Monday, September 14, 2015

Top Ten Good Books You've Never Heard Of

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week is a freebie! I decided to figure out which of the books I'd read had few (under 1,000) ratings on Goodreads and recommend some of them to you.

1. Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
A few years ago I went to an excellent conference for female professionals that focused solely around the concepts in this book, with Sara Laschever as the keynote speaker. The main idea is that women tend to be socialized not to ask for things, while men are much more likely to ask — about a higher salary, an open position, or better service at a hotel. This not only explains a large part of the wage gap but also leads to women missing out on all kinds of things they could get if they just learned to ask. Through real-life stories and exercises, the authors illustrate how to make "asking" a part of your life.

2. The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives by Shankar Vedantam
I learned about this book after reading an excerpt that was being shared as an online article, about transgender professionals who learned firsthand about gender discrimination when comparing their experiences before and after transitioning. This book is a good crash course in the concepts that are explored in much greater depth in the classic Thinking, Fast and Slow. One of the best takeaways for me was why I shouldn't judge people of color who see racism in innocuous situations.

3. I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse? by Suzy Becker
I ran across this book when I was volunteering as a shelf reader at the library, and the fun cover and title caught my eye. The author is a cartoonist and humorist, so this memoir of her experience needing and recovering from brain surgery was both funny and enlightening, accompanied by great illustrations.

4. In the Presence of Mystery: An Introduction to the Story of Human Religiousness by Michael H. Barnes
I had the great fortune to have Dr. Barnes as a professor of religion in college, and this book, which was the course's textbook, was incredibly readable and absolutely fascinating. Previously my understanding of religion had come primarily from my own Catholic upbringing with some knowledge of other Christian traditions and a very slight understanding of Judaism and Islam. This book covers a far broader range of world religions and uses these examples to explore the fundamentals of religious belief and practice.

5. Jesus, Mo and Cheese Puffs by Lisa Boucher
I had the opportunity to see this book in its early stages as Boucher's editor and totally loved this quirky story of an older couple taking a road trip to California and getting pulled into the lives of colorful characters at the small towns they stop at along the way. I helped her land a literary agent who unfortunately wanted to gut the book because she didn't believe a story could be told from more than one character's perspective (WTF?), so Boucher eventually gave up and self-published. This is a heartwarming and fun book that's worth a read.

6. Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical: From Debate to Dialogue on the Issues That Separate Us by Fr. John R. Waiss and James G. McCarthy
I went through a phase in late high school and early college of buying a lot of Christian nonfiction, and this is one of the better ones that ended up in my collection. The authors are friends and both very well-versed in theology, so they try to determine whether they can settle the religious disagreements between their traditions. (Spoiler: They can't.) What struck me most from reading this was that the things that divide Catholics and evangelicals are so... tiny, and yet ultimately fundamental to each's beliefs. I learned a lot, and the friendly tone made this a "safe" way to understand these theological differences.

7. Room for One More by Anna Perrott Rose
This is the book that first got me thinking about adoption, back in high school. It's a true story of the author's experiences taking in and ultimately adopting several foster children, in addition to her own biological children. Her stories are interspersed with reflections on parenting that I found fascinating as a teenager (particularly with the 1930s/40s backdrop). I think I bought this at a used book sale and was surprised it wasn't more widely known.

8. The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby's First Year by Alice Callahan
This is a relatively new book that will probably gain more readers over time, but I picked it up soon after it came out because of how much I like the author's blog of the same name. Callahan dives right into the most hot-button areas of parenting, from vaccinations to breastfeeding to co-sleeping, and distills the available evidence from research studies into a readable format. So much of what's out there is parenting theory, so it was refreshing to read a review of the research literature instead.

9. Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction by J. David Kuo
This was a recommendation from my mom. Kuo went into politics because he thought it was the best way to live out his faith and change the world for the better. What he found was politicians learning how to pay lip service to faith in order to attract voters, while having no actual interest in the areas their religious constituents were most concerned with. Having a firsthand account was both an interesting and depressing way to have my thoughts about politics confirmed.

10. Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen by David Hilfilker
If there is any book on this list that I could choose to make popular, it would be this one. This book, assigned reading in college, was my wake-up call about all of the beliefs I never realized I had about poverty, welfare, and the "inner city." The author cuts through any politics to provide facts and figures about the history of public assistance programs and what has worked in other parts of the world to lift people out of poverty. At 158 pages, there's no excuse not to read it.

What books have I probably never heard of that you would recommend?

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