When I'm in the Mood for Fiction

It’s been awhile since I finished a novel and the dry spell has had me thinking about the moods that call out for reading fiction. I write about these in an essay appearing this morning at The Millions:

The more I’m engaged with life—and particularly with other people—the more I want to read fiction. At the peak of a wedding reception or in the throes of a night out when the crowd has given itself over to celebration, I often want to sneak off and read a novel. It’s a contradictory impulse, to want to retreat into a book at the precise moment I am most enthralled with life, but such are the circumstances we live by. What I’m after, I think, is a kind of synergy that can only happen when I approach a novel while my body is still charged with the feeling of being present and alive.


To Teach a Kid How to Read, Teach a Kid How to Think

I’ve written an essay appearing on The Millions this morning about one of the big disagreements surrounding teaching kids how to comprehend books. My argument is a defense, contra Diane Ravitch, of teaching students explicit ‘thinking skills’ in addition to just teaching them content:

The more I delved into breaking down and sequencing the skills, however, the less I came to view them as “relatively simple” operations that amounted to droll fodder for standardized tests, and the more I thought of them as a high-stakes crash course in how to think that, when looked at in the right light, was more thrilling than just about anything I ever learned in middle school.