books

Susan Sontag on Transcending the Bounds and Biases of History – Brain Pickings

“Time and reason are functions of each other,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her philosophical novel exploring why honoring the continuity of past and future is the wellspring of moral action. The human animal is indeed a temporal creature, our experience of time at the center of our psychology. Locating ourselves is therefore largely a matter of locating ourselves in the stream of time — diurnal, civilizational, and cosmic. It is hard enough to grapple with the micro end…

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Mary Oliver’s Advice on Writing – Brain Pickings

“Look for verbs of muscle, adjectives of exactitude.” By Maria Popova “I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too,” the poet Mary Oliver reflected in her lovely autobiographical essay on how literature saved her life. But what does it take to write such buoyant literature — be it poetry or prose — that lends itself as a lifeboat to those far from the shore of being? A decade after…

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Hermann Hesse on Solitude, the Value of Hardship, the Courage to Be Yourself, and How to Find Your Destiny – Brain Pickings

“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,” the young Nietzsche wrote as he contemplated what it takes to find oneself. Somehow, this man of stark contradiction, cycling between nihilistic despondency and electric buoyancy along the rim of madness, has managed to inspire some of humanity’s most surefooted spirits — among them, the great German poet, novelist, painter, and Nobel laureate Hermann Hesse (July 2, 1877–August 9, 1962), who…

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“A Life of Contentment and Joy Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Experiences with Loss and Pain.”

Interview: Sarah McColl Sarah McColl is a writer who has been published by a wide range of publications, and she also was founding editor-in-chief of Yahoo Foods. Her first book just hit the shelves, a memoir called Joy Enough. In it, she tackles her experience of simultaneously going through a divorce and losing her mother to cancer—a double blow. I couldn’t wait to talk to Sarah about happiness, habits, and self-knowledge. Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently…

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Linguistics – how we relate to language

How we relate to language – we paint our faces with it yet we need a tool, a mirror, to see the end result of our efforts. It has always fascinated me how we relate to language. We use it every day, constantly and quite skillfully. Yet we know little about how it works. Think of it. We yell at the dog to get him off the sofa. We pause a moment to make sure we have actually scared the…

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What I Read This Month: December 2018

For more than two years now, every Monday morning, I’ve posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads.  I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read. As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that…

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Healthy minds: how writers can stay healthy and keep writing

Writing can be a deeply rewarding activity. It can also be terribly stressful. Just have a look at these quotes: We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect–Anaïs Nin One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple–Jack Kerouac I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within–Gustave Flaubert A blank piece of…

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Neil Gaiman Reads Ursula K. Le Guin’s Ode to Timelessness to His 100-Year-Old Cousin – Brain Pickings

“Consciousness is tied to corporeality and temporality: I experience myself as existing with a body over time,” the German psychologist Marc Wittman wrote in his insightful investigation of the psychology of time. “Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity we once were?” poet Marie Howe asked in the opening lines of her stunning tribute to Stephen Hawking — a question that cuts to the heart of our uneasy embodied temporality. How do creatures with lifespans that rarely…

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“I Realized I Was Expecting More from Myself Than the People I Treat and Counsel.”

Interview: Samantha Brody Samantha Brody has spent more than twenty years in her practice addressing the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of her patients’ health, to help them effectively address and achieve their health goals. Her new book Overcoming Overwhelm: Dismantle Your Stress from the Inside Out just hit the shelves. I couldn’t wait to talk to her about happiness, habits, and productivity. For many people, stress is a big happiness stumbling block as they try to make their lives…

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“Dracula” Author Bram Stoker’s Extraordinary Love Letter to Walt Whitman – Brain Pickings

A quarter century before his now-classic epistolary novel Dracula catapulted Abraham “Bram” Stoker (November 8, 1847–April 20, 1912) into literary celebrity, the twenty-four-year-old aspiring author used the epistolary form for a masterpiece of a different order. Still months away from his first published short story, he composed a stunning letter of admiration and adoration to his great literary idol: Walt Whitman (May 31, 1819–March 26, 1892). Long before William James coined the notion of stream of consciousness, Stoker poured forth…

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