With the release of the official Davos reading list last week, many have been quick to point out its lack of female authors.
The list, compiled by Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and professional rich person Bill Gates, consisted of 13 male authors and 1 female — Gretchen Bakke with her book The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future.
The under-representation of women at the World Economic Forum is a long standing problem, with only 21 percent of this year’s 3,000 attendees being female. Still, it’s rather a shame to see this theme continued into the event’s very book list.
So, Verdict has a few suggestions for a more equally weighted Davos reading list.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2013 novel takes her own experiences as a Nigerian going to the US for college and explores them through the fictional character of Ifemelu.
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Written from an outsider’s perspective of the US, it remains a poignant look at the reality of being a black immigrant in the land of the free.
It won Adichie the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Fiction award and is praised for its depiction of global and societal tensions.
Mike Peed of The New York Times describes it as “a steady-handed dissection of the universal human experience—a platitude made fresh by the accuracy of Adichie’s observations.”
The publication subsequently selected the novel as one of their 10 Best Books of 2013.
Nessa Carey — The Epigenetics Revolution
Described by The Guardian as “a book that would have Darwin swooning”, Nessa Carey’s work looks at how we’re affected by changes in gene function.
It’s a subject that is causing radical shifts in how biologists approach the field of genetics, and Carey lays out the basic principles in her work.
Subtitled How modern biology is rewriting our understanding of genetics, disease and inheritance, Carey’s book offers a comprehensive account of the relationship between our lives and genes.
Elizabeth Kolbert — The Sixth Extinction
New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert examines the loss of planet biodiversity in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book.
Having endured five mass extinctions over the past 500m years, the earth is now facing a devastating loss of biodiversity as a direct result of human interference.
We are now in the position of “witnessing one of the rarest events in life’s history, (and) also causing it.”
Isabel Wilkerson — The Warmth of Other Suns
Isabel Wilkerson’s work documents the mass migration of almost 6m African Americans between 1915 to 1970.
Leaving the Southern states in search of economic opportunities and a better quality of life, the move is one of the largest internal migrations in history and left a profound mark on the country’s cultural and political framework.
Interviewing over 1,000 people, Wilkerson spent 15 years researching and writing her novel.
Jane Jacobs — The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Jane Jacobs was a pioneering voice in urban design, often seen as something of an outcast in what was a predominantly male field.
Despite her marginalisation, The Death and Life of Great American Cities remains a seminal text in the sector and comes from a place of genuine pleasure at experiencing the cities we live in.
Joan Didion — The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion, famed for her depictions of individual and social fragmentation in the US, is a pertinent author for this year’s Davos event.
Though her earlier works showcase American society more fully, The Year of Magical Thinking is one of her most critically acclaimed books.
Documenting her mourning period following the death of her husband, it was hailed as a “masterpiece of two genres: memoir and investigative journalism”.
The National Book Award for Nonfiction was awarded to it in 2005 and it was a shortlist on both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for biography/autobiography.
Priyamvada Natarajan — Mapping the Heavens
A professor of astronomy and physics at Yale University, Priyamvada Natarajan’s work takes a look at the biggest and most interesting discoveries about the universe.
Described as the ‘greatest hits’ of cosmological discoveries, Natarajan looks at the ideas that changed the way we perceive our universe over the past century.
She also casts her eyes to the future — what the next century and beyond will hold.
Susan Sontag — On Photography
One of her best known works, On Photography shows Susan Sontag’s examination of how we see and represent the world around us, and delivers questions on what we define to be reality.
As Sontag writes in the first essay, In Plato’s Cave: “To collect photographs is to collect the world.”
Particularly in our climate of social media obsession, Sontag’s work offers an eye-opening analysis of the way we live and think.
Helen Czerski — Storm in a Teacup
Helen Czerski’s work brings physics into our daily lives and considers the question of how we may relate the world around us to the physics of the cosmos.
From the bubbles in our soda to the way the air smells just before it rains, everything connects and can tell us something about the universe we live in.