Weekend Reading: September 2017

Weekend Reading: September 2017

It’s Friday! As usual, we’ve compiled our favorite articles and essays from the last month for you to enjoy over the weekend.

Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmonson and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative learning engineer Bror Saxberg make an emphatic case in the McKinsey Quarterly for prioritizing lifelong learning in the business world. With the rise of AI and robotics, they write, the complex cognitive and emotional skills that make us human are more crucial than ever.

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Learning: It’s Not Just What You Know

Learning: It’s Not Just What You Know

In a TED talk that has been viewed almost 50 million times, Kenneth Robinson says that education “goes deep with people” when it taps into their innate desire to learn and grow. We start with creativity and curiosity that motivates our learning – but too often we lose much of our enthusiasm for “education” along the way. I like to think that each of us actually is an expert on learning. We just need to step away from the idea that learning is simply mastering new information and skills and think back to times when we learned things that really mattered to us and the people around us.

But what is learning if it’s not just the acquisition of new knowledge?

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The Best Way to Reveal Essential Truth? Read Fiction!

The Best Way to Reveal Essential Truth? Read Fiction!

Throughout a colorful and productive career, Pablo Picasso exposed form and color, disassembling his subjects and reshaping them in ways that at once obfuscated and illuminated them. In 1923, in a famous written statement, Picasso defended his craft to those who failed to understand his motives and his work: “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.”  

So how does this truth-revealing “lie” apply to Books@Work?

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Reading Mindfully: Charles Bukowski’s “Bluebird”

Reading Mindfully: Charles Bukowski’s “Bluebird”

Charles Bukowski was a renowned and prolific poet, short story writer and novelist who struggled throughout his lifetime with alcoholism and depression. Drawing on his experience growing up and living in Los Angeles, his work paints a portrait of downtrodden urban life and masculinity in America. In the San Francisco Review of Books, Stephen Kessler wrote, “Bukowski writes with no apologies from the frayed edge of society.”

As you read his poem “Bluebird,” published in 1992, consider if there has been a situation in your own life where you’ve put on a tough exterior.

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The Conversation Is the Point

The Conversation Is the Point

The joy of being a professor is getting to share what I love with a mostly rapt, albeit captive, audience. Whether the course is a requirement they begrudgingly take or an elective they happily attend, the contract of the classroom is the same. We will read the Baldwin or Ehrenreich I assign, the main purpose of which is to instruct them on how to think and write. Though my students influence the semester, I do the bulk of the steering, ensuring we hit the landmarks I have designated en route to a final destination I have, however loosely, predetermined.

At Books@Work, however, the readers are not my students.

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Revisiting Required Reading

Revisiting Required Reading

Surprise and joy in revisiting required reading from school years is a reaction we hear quite a bit. It’s common sense: putting a book on a required reading list makes it feel like an arduous task to be completed. It’s normal to associate authors like John Steinbeck, Willa Cather and F. Scott Fitzgerald with memories of deadlines and tests rather than the connection we felt to the literature. But revisiting Steinbeck’s The Long Valley as an adult in a Books@Work session puts the book in an entirely different context; you’re there by choice, and you’re there with others who want to read the book too. It’s liberating.

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Weekend Reading: August 2017

Weekend Reading: August 2017

Abigail Williams’ new book “The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the Eighteenth-Century Home” explores the “history of sociable reading,” shedding light on a time when volumes of verse and prose were read aloud “in many homes as a familiar assortment of readable extracts to while away an afternoon or evening in company.” What’s the difference between reading alone and reading with others?

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The Search for Beauty: One Voice, A New Perspective

The Search for Beauty: One Voice, A New Perspective

More often than we may realize, one person’s voice, quietly asserted in a moment, changes how an entire group sees things. I witnessed such a moment a few weeks ago during a Books@Work session that brought together police officers and community members to discuss Gabriel García Márquez’s story “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World.” The story is a classic example of the literary genre known as magical realism – but this moment in the discussion gave new meaning to that term.

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