Municipal Leaders Summer Reading List

What Are You Reading This Summer?

It’s important to keep an active, calm mind in times of heightened alerts, such as the current Covid-19 situation.  Pleasure reading is one way to take a mental break and get away from it all with whatever reading material engages you.  This summer we asked Montgomery Township officials and staff to share about any favorite books they were reading, in order to encourage our residents to pick up a book as time allows. 

Mayor Sadaf Jaffer
I’m reading If These Stones Could Talk by Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills. It is a powerful history of the African American community in our region and written by two of the founders of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum. They have also conducted workshops throughout the area including for the Montgomery Mosaic initiative. Through reading this book, I feel better connected to the richness of our history and I am working on ways to make this knowledge more accessible to the public. I would highly recommend If These Stones Could Talk for your reading list!


Deputy Mayor Marvin Shuldiner
I am in the middle of reading “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do” by Jennifer Eberhardt.  With everything happening regarding racial injustice and institutional racism, I want to become more educated on inherent bias.  Also, as a mediator, I have to constantly check myself for biases.


Township Committeewoman Devra Keenan
 “Seeing the Sourlands: Photos and Essays,” by Jim Amon. This is the only book out on my coffee table and I am often thumbing through it admiring the amazing photographs and enjoying topical essays about the area. If not on your summer reading list, it makes a great gift!

I just received my copy of “How to be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi. I hope it will help educate and motivate me to do my part as an Elected Official and as a human being to understand and dismantle racism so we call all live in a just an equitable society.

My fun summer read is authored by a childhood friend, David Howard, called “Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World’s Most Charming Con Man” a tru-crime caper about the FBI’s first white-collar undercover sting. It is great read and serves as a real story that you can still escape into! But don’t just take my word for it, rumor has it that it might be made into a movie!


Township Committeewoman Catherine Gural
Can’t decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but lately I am only reading textbooks for my MPA program. Sadly, I have not read for leisure in some time, due to finishing my BA and starting my MPA. It’s also really hard to get any reading for fun in with 3 kids always needing something!
Earlier this summer, I took a course for my MPA program on Organizational Behavior and Leadership. The textbook that was assigned for this is called “Reframing Organizations” by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal. The book is actually really useful for lots of different organizations, not just in government. There are four “frames” through which we view organizations: Structural, Human Resource, Political, and Symbolic. Each frame offers different strategies for putting principles into practice and how to integrate the frames to manage organizations of all sizes and types. At its core, the book is about managerial thinking, how managers typically think, and then different ways that we can reframe that thinking to look at problem solving from different angles. It’s been really helpful for me at work and in my role on the township committee.

Since the kids are such varying ages, I can tell you what each of them enjoys! Stella (4) really loves the book “Secret Pizza Party” by Daniel Salmieri. It’s a great story about a racoon who loves pizza (and pizza is our family’s favorite food!) Sadie (8) is all about the Babysitter’s Club series. This was my favorite series when I was her age, so I am really excited that she’s picked it up and is enjoying it.  Simon (20) recently read Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond  “Diamond argues that Eurasian civilization is not so much a product of ingenuity, but of opportunity and necessity. That is, civilization is not created out of superior intelligence, but is the result of a chain of developments, each made possible by certain preconditions.”


Gail Smith, PE, CME, Township Engineer
I just finished “The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood. I highly recommend the book. Margaret Atwood is a great writer.


Rachel Tarantul, Engineer Secretary
Whenever I talk about books, I always say “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. It’s so beautifully written, I laughed, I cried… you go on a crazy rollercoaster of emotions. I am a sucker for sci-fi, rom-coms and love. Without spoiling anything, this book is about a time traveler who meets his wife in different time periods and knows everything about his wife from the beginning of her life to the end. Do not watch the movie, it does this book no justice.


Lori Savron, PP, AICP, Township Planning Director
This summer I read Evicted by Matthew Desmond at the suggestion of the Executive Director for Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity. Desmond writes, “If we care about promoting health and well-being among families and kids, we have to care about stable, affordable housing.” The Township’s first Habitat for Humanity single-family home is under construction on Willow Road in the Belle Mead section. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes, alongside volunteers, and pay an affordable mortgage. I also love the book If I Built a House by Chris Van Deusen. Every time my son would read it, he would come up with wild and imaginative ideas on houses that he would build. The illustrations are captivating.


Lauren Wasilauski, Open Space Coordinator
I’m reading The Overstory, after a Shade Tree Committee member, Irene Stein, recommended it to me.  A large part of my job relates to protecting our natural environment, and enhancing those areas that need restoration (often by planting trees & understory plants), so she thought this book would be of interest to me.  The book explores how we as humans impact the environment around us, and how it, in turn, has an impact on us.  I’m only one-quarter through reading the book, but I find the way the author explores the interconnections of our environment a really interesting topic.  The perspectives of the different characters is also a good reminder to me that not everyone sees the environment the same way.


Tammy Garaffa, Community Information Officer
I just read a historical fiction novel, Mary Coin by Marissa Silver which imagines the life of a farm migrant worker during the 1930s Depression. It is based on the famous photograph by Dorothea Lange “Migrant Mother.”  The novel imagines the mother’s story, the photographer’s story, and a modern day professor’s tale, who is researching this past history and finds a possible tie to his own.  It is very good!  My mother grew up during the depression era so I relate from stories she has shared about the economic hardships endured and how families could be broken apart as a result.

I also read an article: “An Epidemic’s Strawman: Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s 1918–1919 Influenza Epidemic, and Historical Memory” by Dr. James Higgins, a history & philosophy professor at Rider University. It is a fascinating read in light of COVID-19 and reexamines common assumptions about the role of the Director of the Dept. of Health in Philadelphia when the disastrous Spanish flu epidemic first broke out in 1918.  A book, The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Greatest Plague in History (2004) held Krusen primarily accountable for allowing the huge War Bond Parade that preceded the deadly virus racing across the city. (Philadelphia had the third highest death toll of all U.S. cities.) But Krusen was known as a competent public health leader who brought about many health education and other public health reforms in Philadelphia, too.  What happened? The article analyzes the conditions, the statistics, and the politics of the day, and takes a fresh look at what went wrong. This article was published in January, 2020.