July 2022 Leisure Learning (and Mid-Year Recap!)

by Melissa Haas
published in Reading

Hello, fellow word nerds! As some of you may have noticed, this column is relatively new for DIY MFA. The first installment came in January 2022 and since then, it has been both an honor and pleasure to share with you the most interesting literary-related projects I’ve stumbled upon. Over the months, I’ve had the chance to talk to readers and I wanted to use this July to feature the top 5 selections that I hear people are liking and perusing, along with one that I just feel is an orphan.

Because DIY MFA never wants you to miss out on anything that’s going to bring a smile to your face or knowledge to your brain, here is your Mid-Year Leisure Learning Recap:

5 Minute Reads

As mentioned before, May is a short story month…but sometimes we don’t even have time for short stories. As such, here is a compilation of short, short stories by literary greats. You will find Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oscar Wilde, Kate Chopin and Franz Kafka among the many authors in this list of stories, which has the additional benefit of being organized into Feel Good, Introspective, Dramatic, Witty and Other-Worldy categories, among others. 

One piece I feel obligated to mention is Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, as there is a deep appreciation among word nerds for The Yellow Wallpaper itself; it is a standard HUB Library selection.

The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden

Did you know that the manuscript for Curious George made an escape, along with the author-illustrator couple, from Paris under Germany’s advancing threat? 

The husband-wife duo fled France on bicycles, traveled by train through Spain and Portugal, eventually taking a boat to Brazil. This extremely well-illustrated biography is styled as a lengthy picture book and worth checking out for the visuals alone. 

Although this book is listed as appropriate for ages 8-12, it truly makes for an interesting adult read. Definitely worth adding to your summer reading!

LeVar Burton Reads (iTunes, Stitcher, and most podcast forums)

Did you grow up watching Reading Rainbow? I certainly did and with deeply nostalgic love, I can still hear the theme song in my head.

LeVar Burton Reads is a podcast that has the former Reading Rainbow host converted to what feels like an adult version of the timeless PBS program. Mr. Burton himself picks out adult sci-fi and speculative fiction short stories that he would like to share and then reads them. 

That’s it. Good taste, great stories, a fantastic way to unwind, especially for 80s babies. 🦋 Take a look, it’s in a book…🌈

Muse of Fire: A Shakespearean Road Trip (1 hr 23 mins; iTunes, Amazon, YouTube)

It is my absolute pleasure to share this documentary with fellow DIY MFA word nerds. Muse of Fire started out as a grassroots project to explore Shakespeare’s works in contemporary times and garnered enough of a reputation to include Tom Hiddleston, Ewan McGregor, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen and several other names you will recognize. 

From students required to learn Shakespeare, to prisoners needing something that sparks their humanity, to the formidable list of award-winning actors, they all come together for this film has it all: two friends, one crappy car, and a review of iambic pentameter.

(If you don’t mind a movie broken up into 4 parts, you can view it for free on YouTube: Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4 Courtesy of the Ewan McGregor Vault)

Nightfall in Middle-Earth (album by Blind Guardian)

What do you get when you cross Bohemian Rhapsody with J.R.R. Tolkien? The German metal album that is Nightfall in Middle-Earth. 

The disc, released in 1998, recounts text from the First Age of Middle-Earth, taken from Tolkien’s classic The Silmarillion.

This was something I stumbled upon while stumbling upon something else, and I have to say, it was quite the find. There’s a Monty Python-esque sort of pathos that runs throughout the songs, largely from simply placing the subject matter in German-metal band format.

Here is the title song, Nightfall, with lyrics. 

Tell us in the comments: Which of these Leisure Learning picks are you most excited to try?


Melissa Haas is the author and illustrator of Catula: The Misadventures of Dracula’s Cat and The Night Before Christmas (NOW WITH CATS), among others. Follow Catula’s whereabouts on Instagram @CatulaTheCat. If you’re interested in downloading free coloring pages or seeing Margaret Atwood with a blowtorch, check out more Leisure Learning related content at www.MelissaHaasCreates.com.

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