Some people just write well. I enjoy reading writing that speaks the truth or makes me laugh or teaches me something. Lately, I’ve been reading some amazing writing and I feel the need to share.
I’ve been making myself read a war novel since we are at war. It’s my way of connecting in a very small way with what’s going on over in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m almost done with Of Uncommon Birth: Dakota Sons in Vietnam by Mark St. Pierre. I’ve been reading it in such fits and starts since late summer, I think, because I can’t stand reading war novels. The characters become semi-real to me when I read a book. I hate knowing that they (like some completely-real people) chose to be in the war, put their lives on the line, and died. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a well-written, important novel — especially if you have a tie to South Dakota as I do — but the Armed Forces mentality, which St. Pierre captures well, varies between worrying me and infuriating me.
One of my best friends also happens to be an insightful, prolific writer. Troy Hicks is currently an English professor at Central Michigan University. His blog constantly amazes me. He thinks about things deeply. By that I mean that he takes a subject (integrating technology into the classroom in meaningful ways, for example) and explores it on many levels. He can switch back and forth between theoretical reasons and practical applications like flipping a switch. I especially appreciated his reflections on our recent trip to San Antonio for the NCTE/NWP Annual Conferences (see his November 26, 2008 entry); I had to share those thoughts with my colleagues in my building. He addresses the ins and outs of how teaching with technology affects the writing process (and doesn’t affect it), as well as the added responsibilities that come with the tech, both for teachers and student writers. I could go on and on. He inspires me and I’m pretty sure you’ll find something there that interests you, too.
This one is just a link I learned about at NCTE. It’s called Newseum and it’s the front page of hundreds of newspapers from around the world — 629 front pages from 59 countries to be exact. No guarantees, but every day your bound to find some well-written pieces if you frequent Newseum.
One certain good read is the New York Times. I get it delivered to my email daily with the afternoon update (a condensed version, but it’s free and it’s most always high quality stuff). Another way to get it is to subscribe to it on Google Reader. Recently I read/watched How to Increase Your IQ, a video story by Nicholas Kristoff. NYT consistently teaches me things that I just don’t learn anywhere else. And they do it with intelligence and even a bit of humor sometimes.
And now for something completely different — Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar. It’s the most enjoyable way I’ve ever seen to learn about philosophy. The theories are presented briefly and humorously. Then the fun really begins. They find jokes that illuminate the theories. Read the book for the jokes. Learning is optional.
Finally, I have to share the book I have just begun reading. It’s Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning. Waitzkin is best known as the subject of the movie, Searching for Bobby Fisher from 1993. So far, I’m finding Waitzkin’s ideas fresh and though provoking: recollections of his early days playing chess, his straightforward writing style, and his insights into teaching and learning. His foundation is also giving the book free to educators (though I paid $3 for shipping). Of course, like any reader, I have some text connections with this book: I love to play chess (and lead the Chess Club at our school), I enjoyed the movie (which we showed to our 7th graders last year), I sat in some of the same spots he played chess in at Washington Park in New York City, and, oh yeah, I’m a teacher.
It’s all about the connections. Thanks for taking time to read this…and I hope you follow through, check out some of these leads, and make some connections of your own.