Wonder Women by Debora L. Spar

Spar believes that when women hold themselves to an impossible standard they, by definition, can never achieve everything they set out to do. Instead we all need to make decisions about our priorities and accept that some things won’t get done well, or at all. One thing that stood out to me was Spar’s claim that today’s women can be so devoted to home, family, careers, etc, they neglect to join “forces to fight for something together.” Why? “we’re too busy trying to be perfect.” (p. 172) It’s important for women to understand that their striving for the impossible isn’t just a personal problem- it’s a societal one. If we stop trying to do everything, perhaps we can find the time to make things better for those who will come after us.  

Walking with the Wind by John Lewis

After hearing Congressman John Lewis’s incredible talk at the Rabbinical Assembly convention, I had to read the entirety of his story. It’s one thing to learn about the civil rights movement as history, it’s quite another to have Lewis walk you through each step of history as it unfolds. But more than that, Lewis encouraged and inspired me to continue the all important task of making this world more equal and more just. I found it particularly significant when Lewis discusses how the church’s teachings mean nothing until they leave the church walls and reach the streets. While it seems obvious that the aim of religion is to impact society, it’s an important reminder to step out of the day-to-day and to focus on big questions of what religion aims to do and why.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

It’s disappointing that in 2013 women are still reading and writing about leadership and work-life balance. Yet here we are. Nothing here stood out to me as groundbreaking, except, perhaps, that the ideas came from Sandberg herself. If new generations of women are still grappling with how to become leaders, then learning from Sandberg is a useful place to start. Plus, given the discourse ┬áLean In┬áprovoked, the conversation about women in the workplace is far from exhausted.

Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson

A fascinating account of the development of cooking technology and its impact on tastes and trends. I was surprised to learn that so much of what I think of as fundamental to cooking and eating are actually rather recent developments which have consequences for society far beyond the kitchen and the dinner table. For example, cans existed for 50 years before someone invented a can opener. For us, the two are an obvious pairing, but that’s not how it happened. For decades, people were missing an essential tool from their lives, and didn’t know it. Makes me wonder about the yet-to-be-designed tools that we’re lacking now, and don’t even know about.