Reading Recommendations (Pt. 1)

Sometimes, it can be hard as a graduate student to connect with professors. We try to build relationships with our advisors, yet those relationships often end up superficial and focused solely on academics. Some graduate students don’t mind keeping strict teacher-student relationships. Personally, I like trying to connect with professors. I understand that I will probably not become “friends” with any of them, but if I can develop a deeper professional relationship than the standard “Ph.D.-lowly student” dynamic then I am happy.

Tim Ferris—in his book Tribe of Mentors—posed two intriguing questions to some of the world’s best in varying fields. He asked, “What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?” I became curious to know how various professors of mine (past and present) would answer a similar set of questions. The goal was to develop a list of books I could gradually accumulate and read to become a more well-rounded professional and interesting person. I also hoped to gain some better insight into the minds of these professors; what do they find intriguing aside from what they are assigned to teach? And can I learn about their life and/or personality outside of school?

The questions I posed to faculty members at Brigham Young University and the University of Idaho are:


  1. What is the one book (or 2-3) that you have (or would) gift/lend/recommend the most to graduate students or early career professionals?
  2. What is the one fiction book (or 2-3) that you have (or would) gift/lend/recommend the most to people? (people in general; not specifically directed to young professionals)

Responses are listed below, with professor name, professional expertise, and university.


Ellie Young, Sch. Psych., BYU:

  1. The Gift of Therapy, by Irvin Yalom; Magic Tress of the Mind, by Marian Diamond; Self-Compassion, by Kristin Neff; Falling Upward, by Richard Rohr
  2. Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover; All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr; Letters to a Young Mormon, & An Early Resurrection, by Adam Miller; Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary Schmidt

Ryan Kellems, Sp. Edu., BYU:

  1. [Overall, be well read (multiple books on multiple topics, research articles, etc.)] The Story of Intellectual Disability, by Michael Wehmeyer; The Lady Tasting Tea, by David Salsburg; Happy Kids Don’t Punch You in the Face, by Ben Springer; Single Subject Research Design in Special Education, by Tawney & Gast.
  2. The Stand, by Stephen King

Lane Fischer, Sch. Psych., BYU:

  1. [Overall, difficult to narrow down due to contextual considerations] The Evolving Self, by Robert Kegan
  2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig; The Chosen, by Chaim Potok

Melissa McConnell, Sp. Edu., UI:

  1. Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey
  2. The Big Burn, by Timothy Egan (listed as the last fiction book she read).

John Cannon, CTE., UI:

  1. [Overall, doesn’t read self-help or philosophical books.] Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  2. [Overall, doesn’t read fiction. Prefers history (Civil War, WWII, Presidents, etc.)]

Melissa Heath, Sch. Psych., BYU:

  1. Tough Kids & Tough Kids Toolbox, by William Jenson; Made to Stick & Switch, by Chip and Dan Heath
  2. Something Beautiful, by Sharon Dennis Wyeth and Chris Soentpiet.

Terisa Gabrielsen, Sch. Psych., BYU:

  1. [No answer]
  2. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

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