The Beauty Is in the Details: The Prismatic Effect of Literature

The Beauty Is in the Details: The Prismatic Effect of Literature

If a piece of art explores a universal idea, a specific detail often exposes the particular, redirecting a viewer’s emotions to a more personal connection and creating an opportunity for deeper reflection on beauty, love, loss or other ideas. So does the power of detail bring us each closer to an otherwise daunting piece of art.

But the visual arts have not cornered this space. Good literature also has the power to use detail to catapult us back into our own lives, to render personal even the most distant stories.

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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?

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Digging Little Rivulets: An Interview with Professor Bernie Jim

Digging Little Rivulets: An Interview with Professor Bernie Jim

We recently had the chance to speak to Professor Bernie Jim about his experience as a facilitator with Books@Work. Bernie has a Ph.D. in History and has worked as a SAGES Fellow and Lecturer in History at Case Western Reserve University since 2007. He leads seminars on cities, spectacle, matters of proportion and puzzles. His favorite writers are Gabriel García Márquez and Haruki Murakami.

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Psychological Safety and the Making of a Great Team

Psychological Safety and the Making of a Great Team

We all know the story. It was 1980 at the height of the Cold War. The United States hockey team, in an incredible feat known as the Miracle on Ice, beat the Soviet Union to claim the Olympic gold. For most, the fairytale ends there, the American team victorious.

But on the Soviet team’s flight back to Moscow, another story unfolded. The coach began to insult individual players and dole out unfair blame. A defenseman named Valeri Vasiliev furiously interrupted and, in a brave moment of protest, reprimanded the coach and demanded he take back his comments. The Soviet team went on to become the pre-eminent power in world hockey, virtually unbeatable for the next four years.

So what does this have to do with Books@Work?

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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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