Multi-track reading for a Multi-track mind

MaryCate Most is a senior studying Journalism and Political Science at the University, as well as last year’s IPRH David F. Prindable Intern. MaryCate is pursuing a career in science and policy communication, or a field that ties together her interest in politics, science, and writing. This past summer she worked as the Digital Experiences Intern at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, where she interviewed curators, conducted research, and then wrote blog posts and app content about some of the greatest (though often forgotten) stories of flight/spaceflight.

As a journalism major, I have a multi-track mind. My head is going in a million directions at once because I’m fascinated by so many subject areas (science, history, politics, art, etc.) and I am often presented opportunities to speak with and learn from experts in these fields. One look at the books I’ve been reading this summer will tell you all that and more.

Martian Summer by Andrew KesslerI wake up at 6:30 a.m. every morning to make it to work by 8:30. Since I’m spending this summer interning at the National Air and Space Museum, I need to be focused and scientifically-minded when I get in the door and sit down to write more blog posts for the Museum’s website. So on my walk to work, I listen to the audiobook edition of Martian Summer by Andrew Kessler. This non-fiction book tells the story of a journalist who was awarded the opportunity to go inside NASA’s Mission Control during the Phoenix Mars mission. Kessler does a marvelous job dissecting complicated, high-stress mission operations and making this piece of history light-hearted and human. Mars rover coding is so much easier to comprehend when you can picture the control room itself—with NASA scientists anxiously eating soft-serve ice cream as they wait for results to come back, drinking wine at 8 a.m. because it is 5 o’clock on Mars, and brainstorming ideas for how to break up a clump of Mars soil trapped in the rover. It’s the perfect way to ease into the space mindset that I need every day.


Three-Eight Charlie by Jerrie MockAt work, I have a whole other stack of books to read. From biographies like Three-Eight Charlie by Jerrie Mock and Return to the Moon by Harrison Schmitt, to cookbooks that feature recipes from “famous personalities in flight,” I am constantly looking for ways to explore the stories of air and space history that are overlooked by the public. We have a wonderful set of resources at the Smithsonian, both in terms of the extensive collections in the archives and in terms of the curatorial staff that works here.


The Luminaries by Eleanor CattonBy the time work is over for the day, I have nearly satisfied my space/history fix and I move on to fiction novels or stories. Right now, I’m reading The Luminaries, which is a intricately woven, mid-19th-century mystery about a murder that has occurred in a New Zealand mining town and the 12 men that have become entangled in this crime. I’ll be honest and say that while I’m enjoying it, I’ve had to reread a number of passages partly because it’s written in 3rd person omniscient, making it hard to remember what character is thinking what. Hopefully this novel is keeping me sharp for the beginning of my senior year.


The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God by Etgar KeretFinally, to fill in the cracks, I’m reading Etgar Keret’s The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories. Keret is a beautiful writer and his stories delicately tackle the most complex (and yet familiar) human emotions. After taking a creative writing course this past year where we focused mainly on short story writing, I’ve been inspired to spend a few hours each weekend brainstorming story ideas and then free writing. Reading a few Keret short stories before I write helps me “warm up” in a sense and I’ll oftentimes emulate his style in my own writing to give myself a jumping-off point. Saturday mornings spent reading and writing is good for my soul, I’ve come to believe. I definitely plan to keep reading Keret during the school year, because his stories are so easy to breeze through, even if you only have a few minutes to spare.

Some people have joked that I might be juggling a little too much at one time, but I think that reading a few different kinds of books at once is wise for someone in my field. I’m not all one thing. I’m sometimes scientific, sometimes complex, sometimes concise, and sometimes creative. Journalism allows me to delve into so many fields at once, and I’ve chosen to mirror that learning method in my reading selections. You can learn a lot about someone from the contents of their nightstand and iBooks library, and I am no exception.


About iprh

The Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was established in 1997 to promote interdisciplinary study in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
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One Response to Multi-track reading for a Multi-track mind

  1. Dan Steward says:

    Thanks, MaryCate! That’s a whole new level of “It’s five-o-clock somewhere!” Any chance we can get a cookbook title or two? They sound intriguing, like _Manifold Destiny_ for the age of the aeroplane…

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