I’ll be working a lot this summer. I also have some fun plans with family and friends. But I’m also hoping to carve out some time alone for reading and passive entertainment (that is, something I can do while folding laundry). I decided that instead of getting to the pile of books I’ve been meaning to read all year, or pulling some all-nighters cringing and trying to finish Breaking Bad, I’m going to dig into a few blogs and podcasts I have enjoyed in spurts over the last year.
I’m dying to meet this man to tell him how he’s the best of the best. In his best posts, there is no one wittier, braver and more real than this executive director named Vu Le from the Seattle area. Just look at the titles of few of my favorite pieces (and please click and read them!):
- “I Can Write the Saddest Grant Proposal Tonight” and other nonprofit love poems
- “Where the Sustainable Things Are” and other nonprofit children’s books”
- “Dancing with Program Officers” and 5 other nonprofit-themed reality TV Shows we need
- Can we all just admit there is no such thing as nonprofit sustainability?
One beautiful post after another, this blog makes me feel a little smarter and a little artsier every time I visit. The site’s twitter handle, @brainpicker, is probably the reason I check Twitter every day, and it is my go-to source of retweets.
All contents are written by Maria Popova, who calls herself “a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer.” Popova reads voraciously and widely in subjects as wide ranging as psychology, poetry, obscure biography and natural science, and somehow brings them together in interesting reflections on the way we live and think. My favorite posts are usually dedicated to gorgeously illustrated novels and children’s books.
Here are some posts that I have enjoyed:
- The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales, Reimagined in Uncommonly Soulful Illustrations by Austrian Artist Lisbeth Zwerger
- In Praise of Shadows: Ancient Japanese Aesthetics and Why Every Technology Is a Technology of Thought
- The Sea: A Sweet Wordless Story about Pursuit and Surrender, Dread and Desire, Disappointment and Triumph
- How Jane Goodall Turned Her Childhood Dream Into Reality: A Sweet Illustrated Story of Purpose and Deep Determination
A dear friend and adoptee advocate Joy Rho (check out her wonderful blog Adoption Echoes also if you are interested in the subject) recommended this one. I was skeptical with such a gimmicky sounding title, but it turns out the podcast, which is meant to get people to talk about the three topics everyone thinks about but rarely talk about, is a wonderful collection of interesting people’s lives and thoughts on these subjects. The host, Anna Sale, stays curious, and asks simple, direct questions with the right amount of grace and wit. (Just so you know, not every episode deals with all three subjects at once. My husband listened intensely to one riveting episode, then asked “What about sex?”)
Here’s a few among many that stayed with me:
- In Sickness And In Mental Illness
- Where is Lisa Fischer’s Backup?
- I Killed Someone. Now I Have Three Kids.
As a coach, I am constantly self-managing so as not to give advice. My job is to listen really well and keep asking big, powerful questions to help my clients set and meet their goals, whatever they are. While my work and life experiences help me connect with my clients and gain their trust, I usually don’t draw on them directly during coaching sessions. That is perhaps what makes this little podcast so satisfying to me. (Ironically, one of my clients, an avid listener, told me about this one.)
Hosted by Cheryl Strayed, the author of Tiny Beautiful Things and Wild, and Steve Almond, the author of Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, and Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto, Dear Sugar is a podcast version of the namesake column on The Rumpus.
Each episode begins with a letter written with some sort of heartache, and the two authors share some relevant bits of experience from their own lives and give their most earnest, heartfelt advice. Sometimes, they call a friend or an expert about a particular issue for a third opinion.
I love listening to the letter and imagining what I would say to the “lost, lonely and heartsick,” agreeing with one or the other. I also daydream how I might coach such a person. Sometimes, just knowing that we all have our own crosses to bear makes me feel a little more connected to the rest of the world.
Some episodes to get you started:
- When Friendships End
- Former Hellraisers (Should We Share our Past with Our Children?)
- Making Love
- Meet The Sugars
I am fighting the urge to keep adding to this list, but I will stop for now. I’m still pursuing my new year’s resolution of doing less. Summer sounds like the perfect time to practice this.
Let me know what you are reading and listening to this summer. Perhaps you can convince me to add to my list after all!