Required Reading: Friday, August 14, 2015

Required Reading: Friday, August 14, 2015

“Required Reading” is an ongoing series, in which we write about what has captured our attention lately on and outside the web.

Happy weekend! We hope you make time for some pleasure reading and learning – make the most of these late-summer days.

Ann has been thinking about mindfulness meditation as a way to decompress, center and refresh. She writes,

“I’ve played with (and quite heartily recommend) Andy Puddicomb’s Headspace app. But when it comes to emptying the mind, let’s just say that I have room for improvement. So I was particularly intrigued to read the Book Of Life’s Philosophical Meditation, which requires less emptying than re-organizing and re-framing the mind’s clutter and baggage. Framed around three trenchant questions (what am I currently upset about? what am I currently anxious about?  what am I currently curious or excited about?) philosophical meditation actually helps you process the stress that requires meditation in the first place! Now there’s an idea I can get excited about! Now, to commit…”

Carl Lorrain, The Embarkment of Ulysses, 1646, Louvre, via Wikimedia Commons

Carl Lorrain, The Embarkment of Ulysses, 1646, The Louvre, Paris [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Capria spent much of last week on a road trip – 600+ miles on a motorcycle in 4 days, which she describes as “a unique and interesting way to experience a place you have never been” and which, she says, “got me thinking about books that have a great journey at their core. The Odyssey, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath and On the Road, to name a few. There is something so formative about the challenges of travel and the adventures you have along the way.” Of course, a journey is also, always, about the people you meet along the way. About their time camping near the Au Sable river, Capria remembers meeting

“Carol who talked to us for an hour about her Amway business and sick nephew, and Hunter and Gauge who were bored camping with their family and decided to invade our campsite for a long time.  We met a bunch of folks traveling down the river in tubes and kayaks who stopped by the campground to stretch their legs.  I think the connection for me was most like On the Road when Sal and Dean have so many idealized visions of how their travel was going to go. But, when it ended up being totally different, they set aside what they had hoped for and lived in the moment enjoying it for what it was.”

And Jessica has started reading Anisfield-Wolf winner Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warmth of Other Suns at the recommendation of a Books@Work professor. Jessica writes that the book

“is engrossing. Its prose style is rich but simple and journalistic, reflecting Wilkerson’s background as a journalist. In the book, she recounts the story of the Great Migration, African Americans’ response to the indignities, limitations and brutality of the Jim Crow South. The Great Migration transformed the American social landscape by bringing Southern blacks into Northern cities in great numbers. Wilkerson interviewed some 1,200 people for the book, but she tells the stories of just three people who migrated during the first half of the twentieth century and are now nearing the ends of their lives. It is a rich oral history that beautifully weaves the narratives of three people into the larger history of the Migration.”

Elsewhere on the Internet:

Salon excerpts Geoff Colvin’s most recent book, Humans are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will, focusing on how companies encourage “high value skills” such as empathy by, for instance, reading novels.

For The Atlantic, Julie Beck argues that the stories we tell about our lives actually define our lives – and our personalities. Bonus points: it starts by thinking about one of my favorite books, Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies.

The Goodreads blog takes a fascinating look at how The Girl on the Train became a bestseller – largely through social media and word of mouth.

That’s all for now!

Image: Barthélemy d’Eyck, Still Life with Books in a Niche, c.1442-45, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cecily Erin Hill

Cecily Erin Hill

Cecily Hill is the Project Director, NEH for All at the National Humanities Alliance and former member of the Books@Work team.