What We’re Reading

This is a running list of books, articles, videos, and audio that moved and influenced us.  This page will continue to be updated.  The most recent additions are at the top.

The Book of Yaak by Rick Bass


“Past Imperfect” by Azie Dungey / This American Life


Becoming Earth by Eva Saulitis


“Optimization is Gentrification” by Jieren Chen / Medium


“Fast Talker” by Sean Cole / This American Life


Confronting Despair in the Age of Ecocide” by Brian Calvert / High Country News


The Anti School Choice Hypocrisy” by Sharif El-Mekki / Philadelphia Citizen


Remembering the NAACP’s Silent Protest Parade, a 1917 March Against Racial Terror” by Hyperallergic


Don’t Call It the Badlands” by Kevin McCorry / NewsWorks

This success is no accident. Since she delivered Layla at 15, she’s been on a mission to will herself and her daughter out of poverty — statistics be damned.

“I don’t care how hard it will be, I’m going to do it. I’m going to push myself because I know I want better for me and my child,” she said. “I’d rather work hard than struggle my whole life.”

She knows that 15 year olds aren’t usually so thoughtful and mature.

“I had to grow up really fast,” she said.


Italy Offers Swimming Lessons for Refugees Traumatized by Crossing Meditterranean” by Michael Birnbaum / Washington Post


No place to turn” by Reveal


Barrio Walden” by Luis Alberto Urrea / Orion Magazine


An Open Mind: Interview with Sera Davidow Questions What We Think We Know About Mental Illness” by Tracy Frisch / The Sun Magazine


Dim” by Jim Daniels


Desperately Seeking Symmetry” by Radiolab


Null and Void” by Radiolab


True You” by Invisibilia


ZAKA Mission to Haiti ‘proudly desecrating Shabbat’” by YNET News


The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration by Bernd Heinrich


New Research Shows Small Changes May Improve Economic Inequality” by NPR


A Couple’s Quest to Stop a Rare Disease Before It Takes One of Them” by NPR


Iraqi Refugee Empowers Youth to Share Their Stories through Narratio” by NPR

from Ahmed Bahr’s poem “A Thank You Letter from the Bomb Who Visited My Home 11 Years Ago”:

Thank you for using me for good


Remarks at the Dedication Ceremony for the National Museum of African American History and Culture” speech by President Barack Obama, September 2016


Mitch Landrieu’s Speech on the Removal of Confederate Monuments in New Orleans


New Orleans Artists Take on Real Estate’s Loaded Terms” by Jen Kinney / Next City Daily

Eversley read aloud: “If the buying and selling of property is a qualification of citizenship, then the auction of real estate is the process by which citizenship and the freedoms and limitations thereof are established, maintained and revoked. Through the dehumanization of human-turned-property, a U.S. citizen with rights and ‘freedoms’ is born. This dehumanization is normalized through the spectacle of the auction.”

In other words, purchasing human property at auction was once a potential path to citizenship for the buyer. Today, property ownership — real estate or otherwise — is no longer a requirement for citizenship. But it remains a commonly touted path to financial security and the elusive American dream…


When foster kids are moved around, schooling becomes an afterthought” by Caroline Preston / Hechinger Report


The Not-So-Sweet Smell of School Success” by Roxanne Patel Shepelavy / Philadelphia Citizen


Our Mothers As We Never Saw Them” by Edan Lepucki / New York Times


How Abnormal Was Comey’s Firing? Experts Weigh In” by New York Times


Watching Philly Grocery Shoppers is Changing How Cities Build Supermarkets” by Jen Kinney / Next City Daily


Aleppo After the Fall” by Robert F. Worth / New York Times Magazine


Rhiannon Giddens on Fresh Air with Terry Gross


Busting the Tree Ring” by Ben Goldfarb / High Country News


Disability and the Right to Choose” by Jennifer Bartlett / New York Times


Black-and-White Black America” by NPR


Prevention Point Does the Work You Never See — Keeping Heroin Addicts Alive” by Thomas Fox Parry / Philadelphia Citizen


The Things We Carry” by Joshua Wolf Shenk / Harpers Magazine


You’re Not Going to Believe What I Have to Tell You” by The Oatmeal


Why Small Animals Are Huge for Conservation” by Michael Samways / Smithsonian Magazine


Whites Only: SURJ and the Caucasian Invasion of Racial Justice Spaces” by DiDi Delgado / The Establishment


Literature’s Arctic Obsession” by Kathryn Schulz / New Yorker


Sentinel Species” by Megan Mayhew Bergman / Paris Review


JSTOR’s Global Plants digital herbarium


“A Symphony Scored from a School District’s 1,000 Broken Instruments” by Allison Meier / HyperAllergic


The Animal Dialogues by Craig Childs


Manual of Simple Sabotage” by CIA


Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward


Initial Meeting of the National Parks Revolutionary Coordinating Committee” by Kate Washington / McSweeney’s

BADLANDS: This is a great start. One more thing. Is Mount Rushmore here?


BADLANDS: Hey, neighbor, good to see you. I have your revolutionary assignment ready.

MOUNT RUSHMORE: I’ll do anything. Sniper attacks? Guerrilla warfare? Shearing off giant rocks and catapulting them onto the White House?

BADLANDS: I love the enthusiasm. But you don’t need to be violent. All you have to do is stay where you are and remind the entire nation of what a president should actually be.


The List” archive by Suzan Eraslan


Knowing the Warning Signs” on Ask Metafilter


“After Trump’s Election, a Non-practicing Muslim Returns to Prayer” by Zara Noorbakhsh / NPR


To Obama with Love, and Hate, and Desperation” by Jeanne Marie Laskas / New York Times Magazine

She looked for stories. Not pro-this or con-that, not screeds, not opinions about what someone heard on N.P.R. The president needed to hear the stories — that’s what he couldn’t get himself. “He can’t walk down a street and see what it normally looks like,” she said. She thought of the letters as a periscope outside the bubble, as a way for him to see as he used to see, before Secret Service protection and armored vehicles and a press pool and the world watching.


The Death of the Tunnel Tree” by Nathan Heller / New Yorker


After 20 Years, Young Man Leaves Foster Care on his Own Terms” by NPR

“[My five siblings and me] were separated and shuffled between foster homes, group homes, shelters, and for at least one of my siblings, incarceration. That’s why it was really important to me to make a statement in court, going on the record about how the foster care system failed my siblings and me.”


What I Learned Watching Lebron James During My OCD Treatment” by Vinay Krishnan / Slam Magazine


Every Reason to Stay: An Interview with Eva Saulitis” by Christine Byl / The Sun Magazine


Stop Trying to Save the World” by Michael Hobbes / New Republic

“But the point of all this is not to talk shit on Kremer—who has bettered the world more with his career than I ever have with mine—or to dismantle his deworming charity, or to advocate that we should all go back to giving out free textbooks. What I want to talk shit on is the paradigm of the Big Idea—that once we identify the correct one, we can simply unfurl it on the entire developing world like a picnic blanket.”


Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Internment Camps” by Tim Chambers


The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail by Jason de Leon


Making Data Visually Meaningful by Jer Thorp


“President Obama and Marilynne Robinson: A Conversation in Iowa” & Part II by New York Review of Books


“Mapping Traditional Place Names along the Koyukuk River—Koyukuk, Huslia, and Hughes, Western Interior Alaska” by USGS


“Where I Slept” by Stephen Elliott / The Rumpus


“Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops” by Danny Hakim / New York Times


Kerry Egan on Fresh Air with Terry Gross


Moonlight filmmakers on Fresh Air with Terry Gross

“JENKINS: And I’ll say this on FRESH AIR with Terry Gross, you know, the beauty of working with Tarell and knowing Tarell is he has provided the space for me to come out of retirement as a filmmaker but also to come out of my shell and actually be open and honest about some of these things that we’ve talked about, about our moms and about growing up and just feeling not whole. And so I thank you, my brother, for helping me feel whole.”


I am Not Your Negro directed by Raoul Peck


LoveTrue directed by Alma Har’el


“Why I’m Walking Away” by Adrienne Mackey


“A Pleasantly Unsettling Visit to Oakland’s Urban Montessori” by Dirk Tillotson / Great School Voices

I was painfully reminded of some of my old school monitoring visits—a clipboard in hand counting the number of students “on task” (which really meant who was actually or pretending to pay attention) and coming up with percentages to define engagement/quality. Such crap.

So much of what is defined as school quality has so little to do with real education, the visit today was a pleasant reminder of how far off course we often are. If kids aren’t happy at school, feel those emotional connections, the engagement and eventual self-motivation, then we have failed.

And next time I am asked to do monitoring visit, I am going to ask how we measure happiness.


“How to Train Your Raptor” by Kathryn Schulz / New Yorker


“Examples of How City Services Privatization Leads to Inequality Are Piling Up” by Jen Kinney / Next City Daily

“There are a couple of ways this happens. In the criminal justice system, privatization often means shifting to end users costs that were once paid by governments. Prisons sign contracts with private companies that provide prison phone and video services, then cut in-person visitation and charge family members exorbitant rates to talk to their loved ones by phone. Companies contracted to collect delinquent fines might charge an extra fee to the debtor instead of receiving compensation for their work from governments at all. Those additional fees can make a small initial fine spiral out of control, particularly for poor debtors.

With hard infrastructure, like water and transit, private companies often increase rates, without necessarily improving service. Dillon Beach isn’t alone, for example. According to data by Food & Water Watch, cited in the report by In the Public Interest, private, for-profit utilities charged typical households 59 percent more than local governments for drinking water service. That means a household using 60,000 gallons a year would pay $316 for water from a local government, but $501 a year for the same amount from a private company.

Oftentimes, it’s worker’s wages, which worsens income inequality. Government jobs used to offer healthy salary and benefit packages, making them steady careers that could stabilize communities, the report notes. But privatized positions for the same work often offer lower wages, reduced benefits and little to no retirement security. “In effect, governments are inadvertently contributing to the growing poverty and increasing inequality plaguing American society as tax dollars that once provided middle-class jobs are siphoned off to corporate coffers,” states the report.”


“The Problem We All Live With” & Part II by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Chana Joffe-Walt / This American Life


“Want to expand pre-k? Better put it in the right places” by Avi Wolfman-Arent / NewsWorks


“Playing God” by Radiolab


“Your Life is a Poem” interview with Naomi Shihab Nye by Krista Tippett / On Being

Ms. Tippett: You’ve said that you read your son to sleep, and you also read him awake.
Ms. Shihab Nye: I did. Yes.
Ms. Tippett: So what would you do? You’d go in, and sit by his bed…
Ms. Shihab Nye: Well, when when he was around 13, he said, “Mom, you don’t have to read to me anymore. I can read for myself.” And I said, “Yeah, I know. All the other parents I know stopped when their kids were like 8.”
Ms. Tippett: [laughs] Yeah.
Ms. Shihab Nye: “Or 9. And I’m still reading to you.” But he was sweet and gracious about it. And we did like that reading time at bedtime. And so I paused for a while, maybe a year I wasn’t reading to him. And then this farmer showed up in Oklahoma at a workshop and told us all that he had come just to listen. He just wanted to hear everyone read their work. And we thought, “Wow. Look at this. The wandering audience. He doesn’t even want to participate; he just wants to listen.”
And he said, “No, listening is participation. It’s very important.” And he talked about being a child and being awakened every day by his granddad who read to the kids in the house as a wake-up call every morning, stood in the resonant hallway outside their bedrooms, and read poems. And my brain clicked. I thought, “This is what I’ll do for the rest of the time our son is at home. I’ll waken him every day with reading poems.”


“The One You’re With” by Angela Winter / The Sun Magazine

Fredrickson: Yes, I think we can co-experience emotions. We tend to think of emotions as belonging to an individual — my gratitude, your anger — but a degree of biobehavioral synchrony can emerge when two people feel positive emotions in each other’s company. You can see this in their body language: the way they move, how engaged they are, how their gestures mirror each other. There’s also facial mimicry: one person smiles, and the other smiles back.

Research is beginning to point to an invisible synchrony as well: when people share a positive emotion, the levels of certain biochemicals in their bodies rise in unison, and there’s a similarity in their neural firings, too. We’re just getting the initial glimpses of this, and it isn’t easy to study. You can’t simply have two people engage in intimate conversation while in the brain scanner. But we’re seeing hints that a single positive emotion can roll like a wave through two brains and bodies at once.

This synchrony could also happen to us in larger groups, such as a whole stadium full of people who all stand up and cheer at the same time. Or maybe the tempo of a piece of music brings a crowd’s movements into sync. I’d call that love, too. Between two individuals the connection can happen with eye contact, or touch, or even just a voice over the phone. I argue that this real-time sensory connection is one of the preconditions for micro-moments of love to emerge. When you and I are connecting, and I express a positive emotion, it can bring out the same emotion in you, which, as you express it, is going to amplify my emotion. The good feeling is reverberating or resonating between us. The term I’ve coined for this is “positivity resonance.”


The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram

“I found myself now observing the heron from outside its world, noting with interest its careful high-stepping walk and the sudden dart of its beak into the water, but no longer feeling its tensed yet poised alertness in my own muscles. […] I was indeed reacclimating to my own culture, […] yet my bodily senses seemed to be losing their acuteness, becoming less awake to subtle changes and patterns.  The thrumming of crickets, and even the songs of the local blackbirds, readily faded from my awareness after a few moments, and it was only by an effort of will that I could bring them back into the perceptual field. The flight of sparrows and dragonflies no longer sustained my focus very long, if indeed they gained my attention at all.  My skin quit registering the various changes in the breeze, and smells seemed to have faded from the world almost entirely, my nose waking up only once or twice a day, perhaps while cooking, or when taking out the garbage.”


More Perfect series by Radiolab


“Geel Revisited” by Invisibilia

“Early psychiatrists who observed Geel noticed that the treatment prescribed for mental patients was, in fact, no treatment at all. “To them, treating the insane, meant to simply live with them, share their work, their distractions,” Jacques-Joseph Moreau wrote in 1845. He and others advocated for that communion. “In a colony, like in Geel, the crazy people … have not completely lost their dignity as reasonable human beings.” In the next half-century, many would uphold Geel’s model as the best standard of practice for mental disorders.”


“Earth’s Temperature Timeline” by xkcd


“When Force is Hardest to Justify, Victims of Police Violence are Most Likely to be Black” by Lisa Wade, PhD / The Society Pages


“A Small Needful Fact” by Ross Gay


“If you’ve got money you vote in… if you haven’t got money you vote out” by John Harris / The Guardian

“What defines these furies is often clear enough: a terrible shortage of homes, an impossibly precarious job market, a too-often overlooked sense that men (and men are particularly relevant here) who would once have been certain in their identity as miners, or steelworkers, now feel demeaned and ignored. The attempts of mainstream politics to still the anger have probably only made it worse: oily tributes to “hardworking families”, or the the fingers-down-a-blackboard trope of “social mobility”, with its suggestion that the only thing Westminster can offer working-class people is a specious chance of not being working class anymore.”


“Machine Bias” by ProPublica


“You Want a Description of Hell? Oxycontin’s 12-hour Problem” by LA Times


“Imagine” by Derrick Jensen / Orion Magazine


Walk Around Philadelphia Project, written up by JJ Tiziou and Adrienne Mackey


“Failing to Learn” by Anne P. Beatty / The Smart Set


The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry

“No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, we can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality.”


“Leo Tolstoy’s theory of everything” by Irina Paperno / Salon


The Man Who Quit Money by Mark Sundeen


“Meet the Last Lykov” by John Martin / Vice


Desert Solitaire by Ed Abbey


“Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago” by Inside Climate News (& partner story by LA Times)


Present Perfect directed by Evan Briggs


“Any Good Course in Geology is Actually a Course in Time” by Julia Turner / Slate


“Trout Lilies” by Mary Oliver


What to Listen for in the World by Bruce Adolphe


“Stiff as a Board, Light as a Feather” by David Rakoff / This American Life


“Parks for People Aims to Put Everyone within a Ten Minute Walk to a Park” by Kristen Gillette / Generocity


“I Was an Undercover Uber Driver” by Emily Guendelsberger / Philadelphia City Paper

My driver is a man in his 20s with a heavy African accent; I’ll call him Morake. We’ve been driving for UberX for about the same amount of time. I thank him fervently for picking me up. I tell him I’m a driver myself, and I probably would have left me stranded.

Morake says he doesn’t usually accept requests more than 10 minutes away, because customers tend to get impatient and cancel when he’s halfway there. He finally accepted mine because it was coming from a hospital and seemed desperate. “So it called one time, two times, three times — I said, ‘Maybe this person don’t have nobody else.'”

The contrast is so striking — Morake, who accepted a ride against his own best interests out of human kindness, and Uber, which treats him and so many other drivers as utterly disposable numbers in an equation.

Morake is happy to chat about the annoyances of being an Uber driver — his rating is near the cutoff for being deactivated, which he thinks might be because he recently refused to drive a late-night pickup to New York. “It’s good though — because with Uber, if you drive 12 hours, 16 hours a day, you make good money!” He is heartbreakingly sincere. If he didn’t have another job, Morake says, he’d work for Uber 16 hours a day. I think of my effortlessly excellent rating, and my plans to torpedo it for a punchline, and I’m suddenly, cripplingly ashamed.

Twenty chatty minutes and a couple scary wheel-spinning moments later, Morake drops me off. When I try to tip him, he demurs, following Uber’s rules to the letter. He says it was fun just talking to another driver. He finally accepts a thoroughly deserved 10 bucks. As Mor­ake drives off through the snow, I check my phone. Even though it was a surge fare, after expenses, Morake will only net about $10 for about an hour of dangerous driving. I rate the dude in the car five stars. And then I quit Uber.


“Unwanted Alive” by J. Malcolm Garcia / Investigative Fund & Guernica Magazine


“Landmark lawsuit filed in California to make trauma-informed practices mandatory for all public schools” by Sylvia Paull / Aces Too High News


“The word hoard” by Rob MacFarlane / The Guardian

“There are experiences of landscape that will always resist articulation, and of which words offer only a distant echo. Nature will not name itself. Granite doesn’t self-identify as igneous. Light has no grammar. Language is always late for its subject. When I see a moon-bow or a sundog, I usually just say “Wow!” or “Hey!” Sometimes on a mountain, I look out across scree and corrie, srón and lairig – and say nothing at all. But we are and always have been name-callers, christeners. Words are grained into our landscapes, and landscapes grained into our words.”


“faith shift” by Belle Alvarez


“Not It!” by Adriana Cardona-Maguigad / This American Life


The Abstract Wild by Jack Turner


“Simpatico” by Snap Judgment


The Living Room” by Love and Radio


Remembrance of Philip Levine on Fresh Air with Terry Gross

“My brother and I made an oath when we were boys that we would never do work that exploited other people. … And I had to keep it, because he’s very stubborn and he was watching me. But then you have to change the world, if you’re going to make a choice like that! You have to make it possible for other people to make that choice.”


“How to Become Batman” by Invisibilia


“The Revelations of Marilynne Robinson” by Wyatt Mason / New York Times


On the edge with Edward Abbey, Charles Ives and the outlaws” by Charles Bowden / High Country News


“Necessities” by Lisel Mueller

“A map of the world. Not the one in the atlas,
but the one in our heads, the one we keep coloring in.
With the blue thread of the river by which we grew up.
The green smear of the woods we first made love in.
The yellow city we thought was our future.
The red highways not traveled, the green ones
with their missed exits, the black side roads
which took us where we had not meant to go.
The high peaks, recorded by relatives,
though we prefer certain unmarked elevations,
the private alps no one knows we have climbed.
The careful boundaries we draw and erase.
And always, around the edges,
the opaque wash of blue, concealing
the drop-off they have stepped into before us,
singly, mapless, not looking back.”


“How to Make Hard Choices” by Ruth Chang / TED


The Rhino Hunter” by Radiolab


Body Play by Kaycee Fillson


“Phone Home” by Seth Freed Wessler / This American Life


“A Toast Story” by John Gravois / Pacific Standard


“Ass and You Shall Receive” by Abby Higgins


Bad Astronomy by Philip Plait


Black Image in the White Mind by Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki


“Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes” by Dan Hurley / Discover Magazine


Hard Living on Clay Street: Portraits of Blue-Collar Families by Joseph T. Howell


“Inside David Foster Wallace’s Private Self-Help Library” by Maria Bustillos / The Awl


“The Junkie and the Monk” by Mike DiStefano / The Moth


“Maurice Sendak: On Life, Death, and Children’s Lit” on Fresh Air with Terry Gross


“Media Consumption and Perceptions of Social Reality: Effects and Underlying Processes” by L.J. Shum


“News Content and Illusion: Four Information Biases that Matter” by W. Lance Bennett


No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton

“It is therefore of supreme importance that we consent to live not for ourselves but for others. When we do this we will be able first of all to face and accept our own limitations. As long as we secretly adore ourselves, our own deficiencies will remain to torture us with an apparent defilement. But if we live for others, we will gradually discover that no expects us to be “as gods”. We will see that we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important part in all our lives. It is because of them that we need others and others need us. We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack in another.”


“Poverty is Poison” by Paul Krugman / New York Times


“The Promise” by Joe Posnanski


“To Spot Kids who will Overcome Poverty, Look at Babies” by Alix Spiegel / NPR


Two or Three Things I Know for Sure by Dorothy Allison


Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen by David Hilfiker


“What Makes Us Happy” by Joshua Wolf Shenk / The Atlantic


“Who’s Bad” by Radiolab


“Why Americans Hate Welfare” by Martin Gilens


Voices of Freedom: Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s by Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer