One of our goals during Covidtime is to send learning materials and assignments to our Hope-Western Prison Education Program students at Muskegon Correctional Facility. We hope to maintain a learning community and develop habits of continuing intellectual engagement. Keeping in touch with these students in this way is especially important while we aren’t allowed to teach face-to-face. And no, there’s no Internet in prison.

Photo credit: Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

One idea we’ve had is to create a book club. We’ll send the students a book and some possible discussion questions. They’ll be encouraged to read the books and discuss them with their peers – both students admitted to the program and other incarcerated peers. These won’t be academic courses per se. They won’t require any written assignments. They’re meant to keep students talking to each other about ideas. And to help them enjoy reading.

Suggest a book or two for us to consider. What do you recommend? Use the comment feature or e-mail us at We’d be grateful for your help. And our students will be even more grateful. Thank you.

Photo credit: Kyle Webb on Unsplash

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  1. I recently read Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. It is quite an adventure tale and describes how Shackleton and all of his men survive after getting stuck in the ice on their failed trip to Antartica. It is very vivid and is also inspiring — how someone succeeds and survives despite all odds.

  2. A Chance in the World by Steve Pemberton is a great read. It is his story, hard to hear at times, and very much about resilience and perseverance. I used it in my FYS class and got great feedback from students. It is tough to read at times, given what he goes through, but may resonate especially given the different personal stories folks have.

  3. This might be a bit outside the lines of what you are looking for, but “I Contain Multitudes” by Ed Yong is at the top of my book list. Our FYS students have really loved it, including those who are not science majors. A great read for anyone curious about the world of microbes that exists around and within all of us.

  4. How to Kill a City:Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood by PE Moskowitz
    The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
    A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles by Thomas Sowell
    Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi (500+ page version)
    White Too Long by Robert P. Jones
    Exclusion & Embrace by Miroslav Volf
    The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World
    by Miroslav Volf
    When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin
    Long Way Gone by Charles Martin
    Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind by Alan Jacobs
    How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds by Alan Jacobs
    These are some of the books I have read in the last year that I found profound and worth reading in a book group setting if possible – so much to discuss

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