Weekend Reading: April 2016

Weekend Reading: April 2016

“Weekend Reading” is an ongoing series, in which we write about what has captured our attention lately.

Looking for something to read this weekend? We scour the web (and our shelves) for thought-provoking articles, books and videos. Enjoy!

A recent piece in the European Drucker Society Blog (first published in Fortune) caught Ann’s attention this week:

“Citing a recent NBER working paper about the significant rise in temporary or independent workers over the last decade, Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer noted a critical link to growing workplace unhappiness: ‘By leaving people to navigate the contemporary labor market essentially alone, the employment arrangements disrupt an old and important reason for working – the opportunity to be part of a group.’ Building on a wealth of research in this arena, Pfeffer illustrates the break in workplace loyalty inherent in alternative work arrangements and highlights the importance of interpersonal connections to functional workplace dynamics. Without more satisfying relationships, employees feel less psychologically safe and are less willing to lend a hand or do a favor for a colleague. Pfeffer concludes, ‘The need for safety and security – part of Maslow’s hierarchy – and for social interaction are primal, existing regardless of competitive pressures, unions, government relations and the unemployment rate.’ Are we creating a modern work culture that simply doesn’t match our fundamental human needs?”

Capria is celebrating spring sunshine – and sports:

“Since I live in Detroit, my radio is often tuned to the Tigers broadcast. Lately when I listen to or attend a game, I am reminded of Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball.  It is a funny and interesting exploration into the quest for the secret of success as a player or as a team.  But the pinnacle of sports writing in my mind will always belong to David Foster Wallace and his essay, ‘Roger Federer as Religious Experience.’  The French Open starts next month and although I have never followed tennis, I am always captivated by the way Wallace describes the game: ‘Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war.’ If you don’t have time to read the essay (although I highly recommend you do), PBS Digital Studios put together a fun 4-minute video from an interview with Wallace about tennis, writing and ambition.”

Jessica has been reading Octavia Butler’s Kindred with a group of women who attend our community program for parents, teachers and mentors at a local urban charter school:

Cover image via Amazon.com

Cover image via Amazon.com

Kindred is a remarkable novel. Butler’s bestselling work, it is widely taught in high school and college classrooms and read in community events. In the novel, an African-American woman living in 1976, gets pulled back in time to her ancestor’s antebellum Maryland plantation. As much a reflection on our links to our ancestors and shared past as it is an examination of power, violence and the difficulties of resisting our inheritance, Kindred provides powerful insights into the dynamics and costs of American race relations.”

And as for me, I was entranced by Andrew Solomon’s piece for The Guardian on the relationships between language and medical treatment, literature and medical practice. “We are embodied,” he reminds us, “but our minds order the brokenness around us by imposing vocabulary on it. In fact, there is some evidence that people who can speak more fluently receive better medical care; patients deprived of language are often subject to abuse.” Solomon goes on to survey the recent rise in medical literature – writing by the likes of Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawande and Paul Kalanithi.

Elsewhere on the internet:

Thomas H. Lee suggests that empathy can be contagious.

12 important findings on creativity.

A beautiful essay on the power of rereading.

The Age of Distraction is at least 200 years old.

Why one author writes “scary stories for children.”

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

Further Reading:

Reading Mindfully: Wendell Berry’s Poetry

How Reading Fiction Increases Our Capacity for Empathy

Audiobooks We Have Loved

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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.