Thursday, April 24, 2014

What I've Been Reading Lately

Recently I've been forwarded or been forwarding some articles and links to friends, and I've e-mailed some links to myself to bookmark for future teaching (I teach a January term class on personal essay writing, so I like to have my students read and respond to provocative arguments).

So today I decided to just share a few of the things that I've happened upon and think are worth passing along...

This article on grief written by David Brooks for the New York Times: "What Suffering Does." My favorite part is, "Recovering from suffering is not like recovering from a disease. Many people don't come out healed; they come out different."

A lovely essay on kindness that made me get a little choked up thinking about all the sacrifices that parents willingly and lovingly make for their kids:  "Your Kindness is Good for You" by Casey N. Cep.

This article from the Atlantic about a professional baseball player who was questioned by the police while shoveling snow from his driveway. I talk with my students about the perception that money is the equalizer for race (though not for gender) and this article, written by former baseball player Doug Glanville, highlights the assumptions that people continue to make, based on skin color alone: "I was Racially Profiled in My Own Driveway."

I just checked out Arianna Huffington's book Thrive from our library. I'm only in the first chapter (and feeling thankful that the biggest stress in my job is just getting student essays graded), and then a friend e-mailed me this article, which seems to be excerpted from her book. As I said to my friend, I really like the article, but I'm not sure the final quotation sits well with me. I still think that Eliza was meant for me, and I would be furious if someone tried to dismiss her loss or my grief by saying, "It wasn't meant to be." At the same time, I respect Huffington's perspective on her own grief, and I realize that when she presents that quotation, she's talking about gratitude for life in general rather than her specific experience with grief.

Okay, this one is for listening rather than reading, but if you haven't heard this old episode of This American Life about prisoners near St. Louis putting on a performance of Hamlet, then do yourself a favor and listen:  Act V.  I actually take a day of class when I teach Hamlet and have my students listen to the entire episode. I've found that it dramatically changes their attitude about the play when they hear it praised and analyzed by prison inmates.

As far as novels, I just finished listening to the audiobook of Longbourn by Jo Baker. I loved it. (And the audio version is well-read and not annoying.) It's the story of a servant living in the Bennet household--as in Jane Austen's Bennet family in Pride and Prejudice. The book is so much fun because it keeps with the plot of P&P--the militia are in town, Wickham comes over to flirt with the girls, Mr. Bingley hosts a ball--but it's not about the Bennet sisters at all, or is about them only as they interact with the servants, which is quite little. It has fascinating details about doing laundry in the early nineteenth century (in a word: Ew.) and the story it tells was so engaging that I looked forward to my commute everyday so I could listen to more. I will tell you that I did have to skip over a section that discussed Mrs. Bennet having a stillborn baby--a little boy born between Jane and Elizabeth. There was nothing insensitive or inappropriate about the part I heard, I just couldn't deal with it on my way to work that morning. I still highly recommend it, especially if you're an Austen fan (I'm totally going to reread Pride and Prejudice as soon as I finish To the Lighthouse, which I'm currently teaching).

Read anything good lately? I'm putting together a summer + maternity leave reading list and I'm happy to take suggestions!


  1. Despite having read somewhere that this is supposed to be "The Year of Reading Women Authors" or something (since you haven't mentioned that on your blog, and you're... YOU.. I kind of wonder if that's even true) and then finding someone's list of 50 books by female authors that they loved, and reading a few of them, I still haven't read anything I would recommend outside of the novella you were teaching a few weeks ago! (In fact, I couldn't stand to read the spoilers - I downloaded it and read it before finishing that post.) But I wanted to say that any time you recommend a book on here, I read it, and I have yet to be disappointed. I just put Longbourn on hold at my library. And then I, too, will likely reread Pride and Prejudice.

    I really think you should throw together a tab at the top for books you recommend that aren't necessarily grief-related, because you so obviously are the right women in the right career, and your taste in books is brilliant!

  2. I have the Veronica Mars novel (that takes place post-movie) on my kindle waiting for my vacation next week - I can't wait to read it!

  3. I just stumbled on your blog and love your posts. Congratulations on your third pregnancy. I, too, lost a little girl (my first and only child) in January at 26 weeks and so much of your writing resonates with me. Thank you for sharing Eliza's story and for giving me hope that things can improve.

    Separately, I loved the David Brooks article about suffering. Have you read this?

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