Dodge Foundation Picks for Great Reads to Start off the New Year

January 6, 2015


Did you resolve to read more in the new year?

If so, we’ve got your back. Not only is reading enjoyable, research suggests it actually changes your brain and makes you more empathetic.

Today, we want to share 5 books our staff couldn’t put down over the holidays to get you started on the right path for 2015.


Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine.

“It is essential reading for Americans,” says Michele Russo, Dodge Poetry Coordinator.

Described as a “provocative meditation on race” and a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award in Poetry, Citizen recounts “mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in 21st-century daily life and in the media,” according to its publisher. “Some of these encounters are slights, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV— everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.”


Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande.

“It’s easily one of the top five books I’ve ever read,” says Molly de Aguiar, Dodge Media Program Director.

In Being Mortalbestselling author Atul Gawande takes on modern-day medicine’s duty to improve aging and death.

“Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end,” according to its publisher. “Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified.”


New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne: The Man Who Couldn’t Be Bought, by Donald Linky

Recommended by Chris Daggett, Dodge President and CEO, the book tracks the childhood and political career of New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne, whose leadership helped preserve New Jersey’s Pinelands.

“Known by mobsters as ‘the man who couldn’t be bought,’ Brendan Byrne led New Jersey into a new era when he won the state’s gubernatorial election by a landslide in the wake of political corruption scandals,” according to its publisher. “A former prosecutor and judge, Byrne was soon condemned as “one-term Byrne,” the inept politician who few thought would risk the humiliation of standing for a second term. Yet Byrne surprised both friend and foe alike by pulling off the state’s most remarkable political comeback, winning re-election and leaving a legacy of preserving the vast resources of the Pinelands, enacting the state’s first income tax and comprehensive school financing reform, developing the Meadowlands, approving casino gambling in Atlantic City, and initiating strong environmental controls to combat pollution.”

Inside Newark: Decline, Rebellion and the Search for Transformation, by Bob Curvin.

As you read Inside Newark, “You come to understand why Newark behaves and operates today, largely because of its history,” says Daggett, who recommends the book.

“For decades, leaders in Newark, New Jersey, have claimed their city is about to return to its vibrant past. How accurate is this prediction? Is Newark on the verge of revitalization? Robert Curvin, who was one of New Jersey’s outstanding civil rights leaders, examines the city, chronicling its history, politics, and culture,” according to its publisher. “Throughout the pages of Inside Newark, Curvin approaches his story both as an insider who is rooting for Newark and as an objective social scientist illuminating the causes and effects of sweeping changes in the city.”


Common Thread, a collection of poems by Mass Poetry

Recommended by Josh Stearns, Dodge’s Director of Journalism and Sustainability and a Massachusetts resident, “Common Thread” is an annual publication of poems by Massachusetts poets, with a guide to reading and discussing the poems and videos of the poems being read (by the poets themselves when possible).

“The overarching theme of this fifth edition of Common Threads is love — a reverence for life and a zest for living that is intensified at moments of birth and death, the cherishing of one’s birthplace and the longing for what has been left behind, a passion for peace and respect for poetry itself as witness, and finally, the precious and precarious beauty of nature. Each of these eight poems reveals love’s common threads,” said Alice Kociemba, Common Thread Guest Editor.

It’s available as a free PDF download or $10 for a hard copy.


Do you have a favorite book? Share it in the comments below. 


Top photo is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Onderwijsgek