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On my bookshelf

What I’m either reading now, or have recently read:

  • How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough.  A thought-provoking look at the critical factors that promote “success”.  Turns out it’s not as important to have a child who excels in math, or is doing algebra in first grade, or who is trilingual.  What matters most is what Tough and others call “grit”–that character trait that makes us resilient, committed, determined, and resolved.  Perhaps the anti-Tiger Mother?
  • The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman.  For a first novel, this is a great one.  It really spoke to me on a number of levels, but Rachman’s ability to sketch out the idiosyncrasies (and downright lunacy) of human relationships is spot-on.  These are all just people trying to make their way in the world, with ambition but no plan, the best way they know how.
  • The End of Men, by Hanna Rosin.  I have not yet started this one, but I am fully prepared to either love it or hate it–no middle ground.  The reviews have been mixed, some saying its thesis is unproven and stretched well beyond what the thin facts and anecdotes should allow (NYT).  Others see it as giving voice to the new reality of female power and influence (WSJ).  I’ll decide, but Rosin is whip-smart and certainly passionate about the subject.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.  I’ve been working on this for what seems like forever, and I’m still only scratching the surface.  But it’s a terribly compelling story of science, race, dignity, and fairness.  Need to find time to really dig in to this one.
  • Crazy U, by Andrew Ferguson.  On the recommendation of a friend, I read this book about the college admission circus currently gripping the United States and much of the rest of the world.  Completely insane.  This book turns from belly-laughter about the more absurd elements of the process, to the uncomfortable chuckle that accompanies acknowledgement that this game–the one that everyone plays–must be played.  It is, seemingly, not optional.

If you glued Paul Tough and Andrew Ferguson together, what would you get?  The author of a book about how our educational system measures and rewards the wrong things, creates false and potentially harmful incentives for specific behaviors, and generally stresses out students and parents alike. Oh yeah, and it costs too much, and we spend our education money on the wrong things.  Deep and provocative.

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