My Year in (Pleasure) Reading

Last year, I made the commitment to read more for pleasure — to read more widely and without maybe a critical agenda. This was a lofty goal. I gave birth to my first child in January and two weeks later was teaching online from home. (I developed and taught FMU’s first online business writing class last spring.)

Despite my busy schedule and new responsibilities, I have read for pleasure pretty consistently throughout the last twelve months. The reason I was able to do this, I think, was that I changed reading platforms. Normally, I enjoy reading on paper, but most of my pleasure reading was done in ebook form on my phone. That way, I was able to read not only at night during 3am or 5am feeding/soothing sessions, but also with the assistance of only one hand.

In addition to the mounds of longform journalism I read, both in print and online, I read quite a few full-length books. Here’s an abbreviated list (in no particular order) of some of my “non-required” reads from 2014.

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying

John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams

Diana Gabaldon, Outlander [NB: I’m not done yet. No spoilers!]

Carine McCandless, The Wild Truth

Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle

Alice Goffman, On the Run [NB: I quit early and will probably finish, but that’s another post.]

Justin St. Germain, Son of a Gun

Megan Abbott, The Fever

Susannah Cahalan, Brain on Fire

Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Veronica Roth, Divergent Trilogy

S. Josephine Baker, Fighting for Life

Turns out that, despite my attempts to read more widely, I gravitated towards genres and themes that I focus on in my scholarship. (Go figure.) Meaning, I read a lot of memoir, and I also read texts that dealt with themes of illness, health, and medicine. One pleasure read, Fighting for Life, the last text on the list above, turned into an academic project, which I’ve blogged about here previously.

In 2015, I hope to continue the tradition, and have already staked out a few good reads, including Eula Bliss’s On Immunity. 

What’s on your reading list for the upcoming year? 


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Posted in Books, Creative Non-Fiction, Fiction, General literature, Life of the Mind, Lifewriting

Academic Odds and Ends

It’s been a busy semester for me. Here’s what I’ve been up to lately — an academic odds and ends post, if you will.

In September, I presented new research at the 4th Annual Western Michigan University Medical Humanities Conference. I discussed Sara Josephine Baker’s 1939 autobiography Fighting for Life. In her day, Baker was a renowned public health official in New York City who revolutionized prenatal and well child care. Her autobiography is interesting in terms of what it reveals about gender roles and the construction of a professional, medical identity in the early twentieth century. Fighting for Life also is interesting because of what Baker leaves out of this account of her life–no mention of her personal life past her late teens.

Advising and registration for Spring semester 2015 begins soon at my institution, so I’ve been updating our departmental website and blog, which I built and maintain. I recently created a page that lists course descriptions for upper-level and special topics courses. And when possible, I cross-promote our website and blog material on other FMU digital media outlets.

And speaking of new media: I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be teaching English 411, The Rhetoric of New Media, next semester. English 411 is a required course for professional writing majors and minors. Students will contribute to my department’s website and blog, and they’ll also launch a new Facebook page for the department. At the end of the semester, students will have the opportunity to apply their skills in a real-word setting (and expand their portfolios) when they work with a non-profit client from the local community.

At the end of the month, I’ll be meeting with faculty across the disciplines at my institution to begin planning a gender-awareness week. (Previously, FMU has sponsored a “V-Week” in the spring, but this year, we’re unable to produce a showing of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.) Along with another colleague in my department, I’m co-directing a Wikipedia writing and editing event that will focus on closing the site’s notorious gender- and race-gapsDuring the one-day event, novice and seasoned Wikipedians alike will edit or add entries that focus on women, minorities, and other under-represented groups. The Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon is inspired by the work of a colleague and friend from graduate school, Adrianne Wadewitz, who passed away earlier this year following a rock climbing accident. Adrianne was a prolific Wikipedian (and scholar-teacher) whose work with the site especially focused on gender bias.

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Amy Rubens
Amy Rubens

I'm an Assistant Professor of English at a state-sponsored university in South Carolina and have over ten years of experience teaching at the college level.

I regularly teach courses in composition, professional writing, creative writing, and American literature.

My primary research interest is the medical humanities, particularly the depiction of contagious disease in American literature and lifewriting. I also have research interests in digital writing, social media, and the ways electronic environments shape notions of health.

I'm inspired by the great outdoors and enjoy hiking and backpacking. When I'm not reading, writing, or hiking, I like to blog and spend time with my family members (both human and animal).

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