Summertime is my time to read, and over the past few years I have shared my #summerreads list of books that I attempt to complete before the return of school. With this past semester proving to be the most challenging in my 24 year career, I desperately need to get lost in some books for a while, before pulling my head out of the pages and start planning for the potential return to school in August.
As I have said in previous versions of this now annual blog post, some of these books I’ll read for pleasure, some for personal and professional development, and hopefully some will fulfill both of those categories. At the end of the blog post I share some book list suggestions from other sites. There WILL be something in this blog post for everybody.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson ($14.85)
This was one of the first books with which I started my summer reading and I can’t read this slowchathealth June Book of the Month fast enough!
There’s been such a buzz about this book and it’s on the latest awesome #ProjectLitBookClub list of recommended reads. I chose to read this book because June was PRIDE Month, because I need to read more books from Black authors, because I need to read more books from the LGBTQIA+ community, and because I need to read great books. Period.
All Boys Aren’t Blue promises to be “both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults, and as a teacher it is helping me to see life through the lens of my gay students, for whom I strive to be a better ally
Permission to Feel by Dr. Marc Brackett ($15.39)
This is the book that my PLN are talking about right now and is the subject of the Summer Book Club read. Teachers across the country are reading this alongside the book club launched by the author who is facilitating regular discussions on Facebook Live and has encouraged groups to create their own book club to continue the discussions in their own time. If you want the full experience, and want to hear the author himself then you need to visit marcbrackett.com and sign up.
There is so much in this book that I hope to use in my classroom and Permission to Feel promises a blueprint for understanding our emotions and using them wisely so that they help, rather than hinder, our success and well-being. Too many children and adults are suffering; they are ashamed of their feelings and emotionally unskilled, but they don’t have to be. Marc Brackett’s life mission is to reverse this course, and this book claims to show you how.
The Next Great Migration by Sonia Shah ($25.20)
Being locked down during this pandemic has made it hard for me to find new recommendations and I’m thankful for the New York Times Book section for identifying great books. I heard the author talk on NPR recently and was intrigued by the idea of animal and plant migration being very similar to human migration. The books premise is that far from being a disruptive behavior to be quelled at any cost, migration is an ancient and lifesaving response to environmental change, a biological imperative as necessary as breathing. There is a tendency to view plants, animals and people who cross into a new territory as a threat to the current habitat, but Shah says there’s another way to think about these “invaders.”
As a migrant myself, married to a science teacher, and a keen gardener, I can see that this book will be fascinating to me as it tracks the history of misinformation from the 18th century through today’s anti-immigration policies, and makes the case for a future in which migration is not a source of fear, but of hope.
Superbugs by Matt McCarthy ($16.99)
When the pandemic first kicked in, I read Crisis in the Red Zone, a book about the history of Ebola which prophetically made clear that the Ebola outbreak of 2013–2014 was a harbinger of further, more severe outbreaks, and of emerging viruses heretofore unimagined—in any country, on any continent.
And so because, like our current political situation, I want to know the how the Coronavirus story ends, AND because it’s a book that’s been lying around my house for a year or so now, I am intrigued to see what Superbugs can tell me about our race to stop this current epidemic.
This book promises to be a story of cutting-edge science and a race against the clock to find new treatments in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as superbugs.
Range by David Epstein ($16.89)
Here’s a little known fact. My talented co-worker, and former National Health teacher of the Year, Andy Horne went to school with the author of this book. Andy raved about this book when it first came out and if it’s anything like Epstein’s The Sports Gene, I’m going to find this very accessible and applicable to my teaching, and parenting.
Pushing back against the idea that specialization should be encouraged from an early age (thank you sports coaches!), a closer look at research on the world’s top performers, from professional athletes to Nobel laureates, shows that early specialization is the exception, not the rule.
As a father of two young children who are showing promise in certain sports and academic areas, I am keen to stop them from sticking comfortably with what they can do best, but to seek out new areas in which initial failure is highly likely. Range makes a “compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency” and hopefully will help me better explain to friends and coaches why I will not follow the trend of signing my young kids up for ‘elite’ sports programs.
No More Rubbish Excuses by Martin Dorey ($11.70)
Ironically this book from the author of the #2minutebeachclean is my current beach read. Yes, that means that I’m juggling at least three books right now, but this is one of those books that you can pick up, find inspiration or a good idea, and then put it down until next time.
Last year I read No. More. Plastic by the same author and it has acted as a gentle nudge to reduce my plastic footprint ever since. No. More. Rubbish. Excuses. from environmental campaigner Martin Dorey looks at what we recycle, what we throw away, what we dump – plastics, food, clothing, electrical items and furniture – where it goes and what it really does to our planet. We talk about environmental wellness in health class and it’s important that students can see beyond putting items in the recycling, and carrying a fillable water bottle. These are a start, but there are so many more simple, impactful ways – #2minutesolutions – to reduce their waste and this book illustrates why they can make a big difference.
They Can’t Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery ($24.30)
Any time a social justice book is recommended to me I add it to this ever-growing list. Bizarrely, this book was listed at less than $3 on Amazon recently, and so I snapped it up.
I need to read this book, and not just to keep the names of Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown alive. With the issue of policing and its funding likely to stay in the headlines until November, this book offers a historically informed look at the standoff between the police and those they are sworn to protect, showing that civil unrest is just one tool of resistance in the broader struggle for justice.
Black Man in a White Coat by Damon Tweedy M.D ($14.95)
This is another of the books on my social justice reading list, and I am certain that there will be much in here that will help me improve my teaching of race and health. A few years ago I read Race, Ethnicity and Health by Thomas LaVeist which provided a historical and political context for the study of health, race, and ethnicity and gave me the courage to talk about race in health class.
Black Man in a White Coat is both a straightforward memoir; and a thoughtful, painfully honest, multi-angled, constant self-interrogation about the author and about the health implications of being black in a country where blacks are more likely than other groups to suffer from, for instance, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney failure and cancer.
When we return to school I am determined to ensure that my students understand the inequity and disparity that exists in relation to health, and that they feel confident enough to speak up about it.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones ($18.39)
As you can imagine, the books are starting to pile up around my house, and one way to overcome that is to pre-order a copy of what has been described as ‘One of 2020’s buzziest horror novels’. I’ve read some amazing reviews of the book, including one from Tommy Orange (please tell me you’ve read his book There, There!). Like Orange, the award-winning and prolific Stephen Graham Jones is a Native American author and has been described as the Jordan Peele of horror literature.
Some of the books listed above are books that I need to read to better myself, and some are books I’m reading for pleasure. My favorite fiction genre is crime, but the premise of this book intrigues me. “Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.”
I’ve already checked out the book discussion questions in anticipation.
Whenever I reach out to my PLN for book suggestions I receive a wealth of great ideas. I have collated these into a Twitter moment and you can check the link and get lost among a long list of essential reads.
Other reading lists from which you might find inspiration:
UC Berkeley has a cool summer reading list for new students with their theme this year being Connections.
2020 Summer Reading List from We’re The People. A curated summer reading list that celebrates diversity and all its intersections.
The Great American Read downloadable checklist of 100 great books.
20 Books to Read This Summer from the Washington Post.
Summer Reading Book Review from the New York Times.
Please share what books you plan on reading this summer on social media or in the comments section below.
If you’re interested in what I’m listening to right now, here’s my 2020 playlist of songs that have caught my eye/ear this year to date.