1. The Second Mountain: The quest for a moral life
By David Brooks
In The Second Mountain, David Brooks explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family, to a vocation, to a philosophy or faith, and to a community. Our personal fulfillment depends on how well we choose and execute these commitments. Brooks looks at a range of people who have lived joyous, committed lives, and who have embraced the necessity and beauty of dependence. He gathers their wisdom on how to choose a partner, how to pick a vocation, how to live out a philosophy, and how we can begin to integrate our commitments into one overriding purpose.
In short, this book is meant to help us all lead more meaningful lives. But it’s also a provocative social commentary. We live in a society, Brooks argues, that celebrates freedom, that tells us to be true to ourselves, at the expense of surrendering to a cause, rooting ourselves in a neighborhood, binding ourselves to others by social solidarity and love. We have taken individualism to the extreme—and in the process we have torn the social fabric in a thousand different ways. The path to repair is through making deeper commitments. In The Second Mountain, Brooks shows what can happen when we put commitment-making at the center of our lives.
2. Finding My Voice
By Valerie Jarrett
When Valerie Jarrett interviewed a promising young lawyer named Michelle Robinson in July 1991 for a job in Chicago city government, neither knew that it was the first step on a path that would end in the White House. Jarrett soon became Michelle and Barack Obama’s trusted personal adviser and family confidante; in the White House, she was known as the one who “got” him and helped him engage his public life. Jarrett joined the White House team on January 20, 2009 and departed with the First Family on January 20, 2017, and she was in the room–in the Oval Office, on Air Force One, and everywhere else–when it all happened. No one has as intimate a view of the Obama Years, nor one that reaches back as many decades, as Jarrett shares in Finding My Voice.
From her work ensuring equality for women and girls, advancing civil rights, reforming our criminal justice system, and improving the lives of working families, to the real stories behind some of the most stirring moments of the Obama presidency, Jarrett shares her forthright, optimistic perspective on the importance of leadership and the responsibilities of citizenship in the twenty-first century, inspiring readers to lift their own voices.
3. City of Girls
By Elizabeth Gilbert
Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.
In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves – and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.
Now eighty-nine years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.
4. After Life
By Alice Marie Johnson foreword by Kim Kardashian
For years, Alice lived a normal life without a criminal record—she was a manager at FedEx, a wife, and a mother. But after an emotionally and financially tumultuous period in her life left her with few options, she turned to crime as a way to pay off her mounting debts. Convicted in 1996 for her nonviolent involvement in a Memphis cocaine trafficking organization, Alice received a life sentence under the mandatory sentencing laws of the time. Locked behind bars, Alice looked to God. Eventually becoming an ordained minister, she relied on her faith to sustain hope over more than two decades—until 2018, when the president commuted her sentence at the behest of Kim Kardashian West, who had taken up Alice’s cause.
In this honest, faith-driven memoir, Alice explains how she held on to hope and gave it to others, from becoming a playwright to mentoring her fellow prisoners. She reveals how Christianity and her unshakeable belief in God helped her persevere and inspired her to share her faith in a video that would go viral—and come to the attention of celebrities who were moved to action.
Today, Alice is an icon for the prison reform movement and a humble servant who embraces gratitude and God for her freedom. In this powerful book, she recalls all of the firsts she has experienced through her activism and provides an authentic portrait of the crisis that is mass incarceration. Linking social justice to spiritual faith, she makes a persuasive and poignant argument for justice that transcends tribal politics. Her story is a beacon in the darkness of despair, reminding us of the power of redemption and the importance of making second chances count.
5. 111 Places in Baltimore That You Must Not Miss
By Allison Robicelli
The ultimate insider’s guide to Baltimore, fully illustrated with 111 full-page color photographs•Features interesting and unusual places not found in traditional travel guides•Part of the international 111 Places/111 Shops series with over 170 titles and 1 million copies in print worldwide•Appeals to both the local market (nearly 3 million people call Baltimore home) and the tourist market nearly 25 million people visit Baltimore every year!)There is possibly no city in the United States as misunderstood as Baltimore, and yet there are few that can match it in majesty. One of the oldest Great Cities of America, Baltimore is profoundly rich in history and culture. But its character is not only derived from its past: Charm City’s present and future belong to the thousands of artists and innovators who call it home. Baltimore is full of adventure and surprises. You’ll visit the site of one of the most notorious scenes in cinematic history, and a candy shop that birthed a legendary R&B group. You’ll hear music performed by future classical music stars, grab a bite at the last old-fashioned Polish smokehouse on the East Coast, and spend a day on a street art scavenger hunt. You will find 111 hidden places in Baltimore, whether it is your first time visiting or your 20th time, and even if you have been here for a lifetime. The city is yours to discover.
6. Down Home Cooking with Fran
By Frances Gilmore
The book came into existence because I have two sons, and when they moved out, they would call and ask how to fix a certain dish. So for their purpose, I decided to start perfecting my recipes. I started working all my recipes with this idea in mind. My hardest one was the traditional turkey dressing because the recipe has certain spices in it, of course. To get the spices to the right measurement is very important for a quality, tasty dressing. After several tries, I finally got it to my specifications. Like most things, it was onward and upward from there. My friends heard about my recipes, and they started giving me some of their recipes. I adapted them to my recipe cards, and as time went on, I decided to go on ahead and write Down Home Cooking with Fran. As I wrote my recipes, I decided to test them and mark them in my cookbook what we thought they tasted like. As we made our recipes, I had a friend distribute them among friends to get their opinions. One place was the police station, another weekly neighborhood poker party, and several apartment complex occupants and their friends. They have made requests for copies of my cookbooks, one being Down Home Cooking with Fran.
7. Unfreedom of the Press
By Mark R. Levin
Unfreedom of the Press is not just another book about the press. Levin shows how those entrusted with news reporting today are destroying freedom of the press from within: “not government oppression or suppression,” he writes, but self-censorship, group-think, bias by omission, and passing off opinion, propaganda, pseudo-events, and outright lies as news.
With the depth of historical background for which his books are renowned, Levin takes the reader on a journey through the early American patriot press, which proudly promoted the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, followed by the early decades of the Republic during which newspapers around the young country were open and transparent about their fierce allegiance to one political party or the other.
It was only at the start of the Progressive Era and the twentieth century that the supposed “objectivity of the press” first surfaced, leaving us where we are today: with a partisan party-press overwhelmingly aligned with a political ideology but hypocritically engaged in a massive untruth as to its real nature.
8. The Pioneers
By David McCullough
As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River.
McCullough tells the story through five major characters: Cutler and Putnam; Cutler’s son Ephraim; and two other men, one a carpenter turned architect, and the other a physician who became a prominent pioneer in American science. They and their families created a town in a primeval wilderness, while coping with such frontier realities as floods, fires, wolves and bears, no roads or bridges, no guarantees of any sort, all the while negotiating a contentious and sometimes hostile relationship with the native people. Like so many of McCullough’s subjects, they let no obstacle deter or defeat them.
Drawn in great part from a rare and all-but-unknown collection of diaries and letters by the key figures, The Pioneers is a uniquely American story of people whose ambition and courage led them to remarkable accomplishments.
9. Unsolved (Invisible)
By James Patterson and David Ellis
FBI agent Emmy Dockery is absolutely relentless. She’s young and driven, and her unique skill at seeing connections others miss has brought her an impressive string of arrests.But a shocking new case-unfolding across the country-has left her utterly baffled.
The victims all appear to have died by accident, and have seemingly nothing in common. But this many deaths can’t be coincidence. And the killer is somehow one step ahead of every move Dockery makes. How?
To FBI special agent Harrison “Books” Bookman, everyone in the FBI is a suspect-particularly Emmy Dockery (the fact that she’s his ex-fiancee doesn’t make it easier).
But someone else is watching Dockery. Studying, learning, waiting. Until it’s the perfect time to strike.
10. Educated: A Memoir
By Tara Westover
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.
The Red Jeep by David Zaiss
In The Red Jeep, author David Zaiss adds the third and final part to his tale of wrongful discharge and the corporate, for-profit mentality that permeates many public institutions across the country. Although the plot remains in the backdrop of idyllic Northern Michigan, the realities and behavior has far greater reaches.
She Called Him Raymond by Ray O’Conor
A letter penned in 1944 uncovers the powerful and heartfelt story of Helen Gregg, the daughter of Irish immigrant parents who grew up in the miseries of Hell’s Kitchen during the Great Depression, and Clarence Raymond Stephenson, a young aspiring B-17 pilot raised in the small, struggling city of Ironton, Ohio. Fate brings them together in New York’s Central Park in 1942. From the moment their eyes first met, they knew their lives would never be the same.