Reading on the Bus

Preface: I owe special thanks to the excellent Boston Public Library system for providing me with the vast majority of these books, not to mention a lovely place to sit and read, a chance to go the aquarium for free, and an exhibit on the neighborhoods of Boston that helped orient me to the city. Also, I’m just updating this list of books here as I continue to read. Let me know if you have book recommendations!

library pic

What I’ve read on the bus, grouped by year (most recent reads at the top):

Year Five:

  • GRE Math Review — ETS Testing: high school math…I vividly remember the quadratic formula song but can I factor? What is the probability of combinations anyway?
  • For the Time Being — Annie Dillard: Poetically connected snippets from archeology to birth, clouds to Rabbis. Thanks, Alex, for the recommendation.
  • Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore — Elizabeth Rush: Surprisingly personal account of the current impacts of climate change and sea level rise on several communities in America. She advocates retreat from the coastline, focuses on grief, and shares an expansive idea of community.
  • In the Distance — Hernán Díaz: Strange little novel about the colonization of the west through the eyes of a Swedish boy. Paints a full world.
  • Florida — Lauren Groff: Short stories tied together by Florida, a place I recently visited. Some felt a little mysterious but all center on specific, individual characters charting and grappling. Only the 2nd book I’ve read where fictional characters are worried about climate change, fitting for the setting.
  • Bad Feminist — Roxane Gay: Though a few references feel slightly dated (an update for 2019 would be nice), the essays tackle a range of issues personal and political from violence against women, to TV, to intersectionality.
  • How to Survive a Plague — David France: Detailed, personal history of the AIDS crisis from beginning to 1996. Unimaginable to see that many friends and neighbors die; minute detail on activism, government incompetence, pharmaceutical somersaults, and individual drama made the book both long and real.
  • The Sympathizer — Viet Thanh Nguyen: Gripping novel about one man’s journey at the end of the Vietnam War. Written as a confession explores belonging, sympathizing, American culture, friendship, and torture. Tough last 50 pages.
  • Being Mortal — Atul Gawande: A doctor reflects on aging and death. I regret that I didn’t read this before my friend Jon died but hope to remember its lessons as my parents’ age. Also interesting to think about the balance of freedom and choice versus safety that we all must consider.
  • Home — Bill Bryson: Full of mildly entertaining factoids and history of the home (especially British/American ones in the last 150 years), was not as entertaining as his other books.
  • Children of Blood and Bone — Tomi Adeyemi: YA novel set in a mythical African world (the language of magic is Yoruba) where four young people wrestle with magic, love, and an allegory for racism and police brutality. Cinematic: I’m expecting a movie soon.
  • Designing Your Life — Bill Burnett and Dave Evans: Apply design thinking principals to building your life (instead of an app). Best lessons: there is no one perfect life to find, you get to build a good life instead; try things — learn from failures/prototypes; once you make a decision: “let go and move on” to be happy with it
  • Believer —  David Axelrod: A memoir from one of the key political men of our time, best known for his work with Obama starting with his run for Senate. Really takes you into the details, helps explain not only Axelrod’s journey but also ours.

Year Four:

  • The Soul of an Octopus — Sy Montgomery: Fun look into the totally surprising aquatic world. Octopuses (apparently that’s correct and ocotopi isn’t) are amazing creatures and very smart. Made me want to go back to the New England Aquarium.
  • Righteous Minds: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion — Jonathan Haidt: More complex version of Don’t Think of an Elephant. We’re “90% chimp and 10% bee,” he writes, and with 6 morality taste buds available to humans, liberals need to expand and we all need to listen.
  • White Teeth — Zadie Smith: Intergenerational narrative exploring what it means to be of a culture, to be radical, and the role of nature versus nurture all while being funny and very true to the characters.
  • Little Fires Everywhere — Celeste Ng: Read it so fast. The omniscient narrator gets inside each character’s head and weaves a story about the half-truths we each see, what family means, and the choices we make that shape our lives.
  • The Fire This Time — Jesmyn Ward: A collection of writings by various authors all tasked with grappling with blackness in 21st Century America in reflection on Baldwin’s work several decades ago. Ward’s own contribution to the book is powerful and directly connects to Baldwin. Edwidge Danticat’s essay is also a standout though each author brings their own important voices.
  • The Future of Conservation in America: A Chart for Rough Waters — Gary Machlis and Jonathan Jarvis: Long title, short book. A call for a unified, inclusive, youth-led conservation strategy against the perils of Trump and climate change. Would have liked more details.
  • The Boy Detective Fails — Joe Meno: A curious blend of adult and child, this book uses childish mystery to bring home a grown-up point about love, loss, and growing up.
  • Moonwalking with Einstein — Joshua Foer: A pop version of some of the same territory Sachs pioneered, I really enjoyed it. Taught the kiddos a tiny intro on memory palaces and feel a bit more observant, which is really what Foer gained by competing.
  • This Is An Uprising — Mark & Paul Engler: Dissecting many of the most famous social movements (and ones I hadn’t heard of like Otpor in Serbia), they chart essential ingredients in a successful nonviolent movement. They also explain the history of the study of social movements and leave me wondering where the Women’s March, DREAMers, and Parkland Students are headed next.
  • The Fire Next Time — James Baldwin: The first chapter is a letter to his nephew; I didn’t realize how much Coates borrowed when I read Between the World and Me.  The second chapter resonated so fully with our time, from references to tyranny to the vulnerability of black bodies. I was struck by his insistence that the values of white culture are not the goal; it feels like finding the intellectual antecedent to the Trinity training on white supremacist culture.
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry — Neil deGrasse Tyson: Occasionally a little too hurried for my basic high school physics but a great read! His voice comes through and I’m now filled with factoids about the universe that put my tiny, brief life in perspective while also impressing me with how much humans have learned. My second favorite scientist (hi, mom!).
  • A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea — Melissa Fleming: The harrowing true story of a Syrian refugee’s journey out of Syria ultimately to Sweeden. How do we live in a world so cruel? How can one girl be so powerful a survivor?
  • On Tyranny — Timothy Snyder: “20 Lessons from the 20th Century” should be required reading for every American right now. Worth owning a copy to refer back to.
  • The Wangs vs. The World — Jade Chang: Took time to get into because I had so little empathy for the formerly-wealthy main characters. But Chang writes from very different voices with authenticity and this personal tale of the 2008 financial crisis ended up captivating me.
  • The Gene: An Intimate History — Siddhartha Mukherjee: Like his book on cancer, this book is herculean and yet readable; 497 pages telling the story of genes, our understanding, and our use and misuse. More here.
  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter — Erika L. Sánchez: Totally YA in its style. From a gringa’s perspective, felt culturally authentic (so take that with a grain of salt). Tough content, so not for younger tweens, though certainly highly readable (read it so fast!)
  • Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman — Haruki Murakami: 24 short stories. Many were a little weird, a few profound, some beautifully written. Not the character development of Lahiri, more a textbook-ready short story.
  • If the Oceans were Ink — Carla Power: A thoughtful dive into Islam through lessons and conversations with the author’s friend, the Sheikh (as she refers to him often). I learned some history, some religion, some religious history, and was reminded of the foundational values so many of us hold dear. I share her envy of his certainty.
  • The Color Purple — Alice Walker: My first time reading the classic; most feminist novel I’ve read in a while.
  • The Round House — Louise Erdrich: She captures the voice of a 13-year-old boy perfectly. A novel so focused on characters yet simultaneously revealing the tangled web, the “moldy casserole” of Native American law as it intersects with US law.
  • Fortune Smiles — Adam Johnson: Each story is so riveting and whole. Each character full. I want each story to be an entire novel. Exploring themes of technology, humanity, decency, these are stories for the 21st century.
  • Challenger Deep —  Neal Shusterman: YA tale that felt very adult, a front-row seat on a journey into the depths of mental illness (literally and metaphorically). Difficult to read emotionally, builds empathy for those in mental health crises. Interesting to read right after Sacks.
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat —  Oliver Sacks: One of the more challenging books I’ve read recently because of the medical jargon, it nonetheless held up to the reviews that said it would reveal an inner human truth, much like the novels we turn to for such wisdom.
  • A Fighting Chance — Elizabeth Warren: I never knew the details of her personal story until reading this. She is so smart, so competent, and so normal. Thank you for the birthday present, Roger!
  • 10% Human — Alanna Collen: Humans cells are vastly outnumbered by bacteria and we are just starting to understand the power of our microbiome. Takeaways: eat more fiber (plants), use antibiotics only when you need to, give birth vaginally.
  • I am Malala — Malala Yousafzai: Bought the young readers edition at the scholastic book fair so it was a little simplistic. Didn’t know how much of a public figure she had been before the shooting — the attack was not random. Not sure she’s changed the world yet but she’s certainly left her mark.
  • No is Not Enough — Naomi Klein: Drawing on years of research for her previous books, this ties it all together, explains why Trump is the culmination and offers a hopeful alternative platform. Where are the people doing this and what do I do next?
  • Start with Why — Simon Sinek: Boring, and mostly about the “magic” of brands like Apple, Disney, and Harley Davidson. Basically: understand your own ‘why’ and then make sure you can cover the what and the how. Felt fitting for my 5-hour RMV stint.
  • Evicted — Matthew Desmond: It won the Pulitzer for a reason. Novelistic, yet includes quantitative data; heartbreaking, yet never are the subjects “otherized.” So much to pull from for my work including, “we can only do the best we can with who we are, paying close attention to the ways pieces of ourselves matter to the work while never losing sight of the most important questions.” (pg 326) *
  • Radical Candor — Kim Scott: Silicon Valley leader shares tips about how to coach; I’m left interested in how to be more candid with my direct reports and wondering how her advice squares with the LaLa Land of nap pods, three meals a day, and the summer camp atmosphere the tech industry seems (from the outside) to have acquired.

Year Three:

I created a book group with some of my friends in January; I’ll note those books with a *.

  • Fostering Resilient Learners — Kristin Souers: Useful for adults who work with people (big or small) who have experienced trauma though I would have liked more specific methods and fewer platitudes.
  • The Hate U Give — Angie Thomas: Page-turning YA book that tackles police violence, interracial relationships, black students in white private schools, riots, protests, and finding your own voice.
  • Crucial Accountability — Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, Switzler: Similar ideas in Crucial Conversations (see below) and always good to think through better approaches to challenging conversations. Will need to revisit.
  • Ishmael — Daniel Quinn: Incredibly timely — Donald Trump even mentioned by name in the book. A wise explanation of our “Taker” culture.
  • Disgruntled — Asali Solomon: YA novel deeply grounded in African American culture and history. A little disjointed but interesting. The main story of a girl growing up interspersed with her dad’s book is quoted and tells the violent story of Frank Lloyd Wright’s butler.
  • Born a Crime — Trevor Noah: Listen to the audiobook! In many ways a memoir of his mom, I’m still thinking about how it intersects with other personal narratives.*
  • The Moor’s Account — Laila Lalami: The imagined story of Mustafa (Estabanico), the man taken as a slave on the ill-fated conquest of the “New World” made famous by Cabeza de Vaca’s account I read in AP Spanish Lit.
  • Born on Third Base — Chuck Collins: Essay-like chapters on wealth: from charity to the estate tax, from trailer parks to boardrooms, local author weaves his personal story of giving up a trust fund into ideas for limiting inequality and increasing opportunity.
  • For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too — Christopher Emdin: Read this with two of the people I coach and all three of us learned a lot. The idea of small group “cogens” or focus groups of students has the potential to be instrumental for them and their colleague. Made me want to try to teach again.
  • Devil in the Grove — Gilbert King: An account of Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP’s attempt to bring justice to four black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Florida. Detailed and devastating. Despite King’s claim that this was the start of a “New America,” similar stories today disprove that claim.
  • The Other Wes Moore —Wes Moore: What makes the difference in the stories of these two men with the same name? Mentorship, integrated schools, intergenerational financial commitment, luck? *
  • Crucial Conversations — Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler: Critically important to helping me think about the pivotal moments of dialogue with kids, co-workers, family, friends. Will need to reread or refer back to ensure I’m really applying its lessons.
  • Commonwealth — Ann Patchett: The characters feel really true in this focused novel on the lives of two intersecting families. Interesting read after meeting my own long-lost cousins.
  • Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage — Richard Stengel: Distillation of Mandela’s wisdom and profile as a leader. The importance of staying calm, learning how to say no, and playing the long game are all making me think.
  • Homo Deus — Yuval Noah Harari: Humanism is a religion like any other, and scientists are converging on the idea that organisms (including humans) are algorithms; combined with ever-improving data analysis by machines that learn leads to depressing prophecies. Very disheartening. *
  • Full Cicada Moon — Marilyn Hilton: Mimi, the narrator, tells her story of coming of age through poetry. A little too tied up in a bow at the end, but at this moment I enjoyed the reading candy with a moral message about equality, acceptance, and being good neighbors.
  • Rules for Radicals — Saul Alinsky: Somewhat dated (Vietnam! The Cold War!) but still instructive, particularly in our current political moment. Blog post here.
  • Hillbilly Elegy — J.D. Vance: If you’re going to write a memoir that young, be a better writer. The go-to book for white liberals in the wake of Trump’s election, he describes the Appalachian culture and issues with social capital accurately in my opinion but leaves out room for further examination. *
  • The Essential Conversation — Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot: Read with one of the teachers I coach, it was great to see her grow in her family communication over the course of reading it. A bit poetic at times, but some useful metaphors and ideas for teachers. 
  • The House on Mango Street — Sandra Cisneros: One of the 8th grade EL classes is reading this book so I thought I’d join them. Little prose-poems, similar to the work of Woodson’s Another Brooklyn in style and location, fill the pages. “A House of My Own” feels like Dean L’s dream and even mine too.
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People — Dale Carnegie: A mentor gave me this book with the note that it was full of common sense we all need to be reminded of. I’m considering how to apply the lessons to working with kids and navigating a “different facts” world.
  • Between The World And Me — Ta-Nehisi Coates: I read this last year and I don’t usually re-read. The second time around was just as profound, if not more so. I read “My President Was Black” concurrently which deepened my thinking even more. *
  • Homegoing — Yaa Gyasi: Each chapter is the story and perspective of a different character in two branches of a family, fully detailed, clear in voice, both intimately individual and broadly historical.
  • Heat and Light — Jennifer Haigh: Interweaving stories of the people from and brought to a town filled with fracking. Complicated: there are no true heroes.
  • Earthbound — Aprilynne Pike: One of the 8th graders at my school recommended this book to me. Classic YA. Tragedy, star-crossed love, magical powers. Apparently, it is a series.
  • Let the Great World Spin — Colum McCann: Written after 9/11 but set mostly before, a beautiful book of interweaving characters including the famous tightrope walker.
  • Beloved — Toni Morrison: Took me a while to get into but the magical realism and intensity of feeling and description, plus nuanced characterization make it one both I and the Pulitzer Prize Committee recommend.
  • Another Brooklyn — Jacqueline Woodson: One of the most poetic novels I’ve ever read, revealing the inner lives of girls, brown girls, Brooklyn girls.
  • Common Ground — J. Anthony Lukas: An epic tale of Boston desegregation in the 1970s told from the point of view of several families. Intensely detailed, it is the first time I could imagine the perspective of poor white families in Charlestown.
  • The Other Side of Dark –Sarah Smith: YA novel set in Boston complete with ghosts and racial-reckoning. Read it practically in one sitting, might have liked in part because of its location and because of concurrently reading Common Ground.
  • Our Only World — Wendell Berry: Series of essays by the Kentucky sage that focus his attention on our contemporary issues of climate change, capitalism, and concern for our fellow humans.
  • Leaders Eat Last — Simon Sinek: Endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin are four chemicals that shape our brain, our behavior, and should shape how leaders build organizational culture. He argues that if leaders build a “Circle of Safety” and treat employees like their family, in the long run, it will pay off.
  • Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis — Robert Putnam: A comprehensive, readable synthesis of the research on inequity and the opportunity gap in America. The stories of kids and their families elucidate what the research shows — we are failing our kids.
  • The Sun Also Rises — Ernest Hemingway: Felt like I needed to read Hemingway but was disappointed. Bullfighting, drinking, wealthy people wasting time…
  • Practice Perfect — Doug Lemov, Erica Woolyway, Katie Yezzi: The way to implement the (in)famous Teach Like a Champion and any practice regiment. I’m looking to implement the ideas around coaching and my own practice.
  • State of Wonder — Ann Patchett: Drs. in the Brazilian jungle, engrossing quick read, makes me wonder if her other books are as fun to read.

Year Two:

  • Prodigal Summer — Barbara Kingsolver: Interwoven stories; sad, funny, warm, smart, well-written, and well-argued. I didn’t think pesticides or much hunting made sense before but I do have a new appreciation for processing premature death.
  • Picking Cotton — Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, with Erin Torneo: Couldn’t fall asleep because what happens to both of them is just horrifying. Jennifer focuses on mistaken identity and the importance of DNA evidence over eyewitness testimony while Ronald seems willing to understand a different layer — racism and fear of miscegenation.
  • The Lowland — Jhumpa Lahiri: Per usual, a beautiful book though not my favorite of her work. More grounded in the real world and a particular historical context (the Naxalite movement in Bangladesh).
  • Adulting — Kelly Williams Brown: Ok so I read half of the 468 steps and skimmed the rest. Didn’t feel obliged to read about cars and pets (though Miranda points out that bikes are like pet cars so maybe I should have).
  • Salt, Sugar, Fat — Michael Moss: Thoroughly researched, well-written account of the food industry and its methods. You know the big idea (obesity), but the details are compelling.
  • Ender’s Shadow — Orson Scott Card: A parallel novel, this one is more intellectual and more adult. Less plot-driven (maybe in part because the plot is known) and more about questions of ethics, humanity, and purpose.
  • Ender’s Game — Orson Scott Card: Speed-read Sci-Fi. Can definitely see why it is a NYT bestseller and YA favorite.
  • Thinking in Numbers — Daniel Tammet: Essays about math but also literature, history, relationships, etc. all from a math genius who brings average readers along. Really appreciate his descriptions of time, “how difficult, how exhausting, how impotent each event had struck me in the moment! And how impossibly distant, a lifetime away, these [five years].” pg. 248
  • Lost at School — Ross Greene: Why didn’t I read this a year and a half ago?! Essential reading for anyone working with kids about how to problem solve and address the skills kids lack (that cause misbehavior). Hoping it works on adults too.
  • Passionate Marriage — David Schnarch: Interesting insights into how to navigate relationships generally; to be able to hold onto oneself regardless of others.
  • Why Don’t Students Like School? — Daniel Willingham: Very readable account by a cognitive scientist peeling back layers on memory, interest, intelligence, practice.
  • A Walk in the Woods — Bill Bryson: From the comfort of my room I enjoyed the humor and hardship of this author’s stab at the Appalachian Trail
  • Open Veins of Latin America — Eduardo Galeano: Five centuries of pillage, as the subtitle says. From conquistadors to the IMF, Galeano explains the destruction of a continent in detail.
  • The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love — Oscar Hijuelos: Memory, love, sex, loss, and Cubans in America. Surprisingly compelling given the misogyny.
  • The Underground Girls of Kabul — Jenny Nordberg: Interesting account of girls passing as boys in Afghanistan and the role of gender and sexuality.
  • Port Chicago 50 — Steve Sheinkin: Well researched book for mid-level readers profiling black Navy men who stood against injustice during WWII.
  • Paper Towns — John Green: Questions of identity, prom drama, road trip, Green does it again with another teen novel that is hard to put down. No tears this time, though.
  • Lost and Found in Johannesburg — Mark Gevisser: Includes a tale of armed robbery that I began reading right around when my apartment was robbed, a tale that is inserted in a book more about borders and growing up.
  • The Rosie Project — Graeme Simsion: A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime but with an adult as the protagonist. Reading candy; I finished it practically in one sitting.
  • The Opposite of Loneliness — Marina Keegan: Short stories and short essays that are really well written, and made all the more poignant by her death a few days after she graduated from Yale in 2012.
  • Citizen: An American Lyric — Claudia Rankine: “because white men can’t/police their imagination/black men are dying” Rankine explores racism and the embodiment of race in America through her poetry.
  • Between The World And Me — Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • All the Light We Cannot See — Anthony Doerr: A Book Theif for adults, I couldn’t put it down. Beautifully woven prose that humanizes WWII, being blind, being young, and making choices. They don’t give out Pulitzers for nothing.
  • Mambo in Chinatown — Jean Kwok: Fluffy, predictable, quick read that would make a good movie. Enjoyed the dance references in this tale of ugly duckling turned swan combined with a theme of East meets West.
  • The Emperor of All Maladies — Siddartha Mukherjee: One of my friends, whose friendship with me spans seven years, was diagnosed with cancer this summer shortly after he moved to New England. In an effort to process the unimaginable, I turned to this book. A biography of cancer, the 470 pages are highly readable, detailed but not overly technical, beautiful, sad, and hopeful. As of this writing his cancer is responding well to chemo.
  • I’ll Give You the Sun — Jandy Nelson: Twins narrate this YA book, telling their story from different sides of cataclysmic family events. Reading candy filled with art, love, and (smart) teen culture.
  • The Devil’s Teeth — Susan Casey: Great White Sharks and the Farallon Islands in detail; human humility and hubris before nature.
  • All Souls — Michael Patrick MacDonald: Made me reflect on the experience of poor whites during 1970s integration, and the violence, drugs, and mental health issues of one of the poorest census tracts in America. Plus I just rode my bike through Southie the other day.
  • The Checklist Manifesto — Atul Gawande: Many professions uphold selflessness, excellence, and trustworthiness, but nearly all lack discipline. Checklists can help. From catching the little things that are essential but easy to forget to ensuring team communication, I’m looking forward to implementing checklists.

Year One:

  •  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil — John Berendt: Savannah, Georgia, and all its colorful characters, revealed in a book more about a particular southern culture than the murder trial at its center.
  • In a Rocket Made of Ice — Gail Gutradt: More a collection of journal entries than a fully fledged book; stories and kernels of insight from her work with children in Cambodia almost obscured by repetitive and amateurish construction.
  • The Next American Revolution — Grace Lee Boggs: This book is a call to action within communities to build the future we want — she reminds us of our past, analyzes our present, and urges us to build our future. “We are the change we’ve been waiting for.”
  • Brown Girl Dreaming — Jacqueline Woodson: Having heard her interview on Fresh Air I could hear her voice in the poems, heightening their power. An amazing memoir in verse. (My two favorite poems.)
  • Flight — Sherman Alexie: Summer reading for a few of my students so in preparation for starting the book with them I read it. Zits, the main character, struggles with revenge, trauma, and identity. But the English level of my students may be too low for them to get much out of it.
  • Boy, Snow, Bird — Helen Oyeyemi: Took me a while to get into the book but in the end, it left me with a lot to think about. Passing, in the context of both race and gender, made this book more than a novel with lots of allusions to fairy tales. Thanks for the recommendation, Kari!
  • How We Got To Now — Steven Johnson: Kept wishing for a more intellectual/detailed review of the history and science behind the inventions he highlights. But the idea of the “adjacent possible” has stuck with me.
  • Waking Up White — Debby Irving: Required reading for white people. Really great for helping me continue thinking about the work I need to do to understand my privileged and my whiteness and combat racism.
  • The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace — Jeff Hobbs: Very thought-provoking. Especially as I reflect on my work as a Freshman Counselor and the balance between individual choices and systemic obstacles. Why did Peace die? Who can I point the finger at? What can I do to prevent similar stories from repeating? Thank you to the guidance interns at my school for recommending the book to me and especially Kari, for providing it — we each point the finger at someone else and that has been instructive!
  • The Brief and Wondrous Like of Oscar Wao — Junot Diaz: My only regret is that I read it without a dictionary by my side. Update: my students went on a college visit and sat in on a class that was reading this book in Spanish (read Ten Hours posts about the trip). One of my students got really excited when she saw that she and the author share the same last name; the power of non-dead, non-white authors revealed!
  • Streets of Hope: The Fall and Rise of an Urban Neighborhood — Peter Medoff and Holly Sklar: This book profiles the work of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative for its first decade. An interesting look at an organization that has built coalitions, affordable housing, youth programs, political power, community gardens…I’d like to see this book updated for the last 20 years of DSNI’s work.
  • Bossypants — Tina Fey: Sort of like binge-watching 30 Rock; while it was very entertaining in the moment, I wondered where my entire Sunday had gone.
  • The Sixth Extinction — Elizabeth Kolbert: Depressing. Here in the age of Homo sapiens we have succeeded in creating an extinction that will shape which species inherit the Earth. Her journalism is highly readable with a dark humor and clear but not overly simplistic explanations of the science.
  • A Well Tempered Heart — Jan-Philipp Sendker: The sequel to The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is just as beautiful and I read it just as quickly. Transported me to another world but also asks such important questions about life, love, and purpose.
  • The White Boy Shuffle — Paul Beatty: Part coming-of-age story, part cultural catalog for the literate and “urban,” this book is hilarious and depressing and timely despite its 1996 publication date. Still wrapping my head around it. Thanks to my roommate for letting me borrow it!
  • Happy City — Charles Montgomery: An interesting synthesis of research and anecdotes that connects New Urbanism to climate change to the psychology of commuting. I wish it had more concrete steps and better annotations because that would make the book more useful. But some ideas from the book gelled into a post anyway.
  • The Art of Hearing Heartbeats — Jan-Philipp Sendker: Pure novel. A love story set mostly in Burma. Couldn’t put it down and am waiting expectantly for the sequel to come in from the library.
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down — Anne Fadiman: A book recounting the story of a Hmong girl who has seizures and the efforts of her family and her doctors to help her survive. A great look at cross-cultural communication, medicine, and immigration.
  • The Men We Reaped — Jesmyn Ward: She took me into the Deep South but, more importantly, into the world of death that hangs over the black men in Ward’s circle of family and friends. It is beautifully written, heartbreaking, and so important for the way that it humanizes and grounds issues of racism, mass incarceration, educational equity, and socioeconomic opportunity. I would say that it was particularly timely but these issues have been “timely” for years. (Thanks for giving me this for Christmas, mom and dad!)
  • A Hope in the Unseen — Ron Suskind: The story of a young black man growing up in D.C. who makes it to Brown. Very interesting reporting (reads like a novel) and had me reflecting on a lot of my usual questions around educational equity, college access, and guidance.
  • Learned Optimism — Martin Seligman: A little pop-psychology for my bus ride. What stuck with me? When good things happen, make them personal, permanent, and pervasive; when bad things happen, make them impersonal, temporary, and limited.
  • The Best Things in Life — Thomas Hurka: A little pop-philosophy for my bus ride. What stuck with me? Your reach should extend beyond your grasp.
  • Black Girl Dangerous — Mia McKenzie: A collection of blog posts from the blog of the same name that focuses on QPOC and has one of the best things I have every read about being an ally. Shout-out to BPL for basically buying this book for me. They didn’t have it yet so I requested it, they ordered it, and I was the first person to get to read it!
  • Looking for Alaska — John Green: In keeping with the “read what my students read” theme, a wonderful frolic into teen-dom.
  • The Opportunity Equation — Eric Schwarz: Founder and former CEO of Citizen Schools explains the idea, model, and method through his personal narrative.
  • As I Lay Dying — William Faulkner: My first Faulkner and a trip back to the writing of the South, though I thought I would enjoy it more than I did.
  • What We Keep — Elizabeth Berg: Mothers and daughters figuring stuff out.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog — Muriel Barbery: Recommended to me by my high school junior English teacher (thanks, Mr. Hicks!) I finally got around to reading this quiet little book full of interesting and compelling characters.
  • Americanah — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: How had I not read her work before this?! This book is a heart-wrenching story that also manages to grapple with issues of race, class, and identity very intelligently. Can’t wait to read her other works.
  • The Farming of Bones — Edwidge Danticat: A book for younger readers about the atrocities committed on the island of Hispaniola as Dominicans slaughtered Haitians.
  • When Everything Changed — Gail Collins: The story of women in America during the 20th century written by a columnist I enjoy.
  • The Glass-Sided Ant’s Nest — Peter Dickinson: While waiting to move into my apartment I borrowed the book from the Fishmans (thank you thank you thank you for letting me stay with you when I first moved!)
  • The Book Thief — Markus Zusak: This was the first book I ever read on my phone which was a tedious experience and detracted from the drawings that are included. However, this book is amazing. Having a book for younger readers where the narrator is Death is audacious but I think it works really well.
  • Wonder — R. J. Palacio: A wonderful book for 5th grade readers that encapsulates different voices of children and young adults really well.
  • The Fault in Our Stars — John Green: I’m counting this book because I finished reading it on the airplane to Boston. Never has there been a more awkward flight — I was crying silently for much of the ride.


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