Sunday, April 25, 2021

She's Still Reading: Priya Parker's The Art of Gathering


When I go silent here on this site, I can guarantee it's not because I'm not reading. Instead, life has gotten in the way! This has been quite a (school) year: I'm still teaching part time and also going back to school in an educational leadership doctoral program, so I am certainly reading plenty. Never fear, though. Yes, I am reading a lot of academic texts--legal and political systems and organizational theory this semester--but I still make time for pleasure reading.

I want to share a lot of the books I've read recently, but the one I finished yesterday has been on my mind the most. When I interviewed a friend (my son's eighth grade English teacher who now teaches at App State), she recommended a number of books, and I have them in my stack now.

The first, The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker, isn't my usual literary fiction. Instead, she writes about how to make the most of any occasion that brings people together, from dinner parties or church small groups to business conferences. And it is anything but dry. This is one of those books that had me thinking of who else needed to read it before I had even finished it myself. (Plenty of people have gotten the texts and emails from me.)

Parker talks about how to begin well--and to end well. One can easily steal some of her specific strategies. She points out how we often get too caught up in the logistics (those Martha Stewart style lists) instead of the people. She explains how a host who takes charge of an occasion is acting generously. She even gives suggestions for helping people process conflict in a productive, healthy way.

Several of her points made me think of occasions that had not been optimized, but I'm happy to say that she also made me aware of people who handle gatherings well. Some of the techniques reminded me of the best of the Great Teacher Retreats I used to attend in North Carolina. Most of us have been to an occasion, whether business or pleasure, that was so good we wanted to bring some of it back with us when we "reentered" our real world. 

I felt the same way when I finished the book. I don't want to put it on the shelf and forget what I learned. Instead, I want people I know to read it too so we can put some of the strategies into effect. After all, I think we are all eager to gather again.