2023 Reading Recommendations

Back-to-school reading recommendations from Health Forward Foundation


Health Forward Foundation strives to be a trust-based organization, which means we are always working to simplify our application processes; complete our own homework instead of asking partners to do extra work for us; and offer support that goes above and beyond financial resources. It also means we focus on open, honest, and transparent communication.

With that in mind, I want to start by sharing that this post was originally planned as summer reading recommendations from our team. But things don’t always go to plan.

In the meantime, we’ve been working to announce funding opportunities for nonprofits led by people of color AND for predominantly white-led organizations looking to instill anti-racist policies and practices into their work.

We wrapped up the third and final KC Health Equity Learning and Action Network Community Health Improvement Leadership Academy (CHILA) convening.

We kicked off a regional assessment with NORC, a nonpartisan research organization from the University of Chicago, that will help establish actionable steps we can take to ensure people working in our health system are as diverse as the Kansas City region.

We were also working to announce funding support for organizations working to advance digital inclusion, as well as a round of funding to support organizations advancing civic participation and engagement in democracy.

So, without further delay, we’re excited to share some reading recommendations that will get you in the back-to-school spirit. We encourage you to pick one that looks interesting to you and take some time to learn and reflect this fall.


The Anti-Racist Organization:
Dismantling Systemic Racism in the Workplace

// By Shereen Daniels

Recommended by Angie Williams, Director of Organizational Learning and Culture

HR strategist Shereen Daniels delivers an incisive and honest discussion of how business leaders can change workplace practices to create a more anti-racist and equitable environment.


Between the World and Me
// By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Recommended by Kael Martin, Impact Strategist – People

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.


Brown: The Last Discovery of America
// By Richard Rodriguez

Recommended by Andrés Domínguez, Internal Equity Fellow and Impact Strategist – People

In this dazzling memoir, Richard Rodriguez reflects on the color brown and the meaning of Hispanics to the life of America today.


Why Simple Wins: Escape the Complexity Trap
and Get to Work That Matters

// By Lisa Bodell

Recommended by Brenda Calvin, Chief of Staff

This book helps leaders and their teams move beyond the feelings of frustration and futility that come with so much unproductive work in today’s corporate world to create a culture where valuable, essential, meaningful work is the norm.


The Power of Now:
A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

// By Eckhart Tolle

Recommended by Justin Moss, Learning Strategist

Much more than simple principles and platitudes, The Power of Now takes readers on an inspiring spiritual journey to find their true and deepest self and reach the ultimate in personal growth and spirituality: the discovery of truth and light.


The End of the Myth: From the Frontier
to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

// By Greg Grandin

Recommended by Eusebio Díaz, Vice President of Strategy, Learning, and Communications

Acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history. For centuries, he shows, America’s constant expansion — fighting wars and opening markets — served as a “gate of escape,” helping to deflect domestic political and economic conflicts outward. But this deflection meant that the country’s problems, from racism to inequality, were never confronted directly.


The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How
Our Government Segregated America

// By Richard Rothstein

Recommended by Qiana Thomason, President/CEO

Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to Black Americans in white neighborhoods.


Range: Why Generalists Triumph
in a Specialized World

// By David Epstein

Recommended by Bradford Hart, Process Innovation Strategist

The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.


From Strength to Strength: Finding Success,
Happiness, and Deep Purpose
in the Second Half of Life

// By Arthur C. Brooks

Recommended by Donna Bushur, Impact Strategist – People

A roadmap for finding purpose, meaning, and success as we age, from bestselling author, Harvard professor, and the Atlantic’s happiness columnist Arthur Brooks.


Politics Is for Power: How to Move Beyond
Political Hobbyism, Take Action,
and Make Real Change

// By Eitan Hersh

Recommended by Ross Jensby, Communications Associate

Aided by cutting-edge social science as well as remarkable stories of ordinary citizens who got off their couches and took political power seriously, this book shows us how to channel our energy away from political hobbyism and toward empowering our values.


The Radium Girls: The Dark Story
of America’s Shining Women

// By Kate Moore

Recommended by Kimberly Smith, Accounting and Payroll Specialist

Illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, and research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives.