Required Reading (June 11, 2017)

My new weekly column, Required Reading, will uncover works – in both print and online – that I think should be required reading (or at least deserving of more attention). 

This week has been one of those weeks where I feel like my reading appetite cannot be satiated. I’ve been squirreling away whatever time I can get to read Pamela Paul’s My Life with Bob (which I loved! Review to come) and have been saving so many article links in my “To-Read Later” list. I also bought two more books (used!) from a little record/bookstore in my college town – Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall – but I had to talk myself down from buying the other four or five titles I was eyeing. I have bought a lot of books the past month or so.

So this week I have three essays that I think are worth reading. All three are wildly different in style, tone, and structure, but they all feature beautiful writing and observations. Without further ado, here’s this week’s “Required Reading.”

1. Learning The ABC’s of Grad School Jargon| By Deb Werrlein at Creative Nonfiction (Issue #63, Spring 2017) [Reprinted at LitHub]

Ameliorate. I relished showers. I stood under the hot water each morning for thirty shameful minutes of wordless bliss.

This essay originally appeared in Creative Nonfiction’s Spring 2017 Issue in the Exploring the Boundaries section under the title “Concatenate.” It’s a lovely piece about a writer’s experience in graduate school – including impostor syndrome – which could be a trite subject, but the structure of the piece makes it unique. Werrlein centers short anecdotes/vignettes around “words” she discovered and jotted down during her English studies. The piece has a nice arc but, like I said, the structure makes it feel fresh and new.

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Photo by Flickr User Rory licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

2.  “On Political Change, Climate Change, and the Choice to Not Have Children” | By Kate Schapira, Catapult (June 6, 2017)

Four months later, James and I went to my parents’ house for our family Seder. Everything was in bloom or leafing out as my mom and I walked around the yard together, and every moment was a moment I hadn’t told her yet.

Wow. That was my first thought when I read Kate Schaperia’s essay in Catapult last week. It is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and candid piece about the environment, politics, aging parents, and giving up on what we always thought (and perhaps still think) we want. The sense of loss Schaperia feels after choosing to not have children is palpable throughout and it is easy to empathize with her fear, anger, and sadness. It’s a stunning essay that I cannot recommend enough.

3. “Things Seen in the Dark: A Triptych” | By Mary Heather Noble, Hippocampus Magazine (June Issue)

Then, without explanation, the morning would bring calm; the offenses of the previous night seemingly forgotten. We would immerse ourselves in the routine of a Saturday morning as if nothing had happened at all. The smell of bacon, the waffle iron greased and heating on the stove, orange juice poured into plastic yellow cups, and me and my little brother circling the table, placing forks and spoons beside empty plates. Circling, circling. Like quail pecking at the sand.

This essay was posted this morning in a Facebook group I’m part of and I knew immediately I would be recommending this to all of you. First of all, I love Triptychs as a form. Second of all, this essay is gorgeously written – landing somewhere between poetry and prose. Third of all, I am clearly in the mood for personal essays this week. This piece is all about family: the love that suffocates and denies; the touch that goes unanswered; the doors that are slammed; the quiet that settles; the yells that reverberate. Please read this one.

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What is “Required Reading” for you? What should I absolutely read and why? Leave it in the comments and I’ll read it as soon as I can! 

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