Once again, we are pleased to share our annual summer reading feature! Each year, Humanities Texas presents awards recognizing and encouraging excellence in teaching the humanities in Texas schools. For this year's summer reading feature, we asked Outstanding Teaching Award winners from across the state to recommend the best books for the summer season. The suggested titles include fiction and nonfiction, poetry and short stories, classics and new releases. This summer, take it from these teachers and check out some great reads.

A Good Book by Marchetti Ludovico, 1882.

Emily Anderson | Del Valle

2013 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottline

I recommend Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline. I sat down the weekend before school was out and read it in one day because it was such a page-turner. The author keeps you guessing until the very end. It's a fine fiction read, perfect for the poolside.

Emily Anderson.

Shirlene Bridgewater | Marble Falls

2008 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner
Former Humanities Texas Board Member

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

There is a mesmerizing, sonorous quality to Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic. The novel, in all its poetic beauty, chronicles the lives of Japanese women who came to San Francisco in the early 1900s with hopes of new dreams, new lives, new stories: their perilous boat ride to America's shores; their unfulfilling marriages to men who see them primarily as sexual objects; their blending of motherhood and backbreaking work; and their silent response to the years leading up to World War II and the internment of Japanese Americans. There is sadness about their lives, coupled with moments of gentle joy. With cherished keepsakes from their homeland—tangible and intangible—they tell their stories from the first person, plural "we" and "us." Collectively, they whisper to the reader, "We are you." And yet, the reality in this masterpiece: they are unseen and unheard, with an otherness perceived at arm's length. As I read this Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction winner, my writer's heart was moved by Otsuka's images; chapters of a solitary paragraph; declarations supported by far-reaching details; the staccato of repetitive diction; and the rhythm of the chorus of voices chanting their life stories. Then there is an abrupt, though effective, shift to the voice of an anonymous spokesperson for those who notice that the Japanese are no longer with them, "disappeared . . . good ones and bad ones," leaving "not a Japanese touch anywhere. Not even a vase." The heartrending conclusion: " . . . [They] shall probably not meet [the Japanese] again in this world." This reader's hopeful longing is for respect for any disenfranchised group of people who are wrongly accused, deemed as different, mocked for their language, ridiculed for their culture, or just because. Otsuka's small but mighty work of literary genius will hold a forever place among my bookshelf's classics.

Shirlene Bridgewater.

Nicole Brisco | Texarkana

2017 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, MD

Proof of Heaven is a true story by a neuroscientist that was declared brain-dead. A professed atheist who had left the church years before, he was able upon wakening to give vivid descriptions of his journey to heaven. As a Harvard graduate, he decided to research his medical record to see if there was a reason he would have such vivid memories of such an event. To his surprise, the portions of his brain that utilized creativity were not active. This could only lead him to believe that his memories were real and true occurrences of another world.

Nicole Brisco.

Matthew Campbell | Houston

2015 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching Winner

Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South by Karen Cox

I have long been a fan of Dr. Cox's books on Southern culture (Dreaming of Dixie, 2013 and Destination Dixie, 2014). I am excited to get my hands on this new work of hers that will be released in October, entitled Goat Castle. Despite the funny title, the book supposedly follows a murder story in the South about a family that lives in an old Southern mansion with their goats. They hire an African American man named George to rob their neighbor, and another woman ends up on trial for the murder. An innocent black woman was sent to prison for the murder of the neighbor whom she didn't kill. Through incidents such as these, Dr. Cox shows how the old plantation South had fallen into the "Gothic South." Looking forward to reading about this famous case through the lens of a Southern historian.

Matthew Campbell.

Natalia Charron | Houston

2016 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching Winner

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Behavioral economics is fascinating in and of itself, but, as a teacher, the insights afforded by this work that focuses on how people process information and the common errors in thinking that we are all susceptible to are invaluable in affording teachers a leg up on planning effective lessons and, to borrow the language of the book, encouraging students to think slow about the content.

Natalia Charron.

Jennifer Chase | Houston

2017 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Rebels of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

I always read one or two new young adult novels every summer. It helps me keep current, and I then have a book recommendation ready for the student who asks me for suggestions! Rebels of the Sands, by debut author Alwyn Hamilton, provides enough layers to keep a wide variety of ages intrigued. Is it an homage to Louis L’Amourt but with a heroine? Is it a modern twist on a story from 1,001 Arabian Nights, or is it squarely in the realm of the fantasy genre? As the story’s protagonist is a gun-slinging, female desert dweller who has a sultan for a ruler and rides mythical beasts tamed only with iron, it easily fits all three genres. When Amani breaks free from her provincial mining town (complete with provincial beliefs regarding gender roles), readers join her as she realizes her place in a larger movement to free her beloved country from oppression. Rebels of the Sands provides a grand adventure and coming-of-age story with a very PG romance that is fit for any young teen but with enough references to keep astute and grown-up students of history busy matching the fictional characters, settings, and political events to their historical inspiration. Rebels of the Sands would be a great book for an adult and young teen or tween to read separately and discuss.

Jennifer Chase.

Elizabeth Close | Austin

2017 Award for Oustanding Early-Career Teaching Winner

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

This is a beautiful collection of essays that I return to time and time again. I am typically a fiction person, but Didion's prose and glimpses of humanity draw me in every time. This collection focuses primarily on California in the 1960s and has quite a range of essays about people, from the known to the unknown. For example, there are pieces about Joan Baez and John Wayne as well as stories of unknown families and individuals scattered across the golden state. It's truly a worthwhile read.

Elizabeth Close.

Paula Dolloff | San Antonio

2017 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarity

Part mystery, part psychological study, Big Little Lies tells the story of a rivalry among kindergarten parents in a wealthy Australian beach town that leads to murder. The genius of Liane Moriarity is how she crafts her story. Using multiple points of view as well as various criminal witness accounts, the story of the crime gradually unfolds, each chapter a clue not just as to who committed the crime but what the crime actually is. What also sets Moriarity apart is the rich, complex characters she develops. Her characters appear typical, even vapid, on the surface, but the author, bit by bit, reveals the truth beneath the glossy exterior. The novel is a slow but satisfying burn—one of those books I couldn't wait to get home to continue reading.

Paula Dolloff.

Shannon Duffy | New Braunfels

2013 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

Summer must-read: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart. This incredibly well-researched work of historical fiction chronicles the real-life events surrounding one woman's convention-shattering willingness to protect herself and her family. An absolutely delightful and well-written novel that is taut, entertaining, and memorable.

Shannon Duffy.

Loraine Dumerer | Carrollton

2014 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

My engrossing summer read has me entwined in the U.S. diplomatic corps wranglings of early 1930s Germany. Although I have a wealth of knowledge of pre-WWII history, I have been intrigued by what I am learning in Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts. He executes the historical narrative as a journalist covering the unfolding events, focusing my attention on the underlying questions—especially, how could Hitler have been checked? Why were critics not vocal? I learned some circles within Germany were wary; other intellectuals and artists fled.  Additionally, Larson opens the windows on Washington's elite diplomats and the role they played in what transpired. At moments, I saw glimpses of current politics.

Loraine Dumerer.

Melissa Dupre | Austin

2014 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Please, please read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  I came to this book later than many (it won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction), but, now that I've read it, I recommend it constantly. The short chapters shift perspective among several characters, including a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy and his sister, leading to a deeply personal and intense look at the build-up to World War II and the French Resistance. Doerr's ability to build empathy makes this an emotional and wonderful journey.

Melissa Dupre.

JP Fugler | Van

2016 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman

Klosterman contends that many of the ideas we currently accept as universal truths could one day be laughable. Whether it is metrics for determining what has artistic value, blind acceptance of the Constitution as the gold standard, or even gravity, Klosterman urges us to consider one thing: what if we're wrong? The book is a collection of witty thought experiments that encourage readers to, as the book's tagline suggests, "think about the present as if it were the past." This New York Times bestseller promises to leave you questioning some of your most basic beliefs. As a word of warning, the subject matter is too engaging to keep to yourself. The book is ripe for discussion, whether that's in the classroom or around the dinner table. For that reason, I suggest getting a friend or two to read the book along with you.

JP Fugler.

Jim Furgeson | Austin

2009 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick

In early October, 1954, two relatively unknown singers performed together on stage at the Lubbock South Plains Fair. Few probably knew at that time that these two performers would be instrumental in transforming not only popular music but also popular culture. Those two performers were Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly.

I know about concert only because I read about it when I was much older. When I read about it, I wondered about the responses of those who were lucky enough to attend. I think I found the answers my questions in my recommendation for summer reading: Last Train to Memphis: The Rise Elvis Presley by popular music critic Peter Guralnick. The book examines not only the myth but also the humanity of Elvis. Elvis and people like Sam Phillips were inventing a language and music for young Americans for which no one at that time even had a name. Guralnick also provides powerful insights into the transformation of how our society understood the nature of celebrity and the impact of that understanding on American culture.

It is not a quick read, but the book weaves a fascinating tapestry of events and people critical to the development of rock music. Many of the events (like the October concert at the Lubbock South Plains Fair) and the people chronicled in the book are long-forgotten. Guralnick brings them back to life in this biography.

Gurlanick wrote a sequel: Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. I highly recommend that book also. It is poignant portrayal of human tragedy. However, maybe the darkness of winter would be a better time for that book.

Jim Furgeson.

Angie Greenlaw | Flower Mound

2016 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Outcasts United by Warren St. John

Outcasts United is the story of a Jordanian woman named Luma Mufleh, known as Coach Luma. Recently, she was nominated for CNN's Hero of the Year award, and it is no surprise to me. What she has accomplished continues to amaze me. The book chronicles her journey in Clarkston, Georgia, where she battles small town thinking and resistance. She is able to form a soccer team, the Fugees, for refugee boys from Sudan, Liberia, Kosovo, Somalia, and many other countries. She is a strict coach, and the boys respect her. The book is an account of the journeys and trials the refugees and their families face, coupled with the healing, transformation, and assimilation both the refugees and townspeople in Clarkston undergo.

Angie Greenlaw.

Emily Greer | Tyler

2016 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I recently read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for the first time and was blown away. The story itself is captivating, but, more importantly, it offers incredible insight into the thoughts and emotions of kids on the autism spectrum. I felt like I understood some of my students in a deeper way for the first time—their emotions, responses, behaviors, and fears. This book is a must-read for all teachers.

Emily Greer.

Holly Griffin | Round Rock

2014 Award for Outstanding Early-Career Teaching Winner

1984 by George Orwell and
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Have you ever noticed how a single word can be so vital to a work of literature? The word palimpsest occurs in both 1984 by George Orwell and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Definition of palimpsest from
1: writing material (such as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased.

This word should be encoded into our human DNA. Where we come from is so important to where we are going. I recommend reading these two books back-to-back. As an English IV teacher, I get to teach 1984 every year, and this year was especially fun, but, for the first time, I read The Handmaid's Tale along with it. It was impossible to overlook the parallels and homages made. If you enjoy dystopian literature, are engaged with the discussion of language and ephemerality, and would love to see a female's perspective on these concepts, read The Handmaid's Tale!

Holly Griffin.

Josephine Icaro | Austin

2016 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

As a fan of dystopian literature, video games, and nostalgic '80s references, Ready Player One definitely satiated my appetite for all three categories! A quick, riveting read about teenager Wade Watts and his video game exploits in the virtual reality realm known as the OASIS, this book was a fun way to relive some memories about experiences with classic video games, old-school movies, and nostalgic memorabilia. Even if the '80s seems like a far-out time period, this book has such an engaging plot—for gamers, readers, and teenagers from all walks of life!

Josephine Icaro.

John Irish | Southlake

2016 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Ghost and Horror Stories of Ambrose Bierce by Ambrose Bierce

Bierce is someone who does not get a lot of attention. His writing style and themes are very cerebral and intellectual, so he often can leave a reader wondering if they were getting the meaning or not. But this is the reason why I find him very enjoyable. He is able to spin a great yarn, thus entertaining me while also making me think about things. This is a collection of his horror and sci-fi stories. He also wrote a number of popular stories about the Civil War. His story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is a classic, but he was just as comfortable scaring the reader with weird fiction. If you are a fan of Poe or Lovecraft, check this guy out. His personal biography is also very interesting, but that is for another day—enjoy . . . .

John Irish.

Jacy King | Katy

2015 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This is a historical novel that has won several awards: the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, and the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence. It has also been in Oprah's Book Club. I was not sure if I would enjoy a fictional account of the Underground Railroad, but the author makes it enjoyable and suspenseful. If you are a busy, working parent like I am, you can also find it as an audio book with a talented narrator.

Jacy King.

Mary Lagleder | San Antonio

2014 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

1491 by Charles C. Mann

Recently, I finally got around to reading 1491 by Charles C. Mann, a fascinating and enlightening read. I learned so much that I never knew about Native American cultures. It's also an excellent book to share with students (in small chunks) to illustrate that history is not a fixed set of facts but instead is a layered interpretation of past events—and our interpretations can change with new evidence, new technology, and new perspectives.

Mary Lagleder.

Robin Long | Pflugerville

2015 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Emily Dickinson's Poems: As She Preserved Them edited by Cristanne Miller

For any perpetual student or for those looking for a creative outlet, my without-reservations recommendation for the top of your summer reading list is Emily Dickinson's Poems: As She Preserved Them, edited by Cristanne Miller.

For a poet whose innovative style was "normalized" by editors both before and after her death, this phenomenal book provides a refreshing glimpse into the poet's extraordinary body of work, without the filter. You'll discover that some of her best creations are ones you've likely never read, and you'll see your old favorites in a new light, while finding the poet just as she left much of her work—in process. This edition cleanly shows the literary giant's humanity and artistry colliding; it captures perfectly the poet's methodical tinkering with her ever-evolving art. Substitutions and variants are left in place on the page, and perusing her alternate approaches is an insightful tool for deciphering poetic intent. The annotations meticulously researched and provided by the editor are easy to follow and allow a more comprehensive look at the poems, including everything from connections to popular literature of the day to the recipients of the poems during Dickinson's lifetime.

Dickinson herself is inexhaustible. She targets an astounding array of topics with a surprisingly modern eye, complete with an especially adept wit and candor. Be prepared to see yourself reflected as you read, to snicker at the precise characterization of even the most complex elements of life, and to feel tugged in by her frequent use of first-person form. Pair this book with a well-researched biography, such as Richard Sewall's The Life of Emily Dickinson, or Emily's own letters (careful, many were "edited" meticulously by "someone"), and you'll be further caught in the intrigue of the Dickinson family's curious narrative.

Robin Long.

Victoria Longoria | Del Valle

2017 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Mightier Than the Sword by David Reynolds

I loved how this book seamed together my interests in history and literature. Reynolds examines Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and makes compelling arguments for the novel's pivotal influence on the outcome of the Civil War.

Victoria Longoria.

Martha MacFarland | Round Rock

2013 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

The Soloist by Steve Lopez

A creative nonfiction book that recently touched my heart was The Soloist by Steve Lopez. Steve Lopez is a journalist from the Los Angeles Times, and he tells the story of his relationship with a homeless man who has paranoid schizophrenia. Steve at first was just looking for a good article to write about Nathaniel Ayers, who plays music on his violin beautifully. He thought it would make for a good story—a brilliant musician who attended Juilliard ended up on the streets of Skid Row in Los Angeles, one of the worst places in America. What Steve doesn't realize is that he is inadvertently making a commitment to help Nathaniel get off the streets. The book shows Steve's internal struggles trying to help someone who is mentally ill. There is no guidebook for how to help Nathaniel, but, by building a relationship, a true friendship, Steve helps Nathaniel to transition into an apartment and even finds a way for him to have his own small studio where he can practice music everyday. The book is inspiring and reinforces the power of human relationships as well as the power of music.

Martha MacFarland.

Jay Moore | Abilene

2013 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner
Humanities Texas Board Member

The World of Mr. Mulliner by P. G. Wodehouse

Early hours spent sitting on the porch with coffee and a P. G. Wodehouse tale is a great way to start a summer day. The World of Mr. Mulliner is a favorite, and, although the lighthearted stories are pure escape, the real joy in reading Wodehouse is in marveling at how the master of English constructed sentences that you can sense, feel, smell, taste, and relish in your mind's eye. Any writer who wants to hone his craft should read and heed Wodehouse. Hilaire Belloc said of him, "the best writer of English now alive . . . the head of my profession." And, besides, you'll start your day with a smile and a bounce.

Jay Moore.

Samantha Neal | Coppell

2015 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I am excited about the book The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This novel tells the story of Starr, a girl torn between the urban neighborhood in which she grew up and the upperclass prep school she attends. When she is the only witness to the fatal police shooting of her best friend, the nation is divided along racial lines, and Starr is the only one who can provide an account of what really happened. This timely, charged novel is one that will make readers think and reflect on their own perceptions and preconceptions.

Samantha Neal.

Patricia Ritchie | Fort Worth

2017 Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award Winner

Buffalo Bill: Scout, Showman, Visionary by Steve Friesen

This is an interesting book that takes a walk through Buffalo Bill's life from his beginnings in Iowa to his death in Colorado. This book uses beautiful pictures of his personal artifacts, gifts, and photos to explain Cody's colorful life. I have read several books on Buffalo Bill, including his own autobiographies, The Adventures of Buffalo Bill and The Life of Buffalo Bill.  Both of these books shed light on his life through his own accounts of the times. In his book, Mr. Friesen brings these accounts to life through the stories that came along with the artifacts and people that had known and loved Buffalo Bill. He works daily besides these treasures, as the director of the Buffalo Bill Museum in Lookout, Colorado. This book is a wonderful tribute to his life. I picked this book up the other day at the Fort Worth Wild West Auction Show, and I couldn't put it down. The photos and information are very interesting. It is a great read, and a good reference book on those who follow Cody's life.

Patricia Ritchie.

Margie Robinson | Dallas

2014 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Oh my goth! At the top of my summer reading recommendation list is Mary Shelley's nineteenth-century gothic novel Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. The novel emphasizes dangers: the danger of over-reaching ambition, scientific advances, revenge, judging one's value on physical traits, and other real-world menaces that remain prevalent in our society. Reading the novel will dispel the age-old myth that the heart of the novel is largely about the conflict between a crazed scientist and a vicious, merciless monster.

Shelley adds incredible depth to her characters as she subtly conveys the following thematic messages: 1) how loneliness and alienation can have devastating results, 2) with knowledge comes responsibility, 3) how revenge is wasted energy, and, lastly, 4) an ugly face is better than an ugly heart. This novel puts on display the nature of humankind by invoking moral and ethical questions, which causes us to think about life, our intolerances, and our beliefs. Along with rich Romantic-era sublime settings and adventurous escapades, Shelley gives the creature a voice, which allows the readers to sympathize with the physical and emotional pain society subjects him to because of his hideous appearance. After many desperate attempts to connect with mankind, the creature concludes that "[I]f I cannot inspire love, I will cause
fear. . ."

The creature will likely remain the most memorable character in science fiction. The novel remains relevant today because it continues to spark insightful debates; e.g., nature versus nurture, whether one can be innately evil, and if scientific quests exceed our humanity. This is an enlightening, thrilling summer read!

Margie Robinson.

Jennifer Rodriguez | San Antonio

2011 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

I just finished listening to the audiobook of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. The line that stuck with me and provides the point of view of this book is "The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice." This quote resonated with me deeply, as I have spent almost my entire career in education working in low-income communities. I have seen how poverty traps students in lives that provide them few choices. Education is the social justice issue I have chosen to dedicate my career to, and listening to Bryan Stevenson's deep passion and commitment to the issue of criminal justice, especially for the most marginalized members of our society, gave me hope and courage to continue in my work. I walked away with a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system and how it works against impoverished people. Most of Stevenson's clients are not innocent of the crimes they committed, but his commitment to providing them with just sentences helped me to think about our system differently and kept me committed to the work I do in serving all students.

Jennifer Rodriguez.

Rosa Salazar | Laredo

2013 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

Reading Nectar in a Sieve was like reading The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, only this book is about India. The story is set in rural India during the British colonial era, consequently bringing marked economic change to the country. The reader is pulled into the clash of cultures where families must make heart-wrenching decisions between tradition and poverty or modernity and food. From the very first page, one is absorbed by the life of Rukmani, the protagonist, and her family. As we read this book in class, my students and I found ourselves crying together with Rukmani, consoling her, and spurring her on. It is an amazing story about India and its culture and about the indomitable human spirit.

Rosa Salazar.

Célangé Santiso-Black | Austin

2016 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Frost/Nixon by Peter Morgan

This play feels uncannily familiar and relevant today. The first half of the play consists of David Frost navigating hurdles to secure an interview with the lonesome and deposed President Richard Nixon. The second half details the interviews with a looming metaphor: two fighters struggling to salvage their reputations. To round up this saga of American presidential history, Frost/ Nixon can be accompanied by a viewing of the actual 1977 interviews between Frost and Nixon as well as a reading of All the President's Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Célangé Santiso-Black.

Michael Shackleford | Austin

2017 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Culturally Responsive Teaching & the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond

At O. Henry Middle School in the heart of Austin, Texas, our student population has grown to reflect the ever-changing and increasingly diverse population in our capital city. As we get more diverse, the gaps between different sub-populations have increased as well. Why do these students who receive the same education perform so differently? Why are certain sub-populations over-represented in our discipline data? These questions are what drove me to pick up this book. Along with a small cohort of teacher-leaders from my campus, I'll be reading and discussing the different strategies presented by Zaretta Hammond in order to better meet the needs of my students!

Michael Shackleford.

Sharon Snowton | Cedar Hill

2017 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha is a young man who leaves his family to go out into the world to discover life. He moves on from different experiences. He has a son and experiences fatherhood. He is bored with that and moves on. He finally comes to a river. At the river he experiences what he needs to discover what life's really all about. This book is great in that you learn that what is really important are the small, everyday things in life. Life is not about those big adventures but the small quiet moments.

Sharon Snowton.

Ryan Sprott | San Antonio

2017 James F. Veninga Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

The Lost City of Z follows the journeys of early twentieth-century explorer Percy Fawcett in his relentless search for a fabled "lost" civilization. What makes this book especially compelling are author David Grann's descriptions of his own modern-day attempts to retrace Fawcett's steps through the Amazonian rainforests. A fast-paced adventure story, The Lost City of Z also includes important commentary on the need for continuous inquiry and empathy in the fields of history and anthropology.

Ryan Sprott.

Valerie Taylor | Austin

2014 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Although I'm still not sure that I've grasped the meaning of this novel, I enjoyed trying to figure it out. While I was reading, I was reminded periodically of Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions because I was following the main character's journey of discovery as she deals with becoming the co-executor of her former boyfriend's estate and tries to decipher what is real and what is true in the world. If you enjoy a bit of off-kilter humor and being spun around a bit as you, too, try to figure out the truth, you will appreciate the world Pynchon creates.

Valerie Taylor.

Lucy West | El Paso

2015 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance by Jacques Lusseyran

I was drawn to this paperback nearly two decades ago after reading a blurb from a back cover review: ". . . Thoroughly luminous . . . Lusseyran allows us to glimpse both heaven and hell on Earth through the eyes of someone who has lived through both . . . even in the grip of darkest evil, Lusseyran is redeemed by light." Lusseyran was sixteen when the Nazis occupied Paris in 1940 during World War II. He became the leader of an underground resistance movement of six hundred youth. Although he had been blinded in a freak accident in his classroom at the age of eight, his gift of "seeing" men made him a remarkable judge of character. The inner light and joy developed throughout his childhood gave him the strength to survive the hell of Buchenwald. In And There Was Light, I find new insights and inspiration every time I read it.

Lucy West.

Sari Wilson | Mission

2012 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

I would like to recommend the book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. This is a book my team read recently about the topic of behavioral science and behavioral economics. In the book, Thaler and Sunstein write about the science behind the decisions we make every day and how simple interventions can help us make better decisions about our lives. The authors highlight examples from healthcare to voting, helping readers to understand why we make the decisions we do and how to increase our chances of success. Many of the interventions in the book can be applied to education, for example, helping students to commit to studying more or renewing their FAFSA. This book has really changed the way in which my college success team approaches our work of helping students to graduate from college. Highly recommend!

Sari Wilson.

Julie Woodard | Rockwall

2014 Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award Winner

Kids Deserve It!: Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney

This book is a fantabulous read for educators! Its authentic message speaks to educators and administrators with students in today's world. Also, on Wednesday evenings at 8:30, a #KidsDeserveIt Twitter chat affords readers and the world an opportunity to discuss insights from the text and share reflections and responses.

Julie Woodard.