CLSC Recommends: Social Distancing Reading List

With the weekend upon us and no prospects of leaving home any time soon, the staff of the Center for Leadership & Social Change offers you some ideas for weekend reading. Our roundup includes childhood favorites, fiction and non-fiction, biography and memoir, topics related to our work, philosophical approaches, and just plain fun reads. We hope these make for enjoyable distractions while social distancing. 

Happy reading!

Amanda Albert, Graphic Designer

Cover of the 1957 edition of Ripley's Believe it or Not.jpgRipley's Believe It or Not: Wonder Book of Strange Facts
I loved this book as a kid and found this 1957 copy with all of Ripley’s beautiful & strange ink illustrations throughout instead of the photos that you’d usually see. This book is an easy read when you get bored and just want to get lost for a moment. It can also send you Googling to see how much they got wrong in 1957. (Turns out a lot, but there really are multiple chickens throughout history that have lived without a head!)

Kiah Albritton, Graduate Assistant

Book cover of Queenie.jpgQueenie by Candice Carty-Williams  
My latest read! I’ve been trying to read more books with WOC protagonists, and Queenie was hilarious, relatable, and moving. Queenie is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman navigating the (often messy) politics of love, work, family, and her own mental health. Read it now, bruv.

Book cover of Hood Feminism.jpgHood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
So, I’m only about a quarter of way through this one, but it came highly recommended to me and I’ve fully enjoyed it so far. In this collection of essays, Kendall critiques the mainstream feminist movement for only increasing privilege for a few rather than addressing the inequities in basic needs for all women. It is a fiery call to action that we would be wise to not ignore.


David Bateman-Schieler, Program Coordinator

Book cover of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.jpgMeditations by Marcus Aurelius 
The personal writings of Marcus Aurelius form the basis of Stoic tradition. The meditations are collected into books, but exist as short passages, easy to read. One of my favorites is No. 59 from Book 8, “Men are born for the sake of each other. So either teach or tolerate.”

However, during these trying times of quarantines and social distancing, we might be called to reflect with this meditation from book 7: “Do not dream of possession of what you do not have: rather reflect on the greatest blessings in what you do have, and on their account remind yourself how much they would have been missed if they were not there. But at the same time you must be careful not to let your pleasure in them habituate you to dependency, to avoid distress if they are sometimes absent."

Book cover of the heart of buddha's teaching.jpgThe Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hahn
Buddhist Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hahn provides a rich introduction to the concepts of Buddhism for those wishing to explore an Eastern worldview. There is a very enlightening section on Right Mindfulness that helped me see deeper into the larger contemporary social conversation around mindfulness: “Remember that the subject of knowledge cannot exist independently from the object of knowledge. To see is to see something. To hear is to hear something. To be angry is to be angry about something. Hope is hope for something. Thinking is thinking about something."

I also love his conversations about non-being and the interconnectedness of all things: “A flower is not a flower. It is made only of non-flower elements – sunshine, clouds, time, space, earth, minerals, gardeners, and so on. A true flower contains the whole universe. If we return any one of these non-flower elements to its source, there will be no flower. That is why we can say, ‘A rose is not a rose. That is why it is an authentic rose’.”

Book cover of Aldou Huxley's "Island".jpgIsland by Aldous Huxley
Island is a fictional tale of a man (Will Farnaby) who washes ashore an untouched island and is greeted by a society that lives in collective harmony. As the tale unfolds, we learn that Will Farnaby did not wash ashore on accident and that he was sent to compel the society to abandon their collective ways for economic individualism. Dialogue heavy, interjected with Farnaby’s thought provoking reflections, I highly recommend it as a quarantine read (get away and travel to a tropical community of love and support!).


Jamie Clinton, Graduate Assistant

Book cover of the Kite Runner.jpgThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
My favorite book of ALL TIME. I first read this book in 10th grade and have read it three times since. It’s an amazing story about friendship and redemption. It’s full of teaching moments. The book takes you on a wild journey through the eyes of a young, troubled boy and into his adulthood.


Cover of Angels and Demons.jpgAngels & Demons by Dan Brown
My second favorite book of all time. Professor Langdon is in Rome to solve a crime that highlights the conflict between science and religion. It’s a hefty read but totally worth it! Full of twists and turns. Bonus: there’s a movie you can watch after the read, featuring the one and only Tom Hanks (with special guest Ewan McGregor)!

Amber Cox, Graudate Assistant

A complete set of all seven Harry Potter books.jpg The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
I went back and re-read these books again recently, and they are very timely considering the state of our nation’s current politics. 



Book Cover of the Martian.jpgThe Martian by Andy Weir
The book is so much better than the movie. It’s a great combination of sciencey cool facts, and a gritty “Never tell me the odds!” attitude. 


Mariah Denson, Graduate Assistant

Book cover of The Rose that Grew From Concrete.jpgThe Rose that Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur
I love! This book makes me think critically, emotionally, and rethink the human experience. Plus I love Tupac so...
"Released with this game till its a part of me" 
"My heart don't beat no fear, And it ain't hard to see"
"The future's looking dim"
"I'm trying to make a profit out of living out of sin" 

Book cover of The Crunk Feminist Collection.jpgThe Crunk Feminist Collection by Brittney Cooper
This was gifted to me recently by my supervisor, who sees something profound in me, that I sometimes struggle with seeing for myself. This book is a collection of essays that explore the successes, struggles, thoughts, and minds of black women and what it means to be a black woman with a different lens and life in this world.   


Kenny Harrison, HR & Travel Representative

Book cover of The Da Vinci Code.jpgThe Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
I have to force myself to read. It is not something that I love doing, but The Da Vinci Code is a book that I could not put down. It was a gift from my aunt, and I read it cover to cover in a few days. A great read, in my opinion.

Book Cover of Good to Great.jpgGood to Great by Jim Collins
Good to Great may be more applicable to the business world, but I was fortunate to hear Jim Collins present at one of our conventions. He and his team are brilliant and speak to not settling for mediocrity and the dangers of just being “good.”

Miguel Hernandez, Director

Book cover of Memoir of a Visionary: Antonia PantojaMemoir of a Visionary: Antonia Pantoja by Dr. Antonia Pantoja 
I think this is an excellent read, especially during Women’s History Month, to consider the international, thoughtful, and humanizing approach Dr. Pantoja used to bring about positive social change through her efforts related to the Latinx Civil Rights movement in the U.S. 


Eric Jones, Program Coordinator

Book cover of the Four Agreements.jpgThe Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Over the past 5-ish years, since this book was first introduced to me, I've used the Four Agreements as a way to re-center myself during major transitions in my life. When I think of us trying to adjust to our current reality, this is a book that immediately comes to mind. Don Miguel provides four simple, yet difficult in practice, agreements for us to live a life that is truly or own. Plus it's a pretty short read, so definitely bingeable over the weekend!


Book cover of Leadership and New Science.jpgLeadership and the New Science by Margaret J. Wheatley
Being the massive leadership nerd that I am, I couldn't help but share my favorite leadership text. I remember reading this book in the capstone course for the Leadership Studies Certificate here at FSU. Some people despised it, but I LOVED it! Dr. Wheatley takes quantum physics and relates it to leadership theory. My mind was constantly being blown away and twisted into new ways of thinking when it came to leadership. At the core, she talks about how in reality, life is far more chaotic than it is in order. Equilibrium or "the norm" is far more fleeting than we think it is, which I think we are all getting an exercise in currently. It's a bit of a dense read, but it's totally worth it!


Gina Kittel, Program Coordinator

Book Cover for a Man Called Ove.jpgA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Ove is a grumpy old man  - people call him "the bitter neighbor from hell." He generally thinks most people are stupid and just doesn't think he has to walk around with a smile across his face all the time. The truth is there is a story behind his crankiness, and as younger new neighbors (who meet him by flattening his mailbox) slowly get to know him (maybe against his will), the reader learns more about perspectives and the complexities about how each of us thinks during different times in our lives and circumstances. This book is thoughtful, and explores perpectives while adding comedy and good dialogue. Note: the first chapter may be difficult given the topic, but it is worth continuing.


Kiki Litchford, Graduate Assistant

Book cover of The Art of Happuness.jpgThe Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler
This book is filled with so much positivity, even when addressing the more difficult parts of life. It is written as a series of interviews and talks between the Dalai Lama and psychologist Howard Cutler and contains a number of great thoughts to meditate on in the quest to find a state of true happiness and contentment.


Maria-Paula McIntyre, Community Engagement Program Coordinator

Book cover of How to Be Single and HappyHow to Be Single and Happy: Science-Based Strategies for Keeping Your Sanity While Looking for a Soul Mate by Jennifer L. Taitz
I will be finishing this book this weekend and I highly recommend it during this time of “social distancing,” regardless of relationship status. It addresses our innate desire for connection and identifies how mindfulness, as well as social-emotional wellness approaches, can help us feel more satisfied with the present, even when we may feel like we are missing out on a very human experience, which in this book, is love.  

Anna Mitas, AmeriCorps VISTA Program Manager

Book Cover of Dream Differently.jpgDream Differently – Candid Advice for America’s Students by Dr. Vince M. Bertram
This book is perfect for high school students and up – to challenge you to realize your true potential as early as possible, to be smart about the dreams and goals you set for yourself, and to equip you to make decisions now that will set you up for future success.


Book cover of Waking Up White.jpgWaking Up White – And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving
A racial justice educator and writer, Debby works with other white people to transform confusion into curiosity and anxiety into action. Irving tells her often cringe-worthy story with openness and Waking Up White is a personal and moving adventure…and a compelling invitation to learn.


Erin Sylvester Philpot, Assistant Director 

Book Cover of Where the Crawdads Sing.jpgWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This book is a connection of coming of age, mystery, and an appreciation for the environment, specifically the marshlands of North Carolina. Follow Kiah as she discovers who she is, the things she values in life, and the ways in which we can each take a different perspective by slowing down and connecting with the earth and nature and the many joys they have to share with us. 



Book cover of Talking to Strangers.jpgTalking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
I looooove me some Malcolm Gladwell, and this book I recommend as an audio book. Here, Gladwell explores the ways in which we struggle to build connections with strangers and how our default assumptions are often wrong and lead to terrible outcomes. The reason I support the audio option is because he includes not just the narrative of people's lives but their actual voices-- you get to hear from Sandra Bland, Fidel Castro, Neville Chamberlain, Amanda Knox, Sylvia Plath and others in their own voices.  

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Book cover of Bossypants.jpg I mean...we just need to laugh, especially in times like these. Tina Fey shares about her upbringing, her entrance into comedy and is incredibly vulnerable about how she has struggled with self confidence since childhood and the challenges she faced becoming a mother. 


Paige Rentz, Media Specialist

Book cover of  The Immortalists.jpgThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
This is the last book I read that made me cry. I'm a sucker for sweeping, multi-generational storytelling and magical realism, and this book hints at both. Its protagonists, four siblings who are told as children when they will die, wrestle with fate and self-determination as they each deal with crises in different periods of recent history. It seems an especially important read these days. 


They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

dealing with crises in different eras of recent history They Called Us Enemy.jpg As a bit of a Trekkie and fan of graphic novels, picking up George Takei's graphic memoir was a no-brainer. The book, a collaboration with Harmony Becker, Justin Eisenger and Steven Scott, tells the story of Takei's childhood in Japanese internment camps during World War II, how that experience influenced his life after his family's release and his views of our country and what it means to be American, ultimately connecting this shameful chapter of American history to current events. 


White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Book cover of White Fragility Robin DiAngelo is a longtime diversity and social justice trainer who breaks down the ways in which white people in America have been socialized to maintain the status quo whether they realize it or not. Filled with familiar scenarios, the book helps to better understand defensive behaviors that arise when white people are confronted by racism in a society structured on white supremacy. DiAngelo teases out the personal and the systemic, surrounding the the psychological, sociological, and political foundations at play in these interactions. This book has helped me reconsider the ways I engage with people I care about in issues that matter to me. 


Satcha Sanon, Graduate Assistant

Book cover of BecomingBecoming by Michelle Obama
Where do I begin?! This book is absolutely inspirational and quite motivational. Michelle Obama shares many intimate details of her upbringing, life in Southside Chicago as a young child, the challenges of being a black woman in spaces not made for us, and her continued motivation to empower children and women.


Book cover of Dear Haiti, Love AlaineDear Haiti, Love Alaine
Alaine Beauparlant details stories of her time living in Haiti as a volunteer. During that time, she sees the stories that her parents had always told her growing up come to life! Alaine is funny and witty in delivering her stories, but she also talks about how she uses her time in Haiti to break down generational curses.


Kenya Shakir, Program Coordinator

Book cover of The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paul Coelho
Upon finally reading this book after hearing about it for years, I experienced a self-awakening. This book chronicles a journey to treasure, self, love and more. It is a page-turner and quick read if you'd like to use some of this social distancing time for introspection and dreaming of the future.


Book cover of The Autobiography of Malcom XThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X
This autobiography of the revolutionary activist Malcolm X, or El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, highlights key parts of his life from childhood to the end of his life. If you want to better understand how your experiences, identities, and community directly impact your worldview, politics, and activism, this book is for you.


Book cover of All About LoveAll About Love by bell hooks
Another page turner that discussing all types of love from parents, friends, self, community, and romantic partners. Feminist and social activist bell hooks offers new visions on love and empowers you to open your heart truly to what love brings in life - bravery, compassion, forgiveness, etc. Love yourself and the community during social distancing and reading this book.


Shane Whittington, Social Justice Coordinator

Book cover of Emergent StrategyEmergent Strategy by Adrienne Marie Brown 
This book will prompt the reader to take a step back and examine how they look at self, society, and the planet earth. It is unapologetically reflective and challenging to everyday thought and overall observation of internal and external action.



Book cover of Eleven RingsEleven Rings by Phil Jackson
A collection of stories, thoughts, and team work strategies from one of the most decorated NBA coaches and how he had to adjust to work with some of the greatest NBA players of all time.