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My Top 5 Reads of 2017

Some of my Top Reads

Every January, I page back through my Goodreads.com lists to celebrate the books I found most meaningful during the past twelve months. I prefer to call myself a bibliophile, not a reading addict, but squeezing in 120 books last year perhaps took some neglect of other potential pursuits.

I read in just about all genres. Whatever I’m reading–fiction, nonfiction, biography, adult or children’s tomes–can influence and inform my work as a writer and consultant.

So here’s my top five, as well as five honorable mentions. I haven’t done that before, but they were so good to ignore! My reviews point out what I found valuable rather than summarizing content. Follow the links to their Goodreads pages for more information.

The View from the Cheap Seats (Gaiman)

This book is rather dangerous…

If you’re a bookworm, you may find yourself adding an awful lot of titles to your to-read list as Gaiman mentions sources of inspiration and all-time favorites.

If you’re a writer, you may feel a rather desperate urge to be more artful every time you pick up your pen.

If you haven’t considered sci fi or fantasy as meaty reads, you may learn a thing or two about the genres’ real power.

And, you may feel constant urges to look up the works of painters, musicians, and others by which Gaiman has enriched his world and envy the knowledge he has at his fingertips for his masterful crafting with words…

More Courageous Conversations About Race (Singleton)

This book is for everyone, not just educators. Yes, racism deeply affects children of color in our schools. Yes, tools exist to have honest conversations that result in more success for all students. The background, strategies, examples, and voices from within show us how. My only complaint is the depth and length of the book that may keep many from tackling it.

So Far from Home (Wheatley)

If you are hoping to make a difference, and wondering if you can in this crazy world, this is a must read. Hope might be dangerous. Goals might be pointless. Instead, it just might be about immersing yourself in what needs doing and the people with whom you interact rather than counting on any actual movement forward. Profound, inspiring and dampening at the same time.

We Were Eight Years in Power (Coates)

How can I give this six stars? How is it that we are so ignorant of the history of privilege that caused and continues the racial divide in this country? This is an absolute must read.

Coates chose essays he wrote during each year of Obama’s presidency and added introductions that explain his thinking at the time and what has changed since. It is a model of wisdom regarding revisiting our positions and the evidence we think supports them—something all of us need to practice no matter our political leanings. The epilogue analyzes the election of Donald Trump in an honest way that gets past the apologists and looks the horrific side of our national heritage and ongoing inability to admit wrong. Words fail…

Strangers in their Own Land (Hothschild)

Hochschild does a great job of taking an immense subject and focusing her research to help all of us gain insights. Just Louisiana. Just environmental issues. How does one get over the “empathy wall” to understand how earnest people can hold values so different from your own? Other research tells us that this kind of approach is the only way we can confront our own biases–through deep dialogue with those who have different mindsets, experiences and beliefs.

This book is a model for how to do that. The author truly developed friendships with those she studied. As I read, though, I wondered over and over, “What do the research subjects think of her narrative, her conclusions? Will this volume help lower the empathy wall in both directions???”

The Honorable Mentions

Winterdance (Paulson)

Because once in awhile it’s inspiring to read about someone pursuing a totally crazy passion. This is Newbury award-winning author Gary Paulson’s account of training for and running in the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska.

Double Bind: Women on Ambition (Romm)

No, this isn’t research. It’s a collection of personal essays. And perhaps the takeaway is the importance of understanding why you are making the choices you are making so that you can be contented with the life they produce.

Braving the Wilderness (Brown)

Brown presents an interesting analysis of our inability to talk with each other, to listen to opinions we don’t share, and to have the courage to get the right kinds of dialogue going. Some solid action steps as well.

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White (Sweet)

Sweet weaves a story from biographical events, archived photos and letters and poems, original collages and artwork, and the beauty of White’s life. Storytelling, yes, but far more.

Wonderbook (Vandermeer)

Beautifully illustrated, filled with examples and insights as to why they work, this book is a gift to those who wish to improve their writing skills. While it targets those interested in crafting science fiction and fantasy, the information on plot, scene, character, and the accompanying tips and assignments, can help any writer.

Read on — and list in the comments here your favorite reads of 2017!

Jane Kise

Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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