Category Archives: Recommended Reads

the gentle stretch: a review of year-end reviews

As a jumpstart in my writerly life, I am participating in a 30-day challenge to reflectively write at least 150 words and then post online. We’ve since expanded on the idea with international colleagues into #modigiwri. Join us and here goes!


It’s New Year’s Eve and the year-end reviews are streaming on every channel. Top tens, new goals, all the works. I was reminded by a colleague that these reviews, doing them yourself and seeing others post them can be discouraging, and if you are extra tough on yourself, counterproductive.

Then I saw this tweet from Sofia Quintero which she ends by saying, “Stretch yourself but be gentle.” This got me thinking about physical stretching. You can hurt yourself if you go too fast and too hard. But if we ease into a stretch and go gently, our reach extends and the deep warmth of the stretch is actually soothing.

So, how do we bring this idea of the gentle s t r e t c h to reviewing our work and world? Well, I’ve been curating a set of year-end reviews since I’ve been wanting to do one. Here are a few that I think would lead to something productive:

  • I love Michelle Boyd’s Year in Review questions (linked in her tweet below). They sound like the perfect gentle stretch: productive, insightful, and kind to yourself. They aren’t super judge-y, and I think they are also open enough that you can drift in your reflections. I think drifting is important to helping us see what we are associating with other things and helping us get to the core of our hopes.
  • Annual Planning That Works: This is the most thorough and time consuming, I would imagine. This is Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s holistic life review that she does with her partner. Kerry Ann is the founder of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. All of her work with NCFDD includes reflective rounds of assessing and adjusting. So, I am sure this is a killer deep, long stretch. So do as she recommends and go somewhere relaxing and rejuvenating so that you are helped in being gentle with yourself.
  • Betina Hsieh’s reviewed her year by using a scripture, and I think that or a meaningful quote or word would be equally powerful in producing a review that is a stretch, since you’ve chosen something you aspire to in order to interpret your year, yet gentle in that you can interpret the quote as you wish and as it applies to different aspects of your life.
    Antero Garcia posted his review of the year focusing on What I Worked on This Year and Why. I love this approach as well because it surfaces the effort and production that is often unseen, which is part of being gentle with our judgements of our own productivity. It also focuses equally on articulating our deep whys, which not only is gentle as it reminds us of our purposes, but can also be a stretch as we can see how our alignment is (ooooh, that goes along well with the stretching metaphor) between our deep whys and our effort.

What reviews have you found insightful and productive? Please add them in the comments below and I may be back to add some more in to this list as well!


As always, I apologize that WordPress has begun to force ads on each post. Please ignore any ad that follows. I have not vetted and do not support whatever is advertised below.

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the meditative pace of reading

As a jumpstart in my writerly life, I am participating in a 30-day challenge to reflectively write at least 150 words and then post online. We’ve since expanded on the idea with international colleagues into #modigiwri. Join us and here goes!


Due to some recent life experiences, I imagined I might have the opportunity for some more time for reading. And by reading, I mean longform reading. That is something I had not indulged in in a long time—especially fiction.

In fact, I always feel guilty when I have my students review Pew Research Reports and inevitably several choose the libraries reports that show shockingly (every time) that not only is reading in America not in decline, but circulation at libraries is up (and used most by Millennials–take that generation snobs). More recently a study reported the following:

According to the research, Americans read a mean average of 12 books per year, and the typical (median) American has read four books in the past 12 months. And this has largely been the case since 2011, proving that Americans aren’t dropping their reading habits. And since 2012, a total of 74 percent of Americans have read at least one book in the past 12 months — not exactly book worm levels, but much less scary than most stats would have us believe.  —Kerri Jarema for Bustle

I thought those numbers were a misprint. 12?! I mean, even 4?! Then again, at this time of year folks are posting the lists of books they’ve read, and maybe those numbers are accurate. I mean, check out President Barak Obama’s list. If he can fit these all in…

So….who is not reading? Me (along with 22% of us).

Tonight I finally started one of the books: Open City by Teju Cole. It was recommended to me years ago and I purchased it promptly. Embarrassingly, and even though it doesn’t seem possible, the page edges have started to yellow.

The first time I sat to read I read one and a half pages. No joke. That’s it. That’s all I could get through. Not that I didn’t have time. I just didn’t have patience for the pace. I was loving the prose, but between each word I lifted off the page to read swirled a million other things. My mind flitted from mundane responsibility to tasks to projects to conversations.

I sat the book down deciding to just keep it there and to try next time.

Next time? Four pages.

This time though I realized as my mind flitted through what I had been able to get done that day (not a lot—not a good sleeping day for the little one), I remembered that I had read a post by Betina Hsieh on mindfulness (with technology) and she reminded me of several of the practices of mindfulness, like awareness as noticing without judgement. It got me thinking that reading a story or novel takes a different kind of mental pace and focus. I could think of reading as a form of meditation where the intense focus on the present (another practice) is on the present-elsewhere that the words take you. It has been so long since I’ve read in this way that I think this is a practice that I will have to get reacquainted with.

So here’s my plan. Open City is sitting by the rocking chair. Bad Feminist is sitting where I do feedings. Interpreters of Maladies is in the bathroom. Her is by the sofa chair in front of the fire. I will not whiz through any one of these books; rather, I will let myself linger a bit longer in each of these places, practicing the slow meditative pace of reading’s transportation.


Just FYI, when I was faced with the prospect of being bedridden for a while and then having to slow down and sit for long periods to feed a new child, I thought I should ask for book recommendations. Here are the ones friends and colleagues suggested when I asked:

  • Crossing to Safety
  • A Man called Ove
  • The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  • a. S. King
  • Neil Gaiman, American Gods
  • Brown Girl Dreaming
  • All the Light We Cannot See
  • Magesterium series
  • Lockwood and Company
  • Anything by Jonathan Stroud. Lockwood, Barthemeas, any…
  • The Color of Water: James McBride
  • The Invention of Wings:Sue Monk Kidd
  • Blackmore: Julianne Donaldson
  • The all girl filling station’s last reunion: Fannie Flag
  • Kate Morton
  • The Cross Gardener: Jason G Wright
  • Neil Gaiman, Ocean at the end of the lane
  • Exit West, a novel by Mohsin Hamid. (It’s short, but it took me awhile because the language is exquisite.)
  • Karl Ove K — My Struggle
  • Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Nobles

The top photo is from my visit with Queens Paideia School. You can read more about my visit here!


As always, I apologize that WordPress has begun to force ads on each post. Please ignore any ad that follows. I have not vetted and do not support whatever is advertised below.

Tweet-a-Read: Kirkland’s A Search Past Silence–The Literacy of Young Black Men

Sometimes while I am reading, I am so struck by the ideas and the prose that I sheepishly begin live-tweeting. On even rarer occasions, when the text is one I can’t get out of my mind, I collect the tweets and recommend the text to you. This time it was David Kirkland‘s A Search Past Silence: The Literacy of Young Black Men. Highly recommended.

Continue reading Tweet-a-Read: Kirkland’s A Search Past Silence–The Literacy of Young Black Men

Tweet-a-Read: Vasudevan’s “An Invitation to Unknowing”

Sometimes while I am reading, I am so struck by the ideas and the prose that I sheepishly begin live-tweeting. On even rarer occasions, when the text is one I can’t get out of my mind, I collect the tweets and recommend the text to you. This time it was Lalitha Vasudevan‘s “An Invitation to Unknowing.” Highly recommended.

Continue reading Tweet-a-Read: Vasudevan’s “An Invitation to Unknowing”