My reading list for 2021, part I

Written on December 31, 2020 by Leo dos Santos.

In this last day of 2020 I decided to furnish a reading list for the first half of 2021. Since I can’t really commit to a full year of reading plans, I stuck to only six months instead. The reason is because many changes may happen in my life in the second half of 2021, making it difficult to make commitments. I can’t promise that I will read all of them accordingly either, so take this new-year’s list with a grain of salt.


Most of my life is spent reading and writing: I am constantly reading (non-)scientific articles, blog posts, research material, and often writing proposals, manuscripts, and programming code. Although I can write fast, I am a very slow reader, usually taking a whole month or so to finish a 500-page book. Sometimes I alternate between reading two books, one long and one short, to make the process more efficient. And finally, my preferences come down to mostly non-fiction, especially when it involves science. But, if you have any recommendations of fiction that could be interesting, I’m accepting suggestions in the comments below!

Here is the list of books I plan to read in the first half of 2021:

January: Collection Feminismos Plurais coordinated by Djamila Ribeiro

This is probably the reading I am most excited for! Feminismos Plurais is a collection of handbooks on various subjects related to feminism and social justice, specifically targeting my home country of Brazil. In total, it has eight handbooks: Racismo Estrutural (Systemic Racism), Apropriação Cultural (Cultural Appropriation), Racismo Recreativo (Recreational Racism, for lack of better translation), Interseccionalidade (Intersectionality), Empoderamento (Empowerment), Encarceramento em Massa (Mass Incarceration), Intolerância Religiosa (Religious Intolerance), and Lugar de Fala (this name does not really have a translation to English, I think; but it means the position the speaker occupies in relation to those she speaks to, or “place of speech”).

February: Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neal

I came across this book when I was reading the material for my post on ethics of machine learning. It exposes the biases involved in the era of Big Data and how they affect many of the algorithms that run our lives, in contrast with the utopian idea that machines and computers are not affected by the human conditions. I am also very excited for this one!

March: The Story of More by Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl would probably be on my top-5 favorite books if I had one. I have a special place in my heart for memoirs-type print, but her new book coming in March 2021 is something a bit different: it is instead a primer on how we ended up feeding climate change through the development of new technologies. One of the coolest traits of Jahren’s work is that she has a very particular way of narrating stories, and I am looking forward to this new one.

April: A World Without Email by Cal Newport

Cal Newport is another author that rapidly grew on me when I read his book Deep Work. His main line of writing is on the “self-help” section, containing treatises on how to be focused in a noisy world. It is partly because of his writing that I dumped my social media presence in favor of more meaningful connections. In this new book, Newport reviews the current evidence of how email and instant digital communication has negatively affected the lives of creative workers — including scientists. In the end, presumably, he discuss alternatives to these hyperactive communication tools.

May: The Disordered Cosmos by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

As with many people, I came across Dr. Prescod-Weinsten’s writing through Twitter, where she leads an impressive effort of making science a more just place. In her first book, which also comes out in March 2021, Prescod-Weinsten shares her love and experiences with theoretical cosmology and particle physics; the author also exposes the open wounds of racial marginalization, sexism and the history of colonialism that plagues knowledge production in the field of physics. It goes without saying that I am also very excited for this one!

June: Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano

This book ended on my list because of the previous one. While I was doing a little bit of background research on the publisher of Prescod-Weinsten’s first book, I came across the work of Eduardo Galeano, who was Uruguayan journalist and a prolific writer. Open Veins of Latin America is his most famous book, in which he discusses the history of how Latin America was exploited from its “discovery” by Columbus to the political interventions by the US American government led by Barack Obama. History used to be my least favorite subject in school when I was younger, but now, more than ever, is the moment to fill in the gaps and understand what makes my own homeland what it is today.