By Elena Aguilar
Ever since I was a young child, the long days of summer have been for reading. Early in the morning and late into the night, sitting on a beach or lying on the living room floor, I devoured book after book. Novels took me on the journeys and adventures I yearned for; memoirs connected me with shared humanity. Books made me stronger: They put my sadness and loneliness into perspective, suggested routes around the obstacles in my life, and gave me clues as to how I could not only surmount challenges, but thrive in spite of them. By the end of summer, my literary immersion had renewed me for another school year.
This summer, let books be your teachers. Let them teach you how to become more resilient, how to bounce back after adversity, and how to thrive (not just survive). Resilience is like a muscle that you can strengthen with a variety of daily practices in order to cultivate a set of dispositions or mental attitudes. Optimism, for example, is a key disposition of a resilient person, as are acceptance, hope, humor, and mindfulness.
I selected the following reading recommendations because of their potential to cultivate the dispositions of a resilient educator. Some directly explore resilience, while others give us an opportunity to see the growth of another person. I offer these to you in the hopes that by the time the back-to-school sales begin, you’ll be inoculated against the predictable stressors of the fall. So dive in.
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities
Hope in the Dark is a slim volume by Rebecca Solnit that is essential reading for anyone who aspires to do good in this world and needs a boost of hope that we can make positive political change. Lyrical prose will pull you right in, and you’ll see how the perspective we take and the way that we tell stories (and history) can give us tremendous hope.
Ode to Common Things
Pablo Neruda’s collection of poetry will bring you into the present moment and heighten your appreciation of everyday things. Neruda reminds us that all that surrounds us—including socks and lemons—can be transcendent, and with his words he brings us into awareness of what we take for granted. His words are a meditation, to be read in silence or aloud, over and over again.
Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living
This book is like a super-vitamin of hope, insight, brilliance, and humanity, with some science, history, poetry, and an exploration of faith. The author, Krista Tippett, is on my short list of people I dream of having dinner with as I’m sure that a couple hours with her would add 10 years to my life. Until then, I’ll just listen to the book again (I loved the audiobook because Tippett is the reader and there are conversations with others interspersed). If you aren’t familiar with Tippett’s podcast, On Being, be sure to spend some time this summer listening to these poignant and illuminating interviews.
The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World
Jacqueline Novogratz offers up an inspiring memoir of change, of what a single person can do, and of our shared humanity. Read this to learn about how one woman used her knowledge and power to impact the lives of women in Rwanda, Nairobi, India, and other developing countries, and to remember that we’re all connected and are perhaps all responsible for each other.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration
What does it take to make great personal change? How have others done this and overcome tremendous challenges? Isabel Wilkerson presents a beautiful account of the massive migration of African Americans from the South to northern and western cities. This book is narrative journalism at its best, heartbreaking and hopeful, and necessary. It has won several awards and prizes for good reason. If you haven’t had a chance to dig into it, do so this summer.
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Another Rebecca Solnit must-read, this book radically shifted some of my beliefs about human nature into a place of immense optimism and hope. Solnit’s historical exploration of what happens in places after catastrophes (such as San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake or New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina) will make you feel like human beings are pretty darn great.
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person
What a fun, hopeful, entertaining read from Shonda Rhimes. It made me think deeply about what I say yes to, and what I say no to. Since reading it, I’ve definitely said no to others more often than previously (so as to create space for saying yes more often to what I really want to do).
With the exception of Neruda, this list is all nonfiction and is where I’m finding much solace these days, in contrast to the fictional worlds in which I spent my childhood.