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Summer Reading Guide

There are plenty of places you can find well-vetted lists of recommended recreational reading for your trip to the beach.  Summers, however, come in many shapes and sizes.  Here are some perhaps more out-of-the-box ideas.  What’s closest to your reality?

A back room with a loud fan, working out collective strategy:  If your summer involves egalitarian decision-making, the last thing you want is to get tangled up.  Take a look at Come Hell or High Water: A Handbook on Collective Process Gone Awry.  A slim 120 pages, it definitely meets the criteria of “easy reading”, and it even has cartoon pictures.  Develop a better sense of power dynamics that could trip you, take preventative action*, wrap up the meetings and go out for ice cream.

In close quarters with extended family:  For some in this category, I’d recommend The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and the World.  I read this recently as part of my work with a client whose organization is in conflict, and found every bit worthwhile in understanding best options when we’re hurting.  Bishop Desmond Tutu has sterling credentials from his own experience and includes exercises that help synthesize the content.  Tell the story, name the hurt, renew or release, and get back to that game of Scrabble.

Pressure-washing garage siding: Okay, there’s a ton of projects.  We can feel behind the 8-ball all summer long, or we can use a totally new metaphor for how we’re getting ourselves organized.  Gareth Morgan’s 1997 book “Imaginization” is worth picking up again and is eminently browseable.  What if we borrowed our images of organization from termites? From houseplants?  This book has influenced me for years and I’m looking forward to revisiting it.  

Breathing wildfire smoke:   If the summer’s conditions bring social crises into sharp focus and you’re feeling fatalistic and helpless, help might come from an unexpected place.  Last summer I attended a gathering featuring a panel of speculative fiction writers (I admit, a genre I know next to nothing about).  They agreed that -whatever the plot - there were too many stories where the response to these crises is played out violently and miserably, and few that paint a future where humans have evolved creative, positive responses.  They were part of a group of writers who were taking this need seriously, banding together under banners like solarpunk and noblebright.


To my fascination, these subgenres typically mirror models of distributed power.  Traditional tales tell stories of the hero’s journey – a singular figure overcoming adversity through strength of character and bringing home the prize.   These stories emphasize problem-solving via a collective, de-centralization, even a “heroine’s journey” of healing and integration as opposed to conquest.  Ultimately, they’re using ideas found in healthy ecosystems, even in a damaged one.  I haven’t personally read anything in this genre yet, but let me know what you find!

*call me if you need me...

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