Apr 01

Ann is in mourning. Studying poetry for National Poetry Month. Plus, new memoirs from Gail Caldwell and Kevin Brockmeier.

Ann is in Mourning

Ann is devastated by the loss of the Readmill e-book app. Though she still prefers paper books, when she did read electronically she much preferred using Readmill. She especially loved that books synced across all devices no matter where you bought the e-books. She also loved the social and statistic features, many of which are available on other apps, but none seem to have all of the features in one app. 

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (10:04)

Bear: A Novel, Claire CameronThe Bear by Claire Cameron, narrated by Cassandra Morris, is my pick for this week’s Audiobooks.com Audiobook of the Week.

Special thanks to Audiobooks.com for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand.

Audiobooks.com allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to www.audiobooks.com/freebook

A Free Ivy League Education in Poetry (14:28)

April is National Poetry Month, and every year, Ann and I try to cultivate our appreciation of poetry. We often fail, but there are a couple ways you can try to increase your knowledge, one you can do now, and one you do this fall. Starting September 6, Coursera will once again be offering its Modern & Contemporary American Poetry, or ModPo, online course.

If you don’t want to wait until the fall, you can view videos of all of the lectures from a a Yale Modern Poetry Course via Open Yale Courses. There are  25 lectures and a final exam. Ivy League courses without the Ivy League cost!

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (24:37)

New Life No Instructions      A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip

Gail Caldwell’s New Life, No Instructions is a wonderful look at period of Gail’s life that saw several changes including a new puppy, and an operation that eliminated her lifelong limp and her recent pain while walking.

Ann recommends (to all of you, but mostly to me) A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip, Kevin Brockmeier’s memoir of seventh grade. It’s a memoir that reads like a novel, and it’s for anyone who had those moments of adolescent awkwardness that often occurred in seventh grade.

  • Robert Zimmermann

    I’m happy to have heard a little about National Poetry Month. Even as a poet, I find I don’t read that much. I’m going to try fixing that this month. But I’m also going to look into the online course you mentioned. It sounds like a great resource. 🙂

    • Robert, you have no idea how much better I feel!
      The Coursera ModPo course from UPenn is fantastic. I can’t wait to take it again.

  • jacqueline poehlman

    Has anyone ever tried the MIT OpenCourseWare courses? I just looked over there and it looks like there are a lot of literature courses. Not sure how they compare to the course Ann mentioned…

    • Hi Jacqueline,
      I looked at them but they didn’t seem terribly user-friendly. I will likely explore them a little more in-depth later, but it seemed like the ones I looked at were mostly presentations and course materials but not the lectures themselves.

  • I too am in mourning for Readmill – I know there are other applications out there that manage the e-reading experience (I’ve used iBooks and Kobo in the past) but none that as a cohesive whole worked as well as Readmill.

    Curious to see what others move to. I’m especially interested in keeping the syncing across devices. I’ve downloaded Bluefire reader (lots of text customizations available) and may settle with iBooks or Kobo. In the meantime I’m still stubbornly using Readmill until the July end date.

  • Janice in GA

    Do you know about the Poem-a-Day during National Poetry Month program? I think it’s sponsored by Knopf/Doubleday/The Borzoi Reader or something. (Sorry, confusing publishers.) They email a poem to your inbox every day during National Poetry Month. I’ve been on their mailing list for years now. I always forget till the first poem pops into my inbox on 4/1.

    I’m no great connoisseur of poetry, but I’ve been exposed to writers through this program that I’d never have heard of otherwise. Some of the poems I like very much, others, meh. 🙂 It’s kinda fun.

    Dunno if y’all permit links, but here it is, or google for it.

  • Paul E. Pope

    Allow me to suggest a podcast: Hear a poem each day, plus literary and historical highlights, and (best of all) it’s narrated by Garrison Keillor.

  • Anne from CA

    I highly recommend the Greek and Roman Mythology course from Coursera. Interesting and very user-friendly, like all Coursera courses.

  • As a long time listener it’s a thrill to find my book here, thank you. I could not agree more about Cassandra Morris’ performance on The Bear audiobook. I was very nervous to listen at first as I could only imagine all the ways it could wrong. When I did listen, I found that she had spun the tale into gold. I now use the audiobook to practice before readings (and I really did need the help of a pro, my pacing is much improved).

  • Carol Kubala

    As a parent I can understand Michael’s reluctance to read The Bear by Claire Cameron or The Room by Emma Donoghue. When we have our own children it is hard to read stories where children are in peril. What makes it easier for me and what I saw in The Room was the mother the mother’s role as protector of Jack. Ma takes care of his every need. Even though we know that Jack is in harm’s way, we also realize that Ma will do anything and everything to protect her child. That is just what parents do. I raved about The Room and look forward to reading The Bear.

  • Melissa

    Ann, don’t feel guilty about poetry. I was an English major and my two “true confessions of an English major” are: I am not a big poetry fan (I do like some of the longer epic poems, but I would always rather read a novel) and I also am not a Charles Dickens fan…although I keep saying I have to give him another try now that I am an adult. I think he was a little too bleak for me when I was a high school and college student.

  • Laura Brennan

    No, no, poetry doesn’t have to be snooty and difficult! I think part of the problem is that people try to read too much at once, or only the (okay, sometimes snooty and difficult) classics.

    Poetry can be so good at capturing fleeting moments and emotions, creating a drop-dead gorgeous turn of phrase, or tapping into your own feelings and giving an outlet for laughter or tears. I’m helping my son’s teacher choose poems for Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 24), and for eleven-year-olds, I’m looking to Robert Frost (Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening), e e cummings (when faces called flowers float out of the ground), and Ogden Nash (“Should you behold a panther crouch, prepare to say ouch.”)

    Billy Collins, Kipling, Elizabeth Bishop, and even the classic difficult folks all have something that might speak to you. And a lot of stuff that won’t. The trick is not to get bogged down in the stuff that doesn’t.

    Me, I’m intimidated by Literary Fiction. You guy rock at that; poetry should be cake to you!

  • Shara

    Hi, I’ve been listening to your podcast for a while, and I just wanted to show you a poetry month resource. An English major friend of mine keeps a poetry blog and during April, she posts a short poem each day. Though I don’t normally read poetry, she posts a wide variety and I have found some of my favorite poems through it: http://nataliejabbar.wordpress.com/ A really good poem can strike me deep with so few words, and I want other people to know that! I hope you find some you like!

    • Laura Brennan

      Thanks for the link, Shara! Lots of new-to-me poems — although none, alas, that work for 11-yr-olds. 🙂

  • Denise

    I’m in complete sympathy with you, Ann, regarding the closing down of one of your favorite apps. I am still in mourning for “to do” app Astrid. Yahoo bought the Astrid talent and closed it down in August. The Astrid folks were also helpful about exporting your tasks to similar apps, but nothing has been as good as Astrid.

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  • Sel

    Catching up on episodes so that’s why my comment is so late. I hope you still see it!

    I thought I would add to the list of free online university courses with the following resources. In the past couple years, I’ve become fascinated by the offerings available to the public, particularly in literature. I was an English major in college but have since diverged from the bookish world in my chosen profession(s). I’m still a reader and I crave book discussion so I like to try these courses every now and then. That said, I cannot vouch for the quality of all of these resources because I haven’t tried them all.

    EdX: https://www.edx.org/course-list/allschools/literature/allcourses

    Class-Central.com: https://www.class-central.com/subject/literature-and-writing (this site pulls from several other websites like Coursera, it doesn’t host classes)

    Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/literature_free_courses (also links to other sites; includes links to “great lectures” and small collection of reading lists by famous personages, e.g. David Bowie, Allen Ginsberg, etc.)

    Then two resources that may be of interest but do not offer (or curate a list of) courses:

    Library of Congress Literature Webcasts: http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/results.php?cat=5

    Gresham College Lectures: http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/past?keys=&field_speakers_nid=All&field_lecture_date%5Bvalue%5D%5Byear%5D=&term_node_tid_depth=12

    I hope this helps!

  • Leah Frieden

    I love the podcast and even though I am listening a few months after this one was posted, it is the perfect time for me. My aunt is about to get hip replacement surgery and has been very nervous and overwhelmed by the process. I just purchased the book New Life, More Instructions and will sent it to her. I hope it will make her feel more hopeful about it. If not, at least she’ll have something good to read while she recovers! Thanks for the recommendation, Michael!

  • Mary Ann Scott

    A tardy comment, but huge THANK YOU for mentioning the Coursera ModPo class; I enrolled based on the mention on this podcast and it is AMAZING. Highly recommend to anyone interested.

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