24 Books to Inspire You in 2024
Now that the New Year is here, it's the perfect time to reflect on what you learned in the past year. Excited to uncover new knowledge and ideas in 2024?
Take a look at the books that have influenced members of the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) community. Exploring these could offer you fresh insights and different perspectives to take with you this year.
Brittany M. Armstead
Admission Counselor II
Recommendation: "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse
I read "Siddhartha" by Hermann Hesse as required reading for high school. I was skeptical reading it at first because it included references to Hindu and Buddhist practices, and at the time, I was a devout Christian. Mrs. Hester, my English teacher, was trying to help us become well-rounded global citizens. She wanted to introduce us to different worldviews so that we were not ignorant of cultures different from ours.
This reminds me of SNHU's goals as well. I didn't know it then, but she was planting seeds that would eventually bloom in my adulthood. As I went off to college and entered the workforce, I kept coming back to Siddhartha's journey in my head. I was experiencing a similar journey with my faith. Eventually, I decided Christianity no longer aligned with my beliefs and I started to explore other faiths. I even became an atheist at one point.
Recently, I concluded that Buddhism ultimately fit my understanding of the world and I decided to take refuge in it. If it weren't for reading "Siddhartha" and being exposed to other belief systems, I wouldn't have opened my mind or heart to see that there is more to the world than I knew as a teenager.
Reading about Siddhartha's journey helped me to see that it is okay to move away from how I was raised, to define my own faith and to live out my own journey. Self-discovery and self-actualization is what I learned from reading Siddhartha and I have held tightly to it ever since.
Admission Counselor III
Recommendation: "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
Maya is the epitome of grit. She is a powerhouse of tenacity. She has undergone so much trauma but never let it chew through her soul.
Senior Project Manager
Recommendation: "Expectation Hangover" by Christine Hassler
"Expectation Hangover" helped me reconsider my perspective on accomplishment in my late 20s and begin to reframe my thoughts on my experiences with focus on a positive and insightful light. It helped me reframe my understanding of my background and cleared the slate for me to dream about my future. This book is helpful both in work and personal life.
Recommendation: "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory Maguire and illustrated by Douglas Smith
It challenges one to reconsider our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil. I find this to be very relevant to faith practices, our current political culture and international conflict.
Senior Content Director and Adjunct
Recommendation: "Counter Culture: Clams, Convents and a Circle of Global Citizens" by Eleanor Dunfey-Freiburger
Written by former SNHU professor and chair of the nonprofit Global Citizens Circle, Eleanor Dunfey-Freiburger tells of her family's humble, working-class roots in Lowell, Massachusetts, and the incredible journey the entire family embarked on together that ultimately created community and world change.
But it all began with Eleanor's parents, who instilled the love of family, the value of hard work and the importance of inviting everyone to the table in each of their 12 children. This book taught me so much and I continually go back to it and recommend it to others — we all can create positive change in the world, as individuals, as a family and as caring community members.
Senior UX Researcher
Recommendation: "Lessons In Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus
I love strong female characters. Elizabeth Zott is an exemplar of a strong female character as she challenges sexism and gender inequality in the 1960s in both her professional and personal life. I admire how she unapologetically challenges the status quo in order not to betray herself amidst a multitude of societal expectations and cultural norms.
It is also fascinating, and at times heartbreaking, to observe the unique and personal ways Elizabeth handles adversity, trauma and grief. When you finish the book, you can watch the recently released Apple TV+ series based on the book, which is a well-done adaptation.
Admission Team Lead and Adjunct Instructor
Recommendation: "Untamed" by Glennon Doyle
I was gifted this book by a team I previously led for my birthday. I knew there was hype around it but did not know why. I was hooked from the introduction describing the innate strength and power a cheetah possesses despite captivity and training and how women are similarly held captive by societal conventions.
This book put into words how I wanted to live my life going forward. I was working through a messy time in my life, and this book changed my perspective on what it meant to live the full life I craved. Here was a guidebook to develop a mindset of independent freedom and to make choices aligned with my core values and beliefs.
Doyle's anecdotes and direct messages empower the reader to reject societal expectations that attempt to cage them and instead live a life "untamed." I recommend this book to anyone looking to jumpstart their journey toward self-discovery and fulfillment.
Senior Web Developer
Recommendation: "Love Prevails: One Couple's Story of Faith and Survival in the Rwandan Genocide" by Jean Bosco Rutagengwa
In this book, Jean Bosco contrasts the unimaginable darkness that engulfed his beloved Rwanda with the resilience stemming from (an) upbringing centered on love, family and community, grounded in profound faith. "Love Prevails" recounts Jean Bosco's story, evoking a profoundly emotional response unlike any I've experienced from reading.
His poignant narrative vividly captures the moment-to-moment agony, terror and fears for his family and fiancée. His acceptance of death, the questioning of his prayers' efficacy and the life-saving decisions for his beloved resonate deeply.
Having survived a harrowing ordeal, his subsequent journey is nothing short of inspirational. His dedication to honoring the memory of his and (his) fiancée's family, offering shelter and sustenance to fellow escapees, and his heroic efforts to secure aid for traumatized Tutsi survivors showcase an extraordinary commitment.
I have the pleasure of personally knowing Jean Bosco and have been able to listen to him speak on several occasions. He and his family are truly wonderful people, I am better for knowing them and hearing their story.
Transfer Credit Evaluation Specialist II
Recommendation: "At Home: A History of Private Life" by Bill Bryson
This book made me exceedingly grateful for the everyday things that seem mundane — things like indoor heat, electric lighting, plumbed water and refrigeration. It's easy to flick a light switch and not consider what a monumental increase in quality of life indoor lighting affords us — we can cross rooms without carrying a candle or burning oil lamps that are as likely to burn our homes down as to provide usable light. We can now eat fruit and vegetables when we please, rather than immediately.
We can have hot water on demand, rather than carrying water into our homes and heating it over a stove. Heck, we even have windows, fresh air and natural light, which were luxuries for homeowners until the late 20th century. This book made me realize what a miracle modern life even is and I think it's something important to reflect upon during these tumultuous times when wealth inequality is something at the forefront of discourse in our society.
Adjunct Instructor and Faculty Trainer
Recommendation: "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston
I read this book for the first time in college. It was the first time I saw myself, the people in my life and my great-grandmother's story depicted in a fiction novel. It was the first time I gave myself permission to start ... thinking deeply about who I am in relation to others and how I would like to define myself in this world.
Admission Counselor I
Recommendation: "When I'm Gone" by Emily Bleeker
'When I'm Gone" is one of those books that's so intimately written and engaging that you start to read it, can’t put it down, and suddenly, you’re 200 pages in. Its mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat, but don't be surprised when you shed a tear. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I didn't always know whether to like the characters or not. I'm all for a dynamic character, but Emily took it to the next level with this book.
Jada Keye Hebra
Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
Recommendation: "The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity" by Kwame Anthony Appiah
Appiah does a wonderful job challenging old ideas and turning concepts around in his hands to discover something new. When it comes to identity, we are increasingly moving into spaces that are non-binary, socially ambiguous, and not easily classified. This book challenged me to dig deep personally and helped me to think about the concept of identity in new ways.
UX Researcher and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Subject Matter Expert
Recommendation: "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom
I love this book on so many levels. Mitch Album talks about feeling emotions like a wave and letting them consume you — cry if you need to — and then move on. So often we don't take time to fully feel and that section reminds me to do just that. Also, I have lost a handful of people in my life, which is why I am so passionate about talking about death rather than letting it be a taboo topic.
And this quote really stands out to me: "As long as we can love each other and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on — in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here." So it is part of my mission to keep those who I have lost alive through their stories, their teachings and the lessons they taught me.
Academic Advisor II
Recommendation: "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" By Dee Brown
The history of the indigenous genocide in the United States is grossly underplayed for students in K-12, and unless specializing in the field, it is not taught at the collegiate level. This book talks about the horrors the indigenous tribes faced from European occupation, the lies they were dealt with and all the land that was stolen from them.
The book is heartbreaking, and the truth is important for all to know and learn. This book took the whitewash from my eyes and helped me understand the country that I was born and raised in. Not to be shamed, but to heal.
Office of Diversity and Inclusion Internal Program Manager
Recommendation: "The Signature of All Things" by Elizabeth Gilbert
This is my favorite book of this young century! I have read it countless times and given it to most of the women in my life as a gift at some point. There is adventure, science, botany, drama, comedy, history, and has a very strong, female-identifying lead that does not live by society's standards.
She is weird and intelligent and brave. You get to learn a lot of real history about botany and how botany is tied so deeply with colonialism in the late 19th and early 20th century.
I think Elizabeth Gilbert is highly underrated and have never read anything by her that I didn't enjoy. I like her raw, honest peek into different times and places in history.
Dr. Paul LeBlanc
Recommendation: "Ways Of Being" by James Bridle
James Bridle’s "Ways of Being" is a recent read for me and I underlined so much of it that my underlining became useless. It’s all so good. It expanded my sense of what it means to know, to be sentient, to be a human being. It is a book that challenges a lot of long held and unquestioned assumptions about how the world works and our place in it. It both humbles and expands. I love a book like this that both offers new and keen insights while filling one with awe and mystery. I’ve been giving it to everyone.
Assistant Vice President of Student Experience Marketing and Communications
Recommendation: "Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be" by Dr. Becky Kennedy
This book was recommended in the Parents' ERG (SNHU's employee resource group for parents), and I'm so glad I purchased it. Dr. Kennedy offers a refreshing and empowering approach to raising happy, resilient children. Instead of focusing on traditional parenting techniques, Kennedy emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and emotional regulation for parents. She argues that by understanding and managing our own emotions, we can better connect with our children and create a nurturing environment for their development.
"Good Inside" is not just a parenting book; it's a guide to personal growth and self-discovery. I learned a lot about myself as well. Kennedy's insights into human emotions and behavior apply to all aspects of life, not just parenting. Her message of empathy, understanding, and self-acceptance is powerful and transformative.
Lisa Marsh Ryerson
Executive Vice President and University Provost
Recommendation: "Poverty, by America" by Matthew Desmond
Matthew Desmond's new book, "Poverty, by America," is an essential read.
For me, it reaffirmed that poverty is a societal issue and a national illness, not an individual failing. His clear and compelling narrative serves as a call to action for economic justice. It is way past time to address structural and systemic racism and discrimination.
Academic Advising Team Lead and Adjunct Instructor
Recommendation: "Homebodies" by Tembe Denton-Hurst
This book is a powerful representation of LGBTQ+ and the experience of a Black woman in a predominantly white workplace. I was blown away by how much this novel packs into its pages, particularly the first chapter, with how clearly you see and feel this main character's world.
The author clearly shows the character's experiences in a way that is visceral and impactful for someone who has no idea what it's like to have these kinds of work experiences. From an EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) lens, this book is a great way to learn and be empathetic to experiences we can't directly know ourselves.
Student Financial Services Team Lead
Recommendation: "Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want" by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy
This book challenged me to schedule a getaway to carve out two days to really examine every aspect of my life and cast a vision for how I want to live my days. The practice was convicting and impactful. It afforded me a perspective that I think often doesn't come until the end of one's life. Not only does the book impact mindset, but it also gives a step-by-step action plan on how to apply the concepts and principles for lasting change.
Academic Advisor III and Community Officer of Adelante Employee Resource Group
Recommendation: "Lost Connections: Why You're Depressed and How to Find Hope" by Johann Hari
This author has several excellent books I could recommend, but this was the first one I read. He talks about how, globally, we feel disconnected from ourselves, our lives and each other. He visits various countries to explore how vast this issue is.
He then uses the book's second half to talk about what different communities have done to combat this. This book helped me understand that it's not just me who struggles in life; it's everyone. It explained what is causing these feelings in so many people (TLDR: it's technology), and it helped me feel less alone in my own struggles with depression and anxiety.
Academic Advisor III
Recommendation: "How to do the work" By Dr. Nicole Lepera
On my journey of healing — I found the podcast of this book (Self Healers Podcast) and felt that I needed to read the book itself as well. I recommend this book because it breaks down the process of healing any past traumas that may be leaking into your day-to-day without realizing it.It helped me understand myself and why I am who I am, while also describing how to heal the parts of me that are impacting my ability to continue forward. Healing takes small steps, EVERYDAY — there is no quick fix and this book highlights that.
Assistant Vice President of Community Impact
Recommendation: "All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis" by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson
Reading about the climate crisis can often be centered on the tragedies inherent with a warming atmosphere including natural disasters and famine. "All We Can Save" is a series of essays, short stories and poetry from women who provide varied perspectives on our shared existence. There is tragedy within its pages, but also hope, beauty and solutions.
Dr. Kendra Thomas
Senior Director of People Experience and Belonging
Recommendation: "The Alchemist "by Paulo Coelho
I applied to work at SNHU twice, 10 years ago. The first time I wasn't accepted, I did some soul-searching, worked on my skills, and began reading this book. The opportunity reopened and I was wondering if I should put myself out there. I had never reapplied for a job before and then I came across this quote, “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it," and so many others from the book, and felt compelled to apply. Well, it worked, and I have grown beyond my wildest dreams and found a beautiful home at SNHU.
Stefano Garzia '22 earned his bachelor's degree in communication and chose to pursue his master's in the same field at Southern New Hampshire University. During this journey, he became deeply interested in learning. He loves making digital content and is passionate about telling stories. His work includes creating engaging content for various online platforms. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
If you wonder about the book that's most inspired him, he'd likely mention "Un Altro Giro di Giostra" by Tiziano Terzani. This book explores the adventures of an explorer who passionately traveled the world, uncovering hidden places, cultures and traditions.
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