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The power of books: what you should read this year

Poverty is a world-wide, continual, complex issue. What causes poverty? What can be done about it when almost half of the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 a day? What is daily life like when you can’t make ends meet? When reading about small changes in financial literacy, insurance, healthcare, job training, and other development initiatives, I realized that there are plenty of inspirations and roadmaps to help us achieve our goals of ending poverty in Wake County. That’s the power of books, the power of shared information and experiences. Take Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Nickeled and Dimed, for instance. Like many of Americans, Barbara never actually knew what it felt like to be poor but did buy into the rhetoric that a job – any job – can be the ticket to a better life. But how can a person survive, let alone prosper, on $7.25 an hour? Ehrenreich left her comfortable life, booked the cheapest hotel she could find and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Living in extended stays and rundown motels, she worked as waitress, hotel maid, Wal-Mart clerk, and so on. Barbara soon realized that even lowliest of jobs are not “unskilled” and require exhausting mental and physical effort. Obviously, there’s nothing that compares to a lived experience, but books can open the world to us and give us better understanding of subjects generally left in our blind spots. Staff from Passage Home shared some titles that have inspired, motivated, enlightened, or challenged them in some way.

Brittany Westmoreland, Development & Volunteer Coordinator, recommends The Power of Moments by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. It is a great resource for anyone looking to create everlasting experiences that could empower others without costing you.

In everyone’s life, there are moments that have enormous impact. Why we tend to remember the best or worst moment of an experience, as well as the last moment, and forget the rest. In The Power of Moments readers discover how brief experiences can change lives, such as the experiment in which two strangers meet in a room, and forty-five minutes later, they leave as best friends.

Nichele Wilson, Program Director, recommends The Audacity of Hope, and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou for its inspiration, while our Director of Property Management gained insight from titles like Rich Dad, Poor Dad and The Outliers.

There is clear evidence that reading improves a person's capacity to understand what others are thinking and experiencing, helps us relate to other people, and encourages us to be kind and considerate of other people's feelings. Reading can actually increase empathy and that's something the world can always use. What are you reading?

When reading this, I was amazed by its recency. Individuals who played a major role in this book are still in news headlines today. And political slogans used today are a call back to the political slogans that were used to rally white supremacy. We can’t truly understand the history of America, if we are unwilling to reconcile how it is shaping and active in our present. This book was a sobering reminder how close we are in time to some of these atrocities that we have yet to truly resolve.

What books do you recommend? Leave them in the comments.

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