Blurbed: What to Read, See and Do in January 2019

Welcome to Blurbed, a round-up of literary recommendations from the editors and contributors at the Columbia Journal! Each month, Blurbed features a curated list of things to read, events to attend and news from the Journal.

What to Read

Best American Essays 2018, edited by Hilton Als
The essays are connected by a thread of darkness, including racism in America, the reality of impending global destruction, the devastating effects of cancer, and life in North Korea, and they provide beautiful, thoughtful material for reflection. The collection feels like a roundup of the important works and issues we should be reading right now, not just as literary writers but as citizens of this world.—Rachel Keranen, Nonfiction MFA Candidate

After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays, edited by David Lazar
The book…is a good way to introduce writers to the great essayist as well as look at his work in a new way. The essayists included are worth reading for themselves and include Columbia’s Phillip Lopate.—Laura Head, Nonfiction MFA Candidate

Longform’s Best of 2018 List(s)
At this point, there are few websites I’ll check out on a daily basis just to see what they’re reading. Longform is one of them. If you’re not an obsessive like me, they’ve collected some of their favorite stories from the past year.

When Einstein Walked with Gödel, Jim Holt
Some of my favorite longform writing has come about through a writer tangling with a hopelessly theoretical concept. This is the land Jim Holt lives in through the course of these essays. You won’t become a credentialed physicist after reading it (quantum entanglement still throws me for a loop), but they might just be the first step.

How Long ’til Black Future Month?, N.K. Jemisin
Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy were the books that got me back into fantasy and sci-fi reading. Whatever the equivalent of that is now that I’m reading them again, I think this short story collection will do for me.

What to See & Do

January 17: Kristen Roupenian in Conversation with Rebecca Traister
You’ve almost certainly heard of (if not read) her short story, “Cat Person.” Kristen Roupenian now has her debut collection, You Know You Want This, out. She’ll be in conversation with Rebecca Traister, whose book Good and Mad came out in 2018. Plus, the ticket price includes the book.

January 23: Selected Shorts: James Thurber’s World with Special Guest Roz Chast
James Thurber would’ve turned 125 in 2019 (not that I was holding out hope he’d make it that long). In any case, as a result, there’s a crop of great events dedicated to the humorist. This one, featuring readings from Roz Chast, Michael McKean, Miriam Shor, and hosted by Keith Olbermann, should be a good one.

January 31: A Celebration of Ursula K. Le Guin
N.K. Jemisin, Karen Joy Fowler, Michael Chabon. The list goes on of writers who will be paying tribute to Le Guin at this event. Really, what more do you need to know?

Words to Write By

“Writing is a slow art. Music can be such a fast and early art. A good musician can be just terrific at 16. But how many writers are there … I mean, even Keats is still blundering around at 16. By his early twenties, of course, he’s writing immortal poetry, but there aren’t a lot of Keatses, really. There’s where you get ‘gift’ to a degree that it’s kind of like a miracle. You can’t use the Keatses to talk about writing as a craft or an art or a practice or a profession. The geniuses—they’re off there, doing their lovely thing.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

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