Saturday, January 9, 2016

Looking for a Good Read?

In an effort to blog more this year, I rummaged through some posts I drafted and never finished in the last year. I found this post I'd almost finished sharing some of my favorite summer reads from 2015, both personal and professional. A good book is usually still a good book six months later, so I figure it's not too late to share.  Besides, winter is the best time for reading, isn't it?!

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline 

Kline writes of the parallel stories of Molly and Vivian.  Molly is living in the modern-day foster care system, while the elderly Vivian was put on a train as a child and taken to the Midwest to find a family.  The "orphan train" stops were advertised in towns around the country and families would come to find a child, a popular model in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Orphan Train is an endearing window into the similar experiences of two girls from different time periods.  It will make you appreciate the stability and love of family and a place to call home.  Though historical fiction, Orphan Train provides great insight into a slice of history I knew nothing about.  I was much more intrigued with the story line of Vivian and the orphan trains, but the comparison with Molly's life and the modern foster care system is a really compelling way to tell this story.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 

The Nightingale is the story of German-occupied France during World War II and the lives of two sisters fighting in very different ways to survive and preserve a fractured family.  The oldest sister Vianne watches her husband head off to fight the war and is forced to protect their daughter on her own.  Soon after, she is required to billet a Nazi soldier in her home, which ends up to be the first of many unbelievable decisions she is forced to make to survive. Vianne's youngest sister Isabelle is a determined rebel who joins the Resistance movement and becomes a war hero in the eyes of many.  As the lives of these sisters collide, the gripping story of how war reveals our true character is told.  You will see parts of yourself in both characters, but are sure to identify with one more than the other, and thus The Nightingale will also teach you about yourself.

Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown 

This Young Adult book catapults readers to reckon with the lack of control we have in a digital society.  After high school student Ashleigh sends her boyfriend a naked picture of herself, things quickly spiral out of control in what becomes a bad break-up.  I would recommend this book for any middle or high school student, or for parents.  Brown does a phenomenal job of creating a reality where you can see how this situation can happen and also showing the impact on Ashleigh, her boyfriend, her family, her friends, and the broader community. Thousand Words is a great conversation starter with young adults and will give them an opportunity to consider how they might handle a similar situation from a variety of roles.

School Culture Rewired by Steve Gruenert & Todd Whitaker 

If the idea that "culture trumps strategy" is true, this book is a must-read.  Gruenert and Whitaker give a simple breakdown of the elusive differences between culture and climate, and offer practical tips for educators to evaluate the current state of affairs and begin shifting into a more positive and productive culture.  Whether you are a teacher or principal there is some practical food-for-thought that you can use beginning tomorrow.

Three Signs of a Miserable Job - Patrick Lencioni 

In his classic style of using a fable, Lencioni makes the complex simple by challenging us to think about what really makes us happy in our work. There are parallels with Daniel's Pink work on motivation explained in the book Drive, but Lencioni frames it in way that makes it seem tangible to accomplish in the way we interact with one another on a daily basis.  As I read, I could recall leaders that seemed to follow these successful principles so naturally.

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