13 Important Books That Tackle Hot-Button Issues

While society has come a long way over the years, there are still many issues plaguing humanity in the modern era. From age-old problems like racism and religious differences to novel challenges like climate change and identity theft. We've selected 13 books, each of which take on a hot-button issue. If you're interested in staying informed about the world around you, consider checking them out. When you click links from this website, we may receive advertising revenue to support our research. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

13 Important Books That Tackle Hot-Button Issues

Title Author(s) Issues Addressed
1. Small Great Things Jodi Picoult Racism, justice
2. Hunger Roxane Gay Obesity, sexual assault
3. This Changes Everything Naomi Klein Climate change, capitalism
4. An Appeal to the World Dalai Lama & Franz Alt Materialism, mindfulness
5. Conspiracy Ryan Holiday Sensationalism, power
6. Three Daughters of Eve Elif Shafak Religion, terrorism, feminism
7. Eating Animals Jonathan Safran Foer Animal cruelty, health
8. Braving the Wilderness Brené Brown Perfectionism, society
9. The Future of Humanity Michio Kaku Technology, space travel
10. The Better Angels of Our Nature Steven Pinker Violence, psychology
11. The Hole We're In Gabrielle Zevin Debt, gender roles
12. Reasons to Stay Alive Matt Haig Depression, mental illness stigma
13. Everybody Sees the Ants A.S. King Bullying, addiction, suicide

Racism in America

In Depth

In a world of cultural diversity, varying religious beliefs, privileges, political positions, and economic development, conflicts such as discrimination, bullying, terrorism, and even environmental problems, have become prevalent. We've compiled 13 books that dig deep into hot-button topics and force readers to take a closer look at what they believe and why.

First on the list at #1, is "Small Great Things" by Jodi Picoult. The story focuses on Ruth, an African-American maternity nurse. When a white supremacist couple gives birth at her hospital, they refuse to allow her to tend to their newborn baby. She then ends up being the only caregiver in the nursery when the child goes into cardiac arrest and dies, which gets her accused of murder. Despite the parents' obvious bias, Ruth's lawyer insists that racism is a weak argument in the case. This moving story shines a light on the modern realities of justice and prejudice.

Next at #2, is "Hunger: A Memoir of My Body" by Roxane Gay. Sharing her personal experience, the author describes her past as a child who was sexually assaulted, how she turned to food for comfort as a result, and how the combination of the trauma and being overweight took a toll on her throughout the years that followed. The violent incident, her battles with overeating, the repercussions on her health, as well as her anxieties over physical appearance, all reflect the hidden complexities behind obesity. Gay uses the book to correct common misconceptions about the condition, revealing that there are deeper triggers which go beyond overindulgence.

Gay uses the book to correct common misconceptions about the condition, revealing that there are deeper triggers which go beyond overindulgence.

In at #3, is "This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate" by Naomi Klein., which re-evaluates the issues behind global warming, and puts the free market in the forefront as the main culprit. Klein demonstrates in the text how capitalism has gone too far with greed and overproduction, and it is destroying the natural resources that we need to survive. She warns of the impending consequences should this system continue unchecked. The book aims to wake society up to the biggest cause of the environmental crisis, and push for change on a global scale.

Coming in at #4 is "An Appeal to the World" by the Dalai Lama. In this text, the highly influential spiritual leader tackles contemporary issues, including the Trump presidency, materialism, the climate crisis, the science of meditation, and mindfulness, among many others. He offers his insights on how to achieve peace within humanity, both internally and collectively. He encourages readers to tap into their innate desire for what is inherently good, in order to change their well-being, and alter the state of the world in the process.

Up next at #5 is "Conspiracy" by Ryan Holiday. This text reveals PayPal founder Peter Thiel as the mastermind behind taking down Gawker Media, an American blog network that was notoriously known for shocking their readers with controversial and scandalous news content. Thiel's altercation with the company began when he was publicly outed in one of their articles. Five years later, he was able to use Hulk Hogan's sex tape scandal to fund a case against Gawker. The events expose the dark side of power on both sides of the confrontation.

The events expose the dark side of power on both sides of the confrontation.

At #6 is "Three Daughters of Eve" by Eli Shafak. Set in Istanbul, the story follows Peri as she recounts her memories of Oxford, where she had become friends with two fellow Muslim women. The three are portrayed as the "sinner," the "believer," and the "confused." The story delves into the debate among them, on sensitive topics relating to the teachings of their unorthodox professor. The novel puts the spotlight on themes involving religious faith, terrorism, feminism, and political turmoil.

In at #7 is "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer, which is partly based on the author's personal accounts, and partly investigative in nature. It explores the complex morality of what we eat, and why we should be more aware of our choices and their consequences. His concern for what his family consumes was the trigger that inspired him to probe into the harsh reality of the food industry, and to dig deep into the roots of eating traditions and habits that are carried on to this day. It raises questions not just about whether people should eat meat at all or not, but also about the degree to which one should be mindful of what they ingest.

At #8 is Brene Brown's "Braving the Wilderness." This book focuses on the increasing disconnection of humanity in a society that is infected by perfectionism and living up to others' expectations. Brown examines and redefines the common understanding of what belongingness means. She explains that it has to do with belonging to ourselves completely in order to become a part of the world around us. At the same time, we must walk on our own paths alone when needed. Brown enlightens her readers on how to find and be their most authentic selves, as well as how to truly connect with others.

At the same time, we must walk on our own paths alone when needed.

In at #9 is Michio Kaku's "The Future of Humanity." In this book, the world-renowned physicist reveals that what we consider science fiction, will soon be a reality through artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and astrophysics. Dr. Kaku discusses how moving to Mars may be the next sustainable option. He explores beyond our own galaxy and universe, and goes deep into the possibility of astral travel to uncharted realms. The book aims to illuminate the dim path to what the future holds for humans, demonstrating that we are transcending our experience through scientific breakthroughs that are unfolding right in front of us.

Coming in at #10 is "The Better Angels of Our Nature" by Steven Pinker. This book demonstrates how violence has declined over the years, despite the fact that the news is still full of horrific stories about terrorism and hate crimes. Pinker goes back in time and analyzes relevant historical events and finds possible factors for this change, including improved problem-solving and communication. Combining history with social studies and psychology, this text reveals evidence that humanity is becoming more enlightened, and aims to give people hope, rather than fear.

Up next at #11 is "The Hole We're in" by Gabrielle Zevin. In this book, the narrative is centered on a troubled American family dealing with their issues at home. Husband and wife, Roger and Georgia, are facing the consequences of certain life choices they made, which their children will now have to face. The story reflects problems in the common American household, such as credit card debts, gender roles in society, political class, and the lingering effects of the war on Iraq.

The story reflects problems in the common American household, such as credit card debts, gender roles in society, political class, and the lingering effects of the war on Iraq.

Up next at #12 is "Reasons to Stay Alive" by Matt Haig, which tackles one of the most common mental illnesses, depression. It contains the author's personal account of living with the condition, battling his demons every day, and eventually managing to overcome it. The book aims to give hope to those who are suffering from the disorder. With a humorous and encouraging approach, Haig implores his readers to value simple joys, and focus on the positive things that make life worth living.

And last but not least at #13, is "Everybody Sees the Ants" by A.S. King. With a humorous yet insightful tone, the author touches on sensitive topics such as suicide, bullying, and addiction. The story focuses on Lucky, a teenager who has a dysfunctional life at home and struggles with getting bullied in school. He manages to escape his reality through his dreams. In his alternate world, he plays a heroic role in Laos during the Vietnam War, from which his grandfather never returned. The novel, which is most relevant to teenagers, aims to give readers the courage to stand up for themselves amidst unbearable challenges.