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Success Academy Network Leaders Share: The Books that Changed My Life

Every now and then, we’ll stumble across a book that changes the way we feel or the way we think. At Success Academy, we’re obsessed with the special “lightbulb” moments that come from reading excellent books. Our kindergartners pore over picture-books, our parents and teachers spend all summer reading, and our executive leaders swap title recommendations. Everyone at SA is in love with the transformational power of books!  

As we head into the last few weeks of summer reading, we asked some department leaders from across our network staff to share a book that influenced their lives. We hope you’ll find a new title to enjoy!

Karen Spring, Managing Director, Board Relations and Planning

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser had a tremendous influence on me when I was young. I learned that our lives are built on the choices we make and that one bad choice can have drastic consequences.

Chris Minnich, Managing Director, Total Rewards and Shared Services

Light in August by William Faulkner
The almost poetic quality of Faulkner’s prose was such a joy to read — the book gave me a deep and abiding love of fiction and the power that it has to emotionally touch us.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley informed me about Malcolm X’s evolution of thought about racial and religious tolerance from the perspective of his time and place. His assassination cut short a very important strain of thinking on a topic that has become increasingly relevant today.

Cathleen Sims, Managing Director, Government Relations

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
I read this book in college on a bored summer break and now read it every year or so. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn taught me that while anyone’s life journey can be filled with challenges and hardships from the start, there is most often reward in sacrifice, perseverance, and hard work. I carry Francie Nolan with me and often conjure her “invisible steel” when needed!

Liesel Anthony, Managing Director, Ed Institute

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
I was living on a farm in a drought-ridden area of South Africa, miles from the nearest farming community town, in my little ‘bubble’ with my farmer dad, teacher mom, and siblings. Suddenly I was introduced through A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, to an entire world that was completely the opposite of where I was growing up; it made me think bigger and broader — and it became my mission in my life to travel (specifically to New York!) and learn from people around the world.

Rebecca O’Neill, Executive Director, The Robertson Center

The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
I read this for the first time in college, again in grad school (where it led me!), then every few years since. Every time I pick it up, I find something new and difficult, tender and strong.

David Lee, Managing Director, Talent Acquisition

The Anatomy of Power by John Kenneth Galbraith
I remember reading it early in my high school years and it sparked my interest in the interrelation between individuals and society. It inspired me to study political science, particularly the history of revolutions, repression, and political violence.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry influenced my interest in historical fiction, my affection for Indian culture, and, more broadly, my understanding of the refugee experience, human compassion, and family.

Bonnie Litt, General Counsel

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck turned me into a lifelong reader. I read it sometime in middle school — in one weekend — barely stopping to eat or sleep.  During that time I realized the power of a great story and a great writer to transport me to another place and time, and I was hooked for life. I’ve since re-read it every decade or so. It’s different every time, but it never fails me.     

Dan Soleimani, Head of School Management Office

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
This book had a significant impact on me as a teenager because it was one of the first “mature” young adult novels in which I could really empathize with the main character, and see the story through his eyes. The impact was so long-lasting that I read it again, and loved it just as much as I did 15 years earlier.

Paula Hunchar, Senior Managing Director for Advancement

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
In adulthood, The Four Agreements always keeps me centered in times of conflict or uncertainty.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
My earliest memory of reading a book that was not a children’s book was Black Beauty. It was the first novel I ever owned – a Christmas gift from Aunt Mary and it opened up a whole new world of reading for me.



Written by Success Academy August 6, 2018

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