Sometimes, you want to learn something over summer break. But you still want it to be as gripping and fun as a breezy novel.
Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson
Feeling good about the fact you recycle and bring your reusable bags to the grocery store? Bea Johnson is for sure doing more than you. The year she wrote this book, their total family trash output fit in a 2-quart mason jar. You may not be ready to make your own eyeliner out of burnt almond ashes, but many of the suggestions are easy to implement and it’s just a fascinating book.
More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting by Serena R. Miller and Paul Stutzman
I didn’t know a lot about Amish culture before this book, so it was fascinating to not only learn about that but pick up some good parenting advice too. It’s in the same vein as Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Bringing Up Bebe, but this is definitely the gentlest of the three.
Red China Blues by Jan Wong
One item for the list of “things you probably didn’t know about me:” I did my undergrad degree in history with an emphasis in 20th-century China. This is my favorite of the books I read during those years, about a Canadian teenager of Chinese descent, who managed to gain entrance to China during the Mao years. She arrives convinced that Mao is God’s gift to the world but slowly realizes that all the propaganda she’s seen back at home isn’t the full story.
Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull
If you’ve wondered what happens to make the Pixar magic, here’s your answer. I wouldn’t consider myself a wild Pixar fan, although I certainly like their movies, but this book was just so interesting. And Ed Catmull is the perfect narrator of the story – he never struck me as bragging or conceited but he’s obviously a terrifically talented guy and when I was done with the book, I wanted to go watch every Pixar movie out there. Plus, tidbits and funny anecdotes to last you through a year of cocktail parties.
The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley
As I get ready for my oldest child to start kindergarten this fall, education is definitely on my mind, and this book, about the school systems in three countries (Poland, South Korea, and Finland) and how they succeed in turning out students so far ahead of the U.S. and other countries is totally fascinating. I also love that it talks about how to find a great school wherever you live and how to help your child get a world-class education.