All the World's a Classroom
It’s the end of 2018, which means it’s time for the second installment of the best books I’ve read this year! Click here to see the first part of the list.
If you’re curious about all the books I’ve read in 2018, check out this page.
This book tells the chilling story of the insidious conspiracy to murder members of the Osage Nation in order to gain their wealth. The historical backdrop of the story is the apportioning of land to Native Americans across this country. In the early 1900s, it so happened that oil was discovered in the land owned by the Osage Nation, sending its members to unprecedented wealth and opulence. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed, many through poisoning. There were concerted efforts to rob the Osage of their power and money through legal, financial, or even familial measures.
The book’s narrative is anchored in the story of Mollie Burkhart, whose family members began to die one by one. It’s a tragic series of events that is part of this country’s history, one that also birthed the FBI.
I love this book because of the Asian voice and point of view, which is refreshing in the canon of American contemporary literature. The narrator of the book is a communist double agent, a man in between two worlds, one in which he’s immersed in the more Western, pro-American side of the Vietnam war, and the other in which he’s a dedicated communist. The duality of his personhood and identity is wonderfully explored in the book. And I have to say, it resonates a lot with the duality of identity that many immigrants face in America.
Bird by Bird is lauded by many podcasters I listen to. I’m glad I finally read it. Anne Lamott bestows upon us her deep wisdom in going through life, and especially in writing. Reading this book is like going to therapy. Personally, it helps me break through certain barriers and “internal filters” that I have allowed to constrain myself in writing and telling stories. It’s like Anne gives me the permission to do this. I’m still early on this journey, but I look forward to taking the next steps.
The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt is a recent publication that talks about significant cultural shifts in some American universities with regards to free speech. Yes, it deals with issues that are taking place on college campuses during the past few years (e.g,. disinviting controversial speakers, rioting to protest people with fringe ideas). But I think it illuminates a generational shift that is very much happening in the overall society. If you care, even remotely, about culture and sociology, this is a must read. It’s a chance to revisit what the role of education is all about, and what it means to have a marketplace of ideas.
Becoming is the best-selling book of the year, deservedly so, because Michelle Obama writes a beautiful and profound memoir. What I appreciate the most about this book is that the author isn’t “cashing out” of her status as the most popular former first lady. Instead, she goes deep. The book is deeply personal, deeply reflective, a testament to someone who has been self-aware of the development of her personhood for a long time. It is a book about identity, life-work, meaning, and passion. It is about a continual journey to become ourselves. I even get some professional counsels out of it, some I’ve never heard before in any other business/women empowerment space before. It’s such a worthy read!
Well, let me end this year with something light, but inspiring. If you follow Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets, they are just bursts of positivity. But also poetic. This book is a collection of his morning and evening tweets, with fun illustrations. It’s just simply delightful, perfect to say “Gnight” to 2018, and “Gmorning” to 2019.
Happy New Year! And see you in 2019!
To see the previous best-of lists, check out these links below:
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This post is part of the Favorite Children’s Books series.
This is the third installment of my favorite children’s books. Looking for Christmas gifts for your little ones? I think these books would make perfect gifts!
A particular theme that I love in children’s books, or in general, is turning mistakes or weaknesses into strengths. I’m a big fan of the message that encourages creativity to reframe seemingly negative experiences into positives. I know I need to hear this often, and it is never to early to instill this reframing skill in our kids.
By the way, some of the books recommended in my previous posts (here and here) are on sale on Amazon like Rosie Revere, Engineer and What Do You Do With An Idea . Also, use Honey to track price changes on books and everything else you’re shopping for. It’s great for the holiday season!
As usual, help me find more fantastic children’s books by commenting your favorites.
1. Beautiful Oops!
This one is an interactive book that shows you and your little ones how oopsies, like torn paper or a smear, can be turned into a beautiful creation. I love the message. And seeing the message illustrated visually just impresses the mind that much more.
2. The Pout-Pout Fish
In my house, this book guarantees a laugh from my son. For that alone, I’d read it a hundred times. But this too is a beautiful story about seeing ourselves in new light. As an added bonus, it also rhymes and rhythmic. I can’t get enough of books with rhythm!
3. The Book With No Pictures
True to the title, this book’s cover is not shown in this post’s picture (see above). Written by B.J. Novak of The Office, with mischief, this book makes you say whatever it says out loud, no matter how ridiculous. It’s a super fun read. Also guarantees a laugh.
4. Vegetables in Underwear
Nothing too deep here. But the pictures are funny. And I guess underwear is just funny.
Eraser is feeling invisible and unrecognized, because her job, though important, is invisible. She erases the mistakes of others. Again, it’s about finding your individuality, reframing weakness into strength.
What are your favorite children’s books? Shoot me your favorite titles!
Product links on this post are affiliate links, which means I get credits if you purchase products through them. Would appreciate it if you do!
This post contains affiliate links. If you join The Next Big Idea Club or purchase products through my links, I will earn a commission. Opinions are entirely my own.
Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been a member of The Next Big Idea Club, the nonfiction book subscription club curated by Susan Cain, Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink. Each quarter, a nice blue box arrives with two pristine hardcovers, plus other trinkets (e.g., book summaries, bookmarks, tote bag).
Keep reading to find out more about the club and my reflections on reading the selections so far. First, more details on The Next Big Idea Club.
How The Next Big Idea Club Works
There are three membership levels that you can choose from: Hardbacks, E-books, or Express Membership (you supply your own books). The club reads two books each quarter. Here’s the breakdown of the pricing:
|Membership Option||Billing Frequency||Cost/year*||Cost/quarter*||Equivalent Cost/month|
|*Bold face = actual amount billed|
The Hardbacks subscription—the one I have—comes with a free tote bag and a bonus book. And if you pay the annual fee, you get 10% off.
All of the subscriptions include:
- Access to video shorts by authors, reading guides, and author interviews for current and past seasons.
- Access to a Facebook community forum to interact with authors, curators, and attend live Q&A sessions.
- A donation to kids in under-resourced communities, in partnership with The Future Project.
- For a limited time, you also get one year of Business Insider PRIME ($99 value) included with your subscription.
If you want to check out the club before paying for a membership, you can get a 2-week trial with the Express Membership.
I’ve read 6 books with the club so far and these are the ways that The Next Big Idea Club (NBIC) has added value to my life.
Exposure to New Books and Ideas
As with any good book clubs, NBIC exposes me to book selections I wouldn’t necessarily read otherwise. I would submit that this is the highest value a book club could offer, as it expands the horizon of our reading diet (as opposed to just reading books that are already aligned with our pre-existing worldview).
I’ve appreciated the way NBIC has expanded my exposure to certain issues and ideas, the most impactful being the principles behind building modern-day movements in New Power and the issue on free speech on college campuses in Uncensored . I was always interested in social movements and campus life, but these books introduce new questions to probe, new challenges to push through, and new paths to consider, like the ones in the next two points.
Big Ideas Take Time
Here’s the thing about big ideas: They’re big.
They’re not easy life hacks that you can implement and get results in two days. They need to diffuse into our minds. Their essence and principles need to be extracted. And finally, they need to be tested in our real life applications.
All of this takes time.
Sure, there are actionable steps proposed in each of the book, but the full truth and power of the ideas are not going to manifest fully unless you apply them in a sustained manner over an extended amount of time.
Changing culture isn’t easy, building endurance definitely isn’t instant, creating movements and paving a career may take years, engaging in difficult conversations and learning are lifelong pursuits.
The span of big ideas is measured in lifetime.
Why the long timescale? Because the true work of implementing big ideas is difficult, which brings me to the next point.
From Analysis to Design
One thing emerges for me as I read through the books: With big ideas, there are the easy part and the hard part of the work.
The easy part: Reading the books, critiquing the ideas, and talking about them.
The hard part: Asking how the ideas would inform my life and work decisions, and putting them into practice.
The easy part: Thinking about other people who should read the books and implement the ideas.
The hard part: Reflecting on how I contribute to or hinder the progress to a better world, as proposed by the books.
The easy work is done at an analytical distance. The hard work is internal and will step on our toes.
For me, the question is, how do I move from being a recipient of these ideas to a contributor. From consumer to creator. From analyst to artist.
While discussing the Culture Code , I posed a question to someone who is in a position of power, “What are the ways you intentionally shape the culture of your company?” The person paused to reflect and said that the answer is not fully obvious right now.
I think often there’s disconnect between engaging intellectually with the ideas vs. bringing them to real life. And it’s always easier to apply them to other people.
This question of artistry and design is where NBIC is pushing me to go.
(By the way, NBIC is not without criticism—see this blog post by Diana Senechal, which relates to this and the last point. As a NBIC member, I think it’s incumbent on each person to assess the truth of the principles in their own life and work, and not get too wrapped up in the “bigness” or trendiness of the ideas.)
Community: Where Ideas Brew
Ideas need communities. Communities are where ideas incubate and evolve. For me, the most valuable aspect of NBIC is the community—both the existence and the quality—it fosters.
I have found the Facebook community to be an enlightening space where thoughts get exchanged in respectful and considerate ways (much needed these days).
But of course, nothing replaces the meeting of minds in flesh and blood. I’ve truly enjoyed the NBIC Meetup groups (shout out to Carrie Sheaffer for organizing the Denver Meetup) and spending time with people whose common preoccupation is learning.
Beyond the NBIC-labeled communities, though, I have been in many conversations with others who ask about the club, the books, and by extension, the subject matter of the books. In a way, being a member of NBIC helps me find my tribe in and out of the club. And for this, I am really grateful.
Does The Next Big Idea Club sound like something you’d like? Join or check out the free trial here: