"The Gift of Summer: A Good Book" by Director of the Anderson/Cabot Center for EXCEL Ben Snyder
During the 2014-15 school year I was given the gift of time for a sabbatical, and it became an opportunity to experience many things, the two most enduring of which were the opportunity to travel and to read widely. As we head into summer, the time when we strongly encourage our students to dive into some good books, I thought I’d share some titles from that sabbatical year that you may not run into but are well worth the time.
If you are looking for insight into some of the surprising and interesting behaviors of your teenager, Age of Opportunity by Laurence Steinberg delivers relevant information in a wonderfully accessible way (and isn’t that long). He also discusses the impact of different parenting styles which certainly gave me opportunity for reflection on some of my own parenting challenges over the years.
We were lucky enough to travel to China and Tibet last year and in searching for insight and perspective into China today The Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos prepared us for the complexities of a country that defies easy description.
As many of you know, I have deep interest in international development issues and two books caught my eye. The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz shared the inspirational work by a woman making a huge difference in lives of millions through the use of social entrepreneurship and patient capital. In addition A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof and Cheryl WuDunn shares many stories of those doing important work on global development challenges.
For the parent who has spent many hours taking sons and daughters to practices, games and tournaments, Soccer Dad: A Father, Son and a Magical Season by W.D. Wetherell is an ode to the gift of sport and the bonds it creates in families and communities. I was lucky enough to coach with the coach profiled in the book; his perspectives on life, sports, kids, and the power of high school teams are affirming and powerful.
I often want fiction to take me to places or give me insight into people, events and places I’d not typically encounter. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra opened Chechnya and the tragedy of its civil war to me. Simply put, it captured the horror of war; the beauty and tragedy of family; and the love, loss, humor, and tragedy of life in one of the most beautifully written books I’ve encountered.
Many of your children (and possibly you) have read many of the stories in Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried; Redeployment by Phil Klay is the contemporary version of that classic as the short stories explore many aspects of the experiences of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The students in my fall elective (Modern America at War) uniformly loved it.
Finally, two books give great insight into the complexities and challenges of college life. The first, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs chronicles the journey of a brilliant young man from a highly under-resourced community as he tries to negotiate a path through an Ivy League world. Missoula by Jon Krakauer helped me better understand the sexual assault problem on college campuses through the story of one university and its community. Both books are balanced and sobering, which helped me view important aspects of the college experience in new ways.
Summer is on the horizon; I hope we all find more time to read. If you have recommendations of books that have inspired you recently, please pass on your recommendations to me.