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The Lab’s Holiday Reading List

Do you have a list of books you’ve been meaning to read? Us too. For months we’ve been telling ourselves, that we’ll “get to it” over the holiday break. Well, folks, this is it…the special time of year when most have a few days off work and the extra downtime for reading.

In the event that you’re still looking for holiday reading material, we’ve compiled recommendations to add to your list. This list reflects the diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and interests present in the Lab team. We enjoyed putting this list together— from brain science research to poetry to fermentation— there’s something for everyone.

From our Lab family to yours, Happy Holidays, and a very healthy New Year!

Anne Marie: The Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

About the book: A pioneer in the field of medicine, pediatrician Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is a leader in the movement to transform how we respond to early childhood adversity and the resulting toxic stress that dramatically impacts our health and longevity. In The Deepest Well, Dr. Burke Harris explores the science behind childhood adversity, and she offers a new way to understand the adverse events that affect all of us throughout our lifetimes.

Why I chose it: The holidays are a time for relaxation and reconnecting with family and friends, but also a time for reflection. Through Dr. Burke Harris’ research and stories from the field, you will most certainly gain a deeper understanding of the pervasiveness of toxic stress and it’s long term effects–but likely, you will also gain a deeper sense of empathy, and a new lens from which to understand yourself, loved ones, or those you interact with in the wider world. The Deepest Well should be required reading for anyone working in education or service design.

Tara: Educated by Tara Westover

About the book: Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Why I chose it: From the moment I started this book on a flight from ABQ to DC I couldn’t put it down. This book immerses you in a way of life totally outside of mainstream society. Tara does a great job of weighing in and out of different political divides given her rural upbringing and later exposure to urban life. If you’re looking for some perspective and inspiration this holiday season, I highly recommend this book.

Binh: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

About the book: All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl…

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god…

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse…

Why I chose it: Growing up, there were two things I loved, graphic novels and Asian lore. When I heard that there was a graphic novel about a Chinese American student interwoven with Journey to the West, I knew I had to read it.

Marta: Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez + Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott

About Citizen Illegal: Poet José Olivarez explores the stories, contradictions, joys, and sorrows that embody life in the spaces between Mexico and America. He paints vivid portraits of good kids, bad kids, families clinging to hope, life after the steel mills, gentrifying barrios, and everything in between. Drawing on the rich traditions of Latinx and Chicago writers like Sandra Cisneros and Gwendolyn Brooks, Olivarez creates a home out of life in the in-between. Combining wry humor with potent emotional force, Olivarez takes on complex issues of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and immigration using an everyday language that invites the reader in. Olivarez has a unique voice that makes him a poet to watch.

Why I Chose It: My mentee gifted me Citizen Illegal, a book of poems written by her Harvard classmate José Olivarez. Olivarez just received the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Award for Poetry for his debut collection.

About Almost Everything: Notes on Hope: In this profound and funny book, Lamott calls for each of us to rediscover the nuggets of hope and wisdom that are buried within us that can make life sweeter than we ever imagined. Divided into short chapters that explore life’s essential truths, Almost Everything pinpoints these moments of insight as it shines an encouraging light forward.

Why I chose It: Anne Lamott is the salve that saves me when I cannot sleep. I’ve read every one of her last four books, and I can always count on her to provide profound observations about life, family, relationships, the creative process, spirituality, and self development. More often than not, her writing gives reason to laugh out loud, even at 2am when everyone else is asleep.

Kenna: Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash by Susan Strasser + The Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber

About Waste and Want: An unprecedented look at that most commonplace act of everyday life-throwing things out-and how it has transformed American society. Susan Strasser’s pathbreaking histories of housework and the rise of the mass market have become classics in the literature of consumer culture. Here she turns to an essential but neglected part of that culture-–the trash it produces––and finds in it an unexpected wealth of meaning.

Why I chose this book: I find it so easy to get sucked into buying things that I don’t need and throwing away things that can be reused or restored. After reading this book six years ago, I still return to it as a reminder to buy less and spend more time caring for the things I have. Waste and Want gives space to understand why consumerism (and capitalism) feels so oppressive and why it’s so easy to get sucked into a waste and want vortex, which makes me feel slightly better about my recurring expenditures on kitchen blenders.

About The Noma Guide to Fermentation: René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of Noma, and David Zilber, the chef who runs the restaurant’s acclaimed fermentation lab, share techniques to creating Noma’s extensive pantry of ferments. And they do so with a book conceived specifically to share their knowledge and techniques with home cooks.

Why I chose this book: I love experimenting in the kitchen, especially when it comes to making things from scratch that I would typically buy. Noma’s Guide is a practical and easy-to-follow resource for anything fermentation related. Kombucha! Kimchi! Shoyu! Yogurt!