News & Views

Finding courage in literature: Thinkso’s holiday reading list


The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum — which Thinkso rebranded this year as  “Max Courage” as part of our annual pro bono project, Give a Brand! — uses literature to help middle and high school students examine how courage is expressed in the world and how they experience it in their own lives. Motivated by their example, we asked our Thinksorts to recommend stories of courage that spoke to them. From the submissions, we collectively curated a well-rounded list, aiming for variety in both genre and perspective. We were inspired by these books, and we hope you will be, too. Happy reading!

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert has created a delightful guide to fostering creativity in your life and overcoming the fear that prevents it. Using entertaining anecdotes of her own struggles and triumphs, she offers valuable lessons for living creatively for anyone, not only artists, writers, and creative professionals.
 — Elizabeth Amorose, Senior Partner

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
The premise is simple: Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. Brown gracefully explains how feeling and sharing our vulnerability can be a courageous and transformative act. The book offers a compelling and surprising truism: that behavior we often identify as weak and cowardly in ourselves, we recognize as brave and courageous in others.
 — Mari Lazar, Director of Operations

Design the Life You Love by Ayse Birsel
The financial collapse of 2008 found veteran product designer Birsel at loose ends. A dearth of satisfying work prompted a hard look at her own life and creative process. She found the courage to reinvent herself, and to relight her creative fire. Based on her popular workshop series, the book offers an elegant set of steps to imagine and achieve a life you love.
 — Chris Riely, Senior Designer

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Recently adapted into an award-winning Broadway musical, Bechdel’s graphic memoir is her attempt to reconcile her gender identity and sexual orientation within her complex, eccentric family. On a more universal level, it examines the challenge — and the promise — of finding the courage to live an authentic life and be honest with yourself about who you really are.
 — Kim Mickenberg, Senior Writer

I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
Markovits’s novel follows two Hasidic Jewish sisters: one who leaves the fold, and one who remains cloistered within the culture, shunning the modern world. It’s a powerful story that shows how one can love their family, religion, and life so deeply and yet still know that it isn’t right for them — and the courage it takes to accept, forgive, and come to terms with a life lived apart.
 — Meredith Neistadt, Project Director

The Men Who United the States by Simon Winchester
It took uncommon individual conviction and courage to imagine and create the United States. But to transplanted Brit Simon Winchester, the collective courage it takes to continue this grand experiment in the face of sometimes bitter conflict and constant change is the real measure of America’s greatness.
 — Jay Sherman-Godfrey, Senior Financial Writer & Strategist

PostSecret by Frank Warren
Started as an art project, Frank Warren’s PostSecret blog became a global phenomenon. Since he invited strangers to anonymously mail in secrets on hand-made and hand-decorated postcards, he’s received hundreds of thousands — some of which he compiled into this consuming, artful book. Each page represents an act of courage — some almost trivial, some disturbing and graphic, and some with enormous significance. All thought provoking.
 — David Brown, Project Director

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat
Santat’s whimsical drawings conjure a world where imaginary friends are born and matched to a child. But Beekle must follow his own path, and the courage he shows as he tries to find his true human friend illuminates the value of friendship and togetherness as we grow and find our place in the world.
 — Shelley Batuyong, Design Director