Bringing It #68: Summer Reading Suggestions
We hope this letter finds you well and enjoying some of summer’s simple pleasures before returning to your campus communities for the Fall semester. In our last letter we asked you to share with us what books you’ve been reading and which podcasts you’ve been listening to recently to relax, recharge, or learn more about issues of interest and concern. In this letter we share with you some of those responses and some of our own suggestions.
What BT2P Staff Are Reading & Listening To
I’ve read two very different books by authors named George. I tend to mix the names up, and both are great, so here’s a quick note on both. George Packer’s Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal is as good a treatment of the fracturing of contemporary American society as I’ve read. He goes beyond binary discussions of polarization to illuminate some of the unexpected connections between and conflict within “blue” and “red” America; and he makes a compelling case that the inequality crisis of the past forty years is the underlying force driving the corrosion and toxicity of our public life. George Saunders’ A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life is utterly different. Saunders is a master of the short story (and clearly a master teacher). He gives a brilliant, funny commentary on seven Russian short stories–fully included in the book–as a guide to how stories work, the pleasures of reading, and (unexpectedly) how stories and reading open up the biggest questions without our knowing it. Believe it or not, it helped me think about how we think, talk, and write about BT2P.
I’m currently reading David Treleaven’s Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness. It’s a well-researched, accessible, and social justice-oriented account of not just why but how to bring trauma-informed practices into mindfulness and meditation. Treleaven’s book is a great companion to another book I read earlier this summer, Daniel Barbezat and Mirabai Bush’s brilliant Contemplative Practices in Higher Education, which describes the contemplative pedagogies developed by more than a decade of higher education Contemplative Practice Fellows supported by the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and their Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education.
I’ve been burning through books this summer (primarily while attempting to master the art of relaxing in a hammock), but there are two that I keep telling everyone to read. Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui is a cultural history about the connection we humans have to water and Obit is a collection of poems by Victoria Chang that explore the emotional, mental, physical, and cultural impacts that death has on those who keep living. Heavier reads, both books are – but both are also beautifully written and pose interesting questions about what motivates some human behaviors, why we are called toward certain environments, and how we can keep moving forward past challenges.
This summer I enjoyed listening to Dolly Parton’s America, a 2019 Peabody Award-winning podcast series hosted by Jad Abumrad. The series explores the intersections of Dolly’s career, songs, and humanitarian work with hyper-partisan American politics, immigrant experiences and nostalgia, and more. Having attended a concert a few years ago in Charlotte and noticed the remarkable mix of attendees – staunch conservatives, religious groups, LGBTQ folks, drag queens dressed as Dolly, and more – I was excited to find a podcast that explored these surprising contradictions and connections across groups.
Recommendations From the BT2P Community
I’ve been reading How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith, which a powerful and beautifully written exploration of how Americans do (or, more often, don’t) reckon with the history of slavery in our communities and country.
– Peter Felton, Elon University
I encourage everyone to read Connecting Civic Engagement & Social Innovation: Towards Higher Education’s Democratic Promise and to listen to Compact Nation Podcast Season 4 Episode 11, which focuses on the book. I suggest this resource because for many of our campuses civic engagement has been divorced from an emerging social innovation movement which limits our student’s ability to understand the full range of strategies needed to address societal challenges. This book presents background information on both movements and presents an argument for how the two movements can both claim a role in preparing our students for democratic engagement.
– Renee Sedlacek Lee, Drake University
I recommend Jim Crow Campus by Joy Ann Williamson; Ebony and Ivy by Craig Wilder; and Shelter in a Time of Storm by Jelani Favors. Read these together for historical context and to push us toward better solutions to our joint anti-racist work. For a not higher Ed podcast, I recommend Swirl Suite – among other reasons because higher Ed needs to learn about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in other industries and because we certainly all serve wine.
– Susan Henking, Former Interim President, Salem Academy & College, president Emerita Shimer College
Many thanks for these reading and listening suggestions. We hope that you can take the time to explore them–and send us your own recommendations! As always, we remain grateful for the work you do.
David, Kate, Kelly, and Todd