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June 21, 2021

HU Summer 2021 Reading List

Summer is officially here where we are and for many, that means summer reading! We asked our staff about the books that most inspired them this past year. Below, you’ll find a list of all types of books that have captivated us in one way or another. We hope this list inspires you to join us in reading and learning something new this summer.

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country
, by Amanda Gorman (2021)

“This book was absolutely captivating; Amanda Gorman never misses. You could feel the soul and depth of her words through every poem, and every page of the book. She truly embraces and embodies where we are as a country in this moment and what the future, and past, bring to the journey.”

-Betel Hailu, Associate Program Manager, Policy & Communications


Fire in Paradise: An American Tragedy, by Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano (2020)

“This book tells the story (actually multiple stories) of the 2018 Camp Fire that devastated the town of Paradise, California. It’s also a warning about the effects of climate change, and it offers a tough but important picture of the local impacts of this global reality.”

-Tim Isgitt, Managing Director


The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee (2021)

“This is one of those books that you want to re-read right after your finish it. It is a history lesson, astute economic analysis, and social commentary rolled into one and presented in an easily accessible, storytelling format. The author clearly lays out what we lose as a society when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm fueled by racism. She supports her arguments with insights from her professional journey as an expert in economic and social policy, and her personal journey as a Black woman who grew up on the South Side of Chicago.”

-Srik Gopal, Managing Partner


Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews, by Arthur Taylor (1993)

“Most of the required reading of the past couple of years has been around addressing structural injustice. Perhaps because of this, I keep coming back to this beautiful collection of conversations between jazz musicians, some of the world’s greatest experts in navigating structure through improvisation, finding harmony in self-expression, and just being cool and playing nicely with one another.”

-Stephen Wicken, Senior Manager, Peacebuilding


Educated, By Tara Westover (2018)

“This book had me completely gripped from beginning to end. Author Tara Westover was born to a survivalist family in a small mountain town in Idaho. Isolated and unconventional, she did not set foot into a classroom until she was seventeen years old. This powerful memoir details Tara’s exceptional upbringing, and weaves through the complexities that come with the universal experience of finding one’s self apart from everything ever known. Despite many hurdles, Tara’s hunger for education takes her on a journey that changes her life forever.”

-Sharla Mittone, Communications Manager


When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father’s War and What Remains, by Ariana Neumann (2020)

“In this dramatic memoir, Ariana Neumann, who grew up in Venezuela as the daughter of a successful and highly cultured industrialist, searches through the past for the true story of her family’s survival in World War II. Her father, already fifty when Ariana was born, suffered nightmares, and repaired intricate pocket watches as a way to “stretch time.” Yet he never revealed to Ariana the full extent of the trauma that had preceded his life in Venezuela. Upon his death, in researching a box of photographs her father left for her, Ariana discovers an astonishing family history of survival in Czechoslovakia and Berlin, during and after the Third Reich. Her father, a Jewish Czech chemist and poet manqué, assumed a new identity and fled to Berlin, hiding in plain sight as a worker at a Nazi-run industrial paint factory. His story is intertwined with the fates of his parents, siblings, cousins and friends, all of whom used ingenious and desperate strategies to survive Hitler’s reach. The memoir is not only a brilliant reconstruction of a lost generation, but a lyrical, intelligent, and highly compassionate reflection on the nature of time, trauma, and identity.”

-Melanie Greenberg, Managing Director, Peacebuilding


The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization, by Peter Coleman (2021)

“A compelling and comprehensive gathering of the latest research on deep polarization, with a primary focus on the U.S. that drills down on what toxic polarization does. The brilliant part of the book are the concrete steps suggested for how we face the toxicity in everyday local and national life, filled with examples and relevant stories.”

-John Paul Lederach, Senior Fellow


The Ratline, by Philippe Sands (2020)

“From the author of “East-West Street,” this book investigates the life and mysterious death of Nazi fugitive Otto Wachter, four years after the end of World War II. While it reads like a classic whodunit, “The Ratline” also explores themes central to humanity – love, denial, acceptance, friendship – as well as the inter-generational impacts of violence, atrocities, and choosing to see others as something less than fully human.”

-Tim Isgitt, Managing Director


The Age of Intoxication: Origins of the Global Drug Trade, by Benjamin Breen (2019)

“As someone who works on supply chains, often we focus on the formal economy at the expense of informal and illicit trades. In this book, Breen goes deep into the origin of the global drug trade—particularly bringing into focus how the British and Portuguese empires played a part in the era before a strict divide between drugs and pharmacology. It’s a fascinating look not just at the history of what we’ve come to know as drugs, but also the genealogy of drug and medicinal culture in the West.”

-Ryan Heman, Senior Manager, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking


Zen Speaks: Shouts of Nothingness, by Tsai Chih Chung, translated by Brian Bruya (1994)

“This had been an annual read of mine when I was in my 20s, but I hadn’t picked it up in quite a while… until 2020 happened and I found myself needing some help staying grounded. It’s a book of adorably-drawn comic strips illustrating many of the most poignant zen koans. Like all things zen, the more surface you strip away the more deeply you see, and it is a breath of fresh air to see Tsai Chih Chung’s delightful images taking the place of the walls of text found in many books on zen. It’s very light, very quick, and very deep – a perfect summer read.”

-Aaron McQuade, Communications Manager


Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell (2020)

“Hamnet tells the story of William Shakespeare and his wife, Ann, after the death of their beloved son from the Plague. The fictional “Hamlet” is believed to be a reflection on Shakespeare’s dead son, Hamnet, and this novel brings that idea to stunning life. The story of their marriage, and Shakespeare’s rise to creative prominence overshadowed by grief, is all told from the point of view of Ann, a brilliant narrator who weaves all of nature into her embrace of life and love. The language is some of the richest and most lyrical I have read in any novel, and the ending will knock you completely off your feet.”

-Melanie Greenberg, Managing Director, Peacebuilding


Thank you, Omu! by Oge Mora (2018)

“As an adult who has always spent excessive amounts of time in the children’s book section, it’s fitting that my three-year old and I share a current favorite, Oge Mora’s “Thank you, Omu.” Omu sets out to make herself a delicious stew for dinner but instead ends up sharing it with the entire neighborhood. It’s a fun read and these days, we could all use a lesson on kindness and gratitude.”

-Kehinde Togun, Senior Director, Policy & Government Relations


Birdie, by Tracey Lindberg (2015)

“This award-winning novel from my old Indigenous law professor is about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. I laughed alongside the tears as I was pulled along on Birdie’s darkly funny, heartbreaking, twisting journey towards healing.”

-Shea Loewen Lazarow, Associate General Counsel

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