My #BookDNA 2018

Each week since 2012, I share the books I read that have become part of my #BookDNA. And each year, I select my favorite reads to share with you! This is no easy task.

Books are my favorite gift to give and receive. If you are still seeking last-minute holiday gifts or want to buy something meaningful with a gift card you have received, then I highly recommend the following books:


  • Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel – The final book in The Themis Files. I gifted the first book to many friends several years ago. This science fiction tale has strong female characters, robots, and is not written in traditional narrative format – the book is a mix of interviews and journal entries. The format may seem a bit jarring at first, but I guarantee the story will hook you.
  • The Poppy War by R. F Kuang -  This adventure is a mash-up of Hogwarts and Asian-inspired fantasy. What I really appreciated about this book is that it was written for an adult reader.
  • Furyborn (The Empirium Trilogy) by Claire Legrand – This fantasy follows two strong female characters – one a royal and the other an assassin – separated by a millennia. Both women have powerful magic binding their fates to each other.
  • Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi - I was blown away by this book. This West African-inspired fantasy debut has some of the best writing I have ever read. If you were feeling empty after completing the Broken Earth Trilogy, this new epic will fill the void.


  • Personal History by Katherine Graham – Did you like watching the film, The Post, this year? Katherine Graham was more formidable than the performance portrayed by Meryl Streep. I was equal parts depressed and inspired by the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. This woman so much during her lifetime. The story is fitting for us to read now – how do we learn from the past?
  • Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover – I haven’t seen a Best of 2018 list that does not mention this book. This memoir reads like fiction. Tara’s story of stepping into her first classroom at seventeen and her quest for knowledge that takes her to Harvard and Cambridge University is a page-turner that I read in one sitting!
  • Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation by Amy C. Edmondson and Susan Salter Reynolds – Put down all the how-to business books and read THIS book. Authors, a Harvard professor and a journalist, share culture clash lessons derived from the story of a struggling smart-city start-up.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some notable Best of 2018 book lists for further exploration:

#BookDNA Tribute for Museum Week (#BooksMW)

Books are an incredibly important part of what makes me, well, me. As I have stated many times before, I attempt to read 3-4 books a week. I read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. Not every book is spectacular, and since I turned 30, I no longer feel the obligation to read the book cover-to-cover if my interest wanes. Several years ago, a brilliant idea (most likely due to no sleep) came to me and I mind-mapped every book I have ever read. I was able to visually recognize how one book led to another book and impacted a new way a thought or interest. This map became my #bookdna and I share the books I add to this map on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

In honor of Museum Week and the corresponding daily theme/hashtag, #BooksMW, I will share a book that has had the most professional impact. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs and published in 19161 remains the book that reinvigorated my drive to improve and evolve communities (physical AND digital). It is an extremely dense book and may be difficult to wade into as a newcomer to urban planning and community organization topics. I highly recommend reading Vital Little Plans by Jane Jacobs. This is a collection of short works that will give you a hint about the formidable Jane Jacobs (my hero). I like to read (or re-read, in my case), an essay in the early morning before I open my email and begin slogging through the day. Reading these essays helps me get into the right frame of mind and navigate the ups and downs of change management…because these woes are nothing new or extraordinary. I start the day by thinking, “What would Jane do?”

Why is this of interest for Museum Week participants? No matter your role in the museum industry, all are struggling to make our cultural institutions relevant. To look forward and fight our way into securing a place in the physical and digital spaces in the 21st Century, perhaps we should look back to those who have forged a path for us? It is only fitting to recognize a female author since the focus of this year’s Museum Week is female power! Looking outside of our industry and to the people who earned battle scars before our time, may help us find new ways of thinking that may be applied to museums. We are not alone in our fight. And never were. Everyone is fighting their own battles. How can we share and learn from each other?

Happy reading! Crack open a book, turn on your Kindle, or listen to an audio book. Consume books any way you see fit and create your own #bookdna.

(Only fitting I write this post while completing my third annual Museum Studies PhD Research Week at the University of Leicester!)

2016 #BookDNA

This is my favorite post of the year. Books are my love language. I am always reading a book. My small home is overflowing with books. I bet if you were to rummage through my bag at any given time, you would find at least two books. Needless to say, I read A LOT. Not every book is amazing. Some books I do not finish (I never thought I would be one of those people, but I guess I grew up…too little time and always more books). And at the end of each year, I share with you the books that are now imprinted on my soul – my #BookDNA.

I did not have an agenda this year. I read the books that call to me. It was a rough year – in the news – so any escape from reality was embraced. A theme began to form by the close of the year and it was me that was most surprised because if you had asked if I had read these books or planning to read many of these books, I would have laughed and told you these books were not on my short list. Shows you how little I know. This list is split into fiction and non-fiction and listed in alphabetical order. Honorable mentions will follow this list.


Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel: This is not your average sci-fi thriller with a lot of meandering prose. This is a high-concept novel weaving the past and present in a crisp format. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you enjoyed The Martian, this may be a book that will appeal to you. This is also a great book to listen to versus read. If you do get the book, I beg you – buy the hard cover. The art on the book jacket is amazing and definitely tattoo material. I am not-so-patiently waiting for the sequel to be published!

The Fifth Season (Broken Earth Trilogy) by N.K. Jemisin: Everyone has been raving about this book. The author is a Hugo award winner. This book came to me highly recommended, but it was not until the end of the year that I was able to find time and become absorbed by the story. The first chapter is difficult. There are a lot of new words and concepts. This author makes you work. Don’t let this be a turn-off! Trust me, you will be glad you put in the time and effort to become engrossed in this dystopian tale. Some of the concepts are difficult to read because they do hit close to home. The best books are those that usually strike at your very core. If you want to get warmed up to Jemisin’s work, I encourage you to read her earlier works or the story published in January 2017 Wired.


Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich: I did not know this story. Yes, I know it is awful to admit – I am a Communications major! How is this possible? After reading a review about the Amazon series, I wanted to read the book that inspired the show. The book was captivating. I was ashamed that as a communicator and a female, I was not aware of the history that allowed me to have these positions and freedoms that I take for granted today. This book was an eye-opener and will become a must-read for both of my daughters. It was amazing to see how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. This book was the beginning of a slew of other books I read this year that I had never been encouraged to read or wanted to read, but have helped mold me into a more capable and compassionate woman.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem: After reading Margaret Thatcher’s books (beginning with Statecraft) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent book, My Own Words, I felt I had earned the privilege to read Gloria Steinem’s work. Until now, I had been dismissive of Gloria’s work and that of other feminists. It was not until I read Povich, that I got out of my own way and prejudices, and found myself utterly captivated by the agony and strength of Gloria Steinem and the movement she represents. What a wake-up call. The art of listening took on a whole new meaning after I read this book. At 36, I finally feel comfortable being a woman and beginning to feel a sense of understanding amidst all the chaos of present times.

Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery: You must have been living under a rock if you didn’t anticipate I would include this book on my list! I have read this book at least three times this year and I listen to the audiobook when I need to calm myself and focus. The New England Aquarium has become my sanctuary after reading this gorgeous memoir of sorts. Through Sy’s documented experience, I feel as if I have gotten to know the Earth’s most mysterious creature – the octopus. I have never been scared of these creature…more, fascinated. The writing is fabulous. you are guaranteed to laugh and cry. But most of all, I want you to look at these creatures with the respect and wonder I do, rather than revulsion at that which we cannot and may never understand.

Honorable Mentions


Happy 2016 – Predictions for your evolving #BookDNA?

As I sit here reflecting on 2015 and all that went well and some areas during the year I wish I could stash away and forget completely, there is a piece of each memory that will stay with me forever associated with the books I read during these times or because of these events. I call this my #BookDNA. In the past I have written my #BookDNA posts before the holiday season to help people plan their holiday shopping and give the gift of reading. Whether given to a family member or friend, books are my language of love. The gift of a book is intimate. It means you are on my mind and when I don’t have the right words to say in many situations, I allow the gift of word crafted by other authors speak on my behalf.

This year proved to be a bit difficult to read much for pleasure because of the reading required for dissertation preparation. I was more critical of books than ever before. With limited precious time, if I did not get hooked on the book within the first two chapters, the book went back on the shelf. In no particular order are the books I have chosen to reflect my 2015 #BookDNA and some of the books I chose to give this holiday season.

  • Supper Better: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and more Resilient – Powered by the Science of Games, by Jane McGonigal >> You may be familiar with this author from her numerous TED talks or previously written book, Reality is Broken. This book is your game plan for  a new and better you starting with getting your brain super-powered. This book was recommended to me by my husband (huge fan of Jane and game design) to help me conquer my inner demons. I hope after you read this book, you are able to recognize and blast demons before they wreak havoc with your life.
  • Jack Frost: The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce >> I love a gorgeous picture book that speaks to the child in each of us. Jack’s tale will guide you or your children during times when it it difficult to keep faith and believe in a power bigger than all of us.
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler >> To be honest, I was never a huge fan of Amy Poehler and thought of her as more of Tina’s sidekick, but man was I wrong. This book not only packed a comedic punch and needed harsh dose of reality, but has made me a lifetime fan. I’m not one for girl talk, so I play the audiobook when I need a good whine or kick in the ass.
  • Mrs. Jack: A Biography of Isabella Stewart Gardner by Louise Hall Tharp >> I adore the museum and have wondered the halls aimlessly on more than one occasion. It is impossible to not live in Boston and not know the story of the infamous art heist that occurred in (and in most cases, defines) this museum. I am ashamed to admit that I did not know much about the woman who created this beautiful hodgepodge museum in the Fenway. When I am next asked who I would most like to have tea with (living or present), I will most definitely answer, Mrs. Jack!
  • Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey >> This is the second book of the 5th Wave series. The 5th Wave made my 2014 #BookDNA list and I gifted this book to so many friends. I was skeptical if the dystopian intensity could be captured again in the second book of the trilogy. This book delivered and set-up and amazing hook for the final book in the series to be released May 2016. How can I wait?
  • Annihilation / Authority / Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer >> This is one of the most haunting science fiction trilogies I have ever read. I cannot describe, only compel that you read and when you are finished reading, let’s grab a cup of coffee or twelve and talk about the meaning of life.
  • CODE|WORDS: Technology and Theory in the Museum >> This is a fantastic compilation of essays by current museum hackers discussing the future of museums. Even if museums is not your career or choice, read this book and consider your views as a participant, what experience you could add to the field, and rethink your definition of a museum.

The books I am looking forward to reading in 2016 are a mix of classics and new releases and I don’t know which, if any, will make the #BookDNA list for 2016:

What were your favorite books of 2015? Are any of these books imprinted on your #BookDNA? What books are you most looking forward to reading in 2016?

Book DNA: When the Heart Waits

This is a painful post to write, yet it feels good to be typing away about another marker in my own Book DNA. I find myself in search of a book. Usually, when this feeling comes over me, it is right before I pick up a book that will change me forever. Sometimes these stories are new to me and other times the books are seasonal reads and my body is yearning for the words on the page. This morning, it was the latter. A book I have not picked up since my last crisis of self in 2007 was howling my name. I tried to resist the calling of this book because that would mean I have to admit I am facing another crisis of self. That is never a thing we wish to admit to ourselves or publicly.

I read the final paragraph on the first page of this book and the words grabbed a hold of my soul just as it did seven years ago.

For some months I had been lost in a baffling crisis of spirit. Back in the autumn I had awakened to a growing darkness and cacophony, as if something in my depths were crying out. A whole chorus of voices. Orphaned voices. They seemed to speak for all the unlived parts of me, and they came with a force and dazzle that I couldn’t contain. They seemed to explode the boundaries of my existence. I know now that they were the clamor of a new self struggling to be born.” – When the Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd

I should have seen the signs. This past January, Sue Monk Kidd visited our neighborhood book store to talk about her new book, The Invention of Wings. As she autographed the copy of the new book, I told her how much When the Heart Waits had impacted me. I don’t cry easy or often and at the moment I could not prevent the tears welling up in my eyes. Sue Monk Kidd stopped the grueling and long process of the book signing to give me a hug and share a moment about how and why she had written this book. My soul was aching to read the book at that time, but I pushed down and ignored the request.

Over the past year, books like Lean In and even the new book by Hillary Rodham Clinton, talk about how we can have it all. Balance can be achieved. Rarely, do people want to read about the messy stuff that have to be broken and fixed to achieve any balance or how that balance is fragile and must be nurtured. Rarely, do we want to ask ourselves the tough personal questions about our own journeys. Living through another’s tale of woe and come-back is false hope. We can’t have it all. That is not looking at life with a glass half empty approach, but the truth. There are times in our lives where we can handle more and do it well and other times we have to surrender to life. If you find yourself in a similar place, I encourage you to pick up, When the Heart Waits. Don’t rush through it. Let the book feed you. Be ready and open to address those orphaned voices because you will never be able to run far or fast enough to keep them silent.

[Please note this is a spiritual book. I do not follow one faith over another, but explore and respect a Higher Power. I read this book appreciating the questions being posed by the author.]

Book DNA 2013 and 2014 Reading Goals

It is long overdue. This blog has been quiet because I have been in the thick of writing my thesis. While I have been frantically writing to meet my education deadlines, I have found pockets of time to continue my escapism in the pages of a good book. Here is a list of my favorite 2013 books:

Most Gifted Books:

  • Wool – One of the highlights of 2013 was meeting and taking a picture with author, Hugh Howey at SxSW. This book was recommended by my dear fired, Matt Ridings, and I have since recommended it to everyone I know! This story will quench any need for dystopian fiction.
  • The Scorpio Races – This is a beautifully written story that captures the imagination of children and adults. Based on an Irish folk tale, the author weaves such a convincing narrative, that I really think these sea horse creatures are real.
  • The Happiness Project - I fully admit that I tend to be more negative than positive. I prefer to joke about this and say I am realistic. My husband read this book first and recommended it to me. This book is the inspiration you need to stop setting big resolutions each January and feeling miserable when you have no energy to fulfill these goals past the first week of February. Rubin writes about her journey to happiness, one month at a time. I have created my 2014 Happiness Project. Let it be a source of inspiration for you too.


  • The Testament of Jessie Lamb – This is not the best piece of writing from this list, but the story is the most compelling dystopian fiction I have read in the past year that really has a chance of happening. Stories and questions from your reading that linger long after you have read the final page are those books one should share. This is one of those books.
  • Brida – Given to me as a Christmas present from my husband, this book my first read of 2013 and not a disappointment. Fans of The Alchemist will enjoy.
  • Good Omens – I have two shocking confessions in this post. The first is, I have never read Neil Gaiman before this year. Obviously, I was missing out. I went on a Gaiman reading spree and this book stood out from the pack. This is a twisted and fabulously crafted story about the powers of good and evil angels balancing friendship with the battle of higher powers.
  • The Last Dragonslayer – Alright. Perhaps I have three confessions. I had not read this book when it was first published. I read the rave reviews, but I tend to shy away from popular books and read them at my own time. This is a fantastical story that will get your creative juices flowing and make any story possible.


  • Yes to the Mess – Not your typical business book. I heard the author speak at 2013 SxSW and was instantly intrigued about the idea of jazz as a metaphor for the messy and creative thinking and management of business. A solid read that prompted me to download several jazz albums. (Now my background music while I am preparing engagement reports.)
  • Lean In – I have said a lot online about this book. As has my husband. Beyond anything, this book started a discussion. Not everyone agrees, but then again, if all of us did, the world would be without challenges and a boring place.

Children’s Fiction:

  • Emily’s Tiger – My three year-old daughter has quite the mood swings. Like the character in the book, she changes from happy to mad instantly. (I have no idea where she inherited these mood swings.) After reading this book with her a couple of times, we only have to say “happy tiger” to remind her of her attitude, take a breath, and begin acting like a human instead of a wild animal.
  • The Day the Crayons Quit - My oldest daughter was assigned this book at the beginning of the school year. This is quite the ode to teamwork. Perhaps adults should give it a read.
  • The Insomniacs – Locally written and the illustrations are amazing! This book shines a light on night life.

2014 Reading Goals:

  • The Collected Works of Virginia Woolf – My final confession is that I have never read more than an excerpt by Woolf. It is time I remedied this and read the books of such an influential author.
  • All (Original) Social Contracts – I have read all of these contracts before as a Lincoln-Douglas debater in high school, but because I work in community management, it is time I refreshed my understanding and studied the interpretation during a digital age.
  • Hacker’s Ethic – This book is a recommendation of my husband. I needed written proof that I listened to him.
  • Veiled Sentiments – Curious about this book since it was mentioned several times during my anthropology course last summer.
  • Complete Shift, Dust, and Sand – Because it is Hugh Howey. Why not?


This year, I will dedicate more time to my own writing and formation of my own non-fiction and fiction works. I am very proud and excited to announce that I will be giving back to the writing community by teaching a class at Grub Street on 8 February – Building Your Digital Footprint:

Are you overwhelmed with all the choices you have for communicating with your reading community online? Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Goodreads—the choices are endless. In this seminar you will learn how to make sense of all of these options and develop your own online footprint. Whether you are a digital native or newbie, this course will help you create or enhance your digital profile by teaching you how to:

  • Build or enhance your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, Facebook Fan Page, and Blog
  • Develop an editorial calendar
  • Establish best practices for how to participate in and establish your writing and reader communities

Now is the time for you to explore, ask questions, and put the social media boogieman to rest so you can achieve real success in the online social space. Students should bring their laptops or iPads to class.

Please sign up for this class and / or share with budding authors!

Share your reading goals in the comments. Happy reading. For more reading inspiration, check out the Books on the Nightstand 2013 Reading Review.