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Our Favorite Summer Reading Books for 2017

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

summer reading

It’s summer, and that means lots of lazy days at the pool or beach and lots of free time to kick back with a good book. Although you might have some summer reading that is required by your school, it’s always a good idea also to pick out a few books that you want to read just for fun.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best new books on the shelf this year, as well as a few of the most popular books in the last decade and a handful of timeless classics you can choose from. Whether you’re into comedy, romance, sci-fi or current events, we have something on the list for you.

Three New Releases to Check Out

1. The Hate You Give (2017)
The Hate You Giveby Angie Thomas
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement, this story by African-American author Angie Thomas has spent 15 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list for good reason – it’s relevant and timely. The story follows 16-year-old Starr Carter, who has recently witnessed the murder of her friend by a white police officer. When Starr, who lives in a poor neighborhood but goes to an elite prep school, has to testify in front of a grand jury about the incident, her carefully constructed worlds start to collide.


2. The Upside of Unrequited (2017)
Upside of Unrequitedby Becky Albertalli
Molly is used to unrequited love. She’s had 26 crushes, all of them in secret. Her twin sister, Cassie, on the other hand, usually goes for what she wants in love. But when Cassie develops a crush on a girl named Mina, Molly suddenly feels left behind. Luckily, Mina has a handsome brother who could become Molly’s next crush, but who has time for that when she has to spend so much time with her nerdy co-worker? A snarky, fresh story with richly developed characters, including some LGBTQ teens, this is one a wide variety of readers will relate to.


3. North of Happy (2017)
North of Happyby Adi Alsaid
Carlos Portillo lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family. When his older brother, Felix, is killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, telling him to run away to the United States and follow his dream of becoming a chef. Carlos ends up in Washington State, where he works at a restaurant and falls in love with his boss’ daughter, all the while working through his grief and trying to figure out where his true path really lies. With a real recipe at the beginning of each chapter, this is a book you’ll definitely want to sink your teeth into!


Three Recent Releases Not to Miss

4. Everything Everything (2015)
Everything Everythingby Nicola Yoon
In the mood for a little romance this summer? Then this book should definitely be on your must-read list. The plot centers on Maddy, a girl who lives sequestered from the world because she is allergic to everything. One day, Maddy starts forming a relationship with Olly, the new boy next door, and she is faced with the realization that truly living might mean risking everything. Bonus: This book was recently turned into a movie that is out this summer, so after you’re finished reading, head to the theater to see how the movie matched up.


5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2009)
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indianby Sherman Alexie
If you’re looking to laugh a little this summer, you’ll love this funny, yet heartbreaking story about a budding Native-American cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation who leaves his school to go to an all-white high school off the reservation. Although it’s a comedy, this quick, easy read also subtly touches on powerful themes of racism, alcoholism, poverty, friendship and more.



6. The Life of Pi (2001)
Life of Piby Yann Martel
At first glance, this story about an Indian boy who survives for 227 days in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger seems too far-fetched to be true. But therein lies the story’s magic: Which facts are real, and which are simply things that we believe? This deeply moving story explores themes of spirituality and believability and will stay in your mind for years after you read the final page.



Three Classics You’ll Still Love

7. The Handmaid’s Tale (1986)
The Handmaid's Taleby Margaret Atwood
If you haven’t finished watching the new series on Hulu inspired by this 1986 novel, grab this book and read it before tuning in. This gripping, harrowing tale is set in the near future, where a religious, totalitarian government has taken over the United States and stripped women of their rights, turning them into vessels for breeding. This powerful story asks us what we would do to maintain our individuality.



8. 1984 (1949)
1984by George Orwell
It’s been almost 70 years since George Orwell first published this ground-breaking novel, and yet many of the novel’s themes have become even more relevant over time, bringing such terms as “Big Brother,” “groupthink,” “Thought Police” and more into our modern vocabulary. The book is set in the future in a country where the government is controlled by the privileged elite and individualism is punished. In an era of “fake news,” this book may be more timely than ever.



9. Narcissus and Goldmund (1930)
Narcissus and Goldmundby Hermann Hesse
What is the meaning of life? It’s a big question, and one that this book about two monks living at a German monastery in the middle ages tries to answer. One, Narcissus, leaves the monastery to have several love affairs, become an artist and travel aimlessly. The other, Goldmund, stays at the monastery leaving a stable life and eventually becoming an abbot. Philosophical and fable-like, this book is rich with complex themes like the conflict between flesh and spirit, masculine and feminine, stability and freedom.





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Is Cell Phone Addiction Hurting You?

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

During a recent study skills workshop I overheard a conversation between a tutor and a student that got me thinking. The tutor was recommending that the student turn off her cell phone while studying for final exams, and the student was resisting doing so because she was afraid she’d lose her streaks on Snapchat.

The tutor pointed out that turning off her cell phone temporarily would have many short- and long-term benefits for the student. However, she kept insisting that her Snapchat streaks were too important to risk breaking. She couldn’t really explain why it was so important to keep her streaks going, but clearly it was.

I know social media dominates our lives these days, but I started wondering if this could ever change. Could this student ever be convinced to let Snapchat go in favor of focusing her time on school and school alone?

Recognizing the issue

Breaking our attachment to our devices must begin with awareness. And the first thing we have to become aware of is that social media apps are designed to cultivate addiction.

There are mechanisms in the human brain that cause people to become addicted to substances like drugs and alcohol or to behaviors like gambling and shopping. The apps on our electronic devices are designed to appeal to these same parts of the brain.

Sure, Snapchat may seem like it improves our lives by making us more connected, but its actual purpose has nothing to do with users’ happiness. The primary goal of most apps is to get us hooked. Why? Because then we’ll keep using them, which is what allows the companies who design them to get advertisers, increase revenue, and stay in business.

Why is this a problem?

This perspective may sound cynical, but it forces us to recognize the downside of social media. So, what is the cost of cell phone addiction?

  • Our attention is finite. We only have so much attention we can devote in a given day. If we spend too much of that attention on social media, we risk running out of the attention we need to devote to school or work.
  • Attachment to our electronic devices causes us anxiety. Researchers have found that stress hormones are released into the bloodstream if we are addicted to our phones and then have to spend time away from them.
  • Time on social media and other apps steals time that we could otherwise spend building important skills in areas including academics, health, and relationships.

How can we change our habits?

We’re not going to remove social media from our lives completely, but we can develop healthier relationships to our phones. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Commit to keeping certain rooms and certain times of the day tech-free. For example, you could choose to keep your phone out of the bathroom and maybe even out of the bedroom! You could also promise to keep your phone turned off (on airplane mode) from 9pm to 9am as well as during meals.
  • Get a regular alarm clock, so you don’t have to use your phone as an alarm. That way you can keep your phone out of the bedroom and be less tempted to use it first thing in the morning or late at night.
  • Replace social media with a new activity. If you notice you’re craving social media or wishing you could turn on your phone during a tech-free time, try exercising, reading or talking face-to-face with a friend instead.

Recommended Reading

It’s not just teens who have trouble with cell phone addiction. Read here about one adult who can really relate to this problem.

Worried that life will seem boring without 24-hour social media access? Read about the value of embracing boredom here.

Parent Forum

Support your child’s healthy cell phone behavior with these tips for parents.


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Is perfectionism helping or hindering you?

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Often when a new semester or year begins, we vow to leave our bad habits behind and live up to a higher standard we just know we can achieve. Yet these resolutions are notorious for being forgotten mere days or weeks after we’ve pronounced them. Why?

Maybe we haven’t honestly assessed the obstacles that hindered us in the past. Or maybe our exuberance about turning over a new leaf causes us to set unreachable goals.

For some people, failure to reach goals is caused by perfectionism. Either we put off working toward the goal because we’re afraid the outcome won’t be perfect, or we never see projects through to completion because we can always find one more detail to add or change. If this situation sounds familiar, perfectionism may be what’s holding you back. Not sure? Watch the video and visit the Action Step below to find out.

perfectionism video image

Action Step: take the survey

Clinical psychologist and author Dr. Jeff Szymanski explains the healthy and unhealthy versions of perfectionism:

Perfectionism is healthy when “your focus is on achieving personal standards rather than avoiding mistakes, your strategies are flexible and you show the ability to adapt.” This leads to “feelings of competence, confidence and satisfaction.”

In contrast, “unhealthy perfection is operating when…you are preoccupied with making mistakes, and you are rigid in your approach to problem solving.” You are likely to “experience chronic feelings of anxiety, stress, guilt and doubt. You feel like you are working hard all of the time with outcomes that don’t correspond with your hard work.”

Answer this 6-question survey to find out if you’re a perfectionist and whether your perfectionism is healthy or not.

Strategy: progress not perfection

Certainly we don’t mean to encourage laziness. Don’t let yourself off the hook, set your sights low, or be satisfied with mediocre work. Rather, be honest with yourself about…

  • whether your goals are realistic
  • how your work habits could be more efficient
  • how lofty goals could be broken into easy action steps

Further Reading: more great strategies

Nobody’s perfect, even students at Princeton University. Read the University’s advice to students for“Getting Past Perfectionism.”

Parents Forum

  • A college student realizes that perfectionism is not worth the anxiety it causes.
  • Today’s young people are brought up to think that one small mistake could ruin their lives. The pressure this creates is untenable. This high school English teacher tries to reassure his students that everything will be okay, even if they make mistakes.

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