CultureEducationLearn

Every year we set resolutions to read more. While we read a lot as it is, there are so many great books that are waiting to be read and we want to get to as many as we can. Of all the books we read in 2015, these were the ones that stood out the most.

If you love beautiful writing and a compelling story…

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Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See was impossible to put down. The way he strings words together is unlike anything we’ve read before. This novel is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. With short chapters, alternating story lines, and descriptions that will make you want to re-read lines twice, All the Light We Cannot See is powerful and vivid. Read it here.

If you’re into history and classics…

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The Good Earth by Pearl Buck is an unforgettable and heart-wrenching story about a farmer, Wang Lung, and his selfless wife, O-Lan during the 1920s in China. Follow this family’s journey through the many changes China undergoes during this turbulent time. Read it here.

If you loved The Goldfinch

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The Secret History by Donna Tartt is a haunting and mesmerizing story about a group of college students in Vermont who . It feels as though you’re being let in on a big secret, and you’re the only one who knows. We adore Donna Tartt’s writing and the way her stories have depth, unique descriptions, and a whole lot of mystery. Read it here.

Astronauts, space, and the wives of America’s Mercury Seven…

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We met Lily Koppel, author of The Astronaut Wives Club at BookCon this year, but that’s not why we loved reading her latest book. The wives of America’s Mercury Seven astronauts were brave and strong, and overnight they were turned into American royalty, with their every move scrutinized by the media and public. This book gives an inside look at who these women were and just how important they were in getting to the moon. Read it here.

If you’re fascinated by time and fate…

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A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is one of those books that really makes you think. We’ve never read a book quite like this. Each chapter alternates between a 16-year-old Japanese girl, Nao, writing in her diary and the women, Ruth, who finds Nao’s diary washed up on the shores of the remote island she lives on. Covering topics such as bullying, time, and fate, A Tale for the Time Being is engaging and truly brilliant. Read it here.

If you want to laugh and feel empowered…

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If you read and loved Mindy Kaling’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), then you’ll appreciate her second bookWhy Not Me? In her new book, Mindy shares a more behind-the-scenes coming-of-age look at her life as creator, star, and writer of The Mindy Project, as well as her other endeavors in Hollywood. This book may be a light read, but it is both hilarious and empowering. You’ll have a great time reading it. Read it here.

If you’re intrigued by dark and heartbreaking humor…

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If you don’t have bounds of time to spend reading but you hate leaving a book unfinished, Fortune Smiles is a great solution to this dilemma. A collection of riveting short stories, Adam Johnson creates fascinating yet realistic stories about people dealing with a complicated personal life tread on by political confusion. This book will get stuck in your mind and keep you thinking all day. Read it here.

If you want to learn more about women’s roles in Nazi Germany…

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Hitler’s Furies is about Nazi Germany and the women who played a role in the horrors that occurred is not one to pass-over. Although the content is often graphic, the book does a very good job of presenting and exploring a side of history that is predominantly buried and purposefully forgotten. Read it here.

If you’ve been wanting to read an American classic that’s more relevant than ever…

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This classic book (The Tortilla Curtain) tells the story about immigrants – both legal and illegal – and the ways they interact with American society and the way society interacts with them. There are plenty of twists and turns in this exciting novel that will keep you engaged and flipping the pages as fast as you can. Read it here.

What books did you read and love in 2015?

Image by Lou Levit

Education

It took us a while to join the podcast bandwagon, but now we can’t stop listening! There are so many great podcasts to listen to, so there’s certainly no shortage of great information or inspiration. These are the eight podcasts we can’t get enough of.

Stuff You Missed in History Class

Love learning about history? You won’t want to stop listening to this podcast. From Chinese History to American Civil War to History Mysteries to Pirates, there is an abundance of fascinating topics about the past.

Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series

If you’re a budding entrepreneur or have been running your own business for a while, this podcast is a must-listen.

Planet Money

Listening to this podcast is a fun (yes, fun) way to learn about money and economics. With interesting and relevant topics, this podcast will make you feel smarter in just 20 minutes.

Zero to Travel

Experiencing serious wanderlust? Zero to Travel shares useful travel tips, inspiring travel stories, and new ways to explore the world. Get your passport ready!

Joblogues

Joymarie Parker hosts candid conversations with budding entrepreneurs, creative-thinkers, and dynamic young professionals navigating work and life across the globe. For real talk, check this podcast out.

Longform

Bookworms, this podcast is for you. Longform shares weekly conversations with a non-fiction writer or editor on his or her craft and career.

TED Radio Hour

As always, TED shares fascinating ideas, different journeys, and unique insights. Each show is centered on a common theme, such as happiness, creativity, and new inventions.

Stuff You Should Know

Want to know how PEZ works? What about how police dogs work? How hot air balloons work? If you’re at all curious about how things work, this is the podcast for you.

Image: Sascha Kohlmann

Book PostsCulture

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day, and we’ve rounded up some of our favorite reads from and about this unique and awesome country. Each year on September 16th Mexico celebrates its independence with parades, parties, delicious food, and family and friends. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Mexico and its culture, take a look through our book suggestions below.

mexico books

  1. The Years with Laura Diaz
  2. Mexico: Democracy Interrupted
  3. Pedro Páramo
  4. Frida: A Biography of Frida Khalo
  5. History of the Conquest of Mexico

What is your favorite book? Is there one specifically related to Mexico’s history? Let us know @carpejuvenis on Twitter!

Cover Image: Flickr

 

CultureLearn

If Ireland is on your list of places to go, take some time to read this combination of Irish authors, history, memoirs, and fictional tales before your travels. Reading about a country you will soon explore will make your adventures rich with knowledge and more fulfilling. Whether you’re reading a book by an Irish author or learning about how the Irish used to live in the 1900’s, there’s nothing like learning as much as you can before a trip to get the most out of it and see those stories come to life.

ireland 1ULYSSES BY JAMES JOYCE

Ulysses is considered to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature. In this classic novel by Irish writer, James Joyce, the encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin on June 16, 1904, are chronicled. Though lengthy, this book is a must-read.

 

ireland 2HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION BY THOMAS CAHILL

If you’re a history buff, this untold story of Ireland’s role in maintaining Western Culture and how Ireland helped Europe transition and evolve from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era will be right up your alley.

 

ireland 3A SECRET MAP OF IRELAND BY ROSITA BOLAND

Rosita Boland takes readers on a tour through Ireland’s 32 counties and shares her extraordinary (and very unusual) travels.

 

ireland 4TO SCHOOL THROUGH THE FIELDS BY ALICE TAYLOR

A charming memoir by Alice Taylor who shares her Irish childhood and the memories that accompany it.

 

ireland 5LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN BY COLUM McCANN

Though this novel takes place in New York City in the 1970’s, Irish author Colum McCann’s writing is worth getting to know before making your way to his homeland.

 

ireland 6THE BACK OF BEYOND: A SEARCH FOR THE SOUL OF IRELAND BY JAMES CHARLES ROY

A noted authority on Irish travel and history, James Charles Roy guides readers (and in the book, a group of Americans), through the backwaters of ancient Ireland.

 

 

ireland 7GULLIVER’S TRAVELS BY JONATHAN SWIFT

A classic of English literature, this novel by Irish writer Jonathan Swift is a satire on human nature and a parody of the traveler’s tales sub-genre. For a literary adventure, pick this book up before your real-life adventures.

 

ireland 8DUBLINERS BY JAMES JOYCE

In Joyce’s collection of short stories, he describes with great detail his observations of the life of Dublin’s poorer classes. As Joyce brings Dublin to life, there’s no way you won’t be immersed in lives of Dubliners in the 1900’s.

 

ireland 9A SHORT HISTORY OF IRELAND BY RICHARD KILLEEN

For a quick read about Irish history. A good starting point and overview before your travels.

 

 

ireland 10THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY BY OSCAR WILDE

Irish writer Oscar Wilde wrote this philosophical novel in 1890, and it’s worth reading before traveling to this author’s homeland.

 

ireland 12THE MODERNISATION OF IRISH SOCIETY: 1848 – 1918 BY JOSEPH LEE

For history and political fans, read about how Ireland became one of the most modern and advanced political cultures in the world at that time. Get a more in-depth look at Ireland’s history and how it modernized.

 

What books on Ireland have you found interesting? Happy reading and safe travels!

Professional SpotlightSkillsSpotlight

When it comes to creating awesome books for kids, Kate Olesin, Editor at National Geographic Kids Books, knows exactly what she’s doing. Incredibly talented and creative, Kate started her career with National Geographic as an intern in college. When Kate graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2009, she secured a position as an Editorial Assistant. Over the years, Kate has quickly worked her way up to Editor (and she’s only 27!). Kate’s passion for her work is obvious when she talks about the various types of books she works on, her day-to-day duties, and her love for reading and inspiring kids.

Outside of the NG office, Kate loves to stay active by running, hiking, and gardening. Work life balance is important to Kate, and seeing how she juggles managing a team and 10 projects at a time, having some downtime is very necessary. For all you writers and editors, Kate has invaluable advice to share about how she time manages, seeks mentors, how to set yourself up for success, and what traits make a rockstar intern.

Name: Kate Olesin
Age: 27
Education: B.A. in English and History from University of Massachusetts Amherst
Follow: Twitter / LinkedIn

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Kate Olesin: Young people are in a really good spot, especially right now, where many companies and professionals are looking for young, cheap, and really smart people. Our youth today are the whole package. They are really taking the time to go after their dream jobs and doing more than they’ve ever done before. Seizing your youth means taking advantage of the skills you already have. You are young, you are smart, and you have a larger breadth of knowledge of this changing world than a lot of other people who are already established in their careers. Young people today are so ambitious and smart and so many of them are just good go-getters.

CJ: You majored in English and History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. How did you determine what to study?

KO: I was the first one of my siblings to go to college, and it was funny because when I applied to school, I went to my high school guidance counselor’s office because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So, I picked up the biggest book in the office and it was the UMass Amherst book. Then when I got to Amherst, I ended up being placed in an English talent advancement program, and I really loved my classes and all of the people and students I was living with — all English majors. I decided to pursue book publishing pretty early on because of my lifelong love of reading. English really prepared me with the critical thinking skills that I use every day in my job.

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CJ: What was your first job out of college?

KO: Getting my first job was a mix of good timing and luck. I actually interned in the children’s books division of National Geographic right after my freshman year of college. I graduated in 2009 in the worst economy ever and I was terrified. Hiring in the book industry was stagnant and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had applied to publishing companies all over the country as well as some think tanks with zero response. But after completing my NG internship, I knew Washington D.C. was really the city I wanted to be in. So, I looked on National Geographic’s website and knew that they had a hiring freeze going on, but an entry-level position was open in my old division. It was perfect, and everybody I worked with as an intern was still there!

So, I started as an Editorial Assistant at National Geographic after college. I worked on book projects, did the administrative filing and copying, and really threw myself into it. After two years, I became an Assistant Editor. After about 10 months, I was then promoted to Associate Editor, and as of this past February, I am now an Editor. What’s nice about my group is that there is a clear career path and lots of extremely helpful mentorship along the way.

CJ: What sparked your interest in publishing?

KO: I’ve always loved books and I’ve always been a big reader. Ever since I was a kid I tore through children’s books. I grew up within walking distance of my local library, so I was constantly checking out books. But, children’s books are still what I love to read today. I love reading young adult novels. I do like reading adult books, as well.

For a time, I focused on journalism and reporting at my college newspaper and through internships. I did really like being a reporter. It’s demanding and rigorous, but I found that I really wanted to work with books and with children somehow. The nice thing about working at National Geographic, which is such a mission-driven organization, is that the books are non-fiction. We are telling true stories to kids who want to hear them and just maybe they’ll learn something from it. It’s really inspiring.

I wanted to work for a company that would uphold strong educational values, and I think I found one.

CJ: You are currently an Editor at National Geographic Kids. What are your roles as Editor?

KO: A lot of people assume that editors just focus on nitpicky copy editing things. Though I do a little of that, it’s not so much like my time is spent identifying what a past participle is. I do a lot more project management work. My job involves top of the line thinking and wrangling the entire team to make sure all of the pieces come together to form a complete product.

Each editor also acquires titles, and to do that we really look broadly at what the rest of the market is doing. We see what’s doing well, what’s not doing well, and what might fit into our publishing plan. Then we come up with ideas. For instance, I’ve done a couple of books relating to online games, another about George Washington, and another about dog communication. We take popular or core curriculum topics and their characters and tie in real-world information. So, something like taking an exciting game and pairing it with non-fiction information is a way to get kids hooked and inspire a love of reading and the real world.

There’s a lot of development that we do. We have three types of books: gift books, kid-driven books, and library review driven books. Our core age range is 8-12 years old. We also do preschool books and tween books for kids who are 10-years-old and up. So we try and come up with titles that fit into those molds or on topics that they care about.

When it all comes together, I hire authors, we work with our designers and our team of photo editors. Then it just goes from there. I do the text editing and reading through to make sure the narrative and big picture makes sense.

National Geographic Society

CJ: What is the process for creating a children’s book?

KO: It’s a long process. It usually takes about a year. Printing and shipping the books takes a long time. In the publishing industry your books have to be ready months before they go on sale so all of the major reviewers can review your book. That’s at least six months of time right there.

In our division we’re pretty unique in that we do a lot of in-house development. At National Geographic Kids, we have honed in on what kids want to read and what nonfiction content they are interested in. We take our market research and talk to our panel of about 4,000 kids about what they want to see. We call them our “kid bosses” and they’re very honest with us. When we find a topic that clicks, we get to work.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from being an editor?

KO: The importance of relationship building and how to maintain those relationships is one of the big lessons I’ve learned. Having connections and positive relationships with everyone I encounter at my job is really important, whether it’s a big-time author or someone I work with only once.

It’s also been interesting looking at the bigger picture instead of just having tunnel vision and focusing on your own work. Seeing how your book might fit into the broader picture of a marketing plan or a digital plan or anything else is helpful. I’ve learned to see how I can contribute in other ways with great ideas.

CJ: What is the best part about being an editor? The most challenging part?

KO: The best part is physically holding that book you worked so hard on in your hand when it comes off press. All of the photos are high-resolution and the paper is beautiful. Most of our books have a masthead in the back, and seeing your name printed is really nice.

I’m the head of my team for every book I work on. Being in charge of creating a product for children and making sure that it’s wonderful and inspiring is so thrilling. It’s something I never would have imagined that I’d get to do at 27.

The most challenging part is the deadlines. We have a lot of work to do here. Making sure the project keeps moving forward is sometimes a puzzle. It’s sometimes easy to leave projects on the back-burner. I am working on approximately 10 different books right now that are all in different stages. Juggling all of the different pieces can be challenging.

CJ: How do you time manage?

KO: I do a lot of things electronically and I use a lot of to-do lists. We have a couple of project management programs here. And over the past five years, I’ve learned to plan ahead as much as I possibly can and I’ve become a little more firm. It’s easy for a young person to be a little more lenient, but sometimes you have to crack the whip. Not all of the time, and certainly people get busy, but that’s just the nature of working in a time sensitive environment.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

KO: When I’m at the office, I read, read, read. Our CEO has a saying that “every day matters” which I think I’ve taken to heart at work and outside of the office. I’ve been trying to focus on a lot of work life balance, which I think is very important. It’s hard to do when you’re a young person just starting out in your career. So, I really try to get my work done for the day, go home, go for a run, make my dinner, and relax. If I have to finish things up at home, I will.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be an editor do to set themselves up for success?

KO: Do as many writing projects as you can. I’ve hired interns and young people to work for me, and the first thing I look for is a well-written cover letter and involvement in writing somehow. It can be for your school newspaper or your own blog or a review site. Good writing skills are a valuable asset. I also like to see young people who are willing to do anything and just throw themselves into any task with a positive attitude.

When I first started working at National Geographic, I did a bunch of filing and copying. Even though that sounds boring, I made it a fun learning experience by reading through every piece of paperwork I had to file and copy so I understood what was happening. If I had questions, I’d ask. I learned our entire filing system and reorganized it for efficiency in two weeks. All of this, which sounds like grunt work, gave me a serious advantage in the end and I was able to understand our administrative process very quickly. Anything that you do can be a learning experience, no matter how menial you feel the task is.

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CJ: When you were an Editorial Assistant and as an Assistant Editor, you hired, supervised, and evaluated editorial interns. What traits make a rockstar intern?

KO: An outgoing personality. A lot of times our interns will have to make calls or talk to experts to verify information. They need to not be afraid to pick up the phone to make a call or ask questions to find the answer.

It’s so hard when people don’t know what they’re doing but won’t ask questions. When someone sits there and doesn’t know what to do, the work doesn’t get done. Questions are never dumb. I think a lot of students feel silly when they ask questions, but they really shouldn’t. Questions are a really important part of the learning experience.

CJ: When you aren’t editing children’s books, how do you like to spend your time?

KO: I’ve started running. I’ve been doing that for about six months. It’s important for people to know that when you start working at a demanding job, it is hard to get active. I think it’s important to stay active because it gives me extra energy. I like to hike, garden and generally be outside. I love to go to the Shenandoah Mountains, which are only a couple of hours away. In D.C. there are free museums so there are always awesome things to do.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

KO: I’ve always enjoyed being a mentor and helping people see the best parts of themselves. I like to inspire ambition in people. Especially working at this organization where our mission is to “inspire people to care about the planet,” that’s something that really drives me. I like knowing that every day when I come into work, I’m helping make a product that can inspire a kid to get outside, or to save lions, or to just love reading.

CJ: How do you go about finding a mentor?

KO: In college I was a peer mentor and resident assistant. Here I try to develop relationships with the people I work with. To be able to go up to them and ask for their opinion about a sentence’s structure, how I might respond to a delicate situation, or for help with a project, is so helpful.

I am a person who loves having people as sounding boards for ideas and questions. Part of it is to feel validated in my own decision-making, but the other part is just to work out the problem. Developing those relationships has been really important. Whether it’s with people here or with authors I work with, it’s a learning experience and I do love to learn. You learn from teaching and you learn from the people you teach.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

KO: When I was 20, I had about four jobs in school. Part of it was to make money, and part of it was to inspire my love of learning. I worked at my university press, babysat, in an office, and worked on the weekends at a hotel. I would have told myself to take a slight step back once in a while. Take a hike in the woods or go to the beach. Unplug for an afternoon. Everything doesn’t have to be go-go-go all the time. Today when I take a breath, I appreciate where I am and what I have going for me.

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