Tag Archives: reading

Eating and Drinking the Precious Words

An Emily Dickinson poem that will remind my graduating seniors to keep reading.

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The Centrality of Fiction to Our Lives

Jonathan Gottschall’s “How Stories Make Us Human” is an enlightening book with some limitations.

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Debating Whether Lit Is Useless

I take issue with a “New Yorker” blog on whether or not literature can be considered “useful.”

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Reading as a Subversive Act

Richard Wright’s “Black Boy” testifies to the liberating power of literature.

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In Defense of the English Major

Adam Gopnik makes a spirited defense of the English major in a recent “New Yorker” article.

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Kids Find Reading Tangible and Luscious

To teach kids to read by 3, use large flashcards with words that interest them.

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Let the Season of Summer Reading Begin!

A 5th century poem by T’ao Ch’ien paints a moment of perfect happiness. It involves settling down with a good book.

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Novels as Dating Manuals

The predominant readers of 18th century novels were young readers trying to find answers to the questions facing them.

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Novel Readers: The Young & the Restless

The early novel appealed to the young, the ambitious, the mobile, and the urban.

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Novels: Training Ground for Citizenship

Novels have an inherently liberal dimension in that they get us to identify with people very different from us.

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Reading to Feel Accepted in a Strange Land

Last year, when the book discussion group that I moderate was participating in America’s Big Read program, I was referred to this essay written for the occasion by the Indian-American literary critic Parul Sehgal, an editor at The New York Times Book Review. I particularly like how she describes feeling accepted by books, even though she […]

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Readers Hold the Key to a Book’s Meaning

Increasingly scholars are looking at what books do to us and what we do to books.

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High Art, Low Art, and Murakami

Murakami’s “1Q84″ seamlessly moves between high art and pop culture, complicating the issue of guilty reading pleasures.

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Depressed about Politics? Read Whitman

Marilynne Robinson turns to Whitman to argue that American Democracy’s greatness lies in how it honors the individual soul.

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Mitt’s Favorite Book: Sci Fi Nostalgia

Mitt Romney’s favorite novel, “Battleship Earth,” is a throwback to an America that no longer exists.

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Can Poetry Be Bad for You?

The possibility that poetry can have a deleterious effect on one (the poetry of Scott and Byron anyway) is a possibility that Austen brings up in “Persuasion.”

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Reading and Eating – Interchangeable

There are many similarities between the act of reading and the act of eating. In literature about food, words are dishes to be savored

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Classic Lit and Transformative Epiphanies

A student wrote, “By forcing myself to examine my ideas and Dr. Faustus more carefully and within the lens of my experience, I had several epiphanies that I feel were transformative both to my essay as well as to my understanding of my experience with depression.”

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Lit Beats Psychology Any Day

In addition to giving us psychological insights, literature also trains us to become better people. By engaging in the act of reading, Susan Cain says in a Psychology Today article, we increase our ability to empathize.

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Reading Literature, A Spiritual Practice

McEntyre notes that, in the ancient practice of lectio divina, one sought to maintain “spiritual focus and equanimity” by “reading Scripture slowly, listening for the word or phrase that speaks to you, pausing to consider prayerfully the gift being offered in those words for this moment.” Ditto, the author says, for reading literature.

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It’s the End of the Book as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

I crossed the great divide this Christmas and bought my wife a Kindle e-book.  I have to admit that convenience played a role in my decision.  Does it make it any more excusable that the first book she downloaded was a classic (The Brothers Karamazov)?  I didn’t think so. And here’s a problem I can report. […]

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Our Inner Library: A Quiz

Last semester my Ljubljana friend Jason Blake sent me a passage from Alberto Manguel’s novel The Library at Night. A colleague of Jason’s was trying to identify all the literary allusions and was stuck on “first centenary encounter with ice.” It took me a while but I think I was able to identify it correctly, […]

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Fantasy Portals to Other Worlds

I have a special place in my heart for The Magician’s Nephew, chronologically the first of the Narnia series. When I was a child, I was especially fascinated by “the wood between the worlds.” This is a quiet forest in which can be found innumerable pools, each of which is the entrance to a world. […]

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A Poem for Those Who Love to Read

  My father is a master of light comic verse, a genre often not taken seriously by literature departments. The ability to lift the spirits, however, is a precious gift that should not be underestimated. The following poem, about a lover of reading, is a reference to Jesus’s instructions (in Mark 4:21-22) that we not […]

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Barack and Huck, Babo, Hamlet, etc.

I’m fascinated by the way that literature has helped shape and guide different American president, a subject I’ve written about in the past. Thus I was thrilled to stumble across a Barack Obama reading list compiled shortly after his inauguration. I don’t know how I missed it. According to the website The Curious Autodidact (great […]

Posted in Augustine, Bible, Doctorow (E. L.), Hughes (Langston), Jefferson (Thomas), Malcolm X, Melville (Herman), Nietzsche (Friedrich), Twain (Mark), Uris (Leon), Warren (Robert Penn) | Also tagged , | Comments closed

Learning to Live with E-Readers

Gustave Dore, Don Quixote  An e-reader has entered our family. Here’s how it happened. My son Toby is studying for his English Ph.D preliminaries and wanted to spend a month reading 19th century British works in the family Maine cottage. He was accompanied by his girlfriend Candice, who is writing qualifying essays for her dissertation. […]

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Reading Literature under the Gun

This evening I will be moderating a Leonardtown Library conversation about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  It’s an enjoyable novel that is perfect for book discussion groups since it’s about a book discussion group. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is set up during […]

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So We Should Read Standing Up?

Henri Matisse, Woman Reading  As if we didn’t have enough to worry about already, recent studies have bad news for book readers. Apparently excessive sitting puts us “at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death.” Here’s an article on the subject. Book lovers would agree that there […]

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Without Literature, We’d Die Like Mad Dogs

Kurt Vonnegut I have heard people sing the praises of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle for years so I used the occasion of one of our snow days to read it. Vonnegut once had a cult following and perhaps does so still.  I’d love to hear an update from a Vonnegut fan. While I wasn’t blown […]

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Reading Austen to Handle Adversity

In recent posts I have been writing about how young people in the 18th century found moral guidance in Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, even though the novel was attacked for corrupting them.  Over the next four posts I will tell an inspirational story about one of my students who found guidance in the novels of […]

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Summer Reading in Maine

This post is coming to you from Maine, where we have arrived for the Bates family reunion that we hold every three years. Before turning to books and the special quality that reading acquires in the context of a summer vacation, however, I hope you will indulge me as I describe the Bates Family Cottage. […]

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    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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