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Rachel’s Reads – August 2023

As we celebrate the summer (and the end of that crazy heat dome), autumn is heading toward us full steam ahead. There is something about September especially that just has an educational vibe. It makes me want to run out and stock up on pens, pencils, and, of course, new books. Every September I find myself starting to reach for longer novels and fascinating non-fiction. It’s like some part of me still wants to go back to school. Below please find some books that might help scratch the need-to-learn itch, or perhaps they will just give you an excuse to buy a pack of highlighters. 

English 205: Dystopian Fiction in the 21st Century
Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Set in a dystopian alternate reality, this novel is part action drama and part social commentary. It revolves around the return of gladiators through the Criminal Action Penal Entertainment program as they fight to the death for their freedom. Atmospheric and intense with sharp writing that I can see being evaluated over and over again. 

History 506: An Approach to Omission
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen
This bestseller puts 12 history textbooks under the microscope and analyzes what they say. James, a sociology professor and critic of history education, dives into what is omitted from the textbooks and how history would be better served with different teachings. It is a book that will definitely make you stop and think. 

Science 211: Social Impacts
The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration by Jake Bittle
Many of us still think of climate change in the future tense, but this book shares the untold story of how displacement is already happening in The United States. It has personal stories along with portraits of communities, and how they are dealing with all sorts of calamities. Impressively researched, this book shows the impact of science and policy as they affect us today. 

Language 312: Characters All Around
Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern by Jing Tsu
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Jing Tsu argues that the major challenge China faced in its struggle to modernize was a linguistic one. She brings to life the efforts of innovators to make the Chinese language accessible to the world of global trade and digital technology. 

Art 501: Capturing Beauty
All the Beauty in the World: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Me by Patrick Bringley
Patrick was a former New Yorker staffer who spent a decade as a museum security guard after his older brother was diagnosed with fatal cancer. This book is not just a portrait of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and several of its works, it is also a work that shows how art can bring us back to life. 

Psychology 101: Generational Impact
Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents and What They Mean for America’s Future by Jean M. Twenge
This groundbreaking work dives into a trove of surveys and databases to answer the questions about what really makes one generation different from another. Are we defined by major historical events or is it the rapid evolution of technology that has caused so many changes? The analyses are absolutely fascinating. 

Drama 302: Modernizing Shakespeare
Fat Ham by James Ijames
Winner of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this play takes Shakespeare’s Hamlet and sets the stage at a family barbecue in the American South. It grapples with questions of identity, love and loss, joy, and pain.

Math 105: It’s a Zero Sum Game
Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife
This biography follows the concept of zero: from its birth as an Eastern philosophical concept, through its struggle for acceptance, to its impact on the many scientific concepts debated still today. It’s a great picture of a strange number and a fascinating paradox of human thought. 

Featured in the September 2, 2023 issue of The Independent.


Rachel became the publisher of The Independent in March of 2017 and then married her husband Jake in May. Their goldendoodle Einstein joined the family in 2019. Rachel is an avid reader and loves to share book recommendations. (Don’t miss her column, Rachel’s Reads in the Magazine!) She can always be found with a book nearby, especially while traveling (another of her favorite things).

Bailey Pianalto Photography



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