PIHers' Picks: What We Read, Watched, and Listened to in 2020

A list of books, podcasts, and movies recommended by PIH staff and supporters from around the world

Posted on Nov 25, 2020

The image is the covers of all of the books, podcasts, and films mentioned in the article below.

For the sixth year, PIH staff from around the world shared their favorite works they watched, read, or listened to in the past 12 months. In light of the many challenges 2020 has presented, we asked staff to specifically highlight books, podcasts, or movies that provide hope and inspiration. We hope that you, too, will see the light in the recommendations below. Although this holiday season may feel much different than previous years, one thing remains constant: PIH's commitment to strengthening health systems around the globe. 


"How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective" Written by Keeanga-Yamahtta TaylorHow We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective
Written by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

“This book takes us back to the central role that Black feminists played in Boston and globally towards building a movement for social justice that centers the role of patriarchy, racism, and capitalism. Dr. Taylor interviews three of the co-authors of the Combahee River Collective Statement which was published in 1977 to understand their historical and current perspective on social justice and liberation. Taylor also interviews Alicia Garza who describes her path in Black feminism and how it connects to her founding of #BlackLivesMatter. Revisiting the statement forty years later and recognizing just how much it resonates today is a great reminder of the gifts of the intellectual heritage left for us to guide our way through the current moments of racial reckoning in our country and across the world.”

—Michelle Morse, MD, MPH, Board Member


We The Unhoused
Hosted by Theo HendersonWe The House hosted by Theo Henderson

“During the pandemic and beyond, I keep finding myself coming back to the We The Unhoused podcast –this show uplifts the voices and daily experiences of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles, and was created by host Theo Henderson, who is unhoused. Although episodes tend be organized around issues local to LA, the themes that Theo and his program engage with–physical and mental health struggles, police violence and the ways that race shapes interactions with law enforcement, gentrification and economic uncertainty, housing insecurity–have never been more timely and universal for helping us understand how to show up for communities made more vulnerable by COVID-19. And if all that sounds quite heavy, there’s also hope–ample space is dedicated to highlighting the inspiring grassroots organizing, mutual aid, and accompaniment between unhoused individuals to combat these injustices and build community together!”

—Matthew Hing, Immokalee Project Manager, COVID-19 Technical Accompaniment Unit 


AdúAdú, directed by Alejandro Hernández
Directed by Alejandro Hernández 

“Adú presents an unfolding, thought-provoking drama which touches on how Africans whose lives are disrupted by conflicts, exploitation of natural resources, poverty, greed, and all forms of social injustices are forced to escape their home countries for a better life.The film triggers and resonates how my actions or inactions as an aid worker advocating for social justice can contribute positivity to the distressing struggles that migrants, refugees, and internally displaced people face, especially the struggles that children and women experience on their journey to genuinely seek a new beginning and fulfilling life.”

—Marian Owusu-Afriyie Roberts, Communication Specialist, PIH Liberia


Just Mercy by Bryan StevensonJust Mercy
Written by Bryan Stevenson

“This book offers a look into the history and facts about incarcerated people in the United States, especially people of color, that end up being unfairly judged and discriminated against. Bryan Stevenson shares a compassionate look into people that have to live the atrocities that the U.S. legal system and lack of freedom pose to families that already face structural violence. One of my favorite quotes from Stevenson in this book: “We are more than the worst thing we have ever done.” A great book for analyzing and thinking in the middle of cold days, that lets us warmly remember about the 'us' and not the 'them.'” 

—Dra. Fátima G. Rodríguez Cuevas, Mental Health Coordinator, Compañeros en Salud (PIH in Mexico)


Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds by Paul FarmerFevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History
Written by Paul Farmer

“Following Paul Farmer’s research, writing, and thinking as he’s crafted this book has been—in a word—revelatory. With careful attention to the lived experience of the afflicted, he provides a heartrending yet hopeful account of the world’s largest recorded Ebola epidemic. But Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds is more than just a book about Ebola. By revealing the epidemic’s oft-neglected precursors—the transatlantic slave trade, formal colonial rule, civil war, and the extractivism that outlived them—Paul compels us to reckon with a global hierarchy that has long enriched some lives while depriving untold others. This is the same hierarchy that determines who lives and who dies, whether from Ebola, COVID-19, or the chronic toll exacted by an uncaring health system. If our own experience is any guide, this book’s revelations will strike its readers as intense, profound, and unsettling. When embraced with an open mind, they enable us to appreciate why there exists a multigenerational obligation to repair centuries of harm and injustice. As the world contends with a pandemic of a novel disease, and with the more familiar social pathologies that have shaped its course, Paul’s words are sure to inspire the redemptive, restorative, and reparative work we must undertake to heal.” 

—Ishaan Desai and Vincent Lin, research assistants to Paul Farmer, MD, PhD


Bending the ArcBending the Arc 
Directed by Pedro Kos and Kief Davidson

“As a PIHer with a non-clinical background, Bending the Arc inspires me because it reminds me you don’t need to have a medical degree to make an impact in this field. All you need is to care about your neighbors—both those you can see and those who are in other countries. It's about empathy, quality, fairness, and togetherness, which are things every person should work toward. This documentary gives us a glimpse of the world we can inhabit, if and when leaders do not turn a blind eye to their neighbors around the world.”

—Kelly Stewart, Lead, Entertainment, Ambassadors, and Influencer Marketing


March trilogy 
Written by John Lewis and Andrew AydinMarch trilogy

“This graphic novel trilogy is at once stunning, inspiring, and thought-provoking. Congressman Lewis’s death during this difficult year felt like one blow too many. But these powerful autobiographical books about Lewis’s life and his role in shaping the civil rights movement melt away despair and replace it with a feeling of urgent optimism. Even if you know Lewis’s story well, you will feel energized as you read these beautifully crafted books about how he navigated and shaped the challenges of his time. And what better a tribute to John Lewis in 2020 than to use that optimism and energy to drive forward the movements of our time.”

—Shefali Oza, Deputy Director of Data and Design, Community Tracing Collaborative


It Was Said
Hosted by Jon MeachamIt Was Said podcast

“This podcast highlights famous speeches throughout history and digs into why they were so meaningful at the time and what we can learn from them now. I love learning more about these influential people in pivotal moments in history and feel inspired by the strength they show in the face of extreme adversity.”

—Andie Tibbetts, Program Manager, Community Tracing Collaborative


Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last
Written by Simon SinekStart With Why and Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

“In his books 'Start With Why' and 'Leaders Eat Last,' Simon Sinek breaks down the qualities that create inspiring leaders and motivate people to dedicate their lives to a cause. Here at PIH, we don’t just want managers; we want leaders who fight for our patients, our bosses, and who earn the trust of their teams in the process. We need people who remain completely committed to healthcare as a human right and will do whatever it takes to bring that to life, even during pandemics and natural disasters. Understanding how leadership emerges through mutual trust empowers us to find solidarity in our communities and foster a culture of cooperation. Recognizing how central our 'why' is to our individual mission is crucial for continuing to get up and build health systems when challenges across the five S’s (staff, stuff, space, systems, and social support) seem impossibly complicated. When you start with why and when your leadership prioritizes your support and wellbeing, it’s difficult to give up.”

—Maxo Luma, MD, MPH, Executive Director, PIH Liberia


99% Invisible and $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America99% Invisible and $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America
Hosted by Roman Mars and Written by H. Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin

“Both 99% Invisible and $2 a Day inspire me to continue learning and focus my energy and skills into something bigger. I love nothing more than something that keeps me constantly thinking of innovative design or social concepts and 99% Invisible does just that. From deep dives into the quick manufacturing of respirators by automotive companies to in-depth reasoning as to why Boston City Hall's Brutalist architecture is so unappealing, this podcast is perfect for any morning. On a more serious note, everyone should read $2 a Day. It gives great insight into the foundation of the welfare system and the discrepancies the lower classes face due to the hierarchical structure of American society. I constantly find myself in awe of how corrupt our systems are in the United States and how much change is really needed.”

—Morgan Cole, Care Resource Coordinator, Community Tracing Collaborative


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