Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

06 Aug 2014, 9:40 a.m.

Five Books For: John

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2014 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I recently got to catch up with my brother-in-law-in-law John and we talked about books a bit, and I started thinking about books I would recommend to him. John, my apologies if you've already read any of these!

  1. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton. John, you and I were talking about how we want to behave when we are in authority, how we want to respectfully and calmly negotiate with and teach others. This book helped me see how to do that, with principles and practical examples. Like, you know when you talked about using the Socratic method in a non-jerky way? I feel like that's in here.
  2. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Switch has a lot of good ideas and case studies about how to change institutions, companies, families, and yourself. It was so accessible and smooth that I was a little suspicious and envious, as a writer. I bet you'll find ideas in here that will help you in your everyday work and community.
  3. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I babbled about this to you -- I think this book integrated adventure with thinky conversations and interstellar intrigue and music and illustrations of empire and power and gender really well. I think you might especially like how the characters wrestle with the question of how to be loyal and obedient to imperfect institutions. You can read the first chapter for free online.
  4. My Real Children by Jo Walton. This is the story of how the little things a woman does, as a good parent and in her local community, end up having ripple effects far beyond what she might have imagined. And it's also about caring for aging parents, and becoming an aging parent who needs care. So I think you'll find it strikes close to your heart in a lot of ways. You can read the first two chapters online for free.
  5. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress. This is a story about a woman with a messed-up birth family and gifts that estrange her from them - so in that I think it resembles that memoir you liked. And it illustrates the hate that comes from envy and ignorance, and how, if you've been feeling isolated and lonely, finding a community of people like you at first seems scarily amazing and then gets more complicated. It asks: what responsibility do we have to those who are less gifted, who seem to only leech off our resources? The answer the protagonist comes up with has stuck with me for more than a decade, and has helped me think about this.

As non-John readers may have been able to infer, John's a guy who cares a lot about taking care of his family, being faithful, and helping his colleagues and clients get better at what they do. So if you're like that, then you might like these books, too.


06 Aug 2014, 14:30 p.m.

I met a friend of Ann Leckie's on the weekend and I went red and hyperventilated and squeaked like a tiny fangirl, to the vast amusement of all. Thanks, again, for that rec: what a great book.