The Freshman book selected for the Class of 2026 is Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive Outside the Lines by Jonathan Mooney.
Confessional and often hilarious, in Normal Sucks a neuro-diverse writer, advocate, and father meditates on his life, offering the radical message that we should stop trying to fix people and start empowering them to succeed.
Jonathan Mooney blends anecdote, expertise, and memoir to present a new mode of thinking about how we live and learn—individually, uniquely, and with advantages and upshots to every type of brain and body. As a neuro-diverse kid diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD who didn't learn to read until he was twelve, the realization that that he wasn’t the problem—the system and the concept of normal were—saved Mooney’s life and fundamentally changed his outlook. Here he explores the toll that being not normal takes on kids and adults when they’re trapped in environments that label them, shame them, and tell them, even in subtle ways, that they are the problem. But, he argues, if we can reorient the ways in which we think about diversity, abilities, and disabilities, we can start a revolution.
A highly sought after public speaker, Mooney has been inspiring audiences with his story and his message for nearly two decades. Now he’s ready to share what he’s learned from parents, educators, researchers, and kids in a book that is as much a survival guide as it is a call to action. Whip-smart, insightful, and utterly inspiring—and movingly framed as a letter to his own young sons, as they work to find their ways in the world—this audiobook will upend what we call normal and empower us all.
The book looks at the following themes:
Jonathan Mooney is a dyslexic writer and activist who learned to read when he was 12-years-old. He since earned an honors degree in English Literature at Brown University and has written and published two books.
The first, "Learning Outside The Lines" (now in its 14th printing) hit bookshelves when he was 23. Coupled with his most recent book, "The Short Bus," Jonathan has established himself as one of the foremost leaders in LD/ADHD, disabilities, and alternative education.
Jonathan also founded and is President of Project Eye-To-Eye, a mentoring and advocacy non-profit organization for students with learning differences. Project Eye-To-Eye currently has 20 chapters, in 13 states working with over 3,000 students, parents and educators nation wide.
Jonathan won the prestigious Truman Scholarship for graduate studies in disability studies and social change, and was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship.
In 2003, the LD Access Foundation recognized his work for students with disabilities with the Golden Advocacy award. Previous honorees include David Boies, Judith Rodin, former President of The University of Pennsylvania, and former New Jersey Governor Thomas H. Kean.
Jonathan is a highly sought-after speaker and has lectured in 43 states and three countries. He has lectured at: Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, Brown University, the University of Wisconsin School of Education, New York University Medical School's Grand Rounds, Teachers College Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Vassar College and many other institutions of higher education.
Jonathan also has given keynote addresses at most major national education conferences and speaks frequently to students of all ages.
Jonathan has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, NPR, ABC News, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and numerous other local and regional papers in the cities, states, and countries where Jonathan has traveled.
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Normal Sucks is part memoir and part sociology. The content and structure of the text provides a lot of area for discussion related to education, perseverance, culture, equity, and accessibility. Here are a few discussion questions to get you started talking about the book.
The ideas in the tabs above act as prompts to help you develop discussions, projects, or assignments related to Normal Sucks. They offer suggestions for ideas to include in your class or on your syllabus.
Here are some tips for leading a successful book discussion:
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The following may be used as project prompts for Normal Sucks.
The following may be used as writing prompts for Normal Sucks.