In the doldrums of summer, there’s a popular past time — reading
Do Savannah asked some Chatham County leaders what they were reading this summer. Here are their replies:
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson
"(I’m reading) everything I can related to COVID-19.
"I’m reading when I get a chance. I’m reading in tandem Rahm Emanuel. He’s the former mayor of Chicago. I’m reading his book, ‘The Nation City: Why Mayors Are Running the World.’ It’s talking about the importance of mayors. Mayors in cities started at the center of innovation. Government has become much more localized. Now it’s really at the epicenter, really at the city level. He talks about his experience in Chicago, working with other mayors, how mayors are making it happen.
"I’m also reading ‘The Power of Leadership’ by John C. Maxwell. It’s a collection of quotes. That kind of drives the materials on leadership. It’s helpful. It gives a wide view of leadership. Maxwell writes, ‘Leaders must be close enough to relate to others but far enough ahead to motivate.’ Booker T. Washington said, ‘Character is power.’ These are the things at this time to keep me focused, motivated and inspired."
Cora Bett Thomas, longtime real estate broker
"I’m reading about James Baldwin. Anything I can put my hands on. I haven’t bought a book. I’m reading online and I am loving it. There are so many things he’s been involved with that are happening today…the civil rights things. (There’s) the fact that his spirit always remained positive…’Notes of A Native Son’ – That’s one of the books.
"I read as much as I can. I also want to read about (civil rights leader) John Lewis, who recently died."
Jeff Hadley, Chatham County Police chief
"I’m a big John Grisham fan. I just read his latest book, ’Camino Winds.’ I previously read ’The Guardians’ (with Savannah in it). That’s for pleasure. I might have read every book he’s written.
"The premise (of ‘The Guardians’) is there’s a wrongly convicted person. And there’s a (fictional Savannah) law firm trying to prove he’s innocent. I really enjoyed it.
"For business, I’m reading an older book, ‘The Effective Executive’ by Peter Drucker, a management book (written) 50 years ago."
Shirley Sessions, Tybee Island Mayor
"I will have a couple of books at the same time. I’m reading ‘Savannah Breeze’ by Mary Kay Andrews. It’s the novel that took place on Tybee. It’s a fun, breezy novel.
"The other book I’m enjoying; it’s satire, comedy…It’s really fun. It’s ‘Sick Puppy’ by Carl Hiaasen. I’ve read all of his books…This is going to be my favorite. It’s laugh out loud funny. There are crooked politicians, a greedy developer, quirky characters that want to save the environment.
"With all the COVID-19 pandemic, I wanted some light reading."
Roy Minter, Savannah Police chief
"I’m finishing a book now by Malcolm Gladwell, ‘Talking to Strangers (What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know’). It’s a great book. I’m a Gladwell fan…I like him because he is a very thoughtful writer and he talks about issues and concerns that are going on today — what we should know about people, what we don’t know. How not to be fooled about people you have a lot of trust in.
"I also like books on business by John Maxwell. There’s ‘Leadership Shift (The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace).’ It’s how to shift your leadership style — how not to lock yourself in one leadership style.
"I have to find time to read. This job is so stressful; you have to have downtime. I use audio books. Either I listen when I go on a run or a long bike ride. I try and read something funny or I try and read something religious-based. Or I try read something on business."
Vaughnette Goode-Walker, historian and director at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, owner/operator of Footprints of Savannah Walking Tours
"I’m doing an exhibit expansion at Ralph Mark Gilbert…I’m re-reading some of the books that deal with the civil rights movement. They’re so timely with what has been going on with the protest movement.
"I’m reading ‘Beyond Atlanta (The Struggle for Racial Equality in Georgia 1940-1980) by Stephen G.N. Tuck…He was a British scholar who came to Savannah.
"I don’t just read books. I read articles, scholars. So Stephen Tuck also wrote articles for the Georgia Historical Quarterly. The name of one article which I love is ’A City Too Dignified To Hate Civic Pride, Civil Rights and Savannah in a Comparative Perspective,’ published in the fall of 1995. He opens the article with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King when Dr. King came and spoke in Savannah in 1964. He quotes Dr. King as saying Savannah was "the most desegregated city south of the Mason-Dixon line…’
"I read an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon…As I read, I find information to ground me on the research (for the museum)."
Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap
"(She’s been reading) ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch. He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He was dying of cancer. This is his (lengthened) lecture on living with three months left before he died…
"What blew my mind was his happiness and joy of life. He spent the last days of his life with his wife and kids. He said he was an injured lion who wants to know if he can still roar. It’s like he has self esteem not vanity. He looks at his life that he loves…It’s so profound. He’s dying and it makes you think life’s too short. He uses humor and inspiration…
"I can’t imagine the strength he has to write this. I’ve got two kids — 17 and 20. At the time he died, they (Pausch and his wife) had little children, one 18 months old and 4-year-old twin boys. He said life is short and you should do things you enjoy. With my kids, you don’t sweat the small stuff. They would like to hear this…He had three months. This was his last gesture. It’s a wonderful book. It tears you up.
"(In addition to Pausch’s book) I like fantasy. I read books on vampires, werewolves. Also Pat Conroy. I love his books…I like murder mysteries. My husband will tell you I love British mysteries. If you’ve ever read books by Stephanie Evanovich…they’re funny."
Dr. Lawton Davis, Health Director of the Coastal Health District
"For fun, I’ve begun re-reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’. I have read it several times but it’s one that should be re-visited every few years. It offers a bit of escapism, friends remain loyal to each other, and good emerges victorious over evil.
"And because I should read educational and historical things now and again, David McCullough’s ‘Truman’ is on the docket. These things are competing with lots of articles about boating, fishing, and golf – you know, those things that really matter! And yes, I read a lot about COVID-19."
Jennifer Abshire Davis, CEO, Abshire Public Relations
"I’m always in my car and always listening to books.
"(A recent book is) ‘The Giver of Stars’ by Jojo Moyes. (It’s) about women who establish a traveling library and they travel through the Appalachian Mountains to give kids books. Some of the community leaders — most of them were men — didn’t want women reading books. They made (the women) look like they’re doing the devil’s work. This was 100 years ago.
"Think how much things have changed, social expectations have changed. I loved it. There was a mix of characters, strong women characters. It was an escape. When I start a book, I’ve got to keep reading."
Savannah Fire Chief Derik Minard
"I read history (especially) World War II. I read a lot of outside journals for work. I read a lot of self help books on leadership… I have to read in the morning. It’s hard to read at night. I fall asleep. On a weekend, when I wake up, I have fresh cup of coffee and I read. I use Apple News every morning and I’m a big fan of the New York Times. I do a daily briefing.
"I recently picked up ‘Dare to Lead’ by Brené Brown. My undergraduate degree is in public safety and my master’s is in leadership — servant leadership, coaching, etc.
"My style is 180 degrees from the last chief. Before, it was a very top down style. That is not my style. It’s about being inclusive, being able to make decisions at all levels. ‘Dare to Lead’ is about looking at people to help them to grow. Vulnerability is a big part of that. Leading requires a certain amount of risk – taking off our armor, exposing ourselves to new concepts. It’s OK to fail.
"If your armor is on, you’re not going to be empathetic. (The book) has been turned into a management tool. There’s a workbook that goes with it. It’s just a different kind of leadership."