Bethesda resident Mark Shriver says he started to emerge from his Catholic funk while following Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the news during his first year as Pope Francis. “When he speaks, he lifts your soul up like a great political leader can and makes you think about your community and giving back,” Shriver says. For his book Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis (Random House, November 2016), Shriver spoke to people who knew Pope Francis in Argentina and wrote a biography based on those interviews. He was struck by stories of the pope’s humanity and dedication to the marginalized. “He is committed to the call to humility, to the call of spreading love, to the call of reaching out to everyone as Jesus did,” says Shriver, who is president of the Save the Children Action Network, based in Washington, D.C.

It’s OK to disagree—in fact, sometimes you have to stand up and say “no” in order to change things that are wrong. That’s the message Potomac resident Debbie Levy hopes children will learn while reading I Dissent (Simon & Schuster, September 2016), her biographical picture book about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. To tell the story of the Supreme Court justice’s life, including how she stood up for the rights of women and minorities, Levy read Ginsburg’s personal and professional papers at the Library of Congress. She also had Ginsburg, now 83, review the manuscript. “She is a great role model for all of us,” says Levy, an attorney who has written nearly two dozen books for kids. “Her life from the time she was a child shows the productive power of disagreeing.”

In the spring of 2015, Debbie Cenziper of Rockville was inspired to write the personal stories of the plaintiffs and civil rights lawyers behind the same-sex marriage court case that was making its way to the Supreme Court. She took a leave from her investigative reporting job at The Washington Post not knowing that a few months later she would witness history as the Court legalized same-sex marriage. By December, she turned in a manuscript of her book, Love Wins (William Morrow, June 2016), which is co-authored by Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the case who fought to be recognized on his husband’s death certificate. “What moved me in this case was the idea that these ordinary people had stepped out of their private lives to fight for their families,” Cenziper says. A movie based on the book is in the works.

After writing nonfiction history books, Garrett Park attorney David O. Stewart says he’s enjoyed the freedom of historical fiction. “When you write history, you become very conscious of how much we don’t know—how much of history is silence,” Stewart says. Coming on the heels of his other historical fiction books, The Lincoln Deception (2013) and The Wilson Deception (2015), Stewart was looking for a lead character to feature in the next time period, and says Babe Ruth was a perfect fit. In The Babe Ruth Deception (Kensington Books, September 2016), Stewart weaves facts about the legend’s baseball career into a mystery novel that includes scandal on and off the field.


Parker Hamilton.

What’s on your bedside table?

As director of Montgomery County Public Libraries, Parker Hamilton has no shortage of reading material. She keeps a basket of books next to her bed and often reads two or three at a time.

Parker recently picked up Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Crown Business, 2013), a nonfiction book about being at a crossroads. Parker says she likes the authors’ advice: “Be prepared to be wrong and step back.” Too often, people think they need to act, but there is power in pausing and getting a new perspective before moving forward, she says.

The book was an affirmation to Parker that an individual doesn’t have all the answers. “You need to bring in a team of people with different strengths,” says Parker, 68, who has led the library system for 11 years. “When you are trying to lead a department as big as ours, you want to have different strengths at the table. This county is so diverse—1 million people. You want to have different lenses. You want to have different voices.”