Tag Archives: books

Fish Don’t Exist

I know, you’re thinking, of course fish exist. I have seen fish, smelled them, eaten them, maybe caught them–there is no denying that they exist. Any yet, that’s the title of Lulu Miller’s delightful book, Fish Don’t Exist which tells the story of David Starr Jordan, the founding president of Stanford University, whose mission in life as an ichthyologist was to discover every species of fish–a quest he pursued with zeal, certainty, and rigor. When the great California earthquake shatters the ethanol filled jars. He grabs a needle and thread to start connecting the labels to samples. This is a tale of American grit–or so Miller had me thinking. Yes, I was hooked from the first chapter.

Fish Don't Exist - Book cover

Miller is one of the co-creators of NPR’s marvelous Invisiblia podcast–she approaches Jordan with a journalists restless curiosity but this book is also a personal history and a reflection on our world. She covers chaos theory, reminds us of Voltaire’s critique of optimism, and the dangers of hubris. We follow her on her journey of discovery–both about Jordan and on the importance of meaningful connections. She grapples with our significance in the universe, and champions doubt to temper our impulse to be blind to the world’s complexity and bigness.

Fish Don’t Exist is one of my favorite reads of 2022.  It is one of those books that changed how I see the world and affirmed my faith in doubt.  Aren’t you wondering just a little bit about how it can be possible that fish don’t exist?  Act on that curiosity my friends.

NYC High School Students Pick Great Reads

Urban Academy, an “alternative” public high school in Manhattan requires that students must complete projects in six different areas–creative arts, criticism, literature, math, social studies, and science. As part of the literature competency, students are required to read a novel and discuss it with an adult reader. I have been a volunteer reader for a few years now and the students choose great books. With them, I’ve read: Going After Cacciato, A Clockwork Orange, Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep, Waiting, and now, A Lesson Before Dying by Earnest Gaines.

In addition to choosing great books, these students are amazing readers–the books are read, and re-read, highlighted, dog-eared, post-it noted and underlined. They’re able to identify themes, relate them back to their lives and always come up with new insights into the work. Almost every day I read a blog post or news story about how New York City public schools could be doing better by our students. These experiences with the students and the committed teachers from Urban Academy is just one example of the good work that’s going on in New York City Schools. These kids are able to read, critique, discuss and express themselves; they also are passionate about what they’ve read. I always learn a great deal from them which is why I never pass up the opportunity to read with them. Lately, I’ve found myself putting my “Urban” hat on when I’m reading for myself–reading a bit more closely, marking pages, and taking notes in the margin. It just makes reading more fun. And if you happen to be looking for a good book, you might check out my Urban Academy Reading list.

Special bonus, a how-to on “masterly marginalia” from the folks at Levenger.