I love seeing lists of books recommended by people from all walks of life. As the son of a children’s librarian and the husband of a children’s reading specialist, books have always been a part of my life. This enthusiasm was brought home to me again when I recently saw a list of recommended readings from President Obama (or, as Inc.com called him, the “Bookworm-in-Chief.”) It seemed appropriate – the day before the election – to recall all the good things President Obama has brought our way, including an intellectual curiosity about the world.
Writer Rebecca Solnit has said, “I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods.” I know that feeling. A couple of years ago, in thinking about a lifetime (so far) of reading, I put together my own list of twelve books (plus some bonus reads) that had influenced me. If you click through, you’ll see that the initial one on my list is the first I remember from my childhood. I suspect you’ll understand a bit more about me when you see that the title is If Everybody Did.
Books are a wonderful window into the world, and I’m always looking for reading recommendations. In the past few months, I’ve received book suggestions from several colleagues that included Economics of Uniqueness – Investing in Historic City Cores and Cultural Heritage Assets for Sustainable Development (a free publication of the World Bank); Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, a 1998 book by biologist E. O. Wilson; as well as The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain by Barbara Strauch (which posits that middle-aged brains do not start to fail but instead become better at problem solving and making connections. Hmmm…I hope so!)
To reach a younger demographic, I often ask my 23-year-old twins what books influenced them, and they recently responded with a range of works, including Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (recommended by both and which is on my list); The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter by Meg Jay (perhaps I’m a bit past focusing on this); The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (from my urban studies-loving son); A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (a classic); Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (both in my book bag to be read); and the Harry Potter series (have read them all myself).
To end, I’ll circle back to President Obama. I have read two of the books on his list of books that shaped his thinking, and would recommend both: the remarkable Thinking, Fast and Slow as well as Taylor Branch’s thorough and thoughtful history of the civil rights movement, Parting the Waters : America in the King Years 1954-63. I’ve also read two from the President’s vacation reading list: Between the World and Me and All the Light We Cannot See. Both are powerful books, in very different ways. Let me know what you would recommend, and when I have enough I’ll share a new “colleagues and friends” list.
Until then, have a great week (reading).
More to come…