Books@Work

It makes people whole.

You learn about people.

It opens your eyes.

I listen better now.

These books make you think.

Different and unique.

It builds community.

Levels the playing field.

Books bring up real life.

It's really special.

I loved it.

Every voice was appreciated.

It's very empathetic.

Great discussions!

And a lot of laughs.

We are more alike than different.

Books @ Work Logo

Breaking Down Barriers, Building Up Workplaces

Books@Work fosters the connections that create cultures of trust, respect, inclusion and productivity. Through dynamic literature discussions, facilitated onsite by professors, Books@Work transforms individuals and organizations from the front line to the C-suite.

 

Transforming workplace culture begins when we invite all voices to the table.

What are reading? A few titles from our bookshelf:

My Year of Meats - Ruth Ozeki

A cross-cultural tale of two women brought together by unusual circumstances. Jane Takagi-Little is a producer of Japanese TV show and Akiko Ueno is a Japanese housewife trying to escape her overbearing husband.

The Zookeeper's Wife - Diane Ackerman

Based on exhaustive research, Ackerman tells the story of Antonina Zabinski and her husband Jan who hid refugees in empty animal cages in WWII Warsaw

Olive Kitteredge - Elizabeth Strout

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance: a former student.

When the Emperor Was Divine - Julia Otsuka

Otsuka tells the story of a Japanese family displaced into an internment camp in California during WWII.

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Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood

It's 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper and mistress. An up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness attempts to unravel her blocked memories of the murder. Atwood fictionalizes the doctor's investigation, but the events and the characters are real.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers - Katherine Boo

A bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. When one man is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy, terror and global recession rock the city and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal.

Ghostbread - Sonja Livingston

In brief chapters, Livingston recreates the hardscrabble challenges and beauty of a childhood in poverty in a nonconformist family.

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

In this classic novel, Dorian Gray persues the life of a libertine, remaining young and beautiful while his portrait reveals his age and moral degradation.

Learning to Swim - Sara Henry

Learning to Swim centers on an amateur sleuth protagonist living in the Adirondacks in New York who rescues a child and uncovers dark secrets in unraveling the mystery of who the child is and how he came to be endangered in this gripping novel.

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All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

Remarque's classic novel about the trench warfare of WWI tells the story of young German men struggling to make meaning out of senseless violence.

The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. Carey

The young narrator of this post-apocalyptic thriller lives underground in a bunker and is retrieved every day by armed guards for school. The novel plays with several genres as it reveals surprising information about the narrator and raises questions about adaptation and survival.

I'm Not Scared - Niccolo Ammaniti

In rural Tuscany, the nine-year-old narrator discovers a boy he believes to be dead in an abandoned house. As he cares for him and learns that the adults in the community are involved, his worldview is upended.

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway's masterpiece about the Lost Generation follows the lives of a motley group of expatriates as they travel Europe after WWI.

The Postmortal - Drew Magary

In this absorbing post-apocalyptic novel, a cure for aging profoundly alters the social, moral, and political landscape of the Earth.

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The Warmth of Other Suns - Isabel Wilkerson

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.

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The Intuitionist - Colson Whitehead

Lila Mae Watson, the first black female elevator inspector in her department, is an Intuitionist who diagnoses through creaks and quivers in the ride, unlike Empiricists who inspect the machinery visually. When an elevator in a new city building goes into total free fall on Lila Mae's watch, chaos ensues and she goes underground to investigate the crash.

Await Your Reply - Dan Chaon

Three disparate characters and their oddly interlocking lives propel this intricate novel about lost souls and hidden identities.

Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer

This book tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a recent college graduate who attempted to live life on his own terms, culminating in his death in the Alaskan wilderness. In Krakauer's painstakingly researched work, he examines modern values expectations and the price of going against them.

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Snow Falling on Cedars - David Guterson

Set on the fictional San Piedro Island in the northern Puget Sound region of the state of Washington coast in 1954, the plot revolves around a murder case in which Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese American, is accused of killing Carl Heine, a respected fisherman in the close-knit community.

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Close Range: Wyoming Stories - Annie Proulx

Known best for the story Brokeback Mountain, Proulx’ stark and often brutal short stories explore the rough edges of hardship, missed opportunity, sadness and spirit.

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The Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

The madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre is brought to life in this novel.

Out Stealing Horses - Per Petterson

A widower nearing seventy, moves to a bare house in remote eastern Norway, seeking a life of quiet contemplation, but a chance encounter with a neighbor causes him to ruminate on the summer of 1948.

Off the Radar - Cyrus Copeland

Copeland sets out to discover the truth about his father's alliances in 1979--was he a spy, as the Iranian government accused him of being, or was he caught up in events beyond his knowledge?

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Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night depicts a young psychiatrist's love affair with his patient, drawing on elements of his wife Zelda's experience as a mental health patient.

"Shooting an Elephant" - George Orwell

As a policeman in British Burma, Orwell's ambivalence about colonial rule is put to the test when he must decide whether to shoot an elephant that is running rampant through town.

The Dew Breaker - Edwidge Danticat

This short story cycle revolves around a Haitian living in the U.S. who had worked as a prison guard and torturer in Haiti. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different person whose life he touched, raising questions about recovery, healing, and redemption.

Kindred - Octavia Butler

The protagonist of Butler's neo-slave narrative is repeatedly drawn back in time to save her slave owning ancestor, only to get entangled in the plantation relationships of the early nineteenth century.

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The Elephant Vanishes - Haruki Murakami

Showcasing Murakami's breadth of style, these stories strike a balance between spare realism and surrealism, depicting events that turn normalcy on its head.

A Burnable Book - Bruce Holsinger

This mystery novel, set in the heart of 1385 London, accurately captures the details of daily life of the era as well as the political unrest surrounding the reign of King Richard II. The mystery is compelling, too: people are being murdered in the search for a book of 13 prophecies relating to the deaths of English kings...including the still-living Richard.

Killers of the Flower Moon - David Grann

In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of members of the Osage Indian nation were murdered in cold blood and recounts the FBI's first major homicide investigation.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

Notable for its science writing and dealing with ethical issues of race and class in medical research, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is about Henrietta Lacks and the immortal cell line HeLa, that came from her cervical cancer cells in 1951.

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The Color of Water - James McBride

Noted journalist James McBride, one of twelve children, convinces his eccentric, remarkable mother to tell the story of her past. In learning about Ruth McBride's upbringing as an Orthodox Jew who married twice – both times to black men­­­ – James discovers not only who his mother is, but who he is as well.

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The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien

A narrative of American soldiers in Vietnam: "They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried."

The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown

This piece of strongly narrative history follows the lives of the nine young men who came together from difficult circumstances in turn-of-the century Seattle to win the crew competition at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

"The Color Master" - Aimee Bender

With this story, Aimee Bender brings the classic French fairytale “Donkeyskin” to a modern-feeling workplace. While struggling to create dresses the colors of the sky, moon, and sun, the narrator confronts doubts about her ability to perform and the ethics of this special, seemingly-impossible order.

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Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

A heartbreaking novel set in England that raises questions about what it means to live for yourself and for others. Never Let Me Go tells the story of children attending a special school for those who have been cloned and raised to live as organ donors.

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The Round House - Louise Erdrich

It is an exquisitely told story of a boy, living on the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. who is on the cusp of manhood and who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.

"The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" - Gabriel García Márquez

A dead man washes up on the shore of a village in South America. In learning to care for him, their vision for their community grows.

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Dubliners - James Joyce

In crystalline prose, Joyce details the lives of a range of Dubliners, focusing on the small epiphanies of everyday life.

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Behold the Dreamers - Imbolo Mbue

A young Cameroonian couple make a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.

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The Long Valley - John Steinbeck

Steinbeck's emblematic collection of stories set in the Salinas valley contains "The Chrysanthemums," "Johnny Bear," and others.

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The Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Hemingway/PEN Foundation Award, this moving collection of Lahiri's short stories depicts the lives of Indian Americans who struggle to reconcile their new culture with the one they've left behind.

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"Dead Men's Path" - Chinua Achebe

An eager new schoolmaster who wants to modernize his school refuses to permit villagers to use an ancestral path through campus, setting the stage for conflict.

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Broken Harbor - Tana French

Fourth novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series finds its main character, cop Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy trying to solve a triple homicide. This triple homicide reminds him of something that that happened in his past that he's tried to keep to keep tightly under control.

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The Paper Menagerie - Ken Liu

Insightful and stunning stories that plumb the struggle against history and betrayal of relationships in pivotal moments, this collection showcases one of our greatest and original voices.

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All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

Doerr tells the stories of a blind French girl and a German boy growing up in the midst of WWII in this bestselling, Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

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Man's Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl

The story of Frankl's imprisonment in Auschwitz and his theories of what keeps people going in life challenging situations: meaning and desire to live for something larger than the self.

Nervous Conditions - Tsitsi Dangarembga

Nervous Conditions is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story about a young woman in modern Africa. The story takes place in Rhodesia in the late 1960s and early 1970s and centers around female cousins who, until their early teens, lead very different lives. 

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Hidden Figures - Margot Lee Shetterly

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America's greatest achievements in space.

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Brothers and Keepers - John Edgar Wideman

Brothers and Keepers is John Edgar Wideman's memoir detailing the divergent paths that led one to become a prize-winning author and professor and the other, his brother Robby Wideman, to become a fugitive wanted for robbery and murder.

Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin

Baldwin's lyrical masterpiece recounts a fourteen-year-old boy's coming of age within a religious family context. Baldwin movingly portrays the main character's realization of his own sexual identity.

"The Hardware Man" - John O'Hara

A young man takes ownership of a hardware store through questionable means. His cutthroat business practices contrast sharply with those of his competition, whose kindness causes his profits to suffer.

Cards on the Table - Agatha Christie

Detective Hercule Poirot is invited to a bridge party that turns into an investigation when the host is murdered.

A River Runs Through It - Norman McLean

Maclean's lyrical ode to fly fishing, life in early 20th century Montana, and the relationships between brothers.

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Into the Beautiful North - Luis Alberto Urrea

This is the story of a young Mexican girl named Nayeli who sets out on a quest to rescue her town. She begins in search of her own father, but quickly realizes that all of the men have left to go North to work leaving no men to protect the town from bandidos or to serve as potential husbands and fathers as she and her friends consider marriage and family.

Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert Heinlein

Valentine Michael Smith is a man raised by Martians. Sent to Earth, he must learn what it is to be human. But his beliefs and his powers far exceed the limits of man, and his arrival leads to a transformation that will alter Earth's inhabitants forever.

The Farm - Tom Rob Smith

Daniel's father swears his mother has experienced a psychotic break, while his mother believes his father is trying to keep her captive – he must travel to Sweden and unravel the truth.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

This novel depicts a middle-class family commonplace in all ways but one--the narrator is raised believing that a chimpanzee is her sister. Raising questions about scientific experimentation, memory, and human identity, Joy thoughtfully explores the unintended consequences of a well-meaning choice.

The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman

Tom Rachman's debut novel follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters and editors of an English-language newspaper in Rome as they try to keep a paper aloat as the the age of print news gives way to the Internet age.

Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway - Ernest Hemingway

In this definitive collection of Ernest Hemingway's short stories, readers will delight in the author's most beloved classics such as "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," "Hills Like White Elephants," and "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," and will discover seven new tales published for the first time in this collection.

I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

In this collection, one of the great classics of science fiction, Asimov set out the principles of robot behavior that we know as the Three Laws of Robotics. Here are stories of robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, robots with a sense of humor, robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world, all told with Asimov's trademark dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction.

The Faith Club - Ranya Idliby

Three American mothers of three different faiths come together to try and understand each other and their three religions.

Love Medicine - Louise Erdrich

Love Medicine is the story of two families and how their destinies intertwine over the course of fifty years on and around a North Dakota reservation.

Leaf Storm and Other Stories - Gabriel García Márquez

García Márquez's seminal collection includes "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World," "An Incredibly Old Man with Enormous Wings."

In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts tells the true life story of William Dodd who served as the American Ambassador to Germany from 1933–1937. Ambassador Dodd brought his family with him to Germany during this time, including his daughter Martha Dodd. The narration mainly focuses on these two characters and the relationships they have with those they meet in German and for the Ambassador, politicians at home.

Andorra - Peter Cameron

Leaving the United States after a personal tragedy, a man finds himself in the small country of Andorra, which is bizarrely influenced by his imagination and begins to reflect his past.

As We Are Now - May Sarton

As We Are Now tells the story of Caroline Spencer, a 76 year-old woman who, while mentally sharp, is physically frail and placed in a "home" by her relatives. Subjected to humilation and cruelty, Caroline fights back.

Benito Cereno - Herman Melville

Benito Cereno tells what happens when an American merchant ship comes upon a mysterious Spanish ship where the nearly all-black crew and their white captain are starving and yet hostile to offers of help.

An Unquiet Mind - Kay Redfield Jamison

In her memoir, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, one of the foremost authorities on manic-depressive (bipolar) illness, details her first-hand experiences with the illness.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Based on Solzhenitsyn's experience in the gulags, this novel indicts the political repression of mid-century Russia.

About A Boy - Nick Hornby

Will Freeman, a forever-single bachelor living off the royalties of one Christmas song written by his father, discovers the perfect way to meet single women: attend support group meetings for single parents (even though Will doesn't actually have a child). Through this, he meets Marcus, a quirky 12 year old boy with whom he strikes up a friendship.

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

The story of Amir, a young Afghan boy, whose closest friend is Hassan, his father's young servant.

Brief Encounters with Che Guevara - Ben Fountain

From Burma to Colombia, Haiti to North Carolina, Ben Fountain's collection tells the stories of everyone from a Duke graduate student who finds himself trapped in difficult circumstances in the Colombian mountainside to an aid worker in Sierra Leone faced with the ultimate of ethical dilemma. Fountain creates funny and approachable stories of both daily life and extraordinary situations.

Brother, I'm Dying - Edwidge Danticat

A powerful memoir, written in 2007, by a young Haitian writer whose life (and love) is split between family members in Haiti and the US, and the tragedies that befall both.

Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson

Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, in the small Far West town of Fingerbone, a town "chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere." Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin

In this collection of four unforgettable stories, we meet people struggling to understand themselves and the unexpected turns their lives have taken.

Latest chapter from the notebook

Books@Work in German: An Interview with Professor Guido Isekenmeier

We recently had the chance to speak with Guido Isekenmeier about his experience as a Books@Work facilitator discussing Franz Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist” in German with German participants. Guido is an Assistant Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. His research and teaching focus on the history of description in narrative fiction and the relations of postmodernist literature and visual culture.

“I’m doing all kinds of classes: undergraduate, graduate, lectures, seminars,” Guido said of his current course load. “Unlike some of my colleagues in the United States, we have to cover the whole field from the beginning to the present, including literary, historical, theoretical stuff. We’re also doing English and American literature.”

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What are people saying?

At DaVita, we invest a lot in teammate development in very structured programs, geared toward management sources. Books@Work was out of the box for us – a different way for people to have a personal growth and development experience. The program taught us to be more thoughtful – to dig into and think about what we are reading in a way that is different than recreational reading. And many of the ideas we discussed were easy to pull back into our work environment.

-Theresa Stright, Employer and Participant

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