Reading Mindfully: Megan Gillespie’s “Cheers”

Reading Mindfully: Megan Gillespie’s “Cheers”

Our blog post earlier this week explored the intersection of poetry and business. Today, we’re thrilled to feature a poem by poet, educator and Books@Work facilitator Megan Gillespie. Megan is Pennsylvania’s 2018 Montgomery County Poet Laureate, and her work has appeared in The Florida Review, New Delta Review and Cimarron Review. Her honors include fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Millay Colony for the Arts and Lector Writer’s and Performance Art Residency.

She currently works as a writing coach for the Wharton Communication Program, where she prepares students for communication challenges they’ll face as future business leaders. She recently facilitated Books@Work sessions with a group of leaders and staff at a large manufacturing company. As you read Megan’s poem “Cheers,” consider why we are so eager to ascribe meaning and order to the world.

Read More

Reading Mindfully: Dave Eggers’ “The Man at the River”

Reading Mindfully: Dave Eggers’ “The Man at the River”

Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to consider your reactions to and assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.

A prolific author of novels, nonfiction books, short stories, screenplays and more, Dave Eggers was raised in Lake Forest, Illinois. At age 21, he withdrew from college to care for his 8-year-old brother after losing both parents to cancer, events that are chronicled in his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His narrative essay “The Man at the River” appeared in Granta Magazine and tells the story of an American tourist in Sudan who is faced with a choice when he’s asked to wade across a river.

As you read “The Man at the River,” consider the many ways we navigate cultural difference and barriers to understanding.

Read More

Reading Mindfully: Bret Anthony Johnston’s “Encounters with Unexpected Animals”

Reading Mindfully: Bret Anthony Johnston’s “Encounters with Unexpected Animals”

Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to challenge your assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.

Director of the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas in Austin, Bret Anthony Johnston is the author of numerous award-winning short stories and nonfiction pieces. His “enthralling and skillful” debut novel Remember Me Like This was named a 2014 New York Times Notable Book of the Year. “Encounters with Unexpected Animals,” a portrait of a father at odds with his son’s girlfriend, was originally published in Esquire and later appeared in the 2013 Best American Short Stories anthology.

As you read Johnston’s story, consider the many forms of power and how they do – or do not – lead to a false sense of security.

Read More

Reading Mindfully: Kirstin Valdez Quade’s “Jubilee”

Reading Mindfully: Kirstin Valdez Quade’s “Jubilee”

Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to consider your reactions to and assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.

Winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle’s 2016 John Leonard Prize, Kirstin Valdez Quade’s debut short story collection Night at the Fiestas explores complicated race and class dynamics, with characters who “protect, betray, wound, undermine, bolster, define, and, ultimately, save each other.” The New York Times called the collection, which includes today’s story “Jubilee,” a “legitimate masterpiece.” Quade’s other work has appeared in various literary magazines, and she is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at Stanford University.

In “Jubilee,” a young woman finds her biases toward her father’s boss and his family challenged. What does it take to change our minds about someone we’ve previously judged?

Read More

Reading Mindfully: Imbolo Mbue’s “A Reversal”

Reading Mindfully: Imbolo Mbue’s “A Reversal”

Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to consider your reactions to and assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.

An English-speaking native of predominantly French-speaking Limbe, Cameroon, acclaimed author Imbolo Mbue arrived in the United States at age 17. Her first novel Behold the Dreamers was published in 2016 and tells the story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York City just as the Great Recession hits. Earning wide critical praise, the novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s book club. O, the Oprah Magazine wrote that the book “challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred.” As you read Mbue’s short story “A Reversal,” consider how we determine where we belong.

Read More

Reading Mindfully: Billy Collins’ “Genius”

Reading Mindfully: Billy Collins’ “Genius”

The writer John Updike praised the poems of Billy Collins as “limpid, gently startling. . . they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides.” Arguably the most popular American poet of the modern era, Collins served two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and one term as New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. Despite his many accolades and awards, he did not begin his career as a poet until the age of forty. His work is widely known for its humor, which Collins refers to as “a door into the serious.”

As you read Billy Collins’ poem “Genius,” consider these questions if genius is something we have or we create.

Read More

Reading Mindfully for the Holiday: Grace Paley’s “The Loudest Voice”

Reading Mindfully for the Holiday: Grace Paley’s “The Loudest Voice”

Widely known for her short fiction, award-winning author Grace Paley was also an essayist, novelist, poet and activist. Born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrant parents in 1922, her prose is heavily influenced by “the language of her childhood, a heady blend of Yiddish, Russian and English.”

In 1978, Paley told The New York Times that she considered her work “a history of everyday life.”Paley’s short story “The Loudest Voice” was published in 1959 and follows Shirley Abramowitz, a young Jewish girl who is asked to be the narrator in her school’s Christmas pageant. As you read the story, think about how we decide who “owns” a certain tradition or ritual.

Read More

Reading Mindfully: O. Henry’s “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen”

Reading Mindfully: O. Henry’s “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen”

O. Henry is one of the most beloved short story writers in American history. His stories are known for their wit and playfulness, often featuring misunderstandings and surprise endings. Born in North Carolina in 1862, O. Henry later moved to New York, using Manhattan and its societal divisions as fodder for his fiction. Henry is the namesake for the prestigious O. Henry Prize, awarded annually to the most outstanding published short story of the year.

As you read O. Henry’s “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen,” consider why traditions and rituals like Thanksgiving are so important to us.

Read More

Reading Mindfully: Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”

Reading Mindfully: Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”

In 2016, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan became the first musician to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, sparking a debate about the nature of “literary” writing. Can we equate song lyrics with poetry? Should we distinguish between songwriters and a novelists? Does Dylan deserve the same literary prestige as Toni Morrison and Pablo Neruda?

Can we embark on a mindful literary exploration of one of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs?

Read More

Reading Mindfully: T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Are We Not Men?”

Reading Mindfully: T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Are We Not Men?”

T. Coraghessan Boyle’s prolific literary career spans over three decades and twenty-six books of fiction. His work has earned numerous accolades including multiple O. Henry Awards for his short stories and a PEN/Faulkner Award for his novel World’s End. His prose, writes The Paris Review, is “lush, manic, overblown, satiric, highly imaginative and, on occasion, shamelessly melodramatic.” His short story “Are We Not Men?” was published in the November 2016 issue of The New Yorker. As you read the story, consider your own notions of parenthood. Why do we care so deeply about our children’s success?

Read More