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Summer Reading Recommendations Part 3: Learning Ally Staff

Categories: Blind or Visually Impaired, General, General

Compiled by: Kristen Witucki, College Success Program Curriculum and Content Editor

The College Success Program decided to put together a summer reading list so that we could encourage our students and each other to gravitate toward good books we've either read or plan to read. I've recently learned about enough great books to start a blog series! I have to admit that hearing about the many recommended books leads me to feel almost frozen by the thought of all the books I might not get to! We hope these book lists will help give you a sense of who we are and our program, and also offer some reading entertainment for everyone! For the third and fourth parts of our blog series we asked Learning Ally staff from across the organization to contribute their favorite books. As you may already know, the College Success Program is a very tiny part of Learning Ally, a mission-driven non-profit which works to ensure that teachers have the tools to deliver high-quality reading products to their students with visual, learning or physical disabilities. Our solutions have grown from the audiobook, so naturally our company is full of bookworms. On Zoom, the platform we use to carry out our work, our Literature and Audiobook Experience Lead, Alexis (pronounced Alexie) created A Place to Talk Books. From that channel, I received more recommendations than I could possibly use - maybe that means I need to write a mini winter break reading list! But in any case, we hope these recommendations will get you started!

Please note: These books are not necessarily available in the Learning Ally catalog.

James, Leader of Process Redesign Analysis
I just finished Spying on the South by Tony Horwitz. He's one of my favorite authors. Sadly, he died just after this book was published. It's part history, part travelogue (as most of his books are). Germane to our times, Horwitz follows the trail of Frederick Law Olmstead. Olmstead traveled the south in the mid-1800s as a correspondent for the New York Times, reporting on the divide between the slave-holding south and the free north. Horwitz reports on the same cultural divide in our own time. It's illuminating and fun in equal measures.

I also recently read Sharon Salzberg's Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. I started it before the nightmare of 2020 got fully underway, and it turned out to be a good choice. This is based on her study of the Buddhist "divine abodes" meditations (brahamaviharas): Kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity.

Another five-star book for me recently was James McBride's The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother. The title is all you need to get interested in reading this beautiful memoir. This is the second nonfiction book of McBride's that I've read; I've got to read some of his fiction.

On the lighter side, I had to read Caitlin Doughty's new book: Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death. Doughty is terrific, and this book was a fun, quick read, not just for children. That said, her first book, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (And Other Lessons from the Crematory), is my favorite of hers. She also has a channel on YouTube called "Ask a Mortician".

And what I'm looking forward to in the summer? I like to read genre fiction, graphic novels, and other lighter fare in the summertime. I just reread some P.G. Wodehouse, because I needed some silliness. I'm looking forward to reading something by sci-fi author N.K. Jemisin; probably her new novel The City We Became. I already read the second of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad novels (The Likeness); I'll probably continue going through Walter Mosley's detective novels, too (next up: White Butterfly). I'm fond of Gilbert Hernandez's graphic novel work, and since many of his books are on my library's Hoopla service, I'll probably read one or more of them.

Sharon, Inside Sales Representative
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
This book was recommended to me by more than one person. It was heartwarming, educational and funny (plus, the author's lilting voice! I love to hear a story in the author's voice.)


Terrie, National Director, Educator Engagement and Initiatives
I'm into self-help books so my recommendations fall in that world:

Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo

15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell

Stacie, Community Lead; Virtual Books Project Admin
The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff
This book is fascinating if only because of the way it was organized. Instead of going through one person's experience, and then another's, the author goes in chronological order, covering multiple people's experiences all at once. It's really an amazing book.

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde; translated by Diane Oatley
One of the best books I read back in 2017. Lunde uses clean prose to tell the interlinked stories of three families over three centuries and how bees affect them and the world around them.

Shtum by Jem Lester
This story of relationships, family history, and autism shines with the love and humor that can come only through personal experience.

The Last Cowboys of San Geronimo by Ian Stansel
A quiet little book with a lot to say about relationships. Beautiful writing, and an interesting story with a twist at the end.

The Tenth Island by Diana Marcum
I expected sappy chick lit, but it was so much more. I learned a lot about the Azores, Azorean communities in the U.S. and journalism. It's a terrific book.

All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella's Stepmother by Danielle Teller
A wonderfully written and greatly imaginative retelling of the Cinderella story from the point of view of her stepmother.

Austral by Paul McAuley
One of the best near-times sci-fi books I've read since The Girl With All The Gifts (which was SO much better than the movie). Wow. A terrific story, well-written; I will definitely look for other books by this author.

The Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig
A wonderful, heartwarming coming-of-age story centered on an eleven-year-old who rolls with the punches and takes his fate into his own hands.

The Broken Circle: A Memoir of Escaping Afghanistan by Enjeela Ahmadi-Miller
Ahmadi-Miller tells the story of the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan in the late 1970s and early 1980s through the eyes of a young girl. Her family's experience was harrowing and heartbreaking, but with moments of joy and continued hope. A truly compelling autobiography.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land
What I expected: a somewhat whiny, very PC tale of the terrible lives of cleaning ladies. What I got: a very well-written, thought-provoking memoir about the author's experiences as an uneducated single mother trying to keep her child safe and healthy (and get an education for herself) while living an existence bound by the crazy rules of our labyrinthine welfare system. I really think everyone would benefit from reading this book.

Looking for more reading inspiration? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series or browse the Learning Ally Audiobooks. And, check back in the coming weeks for Part 4, the final blog in this series!