I’ve been reading J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series (written under the pen name Robert Galbraith), and it’s ignited some reflections on one of my long-standing obsessions: reading literature deemed harmful, problematic, or dangerous. In my circles, reading anything by J.K. Rowling is fraught. In the aftermath of her public stances on trans people, a generation of readers are now re-examining her books and legacy. Mentioning that I’m reading J.K. Rowling inevitably generates exasperated sighs, eye rolls, or outright hostility.Continue reading “J.K. Rowling and Resilient Reading”
Reading as a Technology of Compassion
In his book The Better Angels of our Nature, linguist and polymath Steven Pinker discusses the extraordinary power of book reading.Continue reading “Reading as a Technology of Compassion”
On Being Authentic Online
You might have noticed a subtle change in my work over the past few months. I’m covering more controversial topics and guests. This is less rooted in some over-arching ideal, and more so fatigue. After years of being an online content creator, I’m straining under the pressure of being one person online and another person in real life. The stress is subtle but persistent, and I’ve decided that, in order to be sustainable as a creator, I need more cohesion between my on and offline personas.Continue reading “On Being Authentic Online”
Everyone Needs a Safe Word
I’ve spent the past few months writing a series on reading challenging books, all of which you can find listed at the end of this post. In my fervor to make the point, I’ve come to realize that something essential was under-emphasized in my previous posts.Continue reading “Everyone Needs a Safe Word”
Books Aren’t Search Engines
I’ve gotten some interesting criticisms of my recent series of blog posts on the importance of reading challenging and problematic literature. The most common is along these lines: “you can get information that is just as good from non-problematic sources, so why not just do that?”Continue reading “Books Aren’t Search Engines”
In Defense of Reading Controversial Books
I’ve been making noise on social media lately about how I deliberately read problematic books. By problematic, I mean that they are deemed, justly or unjustly, toxic or bad by people I usually agree with. I’ve noticed some palpable discomfort when I bring up the topic, so I thought I would take some time to explore why I think reading problematic literature is helpful.Continue reading “In Defense of Reading Controversial Books”
How Reading Sci-fi and Fantasy Gives Me Hope
Like everyone else during this plague, I’ve been struggling to find ways to survive and stay sane. I’m an essential worker, and life has been somewhat fraught with existential dread. Some days, I feel good – balanced, mostly happy, and relatively centered. Other days, the existential despair crushes me. I don’t know how we will get out of this, how we will create a better world, how we will survive intact.
Many of the previous avenues of leisure are closed to me, now. Podcasts are often too stressful. Youtube is too stressful. Social media is too stressful. I’m already maxed out trying to stay safe and responsible at the front lines of the food industry. My brain just doesn’t have as much capacity as it used to.
The only place I can go, then, are books, primarily sci-fi and fantasy. I’ve devoured a huge number of books since the beginning of the pandemic, as books feel like the only safe place I have left.Continue reading “How Reading Sci-fi and Fantasy Gives Me Hope”
Self Care During COVID-19
I’ve been quiet on my blog and podcast for the past few weeks, and that’s because I’ve been coping with being an essential worker during the COVID-19 pandemic. I co-manage a small family-owned grocery store in Appalachia, and the past few weeks have simply been harrowing.
When the panic first hit, it felt like the worst hurricane in history was coming for North Carolina. Our sales more than doubled, and I felt destroyed just trying to keep up, while also keeping staff and customers safe from invisible death dots that could strike anyone without notice. Eventually, as the craziness at the store settled down into a manageable level, my fatigue turned to crippling anxiety. I was crying myself to sleep, and having horrible panic as I drove to work.
It felt like all my structures and support systems were just swept away by the flood. I’ve spent the past few weeks picking up the pieces, and now here I am, well enough to get back to creating.Continue reading “Self Care During COVID-19”
Exploring Information Vs. Understanding
I am a child of the internet, and as such, I’ve also learned to think on the internet. School aided me, but mostly I learned from youtube videos, forums, and blogs. There are great advantages to this, and I am grateful to the internet for all that I have learned and all that I have access to. However, as I have focused on continuing my education, I have stumbled across a huge chasm in my intellectual life: understanding the difference between information and understanding. This chasm is exacerbated by online life. Continue reading “Exploring Information Vs. Understanding”
On Living With a Black Dog: Surviving Depression
During my brutal battle with anxiety, depression, and being gay in the church, I struggled deeply with finding relatable, insightful words about how to survive depression. I found a lot of general, obvious advice: exercise more, find a good therapist, and get on meds being the top three. But when it came to real-life, personal advice from other strugglers, I found very little.
Continue reading “On Living With a Black Dog: Surviving Depression”