MWD57 - On Thinking (and Reading) Out Loud

Or how sometimes all those open tabs are like the abundance of a late summer harvest

Welcome to Midweek DinnerThere’s a whole story behind that name, something about the way Wednesday creeps up on you, and you have to cobble together a meal out of whatever you can scrounge from the fridge. And yes, sometimes there is talk of food in this place. But mostly it’s about what I’ve been reading, in print and online; or what I’ve been thinking, in clarity and confusion; or what I am hoping, in fear and in joy. And you are always invited to join in.

—— The best conversations take place around the dinner table. — —

School starts this week for us (last week for my friends in public schools), and everything is scary and everything is different and everyone is angry that we are somehow back here again. But I’ve been reading and thinking more generatively than I have all summer, so how about just some links and small thoughts this week? Sounds good.

This article published in Commonweal just as the world fell apart in 2020, and I came to it recently via an excerpt on In it, David Bentley Hart makes an often funny and convincing argument for socialism, at least some version of it, and probably not whatever version you’re thinking of. As someone who continues to struggle with her place in the faith communities of her past, I particularly appreciated this moment:

But I honestly cannot imagine how anyone who takes the teachings of Christ seriously, and who is willing to listen to those teachings with a good will and an open mind, can fail to see that in the late modern world something like such socialism is the only possible way of embodying Christian love in concrete political practices.

How and why kids learn to read (and how or why they develop a love for it) are perennial favorites, and even when the data gathered is nothing new (aka this piece from Emily Oster), I really appreciate it when that data points to the importance of context and control and choice. Also this graph:

But just like that weird hide-vegetables-in-your-kids’-food bullshit from several years ago, there really is no short cut, and 95% of the time, your kids are going to like the same things you do, at least for awhile. And then they might not. And then at some point they probably will again.

If you like broccoli and serve it all the time and prepare it in fresh and delightful ways, your kid is likely to like it, too. Same with the things you don’t like. My kids are gonna have to wait until some friend of theirs teaches them to like beets because that ain’t happening at home. I don’t care how much sugar you put on those things, they still taste like dirt.

If you like to watch TV at night before bed but want to convince your kid that reading before bed is what’s up, good luck with that. But if you really like to read and do it a lot — with them, without them, around them, beside them — they are infinitely more likely to enjoy it, too. If you hate to read but feel like Family Reading Night should be a thing, well, it might work. You might all learn to like it together. Or it might be one of those things you try for awhile until life takes over again. No harm in that, I guess. Just maybe go in with some less-than-great expectations, ok?

Is this a bummer? Am I being too harsh? Probably. Sorry about that.

This is cool: Speculative Annotation with the Library of Congress!

I resubscribed to The Atlantic after being reminded that they are doing the important work, the stuff I always want to read even when it’s something I didn’t know much about previously. Of course, I knew what I knew about Emmett Till’s murder, but there’s plenty I did not know, and much of it is in this piece by Wright Thompson.

How many of Time’s 100 Best YA Books have you read? I’m at 46, I think? More than a few of these I would classify as MG, but overall it’s a pretty decent collection. I just read Neal Shusterman’s Scythe for the first time, and it was pretty good. I just reread Jason Reynolds’ Long Way Down, and I remain convinced the man is made of only good things.

In doing some research on the early Newbery Medal winners, I kept coming back to the fact that many of them didn’t really seem to be written for children, or would be extremely difficult for most young readers to tackle today. And then I was reminded that in that era, it would have been common — pun intended — that books would have been read aloud in the evenings, a shared experience lead by an adult. And then I was back on my reading aloud soapbox, wanting everyone to read aloud! If you are a teacher, even middle or high school, do you use readalouds? What about as a parent? My kids are teenagers, and though it isn’t every night like when they were little, we still read together. This summer, my eldest and I have been reading through the Moomin books (Moominland Midwinter is still our favorite so far), which I cannot recommend highly enough. Tove Jansson speaks our language, and this Brain Pickings piece made me love her (and Too-ticky!) even more!

Unexpected Joy Department

The news that my friend Garrett Bucks (author of The White Pages and founder of The Barnraisers Project) is bringing us a book has brought me so much joy this week. To know that his editor is the extraordinary Yahdon Israel just adds another layer of that joy.

Thanks as always for reading and thinking with me. If you have thoughts to share, just hit reply! I welcome your conversation and promise a response.