How to Read for Fun

Do you want to read?  Have no idea where to obtain the books you want to read? Have no idea what to read? Never have time to do it? Don’t have any of those problems but want to kill some time?

I gotchu. 

“I have no idea where to find the books I want to read.”

Libraries are perhaps one of the greatest things that exist.

Our school library has a collection of fiction books that I happen to love very much (East of Eden by John Steinbeck, On Beauty by Zadie Smith, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy are just a few of my favorites that are on the shelf). If you’ve read through the entire fiction section of the school library I believe that you will feel a deep sense of inner peace in your heart. DISCLAIMER: I haven’t done this and thus cannot confirm the truth of that but I just…feel it in my bones. Anyhow, feel free to prove me wrong (this would require reading through the entire selection of fiction).

BUT if none of those titles interest you particularly or you’re looking for a specific book that the library doesn’t have, we are within reasonable walking distance of not just one but two (2) free public libraries! The Wellesley Public Library and Needham Public Library are capital F Free to borrow books from, and all it takes is a library card! I cannot endorse getting a library card enough, in part because both libraries are part of the Minuteman Library Network. What’s the benefit of this? Minuteman Library Network has an Overdrive library, which is to say that they have an online catalog from which you can read books ONLINE. IN YOUR BROWSER. DOWNLOADED AS A PDF. SENT TO YOUR E-READER. You don’t even have to return the book; Overdrive will automatically remove your loan after your time is up, so you won’t incur any late fees. But wait! there’s MORE!! The Minuteman Library Network has partnered with several other library networks in the Greater Boston Area/Eastern Massachusetts, so not only do you have access to the MLN Overdrive Library, but like, 10 other network’s libraries as well. This gives you online, free, legal access to basically any book you wish to read (If it’s not there, you can request they obtain it).

“Okay, now I know where to find the books, but I have no idea what to read.”

I have a few recommendations, but I’m only recommending ones that I’ve read or reread within the past 6 months (so you know, we can discuss if you have feelings about them). There are so many others, but I need to start somewhere. Also: I personally really enjoyed these books. If you don’t end up enjoying them there will be no refunds or take backsies, you’re just gonna have to live with it. 

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors, if not my favorite. He makes the land come alive, and his stories always strike something deep within me that makes me feel like more of a Human Being. This is my favorite work of his. 5 of 5 stars.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

A story of resilience, hope, displacement, family, the land and the people of the United States of America, and how we sustain ourselves and one another, among other things. 5 of 5 stars.

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

The novel debut of the author, one of my favorite journalists and profile writers. A modern novel (just came out this summer!) about marriage, divorce, love. The writing is sarcastic, observant, critical, and compassionate. Thoroughly enjoyable to read (and maybe more accessible than the books I’ve already mentioned). 4 of 5 stars.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

I was in China this summer and spent 8 hours in a café reading this book. I skipped lunch. I cried in public like 4 times. I laughed to myself with total disregard for embarrassment. Another modern novel about marriage, divorce, love, family. This book made me appreciate my mom a lot more. Probably my favorite book I’ve read this year. 5 of 5 stars.

Severance by Ling Ma

Another modern novel, but this time not about marriage or divorce. Somewhat sci-fi apocalyptic in premise. A bildungsroman. Yeah, I cried to this one, too. 4 of 5 stars.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

A non-fiction book! Had me thinking about SO much stuff I’d never considered before, and if that’s not the mark of a good book, what is? I learned a lot. Structured well and written in a very accessible way. Good/5 stars.

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

Another non-fiction book, which was the Olin summer reading book the year before this one. I’m not supposed to give my opinion (lol) but I think it’s got a lot of great content that everyone at Olin should be aware of and have floating in the back of their heads, or in the front. Also Good/5 stars.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I think about this book all the time. A classic for good reason. It’s good, really good. 5 of 5.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

If you’ve ever wanted to read a like, 5 season TV drama as a book, this book is like that. Entertaining to read, and the embodiment of a dish served cold. 3 of 5 stars.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I finally got around to reading this one and it wasn’t at all what I expected. If you like flirtatious banter in 1800’s British aristocratic society, this is the book for you. If TCoMC is a drama, this one is a RomCom. 3 of 5 stars.

Additionally, here are books that I am reading or plan on reading Soon™:

  • Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima 
  • Range by David Epstein
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
  • The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney

“Okay, yeah alright, that’s all well and good but I don’t even SLEEP these days and you must be delusional to think I have time to slog through a 700+ page book like Moby Dick or Crime and Punishment or literally anything that will take me longer than 15 minutes to finish.”

That’s fair, we’re all busy people. If reading and finishing a book is something you want to accomplish, make it a goal to read 5 pages a day during a meal or on the toilet (maybe don’t do this one with library books). Maybe before you sleep, in which case, you’ll either fall asleep to the book or you’ll read exactly 5 pages or you’ll get engrossed in the book. There’s no losing scenario I can conceive of (but I’d be happy to learn about your losing scenarios).

If reading and finishing a book isn’t something that interests you, but you still enjoy reading, there are some very talented journalists and short-form writers (ok I don’t know if this is the correct terminology but I’m gonna roll with it) out there that put out some thought-provoking, moving, or just plain enjoyable to read articles and/or short-form pieces. These take generally 5-20 minutes to read, and are much easier to consume in one sitting. Here are some pieces I thought were Good for some reason or another and journalists I look forward to reading on a semi-regular basis: 

Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote Fleishman is in Trouble, and is one of my favorite celebrity profile writers. What’s a celebrity profile? It’s a partially biographical piece written usually after a 2-3 day interview, and when done well, makes me feel like I’ve learned more about myself, as well as about the person in question. Here are two of the ones written by Brodesser-Akner, and another one that isn’t:

I always look forward to what Jia Tolentino writes for The New Yorker (and she has a new book out that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet that’s in the school library!). Here are some of her recent articles that I’ve enjoyed:

Two recent articles in The Economist that I valued reading:

If you got here, dang bro. That’s a lot of reading you just did. Hopefully this was helpful. Send me your book and article recommendations. I’ll send you more if you want them.

Honor Board Case Studies

Hello from the Honor Board!

We recently held hearing panel pool trainings (thanks to everyone who came out and got trained) and got quite a bit of feedback regarding confusions about what sort of situations can be brought to the Honor Board. In efforts to help clear some of this confusion, we’re going to begin including some example cases that were brought to the Honor Board in the past. This time, we’ve included the case that we used during the case walkthrough portion of hearing panel pool training, as well as a case about tampering with fire alarms. Feel free to contact any of the Honor Board members with questions!

Lying to Group Members to Avoid a Meeting

Background and Charges

Kira and Leo were working on a four-person group project for Professor Wagner’s class. In general, the dynamic of the group was not working well: group members often did not have their work done in time for meetings, and frequently missed class work time. Shortly before one particular group meeting, Leo sent an email to the group saying that he would not be able to make it. He explained that he had a conflicting meeting for a group project in another class.

The next day, Kira was talking to a friend, and it came up in conversation that the friend had seen Leo playing video games during the time that the meeting of the previous night was going on. Kira later talked to Leo’s partner for the other class and learned that there had been no conflicting meeting scheduled for the other class. Kira, believing that Leo may have lied about having another meeting, submitted a report to the Honor Board.

In an interview with the Investigative Team, Kira explained that her goal was not to punish Leo, but to allow him to reflect upon his actions and understand their effects on others. She also noted that the team as a whole had not been functioning well, and no one had tried to initiate a discussion on improving team dynamics.

Leo was charged with violating the Respect for Others and Integrity clauses of the Honor Code. During a meeting with the Investigative Team, Leo accepted responsibility for the charges and expressed regret for his actions. The Investigative Team found the case to have merit for sanctions, and thus sent the case to hearing.

Sanctions

As Leo accepted the responsibility, the hearing panel went straight to the sanction-setting phase and decided upon the following sanctions:

– Letter of apology to Kira addressing how his actions affected the his group members

  Professor Wagner was asked to take the case into account in the grade given for the assignment

– Leo was given a disciplinary warning, indicating that future violations could involve harsher sanctions.

Furthermore, the panel recommended to the Dean of Student Life that a meeting be held with the group members and a mediator to discuss group dynamics, and how to improve in the future.

Tampering With a Fire Alarm

Background

During Orientation, a small group of friends wanted to make some ramen noodles. The previous night, many of the group involved in this incident had slept in the lounge because of a fire alarm that had been set off by steam while making tea in another room. In efforts to avoid setting off the room’s smoke alarm, the group decided to see if they could turn off the alarm. They examined the smoke alarm and noticed a small white button on the smoke alarm head. After a brief discussion, Peter was chosen to push the button to see what would happen. When he pushed the button, the alarm in Paige’s room immediately went off. Peter pushed the button again hoping to silence the alarm, to no avail. The R2 on call responded to the alarm and called Public Safety to let them know that there was not a real fire in the room.

Because the alarm was not tripped by particulates (steam, smoke, etc.), Public Safety was able to silence and reset the alarm. The largest inconvenience was for the students in the surrounding rooms, the R2 on call, and Public Safety. The R2 on call and Public Safety were able to intervene before the Fire Department was notified.

On Topic

After interviewing several others, the investigative team learned that students have tried to cover the smoke heads with plastic wrap in the past to prevent them from being triggered by particulates. By releasing this abstract, the Honor Board would like to highlight the dangers of disabling or covering detectors. Everyone involved with this incident agreed that the biggest danger was the failure of fire alarms in the case of a real fire. Fire-related deaths are more likely to happen as a result of smoke than fire, so particulate sensors are critical to Olin’s fire safety strategy.

This case also serves as a reminder to use the kitchens when dealing with potentially steamy or smoky food or drink. The fire alarms in the kitchen are temperature sensitive and do not use particulate sensors. These were specifically changed to provide a place for cooking that wouldn’t trigger the fire alarms in case of steam or smoke. Keeping the kitchen doors closed should also reduce the likelihood that the particulate sensors in the hallway will be triggered.

In EH, several particulate sensors are located near bathroom/shower doors and can be triggered by a steamy shower. Because these sensors are in places where people sleep, they cannot be changed to temperature sensors and students are asked to be extremely careful with taking a steamy shower near these sensors.