Book to Action Books and Program Ideas (through 2020)

Use the selection criteria, this list below, ideas from previous Book to Action programs, input from your community and your partner, and your professional judgment to find a great Book to Action title for your community. Feel free to use One Book, One City, and other similar community reading programs as inspiration (Example: NEA Big Read information for Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine). Below are possible titles, program and partner ideas, and examples of past Book to Action programs.

Aging / Death & Dying

Before I Die by Candy Chang
After losing someone she loved, artist Candy Chang painted the side of an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood with chalkboard paint and stenciled the sentence, “Before I die I want to _____.” Within a day of the wall’s completion, it was covered in colorful chalk dreams as neighbors stopped and reflected on their lives. Since then, more than four hundred Before I Die walls have been created by people all over the world.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
In Being Mortal, bestselling author Atul Gawande tackles the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending

 

The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner
With the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are that you may live up to a decade longer. What’s the prescription for success? National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner has traveled the globe to uncover the best strategies for longevity found in the Blue Zones: places in the world where higher percentages of people enjoy remarkably long, full lives.

 

Smoke Gets Into Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

Animals

Underdogs: Children, Dogs, and the Power of Unconditional Love by Melissa Fay Greene
From two-time National Book Award nominee Melissa Fay Greene comes a profound and surprising account of dogs on the front lines of rescuing both children and adults from the trenches of grief, emotional, physical, and cognitive disability, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

Chancer: How One Good Boy Saved Another by Donnie Kanter Winokur
When a devastating diagnosis tears author Donnie Kanter Winokur’s family apart, a service dog may be their best hope to stay together.

 

 

Immigration and Refugees

Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own.

 

Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee’s Extraordinary Journey Across Half the World  by Gulwali Passarlay
A gripping, inspiring, and eye-opening memoir of fortitude and survival—of a twelve-year-old boy’s traumatic flight from Afghanistan to the West—that puts a face to one of the most shocking and devastating humanitarian crises of our time.

 

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-el Padilla Peralta
Dan-el Padilla Peralta has lived the American dream. As a boy, he came here legally with his family. Together they left Santo Domingo behind, but life in New York City was harder than they imagined. Their visas lapsed, and Dan-el’s father returned home. But Dan-el’s courageous mother was determined to make a better life for her bright sons.

 

Mental Health and Community

Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama XIV, Desmond Tutu
The occasion was a big birthday. And it inspired two close friends to get together in Dharamsala for a talk about something very important to them. The friends were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The subject was joy. Both winners of the Nobel Prize, both great spiritual masters and moral leaders of our time, they are also known for being among the most infectiously happy people on the planet.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brenee Brown
True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are. Social scientist Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives–experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging.

Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir by Mark Vonnegut
More than thirty years after the publication of his acclaimed memoir The Eden Express, Mark Vonnegut continues his remarkable story in this searingly funny, iconoclastic account of coping with mental illness, finding his calling as a pediatrician, and learning that willpower isn’t nearly enough.

 

Natural World, Sustainability & Environment

Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution by Peter Kalmus
How a climate scientist and suburban father cut his climate impact down to one tenth the US average and became happier because of it. Being the Change merges science, spirituality, and practical knowledge to offer a deeply optimistic message: living without fossil fuels is not only possible, it can be better.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams
From forest trails in Korea, to islands in Finland, to eucalyptus groves in California, Florence Williams investigates the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. Delving into brand-new research, she uncovers the powers of the natural world to improve health, promote reflection and innovation, and strengthen our relationships. As our modern lives shift dramatically indoors, these ideas—and the answers they yield—are more urgent than ever.

The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age by Richard Louv
For many of us, thinking about the future conjures up images of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: a post-apocalyptic dystopia stripped of nature. Richard Louv, author of the landmark bestseller Last Child in the Woods, urges us to change our vision of the future, suggesting that if we reconceive environmentalism and sustainability, they will evolve into a larger movement that will touch every part of society.

Social Justice

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.

 

March: Book One by John Lewis
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

 

Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation by John Freeman (Editor)
Thirty-six major contemporary writers examine life in a deeply divided America–including Anthony Doerr, Ann Patchett, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Hector Tobar, Joyce Carol Oates, Edwidge Danticat, Richard Russo, Eula Bliss, Karen Russell, and many more

 

 

Classic Book to Action Toolkit (for Reference)

This classic version of the toolkit High-res 12MBLow-res 4MB had minor updates in 2016 and major updates in 2012. Some materials, logos, and information may be out of date or refer to previous incarnations of the program at the California State Library.  However, the background information and examples are worth sharing and preserving.