This week, read a modern piece that defies genre, celebrate the Olympic success of American woman, get poetic on a podcast, and pick up an old high school classic.
On your kindle
The Emigrants, by W. G. Sebald
This book—often hailed as a “masterpiece” and lauded as the 1996 International Book of the Year—blends fiction and nonfiction, memoir and vignette as it traces the lives of German emigrants in the haunted years following World War II.
The accounts of these various emigrants—Christians and Jews, all scarred by a sense of “otherness”—are peppered with unlabeled, black-and-white images, which are never fully explained. Indeed, Sebald is choosy with his revelations throughout the book: He provides small tidbits of information about his characters, leaving the reader hungering for more and often ultimately dissatisfied. The glumness that pervades the text alludes to the far-reaching pangs of the War and the Holocaust. If you pick this up for your weekly commute, don’t be fooled by the book’s slender spine—its size belies the weightiness of what lies inside.
On your smartphone
Investment in Gender Equity Pays off for U.S., by John Powers
A few weeks ago, I recommended an article about the legislative history of Title IX—the provision that allows every woman and girl to have an equal opportunity to play sports and join organizations as her male counterpart—in honor of the Olympics. As the Olympics conclude and the U.S. collects the most medals of any country in the world, this Boston Globe article hails the effects of Title IX and American women’s involvement in sports. The piece will have you beaming with girl-power pride, as it names athletes—Gabby Douglas, Kerri Walsh—who were champions in this year’s “Girl Games.”
On a podcast
Poetry off the Shelf, by the Poetry Foundation
Sometimes a literary podcast—inspiring and thought-provoking as it may be—is just too long. A forty-minute literature analysis or short story reading can pique your interest, but do it just as you’re disembarking from the train and walking into your office. So, if you’re looking for a shorter clip with a literary bent, tune into the weekly editions of the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry off the Shelf. These podcasts—all about 10 minutes long—interview writers and poetry enthusiasts about specific works. Perfect for a short commute!
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
As summer draws to a close, ponder the beginnings of school and pick up a gem that you mightn’t have visited since ninth grade English class. Hawthorne’s classic is the tale of Hester Prynne, an otherwise virtuous woman who is condemned by her puritan New England townsfolk for committing adultery. Prynne’s husband has been overseas for years, and yet she bears a daughter, Pearl. She won’t reveal the identity of the baby’s father to the town, and what ensues is a puritan-style mystery about virtue, responsibility, and punishment.