Reading with... Sally Kohn

photo: Paul Takeuchi

Sally Kohn is a CNN political commentator, activist and the author of The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity (Algonquin, April 10, 2018). She is also the host of the State of Resistance podcast.
On your nightstand now:

I'm already working on my next book so I have a bunch of academic research texts from the 1990s, and I'm enjoying Cleo Wade's Heart Talk, Ijeoma Oluo's So You Want to Talk About Race, Emma Gray's A Girl's Guide to Joining the Resistance right now, plus soooo many other great books I can't wait to read!

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was obsessed with A Tale of Two Cities. Make of that what you will.

Your top five authors:

bell hooks, James Baldwin, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Urvashi Vaid, Hannah Arendt

Book you've faked reading:

Capital by Thomas Piketty, but didn't everyone?

Book you're an evangelist for:

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors is one of the most beautiful and important nonfiction books I've ever read.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I have major cover envy for Reza Aslan's book God--but it's also a great book. It really made me think about what I believe in the context of the world's history of belief and spirituality in general. And Reza is such a gorgeous evocative powerful writer.

Book you hid from your parents:

I'm so boring, I don't think I ever had to do that.

Book that changed your life:

Virtual Equality by Urvashi Vaid, which shaped my mind on activism and intersectionality more than anything else I've ever read.

Urvashi was my first mentor in college and in life and radically transformed my understanding of the world and my agency within it. But first came the book, which helped make me the thinker and writer and activist I am today.

Favorite line from a book:

"Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood." -from 1984 by George Orwell.

1984 is such a perennially prescient book, but definitely now more than ever. And inside this masterpiece of grand political warnings, there are so many gems of personal revelation too. And I think most people crave being understood, perhaps more than anything.

Five books you'll never part with:

I refuse to part with any of my books, which is a problem considering I think my bookcases may collapse any day now--and I keep getting more.

I have a set of bookshelves that my dad built for us and they fill a whole room, floor to ceiling, and my partner and I have taken to now stacking books on top of books in the shelves and even trying to go two-deep in each row. Plus, now our nine-year-old daughter has her books, and she doesn't want to part with any of hers, either.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Future Is History by Masha Gessen.

I found it incredibly helpful and terrifying when I first read it in October 2017, when it came out, but somehow I feel like history is quickening--and the outrageousness of the Trump administration is now at warp speed--and I think I'd absorb so much of Gessen's lessons and warnings even more deeply if I picked it up for the first time today. Strange times call for clear-eyed and wise narrators.

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