Personal historians help others tell their life story--in print, audio, or video, or all three. Overall, what we got from this was access to family memory, knowledge and expertise, in a way that cannot be found in a physical archive. Tanya Evans, History Workshop, More collaborative work between family historians and those based in the academy.
Anne also had cancer. When I arrived at her home in Glendale, she was gray and diminished, with barely a voice. But as the day progressed and the camera rolled, she bloomed. Her best years, she said, were during World War II. I have learned since that there is a branch of elder care called "reminiscence therapy. A study published last year in the Journal of Psychology and Aging found that these benefits were enhanced when the reminiscing occurred with others. Janet Malcolm, The New Yorker, 'When we arrived in America, and were taken under the wing of my aunt and uncle, who had left Prague six months earlier, we changed our name from Wiener to Winn, just as they had changed theirs from Eisner to Edwards, out of fear of anti-Semitism, which was not limited to Nazi Germany.
As an extra precaution, my aunt and uncle had joined the Episcopal Church. My parents balked at taking such a step. But they sent Marie and me to a Lutheran Sunday school in our neighborhood, and never did anything or said anything to acquaint us with our Jewishness. Finally, one day, after one of us proudly brought home an anti-Semitic slur learned from a classmate, they decided it was time to tell us that we were Jewish. It was a bit late. Many years later, I came to acknowledge and treasure my Jewishness. But during childhood and adolescence I hated and resented and hid it.
Personal and family histories make great books. Devin Hillis makes documentaries about the elderly. The shorter ones are played at funerals as tributes to the deceased. We're turning stories into a symphony. We're deciphering the days of this older generation or the young father with a terminal illness or a mother with breast cancer who has a few months to live or a child with a tumor whose parents want to hang on to life. Make sense of the pain. We're taking all that and putting it into understandable bits of video and music and story.
This is a holy endeavor. Neither of these memorials has even been printed, let alone distributed. But to the families, they mean the world. The next parts of the story: 2. The Journey Begins ; 3. Closing the Circle. Romancing the Curve. Lots of good content and samples on Steve's website. See also his clever second time-lapse video of setting up a video shoot , showing how a video professional will move around chairs and other furniture in a room to get the right backgrounds and lighting for particular shots one part of the room might be better early in the day and another better later in the day, plus you might want variety.
See if you can spot a little white critter. The field of personal history can be a good fit for retirees embarking on a second career. Listen or read transcript. Accompanying his mother to her 60th college reunion gave him insight into the young woman she once was. Real estate companies have also enlisted his services, hoping the narratives he uncovers will help give their brokers a slight edge in the market. Today, everyone's getting into the act--often with the help of a personal historian.
Leiken, for her mother to answer each week. It then emails the questions to Ms. Mills, and when she replies, her answers go to her family and are stored on a website where they can read them privately. In guided autobiography, students write and share their life stories with the help of a trained instructor. I was honour-bound really to dig deep and bring memories, perhaps, that had been suppressed for a long time, that I would have preferred, perhaps, to remain in the sediment of my life. But having done that and having got through this process, I now feel so much better. I've really forgiven people in my life and forgiven myself.
And I feel much lighter because of it. So the process has been wonderful. And I'm advising everyone I meet, all of my friends and everybody - people in the street, 'Write your own book. Heidi Grant Halvorson and Jonathan Halvorson, author of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently , on The Science of Success: a blog about strategies that work explains the difference between promotion motivation striving for gains and prevention motivation avoiding losses. Even the elder's kids, the generation it makes sense to market to, might be motivated by that fear of losing stories and the names of people in the old family photos.
But you can also emphasize the rich experience that working with a personal historian can provide your parent, or the great stories such a person can elicit, perhaps even better than someone in the family might do. Polley experiments with the expected narrative structures, pushing us to consider not just the meaning of stories but how the way we tell the story can change its impact. Writing their own stories, they say, strengthens their reporting by helping them look harder for details, be more sensitive to the people they interview and develop a deeper appreciation for the work they do.
Books and videos each have strengths and weaknesses, as formats for personal histories, writes personal historian Andrea Gross, who clearly outlines them here. You don't need to choose: You can do both. Peer Spirit , Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea's company, facilitates a group process with rotating leadership. On its site, you can download Basic Guidelines for Calling a Circle and other handouts, including one on Storycatching.
A professional knows what not to do. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. Four authors talk about how they've grappled with these questions, the consequences of their choices, and the lessons they've learned. While the truth can deflect a defamation claim, often the truth when disclosed can be the basis for an invasion of privacy claim. Writing about Family in Memoir Laurie Hertzel, TriQuarterly, Hertzel, author of News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist , reporting on an AWP panel on the subjectexplains the legal dangers of defamation or invasion of privacy, explaining that the First Amendment does not give you carte blanche.
How much of the juicy bits can you include when they involve others and how much should you leave out, including names? Is it acceptable for writers to embellish the events of their lives to provide a more exciting book? Factual recounting of an event versus emotional memory. Did it really happen that way? How can you remember all that? On reconstructing dialogue and other concerns. Macaulay Hat tip to Thomas Forster for this quotation Alas, these pieces seem to be no longer online--will their authors let me know if they reappear again one day?
But the links for now are not working and a search did not turn them up in another venue. How much is too much truth? And whose truth is it to reveal? Those are two of many questions addressed in a fascinating issue about the ethics of memoir writing in a wonderful online magazine, Talking Writing.
Can we trust ourselves to tell our stories truthfully? How far can we carry the fine art of embellishment? Arlene L. Mandell on Baring Ourselves for Public Viewing. What Belongs to Her and What to Me? Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book. Writing personal and family histories These are books for people who generally do not see themselves as writers but want to write something about their life or their family.
Buy anything from Amazon after clicking on a link here and we get a small referral fee for your purchases. He makes it all seem human and doable. How to create "last says"--short personal narratives that serve as a powerful form of life review. A personal historian's "roll-up-your-sleeves" guide to writing and publishing your own or someone else's memoirs or autobiography. Interviewing and recording techniques helpful for family histories. Moving from facts to memories to meaning, this book takes you through the seven stages of life: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood roughtly , adulthood roughly , middle adulthood roughly , late adulthood roughly , elder roughly 80 onward.
Fairly sophisticated writing prompts, and examples from fine writers, invite you to recall forgotten moments and discover their significance. Emphasizes illustrating your stories with photographs, memorabilia, and other images including digital format. In this slim volume, Smith emphasizes writing with intent, writing about what was important about a particular event.
That may be enough. How to make money doing something you love. Workshop in a book, encouraging nonwriters to write their own stories, by a founding member of APH. A step-by-step guide to preserving the life story of the child who died, by a personal historian and bereaved parent. A book for parents challenged by serious illness, to help and inspire them to leave stories and messages for the children who will survive them.
In addition to covering traditional writing topics well, Silverman encourages writers to transform their life story into words that matter. She advocates finding the courage to speak truth about issues on which others might prefer silence. This classic and insight-provoking guide to finding coherent narratives in our life experiences, recently out of print, is now available again. Not about memoir but about understanding the storylines of our lives. Raab foreword by Melvin J. Silverstein, MD , a wry self-help memoir that urges early cancer detection and conveys the power of writing as a healing and well-being therapy.
In this little book, McDonnell focuses on how to write "crisis memoirs," finding "our own meaningfulness, even in the midst of sadness and disappointment. The idea behind the field of narrative medicine, which Charon helped create, is that the doctor's job is to listen and by hearing the patient's story to know the patient more fully than numbers on a chart can convey. Step-by-step memoir writing, with healing from emotional pain as a goal; full of interesting psychological insights. McAdams argues that we are the stories we tell.
As children we begin gathering material for our "self-defining stories," and as we age we can revise and claim our personal stories. Narrative psychology. Geared more to self-understanding than to memoir writing, this book is still useful for life writing.
Her incredible research, her networking, and her gift for words should carry this book into the pantheon of great books on writing. A slim, well-written book focused on the slice-of-life memoir. So we need to make our lives a story we can live with, because we live the life our story makes possible. An excellent how-to guide, on digging into who you are and have become, and on writing a readable memoir about what you discover. Fascinating insights into the nature of memory, including how we often reconstruct in our memory what really happened -- so that, for example, a horrid experience becomes a funny one.
Changes the ways you view your own memory or the memories of eyewitnesses, and gives incentive to investigating the facts as a reporter would, on critical stories about your life. Albert founder of Story Circle Network encourages women to discover their voices and grow spiritually by putting their stories into words. Her guide invites women on a voyage of self-discovery, by exploring eight thematic clusters: beginnings and birthings; achievements, gifts and glories; female bodies; loves, lovers, lovings; journeys and journeying; homes and homings; visits to the Valley of Shadows; and experiences of community.
Intelligent commentary and exercises to help you access memories and emotions, shape scenes, develop plot lines, populate life story with "characters," and bring depth to your memoir or personal essay. A helpful companion for structuring book-length life writing, with wise counsel on remembering and selective memory , emotional healing, finding one's voice, choosing details, creating drama, and imposing structure. Australian writer, but the book seems easily available online. By the same author: The Memoir Book , which one writing student said was exactly what she needed to get going on her memoirs.
This highly recommended guide, full of exercises, asks you to think about your life and about how best to write a life story. Though Anderson Cooper has always considered himself close to his mother, his intensely busy career as a journalist for CNN and CBS affords him little time to spend with her.
After she suffers a brief but serious illness at the age of ninety-one, they resolve to change their relationship by beginning a year-long conversation unlike any they had ever had before. The result is a correspondence of surprising honesty and depth in which they discuss their lives, the things that matter to them, and what they still want to learn about each other.
Books featuring such prompts vary greatly in the style of prompts from simple fact-finding questions to prompts that probe for emotional memories to prompts that liberate the imagination. Provides sensitizing questions which help participants write on life themes as opposed to life stages : Branching points. Health and body. Sexual identity. Experiences with and about death. Your spiritual life and values. Your goals and aspirations. More themes for Guided Autobiography groups.
A tiny volume of writing prompts which encourage writer to write brief bits, coming at your life at an angle, through the "side door," as she does in her slim, fine memoirs A Three Dog Life about caring for her husband after a hit-and-run accident shatters his skull and Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life show how vignettes and snippets artfully arranged can convey the arc of a changing relationship, or relationships.
A small book of writing prompts for oral or written family histories -- one of the first of its kind. A slim, spiral-bound, illustrated, easy-to-maneuver workbook good for senior centers with questions and memory joggers to tease out a life story, and excerpts from real autobiographies. The ideal gift for someone who is writing, or thinking of writing, their memoir. The great memoirists often break the rules, especially about mixing present and past tense.
Explores the history and nature of biography. For the reference shelf. A delightful account of how those final stories get told. Joseph Epstein has a genius for discerning and defining a subject's essence in a few thousand words in the Wall Street Journal. Rollyson writes: "Mr. Epstein's ability to capture a subject in a memorable 3, words should be the envy of biographers, who write at greater length but sometimes with no greater effect. Biographies are vats of facts that take patience to digest; Mr.
Epstein's essays are brilliant distillations. William Zinsser. Thoughtful talks and biography shop talk by Robert A. Nagel, Richard B. Sewall, Ronald Steel, and Jean Strouse. Explores the act of memoir-making, the tension between memory and forgetting inventiveness as part of the search for emotional truth , the art of storytelling, and the value of the first draft, as a mystery dropping clues about the narrator's feelings.
Practical wisdom from nine notable memoirists about their process often about what to leave out and the hurdles they faced. This interesting overview of trends in memoir and taxonomy of types of memoir reveals one constant: the "inherent and irresolvable conflict between the capabilities of memory and the demands of narrative. This slim volume contains frank tips for writing better columns, personal essays, and memoirs.
Marc Pachter, director of the NPG at the time, moderated the symposium. She argues for writing "narrative history" as engaging as fiction, but based upon excellent scholarship. Pieces by the master of essay writing on the craft of personal essay and memoir writing. Though not geared to memoir-writing, Gerard presents insights and examples that could help elevate your memoir above a string of anecdotal memories. Using his own story as an example, this expert on writing well shows how to be selective in choosing the stories to tell and the details to use.
Memoir-writing basics present vs. Written by a veteran for veterans, it details the elements of craft involved in writing both fiction and non-fiction. The Veterans Writing Project uses the book in its co-cost seminar and workshops for members of the armed forces, active and reserve, who want to learn about writing in order to tell their stories. Foreword by Rick Bragg. Read excerpts here. Read a review here. Spanning more than a century, these intriguing reflections of personal as well as global social and political history are told in the unique voice and viewpoint of each storyteller.
Each selection is a song of self; some have perfect pitch, some the waver of authenticity. All demonstrate the power of the word to salvage from the onrush of life, nuggets worth saving. With aging, retirement, divorce, widowhood, and separation from our children, we lose roles we once played and may experience less sense of identity and self-worth. Life review, however done, can be therapeutic, and in groups, under a masterful leader, can also be enormous fun. Good groups bond. Creative juices flow. Hearing each other's stories brings back our own often forgotten memories, good and bad, which in the presence of sympathetic others can be healing.
Here are some book you may find useful. Buy anything from Amazon after clicking on a link here and I get a small referral fee for your purchases. This helps cover fees for site hosting and link-checking, and the opportunity costs of time spent care-tending the website. Interesting reading even if you don't plan to lead a reminiscence group for elders, and useful if you do. Birren and Donna E. Deutchman, Provides helpful groups of questions and memory prompts on different themes and transitions: On the major branching points in your life, on family, on major life work and career, on the role of money in one's life, on health and body image, on sex roles and sexual experiences, on experiences with and ideas about death, on loves and hates, on the meaning of life aspirations and goals , on the role of music, art, or literature in your life, and on your experiences with stress.
Participants in GAB groups write a two-page story each week, on one of these themes, typically to be read aloud to the group. Cheryl Svensson and Anita Reyes offer online classes as well as online training for GAB instructors in the Birren approach, a ten-week session that gives you a sense how the process works. A great place to start. You can read online James E. Cheryl M. Svensson, ed. Birren and Kathryn R. Kunz, Florence Gray Soltys, and others, provides professional insight into the process of helping older adults with reminiscence and life review.
Describes individual, group, and art-based approaches to constructive, even therapeutic, reminiscence. Less useful for teaching life story writing, but of possible interest academically: Teaching Life Writing Texts , ed. Miriam Fuchs, Craig Howes chiefly of academic interest. Narrative Medicine. Cautioning that writing is no substitute for medical care, DeSalvo who wrote about her own pain, anxiety, and depression in Vertigo: A Memoir recommends writing five pages a week, uncensored, in spare moments, reporting every detail, to speed healing -- and sharing with other empathetic writers, to sharpen narrative.
She refers often to James W. Pennebaker has demonstrated that expressing emotions appears to protect the body against damaging internal stresses and seems to have long-term health benefit," wrote Daniel Goleman, in the NY Times. In this little book, McDonnell focuses here on how to write "crisis memoirs," finding "our own meaningfulness, even in the midst of sadness and disappointment. The Healing Art of Storytelling. This classic and insight-provoking guide to finding coherent narratives in our life experiences, which was out of print, is now available again. Lines from "Little Gidding" by T.
Eliot We die with the dying: See, they depart, and we go with them. We are born with the dead: See, they return, and bring us with them. We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.
Whether you're positioning your firm among competitors or building employee morale, these products are no longer the boring and unread products they once were. Below, see Articles about corporate and organizational histories Samples of brief online corporate histories Samples of corporate and organizational histories books. A company can position itself against giant competitors through storytelling.
Without context, it's just stuff. Seaman Jr. In its most familiar form, as a narrative about the past, history is a rich explanatory tool with which executives can make a case for change and motivate people to overcome challenges. Taken to a higher level, it also serves as a potent problem-solving tool, one that offers pragmatic insights, valid generalizations, and meaningful perspectives—a way through management fads and the noise of the moment to what really matters.
But the bigger payoff tends to be less tangible—that of forging stronger bonds with customers and employees Transparency is a must. Union Carbide, a chemicals firm, has a link to information on the deadly Bhopal gas leak in India on its home page, for example By telling stories from the heart, these roles start to fall away and what is revealed are the parts that are true for all, the threads that connect us to something greater than our individual selves When members of a family business take the time to share stories and memories with one another, it gives them a chance not only to be seen and heard as individuals as opposed to their fixed roles, but also to feel more deeply connected to each other and to the larger family system.
This piece presents the benefits to students and college. Marian Calabro's company site has useful FAQs and downloads about commissioning a corporate history, and the CorporateHistory. Her slogan: "What is written is remembered. First, you need the history Next, you need hardship, the tales of woe and wonder that you're either extremely proud of or totally embarrassed to tell.
Everyone loves a good underdog story, or a good nick-of-time story, or a good wing-and-a-prayer story, so dig one of those up. Most entrepreneurs don't realize the art of storytelling can help you succeed in the start-up world. Stories are memorable, they travel far, and they inspire action.
Steve Weinberg, Inside Higher Ed See also Steve's piece in The Writer: Commissions challenge journalistic principles , starts on p. Check that issue out at the library try Interlibrary Loan or pay to read it online. Trained as a historian--to write about a recent event? We just swept the records off the tables and into boxes, and brought them back here to Washington. Then we set up an archives, did a series of oral histories, and started to write. Within a year, we finished the book. Unheard of We delivered an electronic document, so the Government Printing Office could quickly publish it as a report.
Interesting on the difference between academic histories and "heritage management," which is not always "history lite. Those days are gone forever.
I am using one now, making weird little loops and slashes to write these words. As a tool, it is admirably sensitive. The lines it makes can be fat or thin, screams or whispers, blocks of concrete or blades of grass, all depending on changes of pressure so subtle that we would hardly notice them in any other context. The difference in force between a bold line and nothing at all would hardly tip a domino. And while a pencil is sophisticated enough to track every gradation of the human hand, it is also simple enough for a toddler to use. This Harvard story about a beautiful old sewing machine that no collection wanted is a powerfully effective indirect story about a company that was once a powerhouse.
It is a good example of the new approach to corporate history -- using stories and profiles of employees at all levels to make a company history come alive and it's worth looking at the book for design alone. Building Ten at Fifty , a history of the NIH Clinical Center selections here , is a historical profile of American's pioneering national research hospital totally dedicated to clinical research , which totally hooked me on patient stories.
That led indirectly to Changing Times, Changing Minds , a history of psychiatry in the United States wrapped around the story of one unusual department of psychiatry geared to serving and researching patients with serious and persistent mental illness, especially schizophrenia, among people who can't afford private treatment. I was engaged to do an oral history-based history of 50 years, but an unpublished manuscript about psychiatry from the years on turned up, a planned twenty interviews turned into eighty, the story doubled in size and quadrupled in complexity.
Instead I tried a narrative nonfiction approach to the fascinating medical and social history of the department of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Lesson learned: Don't get carried away by an interesting story, or you may donate an extra year of your life to one project. These annual lists offer essential information on the leading buyers, businesses, and employers in any of 60 U.
Explore that site to read about Marian's many projects. These small fees help support the cost of research for and maintenance of this site. Personal historians "The Life Story People" help both ordinary people tell their life or family stories. Alas, the organization was forced by financial difficulties to stopped operating in May -- a painful board decision -- but there are still plenty of personal historians providing services.
Other regional groups of former APH members are forming or sure to form because this is a collaborative field. Listen to personal historian Stephanie Kadel Taras talking about Personal historians: What they do and why podcast of an interview on the Ann Arbor program. Click here for videos from the conference --including panels on trends in biography, on selecting your subject, and on marketing your biography; Justin Kaplan, Kitty Kelley, and others speaking about permissions, copyright, and authorization; introductory remarks about BIO; and an excellent keynote address by Jean Strouse, a "biographer's biographer," author of biographies of Alice James a women afflicted by mysterious illnesses, whose life casts light on the lives of her older brothers, the famed William and Henry James and financier J.
Pierpont Morgan. Strouse speaks of dealing with "known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns" about the lives we study. Full membership available only to "professional biographers" as defined by BIO board ; memoirists may join as associate members. Jamie is BIO's executive director. Get membership application here. You can listen to podcasts from the conference. Many excellent resources on this site. Striving to bridge the gap between academia and personal history. It has been a distinguished location for discussion of issues and projects in biography. From its origin, it has been a place where biographers in the academy could meet and discuss issues in biography with established career biographers.
It doesn't seem to have a page of its own, but here is a story about the group indirectly : For Unauthorized Biographers, the World Is Very Hostile. Periodically holds interesting workshops. This is narrative competence, that is, the competence that human beings use to absorb, interpret, and respond to stories. Offers several awards. Offers no-cost seminars and workshops for members of the armed forces, active and reserve, who want to learn about writing in order to tell their stories.
See WWWL blog and videos of past events. The Self We Tell Ourselves We Are Influences Our Decisions "I have learned from autobiography that humans are adaptable and it is quite likely that more attention will be given to integration of information from the viewpoints of science, society, and individuals. Autobiography represents a 'soft area' for research, one that would not have been very respected in past years when the behavioral and social sciences were trying to emulate the advances in physics and chemistry.
More recently, however, there is growing opinion that our interpretations of our lives influence the decisions we make. The self we tell ourselves we are, the narrative self, appears to influence what decisions we make in life. I had the opportunity to interview a leading psychoanalyst in Los Angeles when he turned I asked him about his psychoanalytic theory and how it related to individuals. He said, 'That is my theory, you have to realize that every person has a theory about his or her own life. It leads to the idea that one's self, the self we tell ourselves, is in a sense a personal theory, a theory that provides direction for decisions and actions in everyday life.
Here lies a possible connection between the autobiographical stories of life and the decisions that individuals have made and the directions their lives have taken. Read his life story here. How close to the truth? I fear not just that I, personally, will be forgotten, but that we are all doomed to being forgotten—that the sum of life is ultimately nothing; that we experience joy and disappointment and aches and delights and loss, make our little mark on the world, and then we vanish, and the mark is erased, and it is as if we never existed.
If you gaze into that bleakness even for a moment, the sum of life becomes null and void, because if nothing lasts, nothing matters. It means that everything we experience unfolds without a pattern, and life is just a wild, random, baffling occurrence, a scattering of notes with no melody. But if something you learn or observe or imagine can be set down and saved, and if you can see your life reflected in previous lives, and can imagine it reflected in subsequent ones, you can begin to discover order and harmony.
You know that you are a part of a larger story that has shape and purpose—a tangible, familiar past and a constantly refreshed future. We are all whispering in a tin can on a string, but we are heard, so we whisper the message into the next tin can and the next string. Not only tragedies like the deaths of my sons, but other things like learning of my adoption as an adult and my search for my birthmother.
These are life-altering experiences and writing about something is a good way to figure out what to make of it. Psychiatry is a performance art. We talk with people; they tell us their secrets and their pain. They benefit from the conversations or not. So that was also a motivation to write these books, because I thought that whether anybody buys them or not, my children and their children will have this gift from me.
Memoir, biography, and corporate history. Writer's Digest Series on Memoir Writing. The Ethics of Memoir Writing. Memoirs, Healing, and Self-Understanding. With a sidebar on Memoir Queries and Proposals. Writing Corporate and Organizational Histories commissioned histories This kind of work may include archival services, portfolio or services videos, white papers, corporate histories as books or online.
I love this list, and have added all but 2 to my TBR! She has become a fast favorite. Tana French is one of my favorites, too. I read the first two Murder Squads and agree that The Likeness is a little farfetched, but it captivated me none the less. Just let go and enjoy the ride. Oh boy, now I have to request some of these at my library! I read Behind Closed Doors by B. Based on what you said, neither is overwhelming with profanity or gore, although both are certainly present in each.
You have to read Bird Box by Josh Malerman, I am not usually a fan of books that scare me but this book I could not put down!!! It was so good! I love your list! Now I know what to get next time I go to the Library, Thank you!!!! It felt too modern at times for the a s setting there was one mention of a woman being out and about in tight jeans, which would have a been a major fashion faux pas and not even how jeans were made!
Towles has said that he values story over historical accuracy although he was specifically referencing Moscow at the time, not rules. However: I think sometimes authors painstakingly check their facts, much more than we give them credit for. I just finished When Breath Becomes Air.
You will need a few tissues for this. This is about a young doctor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. Simply amazing how he became such a big star of a great show. Thank you Anne for this wonderful post!!! Your the best!!! There are three books in this series, each one I loved and devoured. None of these are my cup of tea.
I stayed up way too late reading it! I can sit and read the day away! I read Good As Gone last night in under five hours! I am excited to try some books on your list. I love Unputdownable books. I have started listening to Audible while I cook and drive and am reading way more than I used to. Excited to try a few of yours. It was probably my favorite of the year. Both of these last two have a common thread and I feel entertained and dare I say, educated at the same time. All three of these are excellent.
If you are struggling with only one audiobook a month, hoopla has a good selection available and you can access them through your local library! I was just going to suggest checking with your library for downloadable audiobooks. Beth, I was extremely happy to discover that there are now several apps that are free that allow you to check out audio books from the library.
They seem to accept any library card in the country. That allows me to listen to many more books than I could afford to otherwise. Check them out. Would have been one but one but it was during the week and I had work. Such a fun read. Races, long odds, war, shark attacks, and starvation. Lovely post, and great recommendations!
Such an interesting list! I made a note of 14 of these — will definitely be checking them out! Thanks for this! I love a good nail biter! They are different than books listed here, but a fun escape to worlds only imagined. I ended up staying up all night because I could not put it down. I love all Neal Shusterman! His newest book Scythe, YA dystopian adventure did not disappoint. Set in a society where death, war, hunger have been conquered…His Unwind trilogy are my favorite dystopian novels.
I read Scythe in less than two days! I could never read a real book in 24 hours no matter how good it was. Too many kids to give me that kind of nice quality time with a book. I completely agree with the Nightingale being an amazing book. Another one that I would say was just as good and in this category of historical fiction is The Orphan Train. Happy reading! It is a very well-crafted book and fun reading. It is also a very good book for a book group discussion. I find myself thinking of Jeannette Walls frequently and I wonder if her story will, in fact, be made into a movie as mentioned.
An inspirational, yet sad story. TY so much to all the contributors—have added these titles to my list as well as some of the other suggestions. I cant believe no Colleen Hoover book was included on this list! Colleen Hoover is my favorite author. However, just be warned she writes about unhealthy relationships so some people may not like her books. The Shack! We were on vacation a few years ago and it was a suggestion on my kindle. I was raised catholic and religion is such a touchy subject!! But I bought it!!! Read it in less than 24 hours. Beautiful book. Very touching. Gave me a new perspective on my faith!!
Sad but beautiful. And Defending Jacob! Thank you for the blog!!! One of my favorites. I was reading it at work and i would finish a chapter and so oh he did it. I drove my co-workers nuts! Completely agree. I started reading Defending Jacob on the flight to our D. Same kind of different as me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. Check it out before you see the movie.
The Nazi Officers Wife. For me this was beyond belief, I was half way through the book before I realized it was a true story. We have no concept of what people went through during WW2. I always forget about that author yup loved what I read. Still alice was so good and inside the obriens was also good. I still need to read her Anthony book. I have recently fallen in love with Susanna Kearsley. I forgot about going to sleep and finished the book around a. I loved it so much, I read it again on Saturday! What a great story!
Through a Glass Darkly, Karleen Cohen. Literally read the book in 24 hours, did not sleep. Amazing book. Awesome list! I love that book! I might need to read it again! That was one of them! I have read a lot of books that I wanted to keep reading but they were too thickl to finish in a day. Also an all time favorite for me is Midwives by Chris Bohajalian. Empty Mansions was great.
Colossus non-fiction. He even makes you feel a little sorry for him. May I send you a complimentary copy? Anything by Elena Ferrante. I could not put down the Neopolitan novels. The story of Lila and Elena through the years was captivating. Another one that I just could not put down. Replay, by Ken Grimwood. Came out in the s, but I reread it recently and it still holds up. And again? I read this the first time when I was supposed to be studying for a final the next day; I intended to read a couple chapters, but read the whole thing and never did get any studying done. After the final which I did well on, whew!
I went home and read Replay all over again. I finished it feeling informed, empathetic and inspired. One of my best reads in my entire life. Sea of Tranquility, yes!!!! I recommend Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. Danielle-I agree about Jodi Picoult. I have pulled some all-nighters because of her-so much fun! To go along with the Jodi Picoult theme of these last few comments, I read the entirety of Small Great Things yesterday. It was incredibly riveting and eye-opening — it provides a sharp acknowledgement of contemporary racism and its effects.
It was phenomenal. Look forward to books on your list! I second The Nightingale! Loved it. And love this list. Just having trouble deciding where to begin! I agree that there is value in reading books by authors from a wide variety of backgrounds. That said accusations and shame rarely achieve the desired result — they are more likely to make people defensive than affect change.
You know what? You and Laura are exactly right. I should have responded differently. With less of a throwaway comment, and more along the lines of attempting to be helpful. Thank you for pointing that out. When we choose to erase race from the conversation, we have a default to whiteness. It means that People of Color are excluded. In terms of suggested titles, I will happily provide some. I will get back with some others. Thanks again for the suggestion. I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Here are some books by authors of color that fit this blog post theme.
It was absolutely delightful. Hope others chime in as well. I have some serious reading to do. Not a 24 hour read—but well worth the time. People are loving this Facebook post and all the great shares. SO many amazing books. Jemisin Person recommended pretty much anything the author writes How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon Said it was her best read in all of As someone said on the Facebook post, that is one badass list.
And folks can alternate, if they choose, to take in more of the richness of writers in America. Thanks to those who are actually open and interested in doing this. I hope you find some great reads on all these lists. Great list! I can never put her books down and tend to reread them! I highly suggest it! Thank you! You are absolutely right. I responded above to Brandyn, but wanted to make sure you saw that comment.
I totally agree Sarah D. If a book sounds good I read it. The color of the author never even crosses my mind! I read for the story! Add to this Girl on Train. The movie was good but the book is incredible. I love this list and will look for these. I feel the same way! Loved Girl on a Train. The Nightingale….. A must-read and one I hope they make into a movie. I loved this book! Both are amazing books! Talk about plot twists! I was reading the same ideas over and over.
I pay more attention to the authors I choose now, and my reading lists is much healthier because of it—and my world view more complete. I promise this is my very last comment. And how smart you are, Criss! I just tripped over this post that listed 34 books by Women of Color.
Inclusion has real consequences. They are all new releases for Added them to my long long TBR list. Thanks for sharing. This list is may cause my TBR to topple over! A few years ago I read The secret keeper by Kate Morton and loved it!! Well written and suspenseful right to the final chapter.
The Secret Keeper was very good! My all time favorite is September by Rosamunde Pilcher. Like most of her books it makes one long to be in the Scottish countryside. More of a character study than a driving plot. Also excellent was Shell Seekers. Love this author. I loved Shell Seekers too. Pilcher is an excellent writer, well able to reel you into a new world.
I think her The Secret Place is just as good. Both are about friendship—it seems to be what she does best. I just joined today so I will be adding more titles that I love. This novel managed to break my heart then patch it up only to make my heart get back in the ring for round two. I read this books years ago and still I recommend it to everyone. Definitely one of those that touch your heart and linger near your soul. Oh how I loved this book. I listened to it and the two readers were amazing. A must read or listen!! Portrayed complicated people with kindness. Also listened to the audiobook.
Frederik Backman is a magical writer! I cannot stop thinking about Ove! I just came across this page from someone that shared this on Facebook, and boy I must say I am so happy to have stumbled upon that link and your blog! What a homey and cozy feel you have here, and I will be sure to check your entires day after day. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.
The writing style and the story of this memoir make it absolutely un-putdownable. Just saved your list to come back to. Also, not a mystery, but gripping, is my memoir about fighting cancer during my first pregnancy: Tiger in rather Dark.
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Liked reading many of the comments on the different selections. I may have to try a few. I love to read books relating to Holocaust and that sad era. If anyone knows of any plese tell me titles. The boy in the striped pajamas. From Cardinals to Crows by T. Tate Publishing. The author is a personal friend of mine.
The Girl in the Train — Paula Hawkins. You are right-on about these — I read 3 of them in the last 5 days! And have another to pick up at the library tonight.
The Uses of Humor
Whenever I need a suggestion of what to read, I always find many good options here? I just picked up that book from library yesterday to read for my mystery books for March. Hope I like it. Behind Closed Doors by P. I definitely finished it the same day that I started. I was like this with Summer Sisters by Judy Blume.
I recommend it to everyone! It was unputdownable by many reviewers on Goodreads and Amazon! What a great list! Not only were half of these book already on my list, but almost all of these books are written by women! Love this list — great books for my daily walks in the woods. Hopefully that means you get credit for recommending them. Super Powereds and Red Rising are my all time favorites. Time just flew by listening to these books. Written in I found it at a thrift store. Compelling historical account.
Available via bookstores or Amazon. Amazing story of a family on a journey of grief and healing. Perhaps the best description is given by Sister Helen Prejean, C. This family drama is a must-read that teaches us about the true nature of justice and our very humanity. I was left breathless by the end. Not only was this an amazing read, it revolutionized my life, as well. I could not put down The Bookshop on the Corner by J. Colgan and Murder at the Brightwell by A.
Looking forward to the others in this series. The Gifting by K. I got it free from Amazon but will definitely be buying the other books in the trilogy. Think Frank Peretti or Stephen King but not as heavy. I have found almost every single one of the Ian Rutledge mysteries by Charles Todd to be un-put-downable. I rarely sit down and read a book in one sitting but yesterday I almost finished The Dry. I think you recommended this book on one of your podcasts.
You said Reese Weatherspoon bought the movie rights before it even went to press. In the my comment I was using voice text. Great list, read 3 on this list and put 3 more on hold at the library. My 24 hour reads are always Michael Connelly and Karin Slaughter. Yellow Crocus, Laila Ibrahim — historical fiction about a Southern black woman working for wealthy Plantation owners. Could not put down! And although it took me a little longer than that, because of work, I tore through The Royal We, too. Great book quick read. Can not put it down. Sweet and touching! Something that I cannot stand is when chapters alternate between different characters points of view.
You should try Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King…. An oldie but a goodie. Both great books! Each has been memorable. Took me longer than 24 hours because frankly, it often made me uncomfortable. Very timely subject matter, exploring racism and white supremacy with an unforgettable story. Months later… I am still pondering this book. It will leave you with a respect for our Military.
I loved Unbroken! Love,Water,Memory by Jennie Shortridge. Reading this was a wonderful way to get lost in a weekend spent turning pages! Have read it at least 10 times and shared with many friends over the years. Reading again this weekend. Oh my. I Love, love, love the Proud Breed. I too have read many times and passed along to friends. I currently have two hard copies one to keep and one to give away.
I called her Sombrawolfdog. Both excellent in their own right. The ending is so totally unexpected! Natchez Burning by Greg Iles is amazing!!! It was fantastic. Your suggestions, and those in the comments, have helped me put my summer reading list together!! Just did not like it at all. Same author. Stunningly beautiful prose,and I actually learned things about the Russian Revolution. I like this Second Towles better than Rules. A Gentleman in Moscow was my favorite book last year.
Have you started savoring Dickens yet? Did anybody feel the same? One of my many favorites of last year. Thanks for the recommendations. I wish there was more of it! It is a classy classic horror story unlike anything you have ever read.
Very well written and full of Southern lifestyles and elegance. He knows his setting well, too. This is one of the best and most unsettling books I have read. He is or was one of the ten or so masters of the genre. Not sure how I stumbled across this post, but thanks! I had read a few of these and enjoyed them, so downloaded a couple of these as audiobooks and have loved them! Haha Katie. I only listen to books or I would never get anything done. I too, came across this site and am downloading as many books as I can. Listening to What She Knew, which someone on here recommended.
Hi Sandy, I use Overdrive a lot. I have several library cards. I also find a lot online at torrent sites. Keep your head up there for a while longer and keep looking. The rest of us will have a civilized conversation. The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss is very good.
Of course it depends on what you like. I found it touching and interesting. She meets a lot of people and the experiences she has help her grow. She loves horses. You can check it out on Amazon. I like stories about horses and that surround horses or contain horses and stories about other times and stories about women who do things differently. I hope you give it a try! But the books… until 3am reading for sure on the first 2 or 3 in the series. Unfortunately outlander took me months to read!
I found them very slow reads and not one you can read in 24 hours. Even switching to audio it took me weeks to finish the book. Well, different strokes for different folks, I always say. The first book was good but the 2nd book just dragged for me! Sorry outlander fans. Hated the second book of the series…took me forever to finish. What is about to happen to us has stood in line to happen. All the roads out of that instant have been closed, one by one" The children don't run away to save themselves. The father doesn't appear to rescue them.
The mother is not restrained by some maternal instinct. On the familial level, this is the apocalypse: this isa time without hope. And yet. She only thinks she has. The disaster passes. The mother is in- stitutionalized. Mary takes her BB gun into the tree. And eventually Charlie Marie comes back home. From a certain vantage point, this would appear to be the logical place for Karr to end her meditation. She's cast light into her memory of that dark night in the bedroom and now knows what happened. Why keep The Liars' Club going for another two hundred pages?
What else is there to know? The story continues,I would argue, for two interrelated reasons. First, Karr only knows the how and the what regarding that night; she does not know why her mother went over the edge. Second, Karr's writing has not yet delivered her from those memories because she knows only the facts, not the truth of what happened. At the age of seven, thinking magi- cally; she understood only that her mother had tried to kill her for failing to clean up her room.
By the middle of the book, she recognizes the inad- equacy of such an explanation. Without the why she has nothing, just information coming in the dead of night. After her mother's psychotic episode, her parents move to Colorado and eventually divorce. Her mother remarries and sinks deeper into a dnmken stupor. Karr walks in on her mother having sex with another man; Karr is raped again; Charlie Marie- tries to kill her new husband; buys a bar, stays up late reading French philosophy and "talking in a misty-eyed way about suicide" Eventually; Charlie Marie puts the.
The calamities continue without ever exposing the cause of all this senseless, self-destructive behavior. Why is it that no one seeks help? What is it that fuels Charlie Marie's all-encompassing sense of despair? Why is it that Pete Karr seeks refuge with the other members of "the Liars' Club," a group of men who drink together and tell tall tales that keep their pasts shrouded in darkness?
When Karr finally finds the key that unlocks the mystery of her family's past. Her par- ents have reunited. She has watched her father's steady decline after a stroke, sat by his side during his final days, listened to him ramble on about his life in the war, a time he never before mentioned. She discovers that he was wounded twice, one time stuck with "a bayonet through his forearm, leaving a scar [she'd] Seen a thousand times and never once asked about" , the other time left for dead under the rubble of a bridge he'd helped to explode.
This last news sends Karr up to the family attic in search of military papers that might be used to get her father additional medical assistance. While moving amongst the family's remains, she discovers four jewelry boxes, each containing a wedding ring. She has, quite unexpectedly, found her mother's hidden past and she then finds the strength to use this material evidence to compel her mother to speak. As Karr confronts her ever-reticent mother, she observes: "Few born liars ever intentionally embark in truth's direction, even those who believe that such a journey might axiomatically set them free" Karr uncovers the systemic violence that defined her mothers past - the sudden, inexplicable disappearance of her first hushand and her first two children, the years she spent trying to find her first family, the reunion where.
In the end, the mystery is not so mysterious: "Those were my mother's demons, then, two small children, whom she longed for and felt ashamed for having lost. She tells her daughter that she kept these events a secret because she was afraid that. It would be easy to ridicule such an explanation. After all, Charlie Marie has done much in her life that her daughter did know about that would have justified rejection. She neglected her children, placed them in harm's way, tried to kill herself, tried to kill them.
Karr herself finds her mother's reasoning to be "pathetic" However one judges Charlie Marie's excuse, though, the fact that she cannot produce a satisfying or reasonable account for her silence is compelling evidence of just how much power stories can exercise over the lives of individuals. By clinging to her silence, by keeping her story trapped inside, she invested her untold story with such a monstrous power that she came to believe that speaking it alOUd would make her essentially unlikable. Left alone with. To remain likable, she had to lie. As Karr puts it: "what Mother told absolved us both, in a way, All the black crimes we believed ourselves guilty of were myths, stories we'd cobbled together out of fear.
We expected no good news interspersed with the bad. Only the dark aspect of any story sank in, I never knew despair could lie. She is content to at least entertain the possibility of a future communion with her loved ones, a time when" all your beloveds hover before you, their lit arms held out in welcome" In Karr's hands, the memoir thus becomes a vehicle for arriving at an understanding that produces forgiveness. Writing, as she uses it, is a herme- neutic practice that involves witnessing the mundane horrors of the past in order to make peace with that past.
And, as the preceding account makes clear, it also becomes"however briefly; a means for gaining access to the light of the universal, While the other writers and events I've discussed here have turned our attention to death and decay, Karr offers an encounter with the prospect of one's mortality that leads neither to despair nor cynicism nor violence nor suicide nor escape.
Even if it's a lie, the lie Karr tells herself at the end of The Liars' Club is a lie that keeps her inside the realm of social relations, helping her make what she can of what life has put before her. It might seem that, by organizing these readings in this way, I've been building up to a spirited defense of the social and therapeutic value of writing one's memoirs. After all. But the genre of the memoir is no more likely to compel a writer to make peace with the past or to find some sense of "-.
When Martin Amis composed his memoirs, for instance, the genre didn't force him to shift his world view: he ends Experience with atrocity; Auschwitz, ruminations on the murder of one of his cousins, and "the usual articles of faith for a man of fifty When Eric Harris began his diary with the statement, 'I hate the fucking world," he wasn't laying the groundwork for a transfor- mative inner voyage; he was girding himself for battle. If we accept Amis's bleak view of the future of publishing - and I think we should - then the challenge, for all whose lives are inextricably bound to the literate arts, is to make a compelling case for why writing might be said to matter in the twenty-first century Amis taking the long view, Alex Supertramp running into the wild, Descartes alone with his thoughts: it is clear that these men knew that writing could be used to articulate and extend one's sense of despair and one's sense of superiority.
What isn't clear, though, is whether these men knew what Karr knows - namely; how to use writing as a practice for constructing a sense of hope and optimism atop the ruins of previous worlds. Is it possible to produce writing that generates a greater sense of connection to the world and its inhabitants? Of self-understanding? Writing that moves out from the mundane, personal tragedies that mark any individual life into the history; the culture, and the lives of the institutions that surround us all?
In working my way up to this set of questions, I have unexpectedly found myself relying on words and phrases that immediately produce re- ligious connotations: the dark night of the soul. While I did not set out to consider reli- gious matters, the language I've fallen into using has inevitably led me to a set of con- cerns that tends to be avoided by those who share my secular sensibilities.
Under nor- mal circumstances, I might find other, less volatile terms. But these aren't normal cir- cumstances. There will never again be a book. If one is in search of fame or truth and one has placed all one's hopes on the activity of writing; this fact can be a devastating blow. But, however painful it may be to admit, it is clear that those of us who remain committed to books are part of a residual cul- ture whose days are numbered. The fetishization of the w.
One finds as well a haunting sense of disconnection, as one tightly, wound individual after another hatches a plot to make others pay for these ambient feelings of placeless- 'ness, The world as we have known it is passing away and the world that is emerging is one that appears to be fraught with danger.
What to do? These concerns about the diminishing power ofread- ing and writing serve as the launching point for a sustained investiga- tion into the value of humanistic inquiry at the present moment. It goes with- out saying that the relative influence each of these institutions has on any given individual depends on a number of variables, including race, class, and gender, By linking the institutional with the autobiographic, my goal is not to draw attention away from our individual differences, but rather to show that we all internalize institutional influences in ways that are both idiosyncratic and historically situated, open-ended and overdetermined, liberating and confining.
We all go to school. Historically; schooling in the United States has served as the battle- ground where the nation works out its evolving understanding of social justice - through, for example, busing, affirmative action, the student loan program, the multicultural curriculum. What has changed recently; though, is the power of weaponry that students bring to the schoolyard and the magnitude of the notoriety that accrues to those who show up ready for a fight. The police investigating the actions of Harris and Klebold concluded that the two young men were driven, above all, by a desire for fame: "[A]ll the rest of the justifications are just smoke.
They certainly wanted the media to write stories about them every day; And they wanted cult followings. They [were] going to become superstars by getting rid of bad people" Cullen, "Kill Mankind". We might say that Harris and Klebold wanted what all writers are said to want, what Richard Tull and Alexander Supertramp dreamed of and what Gwyn Barry; Amis, Krakauer, Descartes, and Karr have all, to varying degrees, achieved. The costs of such fame are quite high and the benefits fleeting at best. Can secular institutions of higher education be taught to use writing. Can the first year writing course become a place where we engage puoductively with the dark realities of OUf time: violence, suicide, war, and terrorism, as well as fraud- ulence, complicity; and trauma?
Can teachers of first year writing be moved beyond praising students for generating arguments without consequence, thought with no interest in action? If there is to be lasting hope for the future of higher education, that hope can only be generated. The only way out is through,.
For a discussion of inaccuracies in the initial characterization of the boys' interests and beliefs, see Cullen, "Inside. And, just before the attack, he had been rejected by the Marine Corps, apparently because he was taking the antidepressant Luvox. SKate Battan, lead investigator of the Columbine shootings, is quoted as having said, as she completed her report: "Everybody wants a quick answer.
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They want an easy answer so that they can sleep at night and know this is not going to happen tomorrow at their school. And there is no such thing in this case. There's not an easy answer. I've been working on this nonstop daily [for six monthsJ since April 20th and I can't tell you why it happened" qtd. Part of the training Descartes received involved going on a series of retreats where initiates meditated on passages from Scripture in the hope that this practice would help them to achieve a deeper understanding of the text and a more loving response to the world.
That Descartes returned to the meditational fonn later in life is evidence of its lasting pedagogical value. These chapters, some of which draw on his own experience, are not included in this selection. Experience: A Memoir. New York: Hyperion. The Information. New York: Harmony; Barron, James. Bowling for Columbine. Michael Moore. United Artists, Cullen, Dave.
No One Should Survive. New York: Simon, Descartes, Rene. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy. Indianapolis: Hackett, Gross, Jane. Harris, Eric. Personal diary excerpts. Harrison, Kathryn. The Kiss. New York: Bard, Karr, Mary. The Liars' Club. New York: Viking, Kaysen, Susanna. Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. New York: Villard, New York: River-. McCourt, Fnink. A Memoir. New York: Scribner, Pooley; Eric.
Prendergast, Alan. Ryan, Michael. Secret Life: An Autobiography. New York: Vintage, The chapter, which we are inviting you to read as an essay, is organized by subheadings. You might think of these as a way of punctuating the essay, and you might think of this technique as a tool for your own toolkit. As you reread the essay, pay attention to each unit marked off by a subheading, and pay attention to the progression or arrangement of these units. How might they mark stages or strategies for the writer?
How might you describe the principle of selection and organization? Can you imagine bringing this strategy into your own writing? In the. We can assume that this is the kind of writing present in "The Dark Night of the Soul. The practice of the humanities This latter is a pretty bold statement, since English departments have tradi- tionally defined their job as teaching students to read deeply, to conduct scholarly research, and to appreciate great works of literature. What Miller has to offer, rather, is "movement between worlds, arms out, balancing" or "making the connections that count.
Is Miller's description of his project, as represented above, accurate. What would a course look like? What would its students do? Would you want to take such a course? Forthe sake of argument, let's say that Jon Krakauer and Mary Karr are the key figures in this essay- Krakauer as a reader, Karr as a writer.
As you reo read, pay particular attention to these two sections. What are the appropriate goals and methods for writing, if Karr is to serve as a model? And do you agree with the initial assumption, that Krakauer and Karr are the key figures in this essay? You could read these chapters to add a third key figure to this mix-Miller himself. Does Miller read Karr as an exemplary figure? With this example in mind, how do you read Miller?
How might you place his writing in relation to hers? Miller introduces two phrases in the final paragraphs of "The Dark Night of the Soul": "the felt experience of the impersonal" and "critical optimism. You don't have these chapters to refer to. As you reread "The Dark Night of the Soul," keep these key terms in mind. What do they mean for Miller? What do they mean in relation to the work he does in "The Dark Night of the Soul"? Each paragraph should include a reference with a block quotation to one of Miller's examples. Richard E. You can access an example of this work at nmc.
Miller's essay opens with a list of fatal shootirigs in school-troublingly, an incomplete list. As the essay builds to questions-questions for educators and for students -the specters of violence and alienation remain, changing how we think about the reading and writing school endeavors to teach us. Write an essay that takes up this question -"what might the literate arts be goo'd for? But your presentation and discussion of the text should be in conversation with Miller-with his concerns, his key lerrns, his examples, and his conclusions. The practice of the humanities ','.
Reread it, taking notes and marking,ections you might use to think about Miller's concerns and his contributions and about schooling and the teaching of the "literate arts.. Write an essay in response to "The Dark Night of the Soul," one in which you engage Miller's argument from the point of view of the student. If what is represented in Millet's writing can suggest a goal for a curriculum or an imperative for English instruction in high schools and in colleges, what changes would need tobe made? What would a'course look like? While the assessments, evaluations, proposals, reports, commen- taries, and critiques I produce help to keep the bureaucracy of higher education going, there is another kind' of writing I turn to in order to sustain the ongoing search for meaning in a world no one controls.
This writing asks the reader to make imaginative connections between disparate elements; it tracks one path among many possible ones across the glistening water. Reread "The Dark Night of the Soul" with particular attention to Miller's method, which is, in simplest terms, putting one thing next to another. Pay attention to the connections Miller makes, to the ways he makes them, and to the ways as a reader you are or are not invited into this process.
You don't need to be constrained to Miller's subject-writing, reading, and schooling-although this subject might be exactly the right one for you. Your writing should, however, be like Miller's in its sense of urgency. Write about something that matters to you - in other words, that you care about, that touches you personally and deeply. What makes Into the Wild remarkable is Krakauer's ability to get some purchase on McCandless's actual reading practice, which, in turn, enables him to get inside McCandless's head and speculate with considerable authority about what ultimate,Iy led the young man to abandon the comforts of home and purposefully seek out mortal danger.
Working with these materials and his interviews with McCandless's family and friends, Krakauer develops a sense of McCandless's inner life and eventually comes to some understanding of why the young man was so susceptible to being seduced by the writings of London, Thoreau, Muir, and Tolstoy. Who McCandless is and what becomes of him are, it turns out, intimately connected to the young man's approach to reading - both what he chose to read and how he chose to read it. When Miller is writing about Krakauer's Into the Wild, he seems to suggest that what we read, and how we read, can say something about who we are and about what we might become.
This is a very bold claim. Think of a book that made a difference to you, that captured you, maybe one you have read more than once, maybe one that you've made marks in or that still sits on your bookshelf. Or, if not a book, think of your favorite song or album or movie orN show, something that engaged you at least potentially as McCandless was engaged by London, Thoreau, Muir, and Tolstoy.
What was it that you found there? What kind of reader were you? And what makes this a story in the past tense? How and why did you move on? Or if it is not a story in the past tense, where are you now, and are you, like McCandless, in any danger? After years spent unwilling to admit its attractions, I gestured nos- talgically toward the past. I yearned for that time when I had not been so alo:ne. I became impatient with books. I wanted experience more immediate. I feared the library's silence, I silently scorned the gray.
I grew to hate the growing pages of my dissertation on genre and Renaissance literature. In my mind I heard relatives laughing as they tried to make sense of its title. I wanted something - I couldn't say exactly what. For some, it will hardly come as a surprise to learn that reading and writing have no magically transfonnative powers.
But for those of us who have been raised into the teaching and publishing professions, it can be quite a shock to confront the possibility that reading and writing and talking exercise almost none of the pcw- ers we regularly attribute to them in our favcrite stories, The dark night. Both Richard E. Miller and Richard Rodriguez are concerned with the limits and the failures of education, with particular attention to the humanities and to the supposed benefits to be found in reading and writing. Write an essay that takes up this question-"what might the literate arts be said to be good for?
What does each say? How might they be said to speak to each other? And, finally, where are you in this? Where are you, and people like you, the group for whom you feel prepared to speak? I yearned for that time when I had nct been so alone.
The Uses of Humor
I wanted experiences more immediate. I feared the library's silence. I silently scorned. I wanted something - I COUldn't say exactly what. I CQuid not, in the end, for some blessed reason, turn away from myself. Not at least in this place. The place of desire. I think now of the small lines etching themselves near the eyes of a woman's face I loved.
And how, seeing these lines, I wanted to stroke her face. To lean myself, my body, my skin into her. A part of me un- ravels as I think of this, and I am taken toward longing, and be- yond, into another region, past the walls of this house, or all I can see, stretching farther than the horizon where right now sea and. It is as if my cells are moving in a larger wave, a wave that takes in every history, every story.
We typically think of desire as something that leads us toward some- thing, not as an achievement in and of itself, but as a process. Both Rodriguez and Griffin embody desire in different ways in their essays.
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If Richard Miller were to read these writers for their desires, what do you think he would notice? Write an essay in which you think through the relationship between writing and desire. With Miller in mind, consider how Rodriguez's or Griffin's essay enacts a set of desires. What seems to propel their writ- ing? What interests or concerns move them from one subject to another? At the same tillle, what desires do they come to as the essay unfolds?
What do they seem to move closer to, and what do they seem to leave behind? Use this opportunity to reflect on your own writing and the changing desires that propel you or slow you down, the set of desires that mayor Illay not be found in Miller's ideals, Rodriguez's reflections, or Griffin's imaginings. One way to imagine Susan Griffin's project in "Our Secret" p. She spends a significant amount of time attending to Himmler's journals and writings, looking at the way he stood in photographs, closely reading the words he chose as a child and later as a Nazi soldier.
Griffin says that she has been "searching" through these documents. She writes:. Now as I sit here I read once again the fragments from Heinrich's boyhood diary that exist in English. I have begun to think of these words as ciphers. Repeat them to myself, hoping to find a door into the mind of this man, even as his character first forms so that I might learn how it is he becomes himself.
Considering the journals and rnernoirs he consults, one rnight think of Richard Miller as having a sirnilar project to Griffin's, one of sifting through texts in order to uncover their relationships to the human beings who read and wrote these texts. Miller writes:. Asking why a Steve Cousins or an Eric Harris or a Dylan Klebold is violent is itself a meaningless act, not because the motivation is too deeply buried or obscurely articulated to ever be known, but because we no longer live in a world where human action can be explained.
We have plenty of information; it just doesn't amount to anything. Write an essay in which you discuss Griffin's project of looking at Himmler in relation to Miller's examination of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. How do Miller's words above help to illuminate, expand, 6r complicate Susan Griffin's thoughts in "Our Secret"? What does Griffin mean when she says she thinks of Himmler's words as ciphers?
In what ways do Griffin and Miller seem to be engaging in a sirnilar inquiry or investigation? What does each text offer as its theory of writing and reading? In his essay "Our Time" p. He speaks directly to the fundamental problem writers face when they try to represent the lives of others: "I'd slip unaware out of his story and into one of my own.
Wideman goes on to say:. That habit would destroy any chance of seeing my brother on his terms; and seeing him in his tenus, learning his terms, seemed the whole point of learning his story. I had to teach myself to listen. Start fresh, clear the pipes, resist too facile an identification, tame the urge to take off with Robby's story and make it my own. Miller, in "The Dark Night of the Soul," is also concerned with the problems of representation. He provides readingsofthe lives of others - frorn Eric Harris to Chris McCandless to Martin Amis to Rene Descartes and Mary Karr-who are also engaged with the problems of representation and understanding.
Write an essay about writing and representation, about the real world and the world of texts, with Wideman and Miller as your primary points of reference. How do they understand representation as a problem for writers and readers?