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Our Book Picks This Summer
"The Invention of Wings," Sue Monk Kidd
From Eileen Campbell, IJM Senior Director of Advocacy and Mobilization
For my birthday this year, my colleague, Holly Burkhalter, gave me the book "The Invention of Wings," by Sue Monk Kidd, a novel inspired by the real-life sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimke. The Grimke sisters were born in South Carolina to a slaveholding family, but went on to become two of the most influential and widely recognized abolitionists of the 19th century. This story imagines the relationship between Sarah Grimke and the slave-girl named Hettie who Sarah’s parents gifted her with when she turned 11. Historical accounts tell us that Sarah taught Hettie how to read, but that Hettie died shortly after this was discovered. Sue Monk Kidd imagines the life Hettie might have led, and the story bounces back and forth between their two perspectives of life in the American south, where both fight to maintain their dignity amidst the harsh reality of slavery and the oppression of women. The book draws you in immediately to the complexity of their relationship and a parallel desire to be free.
"Wonder," R.J. Palacio
From Brittany Vergara, IJM Alumni Relations Manager
I have yet to read a book that makes me want to cheer on the main character and hug everyone in the book so they know how much I think they’re wonderful, as I have in this book. "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio is about a little boy going to school for the very first time as a 5th grader. Because of a facial deformity that has kept him in the hospital and back and forth from the doctors for his entire life, his first day at school is when he enters the 5th grade. The book is written in the voice of Auggie and his first experience with teachers, bullies and how he and his family learn to embrace the kindness of new friends and engage the world of uncertainty and sleep-away camp. My facial expressions while reading this book would go from a beaming smile to tears of sadness and joy. Reading about the strength of a 5th grader who is dramatically and visibly different from everyone else is inspiring and hopeful.
"The Circle," Dave Eggers
From Nathan King, IJM Field Organizer, East
Earlier this summer, a good friend lent me the novel "The Circle," by Dave Eggers, which tells the story of a 20-something named Mae Holland. Mae joins a powerful Internet company, eager to make a name for herself in the competitive tech industry. She quickly rises through the ranks of the Circle. Eventually, she becomes “transparent” – wearing a camera that broadcasts her every second to millions of followers live on social media. Mae’s company is working to create a world in which anonymity and privacy are no more – transparency is the greatest good. As a millennial who basically lives and breathes through the Internet, I was fascinated by Eggers’ fable-like critique of the World Wide Web. And it made me wonder how our individual identities can now be wrapped up in contributions to social networks. This book is an entertaining way to frame on-going cultural debates about privacy, surveillance, and information sharing. It’s kind of like a lighter-hearted, digitally-oriented version of George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four!
"All the Light We Cannot See," Anthony Doerr
From Kate Case, IJM Field Organizer, West
My go-to this summer has been "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, which tells two paralleling stories of a six-year-old French girl who has recently lost her sight, and a young German orphan boy who is recruited by Hitler Youth. The writing is beautiful and the way the characters develop and grow despite being being thrown into WWII provides a new window into lives affected by the war. Highly recommend this book!
"Lean Startup," Eric Ries
From Rene Vazquez, Field Organizer, Southeast
This summer, I was encouraged by a professor to read the "Lean Startup" by Eric Ries. Interestingly, Ries defines a startup as an “organization dedicated to creating something [anything] new under conditions of extreme uncertainty." That definition really stuck with me because IJM is constantly navigating this tension. It is true that over the past 20 years IJM has created processes and operating models that are well defined and very successful. However, when we step out of those prescribed models and apply ourselves to the creation of new initiatives, we always find ourselves in increasingly unstable environments. If you, like me, love starting new things, read this book. You won’t regret it.
"Rising Strong," Brené Brown
From Lindsey Williams, Field Organizer, Midwest
I’m a huge Brené Brown fan, ever since I watched her first TED talk when she famously said “vulnerability breeds vulnerability.” Her latest book, "Rising Strong" is about this premise: if we are brave enough often enough, we will fall; when we fall, how we get back up and own our story is one of the bravest things we can do. I love this for so many reasons, but what struck me the most is how we often try to bury our falls or disown the difficult moments in the story-arc of our lives in an attempt to appear whole or acceptable. But when we embrace and integrate the falls in our lives, we become more whole and free to take bigger risks and live a braver life. I can’t recommend this book enough, especially for people like you who are tackling big issues in this world that require whole and free people to be brave.
"The Night Circus," Erin Morgenstern
From Clara Campbell, Advocacy and Mobilization Communications Manager
One of my favorite reads this summer was one of the most stimulating and verbally rich books I've ever enjoyed. "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern takes place around the turn of the century—a time of great development and change across the scientific, political and cultural spheres. Amidst the enchanting scene of the people, tents and mysteries of The Night Circus, Morgenstern masterfully unfolds a story that pries at the secret to meaning in life, challenges our conceptions of reality and ignites our imaginations through haunting characters and a spell-binding tale. Get this book on your shelf—or go for the Audiobook version, like I did, and let Jim Dale read you a story.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack beind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
—Prospero, in Shakespeare's "The Tempest"
Did you read a book this summer that really inspired you? Tell us! Tweet us @FreedomCommons.