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Memorable Books of 2017 (According to an English and Business Major)

2017 presented a busy year with little downtime to pick up a book and read for fun. Luckily, I took some English courses where I read compelling literature I wouldn’t have read otherwise. The sparse vacation I had was spent reading to decompress and transport my mind to another place. Reading has provided solace and refuge in times of distress and a way to both broaden and deepen my thinking. Here are some books I read (and re-read) that shifted the way I think. Hopefully you find value from reading these books too.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

Tipping Point offers an intriguing look into how people can push ideas to the “tipping point” after which they spread like crazy. Gladwell looks at cases such as fashion trends, smoking, children’s TV shows and examines how ideas are spread and best practices for bringing about change. Gladwell talks about Connectors who derive their social power from spanning distant networks and bringing people together. If you’re interested in learning how ideas spread and stick in people’s minds, give this book a read.

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted presents the stories of several families in unstable living conditions, exposing the dismal conditions and the pain that comes from eviction. This book shattered my misconception of evictions as poor drug dealers getting kicked out of living spaces. Evicted shows that unforeseen circumstances like a missed paycheck or a broken heater can cause renters to fall behind on payments and get evicted. The book exposes the greater pernicious forces at play and weaves together a compelling narrative on how it affects impoverished families. One of the most striking insights was that eviction perpetuates poverty and the difficulty one faces with securing another residence with an eviction on record.

Flash Boys : A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis

Flash Boys explores high frequency trading and how it benefits insiders. With the emergence of new technology and greater network speeds, Lewis contends that financial institutions participated in a “rigged” market to generate massive profits. For non-finance people for myself, this book is understandable and interesting to read.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun explores a family subject to Hurricane Katrina and fear around terrorism. In spite of the hardships endured, the family demonstrates compassion. It’s a spellbinding and true story of perseverance.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis conjures letters written from the perspective of a senior devil named Screwtape, musing on ways to best tempt humans and lead them astray. While funny to read, the underlying messages on the human condition are profound. Lewis explores how humans can stick to false beliefs, ceasing to question them, which renders the humans vulnerable to misguidance from tempters like Screwtape. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate this classic piece of satire.

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

In the Kingdom of Ice offers a striking narrative of adventure gone awry in the late 1800s. Eager to cement their legacy and contribute to humankind, wealthy donors sponsored an expedition to the North Pole. The book follows the USS Jeannette as they find themselves stranded and facing a treacherous journey back. The book is a non-fiction account of survival and tradegy.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

This memoir takes a look at how the author dealt with her husband’s infidelity and how she repaired the relationship. This raw and emotional account surprisingly moved me and I ended up enjoying this book quite a bit. The message about confronting pain directly and letting healing set in definitely provided some comfort this year.

Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Issacson

I received this book after Walter Isaacson came to Penn to speak. The book traces Leonardo Da Vinci’s story in Italy, exploring the numerous pages of notebooks filled with Da Vinci’s sprawling writing. The book highlights Da Vinci’s creativity and ability to think across disciplines. Isaacson does a great job of showing how attentive observation and obsession with experiments leads to great ideas.

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I hope this list of books finds you all well in the new year. Here’s to another year of great reading in 2018!