3 New Books With New Year’s Resolutions for Teens
New year, new hope, new you! It’s true that just being a teen is tough enough, but it’s also a great time to embrace growth and change. The three new e-books in this week’s book club, geared toward youth but accessible to all, are guides to creating change in your own life and in the world. Here’s how to make and follow through with resolutions to live with less stuff, contribute to ending rape culture, and even save the environment. Not a bad way to spend 2019!
1. Living Simply: A Teen Guide to Minimalism by Sally McGraw ($10): We tend to acquire a lot over the holidays, leading many people to make the same New Year’s resolution: Have less stuff. Many of us are drowning in clutter, and the sooner we break the pattern, the better. McGraw’s book is a helpful guide for anyone who’s been binge-watching Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up on Netflix this week. McGraw uses graphics and statistics to show teens the huge impact that unchecked consumption can have on the environment and on our lives. She outlines the history of the minimalist ethos, its battle with the “rise of consumer culture,” and its connections to politics, design, and artistic movements. She differentiates between minimalism as a conscious decision and “no-choice minimalism” and gives suggestions on how to live a good life with as little as possible, even if you’re not ready to go live on a commune.
“There’s a new way to be cool. It’s not about flaunting the latest fashion or driving the flashiest car. Just the opposite. The new cool is minimalism, and it’s all about using less, minimizing harm to the environment, and owning only items that you truly need. Why be a minimalist? Because Earth needs our help. Every day, humans throw away tons of trash, including perfectly edible food. The planet is drowning in garbage. We also run our cars and smartphones more than necessary, and the fossil fuels that power them contribute to climate change. The human race has left a giant, wasteful footprint on Earth — and minimalism can reverse that impact.”
So why get by with less? “Minimalism matters because you matter,” writes McGraw. Teens with jobs tend to have disposable income, as not all of them are paying for rent and groceries, and the decision of what to do with that income can make an impact. Not only can one person make a difference, but that one person can also inspire others to create change. Buying a guide that shows you how to buy less may seem counterintuitive, but knowledge is never a waste. And hey, as an e-book, it won’t even have to take up space on a shelf.
2. No More Excuses: Dismantling Rape Culture by Amber J. Keyser ($10): “What is going on with rape in America?” This question, from the first chapter of Keyser’s guide to breaking down a culture of casually accepted sexual violence, has been at the forefront of recent discourse. A topical book for the budding activist, No More Excuses relives landmark recent moments, movements, and cases pertaining to the issue, such as the 2016 election, the #MeToo revolution, and a number of high-profile rape trials that resulted in lax punishments for offenders.
“In the United States, the sexual violation of another person’s body is considered a violent crime on a par with homicide. The sentencing guidelines for both rape and murder carry the most severe sentences. Both evoke fear and horror when we read about them in the media or hear a story on the evening news. Americans abhor rape. At least, they say they do…In the United States, one in five women and one in seventy-one men will be raped during their lifetime. The frequency of violence against gender non-conforming people is even higher… Few victims ever see their rapists brought to justice.”
Keyser covers the pervasive nature of double standards, with “boys will be boys” on one side and “slut-shaming” on the other. She profiles and interviews important figures in activism, and looks at not only gendered violence, but the added impacts of race, sexuality, and gender identity in sexual violence. By understanding the culture, we can resolve to work against and protest it in both small and large ways. The book demonstrates how to model and advocate for the type of behavior we want to see in the world, with sexual encounters based on equality and enthusiastic consent.
3. Solutions for a Greener, Cleaner Planet: Environmental Chemistry by Marc Zimmer ($10): “Through chemistry — the study of atoms and chemical processes — researchers are able to do many things. They can design new medicines, make smaller and longer-lasting batteries, and improve fuel efficiencies of cars, planes, and other vehicles. While chemical processes can make our lives easier and more fun, they can also pollute the environment around us. Our shared planet faces many environmental challenges. Understanding the chemistry that underlies these issues is a key part of coming up with solutions. The field of environmental chemistry focuses on understanding the most common pollutants; how they pollute; how they get into our food, water, and air; and what the consequences to human, plant, and animal health are. Just as critical is that environmental chemistry also focuses on solutions.”
Zimmer, a chemistry professor, explains the periodic table and chemical formulas of naturally-occurring and lab-created elements. In four sections, “Heavy Metals,” “Pesticides,” Fuel and Energy,” and “Nuclear Energy,” he details the dangers that can be created by these elements. For example, he takes us through the history of lead poisoning, from the potential decline of the Roman Empire to the removal of lead from gasoline, to the sadly still-current Flint crisis. Similarly, he writes about arsenic and its presence in pop culture and crime lore as a dye and a poison.
Rather than just covering the problems, Zimmer’s book also takes a look at the changes that have taken place over the years to ameliorate some of the issues caused by chemistry; often, the solution to a chemical problem was also presented by chemistry. As for the resolution part of the book: Each chapter, no matter how complex, ends with a list of sensible starts and solutions under the heading, “What Can You Do?” The personal, the political, the global: It can all start with you.
What books inspire change? Tag us in your next resolute read @BritandCo.
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