A More Perfect Union: The Anti-Polarization Reading List

Add to this list by editing the Google Doc

I started this reading list to help me understand our political divide and what to do about it. What experiences informed our beliefs about issues like guns, race, immigration, and how do we move forward without losing our humanity?

Some stories that got me started:

The more I read, the more I wanted to learn. But there weren’t that many people to talk to and no one place to go. This got me wondering. There were many places to get news and feel infuriated but no place to help me understand? If we read more stories like these, maybe it wouldn’t be so easy to turn each other into two-dimensional caricatures. The people you’ll read about here made the choice to push past initial reactions to listen, to educate, to do what was needed to move forward despite our differences.

The challenge, as Scott F. Fitzgerald put it, is “the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

If you have an article that belongs here, please add to this list by editing the Google Doc. I’m aware that this is a sensitive topic but I hope my intentions came through. If you have ideas on how I can communicate this better, please let me know.



Complicating the Narratives by Amanda Ripley

It turns out that the pre-conversation reading mattered: in the difficult conversations that followed, people who had read the more simplistic article tended to get stuck in negativity. But those who had read the more complex articles did not. They asked more questions, proposed higher quality ideas and left the lab more satisfied with their conversations. “They don’t solve the debate,” Coleman says, “but they do have a more nuanced understanding and more willingness to continue the conversation.” Complexity is contagious, it turns out, which is wonderful news for humanity.

America Divided

Oprah follows up with partisan voters in Michigan by 60 Minutes

There's no difference around that table than what you would hear in any place of work, dining room table, college campus… The difference is that the people in Michigan really want to listen to each other.

Tweet by Sarah McBride

Ms. McBride, I just read your book. It had a profound impact on me. I am ex-military and most of my friends are as well. I am a Life Member of the NRA. I am a long-time biker. And I enthusiastically voted for Donald Trump… I just wanted you to know you changed my perspective and my life...


Guns and Empathy a video by New York Magazine

Why Do We Keep Having The Same Argument About Guns? by Anne Helen Petersen

Police Brutality

Why Colin Kapaernick Took A Knee posted by Matt Orfalea

It was US Army veteran, Nate Boyer who suggested to Kaepernick to take a knee as a sign of respect. Kaepernick’s protest was no statement on the military but to call attention to police brutality in America where cops are getting paid leave for murdering unarmed Americans.


The white flight of Derek Black by Eli Saslow

White People a short documentary by Jose Antonio Vargas for MTV

At dinner, that man’s father says it upsets him that the Asian newcomers in town aren’t very friendly. But Vargas, as well as some locals interviewed on screen, point out that the language barrier is a natural part of the immigrant experience. The Italian Americans acknowledge this; the dinner-table dad himself, it turns out, moved to America at age 5 and had a hard time adjusting.

Trump’s America

He’s a Local Pillar in a Trump Town. Now He Could Be Deported. by Monica Davey

What I Heard From Trump Supporters by Sam Altman

How a Muslim Doctor Changed Minnesota Minds by Stephanie McMrummen

“I’ll tell you. After the election, I was angry. And I was angry at my community for what they did. And I was ready to leave. Okay? I was ready to go and say you know what? Not my job. People think I’m a terrorist? I’m outta here. Fine. Find somebody else. The reason I’m here is not because I want to — my faith is very personal to me. I’m here because who else is going to do this, if not me?”

Election 2016

I know why the poor whites chant Trump Trump Trump by Jonna Ivin

The Messy Truth a video series by Van Jones

Listening to Trump by Christian Parenti

What so many people don’t get about the US working class by Joan C. Williams

Hillbilly Elegy a book by J.D. Vance

The smug style in American liberalism by Emmett Rensin

Michael Moore joins wide-ranging election talk

Dana Gould asks those who voted for Trump to explain to him why this is a good thing. Here’s what he learned.

I’m a coastal elite from the Midwest: The real bubble is Rural America by Patrick Thornton

How poor whites see themselves a tweetstorm by John Paul Brammer

Race and the Race Rebecca Carroll and Van Jones

The sun comes up a This American Life podcast episode


Arrival a film

Zootopia a film (yes, really)
Reddit: Liberals, what’s your most conservative view? Conservatives, what’s your most liberal view?

The End of Identity Liberalism by Mark Lilla

Everyone believes they’re the good guy by Amaryllis Fox, former CIA

I think the question we need to be asking as Americans examining our foreign policy, is whether or not we’re pouring kerosene on a candle. The only real way to disarm your enemy is to listen to them.

WHO TO FOLLOW   There’s a growing number of voices in this space -- all the authors here, plus:

Jon Stokes Founder of Ars Technica, former Wired editor, gun owner

Van Jones CNN commentator and founder of The Messy Truth and author of Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together

Christian Picciolini Reformed white supremacist, founder of peace advocacy organization Life After Hate