College Preparatory School for Girls Grades 3-12

Head's Notes

Susanna A. Jones

I will confess that few things get me as excited as book lists. I eagerly anticipate these lists when they come out during the holidays and I'm fortunate to work in a profession where even the adults have summer reading lists. I thought I might share this passion with you, and offer up a summer reading list. This will be a combination of books I've already read, books I'm reading, and books I'd like to read this summer (a list always longer than I actually manage to get through). It might seem a little idiosyncratic, but hopefully that will make it all the more interesting. These are works, most of which I haven't written about, but which have had a lasting impact on my thinking.


Books Related to Parenting ( alphabetical order by author)

Lisa Damour, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls through the Seven Stages into Adulthood (2017)

Lisa has a PhD in psychology from Michigan and is a practicing psychologist specializing in adolescent girls. She is also a counselor at the Laurel School, a girls school in Shaker Heights, OH, very much like Holton, where she also serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Research on Girls. I have heard her speak a number of times, including twice at Holton. Her work is grounded in common sense and psychological research.

I urge everyone with a teenage girl, or who expects to have a teenage girl soon, to read Untangled. Damour breaks adolescence down into recognizable stages, in each stage describing what constitutes normal behavior and behavior that should cause a parent concern. While she avoids giving direct advice, she emphasizes the importance of meeting girls where they are, letting them be themselves, keeping lines of communication as open as possible, and remaining clear about and true to our own values. It's a readable, practical book

Julie Lythcott-Haims, How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success (2016)

Lythcott-Haims served for a number of years as Freshman Dean at Stanford, a role in which she observed close-hand the results of parenting as her students (and their parents) transitioned into college students. She became increasingly concerned about how unprepared she felt her students were for college and, more importantly, for the even greater independence adulthood demands. She was also raising her own children in Type A Palo Alto. Her book aims to do exactly what the title says. She collects a wide array of research on raising children and nicely integrates it with anecdotes from her own experience as a parent and a dean, as well as others who work with young adults. Like Damour, Lythcott-Haims is practical and common-sensical, aiming to help us raise children who are resilient and have a sense of personal agency. The book is very thorough – because she combs through so much of the research, you don't have to read a lot of other books!


Other favorites in the parenting realm

Frank Bruni, Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: The Antidote to the College Admissions Mania (2016)

From a New York Times columnist, an essential read for parents of Upper School students; no harm in reading this even as a 9th grade parent

Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun: The Parodox of Modern Parenthood (2015)

Particularly good for parents of younger children; helps you understand why you feel the way you do.

Brigid Schulte, Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time (2015)

A wide-ranging exploration of why we all feel overwhelmed so much of the time and what we could do about it from a former Washington Post reporter


Books related to diversity issues, broadly defined

Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald, Blind Spot: The Hidden Biases of Good People (2016)

This very readable description of the seminal work on hidden biases by two Harvard professors gently helps us understand biases virtually all of us have. Numerous assessments throughout the book reveal those biases. It can be quite eye opening in important ways. For example, I was shocked that I had hidden anti-female biases. This book was the faculty's summer reading two years ago, and I would argue it is essential reading for all of us to understand how we interact with society and those immediately around us.

Mary Beard, Women and Power: A Manifesto (2017)

Beard, a classics professor at Cambridge, writes one of the most widely read blogs in the world. This slim book presents the published version of two lectures she delivered on women and power. Drawing on her scholarly expertise, she reaches deep into early Western Civilization to find the roots of 21st century misogyny. Her writing is spare, compelling, disturbing, and sometimes bitingly funny. You can read it very quickly and it will change your understanding of why modern Western society views women as it does. And, by the way, men as well as women should read it.

Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (2016)

I read this book, along with several others, to help me understand the 2016 election, and, more than any other, it did so. Hochschild is a Berkeley anthropologist who embeds herself in the Louisiana Bayou and uses the environment as a lens through which to explore the thinking of the people of that area. While she may seem an unlikely person to do so, she forms deep friendships and finds empathy for people with whose political views she disagrees. Along the way, she helped me understand, to some degree anyway, why they think they way they do. Despite representing a work of anthropological research, it is so well written that it almost reads like a novel.

Claude M. Steele, Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (Issues of Our Time) (2011)

I consider this one of the most important books I have ever read, and those of you who read my column regularly will be familiar with it as I've referenced it on several occasions. Steele, a psychologist who currently serves as the Provost at Berkeley and has taught at Michigan, Harvard, and Stanford, developed the concept of stereotype threat, a condition that can affect any of us in the right (or wrong) circumstances. Those circumstances exist when there is a widely accepted view about our group's ability in a certain area, such as females aren't good at math. Because of this perception, Steele's research has shown that, when faced with a difficult math problem, particularly if they are prompted in some way to think about their gender, even highly capable, women don't perform as well as men. The book examines this phenomenon in depth, presents some of the larger societal effects of stereotype threat, and offers some antidotes. Again, it is very readable, and, I would argue, essential reading for understanding our society.

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (2015)

Bryan Stevenson has been in the news recently as the creator of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, a memorial to all the lynching victims throughout American history. A lawyer, Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to securing justice for those unjustly accused. His book takes us deep into the injustices of our judicial system, injustices we experience through the stories of his clients. A humble and compassionate narrator, Stevenson's work deeply affected me, permanently altering my view of the criminal justice system.

Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give (2017)

This is a young adult novel written from the perspective of a junior at an independent school as she navigates between the worlds of her African-American, inner-city neighborhood and her suburban, predominantly white school after a police officer kills one of her closest childhood friends during a traffic stop. Star was with her friend when he was killed. Star could easily be one of our students and the lens into her life is illuminating on several levels.

Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad: A Novel (2016)

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Whitehead grounds this somewhat mythical (could possibly be described as magical realism) novel about an enslaved person and her efforts to escape in extensive historical research. While it took me a little while to get into it, once I did, I had a hard time putting it down. The story is gripping, and the research deepens the reader's exposure to the horrors of slavery. Not always easy to read because of the violence, inhumanity, and even depravity exhibited by owners, The Underground Railroad nonetheless stands out both as a work of fiction and a sobering view into one of the darkest aspects of our nation's history.


What Am I Reading (or Listening to) Right Now

Kim Scott, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Mary Beth Norton, In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

Karen Abbott, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

Rachel Simmons, Enough As She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives

Books on My List for this Summer (I'll never read them all)

Elena Aguilar, Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators*

Phoebe Maltz Bovy, The Perils of "Privilege": Why Injustice Can't Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage

Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Ta-Nahisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

David L. Gleason, At What Cost?: Defending Adolescent Development in Fiercely Competitive Schools

Chip Heath & Dan Heath, The Power of Moments

Debby Irving, Waking Up White, And Finding Myself in the Story of Race*

Sendhil Mullainathan, Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives

Chip Heath & Dan Heath, The Power of Moments

Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race?

Daniel Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World-and Why Things Are Better Than You Think*

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities

Scott Sonenshein, Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less -and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined

*Faculty and Staff summer reading books


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