits can’t escape the legacy of caste discrimination even as far away as Silicon Valley. In this honest and compelling book, Yengde draws on his experiences growing up as a poor Dalit child in India to challenge the foundations under which much of Indian society — and other societies with Brahminical influence — still operate today. At a time when the United States is grappling with uncomfortable discussions about race and inequality, Yengde’s writing is key to understanding just how deep-seated and rampant the caste beliefs are in one of the world’s most populous countries, and why they travel across borders.
Review: No realm is untouched by the caste system [The Hindu]
- Beyond the Valley: How Innovators Around the World are Overcoming Inequality and Creating the Technologies of Tomorrow
- By Ramesh Srinivasan
In this global book, the University of California, Los Angeles professor documents the innovation that is thriving outside of the bubble of Silicon Valley. Srinivasan provides a snapshot of how technologies travel, adapt, and improve in new environments and incorporates commentaries on the pitfalls of a Western-centric approach to technology. He takes readers to Mexico, East and West Africa, China, Scandinavia, and beyond, and argues that it’s time to think beyond the confines of a digital world defined by technologies developed in Silicon Valley.
Review: Looking beyond the valley for a more democratic internet [The Institution of Engineering and Technology]
- A Small Guide to Homeownership
- By Alejandro Cartagena
Acclaimed photographer Alejandro Cartagena spent the past fifteen years documenting urban change in Monterrey, Mexico. His latest book, modeled after the For Dummies guide series, explores the area’s suburbanization, development, and bureaucracy. Cartagena documents the environmental and social effects of urban growth and the consequences of adopting an American style of homeownership and land development in Mexico.
Review: The consequences of American-style suburbanization in Mexico [Photobook Journal]
- The Salvage Crew
- By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne
A hapless human crew commanded by a snarky artificial intelligence overseer is bound for what they expect to be a deserted, remote planet. They arrive to find it teaming with life — and a rival crew. This dystopian science fiction novel from Nebula Award-nominated Sri Lankan writer and activist Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is told from the perspective of the artificial intelligence known as OC, a part-time Buddhist poet, who paints a grim picture of a frontier future overrun by greedy corporations.
Review: Incompatibility is the least of their problems [The Unseen Library]
- The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
- By Ken Liu
Responsible for bringing readers English language translations of landmark Chinese science fiction like Liu Cixin’s The Three Body Problem, veteran translator Ken Liu is an award-winning science fiction writer in his own right. His mind-expanding talents are on full display in his latest experimental short story collection, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, a layered exploration of internet trolling, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and mortality.
Review: Aliens, the singularity, and Ken Liu’s ‘The Hidden Girl’ [Wired]
- Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad
- By Michela Wrong
In deft unpacking of the narrative sold by Rwanda’s government after the country’s devastating genocide, Michela Wrong dispels the myths surrounding Paul Kagame’s often celebrated reign in Rwanda. Wrong takes readers through a history of the region in which the Rwandan genocide is only one among a series of atrocities committed. Drawing a vivid account of the events leading to the state-sponsored murder of exiled former spy chief Patrick Karegeya, Wrong pushes readers to question why Western governments have continued to be supportive of the Kagame regime.
Review: The dark underside of Rwanda’s model public image [The New York Times]
- Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong
- Edited by Holmes Chan
This intensely personal book reveals the experiences of a group of journalists covering Hong Kong in the grip of a year of protests in 2019 and 2020. Chan, who compiled the collection of essays, wrote that the book was born from his search for writing “that was willing to keep me company as I banged my head against the wall.” Chan aimed for a volume that centered the reporters’ perspectives and enabled them to write their own stories, describing the grief and grace they experienced as they wrote hundreds of bylines and millions protested the dismantling of Hong Kong’s autonomy.
Review: Narrative justice for Hong Kong [Los Angeles Review of Books]
- The Call: Inside the Global Saudi Religious Project
- By Krithika Varagur
Krithika Varagur follows the billions of dollars that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has spent on the call to Islam through Indonesia, Nigeria, and Kosovo. Varagur investigates the appeal of Salafism abroad as the power of Wahhabism has grown in Saudi Arabia. Her reporting delves into the lingering effects of this global campaign on local religious landscapes, including the growing power of Saudi-educated clerics and increasing intolerance of religious minorities.
Review: What sort of export is ideology? [The Washington Independent Review of Books]
- Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from the Eastern Mediterranean
- By Yasmin Khan
A reading list wouldn’t be complete without at least one cookbook. In her latest book, Yasmin Khan leads a personal, political, and culinary excursion through Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus. Khan explores how borders, migration, and displacement manifest on the plate, writing about food through the people who cook it.
Review: Khan presents the unidealized truth behind the food [Nigella Lawson]