For your reading and catch-up pleasure, I have once again compiled a “year’s top posts” list. These posts are “top” in that they got the most hits; in some cases this may have been because of timing, a well-chosen keyword, or fluke, but in some cases I think it’s because they truly were the best posts I wrote this year. If you missed out on these, check them out – they all said something to someone!
I was glad this post got so much traffic, because I really like it. I return to it from time to time when I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life. In it, I ask myself once again why reading matters, and come to the conclusion – with the help of some of my students – that “literature is the best, and perhaps the only, way to understand what it is like to be someone other than myself.”
The text of this post – purported to be an 8th-grade final exam from 1895 – has been making the rounds of the internet for a couple of years now, and, as I note in the update to the post, it’s been more or less determined that it is an authentic test, but not for 8th-graders. The most interesting part of the post may be the comments section, in which readers once again wax in all different directions about what “education” really means.
The central question of this post is an extension of that of #1 above. Reading books is all very well, but why should the study and analysis of literature be core curriculum in college? (Spoiler for those who want to read my further posts on this subject: I’m not certain it should.)
Zadie Smith + David Foster Wallace = post that gets tons of hits. Guaranteed formula. The post itself is really just a DFW quote, but it’s a good one.
The story of Khawar, a difficult student who was probably suffering from an undiagnosed learning disability, got a lot of response. Another post about him also ended up high in the rankings. (Khawar ended up passing my course, which once again had me asking myself what I’m doing wrong in my grading schemes.)
Another way to get lots of hits: put the words “Harry Potter” in your title. Nevertheless, the “Ten Wonderful Things” posts in general pulled in a few new readers, and it felt good to write them. If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s cool to put a children’s bestseller on a college course, this post will give you an emphatic “yes.”
It doesn’t hurt to include a funny animated video in your post, especially if your audience is mostly teachers and the video is an enactment of everything you ever wanted to say to the boneheaded student spouting excuses across your desk. Throw in a real-life story of infuriating misspelled emails and it’ll be a winner.
I’m not sure why this post got so much attention, but one thing I’ve noticed is that writing about books usually gives the stat meter a little bump. I’m glad this post got read, because it’s a concept that means a lot to me – one of the joys of teaching literature, I need to keep reminding myself, is getting to read my favourite books over and over.
No doubt the provocative title is what gave this post its currency. Like #4 above, the post is composed mostly of one long quote, this one from Susan Juby’s memoir of teenage alcoholism, Nice Recovery. The quote is great, and even those of us who didn’t start binge drinking at thirteen can probably relate to its description of what too much reading can do to one’s perception of oneself and the world.
This was my favourite post of the year, so if it hadn’t made it into the top 10, I probably would have found a way to squeeze it in here somewhere. In this story, I have a very, very bad day that ends up being one of the best days ever, and, along the way, I stop hating everyone.
There you have it, folks. If you need to catch up on your Siobhan Curious reading, start here. And have a super happy new year full of stories, questions, and challenges bravely met!