On My Nightstand
by Glennon Doyle
This is one of those books that, if it resonates with you, will leave its mark. On the surface it is about love and marriage and kids—things most of us can relate to; there are plenty of laughs and all-too-familiar tear-jerking moments along the story’s beautiful rollercoaster.
Beneath the surface, the book contains poignant messages about how we show up in the world, in our careers, in our relationships. It makes us think about how we manage the fine balance of truly knowing ourselves with deciding how much of our true self should be known to the world, and the rewards and consequences that come with these decisions. Love Warrior is about being a mother, a wife, a sibling, a daughter, a friend. But most importantly, it is about being, and knowing, oneself.
Cheryl Weiner Rosenberg
by Nathan Hill
This is the story of an English professor and unsuccessful writer who spends his free time escaping the pains and loneliness of his life in the fantasy world of a video game. With two boys at home currently obsessed with playing Xbox, I was intrigued that the main character, Samuel Andersen-Anderson, escaped reality through the game. Like many parents, I wonder about how much time on Xbox or any other gaming device is too much, and what long-term impact this will have on them.
Samuel’s dreary life is interrupted with the news that the mother who abandoned him as a child, and who he has not spoken too since then, has become an overnight media sensation by throwing rocks at a presidential candidate. Her attorney bids Samuel to come to her aid, which stirs many emotional triggers and unanswered questions. Over the course of the novel, Samuel goes on a search to understand how his mother ended up here, in Chicago and in the news. The story he uncovers weaves between Chicago in the 1960s and New York during the Great Recession, connecting pieces of his mother’s life and his own.
The book’s many subplots all tie together to build a complex story of human resilience. The story caused me to reflect upon the history we may know or not know about our family. It led me to think differently about how as parents, our influence over our children, the behavior we model and decisions we make, shape who they become and how they live their lives.
What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers Across America
by Ted Dintersmith
What if you could visit every single Jewish day school in North America? Imagine how much you could learn, and what lessons you would glean from your tour. In a recent conversation with a head of school, we discussed what it is like to walk through the halls of another school. What you see on the walls is just as informative as what you see on the faces of the students and teachers. Having the opportunity to observe another school, not only hearing about its educational vision but seeing it in action, is something all school leaders should do as often as possible.
If you don’t have a sabbatical coming, then good news: Ted Dintersmith has done it for you. Spending a year visiting schools throughout the country, Dintersmith records his observations and offers incredible insights. His main message is that students thrive in environments where they develop PEAK: Purpose, Essentials, Agency and Knowledge. Each site visit includes a window into the educational vision of each school, and the firsthand experience of administrators, teachers, students and parents. The book is a tour through the good and the bad—and is packed with excellent ideas to try out in your own school.
All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel slowly weaves together the lives of two young people on opposing sides during WW II: a blind French girl living with her widowed father in Paris, and a German boy who lives with his sister in an orphanage in the western part of Germany. Each struggles with their own unique set of challenges and circumstances during this most deadly of times. Once I fully entered their worlds, I was taken with both the author’s language and imagery, both descriptive (the sea, the sky, precise replicas of an entire town) and harsh (the ravages of war).
The wonder and power of radio communication plays a key role in the story and transported me to another time and place, a simpler one before our ubiquitous technological connectivity. It is through this sensory experience that the stories of these two people converge. Beautifully written and compelling, particularly the last 100 pages, this book will heighten all your senses and leave you with powerful messages to consider, as the theme of good versus evil is integrated with the realities of individual resolve, bravery, fate and moral ambiguity.