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04.14.22 | Sage Advice

Literary Art: Our Favorite Picks This Spring

With a new season comes an endless list of exciting refreshing reads. As we continue to spotlight the importance of family connection, identity and storytelling through our Vibrant Living Program, we’re thrilled to spotlight some of the latest works of literacy art that celebrate each of those themes. Here are our picks: 

The Trayvon Generation, Elizabeth Alexander

Author Elizabeth Alexander reflects on the traumas of racism and racial violence in this passionate literature mix. Pulling soulful works from Lucille Clifton and Gwendolyn Brooks and a blend of expressive visual art, Alexander spotlights both the tragedies and hopes for what she refers to as the Trayvon Generation. Named one of New York Times’ and TIME Magazine’s most anticipated works of the year, The Trayvon Generation is an essential pick filled with eye-opening short stories and powerful lyricism. 

Because Our Fathers Lied, Craig McNamara

Families often consist of complicated relationships built from years of conflict and confusion. In his latest book, Craig McNamara shares the roots of his estranged relationship with his father, Robert S. McNamara, one of the architects of the Vietnam War. Through this courageous telling of love and neglect, McNamara captures a tale of multigenerational friction, sure to make any reader reflect on their own kindred connections.

12 Notes: On Life and Creativity, Quincy Jones

Known for his legendary music, Chicago native Quincy Jones explores literacy art with his latest project, 12 Notes: On Life and Creativity. The self-reflective novel features Jones sharing his wisdom on discovering a creative muse and using it to uplift yourself and those around you. Jones unveils his intimate creative process and shares a personal guide filled with lessons intended to embolden readers.

Finding Me: A Memoir, Viola Davis

Acclaimed actress Viola Davis finds a refreshing way to share her heartening life story in her first memoir, Finding Me. Davis, who believes that sharing stories “is the most powerful empathetic tool we have,” courageously documents her journey from living in poverty and turmoil to becoming one of the biggest stars in the world. Finding Me is more than just a deep reflection of life; it’s also an empowering story of expressing oneself and discovering identity.  

Whether you prefer reading alone, with a companion or in a book club, don’t hesitate to pick one or two of these books up for yourself this spring. And as with all good reads, spread the word to friends and family when you finish a book you really love!

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09.09.21 | Sage Advice

5 Books You Have to Pick Up This Fall

Autumn is a perfect time to revisit books you may have forgotten about while enjoying the warm summer months — or to pick up a few new books that may be on your radar. Reading is an excellent opportunity to escape the world around us, discover a new interest, de-stress and find enjoyment in others’ stories. Whether you’re a fan of poetry, memoirs, mysteries or romance, we have some picks that you might enjoy.

Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo

Poet Warrior, Joy Harjo 

As the first Native American to hold the U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo returns to her roots with Poet Warrior, sharing her relationship with poetry and music. Her new memoir is a mix between eloquently written poetry and intimately written prose. Harjo explores the music and stories that she grew up hearing and reflects on the connections poetry, her ancestry and her community share with each other. For lovers of poetry, introspection and culture, this book is a great read for you.

Unbound by Tarana Burke

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement, Tarana Burke

Burke dissects her childhood, from growing up as a Black girl in the Bronx to becoming one of the most influential people in America as the founder of the Me Too movement. The personal memoir exposes parts of the trauma Burke experienced after being sexually assaulted. However, her story is largely positive as she shares how she used this experience to create positive change. Anyone looking for motivation and inspiration will find it in this book.

Smile: The Story of A Face by Sarah Ruhl

Smile: The Story of a Face, Sarah Ruhl

After giving birth to her twins, author, and playwright Sarah Ruhl realized that she couldn’t move half of her face. Ruhl later discovered she had developed Bell’s palsy. Smile is Ruhl’s intimate story of learning to live with a disability later in life. Ruhl’s emotional essays offer insights into what it feels like to learn to maneuver through the difficulties of life. Smile is a fabulous read for anyone wanting to learn more about the deeply personal relationships humans have with their bodies.

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

The Sentence, Louise Erdrich

The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author’s new darkly humorous story takes place in Minneapolis in 2020. The Sentence follows a previously-incarcerated Indigenous woman working at a bookstore haunted by one of their most annoying customers. The worker tries to solve the haunting mystery while exploring the difficulties of racism and corruption that infests the city. The Sentence is a fantastic choice for those looking to smile at a story reflecting on the year of racial injustice in a dark, comical style. 

Five Tuesdays In Winter by Lily King

Five Tuesdays in Winter: Stories, Lily King

Five Tuesdays in Winter examines the good and bad of human connection. Lily writes about meaningful relationships that can form from the most minute of bonds. The book of stories — formulated with previously published and new work — finds characters grappling with change, all yearning to be loved. Five Tuesdays in Winter is a terrific choice for those interested in learning more about the power and importance of human connection. 

Whether you prefer reading alone, with a companion or in a book club, don’t hesitate to pick one or two of these books up for yourself this fall. You can find them at your neighborhood libraries, local bookstore or online. And as with all good reads, spread the word to friends and family when you finish a book you really love!

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11.19.20 | Sage Advice

An Argument for the Antilibrary

Whether you’re an avid reader or the one-novel-a-year type, being surrounded by more books than you can read is good for you and leads to a more vibrant life. The desire to stockpile a library far beyond the limits of your reading speed is in fact so universal that there’s a word for it: tsundoku

The Japanese term is defined as the “stockpiling of books that will never be consumed.” Breaking the word down into its separate components: tsunde means to stack things, oku means to leave for a while and doku means to read. Those that “suffer” from tsundoku can’t help but pick up a few extra titles at a garage sale, or to browse the bookstore if they happen to stroll past. Having a specific word for it celebrates these tendencies and points out that hoarding books is not only fun, but good for the soul.

In fact, author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb takes the idea of tsundoku one step further. He advocates for building your own antilibrary, a term coined in his bestselling book The Black Swan. Before introducing the concept of antilibrary, Taleb reflects on the library of Italian writer Umberto Eco, which contained a staggering 30,000 tomes. It wasn’t Eco’s intention to ever read his entire library — in fact, he purported that the library served as a reminder of everything he didn’t (and wouldn’t ever) know. That constant reminder is what kept Eco not only humble, but also intellectually hungry and perpetually curious.

Inspired by Eco, Taleb introduces the antilibrary in The Black Swan by saying:

“A private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”

Practicing a little tsundoku and building your own antilibrary serves to set a goal for yourself: to never stop seeking knowledge and growth. Like Eco, it can keep you humble, hungry and curious. So the next time you wonder whether you should buy another book that will end up just sitting on your bookshelf, the answer is yes, you should. 

A bookstore with cluttered stacks of books
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