Great reads — Book recommendations from TBS & Friends

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Books—you love ’em. If the thought of a day alone with a good book sets your heart a-flutter, then you've come to the right place.

It's summertime, and nothing says solstice like a stack of gripping reads and interesting texts, those paper-based pals that keep our minds engaged—even as the rest of us kicks back and relaxes.

We love books too. The only thing that rivals that love is sharing our favorites with others. Which is why the staff of and a few of our educated friends got together to share our recommendations. We hope these books become your faves too.

Leticia Ingram

2016 Escalante–Gradillas Prize Finalist

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way
by Amanda Ripley

"This book gives us a snapshot of what is happening in high scoring schools around the world through the perspective of American teens. It is an excellent summer read for all educators."

Michael Kosko

2016 Escalante–Gradillas Prize Finalist

New York 2140
by Kim Stanley Robinson

"I was inspired to pick up this book after viewing Allie Wist's photo essay 'Flooded,' where she explores how climate change will alter our diets. In the book, the ice caps have melted and residents of New York City have come up with ingenious ways to survive in their now Venice-like city."

SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully
by Jane McGonigal

"I love McGonigal's TedTalks and have been experimenting with badging and gamification with a colleague this year. I'm looking forward to seeing how I can incorporate the seven principles explored in the book into the social-emotional work I do with my students. "

Jose Rivas

2016 Escalante–Gradillas Prize Finalist

Dark Matter
by Blake Crouch

"A mind-bending, sci-fi journey on the idea of quantum realities, choice, and love."

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens
by Benedict Carey

"Excellent read to understand the science of how we learn and how we can apply it in our lives."

Mitchell Smith

2016 Escalante–Gradillas Prize Finalist

by Roy Jenkins

"I'm fascinated by individuals who exemplify excellence in their own right. As a quintessential 20th century political and military figure, Winston Churchill is someone I wanted to know more about. His tenacity and grit throughout his lifetime led him to be dubbed 'The British Bulldog.' These are qualities I hope to display and to grow in my students as well!"

Anthony Yom

2016 Escalante–Gradillas Prize Winner

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
by Angela Duckworth

"For anyone who wants to know what makes people successful, this book is a must read."

James Barham

President and General Editor,

Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity
by William Lane Craig

"The best thing of its kind, bar none. Don't let the physicists bully you into believing there is no real change, that the future and the past are just as real as the present. Einstein was wrong—you can't just redefine time any way you like. There is a difference between what we can measure and what is. Space-like events either co-exist with us or they do not, even if we can never know which it is."

Eddie Buchanan

Content Developer and Editor,

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
by J.D. Vance

"Vance details his journey from a small Appalachian town to Yale Law School. Despite the fact that his depiction of rural life has caught criticism from some, I find Vance's portrayal of southern rural life, the generational cycles of poverty, and the difficulties of attempting to escape those cycles through education both insightful and familiar. While I do not agree with all of his conclusions, I think his thoughtful analysis of a culture in crisis merits reading and engagement."

Ray Deck III

Editor at Large, The Quad

Real Artists Don't Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age
by Jeff Goins

"The gig economy is here, and anyone who hopes to make a living from their creative talents better adapt to it. It's possible, and this book charts the course."

How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying Too)
by David P. Goldman

"Islam is in crisis, and with its last gasp is taking a swipe at the decadent west. David Goldman explains why and boldly predicts what is coming next. It's not exactly light beach reading, but Goldman's book may help you understand the scariest parts of the news."

Wayne Downs

Vice President and Managing Editor,

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work
by Matthew B. Crawford

"Philosophy meets metal, reinforcing the value of manual labor in an age of automation."

Dan Edelen

Director of Marketing Services,

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
by Annie Dillard

"Deep, brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning meditation on why the admonition to 'go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise' is so very needed amid the frenzy of modern life."

David Ferrer


The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains
by Nicholas Carr

"The Shallows is a New York Times bestseller and a big reason why Carr was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2011. This fascinating study is a realistic but eye-opening critique of our tech-dependence and especially of our complicated relationship with the internet."

Cliff Kvidahl

Senior Communications Director,

Suffering in the Face of Death
Bryan R. Dyer

"Notoriously difficult to situate in a historical context, the Epistle to the Hebrews has puzzled interpreters since its composition. In his superb study on the context of the letter, Bryan Dyer provides a solid foundation for understanding Hebrews within a context of suffering and death that the recipients were experiencing and which was a real threat, not only to their physical well-being but also to their commitment to Christ."

Bobby Rich


by Jeff VanderMeer

"Essential reading. As consumers of culture, we need to experience a full-range of emotions, not just things that make us happy or excited, and this book offers an irresistible experience of an emotion that we often avoid: gut-churning dread."

Rich Tatum


Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks
by Keith Houston

The dagger (†), the pilcrow (¶), the manicule (☚), the octothorpe (#) and the ellipsis … how do they even work? The illuminating histories behind these everyday typographical marks will change the way you see type. Plus, the book's own typography is beautiful—you'll want to buy a hard copy even if you do love your ereader.

Dave Tomar

Chief Magazine Editor, The Quad

Chronicles, Vol. 1
by Bob Dylan

"The most important songwriter of the 20th century offers generous insight into several distinct periods of his life and career, providing illuminating and universal parables about achieving, retaining, and rediscovering greatness through the peaks and valleys of one's life."

John Wilson

Editor in Chief, Education & Culture

Autumn of the Black Snake: The Creation of the U.S. Army and the Invasion That Opened the West
by William Hogeland

"A fascinating and melancholy tale: history that reads like page-turning fiction." continues to publish new works and reprints of past works of value, including these:

Savvy Student's Guide to College Education
by (Creator), Ben Carson (Foreword), Patrick O'Connor (Contributor)

"The Savvy Student's Guide to College Education answers common, but daunting, questions prospective college students ask, like: 'What is the right school for me,' 'Should I start at a two-year school or go directly to a four-year school,' 'Which major should I choose,' and 'How am I going to pay for this?' After years of dealing with these kinds of questions, The Carson Scholars Fund commissioned to come up with a guide for their scholars. But realizing that this guide holds information of interest to all high school graduates, decided to make it available to everyone. This twelve-chapter guide addresses everything from beginning the search for your ideal college to your first day of classes, to preparing for a job, and onward to tips for your first day in a job. Don't know how to write an effective admission essay? There are some great tips for that. Worried about paying back student loans? The Savvy Student's Guide will give you the information you need to borrow responsibly as well as tips for researching scholarship opportunities. Wondering if you'll be able to get a job with that basket weaving major that sounds so cool? Maybe check out Chapter 9-Career Trends, to learn where the jobs are before you invest your hard work, time, and money. A successful college experience takes planning, and planning for something you've never done before is difficult. The Savvy Student's Guide to College Education is here to help."

It Takes Ganas: Jaime Escalante's Secret to Inspired Learning
by Bill Dembski (Author), Alex Thomas (Author), Henry C. Gradillas (Foreword)

"Math teacher Jaime Escalante, focus of the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, was a firebrand who asked more of both his students and the educational system. But few people know what happened after the movie. Escalante's brilliant math program didn't survive his departure in 1991. Within a few years, math scores at Garfield settled back into the realm of low expectations.

What happened? It Takes Ganas reviews how Escalante achieved his unprecedented success, which remains unmatched. But it also recounts the largely untold story of entropy and inertia that quickly returned Garfield to the status quo. Most importantly, this book asks, and answers, what it would take to replicate Escalante's success.

The answer turns out to be surprisingly straightforward, though not easy. The key is an unwavering desire to do what needs to get done on the part of teachers, administrators, students, parents, and everyone involved. In other words, Ganas."

Academic Gamesmanship: How to Make a Ph.D. Pay (Updated Edition)
by Pierre Van Den Berghe

"Academic Gamesmanship will be to the Ph.D. what The Peter Principle is to the business executive: a brilliant—and hilarious—guide to the strategies of success. Its expose of academic pretentiousness will seem irresistibly funny to every reader. But behind the wit lies the insight of a noted sociologist. Dr. van den Berghe punctures academic pomposity to reveal inefficiency. He weighs the in-fighting, credit-stealing, and buck-passing used in jockeying for power. He even questions the value of many scholars' goals."

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