Reconciliation by Benazir Bhutto
Reconciliation recounts the history of the relationships between the Middle East and the West, and of Islam and democracy. This is not an easy book (rather, it’s the opposite) but anyone interested in Islam, the Middle East, or reconciliation should read this. It was Bhutto’s final legacy, as her publishers received the manuscript just before she was assassinated. She only tells one side of the story, certainly, but it’s the side that we in the States very rarely, if ever, hear discussed.
Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle
When I picked this up, I expected it to be a convicting read about working with marginalized and minority populations, particularly teenagers. It certainly was this, but it was also very funny. I think the best word for me to describe this book is “winsome.” The subtitle is “The Boundless Power of Compassion,” and Boyle’s work with former gang members truly shows that. Tattoos on the Heart will make you feel good but will also challenge you.
Daring Greatly and Rising Strong by Brené Brown
I read Brown’s blog and have found her thoughts very helpful in many different arenas, and found both of these books to be transformative. If you have trouble with being emotionally vulnerable (or even emotionally healthy), these are good reads for you. Powerful, life-changing stuff here, friends.
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Really, any of Bill Bryson’s books could be on this list. This one is one of my favorites but I’ve never read anything by him that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.
Street Gang by Michael Davis
A history of Sesame Street! Davis tells the behind-the-scenes story of Sesame Street’s beginnings and inner workings. I had a great time reading this book. There’s a lot of extraneous, seemingly random information mixed in but laying that aside, I recommend this if you enjoy PBS shows.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
A friend mentioned on Facebook that this had changed her relationship with her children, so I picked it up. It’s about better ways to communicate with kids but all of the principles in it apply to people in general. I think everyone should read this, particularly parents and people who work in education.
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
When I worked at Brookfield Zoo in environmental education, we talked all the time about tipping points and their importance in working with children to teach them about caring for the Earth. Gladwell’s book is a compilation of sorts of different tipping points throughout history. I don’t agree with all of his assessments but it’s a quick, fun read that will get you thinking about tipping points in your own life.
Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
I think this book was probably the only thing I got out of my sociology class in college. (That class was almost worth it as a result. Almost.) Anyone working in education or with minorities – really in any service industry – should read this. All of Kozol’s work is tremendous.
Amish Grace by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver-Zercher
This was published several months after one of my students was murdered in a drive-by shooting that targeted him for getting out of his gang. It dramatically helped me in my own struggle to forgive the young men who killed him and I recommend it unequivocally for anyone interested in forgiveness and reconciliation, particularly after a tragedy.
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Reading this, it is often difficult to believe that the book is true. The events surrounding the construction of the Chicago World’s Fair and a serial killer working at that same time are nothing short of fantastic (in the truest sense of the word). I learned so much from reading this book. This is how history should be told.
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
Every parent should read this book about the necessity of spending time with children outside. It is compelling, well-written and a very important book.
28: Stories of AIDS in Africa by Stephanie Nolen
This is a poignant book telling about the AIDS crisis in Africa through the eyes of those who are in the midst of it. The individual stories themselves are short but quite powerful.
The Colony by John Tayman
For over a hundred years, the United States operated a leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Thousands of people were forcibly segregated to live in this colony, many of whom didn’t even have the leprosy they were accused of having. A Catholic priest named Father Damian moved there and cared for the people at great cost to himself. It’s a sad but inspiring story (Father Damian, that is, not the US shipping theoretically sick people off into quarantine). This is a chapter of American history that isn’t often discussed but it really should be.
The Lucifer Effect by Philip G. Zimbardo
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. It is disturbing at times, largely because it was easy for me to put myself into the situations Zimbardo writes about and to see myself doing the wrong thing, but it is well-written and truly fascinating. If you’re into psychology or philosophy, this is a fantastic read.