Welcome back to Off the Shelf, a monthly tasting menu of everything literary the Winning Edits team has been devouring!
In this column, I take you on a literary-culinary tour of the Winning Edits team’s bookshelves.
This installment skews a little heavier than last time, with several books and articles that explore themes of violence, disconnection, and societies in turmoil.
It’s not all darkness, though—let’s go for a spin.
High-Yield Vegetable Gardening
I’ll let Senior Web Producer Mindy Peters kick things off this month with something of a seasonally questionable pick, Colin McCrate and Brad Halm’s High-Yield Vegetable Gardening.
“While it might seem silly to spend a Minnesota November reading about vegetable gardening,” says Mindy, “I am thoroughly enjoying this book!”
Why, you ask? Well, Mindy and her husband recently started house hunting, and one of their requirements for the new digs is “plenty of garden space.” Plus, Mindy’s second major in college (yes, she’s that smart) was horticulture, and High-Yield Vegetable Gardening has been a great reminder of why she found growing plants so fascinating in the first place.
Even better, High-Yield offers “solid advice for spaces of all sizes, so it’s worth picking up even if you only have a postage-stamp backyard.”
Eat the Apple
We go from vegetables to apples, though via literature of a very different kind.
Eat the Apple by Matt Young (out February 2018 and available for preorder), is a memoir of flash nonfiction vignettes that “is like nothing else” Editorial Director Janna Maron has read before.
Young is a Marine veteran who enlisted at eighteen and endured three tours of duty in Iraq. Eat the Apple is “a coming-of-age story that lays bare the complexities of war and being a soldier. Young’s writing is honest, surprising, heartbreaking, and at times, funny.”
Says Janna, “It’s an important read for our modern American culture.”
“How to Reduce Shootings”
We move to another somber but important exploration of the implications of violence, this time within our shores. Founder and CEO Matthew Gartland “loved the analytical arguments and positioning” of Nicholas Kristof’s early-November piece in the New York Times, “How to Reduce Shootings.”
Whatever your position on this divisive issue, Kristof makes his case with an impressive array of evidence, and the full-width layout and graphics by Bill Marsh grab the reader’s attention and help drive home the extent of America’s gun violence dilemma.
V for Vendetta
In V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, a mysterious man named V incites anarchy in an attempt to topple the fascist regime in dystopian 1990s London.
Although Production Editor David Grabowski has watched the movie version of V for Vendetta, the Wachowski siblings’ 2006 adaptation starring Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman, “almost every Fifth of November since the movie came out,” it was only recently that he finally read the “beautifully drawn and scripted” graphic novel on which the movie is based.
According to David, “both the book and the film share a similar message: the power belongs to the people, not with the government.”
“Maybe it’s the times we live in, maybe it’s our current administration, and maybe it’s the fact that the FCC is intending to roll back net neutrality laws, as I just found out this morning—the lessons and spirit of V for Vendetta feel more potent and essential than ever before.”
“Work and the Loneliness Epidemic”
As employees at a fully remote startup, we’re no strangers to the isolation and loneliness that can come from being office-less, especially with the turbulent change that characterizes work-life at a young company.
In that vein, Vivek Murthy’s September article for Harvard Business Review, “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic,” also struck a chord with Matthew this month.
Murthy’s article is a drop in a growing wave of coverage and conversation acknowledging the fact that, as Matthew succinctly points out, “loneliness is a real thing” for entrepreneurs and employees in many modern workplaces.
“As a serial entrepreneur (have I earned the right to say that yet?), I know this feeling well,” says Matthew. “It’s a constant battle—to be understood, to be appreciated, to find ‘my people’ that ‘get’ the entrepreneurial rollercoaster.”
The Danish Way of Parenting
We may struggle to find connection in the twenty-first century workplace, but perhaps we can take some cues from other cultures in our quest for meaning and happiness.
When David became a father earlier this year, he found himself concerned about the kind of culture he was bringing his child up in, and what wisdom he might source from outside his own upbringing and social experiences. That’s when The Danish Way of Parenting, by Jessica Alexander and Iben Sandahl, blipped on his radar.
This is a book about the happiest country on earth—Denmark—and why it’s been voted that way for forty years and running.
Why’s that? Says David, “Turns out the answer is kind of obvious: they raise their children that way. Throughout the fast read, the authors explain how the main concepts of play, authenticity, reframing, empathy, no ultimatums, and togetherness (hygge) work together to develop children who are happy.”
For David, “The Danish Way hits hard, especially when contrasted with American childrearing habits”—things like unnecessarily placing kids on pedestals, sugarcoating reality, and incessant “helicopter” parenting.
One other fun fact David learned from the book: Did you know that Legos were invented in Denmark? The word Lego is derived from the Danish “leg godt,” which means “play well.”
‘Til next month, go forth and play well.