Park Street Press was nice enough to send me a copy of “Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading from the Heart”, which was edited by Nina Simons with Anneke Campbell. As I was packing for vacation I looked through the stack of books waiting to get read and thought to myself, an inspiring book of essays; that sounds like the perfect thing to read by the pool. I was wrong.

Let me explain, it’s not that “Moonrise” is bad, quite the contrary. It is full of stories from amazing people that really get out there and make a difference every day. The problem is, when your most charitable act of the day is tipping the bartender well for your Rum Swizzle, you feel a little bit like the laziest person ever. With each essay I read it felt like “Moonrise” was looking me in the eye and saying, “Wow Rebecca, two Rum Swizzles, you’re really being the change you want to see in the world, aren’t you?” I suspect my reaction is what Nina Simons was hoping for.

Nina Simons is co-CEO and cofounder of Bioneers, “a national nonprofit that identifies, gathers, and disseminates breakthrough solutions to environmental and social challenges”. When attempting to explain Bioneers in a quick nutshell to my husband I went with, Bioneers is like TED and “Moonrise” is the equivalent of the TED talks. And this is why I suspect Simons would be pleased that I found “Moonrise” to continually be asking, “What have you done today?”

The cast of characters and the stories they share are truly inspiring. On more than one occasion I found tears welling up in my eyes. The contributors to this book spared no punches and held nothing back emotionally. Lateefah Simon opens her essay “Girl Power for Social Justice” with, “We are living in impossible times. I feel it in my bones. Last night when I was reading my daughter a bedtime story, I thought to myself: I’m weary, but I’m not weak. These times are hard all over the world. Young women are struggling. Young women are dying. Young women are fighting and resisting.” She then goes on to chronicle how at the age of 19 she was appointed executive director of the Center for Young Women’s Development, which made her one of the youngest leaders of a social service agency in the country.

Judy Wicks, proprietor of the well-known White Dog Café, offers interesting economic and social insights with her essay “Local Living Economies”. LaDonna Redmond, the founder and president of the Institute for Community Resource Development in Chicago, Illinois, discusses how her son being born with severe food allergies started her on a quest to attempt to make healthier foods available in urban communities. She offers the insight that, “In my neighborhood, I can buy designer gym shoes, every kind of fast food, every kind of junk food, all kinds of malt liquor and illegal drugs, and maybe even a semiautomatic weapon, but I cannot purchase an organic tomato.” Artist Lily Yeh shares her journeys with readers as she outlines how she went from an artist to artist ambassador, working to bring art to impoverished communities. “I often find it hard to define what I do as an artist, but I’ve come to realize that broken places are my canvases. People’s stories are the pigments, and their talents, the tools. Together we weave something magical, organic, and sustainable,” Yeh shares in her essay “How Art Can Heal Broken Places”.

It’s safe to say “Moonrise” isn’t light, summertime beach reading. However, “Moonrise” should be required reading to anyone, particularly women, who are looking for inspiring ideas, unique perspectives, and calls to action with regards to the social and environmental challenges that we’re all facing.