May 29, 2019

With Commencement soon upon us and the end of the academic year less than a week away, the time has come to begin thinking about the summer and all that comes with it. For many, it brings the opportunity to escape to the shore or some other place for rest and recreation. For me, a big part of the change in daily schedule is the newfound time to read without interruptions.
I often share what I am reading with parents in September, as it helps them know those issues that are occupying my thoughts. Over the years, I have been asked to share the list sooner, so that those so inclined may find something of interest to explore in the next few months.

Right now, the following are on my library table:

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson
The Second Mountain, David Brooks
Upheaval, Jared Diamond
Presidents of War, Michael Beschloss
The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace Wells
21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari

I have been working my way through the last one on this list for a few months now, as Harari offers so much for the reader to think about, even on just a page or two. He examines a number of major issues (21, in fact), and explores each from a variety of angles. Make sure you have plenty of time for this one.

Just Mercy is the selection for our faculty’s summer reading. Although it has been out for a few years now, the book shares a powerful story about the injustice that plagues our justice system and Bryan Stevenson’s efforts to address it. More than three years ago, my daughter, Dylan, told me about it as she heard Stephenson speak at the University of Richmond. More recently, GSB parent and Trustee, Karen Young, also referenced it. Given the significant rise in incidents involving bias in our nation and the book’s message of hope, I believe it remains a valuable and timely read.

The senior leadership team will be reading David Brook’s new book, The Second Mountain. Perhaps it is particularly appealing given my “age and stage”; however, Brooks challenges us to consider what is truly most important in life and consider changing our priorities.

The authors Michael Beschloss and Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel) are again on my list, which always includes more than one book on history. I could easily have also included Ron Chernow’s biography of Grant. I think it is so important to understand the history of our nation as well as other countries around the world. The current times are particularly challenging, and reading about the experiences of others is often helpful in identifying the deeper issues, as well as ways to thoughtfully address them.

What may be the most important book on my list, The Uninhabitable Earth, is a recent addition. Among the many threats we face today, climate change and its devastating impact on the planet is the most significant. Over the millennia, humans have done great damage to the environment, exhausting or contaminating the soil along with hunting various species to extinction/near extinction. Why is it that more people are not focused on an issue that will impact our children more than anything else?

That’s my list for now, though it is sure to grow. I hope that everyone in our community will find some time this summer to read. It remains the single best activity that we can engage in that will stimulate brain development and growth. In the process, it may help to generate a number of constructive conversations about how we can all move forward in the coming months.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.