Monday, March 17, 2014

TED Talks You Shouldn't Miss

By Joan

Two weeks ago I blogged about how images inspire stories in us, referring to a TED talk from author Tracy Chevalier. If you’ve ever been on the TED site, you’ll know it’s not so easy to stop watching after one. There are over 1700 TED talks available to view, on philosophy, technology, engineering, culture, entrepreneurship, you name it. The talks have been delivered by all types of people: experts, cultural icons, even whiz kids.

I thought I’d share some literary talks I came across. 

Two powerhouse authors tackle creativity. This one from celebrated author Elizabeth Gilbert about ever-elusive creative genius. (Gilbert, by the way, is presenting again this week.) And of course, Amy Tan always entertains. Susan and I saw her in Dallas not too long ago and here she is speaking about where creativity hides.

Lisa Bu speaks about her discovery of reading after her dreams of a career as a Chinese opera singer were squashed. After moving to the United States, she discovered reading and shares how books opened her mind to new possibilities and introduced her to people she would never meet in person. “Books have given me a magic portal to connect with people of the past and the present.”

Karen Thompson, author of The Age of Miracles, speaks about fear. “If we think of our fears as more than just fears, but as stories, we should think of ourselves as authors of those stories.” She says, “Our fears are an amazing gift of the imagination. A kind of everyday clairvoyance.” As one of the most fearful people I know, I like her take on it!  

In case you missed it, last week Pamela shared a great TED talk from author Kelly Corrigan on the link between reading, vocabulary and communication. 

There’s a clever talk from former Poet Laureate, Billy Collins. Five of his poems were set to animation in this intriguing look at life. I particularly enjoyed "Literary Amnesia" and "Forgetfulness."

And I’ll leave you with a talk from recent National Book Critics Award winner, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who talks about the danger of a single story. Her father was a professor, her mother an administrator. She was an early reader and writer, and read primarily British and American books. So her writing featured people who drank ginger beer and complained about the snow. It wasn’t until she read African authors that she learned literature could feature many characters, some like her, some like her housekeeper's family who were very poor. When she went to university in America, she encountered people who believed a single story about Nigerians. She learned first hand that if we are conditioned to believe something about a race or culture, we won’t learn the full story.

Have a favorite TED talk? Share it with us! Feeling uninspired? Spend some time with TED.  


  1. She's not a novelist, but this one with Brene Brown has been very helpful to me lately! I'm reading a lot of her writing these days.

  2. So interesting Julie. And what a great speaker. To be available for connection, we have to be seen. Scary for those of us who hide behind fiction. :)


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