Books are…the most patient of teachers: My top picks

One of the things we talk about in social work is the necessity of lifelong learning. When I think about all the knowledge I have now, versus when I graduated with my undergrad degree in social work, I would be in poor shape indeed without additional learning. Most of this has come in the form of reading. I love reading (as opposed to a workshop or something) because you can take in the material at your own pace and it is relatively inexpensive (or free, if you use the library). Charles Eliot said “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

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If you missed these books in your formal education so far, read them when you can. Some may be more of a “fit” for your work than others, but I think they all have important things to teach us, either with respect to families, child development, poverty, racism, policy history, and/or other systemic issues. In no particular order, these are the books that have shaped me in recent years (some more recent than others) and been the most patient of teachers for me:

  • The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog (Note: this book is older, but is the best at illustrating real life human stories of abuse and neglect and impacts on development. Also provides a really good look at the beginnings of our understanding of brain science and brain/body connections)
  • The Deepest Well: Healing the Long Term Effects of Childhood Adversity.
  • My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of our Bodies and Hearts
  • The 1619 Project
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
  • Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy
  • Where We Stand: Class Matters
  • We the Resistance
  • Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family
  • Toward Collective Liberation
  • Gracefully Insane: The Rise and Fall of America’s Premier Mental Hospital
  • Feminism is for Everybody
  • Between the World and Me
  • A People’s History of Poverty in the US
  • Educated: A Memoir
  • One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All (Note: the numbers/data in this book is older but the theoretical and developmental discussions are important. Also, this author <Mark Rank> has a new book out on poverty that I am reading later this summer.)

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