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NCG's Summer Reading List

Thursday, July 13, 2017

We asked NCG's board and staff to give us recommendations for this summer reading list. See what they had to say - there are still five weeks left to fit in some reading!

Cecilia Chen, NCG

Gratitude by Oliver Sacks

What did this book do for you? Deceptively slim (it is less than 100 pages), this collection of essays packs a huge punch.  I read it in less than 2 hours and then I immediately proceeded to read it again.  Written by Oliver Sacks, it is, of course, brilliant but I love that I find something new and insightful to ponder each time I read an essay.  

Krystle Chipman, NCG

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

Why did you choose this book? I lived in Hazard, Kentucky for two years and have very fond memories of living in a small, unique, and resilient Appalachian community.  

Sarah Frankfurth, NCG

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

I really loved A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James – great characters, fascinating look at what was happening socially and politically in Jamaica in the 70’s.


Maya Hart, NCG

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Why did you choose this book? I chose this book because it examines American history in a way that is relevant to concerns we are currently facing. It is very well written with beautiful personal stories.


Lakshmi Karan, Genentech Foundation and Genentech Inc

Creative Confidence by Tom & David Kelly 

Did someone recommended this book to you? Who? This was recommended by my coach...while I was familiar with design thinking. This had good nuggets on how to embed it within organizations to drive innovation and courageous action!

Emily Katz, NCG

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

What surprised you about this book? My first surprise was finding a need to consult a dictionary four times in the first four pages. Once I got into it, though, I was stunned to find myself transported, for the first time, into the impossible choices confronting anyone born German during World War II and the beauty that is possible even in the most unlikely places.

Ellen LaPointe, NCG

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The true story of an African American woman whose cervical cells, harvested without her consent or knowledge at Johns Hopkins University in 1951, became one of the most important cell lines in medical research, and about her family's the search for the truth.  Distressing, but also inspiring.


Holly Potter, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols

How/why did you choose this book? Trust in people traditionally perceived as experts has been eroding for years for a variety of reasons. I chose this book to better understand why and seek insights on where we go from here. 

Phuong Quach, NCG

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

What did this book do for you? The Sympathizer provides a unique perspective on the Vietnam War with a complex character. I’m not much of a novel reader, but this book was recommended to me by several friends. And, after I heard his interview on City Arts and Lecture, I decided it was time to pick it up. Looking forward to meeting Viet in person at SDG’s annual conference this fall!

Kate Seely, NCG

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett

What did this book do for you? Krista Tippett hosts my all-time favorite podcast, OnBeing. Since their words are so much better than mine, this is what On Being is about: “On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.” I just can’t overstate how much I love this podcast. It is one of the spaces that most enriches my life. Krista Tippett illuminates voices in the corners, and at times in the center, of our world who are grappling with ideas that can propel us forward, ground us in this life, on this earth, and invite us into inquiry. This podcast, these writings, give me hope.

In this book, Krista Tippett distills the themes of hear learning across five themes: Words, Flesh, Love, Faith, and Hope. It is truly a book of wisdom for me – and I keep coming back to it.

If you are drawn to the description above of what On Being is all about, this book could be illustrative for you, and I welcome a conversation after you’ve read it.

Richard Tate, The California Wellness Foundation

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

How/why did you choose this book? When I heard Ava DuVernay had been tapped to direct a new big-screen adaption of this quirky ‘60s young-adult sci-fi/fantasy classic, I had to revisit it. DuVernay is the first woman of color to direct a $100M+ Hollywood film, and she’s committed to re-visioning the work through a lens of diversity and inclusion (Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah are among the cast). The books broad themes of good versus evil, identity and power, science and nature are timely, and quality representations of people of color in the media are more important now than ever – read “A Wrinkle,” and get ready for the film!

Rick Williams, Sobrato Family Foundation

Toxic by Thomas Shapiro

By looking at the life outcomes of families over several decades, Toxic Inequality highlights the root causes of inequality by examining institutional and systemic racism and discrimination. Through the case studies presented we see that “inequality is not inevitable or intractable; nor is it unpredictable. It is the results of rules and choices that structure the America’s economy.”


Andrea Zussman, NCG

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

This book offers a poignant and thoughtful reflection on resilience in the face of tragedy.  Sandberg shares the journey she and her children take through grief following the sudden death of her husband.  The book is powerful because of its focus on the personal as well as the larger context of communities and organizations.