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SEPTEMBER 2016 READERS RETREAT SYLLABUS

Below is the list of readings that will be covered during the September 2016 Readers’ Retreat. New York Times Insider section editor Susan Lehman selected these works, and provided a brief introduction to each. Participants will explore these essays with an eye towards what matters to each of these writers and how each brings his or her view about love and death and violence and culture and human experience to life. 

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“Dessert” by Colum McCann
Times passes. Memories blur. This essay stays vivid in mind five  years after it was written. McCann’s reflection on a piece of cake — after 9/11 — says a lot about how and what we see, when. 

“Why I Write” by George Orwell
A classic. this is a quick, great essay that provides a bit of a compass for thinkers, and for readers. 

 “Goodbye to All That” by Joan Didion
Just read it. Because. It. Is. Great. And also a pleasure to read. 

“Learning to Drive” by Katha Pollit
A spirited reflection on failed relationships, this is also a great essay about power — and  revenge. 

 “My Life in 2500 Words” by Nora Ephron
Because laughing is good and this one is laugh-out-loud funny. And a great essay about editing. 

“A Basket Case in North Carolina” by David Rakoff
In this excellent chronicle of the writer’s adventures at Folk School in North Carolina, Rakoff makes clear how fine a line there sometimes is between perfect rapture and something meaner.  

“A Ticket to the Fair” by David Foster Wallace
Ostensibly a light playful tour of a summer carnival, this very funny dark essay brings to life a world a lot of the darkness, violence, cruelty at the heart of American life. And its a great portrait of the funhouse that one man’s mind can be. 

“Super Man In the Super Market” by Norman Mailer
This essay that changed the course of political writing — and also maybe journalism — in America.. Heart beat and blood thump are palpable in Mailer’s prose; let’s see if this timeless piece stands the test of time. 

For fun, we can imagine how Mailer might have said about Donald Trump. 

“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
You can’t understand modern American life without thinking hard about race and what it means — to all of us. In this letter to his son, Coates, invites us to crawl beneath the skin of the matter, and into the dark heart of how we live.