About Alison Lytton

Alison is a regular blogger for The Wheelhouse. Follow Alison Lytton on Tumblr or Twitter for up-to-the-minute weather musings, pics of food and/or exotic travels and retweets of bad puns. In Alison’s wheelhouse, you’ll find reading the Internet, reading everything, local/seasonal eating, indie music, education technology and Chinese politics & culture.

When Reading YA IS Super Embarrassing

Slate trolled the internet hard this past weekend with a post perfectly positioned to enrage book Twitter into a storm of anger, disapproval and (maybe?) anxiety. Titled “Against YA” – with the delicious URL expounding that “adults should be embarrassed to read children’s books” – the article posits that young adult literature is too simple, satisfying and immature to be worth the time of full-on grownups. The internet erupted with praise and acclaim to all the wonderful books written for children and young adults that shaped them into the readers they became, books that they return to as adults, books they’ve come to for the first time with great enjoyment and appreciation. To paraphrase the immortal words of Hansel, YA is so hot right now. Haters: back off.

As someone with a background in education and literature, I do empathize with the outraged. Reading is so important, so critical to success that children should be reading whatever engages them, be it graphic novels or the side of cereal boxes. The same goes for adults! How else to learn about the world around you, to empathize with others through experiencing the world through their eyes in a book. And there are so many great YA books these days! Or more accurately: there are so many YA books these days! If you throw a bunch of books at a wall, at least a few will stick, right? Continue reading

Party Non-Sequiturs: 2014 Edition

There you stand, slightly sweaty in your summer best, summer cocktail in hand, amidst a crowd of strangers at a summer rooftop party. You’re ready to meet and greet. But what to say? How to make that crucial first impression? In an ideal world, we’d just talk about the weather, a source of endless interest and fascination germane to all. But the world isn’t perfect, and we’re left with small-talk tropes like “what do you do?” or “where are you from?” and other banal and overdone borers. Or you could turn those conversational tropes on their heads and be the firework you want to see in the sky. All you need is a party non-sequitur.

Beloved former Wheelhouse writer Sarah Davis inaugurated the tradition in summer 2012, updating in spring and back-to-school 2013. As the world turns, so do awesome party conversation topics. Here are the non-sequiturs of the moment that will dazzle strangers and mystify acquaintances. Read them, print them, memorize them, put them on little post-its on your bathroom mirror and then go forth to your barbeques, picnics, rooftop parties, weekends in the Hamptons, beach vacations or any other venue for summer socialization to shine!

Continue reading

I Did the Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge…and Survived!

It was an innocent enough start. A link showed up on a friend’s gchat status: Take Buzzfeed’s Clean Eating Challenge, Feel Like A Champion At Life. Be honest – you’d click on it like I did. Buzzfeed links are nothing if not seductively tempting to click on, even if you’re clicking to hate on them, as I did. What does Buzzfeed know about health? This isn’t Well & Good. Isn’t clean eating the most ridiculous and unscientific concept? Aren’t cleanses totally unnecessary for people who have functioning kidneys and livers? Isn’t it far better to eat your greens than to juice them?

All of these thoughts flittered through my mind as I started scanning the article. Well, scanning, then skimming, then a close, careful reading and a newfound resolve. The pictures were so bright and colorful! The meal plans were laid out in an easy to follow, logical, step by step format. There was even a grocery shopping list, helpfully broken down into week 1 and week 2 sublists. Sure, there was a lot of kale involved – even some green smoothies – and the stipulations to avoid gluten, almost all grains, processed food, coffee and alcohol seemed a tad unsustainable, but overall it seemed like a healthy jumpstart into good cooking and eating habits. Given that I had been averaging cold cereal at least once (and sometimes twice!) a day, change was needed.

So I woke up bright and early Saturday morning, printed out the shopping list, purchased everything on it, followed the pre-challenge instructions and prepared myself for a fantastic new me, starting Sunday morning. Sounds perfect, right? Here’s how it really went down. Continue reading

Who Needs High School? Educate Yourself

One of the things I am often reluctant to reveal about myself is that I was basically homeschooled my entire life. I can count the number of times I’ve been inside an American public school on two hands. Almost everything I know about high school I learned from Can’t Hardly Wait and Friday Night Lights (obviously the two most representative examples in popular entertainment). The first time I took notes for a class was my first day in college. My mother graded every paper I ever wrote. I had homework one or two days a semester at most. Despite all that, I survived, made it through college and graduate school and present as a normal person today. Phew.

You see, homeschoolers have a particular stereotype. You might be familiar: gawky, awkward, socially inept, inexperienced, conservative, naive, poorly socialized, painfully uncool. Now, I’m not saying that wasn’t me at a point or two during adolescence, but most teenagers do go through a rough stage. And there was definitely a year way back when my favorite outfit was a jumper and turtleneck. Continue reading

Why Podcasts Are the Worst

I hate podcasts. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ll shout it to the skies: Podcasts are the worst! When faced with the prospect of listening to one, I will tackle any other task at hand as an excuse not to listen. (For those of you who aren’t inveterate fans or are unfamiliar, a podcast is an audio broadcast you can subscribe to and automatically download. Or you can stream it.) Podcasts seem everywhere these days, at least in the various corners of the internet I frequent, and even IRL my friends will chat tediously about what they heard on a podcast. Oh, a fun new social medium that encourages offline engagement, you may be thinking. No, it isn’t: podcasts are the worst! Here’s why:

1. They’re an inefficient way of learning information

You may have taken a quiz at some point in your life that classified you into a certain type of learning. Maybe you’re a visual learner – you retain information and learn best when seeing information, so you read newspapers and blogs and books. Maybe you’re an aural learner – you retain information by hearing it, so you listen to podcasts. Here, take a quiz to see how you learn best. So, how did you do? Did you notice the editor’s note saying there is no scientific proof that people learn in one style rather than another? Instead, you learn best through a combination of ways – visual, textual and auditory. Sure, if you’re reading the transcript of the podcast while listening (and looking at pictures of it), you might actually retain more of what you heard. But you’re probably not doing that. If you want to learn something new, you’re better off engaging all your senses – not just relying on your headphones.

2. They distract you from the tasks at hand Continue reading