Hey guys, its Claire. This is my first blog post, but also a list that I will keep updating continually as I keep reading. I’ve never liked reading, but recently discovered that I had the attention span to finish a book if it was interesting enough- and that is an exciting thing, my friends! My ratings are pretty arbitrary but mainly if it makes me think, provides perspectives I hadn’t previously considered, and if it was entertaining to read then it will be a 10.
Winners Take All, Anand Giridharadas: 9/10. This was an eye-opening critique on people like me: people who want to do well, then do good. In other words, a lot of people and companies want to first make a profit, then make the world a better place using that profit. (Side note: This thought sequence reminded me of the social enterprise, TOMS. I know you’ve probably heard some not so great things about the company in the past few years- but the core of Blake Mycoskie’s business model was to do well WHILE doing good. He set out to give 250 kids in Argentina shoes, not to make a profit selling shoes then donate some of that to helping those kids. You can check out Blake’s full story here). But what if we should be focusing our efforts on fixing the systems that allowed us to make a profit in the first place? Giridharadas says this as someone who has found success in Silicon Valley, and I get the sense that he really believes in these ideas because they are not beneficial to him- yet he still feels a need to share them with the world. If you don’t have the attention span or time to read the full book, check out his feature on The Ezra Klein Show “Anand Giridharadas on the elite charade of changing the world” & his TED talk “A Tale of two Americas. And the mini-mart where they collided.”
Good To Great, Jim Collins: 10/10. Collins helped me learn how to run a student organization- and reminded me that it’s so important to work smart and go above & beyond what other people are doing. It sounds obvious, but I so often do the bare minimum to get by but being mediocre will bring you to mediocre places. Sometimes I felt like there could be a gap between reading these words and actually having influence and inspiring change- you have to be a driven person and work really hard, reading the book is still helpful though because it gives some important pointers. It is so important to set intentional goals to see results, but at the same time you should know that there is no linear path to success. It tells you how to lead yourself and your organization, not what steps you should take. So many organizations think they’re failing for the majority of the time before they start to do well- this was good to hear because I often feel like the work I put in to Dance Marathon/ Student Senate isn’t producing outcomes I want to see until long after. It reminded me of most of the stories I hear every time I listen to an episode of How I Built This with Guz Raz because it provides an inside look at how influential entrepreneurs built successful movements.
Start With Why, Simon Sinek: 10/10. This helped me think about & pitch Dance Marathon in a way that has the cause at the center of what we do. From the “why”, you can then focus on “how”, then lastly focus on the “what.” (Side note: your “why” does not have to be a noble reason such as wanting to help kids or end cancer. Those are great reasons to be motivated, and if that motivates you- then great! But my personal “why” for Dance Marathon was to unite apathetic college students over the course of their college experience to focus about something other than themselves and their futures, and utilize their networks to fundraise. I am passionate about helping kids, but I know that it really sets my soul on fire to inspire and lead me peers.) Also, this book made me realize how many organizations are just spinning their wheels chasing an elusive goal of making a profit but we would be more energized if we were truly on board with the mission of our companies. The TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” seems to follow me everywhere I go, so if you haven’t heard about the Golden Circle you should probably check it out.
This is Marketing, Seth Godin: 10/10. I’ve been a marketing major for a little over a year, and I really don’t know what marketing is- I kind of chose my major by process of elimination rather than a deep, God-given, vocational calling many of my peers felt. Reading this was mainly a way for me to feel more educated since I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing with my life or what my major was. This book encouraged me to think outside the box, do something truly extraordinary. I also had some faith in marketing restored because Godin talks about it as your duty to share great ideas with the world who can benefit from them. I like thinking of marketing in this way rather than trying to coerce naive consumers to buy your product so that your company can make a profit. Marketing is never coercion! Love that.
The Power of Moments, Chip Heath & Dan Heath. 9/10. This follows the thread of going above and beyond- but an illustration that stuck with me was the popsicle hotline at the Magic Castle Hotel: guests could place calls at a phone box at the pool which went straight to a hotel staff who would bring out a popsicle on a silver tray for free. Elevated experiences are a great way to create peak memories that people can look back on when they recount the overall experience of their trip. Even though the hotel was old and not much different than other hotels, they had a few really great experiences to guests which stood out in their memories. It’s the same concept as going to Disney World and having an overall 6/10 day, but because you had 3-4 9//10 moments, you recount your overall trip to be 9/10. This made me think: how can I create moments for people I love? How can I make freshmen at Calvin feel more included when they first get to campus? How can I sprinkle in these moments to teams I lead?
Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer. 8/10. Vocation is not what you should do with you life, but how you can learn to do what you’re supposed to do by listening to what you’re already doing. If you’re wanting to change your career, you can look at what you’re already doing in your free time and let this guide you towards what will truly be fulfilling for you. He talks about praying to see what doors are closed, rather than praying for one answer: and as someone who has her own life planned out on a google doc, it’s helpful to know what NOT to do as much as it is helpful knowing what to do. I kind of hate being adaptable but that’s kind of a really great life skill to have. A practice that is common in Quaker communities is asking questions to a person for 3 hours without giving advice so that they can think through what they are doing and find their true motivation. I do so many great things for probably not the best reasons and wish I would have been interrogated by a group of wise people for 3 hours without giving my advice or judgement so that they could help me find what it is I should do for my next big move. Maybe I’ll try this- let me know if you want to be a jury on my vocation-search committee.
The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas: 10/10. I like when books have sad endings because it keeps me thinking about real issues. Thomas leaves a gap between what is and what should be which makes me uncomfortable and in my discomfort I think about how we can solve the world’s problems. Even if I don’t figure anything out, it leaves me more aware and passionate about making the world less horrible. Bonus points because this made me cry and books almost never make me cry.
A Mango Shaped Space, Wendy Mass: 8/10. A good read, kinda cliche/ sappy/ hard to take seriously because it felt like something I would read in middle school- but it got me thinking. At first, Mia’s parents thought her synesthesia was a disease they needed to cure her of. Later, they came to understand her experience through getting connected to a hospital support group and a psychologist who researches her condition through UChicago. It broke my heart for the kids who have conditions that their parents don’t know about, don’t believe, don’t understand, or want to ‘cure’. So many kids live in rural communities, miles from the support of a world-class university or a doctor like Mia was fortunate enough to find- and even though we have the internet and blogs, I wish there were more resources for parents to support their non-neurotypical kids. I’ve had OCD for the past 10 years, and for many years my parents would tell me to stop my quirks simply because they didn’t understand and wanted me to normal so that I could function in society one day. Like mine, so many parents have good intentions but really don’t know what is going on and their kids are too ashamed/ scared/ confused to open up about what’s going on. Meeting others with your child’s condition is so important and it helps them feel like there isn’t a problem with them.
Turtles All the Way Down, John Green: 9/10. I really loved reading that Aza trying to navigate life (the college search, talking to a boy, friend drama, grieving the loss of her dad) in the midst of her OCD. Green really highlights the internal monologue between Aza’s rational thoughts and Aza’s obsessions- and she is how every aspect of her life because she avoids things. I have had OCD for the past 10 years, and this was the first book I read about someone with OCD which made me feel heard, yet jealous. I was jealous of Aza’s openness to talk about even her most intimate thoughts and weirdest obsessions to her best friend, mom, and therapist. As someone who has spent half of my life trying to hide all evidence of OCD and not talk about the obsessions, Aza seemed so free and I felt so trapped inside of my own thoughts. In telling us her obsessions, it felt like she was invading the sacred space between myself and my obsessions- the space I try so hard to hide from the world. It inspired me to be more open with my OCD because people understand that it is something that is real and happens to people. I learned about this book in this episode of Fresh Air, tears streaming down my face on the L, as John Green talked about his experiences with OCD and how he allowed those experiences to write Aza’s story. As I felt in the Mango Shaped Space review, I really do want to help young ones with OCD who feel like there isn’t a way out.
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becki Albertalli: 9/10. For the month of June, I tried to seek out LGBT voices to be a better citizen. This was a cute little LGBT love story that was both lighthearted and serious. It was one of those books I read in 3 days, and felt like I was in the story. I was disappointed that there wasn’t much talk of the “homosexual agenda” that the title hinted at. From this book, it seemed that gay teens just want to fit in with their friend groups and date- he wasn’t demanding much, nor was he super angry at the world. However, he comes from a privileged background and is a white male. Let me know if you have suggestions on books from LGBT voices of color!
The Sun Is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon: 9/10. I love a good love story, this was a bright and fun read to look forward to when I woke up in the dead of winter, in Michigan. I find realistic fiction/ fiction to be so much more interesting, but often less thought-provoking than the business/ leadership/ self-help reads I gravitate towards. I always feel good about myself when I read a great book that later comes out in a movie. This book was written in rich detail and I was able to picture the story vividly.
The Symptoms of Being Human, Jeff Garvin: 6/10. This was the experience of a nonbinary, genderfluid high school student navigating bullies at school, parents who don’t understand, and being an influential figure in the LGBT community. (Side note: I hate it when books portray parents are being ignorant, or not understanding, or not wanting to understand their kids. I get that parents should be accepting and loving and many times, the parents do really need to care more but so many of them are doing their best! John Green said that he stopped making parents the ignorant antagonist after he became a parent and better understood the nuances of parenting. But, a lot of the time in my personal life, when I paint my parents as the ignorant, traditionalist antagonist, they end up being right and they are trying to teach me a lesson that will be important later in life. I’ve seen this trend in YA novels and adolescence is a time when kids are forming their own identities apart from their parents so this makes sense but I feel like we’re single-storying parents.) Anyways, I like how they never revealed the gender Riley’s birth gender- it made me think about how the concepts of gender are so ingrained in my head because they are so ingrained into society. A person can still have just as strong of an identity without gender!
Getting Beyond Better, Martin & Osberg: 6/10. This taught me a lot about social entrepreneurship. It allowed me to see it as interrupting an equilibrium, which was a new way of thinking about solving a problem. This is such a motivating concept for me: think of how much more you can do, and how much more meaningful your work would be if your goal was to shift an equilibrium.
Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst: 5/10. This wasn’t for me in this season of my life- it would have been more helpful in a season where I felt more lonely/ my confidence was struggling. I also thought that the author didn’t have much confidence or wisdom- at least compared to CS Lewis or Peter Parker. However, when you see someone else’s thought spiral it seems super ridiculous and this helps me see that I do the same thing and it’s not good for anyone.
Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis: 6/10. Personally, I didn’t learn many new things from this- I felt like everything she said was good advice, but wasn’t super insightful. As a go-getter myself, I felt that I already possessed the drive and ability to take risks she encourages her readers to have. She was talking to us as if we have this grand dream we’re too scared to pursue but I’m living the dream already.
Christian Social Innovation, L. Gregory Jones: 6/10. Faith communities need to be taking responsibility for the problems we face, and it is their place to help fix them! Not to mention the problems that faith communities have caused in society. The church should not just be a building people go to and a belief system people tuck in their back pocket, but they should focus more on actually helping people and less on the traditions they’ve cultivated over the years. I’m not quite sure about the relationship between church and state: since people make up both institutions, and as people, we should all care for the sick, young, oppressed, hungry, and other marginalized groups. I found it dry/ repetitive, but it made me think and I appreciated that!
The Screwtape letters, C. S. Lewis
The Book of Unknown Americans, Christina Henriquez
Built to Last, Jim Collins & Jerry Porras.
Do the Kind Thing, Daniel Lubetsky.
Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, Alyssa Mastromonaco
Gone, Randy Wayne White
Outside Valentine, Lisa Ward