This week, get some inspiration from the wise, learn about a cool Google feature, think about what constitutes feeling “at home,” and read an original version of a much adapted, classic holiday story.
On Your Kindle:
Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill
This magical novel is about a little bit of everything. Written by an Irishman, Netherland is the story of a Dutchman living in post-9/11 New York, struggling to cope with his recent divorce from his English wife, who has taken his young son with her back to London.
The book is haunting in its effortless blending of humor and tragedy, monumental events with quotidian ones. The narrator experiences—along with the rest of New York—the jarring unmooring of public and then personal tragedy, and the subsequent events that transpire in his life force him to reexamine the very definition of “home.”
On Your Smartphone
The Life Reports II, by David Brooks
As the year comes to a close and New Year’s resolutions start looming, read this article for some long-term life inspiration. This is the second of David Brooks’ two-part series, in which he asked people in their 70s to send him “life reports” analyzing their successes and failures and their joys and sadnesses throughout life.
In this piece, Brooks makes general observations based on the reports he read. The best part? His article links to the full reports, and you can spend several commutes reading these fascinating accounts.
On a Podcast
What We Learned From 5 Million Books, by Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel
This inspiring TED Talk, with its charmingly dorky wisecrack speakers, takes a look at Google’s new “Ngram Viewer,” a blending of bookish old with the technological new. The Viewer allows users to search through five million books for specific words and phrases and, with charts and trendlines, shows how much we can learn about history (and about the future) from the frequency of words.
The Nutcracker, by Alexandre Dumas
The December chill in the air inspires visions of dancing sugarplums and the need for festive music playing on repeat. The strains of Trepak and Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet make me think of the story of Marie, her Godfather Drosselmeyer, and the magical Nutrcacker Prince. If you love the time-old tale as much as I do, read the original inspiration for the much-loved ballet.
Alexandre Dumas here departs from his more adventurous tales (e.g., The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers), re-adapting a German story by E.T.A. Hoffman. Read this as you listen to the ballet’s score, and depart the subway full of the holiday spirit.