OSU's OWHE Book Title Swap

If you've ever tried starting an engaging conversation with a group of people you know it's hard. Book clubs have historically been a great way to solve this problem. Traditionally, book clubs gather people who are reading the same book to connect with each other on a regular basis... but who has time for that anymore?

When we asked OWHE members at Oregon State what they wanted from their membership, they told us they were interested in participating in activities that had elements of professional development, social/networking, and books. None of the Oregon State Institutional Representatives had the bandwidth to organize and run a book club, so we came up with another idea.

After some brainstorming, we decided to combine these three "wants" into a fun and unique event. Instead of a traditional book club, we'd bring people together to exchange book titles. We encouraged both professional book recommendations as well as leisure book recommendations; it turns out people love to read books that have been suggested by others!

This is an easy event to organize. All you need is a space for your event and a list of people to invite. Tell folks they can bring their book recommendation if they own a copy (like show-and-tell) or to simply make sure to have the full title and author. You'll need a volunteer to record every recommendation so you can share your awesome book list with those you invited who couldn't attend. And, Goodreads is a really fun way to connect with other book lovers both during and after the event. Lastly, bring snacks. Everyone loves snacks. 


Recommendations by Shannon Shivers

Kindred by Octavia Butler

As a woman with a lot of privilege, I believe it's important to read about experiences different than my own. I often struggle to relate to these experiences but I found Kindred's structure provided me with a great framework to better identify with lives different than my own. Octavia Butler writes a work of fiction that centers on two intersecting timelines in which a black woman finds herself traveling back and forth between her life in 1979 and a life on the plantation with her ancestors. The main character is so relatable and her contemporary perspective of living on the plantation provides a unique view that helped me connect to the slave experience and power dynamics of the time.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin

I have been wanting to read a book by Ursula Le Guin ever since I learned she was a great science fiction/fantasy writer who settled in Oregon. I loved this short, easy read that is set in a fictional version of Portland. If you enjoy stories where the character relives similar situations in a loop with subtle changes each time, then you will enjoy this book. Though it was written in 1971, Le Guin's concern about the environmental impact from the growing city of Portland still feels relevant today.

The Understories by Tim Horvath

This collection of short stories from 2012 was delightful to read and left a significant impact on me. The creativity of the worlds and scenarios built in each story have altered the way I consider society, academia, clouds, library books, movies, technology, and food. Until I read this collection, I didn't realize just how much I love the medium of short stories.

Find me on Goodreads! https://www.goodreads.com/shiverseve 


Recommendations by Suzanna Chase

City of Thieves by David Benioff

Set during the siege of Leningrad, this historical fiction follows two unlikely men who are thrown together on a seemingly impossible mission: find a dozen eggs for a powerful colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. I enjoyed the friendship between the two main characters, and how there were funny moments in a book set in such a depressing backdrop.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

This book tells a story of self-discovery from the 1940s to the present time by Cyril Avery, a gay man growing up in conservative Ireland. Funny, heartbreaking, and VERY human, I was not able to put this book down.

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari

This nonfiction traces the history of the attempt to ban drugs, both in the US and around the world. It looks at the origins of prohibition as well as the consequences, including the rise of organized crime, the production of more dangerous and dirtier drugs, and a system of mandatory minimums and mass incarceration that disproportionately punishes people of color. A fascinating read, this book will change the way you think about legalization.


Recommendations by Jess Waldschmidt

Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You're Taking, the Sleep You're Missing, the Sex You're Not Having, and What's Really Making You Crazy by Julie Holland, MD

As I got older I developed general anxiety about everything, and it really affected my mental health over time. I picked up this book in an attempt to better understand what was going on. I learned that pain or negative emotions are a manifestation of something needing our attention, and yet we are trained to respond by chasing easy, short-term, or unhealthy solutions that often end up failing us. Moody Bitches motivated me to stop and listen to my body and made me realize all I was doing was trying to quiet it down.

There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in The Other America by Alex Kotlowitz

I picked this up years ago as a random read, and will never forget it. This is a true story written by a journalist about two brothers simply trying to survive in the projects of west-side Chicago. It offers you a glimpse into urban poverty and crime that you don’t just read about, but you feel it. This is one of those I-can’t-put-this-down type books that you’ll totally be heartbroken over at the end, but so grateful you read it.

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

I love an easy read that explains the science behind something, but when my best friend lent me her copy of Sway, I hadn’t learned this fact about myself yet! This sat on my bookshelf for a while, but once I picked it up I breezed through it. It explains why we reason with ourselves in irrational ways as the title indicates. So, after you read this you’ll understand why you, and others, act in senseless ways! Neat, right?

Find me on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/jlwald 


Recommendations by Olivia Heath

The Hate you Give by Angie Thomas

I picked up this book (pre-movie release) based on a recommendation from a friend. Through poignant and raw writing, we follow the main character, Starr, through the aftermath of witnessing her childhood friend killed by police. Torn between her urban personal life and the private prep school she attends, Starr moves through torment, grief, and ultimately the decision of how to be both truthful and just to herself, her friend, and her community. If you can get through this book without shedding a tear, let me know.

The One Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan

Gary is the co-founder of Keller Williams Realty, Inc. He introduces the reader to the concept of “The One Thing” with a personal narrative of his own significant learning experience. Through illustrative examples and various excerpts of research, the authors connect the “less is more” principle to both personal and professional productivity and success. I found this book to be really digestible, and I still find myself pausing when overwhelmed to consider “what is the ONE thing I can do right now (or today, or this week, etc) that will get me to X.” It’s been pretty helpful!


Recommendations by Amanda Armington

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I love this book because it incorporates difficult relationships, forging a new life in the wilderness of Alaska, and the power of girls and women. The main character is a young teenager whose parents, a Vietnam-vet dad and fun, loving, and abused mom, decide to uproot and drive to Alaska, seemingly on a whim. They stick it out and become part of the tight community in a remote, desolate, and often dark part of the world. I couldn’t put it down – lots of laughs and tears and wonder for this teenager to make it through a difficult childhood.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward 

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a book focused on a black family in rural Mississippi, particularly an endearing young teenage boy, Jojo, and his much younger sister. They are largely being raised by their devoted grandparents in a poor but loving home. Their mom is in and out of their lives and struggles with drugs and a tumultuous relationship with her white boyfriend who is in prison (the kids’ dad). The story also follows their uncle who was murdered before they were born, and it weaves in a bit of supernatural with him and another ghost.

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James

I could not put this book down, even though it was, at times, brutal to read. The main character, Lilith, is a slave on a sugar plantation in the Caribbean in the 1700s. She has supernatural powers that become apparent as she grows. She and other women who are enslaved plan a revolt and she is the center of the plan. The book dives into the relationships between the slaves, overseers, and masters, bringing the violence and horror of a slave plantation, and also the strength, loyalty, and bravery of those living on a slave plantation, to life.


Recommendations by Emma Larkins

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

Chee is a poet and novelist and this book is one of the most beautiful memoirs I have ever read. It is a book that I wish I did not read, just so I can go back and read it again for the first time. Though it is purportedly a book of writing advice, it is much more of a memoir about Chee’s life as a Korean American growing up in Maine, trying to become a published author, experiences as an activist in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis, among other experiences. The writing is incredible, the stories shared are funny and poignant, and there is so much to be learned in this small tome.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittany Cooper

If you tell me that you have a book that combines discussions of feminism and popular culture I will run, not walk, to the library to find it. Cooper is writing for and about Black women and looking at how social institutions such as educational spaces, the church, and family expectations shape their experiences and relationships. The writing style is direct and playful; Dr. Cooper is able to draw upon the magic of Beyoncé and in the next page make a theoretical framework feel accessible and vivid. I could not put it down and would recommend Dr. Cooper’s book to anyone who loves reading about cultural analysis, feminism, or anything within the social justice sphere.

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