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2020 | Best non-fiction writing

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

The best essays of 2020 are ineluctably linked to world news, our questions and doubts. Therefore in this list you will find books tackling the topics of police brutality, biodiversity and gender norms. From the radical philosopher Paul B. Preciado to the rising scholar Baptise Morizot there is more than enough to get you thinking (and hopefully acting) !

Huit leçons sur l’Afrique, Alain Mabanckou | Grasset

In 2016 Alain Mabanckou held the Chair of artistic creation at the Collège de France. It was the first time that an African writer had been brought in to teach the culture so often disdained of the "black continent". Considering fundamental historical anecdotes but also the work of key literary figures, Alain Mabanckou's lessons are now available in written form and they offer a key to understanding current political interrogations.

Manières d’être vivant, Baptiste Morizot | Actes Sud

Philosopher Baptiste Morizot has impregnated France with a remarkable essay this year. Dealing with the delicate topic of connectedness between homo sapiens and other forms of life such as fauna and flora, mud, plants and organic matter, he manages to give us hope for the future of biodiversity while making intelligible fragments of scientific theory. Based on his experience of tracking wolves in France he adopts a poetic voice while bringing forward real anecdotes of an urgent affair.

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La puissance des mères, Fatima Ouassak | La Découverte

To reflect on the issues regarding police brutality, Fatima Ouassak’s discourse about youth and motherhood is definitely a must-read. How many children descending from post-colonial immigration have been killed by police officers in impunity? How many mothers mourned their children victims of racist crimes? She believes mothers should come together, strategise and stop acting as a mediator between two parties unable to communicate. In solidarity mothers will break oppressive systems and show that their kids are not necessarily offenders in the making.

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Ci-gît l’amer, Cynthia Fleury | Gallimard

Is resentment an “illness” typical of democracies? If we believe that equality is the corollary of freedom then yes. Because citizens cannot help themselves but to go and check how other people live. Obviously, they quickly realise that there are many inequalities and in return they will feel anger or bitterness. This is what Cynthia Fleury argues in her latest essay. She also subtlety explains how to surpass these negative emotions as she believes it is the key to keeping a healthy democratic system in the long run. Overall, a complex yet rewarding read about emotional robustness and the political future.

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Je suis un monstre qui vous parle, Paul B. Preciado | Grasset

In this conference given in 2019 the philosopher and transgender activist Paul B. Preciado calls for a radical transformation of psychological and psychoanalytic discourse and practices, arguing for a new epistemology capable of allowing for a multiplicity of living bodies without reducing the body to its sole heterosexual reproductive capability, and without legitimising hetero-patriarchal and colonial violence. His controversial and stimulating talk confirms that Preciado is one of the most original and radical thinkers of our time.

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