Where would we be without art, music, philosophy, &
history? All of these disciplines and
more encompass the humanities, a great range of ideas that help us better
understand different perspectives on what it means to be human.
“Through technology we are now connected to the far reaches of the planet,
but without the study of history, religion, languages, philosophy, and culture
we will never understand those we reach.” - Utah Humanities
Helping us to better understand each other, inspiring
ideas and discussion that can be put into action, this is what Utah Humanities is all about. Offering several
programs from supporting community heritage to education access, they are also the
state affiliate of the National Center for the Book at the
Library of Congress.
The Center for the Book program promotes public interest in books,
reading, authorship and libraries throughout the state of Utah.
Author Terry Tempest Williams engages audiences at the Orem Reads portion of the Utah Humanities 18th Annual Book Festival.
“The power of language and stories come to
life in meaningful ways when members of our Utah community meet and talk with
authors. These interactions and ideas can inspire people to explore new facets
of their life and take action.”
This was just the case when a young teenager attended a recent celebration of children’s and young literature and was able to meet the authors.
is very poor and he took two buses and more than an hour to get to the event
because he really wanted to meet the authors. After the panel, he told the
authors how badly he wished to become a writer. They were so struck by his
story that they bought him several of their books and then paid for him to
attend the Teen Authors’ Boot Camp coming up in a few months. Elated, he left
the event in tears.”
Recently the Utah Humanities staff reflected on their own reading from the past year. Check out their book picks to see what ideas most inspired them!
Humanities Staff Book Picks:
Important Books We Read in 2015
(...and how they influenced us)
"Employ your time in improving yourself by other
men's writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard
Cynthia Buckingham, Executive Director: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided
by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt helped me get past
the impasse in my own mind about talking politics with people whose political
philosophies are very different from my own. Starting with the values we hold
in common makes me a better listener and, I hope, more likely to engage in
conversation rather than argument.
Jean Cheney, Associate Director: Between the World and Me by
Ta-Nehisi Coates is written as a long letter to his teenaged son to prepare him
for the racist society we live in. Coates' book was hard to read and
impossible to forget. It is full of fear, truth, and, ultimately,
Jodi Graham, Grants and Outreach Program Officer: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by
Muriel Barbery. Do I see people for who they truly are, or do I see only my
assumptions? Am I the same on the outside as I am on the inside? The author
describes it in this way, "on the outside, she's covered in quills...on
the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively
indolent little creature, fiercely solitary--and terribly elegant."
Jamie Gregersen, Finance and Office Manager: Breaking Night by Liz Murray. This
heartbreaking story serves as a reminder to exercise compassion, and leaves me
in awe of the resiliency some people have through what seem like insurmountable
circumstances. It's an inspiring illustration of amazing tenacity.
Fuzzy Utah Humanities staff "selfie" shows the lighter side of humanities work
Justin Howland, Administrative Assistant: Dream Work by Mary Oliver. With her
committed attentiveness to moments of isolation--turning the act of observation
into the quiet observance of the connective tissue holding together the larger
organism of our lives--Mary Oliver invites us to cultivate a compassionate
engagement with the world around us.
Michael McLane, Literature Program Officer: Voices of Chernobyl by
Svetlana Alexievich is not for the faint-hearted. It is a brutal tour of both
gross negligence on a governmental level and of human adaptability in
impossible situations. I chose it not only because of her recent, and
much-deserved, Nobel Prize, but also because here she inverts what won her the
award in the first place--this is a book of listening, a place where her voice
is supplanted by a chorus of Ukranian and Belarusian voices.
Deena Pyle, Communications Director: Childhood's End by Arthur C.
Clarke, originally published in 1953, is both a sci-fi masterpiece and a
timeless fable. This classic novel speculates about the ultimate destiny of
mankind and quickly became my most important book of the year for begging some
very deep existential questions--all within a sobering, poignant, sometimes
shocking, and ultimately bittersweet narrative.
Megan van Frank, History and Museums Program Officer: The Hare With Amber Eyes, a memoir
by Edmund de Waal, delves into the secret lives of 264 Japanese netsuke as they
are passed hand-to-hand through generations of the author's family--through war
and upheaval--to show how objects can carry stories, evoke place, and embody
Cristi Wetterberg, Development Specialist: You Learn by Living by Eleanor
Roosevelt whose straightforward and timeless book offers readers what
she learned through living. This book strengthened some of my own beliefs,
educated me on others I hadn't thought about or practiced before, and gave me
the encouragement to continue to learn new things, meet and understand new
people, and to seek out new ideas.
Visit Utah Humanities.org to learn more about their programs and latest news. And feel free to share the most important book you read recently (and its influence on YOU) with us in the comments!
Compiled by Michelle Ludema, book and humanities lover, as well as Communications Intern at Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts & Parks, in collaboration with Deena Pyle, Communications Director at Utah Humanities.