Our Book Club Turns One

Dear Book Club Enthusiasts,

As we close out July, we’re writing to commemorate a remarkable milestone – the first anniversary of our beloved Southern Made Book Club. A year ago, amidst the hustle and bustle of our work and personal lives, we embarked on a journey to discover the power of literature, the joy of storytelling, and the magic of shared knowledge.

Looking back, it’s truly awe-inspiring to realize that we found the time to create this haven for literary exploration amid the ever-elusive quest for work-life balance. And yet, here we are, celebrating the fruits of our collective curiosity and the profound impact it has had on our personal and professional lives.

The rich tapestry of literature that filled our bookshelves…

While some months consisted of readers choosing their own book of the month, here is a list, with synopses, of the books we read (or listened to) together:

  1. Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Atomic Habits is the definitive guide to breaking bad behaviors and adopting good ones in four steps, showing you how small, incremental, everyday routines compound into massive, positive change over time.
  2. Never Forget Our People Were Always Free: A Parable of American Healing by Benjamin Todd Jealous
    • Told as a series of parables, Never Forget Our People Were Always Free features intimate glimpses of political, and faith leaders as different as Jack Kemp, Stacey Abrams, and the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu and heroes as unlikely as a retired constable, a female pirate from Madagascar, a long lost Irishman, a death row inmate, and a man with a confederate flag over his heart. More than anything, Never Forget Our People Were Always Free offers readers hope America’s oldest wounds can heal and her oldest divisions be overcome.
  3. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
    • Shoe Dog is the autobiography of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. The story follows Knight from starting Nike (Blue Ribbon Sports at the start) all the way up to the 2010s’. Knight reveals stories about his personal life, his first group of employees, and his relationship with his mentor Bill Bowerman.
  4. The Overstory by Richard Powers
    • The book is about nine Americans whose unique life experiences with trees bring them together to address the destruction of forests.
  5. Spare by Prince Harry
    • In Spare, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, gets personal on everything from his mom, the late Princess Diana, and the lifelong grief he experienced after her death, to the long road of events that lead to his brother, Prince William, becoming his archnemesis; difficult conversations he had with his father, King Charles, and his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth throughout his lifetime; his time in the British military; his disdain for theBritish media; and of course, his controversial marriage to Meghan Markle and becoming a father to Archie and Lillibet.
  6. Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance by Erica Dhawan
    • In a nutshell, this is about being sensitive to others’ needs, and using the appropriate digital body language to clearly communicate “I hear you” and “I understand you”. To do that, you must read carefully, write clearly and consciously, express your appreciation visibly, and respect people’s time and schedule
  7. Finding Me by Viola Davis
    • The New York Times bestselling memoir by actor Viola Davis, encapsulating her journey of growing up inpoverty in Rhode Island and overcoming the trauma of her circumstances to find global success and fame.
  8. The House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Kline
    • In The House in the Cerulean Sea, Linus Baker is a lonely case worker for a governmental organization which manages orphaned kids who are magical beings. One day, he’s given a secret assignment to assess a special orphanage on the island of Marsyas, run by a man named Arthur Parnassus, who has secrets of his own.
  9. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
    • Tiny Beautiful Things follows Sugar, an online advice columnist who uses her personal experiences to help the real-life readers who pour their hearts out to her.

Reader Picks consisted of…

  1. Happy Place by Emily Henry
  2. The Librarian of Burned Books by Brianna Labuskes
  3. Bewilderment by Richard Powers
  4. The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
  5. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  6. Ready Player Two by Earnest Cline
  7. Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

When asked if there was a book that stuck with them and why, members said:

“The House in the Cerulean Sea – I prefer reading fiction and appreciated the storytelling that was rooted in the core message of showing compassion and empathy for everyone, a great reminder both personally and professionally!” – Rachel Black, Project Manager

Never Forget Our People Were Always Free – This book exposed me to a number of civil rights issues that while I may have heard of, I never understood. The parable-style story telling made the topics comprehensible and gave me a framework to have thoughtful conversations about complex topics. It also reminded me to think wider about the issue at hand because very rarely do you see the whole picture from any single point of view”. – Chris (Ferf) McIntyre, Founder & CEO

“Tiny Beautiful Things – I love the idea behind this book and the column for Sugar but mostly I love this book because it covers an incredibly diverse list of the trivial parts of being human. And while the perspective and solution on each of those trivialities is from only one person, her responses are grounded in logic and examples from her own life, giving a sense of validity but also a personal touch that makes each column feel both unique and groundbreaking.” – Jeana Newsom, Project Manager

“Digital Body Language – it was very relatable considering we communicate digitally everyday whether that be with each other, our developers, or our clients. I personally feel like it made me look inward and really review how I communicate with others to ensure that I’m not coming across in any particular way.” – Meaghan Kniffen, Project Manager

When asked what benefits Book Club brought to their personal and professional lives, members said:

“[Book Club provided] the space to get to know my peers better on a personal and professional level; reading and discussing a variety of different topics has stimulated a lot of engaging conversations where we can learn more about others’ thoughts, behaviors, observations, and attitudes. I also enjoy getting to spend less structured time with virtual co-workers!” – Rachel Black, Project Manager

“I love the juxtaposition of sci-fi books contrasted with business books. I always learn something about people and how they want to be treated in life from both. And while some use fiction as a way to escape from the real world, I find it to be an amazing mechanism for me to better understand it.” – Chris (Ferf) McIntyre, Founder & CEO

“One professional benefit is its enhanced my critical thinking. Analyzing books and delving into their themes fosters critical thinking skills. These skills are valuable in problem-solving, decision-making, and evaluating complex situations at work.” – Matt Early, Strategic Account Director

“Book Club creates a place for us to meet (virtually) and not only discuss the literature but help us understand how each of our lives shapes our perceptions of the story and that is an unexpectedly beautiful thing to be a part of both personally and professionally.” – Jeana Newsom, Project Manager

“Book Club has really helped me find my love for reading again. Reading has become one of my favorite hobbies.” – Meaghan Kniffen

When asked if they think Book Club was an important part of Southern Made, members said:

“Book Club is important because it allows us to learn more about the world and each other! It is important to read books/discuss topics that you otherwise may not have to understand different perspectives and experiences, both personal and professional. It also provides the space to interact with other team members you do not get to work with on a regular basis!” – Rachel Black, Project Manager

“Culture is built based off of shared values and experiences. Books give us a reason to be together, to contemplate together, to argue together – and to build our company culture through the joy of reading!” – Chris (Ferf) McIntyre, Founder & CEO

“Engaging in regular discussions about books exposes each member to diverse ideas, perspectives, and literary styles. This intellectual stimulation helps expand team members knowledge and critical thinking abilities.” – Matt Early, Strategic Account Director

“It’s personally something I look forward to every month. I’m so engaged and present. It facilitates conversations in a safe space that allow us to get to know other readers (and ourselves!) better.” – Jeana Newsom, Project Manager

“It gives us something to talk about outside work. It also provides a safe space for people share their opinions on controversial topics.” – Meaghan Kniffen, Project Manager

Our Book Club has become a cornerstone of our company culture, allowing us to build shared values and experiences through the joy of reading. It has given us the courage to engage in thoughtful conversations about diverse ideas and perspectives, fostering an inclusive and safe space for all voices to be heard.

As we celebrate this beautiful journey, we look forward to many more years of literary exploration, empathy, and growth. Together, we will continue to nurture our passion for reading, and in doing so, we will deepen our understanding of each other and the world around us.

Happy reading,

Southern Made Book Club

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