My TBR shelf: nonfiction

On Reading


Nandini Balial riffs on reading In Other Words, the latest book by another Bengali woman, Jhumpa Lahiri. This is a beautiful musing on how language and literature have helped shape Aalial’s life and sense of identity as a writer.

Do Teens Read Seriously Anymore?

Critic David Denby created quite a stir with this claim:

When they become twelve or thirteen, kids often stop reading seriously. The boys veer off into sports or computer games, the girls into friendship in all its wrenching mysteries and satisfactions of favor and exclusion. Much of their social life, for boys as well as girls, is now conducted on smartphones, where teen-agers don’t have to confront one another. The terror of eye contact! Sherry Turkle, in her recent book “Reclaiming Conversation,” has written about the loss of self that this avoidance creates and also of the peculiar boredom paradoxically produced by the act of constantly fleeing boredom.

He ends the piece with a plea for high school English teachers to take risks to “make books important to kids—and forge the necessary link to pleasure and need” so that the kids will turn off the smartphone screens, at least for a while.

David Denby is Wrong

Heather Wheat, a high school teacher of AP English in Denver, has an answer for Denby:

You are right in that “The good [teachers] are not sheepish or silent in defense of literature and history and the rest.” So I’m going to tell you that you’re wrong. Teens read seriously. They read for purpose. They read for ideas. They read for knowledge. But most importantly, THEY READ.

She wonders how much time Denby has spent actually talking to teenagers. Many of her students live in poverty, she says; nonetheless, “they see the truth of the humanity in books, the reflection of the odds stacked against them in their own lives, and they see life represented realistically.” Also, she insists, “a great many of my kids read for pleasure outside of school.”

The irony of your essay is that the “Golden Age of Teen Reading” is actually now. There are more authors working to write books targeted to young audiences, to get them reading, to get them set on the path to lifetime literacy. The bonus of this path to lifetime literacy is it opens the door to increased intellectual curiosity.

9 Books to Read by Age 30

Ben Thomas offers quite an eclectic list of books to read “if you want to be a good writer. Or just an interesting person.”

See why he recommends these:

Ray Bradbury – Zen in the Art of Writing
Ernest Hemingway – The Sun Also Rises
Tim Ferriss – The 4-Hour Work Week
Herman Melville – Moby-Dick
Sun-Tzu – The Art of War
Frank Herbert – Dune
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana – Mindfulness in Plain English
Herman Hesse – Steppenwolf
Neil Gaiman – The Sandman

Mental Flexibility Improved By Reading Literature With One Important Quality

According to new research published in the journal Cortex, writing that challenges readers to think more deeply could boost mental flexibility:

People who read poetry and other texts that required them to re-evaluate the meaning showed fascinating changes to patterns of activation in the brain.

And greater mental flexibility can, in turn, help such readers to adapt their thoughts and behaviors to changing life situations.

How to Tackle Your TBR Pile

Because I need all the help I can get:

My TBR fiction shelf
My TBR fiction shelf

With the help of readers’ suggestions, Bookish has put together a list of eight ways to help deal with that TBR (to-be-read) collection:

  1. Keep your TBR together
  2. Organize by length
  3. Organize by genre
  4. Return to sender
  5. Start a book club
  6. Read-a-thon
  7. Give yourself a challenge
  8. Make time for reading

Fortunately, #8 includes a link to some suggestions on making more time for reading.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

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