Warm wisdom from the beloved author to console on one of life’s deepest sources of isolation. “Dear Judy, please send me the facts of life, in numbered order.” So requested 9-year-old Fern in one of the many gems collected in Letters to Judy (public library) — an infinitely endearing compendium of the missives beloved author Judy Blume received from children, whose classic capacity for asking questions at once simple and profound shines here with soul-expanding luminosity.
“Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible… We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power.” Richard Feynman memorably argued that the chief responsibility of a great scientist is to remain uncertain.
“My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.” “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time,” I paraphrased Debbie Millman in the last of my seven life-learnings from seven years of Brain Pickings.
Reflections on the cornerstone of our flourishing. “A principal fruit of friendship,” Francis Bacon observed, “is the ease and discharge of the fulness and swellings of the heart, which passions of all kinds do cause and induce.” Thoreau would “sometimes awake in the night and think of friendship and its possibilities.” St.
An ode to those times when everything seems backwards. In 1968, less than a year before the iconic NASA moon landing, a charming children’s book titled Upside Down Day (public library) made its debut.
Empirical evidence for the healthy push-and-pull of love. You may recall the Benjamin Franklin Effect — that odd phenomenon of reverse psychology wherein doing someone a favor makes us like the person more.
A charming celebration from literary history’s premiere champion of the canine. Perhaps due to the occupation’s necessary solitude and the dearth of distracting human company it inherently requires, writers and their pets have always had a special bond.
Defying consumerism and the banality of the beautiful, or why our capacity for astonishment endures. “Attitudes toward beauty are entwined with our deepest conflicts surrounding flesh and spirit,” Harvard’s Nancy Etcoff wrote in her fantastic meditation on the psychology of beauty.
“Though he never returned, Russia never really left him, either.” Vladimir Nabokov (April 22, 1899–July 2, 1977) is one of the most influential writers in modern history, no doubt in large part due to his strong opinions on literature and the creative process.
“Passion, like discriminating taste, grows on its use. You more likely act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action.” One of the greatest preoccupations not only of our culture but of our civilization is the question of what creativity is, dating back to the dawn of recorded thought.
“Our modern conception of human excellence is too often impoverished, cold, and bloodless. Success does not always come from thinking more rigorously or striving harder.” “The best way to get approval is not to need it,” Hugh MacLeod memorably counseled.
“Care granted to the sick, welcome offered to the banished, forgiveness itself are worth nothing without a smile enlightening the deed.” Though researchers since Darwin may have spent considerable effort on the science of smiles, at the heart of that simple human expression remains a metaphysical art — one captured nowhere more beautifully and grippingly than in a short account by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, found in Letter to a Hostage (public library) — the same exquisite short memoir he began writing in December of 1940, a little more than two years before he created The Little Prince on American soil, which also gave us his poignant reflection on what the Sahara desert teaches us about the meaning of life.
“‘What color?’ said Mr. Binks. ‘Bright yellow,’ said Mr. Bliss, ‘inside and out.’” J.R.R. Tolkien firmly believed that there is no such thing as writing “for children” and yet, unbeknownst to most, he joined the ranks of famous authors of literature for grown-ups who wrote little-known children’s books — including Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, James Joyce, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein — and actually penned a book specifically for kids.
A beautiful illustrated celebration of women’s journey toward creative freedom and mobility. Amid a children’s book ecosystem marked by a lamentable lack of ethnic diversity and gobsmacking presence of female protagonists in only 31% of books, here comes Hope Is a Girl Selling Fruit (public library) — a heartening antidote from the young artist-storyteller Amrita Das and Tara Books, the remarkable Indian independent publisher who for the past two decades has been giving voice to marginalized storytelling through a commune of artists, writers, and designers collaborating on beautiful books based on Indian folk traditions.
Simple verses with a thoughtful message. Ruth Krauss (July 25, 1901–July 10, 1993) is one of the most inspired and imaginative children’s storytellers of the twentieth century.
“Asserting oneself … doesn’t mean asserting a name and a person. It means asserting oneself with all that one has inside, and what he has inside, underneath that pigeon chest, is taking on more and more precise contours.” “A classic is a work which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off,” Italo Calvino observed in one of his 14 definitions of what makes a classic.
“Teaching, may I say, is the noblest profession of all in a democracy.” Kurt Vonnegut was a man of discipline, a champion of literary style, a kind of modern sage and poetic shaman of happiness, and one wise dad.
An enchanting and original vision for L. Frank Baum’s classic ode to wonderment and joy. As a lover of vintage children’s books, especially ones that have elicited exquisite illustrated reimaginings over the years, I was thrilled to come upon an extraordinary 1996 edition of The Wizard of Oz (public library), illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger — one of the most remarkable, original, and imaginative illustrators of our time, whose soft yet irreverent aesthetic calls to mind the sensitivity of Maurice Sendak, the visual poetics of Sophie Blackall, and the conceptual eeriness of Edward Gorey, and yet is gasp-gorgeous and decidedly distinctive in its own right.
“Our life has become so mechanized and electronified that one needs some kind of an elixir to make it bearable at all.
From James Joyce to Maurice Sendak, by way of weep-worthy jelly and gifted chickens. Food and literature have a long and arduous relationship, from the Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook to Jane Austen reimagined in recipes to Alice B.