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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Back to School: A Reading List


The top books recommended for my daughter's reading list

This week, my wife and I officially became "empty nesters." If you have been following my posts over the last couple of months on my social channels, my regular themes have been replaced with a journey down memory lane in emotional preparation for this milestone. Thankfully, I know many are going through that same emotional journey and several of you have reached out. One question I have been asked several times of late - "You mentioned that you were putting together a list of books for your daughter as she graduated and transitioned to college...WHAT DID YOU DECIDE?!?" Huh, ok! For those who don't know, I reached out to my network and asked for recommendations because I didn't want these to be "dad's favorites", and not even books that I have read and are my favorites (who wants to send their kid off with "Brave New World"?). I didn't look for first editions, hand signed books, or collectors editions - I wanted paperbacks that could be dog eared and forgotten on a bus or plane without an emotional breakdown. Oh, and for those of you who have written books - I likely already have them - especially those on "chaos" and "pride"!


📚 So, I'm excited to share the ten handpicked books you helped me choose for our daughter, each one resonating with themes vital for personal growth and understanding. I will start with the note that I wrote to her...


"As you embark on this new chapter of life, I offer you this collection of stories, reflections, and wisdom not as relics to be admired from afar, but as tools to be used, dog-eared, and cherished. They are not just books; they are vessels for the shared wisdom of humanity, each one a key to understanding a facet of your journey. Not to be preserved but to be consumed, savored, and shared. Each of these books offers insights into various themes that intertwine in the narrative of life. These books have been chosen not because they were influential to me, but because they may serve as guideposts for you. Each one is a door waiting to be opened, leading to paths of understanding that only you can traverse. So, embark on this journey with an open heart and a curious mind, understanding that knowledge is not just to be stored but to be lived."


Self-Discovery 🌟

  • "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho: One of the few on this list that I have read, it is an inspiring tale about the pursuit of dreams and the quest for self-discovery. It's a symbolic journey that encourages readers to follow their hearts and trust the universe's signs. I think I may re-read it.

  • "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain: A quality that my daughter and I share, and she is learning to embrace. This book is a thought-provoking exploration of the strengths of introverts, promoting self-acceptance. Cain celebrates the quiet power of introversion, challenging the societal preference for extroversion.

Resilience and Embracing Imperfection 💪

  • "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown: I've read other books by Brown but not this one. It is a guide to embracing our imperfections and vulnerabilities as sources of strength. Brown offers ten guideposts to help readers engage with the world from a place of worthiness.

  • "The Art of Asking" by Amanda Palmer: I hadn't heard of Amanda Palmer and am now following her. She celebrates the power of asking and how embracing vulnerability leads to connection. Palmer's personal journey illustrates how asking for help is both a skill and a gift.

Wisdom and Life Lessons 🧠

  • "Tuesdays With Morrie" by Mitch Albom: This book was recommended by someone I respect deeply and one I look forward to reading. It is a moving narrative filled with profound wisdom and life lessons. Through a series of heartfelt conversations, Albom shares Morrie's philosophy on living and dying.

  • "What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self" edited by Ellyn Spragins: Spragins shares her personal reflections and insights from various women, sharing wisdom with their younger selves. It's an intimate collection that spans love, career, family, and personal growth.

Nonconformity and Originality 🎨

  • "Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World" by Adam Grant: I had to include a book by Adam Grant as I continue to find lessons every time I read one of his books. This one is a celebration of original thinking and innovation. Grant explores how individuals can champion new ideas and fight groupthink.

  • "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Another co-worker, this is not one that I had heard of, but it is a timeless story that encourages us to see the world through the unique lens of a child. Its poetic wisdom serves as a reminder to hold onto our childlike curiosity.

Compassion and Joy ❤️

  • "The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World" by Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu: This has been on my "to read" list for a while (along with several others). It is a spiritual dialogue that emphasizes empathy, compassion, and finding joy. Through their teachings and humor, they explore how to live a joyous life.

  • "The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations" by Toni Morrison: I find it disheartening that we find ourselves talking about book bans today - no, not every book belongs in schools - but to find anything by Toni Morrison on the "list"...ok, set that aside. This book is a rich collection emphasizing compassion, self-respect, and the human experience. Morrison's writings span politics, art, and culture, each piece resonating with profound understanding.

Now for a bit of truth. My daughter was very touched by the gift (we also got her other things including a trip to Chicago with me and tickets to Lollapalooza...LOL). She didn't read any of them this summer and they are up in her room, not with her at college. But a summer reading list was not my goal. Instead, I anticipate like the shoes she found deep in her closet that she hadn't worn for two years and instantly fell in love with, one day she will pick up one of these books and shove it in her bag. Maybe before a long flight overseas for a semester abroad. Within its pages will hopefully be a lesson or two, or a bit of motivation. Something that can help guide and inspire her... And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming!

A summer hike


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