Here is a brief recap of most of the books I “read” in 2017. I put “read” in quotes as I listen to most of these via Audible as I workout, commute, or travel. Perhaps you’ll add some of these to your reading list and make a suggestion or two that you think I should add to my list for 2018.
These are the books that really resonated and I recommend to all.
This is an outstanding book and I have recommended it regularly since reading it. These two close friends share insights that span their histories facing oppression and genocide, the teachings of their different religious and spiritual traditions, and the lessons learned in long and remarkable lives. The book captures a conversation over a week together. The audiobook is tremendous with actors with similar accents giving you a sense that you are almost in the room with them. Here is my post on 5 Lessons from the Book of Joy.
I love Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being. In this book she steps out from asking the questions to sharing the best insights and ideas from her podcast guests and from her own listening, questioning, and living. The book is essentially the best wisdom and insights from more than 10 years of interviewing people on the question, “What does it mean to be human?”. Tippett is also an incredible writer. Much of her sharing of wisdom is done so beautifully that it borders on poetry. This is also a great listen as she weaves in content from the actual interviews throughout.
I was able to hear Brené Brown speak a couple of days before her book release of Braving the Wilderness. I shared my lessons on her talk in what has become my most visited blog post of the year – by far. There must be a lot of people searching for lessons from Brené Brown. As I listened to the full book later I was again struck with how often our culture dehumanizes others and also how social media especially enables and fuels this dehumanization. It has been a clarifier for me of my own values as an educator and a useful reminder of how and where I fall short. I’m recommitting to focusing on growth and transformation toward liberation. This book is shorter and insightful. If you’ve enjoyed Brown’s other books, as I certainly have, I think you’ll enjoy this one as well.
The authors of Peak Performance discuss the science of what helps people reach their best whether that is athletic accomplishment, creativity and innovation, or productivity. I enjoyed the lessons grounded in science explained in very practical terms with clear “performance practices” to apply this learning. The central tenant is “stress + rest = growth.” The book explores ways to usefully and helpfully stress yourself through challenge and intense focus and how to rest with intentionality to recharge, rejuvenate, and grow. More on my 4 Lessons from Peak Performance here.
These are books that I enjoyed and recommend depending on people’s interests.
Author Yuval Noah Harari gives a brief history of humanity from the beginning of the universe through human evolution to the development of civilizations to present day to projecting the challenges of the future. It is an intense and long read with very clear and direct writing. Harari explains complex subjects with the clarity of a good teacher. I particularly found the parts on human evolution fascinating in how it applies to our adaptation (or lack thereof) to today’s modern life. This is great for those seeking a nice summary of human history – very broadly defined.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield shares the story of his life becoming an astronaut and the life lessons he has learned through his path from dream to goals to reality and beyond. It was gifted this from fellow proud Canadian Natalie Allen. His insights are grounded in real world experience and he has a genuine sense of accomplishment and humility. It was an interesting autobiography in that the author seemed more interested in offering guidance for the reader. If you ever wanted to be an astronaut, this is a fascinating look at what it really is like.
I was invited to read and write a review for White Out for an academic journal. I appreciated the authors use of current examples of Whiteness and White dominance as well as their efforts to offer new metaphors and vocabulary for established concepts. This would be a great book for those looking to explore Whiteness seriously for the first time or a book group on the topic. It could also be a useful tool for those teaching about Whiteness.
Books Written by Friends and Colleagues
I also had a chance to read advanced copies of books written by some friends and colleagues for interviews for my blog.
This is a book on self-acceptance, learning, and action, especially on issues of social justice by Jessica Pettitt. The book focuses on head, heart, and action aspects of this work. It’s a helpful framing that compliments well my conceptual model of aspiring ally identity development. It’s a great guide for self-reflection and pushing social justice minded folks into realms they may not be as comfortable in such as head, heart, or action. You can read my interview with Jess on her book here.
Early in 2017, Kathy Obear released her book on Whiteness called But I’m Not Racist. Kathy is an expert facilitator on social justice, race and racism, and especially Whiteness. In this book she puts some of her best teaching and learning into book form to share more broadly. It’s a great, accessible, and useful tool for those seeking to explore their Whiteness and racism more deeply. You can read my interview with Kathy on her book here.
Later in 2017, Kathy Obear released her book on burnout and self-care for social change agents called In It for the Long Haul. I have no idea how someone releases two books in one year. This book is about recognizing, minimizing, and avoiding burnout through self-care, especially for social change agents. Kathy shares her own struggles and the insights from her own learning and the ways she helps her coaching clients be their best selves. You can read my interview with Kathy on her book here.
Coming Up Next
Any suggestions to add to my list for 2018? If so, leave a suggestion in the comments.