What We Are Reading Today: The Art of X-Ray Reading

What We Are Reading Today: The Art of X-Ray Reading
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Updated 15 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: The Art of X-Ray Reading

What We Are Reading Today: The Art of X-Ray Reading

Roy Peter Clark, the author of “The Art of X-Ray Reading,” never misses a chance to write about writing for readers who also love to write about writing.

Clark is often described by fellow writers as “a writer who teaches and a teacher who writes.”

He has authored numerous books and has helped generations of writers to hone their crafts for decades. This book is conversational but informative.

He has been a senior scholar at the prestigious Poynter Institute in the US for some time. In 2019, I had the pleasure of earning a spot in a Poynter fellowship and when I met Clark there, he was approachable and knowledgeable — exactly how he reads on the pages of this book.

In this book, you will examine 25 classic essential works of literature. He plucks out quotes from those well-known authors’ works and offers some context and background.

The reason he does so is to allow these parts to be examined more carefully. The book highlights select passages from classic masterpieces written by authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Joan Didion, James Joyce and Sylvia Plath, among others.

Instead of putting on rose-colored glasses while reading, Clark suggests we put on our X-ray glasses. This way, we can see beneath the surface.

In what perhaps was the most relatable part for me was when Clark expressed confusion over labeling “The Great Gatsby” as one of the great American novels after first reading it as a teenager in the 1960s.

He recalls replying to his high school teacher when he ranked it near the top of modern American novels by saying: “You mean that’s the best we can do?”

Similarly, much to the horror of those around me, I could not finish reading Gatsby. I did instantly recognize it was lyrical and poetically written but had no grasp of the depth or how intricate and melodic the language usage was. I abandoned my copy and vowed to never touch it again. 

This book by Clark made me consider re-reading Gatsby.

Overall, Clark urges us to think of the story architecture and how authors build worlds with words.

Always a  generous teacher, Clark offers plenty of writing lessons throughout. One such tip is reminding us that when we repeat the same word in different parts of the same paragraph — if we do it with thoughtfulness, it becomes powerful without being redundant.

My main takeaway from the book is how Clark is able to let me learn without lecturing.

All the lessons in this book are simple yet somehow seem profound.

In other words, we should read not as a reader but as a writer.


What We Are Reading Today: Frogs of the World: A Guide to Every Family

What We Are Reading Today: Frogs of the World: A Guide to Every Family
Updated 24 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Frogs of the World: A Guide to Every Family

What We Are Reading Today: Frogs of the World: A Guide to Every Family

Authors: Mark O’Shea & Simon Maddock

With more than 7,600 known species, frogs exhibit an extraordinary range of forms and behaviors, from those that produce toxins so deadly that they could kill a human many times over to those that can survive being frozen in ice.

“Frogs of the World” is an essential guide to this astonishingly diverse group of animals. An in-depth introduction covers everything from the origins and evolution of frogs to their life cycles and defense strategies.


What We Are Reading Today: Sixty Miles Upriver

What We Are Reading Today: Sixty Miles Upriver
Updated 23 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Sixty Miles Upriver

What We Are Reading Today: Sixty Miles Upriver

Author: Richard E. Ocejo

Newburgh is a small postindustrial city of some 28,000 people located 60 miles north of New York City in the Hudson River Valley.

Like many similarly sized cities across America, it has been beset with poverty and crime after decades of decline, with few opportunities for its predominantly minority residents.

“Sixty Miles Upriver” tells the story of how Newburgh started gentrifying, describing what happens when White creative professionals seek out racially diverse and working-class communities and revealing how gentrification is increasingly happening outside large city centers in places where it unfolds in new ways.


What We Are Reading Today: A Death in the Rainforest

What We Are Reading Today: A Death in the Rainforest
Updated 22 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: A Death in the Rainforest

What We Are Reading Today: A Death in the Rainforest

Author: Don Kulick

As a young anthropologist, Don Kulick went to the tiny village of Gapun in New Guinea to document the death of the native Tayap, an endangered Papuan language.

“A Death in the Rainforest” takes readers inside the village, revealing what it is like to live in a place carved out like a cleft in the middle of a tropical rainforest.

This book offers insight into the impact of white society on the farthest reaches of the globe — and the story of why this anthropologist realized finally that he had to give up his study of this language and this village.

An engaging, deeply perceptive, and brilliant interrogation of what it means to study a culture, the book takes readers into a world that endures in the face of massive changes, one that is on the verge of disappearing forever.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Moon That Turns You Back’

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Updated 22 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Moon That Turns You Back’

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  • The book contains various poems, some experimental, some soaked in grief, some documenting the mundane, but always with a purpose. She perhaps sums it best when she writes: “I remember so you can forget”

Author: Hala Alyan

The first time I heard Palestinian-American artist Hala Alyan speak was when she acted in the starring role in Lebanese-American filmmaker Darine Hotait’s 2015 short film, “I Say Dust.”

In those 15 minutes of beautifully shot frames, you visually travel through time, space and various emotional states as Alyan leads the way.

Both Hotait and Alyan were deliberate in showcasing their Arab-centric stories of belonging and identity. Alyan’s fierce eyes were kind but intense on the screen; her movement was soft but firm and when she spoke, she left you speechless — but in the best way.

In the film, she was the epitome of poetry, and now you can explore Alyan’s words further with her latest work, a book of poetry titled, “The Moon That Turns You Back,” which was published in March this year.

For the past decade or so, Alyan has explored stories of complexities of identity and the impact of displacement, especially in relation to the Palestinian diaspora. In this latest collection, her writing takes us through Brooklyn, Beirut, Palestine and places that exist in between or in fragmented memories.

Alyan said that she does not have just one middle name, she has six, and not a single one of those are her mother’s. She writes evocative and concize lines such as “A city full of men still has a mother,” and “every time I tell the story, I warp it,” and her poetry is vividly descriptive with lines such as “lipstick like a sliced finger.” She also writes relatable lines such as “I’m terrible at parties, secrets and money,” and “a body is a calendar of breaths.”

The book contains various poems, some experimental, some soaked in grief, some documenting the mundane, but always with a purpose. She perhaps sums it best when she writes: “I remember so you can forget.”

Alyan is an adjunct assistant professor of applied psychology at New York University after earning her doctorate in clinical psychology from Rutgers University. She has also published several novels and well-received essays. She won the Arab American Book Award in 2013 and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in 2018.

 

 


What We Are Reading Today: Plankton: A Worldwide Guide

What We Are Reading Today: Plankton: A Worldwide Guide
Updated 21 April 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Plankton: A Worldwide Guide

What We Are Reading Today: Plankton: A Worldwide Guide

Authors: Tom Jackson & Jennifer Parker

“Plankton” are the unsung heroes of planet Earth. Passive drifters through the world’s seas, oceans, and freshwater environments, most are invisible or very small, but some are longer than a whale. They are the global ocean’s foundation food, supporting almost all oceanic life, and they are also vitally important for land-based plants, animals, and other organisms. “Plankton” provides an incomparable look at these remarkable creatures, opening a window on the elegance and grace of microscopic marine life.