Understanding Others’ Lives: Required Reading, November 20, 2015

Understanding Others’ Lives: Required Reading, November 20, 2015

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

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

Happy weekend!

In the wake of the recent massacres in Paris, Ann was taken by a piece in the Harvard Business Review written by Gianpiero Petriglieri of INSEAD. She writes,

“a professor and expert in the field of leadership, Petriglieri argues that ‘what we really need is not more leadership as much as more fellowship. . . A sentiment most necessary precisely when fragmentation and fundamentalism are far more common. Fellowship is an antidote to both, and alternative to otherness that does not imply sameness.’  ‘Fostering civilization,’ he says, ‘means cultivating our curiosity to recognize substantive difference, and our commitment to respect them – within and between groups.’ It heartens me that we touch on these issues in our Books@Work programs, thankfully in far less tragic contexts. But if we can encourage people to meet each other a little more fully in their everyday lives, perhaps we have helped nudge humanity along this important path toward civilization?”

Cover Image via Amazon.com

Cover Image via Amazon.com

Capria recommends Hanya Yanagihara’s prize-winning A Little Life, although not without warning:

“It’s a difficult book. I was able to have a conversation about it with a few members of the book club I attended when I lived in Seattle, five years ago. It is the first book, for all of us, that we glad to have read but recommend only hesitatingly. It is strange to be thankful for the way a book has shaped you, but be afraid to offer that transformation to anyone else. I was certainly grateful to have good friends to share the experience with and to help bear the weight of such a heavy book. Reading together is a good thing!

Jessica just wrapped up a Books@Work seminar with a wonderful group of people who provide social services to support local children and their families. She loved the book she read with them:

Cover Image via Amazon.com

Cover Image via Amazon.com

“We were reading Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time which has been a beloved bestseller since it came out in 2005. The novel is narrated by a fourteen-year-old boy named Christopher who attends a special school and exhibits many of the characteristics of autism. He tells the story of the murder of his neighbor’s dog and his efforts to unravel the mystery. It’s all filtered through his unique perspective on the world – one where other people and their feelings are inscrutable, all details demand to be noticed and pile up on top of themselves, and where animals make much more comforting companions than people. There are remarkable chapters where Christopher waxes philosophical on his theory of mind, on famous mathematics problems, on other people’s fanciful misperceptions of the world.”

As for me, after reading Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter, I was thrilled to come across the work of Matthew B. Crawford, who began his working life by getting a Ph.D. in philosophy before moving on to welding and motorcycle repair. He continues to write, and his writing is a beautiful testament to the deep thinking that goes into any kind of work. Consider this bit from “The Case for Working With Your Hands,” describing his own work with motorcycles:

As in any learned profession, you just have to know a lot. If the motorcycle is 30 years old, from an obscure maker that went out of business 20 years ago, its tendencies are known mostly through lore. It would probably be impossible to do such work in isolation, without access to a collective historical memory; you have to be embedded in a community of mechanic-antiquarians. These relationships are maintained by telephone, in a network of reciprocal favors that spans the country.”

Needless to say, I can’t wait to read his books.

Elsewhere on the Internet:

From Inc., “9 Ways Reading Fiction Can Make You Happier and More Creative.”

Belt Magazine explains that our accents are important ties to regional identity–but what if the regional accent begins to shift?

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jennine Capó Crucet, reminds us that a good book “gives the reader a chance to see what it feels like to be someone else for a little while. And so, in doing that, it shapes a sensory experience that inspires compassion and empathy.”

A spellbinding look at the changing face of the American Circus as a site of entertainment and work.

The History Chicks’ Dorothy Parker episode offers an enjoyable look at the life of an iconic American wit.

For Aeon Magazine, Frank Furedi writes that “It is precisely because reading catches us unaware and offers an experience that is rarely under our full control that it has played and continues to play, such an important role in humanity’s search for meaning.”

Further Reading:

Exploring “Uncharted Territory”: Considering Working Learners

On Meaning in the Workplace, Modernist Art, and Working Families

Breaking Up with a Good Book

Cecily Erin Hill

Cecily Erin Hill


Cecily Hill is the Communications and Marketing Director of That Can Be Me, Inc., facilitator of Books@Work.