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My 5 Favorite Books from 2017

My husband tells stories about being a child and loving to read. He would sneak books into his room and, after bedtime his parents would find him reading under sheets with a flashlight, like a stowaway concealing himself and his precious treasure. I didn't have the same magical experience with books. In fact, I cannot really recall having any feelings about reading (loving it or hating it or anything in between). I don’t think I started really enjoying reading until I was in college, to be honest. In the many years that have passed since I found my love of books, I have read some pretty incredible works that have impacted me both professionally and personally. While I didn’t read for pleasure as much as I would have liked this past year, I did read a ton of great non-fiction pieces that deeply impacted my views as an educator. Below are some of the best books that I read and recommended in 2017 (in no particular order):

The Multiplier Effect by Liz Wiseman

With the help of insight from some of education’s best leaders, Wiseman dives into different leadership styles and how you can make purposeful choices in your interaction with others to be either a Multiplier or a Diminisher. In her exploration of leadership styles, Wiseman also shares effective methods to help managers apply their understanding to improve the workplace. Favorite quote: “The highest quality of thinking cannot emerge without learning. Learning can’t happen without mistakes.”

How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims

I had the pleasure of seeing Julie Lythcott-Haims speak at a parent education event that was organized by a local private school, and it was so inspiring. She was honest and funny and reflective and encouraging. Her book explores the helicopter parenting that we are often guilty of (self included!) and sheds light on the damage we can do by not helping our kids build their sense of efficacy. Favorite quote: “My job [as a dean] was to ask students good questions so the answers would reveal more of themselves to themselves.”

Unselfie by Dr. Michele Borba

This was undoubtedly one of my favorite books this year because I feel so strongly about intentionally teaching empathy to our kids (ok, let’s get real - some adults could use a lesson as well). Borba cites a University of Michigan study which found that, in the past three decades, empathy has decreased by 40% and narcissism has increased by 58% in incoming college freshmen. But we can change that by intentionally teaching and practicing empathy. If we help kids to be kind and develop a strong moral identity, it will have a more profound impact on the rest of their lives, and society at large, than anything they do to put on a resume to send to an Ivy League. The book is so accessible for both educators and parents alike, as Borba details the 9 ways to grow empathetic children and then provides activities that are developmentally appropriate. Easy peasy and really meaningful! Favorite quote: “We take our kids to so many practices- sports, music, etc. But do they practice being a good person? We are good at practicing everything but humanity.”

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

I grew up in a very candid family where no stone was left unturned and no secret left unshared. And, while I didn’t really know any different, there were times that it bothered me but as I have grown older, I have come to appreciate the rawness and openness that is my family because I know it was all done with great love. In Radical Candor, Scott explores the belief that, in order to have the most effective relationships, you can and should Challenge Directly and Care Personally. Favorite quote: “... it’s crucial to remind people that an important part of Radically Candid relationships is opening yourself to the possibility of connecting with people who have different worldviews or whose lives involve behavior that you don’t understand or that may even conflict with a core belief of yours. It’s possible to care personally about a person who disagrees with your views on abortion or guns or God.”

Penguin by Polly Dunbar

While not exactly a book in my professional library, it quite honestly should be. In this story, Ben receives a penguin as a gift, but Penguin won’t talk to Ben. Despite Ben’s impressive efforts to get Penguin to talk (he dances and sings and pokes and prods and even sends Penguin into outer space), Penguin always does and says nothing. Ben gets so frustrated that he screams at Penguin. His scream startles a passing lion who eats Ben. Penguin bites the lion on the nose in order to get his friend back (don’t worry, it works!), and then shows Ben how much he loves him by recalling all of their adventures together. It is one of my daughter’s favorite books- we’ve read it over and over- and has become one of mine as well. The book teaches us to be patient and kind, and that not all beings (penguins included) express love in the same way, and that’s perfectly ok. Favorite quote: Since picture books tend to be hard to quote, trust me and grab a copy, especially if you teach, work with or have young children.

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