I just came across that Marilynne Robinson book of essays this past weekend and added it to my must-read list (I loved Gilead!). It might have to go up to the top of my list now!
This week, celebrate women’s participation in the oldest marathon in the country, read a collection of deep-thinking essays, re-evaluate the relationship between biology and technology, and revisit a familiar fairy tale.
On Your Kindle
When I Was a Child I Read Books, by Marilynne Robinson
My love affair with the writing and thinking of Marilynne Robinson is no secret—I’ve recommended her small but powerful canon of fiction in my past columns. The stories she tells about regular people in regular American towns are graceful in their words and their ideas, centered always on a tacit belief in the goodness of people, even amid evidence of their crimes.
As an essayist, Robinson is equally graceful: In this collection of essays, she thoughtfully examines “big” questions about the subjects of her study: Americans in this modern, stressful age. With dry humor and an incredible precision of language, Robinson gently focuses on questions of a failing government, threats to democracy, and the proper place for religion—in both a person and a community. I like her calm passion for books, which she seems to view as both friends and teachers. The essays are not very long, but they are rich without being dense—read one on your way to work and mull it over throughout the day.
On Your Smartphone
How Two Women Changed Boston Marathon History, by CBS Boston
Today marks the 116th anniversary of the Boston Marathon, the country’s oldest annual marathon. In Boston, Patriot’s Day is a veritable holiday—students have the day off from school and their parents play hooky from work to line the marathon route and encourage runners who tread the twisted, hilly course. This year’s marathon is a particularly special one: It marks the 40th anniversary of women’s official involvement in the race.
This article takes a look at women who ran the marathon unofficially, before they were “allowed” to do so, when distance running was still considered unseemly and even unhealthy for women. Celebrate women who pursue their passions with this piece from CBS—complete with video interview.
On a Podcast
How Can Technology Transform the Human Body? by Lucy McRae on TED
For this fascinating TED talk by “body architect” Lucy McRae, make sure you have a good screen and can watch her presentation as she speaks. In just four minutes, McRae expands perceptions of both technology and of the human body as she explains the projects on which she works. She blurs the line between body and environment in her work, with, for example, the ingestible perfume she created that releases scent when its eater perspires. This a fun, quirky podcast for a short commute.
Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
With fairy tales very in vogue right now, I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite twists and iterations of the familiar classics. One of the best reincarnations of the timeless Cinderella story is Ella Enchanted, a Newbery Honor book published in 1997. While many modern tellings of fairy stories seek to empower their heroines and feel a bit clunky in what seems like compulsory feminism, this tale does so seamlessly: Ella is a flawed, likeable, quintessentially human heroine. She gains the reader’s respect for her wit, intelligence, and unfailing resolve to achieve her own goals. She gets help along the way, but she is never dependent: She is a solid character that little girls (and, indeed, big ones) can look at with admiration.