I enjoy writing book reviews; they are exercises in brevity, while also allowing one to make swift connections across fields and topics that may seem otherwise unrelated. Book reviews are like a way to cover a bunch of topics that are on your mind, funneling them all through a single title. One of my excellent students is working on his first book review right now (of Krista Comer's super sharp Surfer Girls in the New World Order), and I'm looking forward to helping him craft the review to submit to a hip new journal that is open to good writing from across the spectrum of disciplinary expertise and professional status.
When I'm in the thick of back-to-back-to-back committee meetings, when I'm in the trenches of grading essays, when I'm reading smart applications for dozens of people we just can't hire, when I'm conjuring up new course ideas and creative assignments, when I'm editing other people's writing and trying to mentally coordinate the overall shape of a book with individual chapters, sections, paragraphs, and sentences—in short, when I get really busy and bogged down in my academic work, I love to be reminded of my writing cabin in northern Michigan, where I go each summer to work, read, play, and plan the next school year. (This is where I first read all of David Foster Wallace, in anticipation of the seminar I taught on his work last year—and which I plan to teach again next year.)