Books that inspire

A friend of mine and I were recently comparing notes on books we really liked. She told me about this one. In particular, she said that it really helped her be more empathetic in dealings with her mom, who suffers from dementia. Most information I read about dementia is written from the perspective of healthy people talking about dementia patients’ problems. This book, which is fictional, is written from the perspective of a vibrant 50-year-old who discovers that she has early-onset Alzheimer’s. The author did a great job getting inside the head of the woman, describing the denial, the strategies for hiding her diagnosis, her dilemmas. And of course, she also tracks the decline. I would recommend this book to everyone. We all deal with issues of aging throughout our lives. This book, I hope, has made me more empathetic.

* Genova, L. (2009).  Still Alice. New York: Pocket Books.

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I worked for almost two decades with chimpanzees and was fortunate enough to have met Jane Goodall several times. I’ve yet to meet someone more inspiring than she. Each time I’ve heard her speak, I leave feeling like I, too, could change the world. If you need a little energy like that, try reading her autobiography. In it, she makes the argument that she isn’t anything special. Each individual can instigate major change, which she demonstrates with descriptions of several regular people who have done wonderful things.

* Goodall, J. & Berman, P. (1999).  Reason for hope: A spiritual journey. New York: Warner Books, Inc.

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UPDATE (12/30/15): Commentary regarding Greg Mortenson by author Jon Krakauer

UPDATE (5/09/2011): Three Cups of Tea, the book by Mortenson, inspired me when I read it. However, recently the book has generated some controversy. It appears that, at minimum, Mortensen exaggerated some significant details in his book.You can watch the episode describing the investigation of his work on the 60 Minutes website. Of course, this makes me question the integrity of the rest of the book. It is indeed true that he has built some schools in Afghanistan for children. The plight of women in Afghanistan is such an important issue and should be supported. However, we should be cautious and critical about where we put our money. I teach my students to be cautious in believing things. This was a good reminder to me that I, too, need to be cautious.

* Mortenson, G. & Relin, D. O. (2006).  Three cups of tea: One man’s mission to promote peace…one school at a time. New York: Penguin Group (USA), Inc.