Book Covers from List of leaders most impactful reads

Turn the Pages of Our Leadership Team’s Most Impactful Reads


As leaders in an evolving social impact landscape, we understand the enduring power of learning and growth. Just as reading nurtures young minds, it continues to shape our perspectives as adults. At St. Joseph Fund (SJF), we know books profoundly impact our professional, social, and emotional abilities. A love of reading starts before children enter a classroom and will flourish for decades after we take our last exam. Our leadership team’s most impactful reads are the books that have left an indelible mark on their personal and professional journeys. Non-fiction and fiction alike have a transformative power, and these are just a few of the titles that have inspired, challenged, and enriched our lives.


Amy Huang, Program Officer

Swimming to Freedom (Kent Wong) – This memoir captures the experience of enduring poverty and political persecution during China’s Cultural Revolution and highlights Amy’s parents’ adolescent years. Like the author, Amy’s uncle was a Freedom Swimmer who swam to Hong Kong to escape the Cultural Revolution and eventually moved to the U.S. as a refugee. Her uncle’s sacrifice led to the sponsorship of her parents, aunts, and uncles to build roots in Seattle, Washington.


Warriors Don’t Cry (Melba Pattillo Beals) – This book chronicles the searing pain of Melba Beals, one of the nine young black teenagers who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Amy recalls reading this book in high school, with her heart pounding as she read each riveting chapter. Years later, her pounding teenage heart led her to find her biggest peace and honor: to enter ethnic studies as an undergraduate. Here, she found a steadfast passion for education justice as she engaged in community work.


Abolition. Feminism. Now. (Angela Davis, Gina Dent, Erica. R. Meiners, and Beth E. Richie) – A historical genealogy, this book highlights and honors international community organizing, and power building led by women of color, centering on abolitionist principles and practices. This book profoundly impacts how Amy wants to grow personally and professionally as a social worker, fight against systemic oppression, and serve as a reminder that collective community joy where we can all thrive is possible.


Jason Lacsamana, Director, Programs and Partnerships

Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now (Jeff Yang, Phil Yu, and Philip Wang) – A recent addition to Jason’s home library, this book covers everything in Asian American pop culture over the past thirty years, from sports to music to art to politics. It is beautifully illustrated, funny, and engaging while telling the critical stories of activists fighting for equity, building community power, promoting healing, and holding space for our diverse voices. It’s like a yearbook for those who grew up Asian American in the 80s, 90s, and 00s, and the stories and illustrations will take you back to that era.  As the book jacket reminds us, “And still: Asian America is just getting started.”


LL Cool J Presents The Streets Win: 50 Years of Hip Hop Greatness (Alec Banks, LL Cool J, and Vikki Tobak) – This collection is a progressive look at Hip-Hop culture and the impact it’s had on every genre of music for the last five decades. Jason grew up with Hip Hop providing the soundtrack for much of his youth. The collaborators take readers back into the early days of Hip-Hop through rare photographs from block parties, live performances, recording sessions, and more. The photos are shared alongside memories from the genre’s influential music, graffiti artists and DJs discussing the influence and their love of Hip-Hop.


Money Out Loud: All the Financial Stuff No One Taught Us (Berna Anat) – Money is a complex topic to broach, especially for children of immigrants. The author, Berna Anat, takes a humorous and thought-provoking look at finances and shares what she has learned, including how our past community and individual traumas shape our money habits and how we can create new and more positive ones. The personal finance lessons acknowledge our histories and are actionable while also providing a lens as to how to use money to create a better world offered on the pages.


Gabriela Robles, President and Chief Executive

The Art of Gathering – How We Meet and Why it Matters (Priya Parker) – A must-read for people looking to connect more meaningfully, the author, Priya Parker, believes that gatherings don’t have to be lackluster and unproductive. This book was recommended to Gabby by Sarah Middleton, President of Mission Up, who knows that we all need a reset surrounding our gatherings. Coming together is arguably more important than ever. The book explains how small changes in our approach to meetings, events, and more create meaningful, memorable experiences and strengthen our human connections.


The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jane Jacobs) – In this book, published in 1961, author Jane Jacobs argued that urban planning policy was the cause of the decline of many neighborhoods. It introduced the concept of including the community when designing communities and advocated for mixed-use developments and walkable streets. Gabby considers this book to have influenced her decision to pursue a master’s in urban and regional planning at the University of California, Irvine. A quote that is particularly important to Gabby is, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”


Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) – This children’s classic holds a special place on Gabby’s bookshelf. She recalls reading it in elementary school and being moved by the story of friendship. An unlikely trio, Charlotte, Wilbur, and Templeton work together to alter Wilbur’s future. The award-winning book touches on many themes, including friendship, the power of words, kindness, and even loss. If you haven’t read it since your early years, rediscover the cherished nostalgia of your childhood by picking up a copy and indulging in a heartfelt journey down memory lane.


What books have impacted you? Why would you suggest we add them to our bookshelves? We’d love it if you would share this post with your book list on LinkedIn.