My recent reading list: Over the summer months and into the school year I have had the pleasure of spending my personal free time reading some outstanding books. If you took notice of my earlier reading list (last spring)
, you will see that this current list is heavily weighted with “business” books and towards the theme of culture, and how we view people and their place within their communities. (I noticed this only upon reflection, and while it is not deliberate on my part, these are topics of personal interest).
An Everyone Culture
, Kegan and
Lahey – The authors assert that the weaknesses in a company and/or individual should be viewed as opportunities where enormous gains can be made. It is their belief that the work people engage in is in itself meaningful and that the work gives meaning to people’s lives, and so developing oneself, creating something excellent and enduring, and contributing to other people all can make a difference in the productivity of a company. At CRMS we talk about moving our students from a dependent self through to an interdependent one, and this arc of development is mirrored in this text when the authors talk about the adult journey beyond the socialized mind to a self-authoring mind and then finally to a self-transforming one. Neither of these three stages has anything to do with age or an individuals I.Q., but in each stage, a greater form of independence and interdependence is achieved. If you like books grounded in research, this will be a compelling read.
The Power of Moments,
Chip and Dan Heath – The Heath brothers began with Made to Stick, and then followed this effort with Switch. The latter addresses how to effectively make a long-term and successful change in a person or group of people (think: diet, regular exercise, studying effectively), and it is for this reason that I tend to reference this book a lot when speaking with students who are struggling to gain some traction. The Power of Moments is about creating “peaks” in experiences, “defining moments,” through elevation (above every day), insight (re-wiring our understanding), pride (capturing us at our best), and finally through connection (sharing with others). I shared this book with my Crossfit gym – not because they necessarily needed it – but because it provides clarity for them as to what they do so well (what to keep), and ideas that they might have for future programming. My most shared book [this is a question that comes up in Tools for Titans – see below] is Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow – if you want to know how minds work and people process information, there is no better book out there.
America the Anxious
, Whippman – I was eager to get my hands on this book and was able to give it enough attention that I finished in a matter of days. Whippman takes her English lens to American culture and our over-pursuit of happiness. I found the first half of the book much stronger than the second half, but suffice it to say that some of this was
because of her narrow perspective on positive psychology – which in my mind is more about focusing on strengths than a Pollyanna-ish approach to the world. I can save you a little time, if you like, the main take away is that the harder we try to be happy, the less happy we become and that happiness tends to be achieved most readily when we are making contributions beyond ourselves to the community.
Tools for Titans
, Ferris – A thick compellation of information coming out of interviews with successful people that is
broken up into three sections: healthy, wealthy, and wise. As an educator, there were a number of valuable resources – great quotes, book suggestions, and ideas are found throughout. It is one of those books where Ferris feels compelled to tell you “how to use this book” (notice how he doesn’t say, “how to read…”) and advises that you will be well served marking
the areas you like so that you can return to them – because it won’t be easy to find them later down the line if you don’t. As an inspirational resource, I highly recommend this book.
The End of Average
, Rose – One of my favorite books in this list in part because it addressed the notion of what “average” means from a historical perspective. Rose covers a wide span of interesting topics, it is his discussion on education and the misapplication of the “average,” particularly in the use of standardized testing, that really resonated with me. The author asserts, correctly, I believe, that people are “jagged” and often the measurements we use often ignore the significant differences within
them. When Jen Ogilby recently came in and asked me to recommend a book, this is the one that I passed on to her because of its high value to both an educator and a parent.
, Chapman – As leaders, we need to create an environment in which each and every student discovers their gifts, develops their gifts, share their gifts, and be recognized and appreciated for doing so. Which gives them the environment for a meaningful life. When thinking about employees, “Getting the right people on the bus” is a phrase that has been popularized by Good to Great. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that we need to find “perfect” people – because they don’t exist. Rather than trying to focus on figuring out the “right people” and moving the “wrong people” off the bus, Everybody Matters asserts a different focus by accepting the fact that we all have strengths and weaknesses, whoever you have in the company is who you have, and that it is the task of the leadership team to maximize each person’s strengths and abilities. This shift in thinking still accepts the importance of hiring well, and it also asks that we take a strength-based lens to each employee. The book is heavily weighted on the business practices of one company and therefore may lose some power when considered outside of this context.
, Junger – A.O. Forbes shared this book with me, and I, in turn, passed it along to my fitness coach – anytime a book is being passed along to others, you know there is something in it that people are finding powerful and compelling. The book asks two fundamental questions: How do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice, and how do you become a man or woman in a society that doesn’t demand courage and provides you no framework through which to understand your role as an adult? If you have heard me express to the students my concern that in America, too often our young adults only know that they have made it through adulthood when they are in possession of a few artifacts: a driver’s license, our voter registration, and our capacity to purchase certain items at a store. Junger begins his exploration of the challenges we all face in our culture by contrasting it with the early tribal culture and how we respond in the face of disasters. It is Junger’s belief that loyalty, belonging, and meaning are a rare and precious thing in modern society. I highly recommend this book.
News of the World
, Paulette Jiles – This is the only fictional read on my current list of books. Set in post-Civil War Texas, an elderly war veteran accepts the task of returning a young girl who to members of her extended family after she has spent four years in captivity. A Head of School friend of mine suggested the read, and I was intrigued by his comment that it had made him laugh and cry (he just never struck me as a cryer). If you have already read Sebastian Junger’s Tribe, (recommended above) then the struggle for the young girl to reintegrate into Western culture after living with the Kiowa will really resonate. I highly recommend this book.
Last time I shared a few podcasts that I thought might be of interest. This time I thought I would pass along one idea for staying on top of the news: The Skimm
. This is by no means a complete news source, but it is convenient in that it comes through email each morning and it gives a broad overview of some of the key events that are taking place. Great for millennials. I have shared it with Finnian as a way for him to remain up on
the most basic current events.