#summerreads 2021

After a school year that challenged me more than any other, and brought me close to exhaustion, I closed my laptop (shed a tear) and turned my attention towards a summer of self-care. In addition to quality family time, listening to music, and riding my Peloton, reading is one of my favorite acts of self-care, and summertime is my favorite time to read. Not only does reading boost my brain health, it’s also an opportunity for me to devote quiet time to myself, usually early in the morning but also late at night.

Over the past few years I have shared my #summerreads list of books that I attempt to complete before the return to school. With the past 18 months proving to be so very challenging, 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 eventual 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 amazing book list suggestions from other sites. There WILL be something in this blog post for everybody.

MOVE! by Caroline Williams ($20.19)

Frustratingly only available on pre-order in the US (unless you order from overseas, or you (ahem) happen to have gone to college with the author), this is a book that I’m really excited to read. Author and journalist Caroline Williams’ new book is getting much praise on both sides of the Atlantic. Move! explores the emerging science of how movement opens up a hotline to our minds and reveals how core strength is linked to stress control, why stretching tackles the mood-sapping effects of an overactive immune system, what dance can do for our emotional literacy, why physical strength translates into emotional resilience…and more. This might be the contemporary text that I’ve been looking for to complement Spark and The Joy of Movement.

You can hear Caroline talking with my co-worker Jim Davis in this awesome Good Athlete podcast episode.

MARCH: Book One by John Lewis ($8.50)

This is a book that will likely be read by each member of my family. My wife is partaking in a book study this summer and March is one of the featured books, and I’ve been wanting to read this before passing it on to my 9 year old son.

Part of a trilogy, Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

“Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.”

I never read graphic novels in my youth, but am eager to check some out, particularly as they are popular with my students. I am also eager to see if this book is a good way to introduce and encourage more conversations about race and social justice.

The Sum of All of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee ($17.98)

Shout out to my school for providing faculty with a free copy of this book by Heather McGhee, who you might know from her awesome TED talk.

The Sum of Us is a brilliant analysis of how we arrived here: divided and self-destructing, materially rich but spiritually starved and vastly unequal. McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism’s costs, but at the heart of the book are the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America, including white supremacy’s collateral victims: white people themselves.”

I’ll binge some of the books I have chosen to read this summer, but following the recommendation of one online reviewer, I’ll let this book be a slow-burn, allowing each chapter to sit with me a while before moving on to the next one. I think there will be much in this book that I’ll be able to weave into my health class discussions next year.

Listen to an audio sample of the book here.

Klara and the Sun: A Novel by Kazuo Ishiguro ($16.80)

I get my reading inspiration from a number of different sources, and this book made it’s way onto my #summerreads list via a recommendation from Kelly McGonigal. She has a book club on Literati called the The Joy Collective in which she chooses monthly books to “help you discover actionable strategies to bring more joy, compassion, and resilience into your life”. Her first book choice is Klara and the Sun.

Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her.

Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?”

Listen to an audio sample of the book here.

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Enquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger ($11.79)

Some of my book choices I’ve bought new, some are used copies courtesy of eBay, and a couple are from my awesome local library. This book however has been staring at me for a few years from my bookshelf and I promised myself I’d eventually get to it. I spend a lesson each semester teaching my students how to ask better questions but somehow I feel like there’s so much more I can learn. I’m hoping this book has the answers.

I tell my students to ask the questions that we don’t yet have the answers to.

“Questioningdeeply, imaginatively, “beautifully”–can help us identify and solve problems, come up with game-changing ideas, and pursue fresh opportunities”. This book reveals that even though children start out asking hundreds of questions a day, questioning “falls off a cliff” as they enter school. In an education culture devised to reward rote answers over challenging inquiry, questioning isn’t encouraged–and, in fact, is sometimes barely tolerated”.

Wish me luck as I find out how to ask a more beautiful question.

Fifty Years of Hurt by Henry Winter ($9.36)

This is the first book from my list that I will complete. The pandemic has meant that I haven’t seen my parents in a few years and their planned trip to visit me was canceled. Perhaps I’m feeling a little home sick. Perhaps Euro 2020 has got me feeling hopeful for a English football success. Whatever the reason, I’m already loving this book as it dives deep into the many reasons why England has been unable to emulate the success of the 1966 World Cup winning team.

Perhaps it’s the Academies, the proliferation of international players, the greed of rich clubs, the style of play or the inability to win a penalty shoot out. Perhaps it’s none of that. Written in 2016, some of the predicted hopefuls from 2016 have fallen by the wayside.

Whatever the answer, I’m enjoying the interviews with ex-players and coaches, and hearing the reflections from the footballing idols of my youth.

Sing after me – It’s coming home, it’s coming home. Football’s coming home.

The Sports Gene : Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein ($14.49)

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. Epstein’s latest book, Range, was on my list last year, but this summer I want to return to this book from 2013 and re-read it through a contemporary lens.

The Sports Gene explores the question of nature versus nurture as it pertains to training for athletes in sports using anecdotes which favor both sides of the argument. These anecdotes are combined with the results of statistical studies to give the reader an understanding of the magnitude that biology plays in athletics. Topics such as the effects of gender, race, genetics, culture, and physical environment are discussed as contributors to success in specific sports.

Will I find out the answers to the question “Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?”

Listen to David Epstein talk about the book in this Art Of Manliness Podcast episode.

Small Move, Big Change by Caroline Arnold ($9.50)

For a few years I have been fascinated with the concept of micro actions and how small inconspicuous changes in our behavior can lead to greater changes in our lives over time. There is increasing research on the idea that small, repeated actions can lead to major changes, and these ‘keystone‘ actions (Charles Duhigg. The Power of Habit) often require little time and effort.

The YOU app is a fine example of using these actions. I have used the app and support their claim that “Small changes, done daily, can lead to big results. 1+1+1+ … = A LOT.” Small micro-actions are suggested daily and you choose to take action, or not. By posting images of your action your images are seen by the YOU community and together you gently cajole each other towards a healthier you.

Making your bed in the morning, switching your coffee to half-caffeine, pausing to think about your food before eating, making a charitable donation, giving someone a compliment….these are all small steps towards to a healthier, happier you.

I’ll be reading Small Move, Big Change as part of my research into a project that I’ve had burning away in the back of my brain for the past year. I want to identify micro-actions related to the 10 Dimensions of Wellness that students can embrace in order to boost their overall wellness. Working with students to crowd-source ideas I aim to package these ideas together in a way to inspire students to be more conscious of their health behaviors.

Watch Caroline Arnold talk about the ideas in the book.

A Classless Society by Alwyn Turner ($20.54)

Did I mention that I might be feeling homesick? Perhaps that explains why I’ve been listening to my Brit Pop playlist on repeat for the last few months. Perhaps that also explains why I want to dive into A Classless Society and revisit Britain the 1990’s, my formative years, the years in which I finished university and entered the teaching professions.

625 pages of modern history, opening with a war in the Gulf and ending with the attacks of 11 September 2001, A Classless Society goes in search of the decade when modern Britain came of age. What it finds is a nation anxiously grappling with new technologies, tentatively embracing new lifestyles, and, above all, forging a new sense of what it means to be British.

I loved the 90’s and have many fond memories from that decade, but I wonder if I’ll still feel the same way having revisited and reflected upon them while reading this book.

Loved Oasis and Blur? You’ll love my Brit Pop playlist on Spotify.

Other reading lists from which you might find inspiration:

34 of the Best Beach Reads of 2021 from Oprah Magazine.

The 20 Best Books of Summer 2021 from Esquire Magazine.

UC Berkeley has a cool summer reading list for new students with their theme this year being “Lift Our Gazes”.

2021 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.

24 Books to Read This Summer from the New York Times.

Race, Racism and Rebellion, an essential, and ever-growing collated list of social justice reads.

The Slowchathealth Books of the Month. See what books have been recommended by the blog over the last few years.

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 2021 playlist of songs that have caught my eye/ear this year to date.

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