Summer Reading List 2015

by Public Works on July 28, 2015 in Feature

summer readingBack by popular demand, we bring you our staff picks for good summer reading. These are the books we’re diving into this summer while our kids are diving into swimming pools. Perhaps you’ll find a little something to use for escape, self-improvement, entertainment, inspiration or empowerment.

Anika Fassia, Director of Outreach Anika Headshot

Anika is in the middle of several months of training to become a doula. To that end she is reading Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care. For a dose of fiction set in her new(ish) home state of Texas, she’s also devouring All the Land to Hold Us, a book about life in the salt flats of West Texas which Anika says is “fascinating and has given me a new perspective about the history and life in this state.” Lastly, Anika is excited to have just ordered a copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates latest book, Between the World and Me, about growing up as a black man and becoming a parent to a black child in America.

Marcia Kinsey, Director of Research and Engagement Marcia Kinsey headshot

For Marcia, summer is mostly about fiction. For fun she’s reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, a story of a blind girl and a German soldier set in France during WWII; Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette, a wacky book about a daughter’s search for her mother; and The Salt Dancer, which she’s reading because she fell in love with Ursula Hegi’s previous book, Stones from the River. When she’s inclined to slow down and get quiet (what’s that?) she picks up The Mindful Woman. And, with two teenagers in her midst and because she’s always thinking about how to communicate about tough topics, Marcia recently read For Goodness Sex, a guide on talking to teens about sex. Plus, she highly recommends Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, which (among other things) gives tips for talking to family, our partners and those we love about how we achieve quality of life as we near the end of life. Wow, those make talking to Americans about government seem easy. You go, Marcia!

Elaine Mejia, Vice-President ElaineMejia _SH2013_009

Elaine is all about the outdoors. Because of a close encounter with muskoxen in Alaska a few years ago, Elaine is diving into Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams. She raves that it is positively the most beautiful and awe-inspiring prose about the wonder of nature she has ever read. Also on tap for Elaine this summer is Edward Abbey’s classic The Monkey Wrench Gang, a comedic fiction classic about a wacky group of activists who are determined to get in the way of dam-building in the desert west. Lastly Elaine will be exploring the spiritual benefits of spending time in nature by reading Nature as Spiritual Practice by Steven Chase.

Dianne Stewart, President and CEO Dianne Stewart

Dianne spent much of the year making her way through Neil Stephenson’s extensive repertoire, but she now has turned her attention to less demanding (and less educational) fare. She is proud to have already read about the prison escape of the fictional boss of the Sinaloa Cartel in Don Wilson’s novel The Cartel before the real one, El Chapo, made his second jail break. She is also reading The Life and Death of Democracy by John Keane, a thorough history of democracy whose 885 pages explain why she had to stop reading Neil Stephenson novels.

Sarah White, Director of Operations Sarah White headshot

Sarah’s summer is blissfully focused on her adorable daughter, Maggie. This summer Sarah is looking forward to reading Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, the biography of Sonia Manzano, the actress who plays Maria on Sesame Street who recently announced her retirement after 44 years on the show. Sarah was a big Sesame Street fan as a child, and her daughter follows in her footsteps as fan of Cookie Monster (a.k.a. Veggie Monster). Sarah will also be reading again and again and again many of her daughter’s bedtime favorites, including anything by Margaret Wise Brown, stories about Corduroy, and Have You Got My Purr? by Judy West.


We would love to hear about what you’re reading, so drop us a line with your suggestions. We’ll post them to our Facebook page. It’s worth it to make time for reading this summer—according to this recent article in Pacific Standard magazine it may be possible to read ourselves into better moods.

Charging Kids for a Ride to School

by Public Works on July 28, 2015 in July 2015 eNewsletter

We’ve heard the stories about schools cutting arts and music programs and charging new fees for sports because of tight budgets. But charging parents for school bus transportation? It seems unconscionable that states would put such an obstacle in the … Continue reading

The Importance of Our National Symbols

by Public Works on July 28, 2015 in July 2015 eNewsletter

In the wake of the tragedy in Charleston, Americans have been engaged in a conversation about the histories and meanings of all sorts of symbols. As James Loewen of the University of Vermont points out in his must-read article about … Continue reading

Why Libraries Continue to Thrive

by Public Works on July 28, 2015 in July 2015 eNewsletter

There are no flying cars. We don’t have robots cleaning our homes and cooking our meals. And libraries not only still exist, but they’re among our most popular public institutions. The dire predictions of 1980s techies about the demise of … Continue reading

Foundations Supporting Government Innovation?

by Public Works on July 28, 2015 in July 2015 eNewsletter

How do we tackle America’s big problems—wealth disparity, long-term unemployment, lack of social mobility? New tech gadgets or even massive investments from foundations aren’t going to solve them. As Mark Funkhouser, publisher of Governing magazine, writes, only effective and accountable … Continue reading

The Theory of Middle-Out Economics

by Public Works on July 28, 2015 in Economy

Which comes first—economic growth or economic inclusion? The prominent trickle-down theory of economics says growth, fueled by the investments of the rich, creates inclusion (i.e., more jobs, better pay, and a bigger middle class). But Nick Hanauer, a Seattle entrepreneur, … Continue reading

Confidence in Police at 22-Year Low

by Public Works on July 28, 2015 in July 2015 eNewsletter

A new Gallup poll says 52% of Americans say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police. While that is a majority, the percentage is the lowest it’s been since 1993, a year after … Continue reading