Summer #AmReading for Fall Semester

Now that I’ve posted the final grades for my classes and sent many of my students off into the world at Penn State’s graduation, I’m settling into a summer full of reading. And this summer, there are a number of nonfiction books on my list that I want to read as a prep for my Fall semester classes. One of the exciting, but also challenging, aspects of being a developmental scientist is the fact that our field continues to evolve and change as research progresses. This means that many ideas I taught at the beginning of my career ten years ago are now out-of-date, or in need of modification to capture the new insights we’ve made.

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I’m looking forward to a summer engrossed in these new findings and shifts in my field, and to a Fall semester filled with new and updated lectures to share with my students. Below are a few of the books I can’t wait to read and be informed by.

Have any suggestions for my #ToBeRead list? Please share with me on Twitter or Facebook. I’m always looking for the next great read, and extra points if it’s nonfiction and social science-related.

Happy Reading!

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by [Nutt, Amy Ellis]

Back of the Book Jacket: “When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But it wasn’t long before they noticed a marked difference between Jonas and his brother, Wyatt. Jonas preferred sports and trucks and many of the things little boys were “supposed” to like; but Wyatt liked princess dolls and dress-up and playing Little Mermaid. By the time the twins were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt’s insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart. In the years that followed, the Maineses came to question their long-held views on gender and identity, to accept and embrace Wyatt’s transition to Nicole, and to undergo an emotionally wrenching transformation of their own that would change all their lives forever.

Becoming Nicole chronicles a journey that could have destroyed a family but instead brought it closer together. It’s the story of a mother whose instincts told her that her child needed love and acceptance, not ostracism and disapproval; of a Republican, Air Force veteran father who overcame his deepest fears to become a vocal advocate for trans rights; of a loving brother who bravely stuck up for his twin sister; and of a town forced to confront its prejudices, a school compelled to rewrite its rules, and a courageous community of transgender activists determined to make their voices heard. Ultimately, Becoming Nicole is the story of an extraordinary girl who fought for the right to be herself.

Granted wide-ranging access to personal diaries, home videos, clinical journals, legal documents, medical records, and the Maineses themselves, Amy Ellis Nutt spent almost four years reporting this immersive account of an American family confronting an issue that is at the center of today’s cultural debate. Becoming Nicole will resonate with anyone who’s ever raised a child, felt at odds with society’s conventions and norms, or had to embrace life when it plays out unexpectedly. It’s a story of standing up for your beliefs and yourself—and it will inspire all of us to do the same.”

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by [Burke Harris, Nadine]

Back of the Book Jacket: “Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was already known as a crusading physician delivering targeted care to vulnerable children. But it was Diego—a boy who had stopped growing after a sexual trauma—who galvanized her to dig deeper into the connections between toxic stress and the lifelong illnesses she was tracking among so many of her patients and their families. A survey of more than 17,000 adult patients’ “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs, like divorce, substance abuse, or neglect, had proved that the higher a person’s ACE score the worse their health—and now led Burke Harris to an astonishing breakthrough. Childhood stress changes our neural systems and lasts a lifetime.

Through storytelling that delivers both scientific insight and moving stories of personal impact, Burke Harris illuminates her journey of discovery, from research labs nationwide to her own pediatric practice in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point. For anyone who has faced a difficult childhood, or who cares about the millions of children who do, the innovative and acclaimed health interventions outlined in The Deepest Well will represent vitally important hope for change.”

 

Back of the Book Jacket: “The New York Times bestselling author of Girls & Sex and Cinderella Ate My Daughter delivers her first ever collection of essays—funny, poignant, deeply personal and sharply observed pieces, drawn from three decades of writing, which trace girls’ and women’s progress (or lack thereof) in what Orenstein once called a “half-changed world.”

Named one of the “40 women who changed the media business in the last 40 years” by Columbia Journalism Review, Peggy Orenstein is one of the most prominent, unflinching feminist voices of our time. Her writing has broken ground and broken silences on topics as wide-ranging as miscarriage, motherhood, breast cancer, princess culture and the importance of girls’ sexual pleasure. Her unique blend of investigative reporting, personal revelation and unexpected humor has made her books bestselling classics.

In Don’t Call Me Princess, Orenstein’s most resonant and important essays are available for the first time in collected form, updated with both an original introduction and personal reflections on each piece. Her takes on reproductive justice, the infertility industry, tensions between working and stay-at-home moms, pink ribbon fear-mongering and the complications of girl culture are not merely timeless—they have, like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, become more urgent in our contemporary political climate.

Don’t Call Me Princess offers a crucial evaluation of where we stand today as women—in our work lives, sex lives, as mothers, as partners—illuminating both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.”

 

Put a Spring in your Reading

As the winter doldrums give way to Spring showers (and–hopefully soon–flowers), I’ve been enjoying some thrilling reads that got my pulse racing and my eyes flying over the pages to see what happens.

I highly recommend any and all of the below for you to enjoy as the snow gives way to sunshine. . .

1. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

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This pic is aptly framed, as this read was red-hot with intriguing twists and razor-sharp prose.

Back of the Book Summary: “Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.”

2. The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon

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Excellent domestic suspense with an ending you won’t expect!

Back of the Book Summary: “Abby looks forward to meeting the family who just moved in across the street—until she realizes they’re the one couple who could expose her deepest secrets

After a night of fun back in 1992, Abby is responsible for a car crash that kills her beloved brother. It’s a mistake she can never forgive, so she pushes away Liam, the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames—the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret, that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam moves into the neighborhood with his own family, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the terrible secrets they’ve both been carrying…”

3. Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Do Not Become Alarmed: A Novel by [Meloy, Maile]

Exotic locales, exquisite prose, and the threat of a new danger with each turn of the page. . .

Back of the Book Summary: The sun is shining, the sea is blue, the children have disappeared.

When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The adults are lulled by the ship’s comfort and ease. The four children—ages six to eleven—love the nonstop buffet and their newfound independence. But when they all go ashore for an adventure in Central America, a series of minor misfortunes and miscalculations leads the families farther from the safety of the ship. One minute the children are there, and the next they’re gone.
 
The disintegration of the world the families knew—told from the perspectives of both the adults and the children—is both riveting and revealing. The parents, accustomed to security and control, turn on each other and blame themselves, while the seemingly helpless children discover resources they never knew they possessed.
 
Do Not Become Alarmed is a story about the protective force of innocence and the limits of parental power, and an insightful look at privileged illusions of safety. Celebrated for her spare and moving fiction, Maile Meloy has written a gripping novel about how quickly what we count on can fall away, and the way a crisis shifts our perceptions of what matters most.”

4. Sleep No More by P.D. James

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Despite all of Jasper’s evidence to the contrary, this collection of short stories from my beloved P.D. James is perfectly titled–read and remember once again why she’s called the “Queen of Crime Fiction.”

Back of the Book Summary: “No one gets inside the head of the murderer—or makes it a more thrilling read—than the late, great P. D. James. Fast on the heels of her latest best seller: a new, fiendishly entertaining gathering of previously uncollected stories, from the author of Death Comes to Pemberley and The Private Patient.

It’s not always a question of “whodunit?” Sometimes there’s more mystery in the why or how. And although we usually know the unhealthy fates of both victim and perpetrator, what of those clever few who plan and carry out the perfect crime? The ones who aren’t brought down even though they’re found out? And what about those who do the finding out who witness a murder or who identify the murderer but keep the information to themselves? These are some of the mysteries that we follow through those six stories as we are drawn into the thinking, the memories, the emotional machinations, the rationalizations, the dreams and desires behind murderous cause and effect.”