Posted in Book Reviews, Books & Film News, Interesting News & Commentary, Reading Habits

Book Review: Carry On by John Lewis

The following review is courtesy of Charles A. Dana Professor of Spanish Rafael Ocasio. The book, Carry On, is available through McCain Library.

Observed in the United States from February 1 through March 1, Black History Month as Jonathan Franklin highlighted for NPR, “honors the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation” (https://www.npr.org/2022/02/01/1075623826/why-is-february-black-history-month).  In the midst of a lengthy Covid pandemic, this year’s theme, Black Health and Wellness, strikingly resonates in John Lewis’s Carry On: Reflections For a New Generation (2021). The late Lewis (1940-2020), U.S. representative for the state of Georgia (1987-2020), was described by American Civil Liberties Union as “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced” (https://www.aclu.org/congressman-john-lewis). Along with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., another notable Black activist, Lewis’s participation in peaceful public demonstrations against Southern segregation practices led to the proclamation of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/title-vii-civil-rights-act-1964). In Carry On, Lewis recalled key moments as a brave Civil Rights fighter (often the target of severe acts of physical aggression), followed by his subsequent career as a vocal public servant. Lewis offered a fresh updated view of his Civil Rights activism; in particular, I enjoyed his comments about undocumented immigrants, bravely claiming that, “There is no such thing as an ‘illegal human”” (149). The book is a beautiful compilation of personal essays that encourages, rather, challenges the reader to consider the power of forgiveness, meditation and prayer as ways to navigate overwhelmingly difficult societal marginalization.     

Posted in Interesting News & Commentary, Reading Habits

Rewritten Folk Tales and Fairy Tales for Adults

Some stories have survived the test of time through centuries, foreign lands, new languages, and shifting cultural changes, so it is no surprise that so many authors have offered their own takes on popular folklore or fairy tales. Check out the list below to find a selection of renowned novels that retell popular stories!

Rewritten Folk Tales and Fairy Tales for Adults (set on a dark purple background with orange flowers around the words)

Deerskin by Robin McKinley (eBook) – A retelling of Donkeyskin, the young, beautiful Princess Lissar is forced to run away when her father announces his intentions to marry her. However, her journey leads her to a job in another king’s kennels and she finds herself struggling to keep her identity secret while falling for the young prince.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter (Print) – Angela Carter’s phenomenal collection of short stories shares traditional fairytales in a modern manner, keeping the gothic elements that made them stand out centuries ago.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy (Print and eBook) – In 1920, young couple Jack and Mabel have recently arrived at their new Alaska homestead where if the harsh winters won’t kill them, the loneliness will. When a young girl appears outside their home the day after they build a snow child, they quickly begin to care for and love the child like their own. But where did she come from and how long will she stay?

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (Print) – Retelling a Slavic folktale, The Tiger’s Wife follows a young physician working to uncover the secret behind her grandfather’s mysterious death, discover the immortal man he always spoke of, and recover the stories that became interwoven through her grandfather’s existence.

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord (eBook) – This novel reimagines the Senegalese folktale “Ansige Karamba the Glutton” in a clever and comedic manner. After Paama leaves her husband for being a foolish glutton, she develops powers that allow her to manipulate the world.

Posted in Interesting News & Commentary, Staff Pick Books

Spooky Reads for Halloween

Are you having trouble getting into the Halloween spirit? Check out a spooky read! The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving tells the story of a small village haunted by a murderous headless horseman and the superstitious school teacher who is about to discover if the legend is true. An eBook copy is available here.

Sleepy Hollow not to your liking? Check out Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book or Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas for more current haunting tales of terror and ghosts.

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: David D’Ambrosio

Question 1)

 david_dambrosio_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

Yes–I read primarily the newspaper, magazines, and professional music publications having to do with keyboard performance and pedagogy. I also read  novels mostly during the summer months.  However, I wouldn’t describe myself as an avid reader.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

Life, Animated by Ronald Suskind
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Soloist
John Adams by David McCullough
Under the Tuscan Sun
Autobiographies or biographies

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book your read or any childhood favorites?

One of the first books was a story of an adventure along the Allagash river in Maine, however, I don’t remember the title.  There were also novels by Zane Grey. I enjoyed the fables from the Childcraft publication and later on the Mark Twain classics and the poems of Edgar Allen Poe. I always enjoy reading books about the great composers.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

I didn’t always like to read that much outside of required reading for college.  I was able to acquire the desire to read more books over time.  I’ve never had a desire to read a lot of fiction. I love subjects of books having to do with historical figures and stories that recount actual historic events.  I don’t recall a person in my life who really inspired me to read. I had to find my own way in this regard.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

I’m sure there was one or two, however, it’s difficult for me to remember what I read 40 years ago!

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Mary Cain

Question 1)

mary_cain_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I love to read–everything. I wish I had more time for pleasure reading of fiction. But I read what and when I can–newspapers, magazines, the backs of cereal boxes, whatever text is in front of me.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

I think there is a reason why the classics are classic, and except for Wuthering Heights, I’ve never regretted reading any one of them.

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

I don’t recall the first books, but childhood favorites include: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; Anne of Green Gables; Greengage Summer.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

My mother was an avid reader. She would read for  5-6 hours a day and consumed multiple books a week. She is my example.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

I took an American literature survey course purposefully so I would read Moby Dick (I didn’t think I’d ever read it unless it was required). I’m so glad I did; that course–and reading that book–turned me into a nineteenth-century US historian.  I also have exceptionally fond memories of my courses on Shakespeare, and one of my favorite papers that I ever wrote was on Shaw’s Pygmalion.

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Megan Drinkwater

Question 1)

megan_drinkwater_picDo you like to read? How would your describe yourself as a reader?

Yes. I am a daily– and nightly– reader.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Haruki Murakami– especially Kafka on the Shore. Just about everything, really, though I did not much like 1Q84Little Big by John Crowley. These are books I’ve enjoyed in the past five years or so…

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

Harold and the Purple Crayon, for some reason, was an early favorite. Later on came Caddie Woodlawn, Anne of Green Gables, Danny the Champion of the World, the Eloise books, and a memorable summer spent with Heidi.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

Yes, indeed. My parents are both readers, so perhaps I grew up in a family with its own literary culture bent, but I don’t recall specific inspiration.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

 Sexing the Cherry was one of my favorites by Jeanette Winterson. The others have largely faded due to erosion by the winds of time.

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Donna Lee

 

Question 1)

donna_lee_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I don’t get to read as much as I would like to, but when I can, I love a wide range of books…from action/mystery/thrillers by James Patterson, John Grisham, Dan Brown to the inspirational, provocative, enlightening writings of bell hooks, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Lao Tzu, Thich Nhat Hanh, Margaret Wheatley.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

Read what nourishes your spirit, tickles you, opens your mind, transports you to new worlds…

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

The Jungle Book, Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mysteries, and Dr. Seuss.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

I found peace and solace in books as a young child… my most prized possession was my first library card.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Mina Ivanova

 

Question 1)

 mina_ivanova_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

There is rarely a waking moment that I do not spend read. I read incessantly, voraciously. Currently, my reading diet consists almost exclusively of non-fiction, particularly critical and rhetorical theory. Difficult texts energize me, especially when the author manages to avoid obtuseness through clear, even artful prose and vivid examples. I am an active, critical reader, who–for better or worse–can rarely take off her analytical hat and let herself be completely absorbed by a book. The most recent work of fiction I read were José Saramago’s novels Blindness and Seeing.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

Paul Eisenstein and Todd McGowan’s book Rupture: On the Emergence of the Political. For a terrific and continuously updated sampling of great reads, I recommend visiting the website Brain Pickings–ʺa cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and moreʺ–   maintained by my Bulgarian compatriot and MIT Futures Entertainment Fellow Maria Popova at  www.brainpickings.org.

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you read or any childhood favorites?

Growing up, I loved Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, because of her irreverent, audacious, imaginative character. There were many wonderful Bulgarian children’s books, as well.

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

The short answer is: yes. I learned to read very early, and I remember my conscious efforts to decipher the letters and words in the story-books that my parents and grandparents would read to me.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

The work of Julia Kristeva was a major influence during my undergraduate years in Bulgaria, where I studied English and Linguistics (or what is referred to as philology). During my undergraduate years in the U.S., I found Naomi Klein’s work thought provoking. It sparked my interest in global ideological, political, and social justice issues.

Posted in Reading Habits

Reading Habits: Alan Koch

Question 1)

 alan_koch_picDo you like to read? How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I suppose if I said ʺno, I do not like to readʺ, then I wouldn’t be on this blog.

I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to reading. Once I start a book, finishing it becomes a high priority in my life. On the other hand, if I pick up a book I’m very excited about, I sometimes hesitate to start it because I know I will finish it quickly and then it’ll be all over. I rarely reread books.

Question 2)

What books would you recommend?

The best nonfiction book I’ve read recently is The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don’t by Nate Silver. It helps us make sense in a world where we are deluged with data. I wish everybody would read it. (It’s not as math-y as it sounds.)

The best fiction book I’ve read recently is The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. I describe it as ʺHarry Potterʺ meets ʺThe Bourne Identityʺ, but that doesn’t do it justice.

Question 3)

Do you remember the first book you ever read or any childhood favorites?

We had a lot of Dr. Seuss books in the house, but I couldn’t tell you which one I read first.

My two favorite books from my elementary school years are Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater, and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. (Do not watch the movie version of The Phantom Tollbooth.)

Question 4)

Have you always liked to read? Was there ever a person in your life who really inspired you to read?

I have always liked reading, but there was a time in my life when I didn’t do it much (see below).

Certainly my inspiration to read is my mother. Throughout my whole life, she has loved to read in her spare time. There were always paperbacks scattered throughout the house. While I didn’t read many of the same books she did, she made the concept of ʺrecreational readingʺ a norm for me. After all, when you’re a child, and you want to know ʺwhat do people do in their spare time when they’re at home?ʺ the only source of data you have is your own family.

Question 5)

Did you read any interesting/memorable books when you were in college?

Honestly, I did not read a lot in college (outside of class, that is). Once I start a book, it tends to keep my attention until I finish it; I worried that reading too much would distract me from my classes. I figured I could read whatever I wanted after graduation. My thinking changed when I went to graduate school: once I realized that I would be in school for the rest of my life, I knew I had to find a better balance.

During breaks in college I would read when I could. The two books I remember the most were Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick, and The Stand by Stephen King. They’re very different books.