Categories
Writing

Top 5 Essay Collections

Why read the translated thoughts of others? Where is the appeal to stream of consciousness? Why read something real? Fiction is all well and good (understatement), but there is nothing like a real person to make you feel like the missing piece in the puzzle of the world.

  1. Upstream by Mary Oliver
    • For the readers, aspiring writers, and simply those who pay attention–whether they can help it or not. Also, for the nature lovers, those who find peace in the trees, the sun, the gurgling brook.
  2. The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson
    • For those who enjoy fellow transcendentalists like Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau. For those who champion individuality and independent thought. For those who may not know what they think, but want to learn how to discover it.
  3. Where the Stress Falls by Susan Sontag
    • For the appreciators of beauty and those who crave the cultured exposure of art–in every sense of the word. Divided into three sections (‘Reading’, ‘Seeing’, and ‘There and Here’), Sontag explores different art forms and explores her own identity as a writer.
  4. There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important Than Kindness by Carlo Rovelli
    • For the boldly curious and those who want to save the world. For the aspiring polymaths and those who want to revisit the time when philosophers and scientists were one and the same. Rovelli explores themes ranging from Nabokov’s Lolita to Aristotle’s postulations to the nature of black holes.
  5. The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
    • For those who enjoy a good laugh and the randomness of humanity. For those who require a new perspective on the contemporary world and what it has reaped.
Categories
Writing

On How I Write.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Ernest Hemingway

I cannot write as I should. I can’t write fiercely, passionately, drunkenly. I cannot write in certainties and proclamations. Rather, I write in suggestions—softly and gently. I write in whispers and considerate tiptoes in the dead of night. I write in echoes and thoughts not brave enough to be said aloud. My intention is not for my writing to come alive. In fact, it has no intention; it simply is because it can’t not be.

I riddle my writing with question marks where there should be periods. I write in fragments and sentences, not in complete paragraphs. I cannot write to tell or to advise, just to share and for the sake of the words themselves. I write to reflect and not with the temerity of second person. There is no you here, only I. But it’s not the way you would think. I am not trying to be selfish. I just do not want to tell you what you may already know. I have no place in telling you things. But there I go, breaking my integrity. You are here now.

I should learn to write with certainty. To give unsolicited advice in the hope that it helps someone. Well, there’s still time. Maybe in my 30s.

Categories
Writing

On The Present.

In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I cannot seem to toe the line of the present. As I attempt to balance along it, to stand proudly in the place I should belong, I seem like an elephant on a gymnast’s balance beam. I get stuck in the overwhelmingness of constant composure and balance necessary to stay atop the beam of the present, at times I just wish to fall and disregard the consequences. When I do fall, because I want to or just out of simple carelessness, I go tipping into the past one moment and reeling into the future the next. The former makes me sad, the latter hopeful.

Sometimes it feels as if time is hurling by, the future arriving every second, and at other moments it feels as if it could not come sooner. I crave the life I see in pictures and disillusion myself that that is exactly what is awaiting me. I feel as if I am suspended in the future and gripping onto the present. I feel in-between and afraid to commit to either. I know how to achieve–nearly–everything I wish for independently, but I am struggling to discover how I can make them exist side-by-side; how I can have everything all at once. That is the question.

How can I enjoy something without thinking about it? That’s another question. I have many. Maybe that’s the point. To have questions and not demand answers. To have the answers “alight upon you” in all the present moments to come.

Categories
Writing

On Attention.

Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.

Susan Sontag

At what point does attention become distraction? I think they are more synonyms than opposites. Distraction is just a shift in attention. Everyone is paying attention to something, whether or not they are supposed to be. It both holds and prevents focus because it is a descriptor for both.

Once something captures my attention, it holds it hostage. Sometimes it works in my favor, often it doesn’t. I want to be thought of a certain way, I want to pay attention to important things, but it is easier to be absorbed by stupidity and nothingness. I focus on all the wrong things for too much of my time.

Even writing this is hard. Back and forth for weeks. I can never write what I want, only what emerges. I should not make promises. My attention has flitted and this is the best I can muster.

Categories
Writing

Comfort Books

These are easy reads. Books that are a warm hug, a relaxing cup of tea. These books are for reading and nothing else, you can relax—there is nothing to learn if you don’t want to learn and nothing to think about if you don’t feel like thinking. These books let your imagination do all the work, the words translate directly to thoughts and images, playing movies in your mind.

Rom-Coms

  • Book Lovers by Emily Henry
  • The Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey
  • The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

A Different World

  • The Harry Potter Series
  • The Ranger’s Apprentice Series
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare
Categories
Writing

Newsletters Worth Reading

The Marginalian by Maria Popova

This newsletter is for all of the curious people. Popova spotlights numerous different books, people, and subjects and relates them all with her beautiful writing. She curates opinions and thoughts to the world’s simplest and most existential questions and concerns.

3-2-1 Thursdays by James Clear

Clear is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Atomic Habits, a guide to help build good habits and break bad ones, describing the compounding effects of habits. His newsletter is clear and organized. Each Thursday he offers 3 different ideas from himself, 2 quotes from others, and 1 question. He provokes thought and each newsletter only takes a few minutes each week to read.

This is for the writers (who can be anyone and everyone) and helps those who do not know where to start with their writing (which is me all the time). Selecky shares her own experience writing and offers courses throughout the year for different kinds of english composition (some free, some paid for). If a course is too much to commit to, she has numerous resources on her site that are well-organized and easy to navigate and she also compiles different writing prompts to help get the words flowing.

Categories
Writing

Poet Spotlight: Robert Frost

Recommended Poetry Book: Frost: Poems by Robert Frost, edited by John Hollander

Lived: 1874-1963

Favourite Quote:

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

Selected Poem: Into My Own

Closing Stanzas:

I do not see why I should e’er turn back, / Or those should not set forth upon my track / To overtake me, who should miss me here / And long to know if I still held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him they knew— / Only more sure of all I thought was true.

Reflection

Robert Frost gives life to the cold. He reminds me of winter and autumn; of hope as the light fades. He highlights simplicity with complexity and is attentive to the actions of humans and what may lie behind them. He understands the importance of solitude and what it means to find oneself. Frost’s encouragement of solitude is an encouragement for self-discovery and evolution.

Other Poems:

  • Brown’s Descent (Or “The Willy-Nilly Slide”)
  • The Sound of Trees
  • The Road Not Taken
  • The Oven Bird
  • A Star in a Stoneboat
  • Fire and Ice
  • A Boundless Moment
  • An Old Man’s Winter Night
  • Mending Wall
Categories
Writing

Poet Spotlight: Walt Whitman

Recommended Poetry Book: Leaves of Grass

Lived: 1819-1892

Favourite Quote:

And I say to any man or woman, Let your soul stand cool and composed before a million universes.

48, Song of Myself

Selected Poem: Continuities

Opening Lines:

(From a talk I had lately with a German spiritualist.)

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost, / No birth, identity, form–no object of the world. / Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing; / Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.

Reflection:

Walt Whitman wove words the way a river flows: naturally, not meant to be hindered, not meant to stop. His poetry was fluid and filled with contradictions, but each line seemed destined to follow or be preceded by the one before it. His stories seemed to be written in bold. He appreciated all natures of the world (including his fellow humans) and he strove to characterize beauty through ideals.

Other Poems

  • Song of Myself
  • O Captain! My Captain!
  • Thoughts
  • Song of the Open Road
  • Miracles
  • The Calming Thought of All
  • As I Ponder’d in Silence
  • Life
  • “Going Somewhere”
Categories
Writing

Ancient Legends Appreciation: Myths Reimagined for Different Ages

Ages 8-13

  • The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan (Greek Mythology)
  • The Heroes of Olympus Series by Rick Riordan (Greek and Roman Mythology)
  • The Trials of Apollo Series by Rick Riordan (Roman Mythology)
  • The Pegasus Series by Kate O’Hearn (Roman Mythology)
  • The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan (Egyptian Mythology)
  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Series by Rick Riordan (Norse Mythology)
  • The Blackwell Pages Series by K.L. Armstrong and Melissa Marr (Norse Mythology)
  • The Pandava Series by Roshani Chokshi (Hindu Mythology)

Check out https://www.readriordan.com for more suggestions and different mythologies

Young Adult and Adult

  • The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller (Greek Mythology)
  • Circe by Madeleine Miller (Greek Mythology)
  • Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (Greek Mythology)
  • Elektra by Jennifer Saint (Greek Mythology)
  • Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes (Greek Mythology)
  • A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes (Greek Mythology)
  • Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes (Greek Mythology)
  • The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (Greek Mythology)
  • Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin (Greek and Roman Mythology)
  • Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel (Hindu Mythology)

Ancient Novels You Must Understand to Understand

  • The Illiad by Homer
  • The Odyssey by Homer
  • The Aenead by Virgil 
  • The Ramayana
Categories
Writing

Shakespeare: Where to Start

The Bard can be overwhelming. Many don’t know where to start and, if forced, starting can leave one as confused as before. Shakespeare is an entirely different language. Not only is the vocabulary quite different from what we use now, but the ways in which he weaves the words and the images he creates with them do not always reflect the scene at hand. Nearly every sentence possesses a meaning beyond the words stated. However, this is no reason to become discouraged. There are numerous strategies to read Shakespeare as well as the gratification of its completion. Shakespeare opens new doors of comprehension, especially of the world and human behaviour.

Inspiring Interest

  • She’s The Man (2006) (Movie based on Twelfth Night)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) (Movie based on The Taming of the Shrew)
  • West Side Story (1961 & 2021) (Movie based on Romeo and Juliet)

Top 5 to Read First

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (comedy)
  2. Twelfth Night (comedy)
  3. Hamlet (tragedy)
  4. Romeo and Juliet (tragedy)
  5. Macbeth (tragedy)

For an Easier Time, Read…

  • SparkNotes‘ No Fear Shakespeare editions of each play (the original text side-by-side with modern English)
  • CliffsNotes study guide in-depth summary for each play.