If your life orbits the school year like mine, then you’re probably in the throes of sending your children back to school, off to college, or enjoying the last few family adventures before getting back to the grind. For many of us, the return to routine will hopefully mean some defined reading time, so here are a few recommendations from our staff to get you back into the swing.
This month, I’ve been dipping in and out of an anthology of essays on being forty-something, entitled Midlife Margaritas. In the book, 18 women share their experiences of reaching the halfway mark, with each story focusing on a different challenge, such as returning to work after raising kids, becoming a caregiver for a parent, surviving cancer, redefining marriage, and conquering fears. Some of the stories spoke to me directly, while others could have been those of my close friends or neighbors. For example, Shannon Hembree’s story of going back to work sounded familiar when she recalled, “But then I got to the interview, and PYT was clearly not happy with my resume . . . ‘Why are your writing samples so old?’ she wanted to know. ‘Why are your references so old?'” Or Bree Luck, writing about her crooked career path, who said, “How come I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up? I’m too old for this, something’s wrong with me.” Or Bernadette Jasmine, writing about escaping an abusive marriage, “And that is how the decade of my forties dawned for me. I woke up in bed one morning to find myself living in my sister’s home after leaving my husband of eleven years…” Ultimately the book is a rallying cry for women to recognize the knowledge, power and freedom that age bestows, and reading it was like receiving a warm hug and a high five all at once.
Christina Consolino, Senior Editor and Profiles Editor, has been reading about Generation Z. “At my employer’s Fall Faculty Development Day, we had the opportunity to hear Dr. Corey Seemiller speak about her research on Generation Z, or those people who were born between 1995 and 2010. Dr. Seemiller (a member of Generation X), has compiled the findings into a book, Generation Z Goes to College, which she co-authored with Meghan Grace (a Millenial). The book covers topics such as what Generation Z members believe in, how they communicate, what social media they use, and how they feel about family and relationships. One striking finding is that ‘eighty-eight percent of those in Generation Z feel they are extremely close to their parents, whom they see as playing roles more like friends and advisers.’ These students aren’t just close to family though. Making a change and working for social justice also play significant roles in their daily lives. Why is this data important? Because knowing what makes Generation Z tick can help educators (and parents) understand how to maximize their learning, thereby maximizing their potential in the world. I found Seemiller’s talk and the book especially engaging and enlightening.”
Senior Editor and Literary Reflections Editor, Libby Maxey, tells us about an unusual book she recommends. “I recently read Claire-Louise Bennett’s debut, Pond. Debut what, you may ask. I read it as a strange, stream-of-consciousness novel with only the barest suggestion of a plot; though the internet tells me that it’s a collection of short stories. But I think Philip Maughan of the Paris Review gets it right when he says, ‘These are not stories in the traditional sense—neither are they essays, monologues, prose poems, letters or diary entries—but a series of improvisations on each.’ The pieces of the book are scattered yet intensely focused meditations on a variety of aspects of a woman’s life alone in a funky cottage on the Irish coast, particularly her relationship to the space, the objects within it, and the landscape outside of it. Bennett’s speaker talks about her fruit bowl (a luxurious habit), her oven (in need of a new knob), and her Christmas decorations (which she quickly begins to hate). Although her mind goes to truly sinister places now and then, there is an intimacy—in both setting and tone—that made my overall experience of the book one of abiding coziness. Spending time in Bennett’s world is like sitting around the cottage with a clever, unguarded friend who’s swearing up a storm one minute, and using the words ‘muricated’ and ‘shambolic’ the next. If you want to simply be in a book, without the bother of keeping track of characters or clues or facts or really anything, this might be the book for you.”
Abigail Lalonde, Social Media Editor, begs you to rethink poetry in our final recommendation. “Whenever someone tells me they don’t like to read poetry, I try to offer up a more recent collection that surprises with its modern content, titles, and wordplay. Nicole Steinberg’s Glass Actress is just that type of book—published this year, full of millennial colloquialisms, and even a reference to a Drake-themed tweet, this book is fresh. Steinberg tackles themes of body image, the death of her mother, dating, aging, and food, with stanzas that offer as much snark as they do sadness. There is something about this collection that makes me want to confess my secrets, as though Steinberg and I are at a slumber party, and we are the weird girls. Reading her poetry makes me want to scream, ‘yes, this!’ over and over again, and in fact I wrote those words in the margins more than once. If you’re one to shy away from reading poetry, you might want to give this one a go. This book with a poem titled, ‘If You Can’t Handle Me at My Mercury Retrograde, You Don’t Deserve Me at My Jupiter Ascending’ is sure to change your mind.”