Best reads of 2021

As usual, I wanted to share some of the things I really enjoyed in 2021. It’s mainly books and articles but there are a few podcasts thrown in for good measure1. My thesis took over the entirety of the first half of the year and then the summer was celebrating being able to spend time with people, so I read less non-fiction than I would have liked. But that’s what 2022 is for! Plus I’ve gotten back into reading fiction which has been great.

Academia

Injustice in a World without Villains by Musa al-Gharbi. Black faculty members at American colleges were less likely than their peers to judge that their college supports diversity and inclusion and black students were more likely than their counterparts to self-censor when talking about race.

The Woke Meritocracy by Blake Smith. How the restrictive nature of top American colleges leads to a homogenising of the way young prospective college students develop1.

Culture

Overthrowing Democracy Requires Overthrowing Feminism by Peter Beinart. How the demonisation of women by right-wing populists threatens democracy.

The Failure of Occupy is Almost Complete by Freddie deBoer. How the aims of the Occupy Wall Street movement (economic justice) has fallen by the wayside.

I am me by Stephan Heunis. An honest exploration of what being on the autistic spectrum is like and how hard it is to be in a world that doesn’t recognise or support who you are.

Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun. What the key features of white supremacy are and how they have become ingrained in modern societies.

The Bored Apes take Manhattan by Jessica Klein. A profile of the type of people who become swept up in the biggest NFT hype train in 2021.

Streambait Pop by Liz Pelly. How the structure of Spotify shapes music, including almost killing the concept of the album and creating whole new genres.

New Atheism: The Godlessness That Failed by Slate Star Codex. An explanation of why discussions about the existence of god completely dominated the internet in the early 2010s, to be almost completely replaced by discussions of social justice.

How to be an anti-racist by Matthew Yglesias. Suggestions for increasing racial tolerance given the poor evidence for corporate-mandated diversity training.

Economics

It’s bargaining power all the way down by J.W. Mason. An alternative explanation of income inequality in Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital In the 21st Century’

Investment Firms Are the Big Winners of the GameStop Stock Revolution So Far by Edward Ongweso Jr. As much fun as it was to think that a ragtag group of business outsiders were able to “stick it to the man”, the real winners were the already insanely wealthy.

Educational Psychology

Dyslexia, hope and supporting learners with reading difficulties with Professor Joe Elliott, hosted by Dr Nazam Hussain by Agents of Hope. What dyslexia is and isn’t and how it is used in education.

The hidden life of a Top Boy by Ron Dodzro. How the traumas many black men experience throughout their lives affects them, with links drawn to lyrics from British rap and drill artists.

The Repressive Politics of Emotional Intelligence by Merve Emre. How emotional intelligence ignores important contextual factors to place the blame for difficulties squarely on individuals.

Disproportionality in SEN referrals: why so many boys? by James Redburn. An exploration of why males are over-represented in special educational needs (SEN) referrals.

Trauma cannot be quantified by Dr Jessica Taylor. A critique of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) questionnaire.

Literature

Famous first words: how celebrities made their way on to children’s bookshelves by Sian Cain. How and why celebrities have recently dominated the children’s literature market and what impact that has.

The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante. An amazing series about female friendship in 20th century Italy.

Metascience

The case for formal methodology in scientific reform by Berna Devezer, Danielle Navarro, Joachim Vandekerckhove, Erkan Buzbas. Why proposed methods to fix science need to be formalised to avoid falling into the same mistakes as the very things problems they wish to solve.

Construct Validation in Social and Personality Research: Current Practice and Recommendations by Jessica Flake, Jolynn Pek, and Eric Hehman. The state of measurement in psychology for a wide range of scales and how to better measure psychological constructs.

Hypothetico-Deductivism is Hopeless by Clark Glymour. Why evidence cannot be used as proof of a theory via a hypothesis.

Two threads on measurement by Nathaniel Haines and Berna Devezer. The importance of models, their assumptions, and theory when trying to measure a construct.

Race, Policing, and the Limits of Social Science by Lily Hu. How we cannot detach our research from our values.

Psychological Science Needs the Entire Globe, Part 1 by Hans IJzerman, Natalia Dutra, Miguel Silan, Adeyemi Adetula, Dana M. Basnight Brown, and Patrick Forscher. Why the dominance of the USA in psychological research is a problem.

Juggling slow and fast science by Luciana Leite & Luisa Maria Diele-Viegas. How slow science may not always be the best course of action and we need to be careful when judging the output of others.

Deseosos de validación by Alejandro Rujano. An explanation of the different types of validation.

A Reflection on the Topsport Analogy by Marie Stadel & Nina Schwarzbach. How thinking of science as a competitive sport harms everyone involved.

[98] Evidence of Fraud in an Influential Field Experiment About Dishonesty by Uri Simonsohn, Leif Nelson, & Joe Simmons. A blindingly obvious example of fraud in a famous study and how we can protect against it in the future.

WEIRD Times: Three Reasons to Stop Using a Silly Acronym by Moin Syed. How the WEIRD acronym omits key variables and is a prime example of psychology’s obsession with making cute acronyms.

Researchers are embracing visual tools to give fair credit for work on papers by Andy Tay. A method to better represent author contributions to a paper.

Politics

La mejor tesis del año es de este nazareno y muestra por qué la meritocracia no funciona by Héctor G. Barnés. Why meritocracy does not work.

What ‘Structural Racism’ Really Means by Jamelle Bouie. How racism is tied inextricably with the economic and political structures of society.

Can We Stop Referring to Black People as ‘Black Bodies?’ by Aysia C. How the use of ‘Black Bodies’ dehumanises black folk.

Enlightened drug reforms are sweeping the US. Why is Britain so far behind? by Kojo Koram. The US is embracing more humane and just drug laws, yet little progress has been made in the UK.

Can we please ditch the term “systemic racism”? by John McWhorter. How the term ‘systemic racism’ is unhelpful when trying to understand why black students underperform in schools.

Facebook is banning leftwing users like me – and it’s going largely unnoticed by Akin Olla. How Facebook has banned a number of left-wing accounts and groups at the same time as banning far right groups.

Chesterton’s Fence: A Lesson in Second Order Thinking by Shane Parrish. Why we need to understand the reasons a decision was previously made before we reverse it.

The War on Meritocracy by Adrian Wooldridge. Why modern society needs to be a meritocracy.

US Politics

Episode 35 – The Gods Must Be F*cking With Us by Bad Faith. An episode on the history of American populism filmed during the Capitol Hill Riot.

Biden is locking up migrant children. Will the world still care with Trump gone? by Moustafa Bayoumi. The hypocrisy of the outrage over Trump putting children in cages when the Biden administration continues to do the same thing.

It’s Not Just White People: Democrats Are Losing Normal Voters Of All Races by Ryan Grim. How some Democrat policies are losing them votes in their traditional voting blocs.

Educated Fools – Why Democratic leaders still misunderstand the politics of social class by Thomas Geoghegan. How the powerful within the Democratic party have become disconnected from their traditional base of the working class.

What Philadelphia Reveals About America’s Homicide Surge by Alec MacGillis. How Philadelphia is a microcosm of the gun problem in America, including the tragedies and effective strategies.

The Emergence and Rise of Postmodern Conservatism by Matt McManus. Postmodernism’s mistrust of objective truth is not just found in some sectors of the left, but vast swathes of the political right as well.

Barack Obama Doesn’t Have the Answers by Osita Nwanevu. How Obama is unlikely to be able to help diagnose and fix the current problems in American society.

The John Birch Society Is Back by John Savage. How fringe political ideas from the 60s are making a resurgence in the modern Republican party.

1 I’ve never attended an Ivy League school so can neither personally confirm or deny this is what it’s like.

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