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  • Writer's pictureMary Elizabeth Wieder

Book List 2024: the annual list of knowledge and storytelling

Updated: Apr 4

Every new year, many people claim "I want to read more". It's a great resolution on the surface, but the truth is we are actually reading more than ever thanks to our constant scrolling obsession with all things digital and social media. What has changed is how we read, taking in small bits of information through skimming and trying to rationalize and process what we've managed to take it. Of course, a lot of what we read is also strategically chosen for us through cleverly developed algorithms that chew up our data and patterns and spit back out our customized reading lists.

In 2024, I want to get back to quality reading: carefully selected books read cover to cover (yes an actual cover), dissecting news articles and carefully selecting and analyzing research and thought leadership as it pertains to my fields of expertise and interest.

Topics of interest for this year: historical fiction, history of Italian politics, corporate innovation, diversity and inclusion

  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith -- LINK

This is an American classic about a poor immigrant family growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the turn of the 20th century through the start of World War I. I had never read it, but the NYC Marathon inspired me to take a trip through Brooklyn via a novel. This novel will take you on a journey back 3 generations ago and realize what people worked for to create a better life moving forward. The book was written in 1943 and caused a stir for its social boldness or promiscuity which are laughable by today's standards. The story itself is quite captivating and well-written and will keep you wanting to know more about Francie and her family.

2. The Power of Showing Up: how parental presence shapes who our kids become and how their brains get wired by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Bryson -- LINK

Let me save you some time: this book is about what we now call gentle parenting. Throughout the book, I mostly took away that my parents screwed me up and I am in the process of screwing up my kids. When I got about three-quarters of the way through I started feeling so guilty about my parenting techniques and started to apply some critical reasoning skills to this book. To start, for a book that continues to say "the science says", there wasn't a single cited source in this book. Where is the "science" coming from? As a child of the 80s/90s, I am the first to admit that we need to incorporate empathy and presence into the way we raise children, but we also can't forget about discipline and taking a hard line approach to tantrums. The book mentions several times "not to give in to tantrums" but it doesn't really give you an effective way to deal with them. As most parents will tell you, trying to calmly reason with a toddler screaming because he wants chocolate is not always effective. I think there is a great Machiavellian debate going on it parenting today: do we want to be feared or loved by our kids? (Obviously use your own critical thinking skills and don't take it so literally). Overall, the only thing the book really did for me was make me feel guilty.

3. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by David Grohl -- LINK

The legendary drummer of Nirvana and the frontman for the Foo Fighters tells his story: from childhood to discovering music and traveling the world with Scream, Nirvana and the Foo Fighters. If you grew up with these bands, then it was a captivating story that really shows more than anything what happens when you never give up on your passion or your dreams. David Grohl talks about sleeping on a mattress on Kurt Cobain's floor and living off of corn dogs before becoming something bigger. He also tells some unbelievable occurrences that makes us realize just how small the world is. Needless to say, both Nirvana and Foo Fighters have been on Spotify repeat lately.

4. E Adesso Splendi: Impara a valorizzarsi per piacere a chi vuoi tu by Chiara Franchi -- LINK

Here is my first Italian read of the year: a book by a former fashion industry executive about applying the same strategy of marketing, sales and design to your personal brand in order to "shine". I thought the book had a good flow in terms of strategy and can definitely be a useful guide for those who haven't thought about a personal brand yet. What is particularly useful is the beginning part about defining your vision, mission and values. I had the honor of attending Chiara Franchi's book presentation during her stop in Verona, Italy.

5. "Figlie di Eva" by Liliana Faccioli Pintozzi -- LINK

Two Italian language books in a row! In English the title translates into "Daughters of Eve" and was written by an Italian journalist who covers international affairs and has been a correspondent all across the globe: from the U.S. to London and Brussels and the Middle East and Afghanistan. This book tells the story of 3 countries and cultures living in a time of oppression when it comes to women's rights. What might surprise you, as it did me, is the countries on the list: Iran, Afghanistan and... the United States. In Iran, women are imprisoned, beaten and killed every day for now complying with the country's "moral code", in Afghanistan women basically don't exist, confined to their homes, they are meant to be home makers and breeders. They no longer even have a right to education. In the U.S., the right to abortion and the choice of what women can do with their bodies is under attack. It will break your heart to see the state of "half the sky", but it will also ignite a passion to do something about it.

6. En Agosto Nos Vemos / Until August by Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez -- LINK

This 150-page novel is Màrquez's last work before his death in 2014. Rumor has it that he didn't want this novel published, but his sons did it anyway, and as they mention in the preface, they did it to show that his father's creative genius was well and alive despite his health decline in the years before his death. I was conflicted whether to read it or not since I have been a fan of his other novels, but I decided to read it - in Italian (since I don't know Spanish and Italian is closer than English). It did not disappoint, but it did not overwhelm. It tells the lifelong story of love - between wife and husband, mother and daughter and even lovers in a brief period of time. I personally don't think it does the great author a disservice by reading it. I also saw a review that called it an unsatisfactory goodbye to the author, which I personally find somewhat "exaggerated". If you are a fan of his work, give it a read but don't expect to find this decade's masterpiece. Take it for what it is: an homage to the lifelong search for love.

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