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10 Books to Read When the World’s Completely on Fire

Keep calm and read on.

Travel allows us to escape, reflect, rejuvenate and create positive change for others. It’s hard to reconcile that in a world both figuratively and literally on fire, every aspect of humanity seems under threat as we live through this tumultuous period of change. Caught between how to do good without doing harm, it can be easy to give up. But don’t. There’s good news here. You don’t have to know everything or even be fully ready to step into action. The world is full of wise voices to help ground, challenge, encourage, and guide us through these trying times.

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'Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism' by Elizabeth Becker

It’s uncomfortable for avid travelers to consider global tourism a more than 7 trillion-dollar business. We’re not blind that there are no easy answers when the mechanism that employs so many people also causes environmental and societal degradation. Yet it’s necessary to look at travel as a product. Becker reveals the tourism economy behind cruises and safaris and through Venice, Dubai, Costa Rica, China, and the USA. Far from debilitating, Overbooked helps us make more informed choices.

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'Ours to Explore: Privilege, Power, and the Paradox of Voluntourism' by Pippa Biddle

“I didn’t want to lose my last little thread of hope—that while the project we were working on might not be wholly good, I still was.”

After Biddle’s vulnerable essay on the well-meaning damage her voluntourism experience may have caused went viral in 2014, she dug deeper. Ours to Explore is the result. Biddle moves beyond shaming volunteers to reveal massive systems of exploitation and the often unwitting and unskilled participants. Past volunteers and service recipients contribute insight into the issues and the fight to change the systems. Biddle ends with slow progress in the industry and how to contribute to communities.

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'You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience' edited by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown

After a personal conversation between these two friends and leaders in shame, resiliency, and empathy, Burke and Brown created an anthology to showcase the love and joy within the Black experience. Twenty Black writers, artists, educators, and activists process personal experiences with systemic trauma and share the fullness of Black life that must often be hidden. Burke writes, “I want this book to be a soft place to land. Give our humanity breathing room.” This powerful collection of essays is for everyone interested in vulnerability and acknowledgment as a path to healing.

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'Travel: Easy Tips for the Eco-friendly Traveller' by Juliet Kinsman

“Being green has never been so gratifying.”

Kinsman helps responsible travelers cut through the overwhelming issues without giving up travel completely. This short book covers good choices around some of the most waste-prone links in the travel chain. While it gives tangible advice on being environmentally conscious, Travel also gets down to the culture of disposability and how to think about things and time spent differently. Reviewers applaud Kinsman’s practical read that avoids scolding.

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'Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope' by Mark Manson

“The planet is warming, governments are failing, economies are collapsing, and everyone is perpetually offended on Twitter.”

Things haven’t gotten better since the book debuted in 2019. The irreverent best-selling author Mark Manson takes on both modern stressors and escapism used to avoid discomfort and responsibility. It’s an unconventional take on classic ethical debates about what we must give up for a functional society. Manson’s style is best for readers who enjoy challenging sarcasm grounded in psychology and philosophy.

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'The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change' by Michelle MiJung Kim

Even in demoralizing times, the world is full of good people who want to make it a better place. But many get paralyzed with uncertainty and guilt. Others end up causing unintended harm. The Wake Up takes a personal and reflective look at what today’s buzz words like diversity, inclusion, equity, and allyship really mean. MiJung Kim walks readers through their fears, worries, and reasons for commitment to social justice, the context of these issues, the principles that guide the work, and the humanity behind it all.

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'Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All' by Elisa Camahort Page, Carolyn Gerin, Jamia Wilson

Packed with experts and resources, this user-friendly guidebook is for anyone who is scared and angry and wants to create change. Helpful tips cover sections on safe protest practices, protecting privacy online, leveraging economic pressure, engaging in government, and reforming institutions. Inspiring interviews help the reader feel connected. Whether an expert or a beginner in activism, Road Map for Revolutionaries offers up pivotal knowledge and actionable steps within your reach.

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'Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?' by Julie Smith

Self-care is crucial in today’s world. Known as the clinical psychologist who was the first to successfully use TikTok for mental health education, Smith breaks strategies into doable steps. Use this book as needed instead of as a read-through. Eight chapters with 36 lessons share ways to harness powerful feelings, nurture motivation, find purpose, manage stress, and challenge negative thoughts. It’s an easy reference for everyone.

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'Travel as a Political Act' by Rick Steves

Steves is well-known as the enthusiastic guide who has been traveling the world, delighting in people since 1969. He’s also a man who is serious about everything from global disparity to the impacts of colonization to the decriminalization of marijuana. Travel as a Political Act breaks from Steves’ typical guides. In the latest edition, Steves begins to state political opinions bluntly. He also becomes increasingly aware of his privilege and, at times, tone deafness. Part travelogue and part reminder of travel’s power to fight xenophobia, the real strength of this comes from watching an industry leader model vulnerability. Steves sometimes stumbles but owns it as he relentlessly pursues shared humanity.

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'Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unethical World' by Anu Taranath

We seek fresh perspectives from travel. With personal stories and skills, Taranath teaches us that we can best understand it if we first look at ourselves. Taranath shares stories from around the world as a traveler, mother, friend, educator, and group leader to look at identity. Beyond Guilt Trips starts as an examination of the motivations and issues with voluntourism. It quickly becomes a guide on stomaching privilege and navigating differences to support change.

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