Skip to content ↓
Vital Stories

Essential Reading

Vital Strategies Staff's Recommended Books 2019

Vital Strategies

If you are wondering what to read next, look no further than Vital Strategies staff recommendations from 2019. Our team reviewed a varied selection of books—some directly related to our work, such as “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America” by Beth Macy; others, inspirational works such as Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”; and some just for fun, like “The Witching Tree” by Tana French, a twisty whodunit that will keep you reading way too late into the night.


The Sarawack Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé by Clare Rewcastle Brown

To Be a Slave by Julius Lester

“Feels like it should be mandatory reading for everyone in the US and maybe elsewhere.” —Dorian Block, Senior Writer, Policy, Advocacy and Communication  

Becoming by Michelle Obama 

 Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy 

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover 

“Tara has a harrowing yet redemptive story of self-discovery that can serve as inspiration for even the most cynical among us.”—Ishmael Qawiy, Pharmacist, Research and Development 

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi 

Robin Hood Marketing: Stealing Corporate Savvy to Sell Just Causes by Katya Andersen 

“It provides valuable insight into the successful formulas that corporates adopt to sell everything from socks to cigarettes, and how these can be applied in the NGO world.” —Aanchal Medta, Communication Lead, Environmental Health 

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

 Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 

 The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles C. Mann

Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle  By John Rolfe and Peter Troob 

Freedom is an Inside Job: Owning Our Darkness and Our Light to Heal Ourselves and the World by Zainab Salbi

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon 

Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy) by Amitav Ghosh 

“Sea of Poppies” is a chronicle of the opium wars told through a set of interconnected characters across multiple continents. It is interesting for people here, because we work in India and China, and it provides a helpful background for understanding how colonialism impacted the region and how the effects of that can still be seen today.” —Laura Cobb, Director, Nutrition and Surveillance, Cardiovascular Health, Resolve to Save Lives 

Esperanza Rising  by Pam Muñoz Ryan 

When Breath Becomes Air  by Paul Kalanithi 

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Rage by Brittany Cooper 

The Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke 

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 

“NoViolet Bulawayo does an amazing job of capturing the voice of a young woman from age 10 to 18. You see what is going on in Zimbabwe and in her community through her eyes. And then, when she moves to Michigan, you see America from her eyes. The perspective feels new and the contrast is striking.” –Karen Schmidt, Editorial Director, Policy, Advocacy and Communication  

The Witch Elm by Tana French