Spring 2017: Introduction to a book nerd

I can't believe it's already time for another Introduction post to another semester. I've been teaching these online classes at OU since back in 2002... which is a seriously long time ago in terms of online education, and that means I've written close to 30 of these introduction-type posts, semester after semester, year after year — I should put them all together in some kind of collection: my life as a series of Introduction posts ha ha. Anyway, I always have so much fun with these classes, getting excited all over again as the new semester begins, and I hope you will have fun with the class too!

As a general introduction: I joined the OU faculty way back in 1999 in the Classics department, but I left that job in order to develop online classes starting in 2002. That was something totally new (I was part of the first cohort of online instructors at OU), and I still find it really exciting. The Internet is so much bigger than any classroom! For the past several years, I've been living in North Carolina (for family reasons), so I also appreciate how teaching online gives me the freedom to be where I need to be while still being able to do my job. I'm guessing some of you may be taking online courses for similar reasons! In addition, I feel really lucky that the two courses I teach — Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics — are both topics that fascinate me, and they are infinite in scope: every semester I get to learn all kinds of new stories... so I am already curious what will be the first new stories I encounter in the year 2017.

As for the specifics of right here, right now, I just have to say: winter break is always way too short! Plus, this holiday break I had a cold (ARGH) which stole a few days away as well. But still, I got to read... and that is the sure sign of a book nerd: my favorite thing about being out of school is having time, real time, to read new books. Here are my top three reads from this holiday reading season:

Frank Wilczek. A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design. I am a popular-science (especially physics) junkie, and I absolutely loved this book. I listened to the audiobook version read by the author himself, so that added to the pleasure of it. You can read more about Wilczek (Nobel-prize-winning physicist) at Wikpedia.

Philip Almond. The Devil: A New Biography. This was a very cool book! I read it because I'm starting a new project about alchemy, and I thought this book would be helpful in learning more about the history of magic, and it was! Very well-written and informative. One of the really fascinating ideas here was that the very public, over-the-top incidents of possession in Renaissance Europe were kind of like reality TV shows of today: kind of real... but also a sort of theatrical performance.

Philip Pullman. Sally Lockhart series. I am a huge fan of Philip Pullman (you might know his Dark Materials series because they made the first book, Golden Compass, into a movie), and I am really glad I finally got around to reading his Sally Lockhart. The series is kind of like Sherlock Holmes combined with Charles Dickens, with wonderful historical detail along with very sympathetic and memorable characters. I read the first two books, The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North, and I really hope I will have time to read the other two soon!

So, it was just a totally relaxing holiday break: I visited my dad in Austin (we went to see Fantastic Beasts which was the first Harry Potter movie he had ever seen; it's definitely not his style of movie, but he as a good sport about it), and then for the rest of the break I was just at home with husband and with cats (two), reading and snoozing and munching on holiday sweets (my husband's daughter likes to bake and she always sends us way too many Christmas cookies... yum!).

And now... it's January: time to get back to work and plunge into a new semester of stories and storytelling. I'm looking forward to meeting you all and reading the stories you will create for the class!


I make Latin LOLCats, and here's one of the New Year Cats I made for 2017. :-)

Semel in anno licet insanire.
Once a year you get to go wild.