My Most Recent Reads - Deember, 2015

I crossed the finish line this year with reading 21 books this month and that makes a total of 224 for the year--just 5 less than last year.  I'll call that a win considering everything else I have going on this year.  There were a lot of good reads this month especially after classes were done, I got in a bunch of books.  So here are some of the highlights (and one not-so-great book):

Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado

Benforado explores the criminal justice system from the vantage point of what modern science has shown us about the human nature and contrasts that sharply with a criminal justice system that was formed out at a time when there was very little scientific evidence for its assumptions (the 18th and 19th century).  His ongoing commentary is that 1000 years from now, people will our sense of justice as archaic as we now judge how justice was dealt with 1000 years ago.  Though we have our beliefs that are grounded in "common sense", they are rarely grounded in what scientific evidence has showed us.  Therefore, Benforado moves through each aspect of the criminal justice system from identifying (or mis-identifying) perpetrators to arrest investigations to the courtroom and to the prison system, showing the systematic failures of the who process.  It's an essential reading for anyone looking to learn more about the criminal justice system in the modern United States.

Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude Steele


If you want to understand the profound effects of stereotype threat, then Steele's book is a great resource.  If you want to understand how pernicious stereotypes are and remain to be, then this would be the book to read.  Steele shows through a variety of work that he and others have down, how when stereotypes are evoked in a person, it can threaten his or her ability to succeed.  That is, it's not just about how others perceive someone, but it is how that someone thinks of himself/herself in relation to a group identity that has a negative stereotype. A person is likely to perform worse when he/she belongs to a group identity that is stigmatized when  that person's group identity have been emphasized.  This has stark implications for education, work, and the culture at large.  Steele provides a variety of different examples of how this happens but also shines a light on ways to circumvent stereotype threat.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

I love Brown's work.  She's captures so much of our internal lives and helps us learn the language to speak about it.  Rising Strong follows along these lines in helping us thinking about our inner lives and feelings and finding powerful ways to externalize them, talk about them, and move through them in the moment and throughout our lives.  She does this both through research and through storytelling--explaining how the work she is doing plays out in her daily life and others.  There are some powerful moments throughout this book, but for me was her exploration of the thought:  "What if everyone is really doing their best?"  This question and where it leads her (as well as myself) is something that we should always be asking.  

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

I'm not a fan of Turkle.  I've read her previous book and seen her TED Talks.  I find she comes to egregious conclusions about how people interact with scant evidence.  In this book, she argues that people are growing incapable of talking or having sophisticated conversations and that it's largely our digital technology that is creating this rift.  There are several issues that I have with this book.  The first is that it is clearly focused on upper-middle and upper-class people--the schools and colleges she focuses on are largely elite schools.  I find this problematic because it doesn't actually reflect society as a whole and how different groups are engaging in meaning-making through their digital devices.  I also dislike how she draws conclusions about how and what interactions mean from people, rather than allowing them to decide what it means.  She often seems to be the sole authority of experience rather than allowing others to define their experience.  Finally, to accept her book blindly, you would believe that youth and adults are incapable of having deep and complex conversations and that this is a wide-sweeping epidemic.  Yet, anyone who sits in a coffee shop or restaurant and listens to the conversations going on around them, they are likely to find this to be entirely false.  I spent most of the book frustrated with long meanderings with little substance.  


Here's my ongoing list of books read this year on GoodReads.  Also, here 2015's reading reflections thus far:

BOOKS

  • 35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say: Surprising Things We Say That Widen The Diversity Gap by Maura Cullen
  • Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot

AUDIOBOOKS

  • Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
  • Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado
  • Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking by Richard Nisbett
  • Search: How the Data Explosion Makes Us Smarter by Stefan Weitz
  • Scientific Secrets for Self-Control by Nathan Dewall
  • Rising Strong by BrenĂ© Brown
  • Cabal by Clive Barker
  • Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude Steele

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Alex + Ada, Vol. 3 by Jonathan Luna
  • Angel & Faith: United (Season 10, #11-15) by Victor Gischler
  • Star Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid
  • Star Wars: Kanan, Vol. 1: The Last Padawan by Greg Weisman
  • Ruse: The Victorian Guide to Murder by Mark Waid
  • The Hero Volume 1 by David Rubin
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1: Vader by Kieron Gillen
  • Monster: Perfect Edition, Vol. 1 by Naoki Urasawa
  • Descender, Vol. 1: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire
  • Genius, Vol. 1 by Mark Bernardin
  • Chrononauts by Mark Millar


So what did you read this year that you found interesting or recommendation-worthy?



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