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Needing a little encouragement? Or perhaps to desperately adjust your worldview in the face of these, uh, “unprecedented” and trying times? The libraries decided to develop a 3-part-series, “Words for Wellness,” to introduce you to some of the collections you can access, even from afar, that have the potential to lift your spirits. For this first entry, two audiobooks we’ll highlight are Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by retired Navy Seal Admiral William H. McRaven and blogger Samantha Irby’s meaty. Both feature personal stories that recount how the writers confronted and responded to prolonged experiences and periods of adversity. I’ll spend some time telling you about each and then, based on the descriptions, you can decide which has the most potential to inspire you as we navigate new terrain in the times of COVID- 19.

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Book cover art for Admiral William H. McRaven’s Make Your Bed, available as an audiobook at go.middlebury.edu/overdrive

Back in 2014, author Admiral McRaven gave a commencement speech at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. His words received a significant amount of praise and the recording, as of this writing, has over 10 million views on YouTube. Given his speech’s warm reception, it was decided that the content should be made into a book. While trying to get some daily, socially distanced exercise, I listened to this retired military man share 10 pieces of advice that have helped him to shape the trajectory of his life and his 36-year career in the armed forces. What I like about the work is that it’s straightforward and orderly and can be consumed in under two hours. The author advises that we start our days with small accomplishments that will hopefully produce a snowball effect; he touts the importance of relying on a network of support; he heralds bravery, measured risk-taking and steely resolve. I could see this work inspiring people who are motivated by external challenges and like extreme sports. So if you, for example, like running marathons or rock-climbing, this might be up your alley.

book cover art
Author Samantha Irby’s collection of personal essays, meaty, promises a strong dose of reality!

For a different take on facing obstacles that seem insurmountable, let me point you in the direction of meaty. The very successful author, Samantha Irby, was orphaned before completing her teenage years, has Crohn’s disease and never obtained a college degree. Her networks and safety nets fell apart in her youth when she needed them the most and in this work, and at least three others (We Are Never Meeting In Real Life, New Year, Same Trash and Wow, No Thank You), she puts the legacies of these losses on full display. I like that she is not fiercely optimistic. She’s a “it be like that sometimes” type. And despite her qualms and insecurities about, well, just about everything, she persists in shaping a life that works for her. Within her essays, you will find that Irby believes 21st century dating life is trash; that she laments the fact that she is covered in moles; and that she loved and cared for a cat that was determined to maim her. She is subversive, raw and unrelenting. So if you’re more inclined towards an intimate story that pulls no punches, this work might be a better fit for you. 

Use our collections in the library to motivate you. Ultimately, both memoirs are about facing extraordinary circumstances and deciding to move forward, the best you can. And not much more than that can be asked of you at this time. Check back in two weeks for another entry in this 3-part series.


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Use the instructions listed here to get started with Middlebury College’s go.middlebury.edu/overdrive collection.

Follow the transcribed instructions below to access these audiobooks in our collection.

  1. Download the Overdrive app to your listening device and create an original account. 
  2. Sign in and add the “Davis Family Library.” A prompt to sign in with a library card will appear; accept, but use your Middlebury College credentials instead. 
  3. Browse the available selections found at go.middlebury.edu/overdrive, choose a book and borrow up to three.
  4. Download the desired MP3 files and access your loans from your electronic bookshelf. 
  5. Listen or read to your heart’s content and share this info with a friend.

When the time comes, consider getting a library card from the Ilsley Public Library in Middlebury to access the Green Mountain Library Consortium (go.middlebury.edu/gmlc/), which holds 5,000+ FREE titles. Use your library card barcode and your last name in all caps (examples: QUIÑONEZ or TRUONG) as your password and borrow both classic titles and new releases!


  • Words for Wellness in the Times of COVID- 19 (II of III)

    | by Katrina Spencer

    It’s been over a month since most students have left Middlebury. A broad array of normal campus functions have shut down and classes have gone fully online. These transitions, no doubt, are massive and can certainly make us feel justifiably destabilized. So for the second entry in our Words for Wellness series (click here for the first), we offer you a title that challenges us to rethink what is most important, the audiobook Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. 

  • Words for Wellness in the Times of COVID- 19 (III of III)

    | by Katrina Spencer

    By now, we hope that you’ve been able to establish some sense of stability, if even occasionally tremulous, despite having so much of what we understand about our college and higher education experiences intensely challenged over the last two months. As we approach the close of the 2019- 2020 academic school year, this last entry in the Words for Wellness series is especially for graduating seniors. In a culture that praises us for being chipper, upbeat and optimistic, let me introduce you to an audiobook in our Overdrive collection titled How To Be Fine. Not how to be great. Not how to be excellent. Not how to be thriving. How to be fine. We’ve all had to alter and adjust our expectations for an extended period of time and we’re not certain what we’ll return to once our collective “hiatus” comes to an end. If you’re looking for ways to maintain a sense of equilibrium, How To Be Fine is chock-full of testimonies and tips, and is a critical examination of the self-help book.