She describes herself as “a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large.”
Who better to deliver the graduation address to a group of Communication majors?
A Communication major herself during her time at Penn, Maria Popova (C’07) is the founder of Brain Pickings, a website and weekly e-newsletter in which she curates and shares, well, anything and everything she finds interesting.
Each day she posts two to three blog posts rich with quotes, imagery, audio, and video. Today’s selection includes a book about the psychology of mastery in creative work and a post about Alfred Einstein’s contribution to the 1939 World’s Fair time capsule (on what would have been his 137th birthday). On other days you might find a post about Virginia Woolf, or a 17th-century treatise on lovesickness, or the wisdom of a Zen Buddhist monk. The constant is Popova's great love of books, which filled her childhood in her native Bulgaria.
Now Brooklyn-based, Popova has described Brain Pickings as a “one woman anti-newsroom” and a “human-powered discovery engine for interestingness.”
(And note to parents of graduating seniors: Popova does make a living with her website. Cash donations from readers support the hundreds of hours a month she spends researching and writing the site.)
Brain Pickings began during Popova’s Penn years, as she began collecting tidbits of information she found meaningful. In 2006, she began to share her intellectual inspiration with a handful of friends over email. She called the endeavor “Brain Pickings.”
Over time, she moved the site online, initially handcoding it in HTML, removing the old issue each Friday and replacing it with the new one. In 2007, she migrated to Wordpress and today she has more than 139,000 followers on her Twitter feed.
With several hundred thousand readers of her site and weekly digest email, Popova is committed to the Internet as a medium, using modern tools for a very age old purpose: “an inquiry into how to live and what it means to live a good life.”
In addition to her work at Brain Pickings, Popova has written for Wired UK, The Atlantic, the New York Times and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. She is currently an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.
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Photo Credit: Elizabeth Lippman