5 Top Reads In 2018
When I went through the list of books and articles that I read last year, I had no idea how I was going to choose the top five. It took time, but I did narrow it down. While the following “top reads” seem vastly different from each other, they do share a common thread. Each is thought provoking with a unique perspective, and each one challenged the way I think, act or look at the world—something I think we need more of today. If you haven’t read them already, I highly recommend you add these to your reading list. And when you do, I’d love to hear from you.
“Winners Take All,” by Anand Giridharadas
This book critiques the recent trend of believing the business and business people are best suited to tackle global problems, particularly when they may have contributed to those problems in the first place. Giridharadas argues that one-off solutions (think a charter school or orphanage) are intended to maintain the status quo, and instead encourages a focus on systemic solutions, in which inequality is tackled by governments and global institutions.
What rocked my world: This book challenged me to think deeply about our work, how I speak about it, and the importance of placing our efforts in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. While we use a business focused solution to poverty, our work goes much deeper than that to focus on personal transformation. And, our strategy to scale SBS to impact one million women and the five million children they support will, in part, be through larger organizations. I met Anand this fall, and he said this was his favorite podcast on the book. Author’s site with book preview.
“Dignity: It’s Essential Role in Solving Conflicts,” by Donna Hicks
Recommended by my colleague and SBS Advisory Board member Carrie Hessler Radlet (the former head of the U.S. Peace Corps) this book explores how dignity is an inherent human quality, and how violations of dignity can lead to intractable conflict. Hicks also offers many examples of how focusing on restoring dignity is a key strategy to resolving current global conflicts.
What rocked my world: SBS is successful because we help women believe in themselves. This book helped me realize that the way we work with women goes beyond belief – is also about affirming their human dignity, and encouraging them to do the same with others. I recommended this book to a friend and he later told me it changed how he interacts with people every day. Read!
“Americanah,” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This beautiful and insightful novel tells the story of a Nigerian woman in America, her teenage sweetheart who ends up in London, and the immigrant experience through their eyes.
What rocked my world: I appreciated being able to see America from an immigrant’s point of view, with both opportunity and hardship. Having lived in Uganda for many years, and learning many of its cultural differences and idiosyncrasies, I could relate to some of the “Americanisms” that Adichie captured, and her portrayal of a vulnerable, but ultimately courageous, feminist heroine. I also recommend her Ted talk on Feminism! More on her website here
“Being Mortal,” by Atul Gawande
This book explores how poorly we handle the end of life in the U.S. We don’t like to talk about it, we certainly don’t plan for it, and Gawande highlights how even doctors struggle to have honest conversations with people who are in their last months or days of life. He also explores how most of our elder care facilities are like warehouses for old people, rather than communities that focus on dignity and the right of the elderly to make choices—especially during the last years of life.
What rocked my world: Together, my husband and I have seven parents or step-parents, including my father who has Parkinson’s, so this was a poignant and thought-provoking read as we deal with health issues and thinking about the years to come. If this is of interest to you there are also some great articles written here.
How America Lost its Mind, by Kurt Anderson
This article in the Atlantic Monthly traces how the U.S. has descended from a time where people across the political spectrum could agree on factual information, to our current collective mindset, where even facts seem subjective. It traces how the seeds of our current (lack of) conversation stems from the 1960s when the counter culture began to reject facts in favor of individual subjective experiences.
Why this should rock everyone’s world: This may be the most disturbing article I read all year. As a country, we must find a way to connect with people who have different perspectives and points of view, and be able to have respectful conversations to build understanding. How we can do this, if we can’t even agree on what is factual, is a big problem.