Spring 2023 Book List
And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle by Jon Meacham (History)
At once familiar and elusive, Lincoln tends to be seen as the greatest of American presidents—a remote icon—or as a politician driven more by calculation than by conviction. This illuminating new portrait gives us a very human Lincoln—an imperfect man whose moral antislavery commitment, essential to the story of justice in America, began as he grew up in an antislavery Baptist community; who insisted that slavery was a moral evil; and who sought, as he put it, to do right as God gave him to see the right.
This book tells the story of Lincoln from his birth on the Kentucky frontier in 1809 to his leadership during the Civil War to his tragic assassination in 1865: his rise, his self-education, his loves, his bouts of depression, his political failures, his deepening faith, and his persistent conviction that slavery must end. In a nation shaped by the courage of the enslaved of the era and by the brave witness of Black Americans, Lincoln’s story illustrates the ways and means of politics in a democracy, the roots and durability of racism, and the capacity of conscience to shape events.
Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Opportunities for Colleges and Universities by Gina Garcia (Education)
In Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Gina Ann Garcia explores how institutions are serving Latinx students, both through traditional and innovative approaches. Drawing on empirical data collected over two years at three HSIs, Garcia adopts a counternarrative approach to highlight the ways that HSIs are reframing what it means to serve Latinx college students. She questions the extent to which they have been successful in doing this while exploring how those institutions grapple with the tensions that emerge from confronting traditional standards and measures of success for postsecondary institutions.
Laying out what it means for these three extremely different HSIs, Garcia also highlights the differences in the way each approaches its role in serving Latinxs. Incorporating the voices of faculty, staff, and students, Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions asserts that HSIs are undervalued, yet reveals that they serve an important role in the larger landscape of postsecondary institutions.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (EDI/Nature)
Drawing from her experiences as an Indigenous scientist, botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer demonstrated how all living things―from strawberries and witch hazel to water lilies and lichen―provide us with gifts and lessons every day in her best-selling book Braiding Sweetgrass. Adapted for young adults by Monique Gray Smith, this new edition reinforces how wider ecological understanding stems from listening to the earth’s oldest teachers: the plants around us. With informative sidebars, reflection questions, and art from illustrator Nicole Neidhardt, Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults brings Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the lessons of plant life to a new generation.
Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science by Jessica Hernandez Ph.D. (EDI/Enviromentalism)
Here, Jessica Hernandez--Maya Ch'orti' and Zapotec environmental scientist and founder of environmental agency Piña Soul--introduces and contextualizes Indigenous environmental knowledge and proposes a vision of land stewardship that heals rather than displaces, that generates rather than destroys. She breaks down the failures of western-defined conservatism and shares alternatives, citing the restoration work of urban Indigenous people in Seattle; her family's fight against ecoterrorism in Latin America; and holistic land management approaches of Indigenous groups across the continent.
Through case studies, historical overviews, and stories that center the voices and lived experiences of Indigenous Latin American women and land protectors, Hernandez makes the case that if we're to recover the health of our planet--for everyone--we need to stop the eco-colonialism ravaging Indigenous lands and restore our relationship with Earth to one of harmony and respect.
How Artifacts Afford by Jenny L. Davis (Social Aspects of Technology)
A conceptual update of affordance theory that introduces the mechanisms and conditions framework, providing a vocabulary and critical perspective.
Technological affordances mediate between the features of a technology and the outcomes of engagement with that technology. The concept of affordances, which migrated from psychology to design with Donald Norman's influential 1988 book, The Design of Everyday Things, offers a useful analytical tool in technology studies—but, Jenny Davis argues in How Artifacts Afford, it is in need of a conceptual update. Davis provides just such an update, introducing the mechanisms and conditions framework, which offers both a vocabulary and necessary critical perspective for affordance analyses.
The mechanisms and conditions framework shifts the question from what objects afford to how objects afford, for whom, and under what circumstances. Davis shows that through this framework, analyses can account for the power and politics of technological artifacts. She situates the framework within a critical approach that views technology as materialized action. She explains how request, demand, encourage, discourage, refuse, and allow are mechanisms of affordance, and shows how these mechanisms take shape through variable conditions—perception, dexterity, and cultural and institutional legitimacy.
I Don't Have to Make Everything Better by Gary B. Lundberg, Joy Saunders Lundberg (Psychology)
In their weekly radio show and in their popular workshops, Gary and Joy Lundberg have already helped thousands of people and their families to communicate more effectively. Now, the Lundbergs address an all too common dilemma that arises when others expect you to solve their problems for them, showing readers how they can shed the no-win role of "fixer" and empower people to solve their own problems through validation--a simple yet profound communication tool that is essential to any healthy relationship. Refreshingly straightforward, this inspiring and entertaining work is poised to become a classic guide for anyone who wishes to improve relationships with their partner, children, colleagues and friends.
Running with Robots by Greg Toppo and Jim Tracy (Education)
What will high school education look like in twenty years? High school students are educated today to take their places in a knowledge economy. But the knowledge economy, based on the assumption that information is a scarce and precious commodity, is giving way to an economy in which information is ubiquitous, digital, and machine-generated. In Running with Robots, Greg Toppo and Jim Tracy show how the technological advances that are already changing the world of work will transform the American high school as well. Toppo and Tracy--a journalist and an education leader, respectively--look at developments in artificial intelligence and other fields that promise to bring us not only driverless cars but doctorless patients, lawyerless clients, and possibly even teacherless students. They visit schools from New York City to Iowa that have begun preparing for this new world.
Toppo and Tracy intersperse these reports from the present with bulletins from the future, telling the story of a high school principal who, Rip Van Winkle-style, sleeps for twenty years and, upon awakening in 2040, can hardly believe his eyes: the principal's amazingly efficient assistant is a robot, calculation is outsourced to computers, and students, grouped by competence and not grade level, focus on the conceptual. The lesson to be learned from both the present and the book's thought-experiment future: human and robotic skillsets are complementary, not in competition. We can run with robots, not against them.
The 1619 Project: A New American Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones (History)
The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning “1619 Project” issue reframed our understanding of American history by placing slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. This new book substantially expands on that work, weaving together eighteen essays that explore the legacy of slavery in present-day America with thirty-six poems and works of fiction that illuminate key moments of oppression, struggle, and resistance. The essays show how the inheritance of 1619 reaches into every part of contemporary American society, from politics, music, diet, traffic, and citizenship to capitalism, religion, and our democracy itself.
This is a book that speaks directly to our current moment, contextualizing the systems of race and caste within which we operate today. It reveals long-glossed-over truths around our nation’s founding and construction—and the way that the legacy of slavery did not end with emancipation, but continues to shape contemporary American life.
The Color of Water by James McBride (EDI/Memoir)
The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in "orchestrated chaos" with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. "Mommy," a fiercely protective woman with "dark eyes full of pep and fire," herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades, and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion—and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.
In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother's footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents' loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.
At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all- black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. "God is the color of water," Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life's blessings and life's values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth's determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college—and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University. Interspersed throughout his mother's compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self- realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.
The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times Michelle Obama (Memoir)
There may be no tidy solutions or pithy answers to life’s big challenges, but Michelle Obama believes that we can all locate and lean on a set of tools to help us better navigate change and remain steady within flux. In The Light We Carry, she opens a frank and honest dialogue with readers, considering the questions many of us wrestle with: How do we build enduring and honest relationships? How can we discover strength and community inside our differences? What tools do we use to address feelings of self-doubt or helplessness? What do we do when it all starts to feel like too much?
Michelle Obama offers readers a series of fresh stories and insightful reflections on change, challenge, and power, including her belief that when we light up for others, we can illuminate the richness and potential of the world around us, discovering deeper truths and new pathways for progress. Drawing from her experiences as a mother, daughter, spouse, friend, and First Lady, she shares the habits and principles she has developed to successfully adapt to change and overcome various obstacles—the earned wisdom that helps her continue to “become.” She details her most valuable practices, like “starting kind,” “going high,” and assembling a “kitchen table” of trusted friends and mentors. With trademark humor, candor, and compassion, she also explores issues connected to race, gender, and visibility, encouraging readers to work through fear, find strength in community, and live with boldness.
Why Fish Don't Exist by Lulu MIller (Biography/Memoir)
David Starr Jordan was a taxonomist, a man possessed with bringing order to the natural world. In time, he would be credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish known to humans in his day. But the more of the hidden blueprint of life he uncovered, the harder the universe seemed to try to thwart him. His specimen collections were demolished by lightning, by fire, and eventually by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—which sent more than a thousand discoveries, housed in fragile glass jars, plummeting to the floor. In an instant, his life’s work was shattered.
Many might have given up, given in to despair. But Jordan? He surveyed the wreckage at his feet, found the first fish that he recognized, and confidently began to rebuild his collection. And this time, he introduced one clever innovation that he believed would at last protect his work against the chaos of the world.
When NPR reporter Lulu Miller first heard this anecdote in passing, she took Jordan for a fool—a cautionary tale in hubris, or denial. But as her own life slowly unraveled, she began to wonder about him. Perhaps instead he was a model for how to go on when all seemed lost. What she would unearth about his life would transform her understanding of history, morality, and the world beneath her feet.
Part biography, part memoir, part scientific adventure, Why Fish Don’t Exist is a wondrous fable about how to persevere in a world where chaos will always prevail.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Classic Mystery)
Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to an isolated mansion on Indian Island by a host who, surprisingly, fails to appear. On the island they are cut off from everything but each other and the inescapable shadows of their own past lives. One by one, the guests share the darkest secrets of their wicked pasts. And one by one, they die… Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?
Life After Life: A Novel by Kate Atkinson (Historical Fiction)
What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?
On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war. Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can -- will she?
Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original: this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.
Light to the Hills by Bonnie Blaylock (Historical Fiction)
A richly rewarding novel about family bonds, the power of words, and the resilience of mothers and daughters in 1930s Appalachia.
The folks in the Kentucky Appalachians are scraping by. Coal mining and hardscrabble know-how are a way of life for these isolated people. But when Amanda Rye, a young widowed mother and traveling packhorse librarian, comes through a mountain community hit hard by the nation’s economic collapse, she brings with her hope, courage, and apple pie. Along the way, Amanda takes a shine to the MacInteer family, especially to the gentle Rai; her quick-study daughter, Sass; and Finn, the eldest son who’s easy to warm to. They remind Amanda of her childhood and her parents with whom she longs to be reconciled.
Her connection with the MacInteers deepens, and Amanda shares with them a dangerous secret from her past. When that secret catches up with Amanda in the present, she, Rai, Sass, and Finn find their lives intersecting―and threatened―in the most unexpected ways. Now they must come together as the truth lights a path toward survival, mountain justice, forgiveness, and hope.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Garbriel Garcia Marquez (Classics)
In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs--yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
One of Those Faces by Elle Grawl (Thriller)
From debut author Elle Grawl comes a psychological thriller about an insomniac artist who discovers a shocking truth about a recent spate of murders in her city: the victims all look just like her.
Years after escaping her abusive childhood, Harper Mallen has only ever known sleepless nights―or terrifying nightmares. She’s struggling to survive as an artist in a trendy Chicago neighborhood, getting by on freelance gigs, when she’s suddenly confronted with the worst fears from her past.
A young woman is killed outside Harper’s apartment―a woman who chillingly resembles her. As Harper searches for information about the victim, she discovers unsettling links to two other murders. Upon discovering another doppelgänger, Harper realizes her life is not the only one hanging in the balance.
As her obsession and paranoia deepen, everyone is a suspect: the handsome stranger in the café, customers at the painting studio, even the ghosts from her past. The closer she comes to unraveling the truth behind the murders, the more Harper realizes there is no one she can trust―not even herself.
Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng (Literary Fiction)
Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. His mother Margaret, a Chinese American poet, left the family when he was nine years old without a trace. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, his family's life has been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic.
Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.
Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact.
Selected Stories, 1968-1994 by Alice Munro (Short Stories)
A true literary event, the publication of this generous selection of stories--drawn from Alice Munro's seven collections spanning 30 years--gives enormous reading pleasure while it confirms Munro's place in the front ranks of today's writers of fiction. These 28 stories about lovers, parents and children, sex, seduction, marriage, murder, dreams, and death are pure essence of Munro.
When We Were Sisters by Fatimah Asghar (LGBTQ/Literary)
In this heartrending, lyrical debut work of fiction, the acclaimed author of If They Come for Us traces the intense bond of three orphaned siblings who, after their parents die, are left to raise one another. The youngest, Kausar, grapples with the incomprehensible loss of their parents as she also charts out her own understanding of gender; Aisha, the middle sister, spars with her “crybaby” younger sibling as she desperately tries to hold on to her sense of family in an impossible situation; and Noreen, the eldest, does her best in the role of sister-mother while also trying to create a life for herself, on her own terms.
As Kausar grows up, she must contend with the collision of her private and public worlds, and choose whether to remain in the life of love, sorrow, and codependency that she’s known or carve out a new path for herself. When We Were Sisters tenderly examines the bonds and fractures of sisterhood, names the perils of being three Muslim American girls alone against the world, and ultimately illustrates how those who’ve lost everything might still make homes in one another.