It was a crazy busy summer, but I got some good reading in and I hope you did too!
The first book I finished this summer was Alone, the middle installment of William Manchesters trilogy biography of Winston Churchill. It is beautifully written and felt gripping. This is the eight years where Churchill is at the least powerful of his adult years, and he’s basically the one man in England arguing to stand up against Hitler. Manchester deftly weaves Churchill’s famous oratory, meticulously researched background, and broader extensions together - highly recommend :) One of my favorite lines was a speech to Parliament in which Churchill said, “We cannot say ‘the past is past’ without surrendering the future.” The book ends with Churchill being appointed PM right before Dunkirk, which I’m also excited to see soon, but this managed to be more gripping than it had any right to be.
The biggest book here I’ve only thumbed through, but it’s one of those books where every paragraph is helpful, thoughtful, satisfying- I love it. Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson is nothing more and nothing less than a balanced emotional/rational guide to everything in a home. Reading this book will help me take care of the home Jessica and I bought this summer (!!!), help me feel like I can do so the right way and, maybe, even be excited to do so because I understand why it’s important. Especially being socialized as a male to not seek out and attack domestic cleaning in a structured way, I’ve found this book invaluable.
Harlem Hellfighters is a graphic novel by Max Brooks, who wrote the excellent World War Z. (I haven’t seen the movie but hear it shares nothing except the title. WWZ is truly great - imaginative, provocative, and quite grounded. Brooks took the Turkel oral history approach and turned it to fiction quite well.) Some nice art and a positive story, if you aren’t familiar, of a decorated all-black WWI battalion. This is a subject we don’t get into in APUSH for time, so it will be nice to show a slide from this book to hint at other readings students can do.
The Design of Everyday Things is a book I’ve always seen casually mentioned and it had some very interesting points about intentionality, accessibility, and accountability but overall didn’t quite live up to the hype. I’ve enjoyed considering how I can incorporate some of the concepts (especially affordances and feedback) into my classroom.
Twitter’s favorite historian (and Yale professor) Joanne Freeman edited “The Essential Hamilton,” a collection of his writings from St. Croix up until and after Burr. It’s nice to have so much of the writing together, but the real gem here is Dr. Freeman’s “users guide” which syncs well with the APUSH analytical framework, and I’m looking forward to using that this year.
I reread Tesla’s mid-life biography “my inventions” which was fun and bonkers.
Princeton’s summer reading is “What is Populism?” which I enjoyed and will be able to use talking about the Populist Party (which, weirdly, Muller argues is not really populism) and Jackson. Muller’s key claim is that Populism is about arguing a subgroup is the only “real” members of a populace, that their will can be simply discerned and implemented, and that authoritarian means are accepted and even encouraged implicitly by those within the subgroup.
Finally read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” which completely lived up the hype. Mrs. Thomasch and I will be doing a short collaboration between Sociology and AP Bio with this text this year :)
I wasn’t able to read too much leading up to my trip to Iceland, but I did pick up the most recent book by one of their more famous authors (who has been translated), Sjon. “Moonstone: the boy who never was” was interesting but a bit too magical-realism-y for me. As you can tell, I didn’t read a lot of fiction this year. One fiction book I did read and enjoy was Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn, a canonical prequel to the now-non-canonical Thrown trilogy of Star Wars books. Zahn does some good stuff, and this was a delightful mix of familiar and new characters. Fun beach read.
The last book I’m reading this summer is the irresistibly titled “Black Privilege” by Charlamagne Tha God. Charlamagne argues worrying about societal inequalities is counterproductive and makes a rather beautiful, if unceasingly foul, argument for stoic self-control and action. He argues against “your dreams,” calling himself a “demotivational speaker” who will be the first to tell anyone if they show no promise on their path, because that can help them get on the right path. The content is pretty good but it’s hard to live up to such an exceptional, provocative title.
The book I’ll take the most from was “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet can tell us about who we really are.” This book is similar to Dataclysm in that it really shows the direction sociology is headed, but being a few years later it is drawing on broader datasets. Dataclysm works well in a high school class because so much of it is based on OKCupid data, so there are interesting tie-ins to relationships, and Everybody Lies goes even further. I basically highlighted every page of this book, and will be spending the last week before school starts transcribing those notes and incorporating them back into my favorite class to teach, sociology!
I hope you took some time this summer to read books to help you grow, read books to build you as a person, to expand your horizons and solidify your foundations. I loved the books I was able to read and hope they can make me a better teacher for you!