The 22nd Annual Summer Reading List

If you can find a spot in the shade (or a/c), there are three books that we recommend this August for upping your game as a communicator.

Letters to a Writer of Color (Random House © 2023) edited by Deepa Anappara and Taymour Soomro

This collection of essays features writers of color from all over the world and offers paradigm-shifting ideas around narrative and how we write and read culturally. Though these essays talk primarily about fiction, many of them should be elevated to ‘required reading’ for public interest organizations who want to utilize story to create positive change.

Jamil Jan Kochai’s essay On Telling and Showing made me reconsider writing advice that feels almost sacred to storytelling instruction. Ingrid Rojas Contreras’s On Trauma is a must-read for anyone telling impact stories that include human suffering. There are too many transformative essays to name, but I will be reading them again and again.

And, just in case you worried that three books is too short for a Goodman Center reading list, every contributor in Letters to a Writer of Color includes their own recommended reading. That’s become my reading list for 2024!


Break Out of Boredom: Low-Tech Solutions for Highly Engaging Zoom Events  (Wordsworth Lane Press © 2023) by Robbie Samuels

Andy Goodman and I had the privilege of meeting and working with Robbie Samuels as part of a virtual conference last year. Samuels was their Executive Zoom Producer, and he impressed Andy and I with his expertise on running a successful Zoom convening. We knew we were kindred spirits.

In February, you may have seen our blog post A Brilliant Tip for Virtual Presenting on the Road. That came from Samuels, who had sent out a preview for Break Out of Boredom. He included instructions for screensharing your slideshow for your audience, while being able to access presenter view for yourself. A total gamechanger if you present from the road.

This book is full of tips and tricks to make your Zoom meetings and presentations not only run more smoothly, but also to create more engagement with your audience. Break Out of Boredom is easy enough for beginners to follow and serves up new ideas for pros who have been at this a while.


The Woman’s Voice (Methuen Drama © 2023) by Patsy Rodenburg

An expert on teaching voice, speech and presentation skills, Patsy Rodenburg is a hero of mine from her work on presence. I studied Rodenburg’s work as an actor and improvisor, but what she teaches can serve anyone as a gateway to powerful connection and communication.

In The Woman’s Voice, she tackles the challenges women face as we seek to speak and be heard. Through practical exercises and her own formative experiences, Rodenburg confronts how and why women’s voices have been shushed or diminished and gives us some tools and inspiration (literally) to access our natural, empowered voice.

If you speak publicly, lead your team, struggle to speak up or be heard in meetings, worry about whether you are concise enough, dislike the sound of your voice, rush through what you have to say or feel like you have to control your tone to be heard – this book is for you.