Introducing the 2017 OK Policy Holiday Gift Guide

Check out the 2018 OK Policy Holiday Gift Guide here!

We have something to confess upfront: this gift guide is entirely books. We’re nerds (also, the jury’s still out on which smart watch we like best). Here at OK Policy, the annual holiday book exchange is a hotly anticipated tradition, and we’re excited to share the cheer with you this year!

The 27 books below are a brief and curated – if hopelessly incomplete – list of books we love that might not otherwise be on your radar. No staff members were (physically) wounded in the debates on which titles should be on or off the list! We’ve included links to books at Amazon and Powell’s, as well as ISBN numbers so you can order them at a bookseller of your choosing. Please support your local independent bookseller when possible; if you order off Amazon, consider using Amazon Smile to support OK Policy in the process. Please also don’t forget to check your local library! Titles are listed alphabetically by author’s last name. 

The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

“William Barber is the closest person we have to Martin Luther King, Jr. in our midst. His life and witness is shot through with spiritual maturity, subversive memory, and personal integrity. This book lays bare his prophetic vision, historical analysis, and courageous praxis.” —Cornel West (x)

ISBN: 0807007412

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang

“In these provocative, powerful essays acclaimed writer/journalist Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Who We Be) takes an incisive and wide-ranging look at the recent tragedies and widespread protests that have shaken the country.” —Washington Post (x)

ISBN: 9780312429485

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“With a remarkable ability to reimagine both the lost world of his father’s generation and the terrors and wonders of his own youth, Coates offers readers a small and beautiful epic about boys trying to become men in black America and beyond.” – (x)

ISBN: 9780385527460

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

And Still the Waters Run by Angie Debo

“Debo’s classic work tells the tragic story of the spoliation of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole nations at the turn of the last century in what is now the state of Oklahoma. “ – Amazon (x)

ISBN: 9780691005782

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

“In Evicted, Harvard sociologist and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Hailed as ‘wrenching and revelatory’ (The Nation), ‘vivid and unsettling’ (New York Review of Books)” – Amazon (x)

ISBN: 9780553447453

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Sleeping Giant: The Long Decline and Coming Rise of the Working Class by Tamara Draut

Sleeping Giant is the first major examination of the new working class and the role it will play in our economic and political future. Blending moving individual narratives, historical background, and sophisticated analysis, Draut forcefully argues that this newly energized class is far along in the process of changing America for the better.” – Powell’s (x)

ISBN: 9780385539777

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and Luke H. Shaefer

“A remarkable book that could very well change the way we think about poverty in the United States.” – New York Times Book Review (x)

ISBN: 9780544811959

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession by Dana Goldstein

“In her groundbreaking history of 175 years of American education, Dana Goldstein finds answers in the past to the controversies that plague our public schools today.” – Amazon (x)

ISBN: 9780345803627

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

“A ‘provocative’, timely, and topical work that examines what’s good for American business and what’s good for Americans—and why those interests are misaligned.” – Kirkus Reviews (x)

ISBN: 9781451667837

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home by Arlie Hochschild

“Updated for a workforce now half female, this edition cites a range of new studies and statistics and includes a new afterword in which Hochschild assesses how much-and how little-has changed for women today.” – Powell’s (x)

ISBN: 9780143120339

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Hochschild

“Arlie Russell Hochschild’s work has never been more timely or more necessary, from the resurgence of interest in emotional labor to this deep, empathetic dive into the heart of the Right. Strangers in Their Own Land does what few dare to do—it takes seriously the role of feelings in politics.” – Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt (x)

ISBN: 9781620972250

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab by Steve Inskeep

Jacksonland is the work of renowned journalist Steve Inskeep, cohost of NPR’s Morning Edition, who offers here a heart-stopping narrative masterpiece, a tragedy of American history that feels ripped from the headlines in its immediacy, drama, and relevance to our lives.” – Amazon (x)

ISBN: 9780143108313

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Running From Office: Why Young Americans are Turned Off to Politics by Jennifer Lawless

“Considers the long-term consequences of government dysfunction, partisanship, and polarization when it comes to young citizens’ future political engagement.” – Oxford University Press (x)

ISBN: 9780199397655

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Degrees of Inequality: How Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream by Suzanne Mettler

“[A] provocative new book…. Mettler argues that this drift in public policy over the past quarter-century in Washington and in statehouses has exacerbated gaps between the haves and the have-nots, undermining the ideal of college as an engine of upward social mobility.” – Washington Post (x)

ISBN: 9780465044962

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform by John Pfaff

“A succinct, powerful explanation of why much of what we think about the incarceration boom is probably wrong.” -Bloomberg View (x)

ISBN: 9780465096916

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid

“A ‘New York Times’-bestselling author shows how industrialized democracies other than the United States provide health care for their citizens at a reasonable cost.” – (x)

ISBN: 9780143118213

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

On the Line: Slaughterhouse Lives and the Making of the New South by Vanesa Ribas

“With ethnographic verve, Ribas puts labor process in the immigrant integration story, offering a rich, nuanced portrait of life on the line in the new multiracial Southern working class.” – Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo (x)

ISBN: 9780520282964

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley

“The most illuminating reporting I have ever seen on the differences between schools in America and abroad.” – The Washington Post (x)

ISBN: 9781451654424

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal

“An authoritative account of the distorted financial incentives that drive medical care in the United States . . . Every lawmaker and administration official should pick up a copy of An American Sickness. Then, at last, the serious debate could begin.” -The Washington Post (x)

ISBN: 1594206759

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

“Masterful…The Rothstein book gathers meticulous research showing how governments at all levels long employed racially discriminatory policies to deny blacks the opportunity to live in neighborhoods with jobs, good schools and upward mobility.” – Washington Post (x)

ISBN: 9781631492853

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

No Pity: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement by Joseph P. Shapiro

“People with disabilities forging the newest and last human rights movement of the century.” – (x)

ISBN: 9780812924121

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t: Poverty, Morality, and Family in Rural America by Jennifer Sherman

“Compellingly written, shot through with honesty and empathy, Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t is a rare firsthand account that studies the rural poor.” – (x)

ISBN: 9780816659043

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life by Theda Skocpol

“Theda Skocpol shows that this decline in public involvement has not always been the case in this country and how, by understanding the causes of this change, we might reverse it.” (x)

ISBN: 9780806136271

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization by Steven Solomon

“This sprawling text reconstructs the history of civilization in order to illuminate the importance of water in human development from the first civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and the Indus River Valley to the present.” – Publishers Weekly (x)

ISBN: 9780060548315

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

“A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.” Amazon (x)

ISBN: 9780812984965

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

“[Hillbilly Elegy] couldn’t have been better timed…a harrowing portrait of much that has gone wrong in America over the past two generations…an honest look at the dysfunction that afflicts too many working-class Americans.” – National Review (x)

ISBN: 9780062300546

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

Read My Lips: Why Americans are Proud to Pay Taxes by Vanessa Williamson

“A surprising and revealing look at what Americans really believe about taxes.” – (x)

ISBN: 9780691174556

(Amazon) (Powell’s)

What would you put on this list? Let us know in the comments!

Check out the 2018 OK Policy Holiday Gift Guide here!


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

4 thoughts on “Introducing the 2017 OK Policy Holiday Gift Guide

  1. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, the story of the Reign of Terror for the Osage Nation when hundreds of Osage tribal members were killed for their head rights to oil royalties. Right here in Oklahoma, in the same era as the Greenwood massacre, with a fascinating history of the early days of the FBI.

  2. I would also Dark Money by Jane Mayer. She documents the way money is used by the rich to try to buy the government.

  3. Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen shows how 500 years of magical thinking in America culminated in Donald Trump. A fascinating look at the zealots and snake oil salesmen who laid the foundation for fake news.

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