Used books today

Burmese Days, 1963 Signet Classics Paperback.
Sirens of Titan, 1970 version.

I will always buy copies of George Orwell or Kurt Vonnegut’s paperbacks at $1.00. Always.

A very good Modern Library copy of Washington Square.
James, Henry. Washington Square. New York: Modern Library, 1950. Edging towards collecting these. ($3.00)

McMurtry, Larry. Roads: A Millennial Journey Along America’s Great Interstate Highways. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. I read Lonesome Dove in college but I also liked Moving On and Cadillac Jack. I think this book is a return to the roads he traveled as a book collector (and that showed up in Cadillac Jack.) Indeed, it’s Cadillac Jack where the rabbit heads show up in the grill of the Cadillac, a scene I revisited this weekend when a bird got caught in the grill of our Prius. ($3.00)

Stutzman, Paul. Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail. Reprint edition. Grand Rapids, Mich: Revell, 2012. I’m also a sucker for these sorts of long journey books, particularly on the AT, as Kara wants us to do this hike someday. Autographed copy — $2.00

NYT: How to help a teenager

Short, thoughtful article on what it means for a teenager to be college ready.

This is a great paragraph:

If your college-bound junior or senior still requires external accountability for school work, your child may be telling you he’s not ready for academic independence. Many parents focus too intently on grades themselves, rather than the process by which those grades are attained. If you still feel like the homework police at the end of 11th grade, it’s time to retire. A C-student who can manage his own academic life has a better chance of succeeding in college than an A- or B-student who depends on parental oversight.

It made me think about how I want to communicate with parents this year. Would a regular newsletter be in range? Some sort of document that outlines the work and offers ways to help, i.e., here are the helpful questions you might ask your kid this month.

New Yorker article with lots to chew on

Read this yesterday. Thought I might use it later in the year as a way of helping kids think about how a writer identifies a key question — are things getting better — and then brings a series of close readings to bear upon it. Different disciplinary lenses — psychological, historical, sociological — provide the author with the glue to hold his essay together, although its his skillful writing that provides the connections.

Several quotes to consider:

Was the past good or bad? Are we on the right track or the wrong one? Is life getting better or worse? These questions are easy to ask—pollsters and politicians love asking them—but surprisingly hard to answer. Most historical and statistical evidence shows that life used to be shorter, sicker, poorer, more dangerous, and less free. Yet many people, like Milanovi?, have fond memories of bygone years, and wonder if reports of their awfulness have been exaggerated. Others concede that life used to be worse in some ways, but wonder if it wasn’t also better in others—simpler, more predictable, more spiritual.

The power of bad news is magnified, Pinker writes, by a mental habit that psychologists call the “availability heuristic”: because people tend to estimate the probability of an event by means of “the ease with which instances come to mind,” they get the impression that mass shootings are more common than medical breakthroughs. We’re also guilty of “the sin of ingratitude.” We like to complain, and we don’t know much about the heroic problem-solvers of the past. “How much thought have you given lately to Karl Landsteiner?” Pinker asks. “Karl who? He only saved a billion lives by his discovery of blood groups.”

Later in the year, when we get to writing/reviewing books, I hope I can use this piece as a model.

Rothman, Joshua. “Are Things Getting Better or Worse?” The New Yorker, July 16, 2018. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/07/23/are-things-getting-better-or-worse.

Reading: Why the novel matters…

This is a terrific Sunday morning read. There are some terrific lines and I’ll track down the podcast to use in the classroom.

It’s not unknown for people of no remarkable genius to come away from reading, say, Anna Karenina, fancying that if only Tolstoy hadn’t done it, they could. I’d go so far as to say that it’s peculiar to the novel to empower readers in this way, stirring in them intimations of creative energy. The better a novel is, the more we feel it’s been found among the ruins of the language we share. Whatever is made of words belongs to us too.

Novels cannot by nature fail to be dialogic.

But I think something of value happens when we read, say The Ambassadors – of value as an affective stimulus, I mean – that doesn’t when we watch, say, The Sopranos. Don’t tell me The Sopranos is more fun. That might only mean that Tony Soprano is more engaging than Lambert Strether. He’s certainly got a more engaging name. There is, though, more than one kind of fun. And to say that reading more closely resembles study is not to be a killjoy: concentration and enjoyment are not opposites. Strange that when everyone’s running marathons and otherwise raising sweat for the hell of it, working hard at a novel is thought to take the fun away.

Maybe, just maybe, I could use this at the beginning of the year to set up the “why we read” conversation.