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Dr. Karen A. Stout’s 2022 summer reading list

| Dr. Karen A. Stout

News & Updates
September 19, 2022

I was delighted to unveil my 2022 reading list at the 2022 Data & Analytics Summit last week. It’s my 22nd annual list. When I was president at Montgomery County Community College (PA), I shared my reading list at my first convocation and the unveiling at a fall event has now become an Achieving the Dream tradition. 

It was a longer summer than usual for me. After rupturing my Achilles tendon on Memorial Day weekend, reading replaced running and cycling, and nearly all activities for that matter. Reading never quite got me to the place of a “runner’s high,” but I did reach many moments of peace, calm, clarity, and flow.  

I did so much reading that I organized my list into five categories: fiction/poetry, higher education/society, self-discovery, compelling reads, and organizational transformation. What would a summer be, after all, if we did not read about organizational transformation? 

I love historical fiction. Horse by Geraldine Brooks and The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. by Lee Kravetz were two of those “can’t put it down” books. I have also been playing with poetry, reading as much of it as I can while I try to write. With the July announcement of Ada Limón’s appointment as U.S. Poet Laureate, I immediately downloaded her most recent collections, The Hurting Kind and The Carrying. 

Four book covers

I have always used the summer to catch up on what I might have missed in the higher education press. This year’s collection reinforced the case for the skepticism and criticism higher education is facing around what I have labeled our “relevancy crisis.” In fairness, I am amazed that leading higher education scholars and researchers still don’t understand community colleges. The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again by Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett offered some hope and promise for how we might be part of building a more hopeful future. 

Early in the summer I was in search of inspiration and the silver lining behind the “why” for my injury. Arthur C. Brooks’ book, From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life, speaks to the cycles of our development as professionals and what we contribute to our organizations, our families, and ourselves at different stages. Daniel Pink speaks to regrets in The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, and I was stunned to see that most Americans have many regrets around their educational pathways — those they took and those they did not.  

Three book covers

I have made a commitment, as part of my personal and professional growth, to read more about the civil rights movement as well as diversify the authors I read. I did not know much about Fannie Lou Hamer and her unrelenting drive to give voice to the movement until I read Kate Clifford Larson’s biography. Robin Wall Kimmerer’s drawing on life from the perspective of an Indigenous scientist helped my flip my mindset. I always thought one needed to listen to learn. Now I am convinced I need to learn to listen. Ocean Vuong’s book is a beautiful yet hard-biting novel, a son’s letter to his mother. 

Finally, I really do enjoy reading about organizational development. John Kotter’s newest book, Change, is a must-read for college leadership teams. And for all of us who are data people, Chip Heath and Karla Starr’s book, Making Numbers Count, is full of ways to transform numbers into meaning and action. 

Karen Stout’s complete 2022 summer reading list 

Fiction and Poetry  

  • Horse – Geraldine Brooks (Penguin Group USA, 2022) 
  • The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. – Lee Kravetz (Harper, 2022)  
  • The Hurting Kind: Poems – Ada Limón (Milkweed Editions, 2022) 
  • The Carrying: Poems – Ada Limón (Milkweed Editions, 2021) 

Higher Education/Society 

  • In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities Are Plundering Our Cities – Davarian L. Baldwin (Bold Type Books, 2021) 
  • Can College Level the Playing Field?: Higher Education in an Unequal Society – Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson (Princeton University Press, 2022) 
  • After the Ivory Tower Falls: How College Broke the American Dream and Blew up Our Politics—and How to Fix It – Will Bunch (William Morrow, 2022) 
  • The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again – Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett (Simon & Schuster, 2021) 


  • From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life – Arthur C. Brooks (Portfolio/Penguin, 2022) 
  • Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole – Susan Cain (Crown, 2022) 
  • The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward – Daniel H. Pink (Riverhead Books, 2022) 

Organizational Transformation 

  • Making Numbers Count: The Art and Science of Communicating Numbers – Chip Heath and Karla Starr (Avid Reader Press, 2022) 
  • Change: How Organizations Achieve Hard-to-Imagine Results in Uncertain and Volatile Times – John P. Kotter (John Wiley & Sons, 2021) 

Compelling Reads 

  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants – Robin Wall Kimmerer (Milkweed Editions, 2020) 
  • Walk with Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer – Kate Clifford Larson (Oxford University Press, 2021 
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel – Ocean Vuong (Penguin Books, 2019) 
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