Books We Love for 2023

Flowers in front of water with sunset in the background.
by soarinc

After a day spent out in the field, at camp, at our Academy, or GAP program, we love to finish it off with one of our favorite books, if it’s a book that helps us become better leaders, parents, and teachers – even better.

Though many of the titles relate to our work with the ADHD/LD community, many others are unexpected. From creative perspectives on childhood development and adventure travelogues to Indigenous knowledge of our natural world and advice on how to be an empathetic but effective leader. Mark the New Year with a new book.

Enjoy our non-exhaustive list of a few of our staff’s favorite titles.

Last Child in the Woods

Richard Louv

In this influential work about the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it nature deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for children’s and adults’ physical and emotional health. More than just raising the alarm, Louv offers practical solutions and simple ways to heal the broken bond—and many are right in our backyard.

– Jacob

Losing Control and Liking it! How to Set Your Teen (and Yourself) Free

Tim Sanford

Parents of teens know only too well that many sons and daughters abandon the “straight and narrow” when they hit adulthood. The pressure on these parents to make their kids turn out right is enormous. Sometimes this pressure can lead parents to think they have to control their kids. Losing Control and Liking It offers parents relief of a burden they were never meant to carry and will help build family relationships based on validation and nurturing instead of control.

– John Rogers, Director of Programs

Raising Lions

Joe Newman

Raising Lions is an essential guide for parents and teachers raising strong-willed, precocious children. It offers clear insights into what motivates the most challenging behaviors, and what kinds of responses turn these behaviors around.

– Cade Ingle, Academy at SOAR School Counselor

Hunt, Gather, ParentWhat Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans

Michaeleen Doucleff

“A lot of fun challenging ideas to wrestle with comparing indigenous parenting wisdoms with western psychology and societal norms.”

– Cade Ingle

Great Plains

Ian Frazier

Most travelers only fly over the Great Plains–but Ian Frazier, ever the intrepid and wide-eyed wanderer, is not your average traveler. A hilarious and fascinating look at the great middle of our nation.

“This is a common book I like to read (or listen to) while driving cross-country from Tennessee to Wyoming to work at SOAR’s Eagle View Ranch. I know many families drive to our locations, and I think it’s nice to pair a book that is relevant to the states you travel through or one about your final destination. Enjoyable for the parents, and a learning opportunity for the campers, Academy students, or GAP participants! Other books that come to mind are ‘A Walk in the Woods,’ by Bill Bryson, ‘The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend,’ by Bob Drury and ‘Roads,’ by Larry McMurtry. If I really want to, I make an accompanying Spotify playlist of musicians from the regions too! It really helps make the drive come alive.”

– Anna LoPinto, Marketing and Equestrian Programs 

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

Florence Williams

For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams sets out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. From forest trails in Korea to islands in Finland to groves of eucalyptus in California, Williams investigates science at the confluence of environment, mood, health, and creativity. Delving into completely new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and ultimately strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas – and the answers they yield – are more urgent than ever.

– Joseph Geier, Academy at SOAR, Head of School

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

Robert M Pirsig

“This is a fantastic read and is a book on philosophy. He talks about how we interpret information and how that looks different for everyone.”

– Harrison Perusek, GAP Year Mentor

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings―asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass―offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. Only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the earth’s generosity and learning to give our gifts in return.

– Amelia Weber, Assistant Director of NC Programs

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships

Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD

Words and the way we think matter. Find common ground with anyone, anywhere, at any time, both personally and professionally.

– Miranda Sebastian, GAP Year Mentor

Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning Theorists…In Their Own Words

Knud Illeris

This book brings together world-renowned experts, who each present their understanding of what learning is and how human learning takes place, addressing education’s social, psychological, and emotional contexts. In this clear and coherent overview, Professor Knud Illeris has collated chapters that explain the complex frameworks in which learning takes place and the specific facets of learning. In addition, each international expert provides either a seminal text or an entirely new précis of the conceptual framework they have developed over a lifetime of study, such as adult learning theory, learning strategies, and the cultural and social nature of learning processes.

– Kevin Williams, Director of North Carolina Programs

Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome

Ty Tashiro

Psychologist and interpersonal relationship expert Ty Tashiro knows what it’s like to be awkward. Growing up, he could do math in his head and memorize the earned run averages of every National League starting pitcher. But he couldn’t pour liquids without spilling and habitually forgot to bring his glove to Little League games. In Awkward, he unpacks decades of research into human intelligence, neuroscience, personality, and sociology to help us better understand this widely shared trait. He explores its nature vs. nurture origins, considers how the awkward view the world, and delivers a welcome counterintuitive message: the same characteristics that make people socially clumsy can be harnessed to produce remarkable achievements.

Interweaving the latest research with personal tales and real world examples, Awkward offers reassurance and provides valuable insights into how we can embrace our personal quirks and unique talents to harness our awesome potential—and more comfortably navigate our complex world.

– Dr. Liz Simpson

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