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Tip of the Week: Summer Reading List 2016

I’m not going to lie to you. It’s never easy but this year may be a bit rougher than normal.

Regular readers already know this – every summer since I finished my first year as a middle school US history teacher, I’ve had a summer reading list. A couple of very smart mentors suggested that I needed to take responsibility for my own professional growth and that reading for both work and pleasure during the slower summer months was a non-negotiable.

Best. Advice. Ever. And it’s was more than just a reading list – it’s more the idea that I needed to focus on continual improvement and the list was a practical way to make that happen. So . . . pick some books with content. Some with process. Some for fun. And start the fall semester smarter than when I left in the spring.

But this year could be tough. Both son and daughter are in the area and suggested that we do a summer family book group. Each of us pick a book, read it, discuss it, broaden the horizons. Great idea, right? Sure, who’s going to say no to that?

The problem is that I have never, not once, not ever, finished my own summer list. And the family book club idea just added four extra books that I can’t ignore to the list.


But I’m still creating the List. Cause . . . you know. It could happen. I could finish. I’m not kidding around this year.

The theme this summer? Politics and presidential elections.

spinRepublic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency
David Greenberg
Greenberg recounts the rise of the White House spin machine, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama. His sweeping, startling narrative takes us behind the scenes to see how the tools and techniques of image making and message craft work. We meet Woodrow Wilson convening the first White House press conference, Franklin Roosevelt huddling with his private pollsters, Ronald Reagan’s aides crafting his nightly news sound bites, and George W. Bush staging his “Mission Accomplished” photo-op. He also examines the profound debates Americans have waged over the effect of spin on our politics. Does spin help our leaders manipulate the citizenry? Or does it allow them to engage us more fully in the democratic project?

game changeGame Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime
John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
The story of the 2008 presidential election by two of the best political reporters in the country. In the spirit of Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes and Theodore H. White’s The Making of the President 1960, this classic campaign trail book tells the defining story of a new era in American politics, going deeper behind the scenes of the Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin campaigns than any other account of the historic 2008 election.

prez 1960The Making of the President 1960
Theodore White
The groundbreaking national bestseller and Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the 1960 presidential campaign and the election of John F. Kennedy. With this narrative history of American politics in action, Theodore White revolutionized the way presidential campaigns are reported. More than a fascinating account of how one man succeeded in reaching the White House, while other failed; it is a graduate lesson in the rough, relentless, subtle and devious workings of American politics. It is a magnificent job of reporting, but it is also history.

19441944: FDR and the Year That Changed History
Jay Winik
1944 witnessed a series of titanic events: FDR at the pinnacle of his wartime leadership as well as his reelection, the unprecedented D-Day invasion, the liberation of Paris, and the tumultuous conferences that finally shaped the coming peace. But just as the Allies were landing in Normandy, the Nazis were accelerating the killing of millions of European Jews. Winik shows how escalating pressures fell on an infirm Roosevelt, who faced a momentous decision. Was winning the war the best way to rescue the Jews? Or would it get in the way of defeating Hitler?

world and meBetween the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates
In a narrative that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men – bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son.

resonateResonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences
Nancy Duarte
Presentations are meant to inform, inspire, and persuade audiences. So why then do so many audiences leave feeling like they’ve wasted their time? All too often, presentations don’t resonate with the audience and move them to transformative action. I’m hoping that Resonate will help me make stronger connections with my audiences and lead them to purposeful action. The idea sounds simple: building a presentation should be more like writing a documentary than a speech.

hitler cocaineWhen Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain: History’s Unknown Chapters
Giles Milton
Obscure and addictive true tales from history and little-known stories from the past. There’s the cook aboard the Titanic, who pickled himself with whiskey and survived in the icy seas where most everyone else died. There’s the man who survived the atomic bomb in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Covering everything from adventure, war, murder and slavery to espionage, including the stories of the female Robinson Crusoe, Hitler’s final hours, Japan’s deadly balloon bomb and the emperor of the United States, this just looks too fun.

(Book descriptions from Amazon)

So what’s on your list? And what should I be reading instead of these?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tammy Waller #

    I loved Between the World and Me. So powerful. My daughter read it in her Senior English class and I read alongside with her. It sparked powerful conversations.

    June 10, 2016
    • glennw #


      I started it last week – you’re right. Powerful stuff.


      June 10, 2016

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