What to Read Instead of the Eighth Buzzfeed Article

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Dear P,

For a writer, this age of the Internet is the best of times and the worst of times. Getting your stuff out there is easy, but it is also easy for everyone else who aim only to distract you. Thankfully, quality curators exist to help us laypeople sort through the chaos. I just received Ryan Holiday’s monthly email full of great books to read this month. Gala Darling’s Carousel is another compilation of all the great Internet articles of the month. Rookie has a similar collection of weekly articlesScience Daily collects the scientific discoveries of the day, while NextDraft delivers the rest of the news. I also like getting the Writer’s Almanac and the Brainpickings newsletter in my inbox. If you’re into apps, look up the Wired news app.

With all these sources, it should be easy to find great journalism. In January, I had tea with my ex-TA Joe Hanson after tweeting him asking how I can write for Wired magazine like he did. He advised that I should probably start working on reading and writing longer nonfiction (especially science) articles. Writers have a special way of organizing these articles that’s hard to master. I struck out into the discovery of great journalism with a new purpose.

Medium is free and it has excellent nonfiction on it. They also send out a weekly newsletter. I tend to remember creepy articles that make me feel like I want to shower with bleach, like this one about a mysterious itching disease. Or this one that’s not about a serial killer. Wired has some of the best nonfiction writing on the Internet. Here’s a piece that I’ve seen referenced several times today. You should subscribe to Wired magazine. It’s only $5 for six months. You can help keep them going long enough for me to get my act together so they’ll let me write for them.

Junk goes in, junk goes out. I try to read good stuff so I can become a better writer and speaker. Engaging writing inspires me and keeps me focused on the stuff that matters.

Who are your favorite curators, P? Who influences what goes in that presidential mind of yours?

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Good luck on the election,

E

Blasphemy?

Foreward: I am a book lover and an avid reader, I’m not just being a hater.

Dear E,

I want to talk about books that are classics. I hate when people read a book that’s a classic, and then because it’s a classic, they go on about how much they loved the book, even if they totally did NOT love the book. I think I might be guilty of this. (But only to my old English teachers.) Just because a book is a classic, does not mean you have to love it. In fact, it doesn’t even mean you have to read it. Sometimes I find myself starting books that I don’t even want to read, because they’re “classics” and I feel like I HAVE to read them, otherwise I won’t be a well-rounded amazing human being or whatever. I’m going to talk about a few of these books.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I hated this book. I was forced to read this book my junior year of high school and I aced all my tests by just blatantly memorizing quotes in the book. This book is so boring that my friend JM literally fell asleep while reading this standing up. Standing up I tell you! I realize that it has deeper social commentary on like the superficial nature of our society and Dorian’s fixation with youth and beauty, but like COME ON, did it have to bore me to absolute tears? It’s only saving grace is that it was really short, so it was more of a sprint through hell rather than a marathon. Note: I have nothing against Oscar Wilde; I actually read The Importance of Being Earnest and I thought it was quite comedic.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

What the actual fuck? (Excuse my language) This book doesn’t even make sense. Faulkner wrote it in 6 weeks and didn’t change a word. I’m pretty sure he was just spewing bullshit, because in addition to being hard to follow and just plain weird, it was not that captivating. There’s a reason that authors today have editors. How is this a classic? I just googled a classic, and although what makes a classic is a “hotly debated topic” one of the criteria is that a classic must stand the test of time. HOW HAS THIS STOOD THE TEST OF TIME?! I don’t really have much else to say except for that I think that Vardaman Bundren is a MANIAC child. Moving on.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

I’m not sure if I didn’t enjoy this book because I had to read it like 5 times, due to academic decathlon or because I had to write countless papers about it, but wow, this book was just so cumbersome. I’ve heard that Of Mice and Men is good but I’m never going to read John Steinbeck again. I just don’t like his writing style, SORRY. (Not like I know anything about writing style, I would just classify his as BOH-RINGGG.) And the ending? I know the ending to this booksis a really memorable ending and is full of tons of Biblical references and spiritual optimism, but I just found it plain weird. #sorryimnotsorry

I could go on but I feel like there’s no need for me to continue to scathingly talk about classics I hate. All of this being said, there are loads classic that I do love–like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte or A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens or Dante’s Inferno by Dante Alighieri or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The point of this post is don’t feel pressured into reading a classic if you don’t want to read it. Don’t be pressured into saying you love a classic if you don’t. Even some of the classics can be brought down a notch. So there.

Rant over.

Peace out and happy reading,

P

Let the Summer Reading Commence!

 

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Dear P,

First of all, I have read this interview with Emma Watson about four times. It is my favorite post ever on RookieMag. I hope your journey home to Texas was smooth and that the hometown is just as flat as you remember.  Send my love to your family and our friends for me. If you feel like dropping by Grandad’s house he’d probably give you some watermelon.

I wanted to take today to review my summer reading list:

Read so far:

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami- I wish I could read this book with a class. I feel like I picked up about a tenth of the symbolism, but the dark imagery still made for an interesting read. I suppose I’ll just have to read it ten more times.

The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan- A charming collection of stories. It would be great bedtime read for kids.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan- Abandoned halfway through due to boredom. This book lacks McEwan’s luscious gothic style found in Atonement and The Daydreamer.

WomanCode by Alisa Vitti- Changed my life. Watch Vitti’s TED talk here.

Currently Reading:

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee- I’m only a few pages in, but I’m completely enraptured by this book. Mukherjee is a brilliant science writer.

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan- JFV borrowed this and read it on the plane to Vienna (I had barely started and was preoccupied with other books). He gave it the thumbs-up and Michael Pollan is one of my loves. I can’t wait to read it.

To-read:

So many, P. This is just scratching the surface.

The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin- I first read about Grandin in one of my favorite books of all time, An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. She is the anthropologist. Since that book, I have read a few articles by Grandin and I can’t wait to read this book.

The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley- The most interesting-souding of the four or five business books James Altrucher recommends. I aim to read at least one business book a summer. Last summer it was The World is Flat, which completely revolutionized my worldview.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed- Dear Sugar broke my heart in ten thousand exquisite ways. Strayed is one of my favorite writers.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid- The novel everybody’s talking about.

The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks- I still haven’t read everything by my hero, Oliver Sacks. He is so prolific.

Frida by Barbara Mujica- Frida Kahlo has fascinated me since we learned about Diego Rivera in Acadeca. It was a difficult and interesting time to be an artist and a woman, and Frida thrived.

The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo- Another interesting-sounding biography.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran and Bossypants by Tina Fey- These both sound brilliant.

Happy reading!

E

Quest #13: The Ten Books that have Influenced Us the Most

Just warning you… if you read these books you will be forever changed and will be unable to look at the world the same way again. 

E’s Books

1. The Harry Potter Series– I firmly believe that each of us have one part of pop culture we reach for in our greatest need. Our pop culture comfort food, if you will. Harry Potter is mine. I have been listening to the books on tape since I was five years old and nothing calms me down like Jim Dale’s dulcet voice imitating my friends Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the gang. 

I took the above picture myself. My love for Harry Potter motivated me to visit London last summer with my dear friend H (http://liveitothefullest.tumblr.com/) to see the actors and JK Rowling at the premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” It was one of the cooler things I’ve ever done.
2. “An Anthropologist on Mars” by Oliver Sacks– Oliver Sacks is a personal hero of mine. He is a genius in so many ways. He is a great scientist, writes beautiful prose, and is an empathetic, caring man. I love the way he approaches neuroscience. Anyone would be interested in reading his works. 
3. “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson– Talk about a mind-blower! This book really puts things into perspective. It is, actually, a short history of nearly everything, from the formation of the universe to the scientists that made these discoveries. 
4. The “Odyssey” by Homer– I read the Iliad and the Odyssey while I was in Greece the summer before my freshman year. My dad was working in a small fishing village near Delphi, so my family got to tag along. This was a really incubative time for me in a lot of different ways, and somehow Homer worked himself into who I am today. The ultimate quest for the unreachable Ithaca, the faithful Penelope, the dreaded Cyclops and ensnaring Sirens. I love it all. 
5. I feel like I should include the King James Bible. I asked my mom for this version when I heard that Martin Luther King learned his rhetoric from the grand language used in this version of the Bible. Even if you’re not religious, Christianity is such a huge part of our culture and literature. You can recognize stories from the Bible everywhere. Of course, the same is true about Shakespeare and Greek Mythology, so you should also read those. 

P’s Books

  1. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling-Like, E, these books have been a huge part of my childhood. I read them growing up and I was literally the same age as Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they battled dementors and learned magic. I’ve learned so much from the series and the books have contributed so much to my love for reading. 
  2. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom-This book is absolutely wonderful. I read it and it really changed my view on what I’m doing with my life and about what’s important. If you go back to our first blog post you’ll see that this is one reason we started the blog. After this book I quickly became a Tuesday person and E and I have lunch every Tuesday to celebrate Morrie and his view on life. In addition, if I’m being real with you guys, I am ADDICTED to self-help books, not that I’m like, messed up or anything, it’s just that I have this weird desire to improve like every facet of my life and with self-help books I can read all about other peoples’ journeys and tailor their tips and advice to my own life. For reals, once you go self-help, you never go back. Other self-help books I enjoy are The Happiness Project, How to be a Hepburn in a World Full of Hiltons, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, etc. The list goes on forever.
     
  3. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen-I love this book and I do not care whether you judge me. Don’t get me wrong guys, I love me some Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. I like Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain and I read Homer and Shakespeare and I think classics are great books (sometimes), but there is just something about cheesy romance novels and young adult fiction that I cannot resist. I remember reading the Hunger Games almost two years ago and loving it! I just love fairytales and teen fiction and things about high school and magic and worlds that only exist in your imagination. Percy Jackson and Penndragon used to be some of my FAVORITE books. Yea, sometimes the plots are shallow and the characters are underdeveloped, but the idea behind the story always shines through. Certain ideas, certain quotes, they always stick with me from these kinds of books. It’s comforting for good to triumph over evil, and it’s fun to read books from the old days and have them take you back to your childhood. I don’t think I will ever outgrow children’s books or young adult books. 
  4. Blindness by Jose Saragamo-This book won the Nobel Prize for Literature and I can absolutely see why. The story was horrifying, yet extremely touching and a very wide array of human emotion is depicted throughout the book. It’s a hard book to describe and really just one you’ll have to read for yourself.
  5. The Science of Fear by Daniel Gardner-I really love reading science-y books, I guess because I’m a math and science nerd. This one is one of my favorites. I really like reading about the brain and about the body and why we do what we do. I find various diseases and ailments very intriguing and I enjoyed the Science of Fear a lot because it truly broke down what fear is and why humans feel it. it makes me approach my fear in a very different way. I have tons of other favorite science-y books (Michio Kaku anyone?) and I would definitely say this is one of my favorite genres.

CRAP. I just realized that I didn’t even include The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and that’s one of my favorite books. EFF. Maybe I’ll write a post called Why I Love The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Truthfully, this process of choosing five of my favorite books was absolutely grueling because there are so so so so so many wonderful books out there.

Anyway. Lots of Love and Happy Reading!

-E&P

For Readings’ Sake

I kind of hate when my friends ask me why I’m reading something. Whenever I take a book to school that isn’t required reading it seems as if everything falls to a state of chaos and mayhem. What are you reading that for? Why are you reading that? Why are you reading a book that’s not for English class?

Maybe I just want to read for readings’ sake. Perhaps I just feel the need to wander.

“In reading there is an expectancy that does not seek to come to anything. To read is to wander. Reading is errantry.” -Pascal Quignard, The Roving Shadows

-P