All posts by Rebecca Michelle

Educator, traveler, reader, blogger. Loves learning, black coffee, and friendly people.

My 2018 Reading List

Back in 2016, a friend convinced me to get on Goodreads and I’ve been keeping careful track of my books ever since. Growing up, I’d keep track of the books I read over the summer, writing titles and authors in notebooks with rainbow gel pens. Times change. The lists below are in alphabetical order by title and grouped into nonfiction and fiction categories.

Nonfiction

21 Lessons for the 21st Century
Yuval Noah Harari

The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness
Epictetus

The Art of Loving (I admit, this was a re-read)
Erich Fromm

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

Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World
The Dalai Lama

Building Peace: Living and Learning for a Better World
Rebecca M. Stein

The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money
Bryan Caplan

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human
Richard W. Wrangham

Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy
Mark Regnerus  

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure
Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II
Liza Mundy

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters
Thomas M. Nichols

The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life
Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson

The End of Epidemics: The Looming Threat to Humanity and How to Stop It
Jonathan D. Quick

The Ethics of Identity
Kwame Anthony Appiah

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling

The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between
Abigail Marsh

The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully
Frank Ostaseski

Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love
Emily Witt

The Geography of Morals: Varieties of Moral Possibility
Owen J. Flanagan

Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding–And How We Can Improve the World Even More
Charles Kenny

The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality
Angus Deaton

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
J.D. Vance

The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen
Kwame Anthony Appiah

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
Michael Pollan

How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain
Lisa Feldman Barrett

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking
Jordan Ellenberg

How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation
N.J. Enfield

I Will Survive: Personal gay, lesbian, bisexual & transgender stories in Singapore
Leow Yangfa

Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment
Francis Fukuyama

Inventing Human Rights: A History
Lynn Hunt

Is Shame Necessary?: New Uses for an Old Tool
Jennifer Jacquet

The Jew in Lotus: A Poet’s Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India
Rodger Kamenetz

The Jews of Islam
Bernard Lewis

The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity
Kwame Anthony Appiah

Meditations
Marcus Aurelius

Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want
Nicholas Epley

The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis
Martha C. Nussbaum

Mothers and Others
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
Steve Silberman

Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence.
John Francis

Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations
Amy Chua

The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence
Dacher Keltner

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
Kate Moore

The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World
Owen J. Flanagan

Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves
George M. Church and Ed Regis

Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies
Geoffrey B. West

Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air
David J.C. MacKay

Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002
David Sedaris

Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World
Megan Feldman Bettencourt

Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction
Maia Szalavitz

Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism
Ian Bremmer

Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul
Jeremiah Moss

The Way of the Bodhisattva
Santideva

Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter
Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
Robert M. Pirsig

Fiction

China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki – Haruki Murakami
Corridor – Alifan Sa’at
The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan
Dance Dance Dance – Haruki Murakami
A Horse Walks into a Bar – David Grossman
A House Without Windows – Nadia Hashimi
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
LaRose – Louise Erdrich
Luncheon of the Boating Party – Susan Vreeland
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
The Round House – Louise Erdrich
South of the Border, West of the Sun – Haruki Murakami
Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
Strange Pilgrims – Gabriel García Márquez
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

Nothing tickling your fancy? Take a look at my lists from 2016 and 2017.

Wishing you peace this new year, in your mind and in your heart. Happy reading!

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Words for Students About College

My grade 12 students are applying to college and for the most part, they’re miserable about it. They’re worried about grades and transcripts, letters of recommendation and application essays. They’re worried about class assessment tasks, standardized tests, final exams.

And no matter how often I try to tell them that it doesn’t matter, I understand that to them, it does. When I was 17, applying to college was the most stressful and seemingly important thing I’d ever done, too. I do empathize with my students. Applying to college is the most stressful thing most of them have ever done, but it doesn’t have to be this way. 

I’ve been telling my students to consider the following pieces of advice based on what I know now, looking back over 11 years:

  1. Put yourself in a place you’d like to live. Think about what you want around you, the community you’d like to call home, and the access that place provides for whatever matters to you.
  2. Study something that provides you with options. You can always go back to school, continue your education, and switch tracks entirely. The more options you have, the easier it is to change your mind and do something else.
  3. Consider your passions and the best ways to find fulfillment – and then consider what you need to be able to do that. Financial security? Free time? A level of autonomy? We encourage students to follow their passions, but I’d argue that it’s more important to set yourself up to be able to do that in the long run.
  4. Remember that formal education is an option, not a requirement. It’s a choice. Take a gap year. Get a job. Go somewhere new. And then decide whether formal education is the best way to set yourself up to live a good life. Higher education isn’t going away.
  5. Figure out how you learn best. Figure out what you need to sustain yourself in an environment that drives you. Do you need a 9-5 job to afford to spend your weekends surfing? Do you need to live in a specific country? Do you need to be part of a think tank to have meaningful discussions?

I’m not saying these are the right questions for everyone, but I do believe they merit some thought. Higher education is the default option for the students that I teach, as well as for many students worldwide. I don’t think this is always appropriate, if for no other reason than we don’t often consider alternatives. We also don’t often consider why higher education is the default.

Asking questions is a step in a different direction, and hopefully in the right one.

A friend described his life path to me as “a bowl of spaghetti” and he’s one of the most interesting people I know. I followed a very linear path until I got scared and jumped off it; I’m a better person and educator as a result. Linearity and predictability are safe, easy, and obvious but there’s a lot more to the world than that.

Building Peace: A Time for Giving

I live in a country obsessed with stuff. We have a lot of malls and shopping centers, a lot of sales, many opportunities to spend money. There’s a lot of getting new things, getting rid of old things, and keeping up with trends. I work with very privileged teenagers and for many of them, getting each new iPhone is the norm.

The focus on materialism has struck me sharply this week based on what I’ve seen and heard around school and I started to wonder: Why isn’t this a time for giving?

After talking with an administrator, I was asked to write a few lines for the parent newsletter and submitted the following:

With the prevalence of advertisements and sparkling lights it can be difficult for young people to remember that this time of year is a time for giving. We are lucky to live in Singapore where there are ample opportunities to give back to the community, volunteer time, and donate money to local causes. In Advisory, students are bringing in food donations for Food from the Heart, a resource bank for a variety of non-perishable items. Please consider emphasizing the importance of giving as you talk with your children around this time of year. There is much that clamors for our attention, but giving lies at the heart of what makes us human. As the IB mission states, we aim to develop “caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world”. Thank you for helping us raise these young people.

So for this post, let’s talk about giving.

‘Tis the Season

Many of us are attracted to shiny new things, as the advertising industry well knows. But once we’ve received the shiny new thing, does it make us as happy as we hoped that it would? Does it solve the problem we hoped it would solve? Sure, sometimes we love it and we’re glad to have it. But other times, we find ourselves using or missing the same comfortable old thing instead. Advertisers don’t talk about that part.

This is the time of year where we’re supposed to want the new thing. We deserve it, we’re told. We’ve worked hard. We can treat ourselves. 

And we have worked hard and we can treat ourselves. Sure.

But we can also give.

Giving is a verb. It is an action. It is something you do with purpose in whatever way you’d like. Giving means doing for another without expecting a response. It means thinking about someone else and removing yourself from the equation. Give because you want to and then step aside.

Giving doesn’t actually have a season, but this opportunity is as good as any. We can decide that this is a season of giving and we can promote giving as a peaceful act.

How to Give

Giving is easy because you can give anything.

We can give small moments to people in our lives just to see them smile when they realize we’ve thought of them. We can send a few “thank you” emails. We can offer a compliment about a new shirt or tie. We can smile a bit more, laugh a bit more, appreciate each other just a little bit more. We can ask after one another and listen, really listen, to what people say.

Giving, after all, is a verb.

And if we have it, we can give time. We can set aside our phones and other distractions and give people quality conversation, a friendly phone call. We can volunteer almost anywhere. For those of you in Singapore, we have ample opportunities to do just about anything.

If we’re lucky enough, we can give money. There is no shortage of good causes (and advertisements for causes that might not be so good). I know that this can be overwhelming, so if you’re looking to make the greatest possible impact, here is my favorite place to start.

A Peaceful Act

I haven’t written much about peace and peacebuilding since I published my book back in June, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I’ve been trying to live it with my students in our discussions about prosocial behavior in psychology class. I’ve been talking with friends from outside work to gain new and different perspectives. I’ve been meditating daily to grow in my ability to be open to sensations, experiences, and people.

So this is my request for a peaceful act: Please, amidst the holiday parties and glittery ads, think about giving. 

As I’ve written before, I see peace as the keystone in the arch of what comprises a better world. Giving, in any way you choose, will help make that world a reality.