Spring 2020 Book List
Americannah by Chimamanda Adichie (Fiction)
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown (Non-Fiction)
Know My Name by Chanel Miller (Memoir)
She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford's campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral--viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time.
Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways--there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.
Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. It also introduces readers to an extraordinary writer, one whose words have already changed our world. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic.
There, There by Tommy Orange (Non-fiction/Education)
Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American—grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism. Hailed as an instant classic, There There is at once poignant and unflinching, utterly contemporary and truly unforgettable.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (Historical Fiction)
Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.
Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.
Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.
The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton (Historical Fiction)
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson (Classic/Short Fiction)
One of the most terrifying stories of the twentieth century, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948. "Power and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical reader responses. Today it is considered a classic work of short fiction, a story remarkable for its combination of subtle suspense and pitch-perfect descriptions of both the chilling and the mundane.
The Lottery and Other Stories, the only collection of stories to appear during Shirley Jackson's lifetime, unites "The Lottery" with twenty-four equally unusual short stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson's remarkable range?from the hilarious to the horrible, the unsettling to the ominous?and her power as a storyteller.
Failing Up: A Professor's Odyssey of Flunking, Determination, and Hope by Barbara Hong (Education)
When people first meet Barbara Hong, they often conclude that her life must have always been enriched. They assume she had loving, successful parents and all the support she needed to reach her goals. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Hong’s path to an Ivy League university and beyond started in a filthy tenement in Singapore where she lived with an abusive father and an illiterate mother. Even as a child of six, she worked in her sweatshop home to help with extra money, which her father often wasted on alcohol. As she endured his drinking and abuse, she feared that the pain she internalized could shatter her.
But instead of falling apart, Hong managed to escape her misery, thanks to a teacher who believed in her. Once she knew she wasn’t the brainless “cabbage head” her mother called her, she began excelling as a student, eventually finding the courage to leave her home and discover her true calling as a knowledge seeker, educator, and advocate.
Hong’s inspirational journey from a sweatshop home upbringing to influential professor movingly illustrates the true strength of the human spirit and the power of teachers.
The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life by Shawn Achor (Motivational)
Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around.
When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe.
In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, who spent over a decade living, researching, and lecturing at Harvard University, draws on his own research—including one of the largest studies of happiness and potential at Harvard and others at companies like UBS and KPMG—to fix this broken formula. Using stories and case studies from his work with thousands of Fortune 500 executives in 42 countries, Achor explains how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work.
The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey (Motivational)
Everyone has a purpose. And, according to Oprah Winfrey, “Your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you are meant to be, and begin to honor your calling in the best way possible.” That journey starts right here.
In her latest book, The Path Made Clear, Oprah shares what she sees as a guide for activating your deepest vision of yourself, offering the framework for creating not just a life of success, but one of significance. The book’s ten chapters are organized to help you recognize the important milestones along the road to self-discovery, laying out what you really need in order to achieve personal contentment, and what life’s detours are there to teach us.
Oprah opens each chapter by sharing her own key lessons and the personal stories that helped set the course for her best life. She then brings together wisdom and insights from luminaries in a wide array of fields, inspiring readers to consider what they’re meant to do in the world and how to pursue it with passion and focus. Renowned figures such as Eckhart Tolle, Brene Brown, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jay-Z, and Ellen DeGeneres share the greatest lessons from their own journeys toward a life filled with purpose.
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott (Management) UWHEN book selection
From the time we learn to speak, we’re told that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. When you become a manager, it’s your job to say it--and your obligation.
Author Kim Scott was an executive at Google and then at Apple, where she worked with a team to develop a class on how to be a good boss. She has earned growing fame in recent years with her vital new approach to effective management, Radical Candor.
Radical Candor is a simple idea: to be a good boss, you have to Care Personally at the same time that you Challenge Directly. When you challenge without caring it’s obnoxious aggression; when you care without challenging it’s ruinous empathy. When you do neither it’s manipulative insincerity.
This simple framework can help you build better relationships at work, and fulfill your three key responsibilities as a leader: creating a culture of feedback (praise and criticism), building a cohesive team, and achieving results you’re all proud of.
Radical Candor offers a guide to those bewildered or exhausted by management, written for bosses and those who manage bosses. Taken from years of the author’s experience, and distilled clearly giving actionable lessons to the reader; it shows managers how to be successful while retaining their humanity, finding meaning in their job, and creating an environment where people both love their work and their colleagues.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (Psychology)
Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. If you dabble or delay, you’ll never catch up to the people who got a head start. But a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.
David Epstein examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields—especially those that are complex and unpredictable—generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.
Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.
Counting Descent by Clint Smith (Poetry)
Clint Smith's debut poetry collection, Counting Descent, is a coming of age story that seeks to complicate our conception of lineage and tradition. Smith explores the cognitive dissonance that results from belonging to a community that unapologetically celebrates black humanity while living in a world that often renders blackness a caricature of fear. His poems move fluidly across personal and political histories, all the while reflecting on the social construction of our lived experiences. Smith brings the reader on a powerful journey forcing us to reflect on all that we learn growing up, and all that we seek to unlearn moving forward.
A House Full of Females by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (History)
A stunning and sure-to-be controversial book that pieces together, through more than two dozen nineteenth-century diaries, letters, albums, minute-books, and quilts left by first-generation Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, the never-before-told story of the earliest days of the women of Mormon "plural marriage," whose right to vote in the state of Utah was given to them by a Mormon-dominated legislature as an outgrowth of polygamy in 1870, fifty years ahead of the vote nationally ratified by Congress, and who became political actors in spite of, or because of, their marital arrangements. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, writing of this small group of Mormon women who've previously been seen as mere names and dates, has brilliantly reconstructed these textured, complex lives to give us a fulsome portrait of who these women were and of their "sex radicalism"--the idea that a woman should choose when and with whom to bear children.
The Moral Psychology of Anger by Myisha Cherry and Owen Flanagan (Philosophy)
The Moral Psychology of Anger is the first comprehensive study of the moral psychology of anger from a philosophical perspective. In light of the recent revival of interest in emotions in philosophy and the current social and political interest in anger, this collection provides an inclusive view of anger from a variety of philosophical perspectives. The authors explore the nature of anger, explain its resilience in our emotional lives and normative frameworks, and examine what inhibits and encourages thoughts, feelings, and expressions of anger. The volume also examines rage, anger’s cousin, and examines in what ways rage is a moral emotion, what black rage is and how it is policed in our society; how berserker rage is limited and problematic for the contemporary military; and how defenders of anger respond to classical and contemporary arguments that expressing anger is always destructive and immoral.
This volume provides arguments for and against the value of anger in our ethical lives and in politics through a combination of empirical psychological and philosophical methods. This authors approach these questions and aims from a historical, phenomenological, empirical, feminist, political, and critical-theoretic perspective.
Polio Wars: Sister Kenny and the Golden Age of American Medicine by Naomi Rogers (Medical History)
During World War II, polio epidemics in the United States were viewed as the country's "other war at home": they could be neither predicted nor contained, and paralyzed patients faced disability in a world unfriendly to the disabled. These realities were exacerbated by the medical community's enforced orthodoxy in treating the disease, treatments that generally consisted of ineffective therapies.
Polio Wars is the story of Sister Elizabeth Kenny -- "Sister" being a reference to her status as a senior nurse, not a religious designation -- who arrived in the US from Australia in 1940 espousing an unorthodox approach to the treatment of polio. Kenny approached the disease as a non-neurological affliction, championing such novel therapies as hot packs and muscle exercises in place of splinting, surgery, and immobilization. Her care embodied a different style of clinical practice, one of optimistic, patient-centered treatments that gave hope to desperate patients and families.
The Kenny method, initially dismissed by the US medical establishment, gained overwhelming support over the ensuing decade, including the endorsement of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (today's March of Dimes), America's largest disease philanthropy. By 1952, a Gallup Poll identified Sister Kenny as most admired woman in America, and she went on to serve as an expert witness at Congressional hearings on scientific research, a foundation director, and the subject of a Hollywood film. Kenny breached professional and social mores, crafting a public persona that blended Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie.
By the 1980s, following the discovery of the Salk and Sabin vaccines and the March of Dimes' withdrawal from polio research, most Americans had forgotten polio, its therapies, and Sister Kenny. In examining this historical arc and the public's process of forgetting, Naomi Rogers presents Kenny as someone worth remembering. Polio Wars recalls both the passion and the practices of clinical care and explores them in their own terms.
The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks (Sociology/Philosophy)
Every so often, you meet people who radiate joy—who seem to know why they were put on this earth, who glow with a kind of inner light. Life, for these people, has often followed what we might think of as a two-mountain shape. They get out of school, they start a career, and they begin climbing the mountain they thought they were meant to climb. Their goals on this first mountain are the ones our culture endorses: to be a success, to make your mark, to experience personal happiness. But when they get to the top of that mountain, something happens. They look around and find the view . . . unsatisfying. They realize: This wasn’t my mountain after all. There’s another, bigger mountain out there that is actually my mountain.
And so they embark on a new journey. On the second mountain, life moves from self-centered to other-centered. They want the things that are truly worth wanting, not the things other people tell them to want. They embrace a life of interdependence, not independence. They surrender to a life of commitment.
In The Second Mountain, David Brooks explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family, to a vocation, to a philosophy or faith, and to a community. Our personal fulfillment depends on how well we choose and execute these commitments. Brooks looks at a range of people who have lived joyous, committed lives, and who have embraced the necessity and beauty of dependence. He gathers their wisdom on how to choose a partner, how to pick a vocation, how to live out a philosophy, and how we can begin to integrate our commitments into one overriding purpose.
In short, this book is meant to help us all lead more meaningful lives. But it’s also a provocative social commentary. We live in a society, Brooks argues, that celebrates freedom, that tells us to be true to ourselves, at the expense of surrendering to a cause, rooting ourselves in a neighborhood, binding ourselves to others by social solidarity and love. We have taken individualism to the extreme—and in the process we have torn the social fabric in a thousand different ways. The path to repair is through making deeper commitments. In The Second Mountain, Brooks shows what can happen when we put commitment-making at the center of our lives.
Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy by James Williams (Non-Fiction/Technology)
Former Google advertising strategist, now Oxford-trained philosopher James Williams launches a plea to society and to the tech industry to help ensure that the technology we all carry with us every day does not distract us from pursuing our true goals in life. As information becomes ever more plentiful, the resource that is becoming more scarce is our attention. In this 'attention economy', we need to recognise the fundamental impacts of our new information environment on our lives in order to take back control. Drawing on insights ranging from Diogenes to contemporary tech leaders, Williams's thoughtful and impassioned analysis is sure to provoke discussion and debate. Williams is the inaugural winner of the Nine Dots Prize, a new Prize for creative thinking that tackles contemporary social issues. This title is also available as Open Access.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (Fiction)
In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd, swept up by the tides of the Great Migration, flees Georgia and heads north. Full of hope, she settles in Philadelphia to build a better life. Instead she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment, and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins are lost to an illness that a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children, whom she raises with grit, mettle, and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them to meet a world that will not be kind. Their lives, captured here in twelve luminous threads, tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage—and a nation's tumultuous journey.
Blooming Out of Darkness: A Memoir About Cancer, Spirits, and Joy by Alicia Giralt (Memoir)
Blooming out of Darkness is an inspiring text written with humor and honesty. From her mother’s death to cancer to her own terminal diagnosis, Alicia shares her spiritual growth.
Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid: Changing Feelings about Technology, from the Telegraph to Twitter by Luke Fernandez and Susan Matt (Non-Fiction)
Facebook makes us lonely. Selfies breed narcissism. On Twitter and comment boards, hostility reigns. Pundits and psychologists warn us that digital technologies substantially alter our emotional states. But in this lively and surprising account, we learn that technology doesn’t just affect how we feel from moment to moment?it changes profoundly the underlying emotions themselves.
Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid examines nineteenth- and twentieth-century letters, diaries, and memoirs and draws on contemporary research and interviews with Americans of different ages and backgrounds to document how our emotions have been transformed by technological change. Where we now strive to escape boredom, earlier generations saw unstructured time as an opportunity for productivity and creativity. Where loneliness is now pathologized, we once thought of solitude as virtuous. Even as we ask whether technology is making us lonelier, it is altering the meaning of loneliness.
In this timely book, Luke Fernandez and Susan Matt contend that current technology has removed many of the limits on our emotional landscape. Thus we seek to be constantly stimulated, engaged, and validated, while our anger and antisocial impulses are not only unconstrained but affirmed by the digital company we keep.
Brainard Cheney and the Search for a Hero by James Young (History)
Brainard Cheney (1900-1990), Georgia author, published four novels between 1939 and 1969. All of his works drew from the history of the South Georgia rivers and pine forests of the Altamaha River basin. The books also included autobiographical and family history in the stories.
Dr. James Edwin Young’s literary biography presents the thesis that Brainard Cheney spent a lifetime searching history, religion, literature, and philosophy for an identity and ideal to give meaning and purpose to his life. This was Brainard Cheney’s “Search for a Hero.” Dr. Young weaves a fascinating story about this quest from the events of Cheney’s life and the fiction he created. In the end, Cheney found answers to his questions through his fiction, his relationships with his literary and political friends, the tenants of his Christian faith, and in his long and productive life. Ironically, Cheney became the hero of his own Search.
Cheney was born in Fitzgerald, Georgia in 1900 and soon moved to Lumber City, the home area of his father’s family since the early 1800s. His father was an attorney and land speculator who died when Cheney was only eight years old. Growing up fatherless determined and inspired Cheney’s lifelong search for meaning and understanding. He attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville in the 1920s. While at Vanderbilt, he studied under renowned poet John Crowe Ransom and participated in the Fugitive and Agrarian literary movements. He befriended other writers and poets, including Robert Penn Warren, Caroline Gordon, Allen Tate, Ralph McGill and Flannery O’Connor, among many others.
Coal in Our Veins by Erin Thomas (Memoir)
In Coal in Our Veins, Erin Thomas employs historical research, autobiography, and journalism to intertwine the history of coal, her ancestors' lives mining coal, and the societal and environmental impacts of the United States' dependency on coal as an energy source. In the first part of her book, she visits Wales, native ground of British coal mining and of her emigrant ancestors. The Thomases' move to the coal region of Utah—where they witnessed the Winter Quarters and Castle Gate mine explosions, two of the worst mining disasters in American history—and the history of coal development in Utah form the second part.
Then Thomas investigates coal mining and communities in West Virginia, near her East Coast home, looking at the Sago Mine collapse and more widespread impacts of mining, including population displacement, mountain top removal, coal dust dispersal, and stream pollution, flooding, and decimation. The book's final part moves from Washington D.C.—and an examination of coal, CO2, and national energy policy—back to Utah, for a tour of a coal mine, and a consideration of the Crandall Canyon mine cave-in, back to Wales and the closing of the oldest operating deep mine in the world and then to a look at energy alternatives, especially wind power, in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
A Light from the Ashes by Rachel Anne Cox (Dystopian Fiction)
In the future wasteland of Virginia, Sam, the son of revolutionaries, wants nothing more than to leave the violence of his past behind him, but the impending Third Revolution and the two women he loves may not let him. It is the Year of 42, and Sam travels back home after spending seven years in a work camp to find his childhood sweetheart, Gemma, married to another man and helping to lead another rebellion against the corrupt government.
Society has devolved into a pre-industrial agrarian world devoid of electricity and personal freedom. With the echoes of war still ringing in their ears and hearts, the citizens try to live in relative peace and not incur the wrath of the ruling Triumvirate and their army of Corsairs. But another revolution is on the horizon and this time, the women are leading the charge.
With his newly adopted family, Sophie and young Ethan, Sam encounters old enemies and adapts to his new life while trying to maintain the tentative peace which has prevailed in the land. Sam must navigate the fine lines between peace and rebellion, love and hate, in a world unforgiving of past and present offenses.
Vowing to protect another lost generation of children, Sophie and Sam approach the looming threat of war in different ways as they attempt to find what little humanity is left in an inhumane world, and within themselves. A strong ensemble of diverse characters paves the way to a new future free of the past.
A Novel Approach to Criminal Courts by David R. Lynch (Fiction/Law)
This teaching novel is meant for use in courses on the American criminal courts, criminal court procedures, and related subjects. The book tells the fictional story of a burned-out former public defender turned high school math teacher, who very reluctantly agrees to represent one of his students charged with double vehicular homicide. The case starts in juvenile court but quickly winds up waived to adult court for ultimate jury trial there. The reader then travels through the entire adult criminal court process, beginning with a preliminary hearing and continuing on through such steps as pretrial motions, plea bargaining, jury selection, the trial itself, sentencing, and appeal. As the tale unfolds, the reader learns the ins and outs of criminal court process and how these various steps play out in real life. Perhaps even more importantly, the reader experiences the inner society of the behind the scenes world of a courthouse. The book consists of fifteen units, each of which contains two to four related chapters. Each chapter contains bolded key terms, representing real world concepts of importance embedded within the fictional story, and ends with questions for classroom discussion.
The Sex Offender Housing Dilemma: Community Activism, Safety, and Social Justice by Monica Williams (Non-Fiction)
When a South Carolina couple killed a registered sex offender and his wife after they moved into their neighborhood in 2013, the story exposed an extreme and relatively rare instance of violence against sex offenders. While media accounts would have us believe that vigilantes across the country lie in wait for predators who move into their neighborhoods, responses to sex offenders more often involve collective campaigns that direct outrage toward political and criminal justice systems.
No community wants a sex offender in its midst, but instead of vigilantism, Monica Williams argues, citizens often leverage moral, political, and/or legal authority to keep these offenders out of local neighborhoods. Her book, the culmination of four years of research, 70 in-depth interviews, participant observations, and studies of numerous media sources, reveals the origins and characteristics of community responses to sexually violent predators (SVP) in the U.S. Specifically, The Sex Offender Housing Dilemma examines the placement process for released SVPs in California and the communities’ responses to those placements.
Taking the reader into the center of these related issues, Monica Williams provokes debate on the role of communities in the execution of criminal justice policies, while also addressing the responsibility of government institutions to both groups of citizens. The Sex Offender Housing Dilemma is sure to promote increased civic engagement to help strengthen communities, increase public safety, and ensure government accountability.