Why should a college student major in English? It’s a question with hundreds of answers, but one of the most common is that reading, more so than other activities, makes you a better person. It sharpens your mind and hones your sense of morality. But what if this comforting idea — as close as you can get to a conviction held by all writers — has little to no basis in reality?
“I know the words for elk and water. There are other Shawnee nouns as dense as koans with metaphor and meaning, but they remain inscrutable to me.” Poet Laura Da’ authors the most recent Rumpus Saturday essay, a stunning meditation on concessions made to both the body and the body politic. A member of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Da’ is the author of Tributaries, a 2016 American Book Award winner. See also: our review of Philip Meyer’s latest novel, The Son.
Meet Shondaland, a new website created by Shonda Rhimes and dedicated to storytelling that launched this week. One of their most recent posts highlights 28 books to read this fall. We know there’s a lot of reading recommendation lists around this time of year (like our September preview) but we appreciate the diversity of this list in particular and its willingness to hold back judgment if we don’t finish all the suggestions. Pair with our interview with Jesmyn Ward (whose Sing, Unburied Sing made the list), along with Year in Reading alum Eleanor Henderson’s Twelve Mile Straight.
This week brought news that NOX, Antigonick, and Red Doc> author Anne Carson is headed to Annandale-on-Hudson to become Bard College’s “Visiting Distinguished Writer in Residence.” Carson’s praise has been sung far and wide on The Millions, and even earned admiration from a pair of Janes: both Alison and Hirshfield.
What are college freshman reading? NPR shares a few selections from around the country. A recent study found that “The list of readings continues to be dominated by recent, trendy, and intellectually unchallenging books.” Our own Nick Ripatrazone writes about the difference between teaching high school and college students.