Connie Garritsen

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The Definitive Reading List of the 14 Best Books of 2014 Overall

I consider my annual best-of reading lists a kind of Old Year’s resolutions in reverse — unlike traditional resolutions, which lay out an aspirational list of priorities for the new year, these represent a look back at the books that proved themselves most worth prioritizing over the setting year. …

Hans Christian Andersen’s Daily Routine

From coffee time to bedtime, via ample walks and a necessary stretch of royal tedium.<p>I have a longstanding fascination with the daily routines of writers — most recently, those of C.S. Lewis, Charles Bukowski, and Anne Truitt — which is, of course, underpinned by an interest in the psychology of …

How a Dog Actually “Sees” the World Through Smell

“The world of scents is at least as rich as the world of sight.”<p>Even though smell is the most direct of our senses and the 23,040 breaths we take daily drag in a universe of information — from the danger alert of a burning odor to the sweet nostalgia of an emotionally memorable scent — our …

Pets

The Velveteen Rabbit, Reimagined with Uncommon Tenderness by Beloved Japanese Illustrator Komako Sakai

A tender tale of how the soft bonds of love confer realness upon our existence.<p><i>“Life and Reality are not things you can have for yourself unless you accord them to all others,”</i> Alan Watts wrote in his exquisite 1950s meditation on becoming who you are. But as is the case with life’s most enduring …

26-Year-Old Frida Kahlo’s Compassionate Letter to 46-Year-Old Georgia O’Keeffe

“I would like to tell you every thing that happened to me since the last time we saw each other, but most of them are sad and you mustn’t know sad things now.”<p>There is something uncommonly heartening about bearing witness to the virtuous cycle of support and mutual appreciation between two creative …

Literature

A Rap on Race: Margaret Mead and James Baldwin’s Rare Conversation on Forgiveness and the Difference Between Guilt and Responsibility

“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.”<p>On the evening of August 26, 1971, <b>Margaret Mead</b> (December 16, 1901–November 15, 1978) and <b>James Baldwin</b> (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987) sat together on a stage in New York City for a …

Civil Rights

Charlotte Brontë’s Beautiful and Heartbreaking Love Letters of Unrequited Affection

“When one does not complain … one pays for outward calm with an almost unbearable inner struggle.”<p>Four years after English novelist and poet <b>Charlotte Brontë</b> (April 21, 1816–March 31, 1855) turned down a suitor’s marriage proposal with her assertive yet generous masterwork of the …

Virginia Woolf on the Paradox of the Soul and the Consolations of Aging

“One can’t write directly about the soul. Looked at, it vanishes.”<p>Although <b>Virginia Woolf</b> (January 25, 1882–March 28, 1941) kept some sporadic early diaries, she didn’t begin serious journaling until 1915, when she was 33. From that point on, until her final entry penned four days before her death …

Virginia Woolf on Writing and Self-Doubt

Consolation for those moments when you can’t tell whether you’re “the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”<p><i>“Bad writers tend to have the self-confidence, while the good ones tend to have self-doubt,”</i> Charles Bukowski lamented in an interview. Self-doubt is a familiar state for all who …

The Faith in the Soul: Young James Joyce’s Magnificent Letter to Lady Gregory

“All things are inconstant except the faith in the soul, which changes all things and fills their inconstancy with light.”<p>In his infinitely wise letter of advice to his son, Charles Dickens extolled the vitality of persevering “in a thorough determination to do whatever you have to do as well as …

Literature

Teenage James Joyce’s Beautiful Letter to Ibsen, His Great Hero

“We always keep the dearest things to ourselves.”<p>One need only look at the canon of quiet champions behind creative icons to be reminded of how deeply and lastingly a young person setting out on a creative path can be touched by a simple word of encouragement from one of his or her heroes — one of …

Literature

John Steinbeck’s Pen: How the Joy of Handwriting Helps Us Draft the Meaning of Life

“The perfect pen and the perfect paper and me working on work that pleases me and has no note for the critics.”<p>Edgar Allan Poe believed that handwriting is an indication of character, revealing our “mental qualities.” Mary Gordon saw in its “flesh, blood and the thingness of pen and paper” a …

How to Find Your Bliss: Joseph Campbell on What It Takes to Have a Fulfilling Life

“You have to learn to recognize your own depth.”<p>In 1985, mythologist and writer <b>Joseph John Campbell</b> (March 26, 1904–October 30, 1987) sat down with legendary interviewer and idea-monger Bill Moyers for a lengthy conversation at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch in California, which continued the …

Spirituality

Outstanding in the Rain: A Die-Cut Adventure in Words and Meaning

How to turn an ice man into a nice man.<p><i>“Words belong to each other,”</i> Virginia Woolf asserted in the only surviving recording of her voice, and out of that belonging sometimes spring miraculous surprises. In <b>Outstanding in the Rain</b> (<i>public library</i>), illustrator, graphic designer, and MTA subway …

Coney Island

Virginia Woolf on Why the Best Mind Is the Androgynous Mind

“In each of us two powers preside, one male, one female… The androgynous mind is resonant and porous… naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”<p>In addition to being one of the greatest writers and most expansive minds humanity ever produced, <b>Virginia Woolf</b> (January 25, 1882–March 28, 1941) was …

What Makes a Hero: Joseph Campbell’s Seminal Monomyth Model for the Eleven Stages of the Hero’s Journey, Animated

“It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward.”<p>Nearly four decades before <b>Joseph Campbell</b> (March 26, 1904–October 30, 1987) refined his enduring ideas on how to find your bliss and have fulfilling life, the legendary …