Books That Change Lives

Several submissions from readers of the New York Times.

Two standout write-ups.

1. Go, Dog. Go! 

“Go, Dog. Go!” — that epic by P.D. Eastman — has it all: Drama — where are those dogs going? Humor — dogs on scooters, flying helicopters and driving cars! Existential angst — why doesn’t he like her hat? It’s multicultural — blue dogs and red dogs and green dogs! It’s a love story — why yes, he does end up liking her hat!

From “Go, Dog. Go!” — my first book way back in prekindergarten — it was only a short skip to the poems of William Butler Yeats; “The Myth of Sisyphus,” by Albert Camus; the guerrilla ontology of Robert Anton Wilson; and the 10,000 mostly nonfiction books in my home library on Irish history, African-American history, my Pagan spiritual path, world religions and metaphysical matters, the Middle East, quantum physics, the Beatles and rock music. . . .

O.K., maybe that wasn’t a short hop. But my love of reading — as a way to have adventures, explore life, lives and ideas, and satiate my curiosity about the world — began with dogs driving fast cars. I still reread “Go, Dog. Go!” to this day.

Rick de Yampert
Palm Coast, Fla.

2. Atlas Shrugged

When I first read “Atlas Shrugged” for a high school assignment, I was so impressed with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of strength, independence and forging through life on one’s own that I reread the book a few more times in the next few years. The final time I was a young mother and as I read, I realized that there were no children in Rand’s cast of characters, no old people; no one was sick or disabled. Where were they? How were they supposed to manage on their own?

That’s when I became a Democrat, even a socialist. It finally dawned on me that total self-reliance is fine, as long as you’re young, healthy and strong. But no one gets through this life on her own. It takes a village to support a community, to raise and educate children, to care for the sick and elderly. Who wants to live in a world where the weak are thrust aside and forgotten? Rand’s philosophy could never be mine. Her words allowed me to crystallize my own thinking. I grew up.

Barbara Lipkin
Naperville, Ill.

My pick? Maybe John Bogle’s Common Sense on Mutual Funds which has helped me invest more wisely than I otherwise would’ve. Or Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart for similar reasons as to Rick. It was the first of many Achebe, and other, African novels. They have been incredible windows into places and people the West pays little attention to and does not understand or appreciate. My life is richer because of their artistry.

And you?

Monday Assorted Links

1. Will the President be recommending this book? Guess not.

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Shockingly, he’s provided no evidence of any inaccuracies. And by “third rate” he means Pulitzer Prize winners.

2. A Museum is a Terrible Place for a Date. Not sure I agree. Easier to abort mid-course than at a restaurant, right?

3. How 17 Outsize Portraits Rattled a Small Southern Town. Required reading—and viewing—for anyone trying to understand the (dis)United States today. Why are some people unable or unwilling to accept neighbors with different shades of skin and different faith traditions? Last night’s successful, hot date was at The Curry Corner. I don’t know what I would do if the east-Indian-American owners weren’t a part of our community.

4A. Australia’s Ecosystems May Never Be The Same. 4B. Effortless Environmentalism.

5. William Barr, Trump’s Sword and Shield. Superb illustration by Zohar Lazar.

6. Satire. Poll: Americans Say They Will Vote For Bloomberg If That Makes Him Stop Airing Ads.

PhD Postscript

Before you get too far into your review of the electronic social networking literature, keep these questions in mind:

  • Is pervasive interpersonal conflict and invective on the rise or has it long been true that people do not get along with one another? If interpersonal conflict is on the rise, why? [This may prove a very helpful resource.]
  • Is protracted interpersonal conflict endemic to vast swaths of the United States or is it more pronounced in certain regions? If more pronounced in certain regions, why?

Again, happy to help.

So You Wanna PhD

You don’t care that higher education is hemorrhaging jobs. You don’t care that you may end up living in a van down by the river. You’re determined to get a Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology or Sociology. But you’re in need of a dissertation topic.

I’m here to help.

Wikipedia describes Nextdoor this way:

“Nextdoor is a social networking service for neighborhoods. Based in San Francisco, California, the company was founded in 2008 and launched in the United States in October 2011, and is currently available in 11 countries. Users of Nextdoor submit their real names and addresses to the website. Posts made to the website are available only to other Nextdoor members living in the same neighborhood.”

I’ve been a member for a few years and have concluded it’s a solid source for analyzing human nature and theorizing about it. For example, a recent post in my Nextdoor feed began thusly:

“To the fool driving the grey Lexus mini SUV today, tailgating me down Boston Harbor Rd. Can’t you see clearly that the roads are TREACHEROUS and icy today!?? Melting snow, causing severe ice, on roads that clearly have not been treated. You may have all wheel drive and feel safe. . . ”

The author, whose intro reads “I’ve been working in the Creative arts, music, video and ministry related field the past 18 years”, and lists “Westwood Baptist Director” as one of his titles, goes on to say he hopes the tailgater totals his car.

Leading to quite the kerfuffle. Keyboard warriors rushing into battle, angrily slinging words like arrows in The Game of Thrones.

A doctoral candidate in the social sciences could use textual analysis on Nextdoor messages to theorize about our modern state of affairs.

One would most likely draw an overarching conclusion from such an analysis. People do not know how to get along with one another. Interpersonal conflict is the new normal. People who enjoy harmonious relationships with others are outliers.

Invective, defined as “insulting, abusive, or highly critical language,” is the defining feature of Nextdoor communications. So much so, the only reason I’m still a member is I have a fear of missing out on the next “your horse is loose in our yard” or “your pig just ran into our barn” message that my urban self finds endlessly entertaining.

I’m not going to write the title for you, but here’s some words and phrases to help you get started.

  • An Examination of A Social Networking Site For Neighborhoods
  • Discord
  • Interpersonal Conflict As The New Normal
  • Dissonance

You’re welcome.

 

 

Expect More Of Students

Normally, I teach graduate secondary education teacher candidates; this month however, I’m teaching undergraduate elementary education candidates.

On the first day I canceled class in favor of a chill book club, now I’m the most popular prof of all time. We drink tea and eat donuts while reading half of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed and all of Tracy Kidder’s Among Schoolchildren. Kidder is a non-fiction writing marvel. Like me, Among Schoolchildren is old; unlike me, it’s still really excellent.

Schools change so slowly, over three decades later, Among Schoolchildren still rings 90% true. The core of the book is one Holyoke, Massachusetts fifth grade teacher’s struggle with a particularly challenging student. Can she get him to cooperate and do some work without the herculean effort derailing the entire class?

This article, “New Peer Mentor Program at Centennial Elementary” just caught my eye because it was my daughters’ school and some friends work there. And because I was thinking about Chris Zajac, the teacher, and Clarence, her challenging student.

What if Clarence needs responsibility more than rules and restrictions. What would happen if Clarence, and Chris’s other challenging students she regularly struggles with, were asked to help some younger students with their school work? And to be role models of sort.

Would they rise to the occasion? Would they feel better about themselves? Could that create positive momentum; improve their school experience; and make Chris’s classroom a more peaceful and productive place?

Being A Billionaire Is Hard

No, I don’t have first hand experience, I’m basing that conclusion on this headline.

Jeff Bezos is getting slammed for his donation of $690,000 to the Australian wildfire recovery, which is less than he made every 5 minutes in 2018.

The critics are forgetting that Bezos went through a divorce last year, so in 2019, it probably took a lot more time, maybe 7-8 minutes of work.

I wonder how many of the critics have given to the recovery.

One woman said she raised nearly twice what Amazon pledged by selling nude photos online.

To which I have no comment.