Books

I love books.

When I was little, I used to get confused between fiction and my real life. I honestly thought–for a bit there–that I had spent a summer on a sailboat in the Caribbean because of a book I had read once.

The first book I cried at was Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. And I don’t even like dogs! That’s the power of literature. I realized that when I was 9 years old.

I try to keep a list of all I read, but it doesn’t always work. These are my attempts.

THIS IS WHAT I’M CURRENTLY READING:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Saffron Foer (We are teaching this book in our Summerbridge Program and it will leak into Fall semester’s Reading and Writing class, therefore I read this book for the 3rd time with a eye for teaching. There is SO much to teach in it–grief/survival, City scavenger hunts, WWII History, 9/11 History, family dynamics, various plot lines, alternating narrative, multi-genre writing….I can’t wait! But I am worried that the text will be very challenging…)

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin (Yes, I am a Game of Thrones fan. Did you know that way back in the day I actually considered–for a brief flicker of a moment–get my doctorate in medieval French literature? Yep. While Game of Thrones is they hypothetical/fantastical Dark Ages, I find it fascinating. I bought these books over a year ago, started reading them, didn’t like them, stashed them in my basement for a future stoop sale, dragged them out to sell, started reading Book 3 [this season's show], got sucked in, and now I am totally confused about what happened in the book versus what happened in the TV show. Not sure I recommend reading/watching at the same time. My brain is a hot mess and I might suddenly become one of those assholes that gives away spoilers b/c I read beyond Season 3′s happenings. That’s what I get for being both impatient and a reader…)

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud (My mosse–mom posse–that formed last year due to our kids all being in the same pre-K class has branched out from drinking to drinking AND talking about books. This was Amy’s pick, and it was the most beautifully delicate yet strong prose I have read in ages. What word mastery she has.)

Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time by Georgia Pellegraini (I heard her on NPR years ago and loved that, as a chef, she set out to kill the meat she used. A great look at food, meat, eating, and it definitely piqued my interest in hunting as a survival skill…Also has great recipes, although mostly for meat that is hard to acquire from your local city butcher.)

Wave by Sonali Deranilygala. (Memoir. Beyond heartbreaking, but such a story of survival and the effort it takes to survive when all is, literally, lost. Read my post on this book and the one I read prior here: http://readwriteteach.org/2013/05/17/this-book-made-me-throw-up-in-a-good-way/)

The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp (Memoir, again, my favorite genre other than dystopian literature. I am sure the psychoanalysis of me is painfully apparent given these two genres–sigh. I am only 50+ pages into this book and it’s excruciatingly heartbreaking. The pain seeps into your body from the pages. But it’s also so damn beautiful in its writing.)

Blue Nights by Joan Didion (Again, like Wild, I reread this as a model/mentor text for some writing I am working on. I am particularly interested in how she frames adoption and her perspective as a parent who adopted and then lost a child.)

The Giver by Lois Lowry (This is one of those canonical YA books that I had never read, so I grabbed it at the bookstore one day. It’s been on my shelf for over a year, and when I grabbed it I was happily surprised because it’s a dystopian novel! My favorite! I wasn’t happy with the ending, but I loved the story. No wonder it’s a classic.)

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo (My students are I are going to be book givers for World Book Night and this is one of the books we will be giving away on April 23rd! I re-read it before giving it over to circulation among the students. Last time I had read it was maybe 8 years ago? Wow. A lot has changed, but it still resonated deeply. I selected it as one of our books because many of my students had read it and loved it.)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (Oh my, are you sick of my Cheryl Strayed love-fest yet? I re-read this book as a model text. I was curious how she wove together two narrative stories–the loss of her mother and the hiking–into one memoir. It was just as good the second time. I still cried when her mom died. My husband read it after me this time, and it was interesting to hear a man’s take on this story. At first, he felt she was over-exaggerating the effect of her mother’s death on her life. And, me having lost my dad at age 21, quickly corrected him. Overall, he loved the book, too.)

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why by Amanda Ripley (After reading about the little girl who played dead during the Sandy Hook shootings and then emerged into the daylight covered with blood to be reunited with her family, I picked up this book again. It is not a survival guide as much as a social psychology book on how humans react in disasters and how, if we analyze our behaviors and understand our individual personalities, we can increase survival chances. A journalist, she studies many tragedies of the 20th/21st century–9/11, tsunami, earthquakes, fire, plane crashes, etc.–as cases and examples for us to learn from. FASCINATING.

WHAT I READ IN 2012 (an attempted comprehensive list):

Your Mouth is Lovely by: Nancy Richler (novel about young girl living in pogram in Russia, Russian Revolution, discrimination of Jews in that time…)

Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (& Parents Sane) by: Gavin de Becker (good parenting book on trusting you and your kids’ instincts in potentially dangerous situations)

1Q84 by: Haruki Murakami (900 pages of blow-your-mind reading. Might be one of my favorite books, ever.)

White Teachers/Diverse Classrooms: Creating Inclusive Schools, Building on Students’ Diversity, and Providing True Educational Equity ed. by Julie Landsman & Chance W. Lewis (a perfect collection of academic writing, memoir pieces, and thoughts on this topic)

The Zookeeper’s Wife by: Diane Ackerman (Polish zookeeper’s surviving amid German occupation in WWII. A non-fiction book written from the diaries of the zookeepers.)

No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes about Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by: Colin Beavan (blogged about it here)

Sunrise Over Fallujah by: Walter Dean Myers (I really wanted this book to be awesome, but it was not. Very. slow. plot.)

Things Fall Apart by: Chinua Achebe (It was on my list of “Books I Should Have Already Read” so check it off. Liked it more than I thought I would, but I think that’s because I have spent time in West Africa and worked with and taught Nigerian peoples for many years.)

Inside Teaching: How Classroom Life Undermines Reform by: Mary M. Kennedy (Very good points on how and why policy and practice always create a disconnect based on research in classrooms.)

O, Pioneers! by: Willa Cather (Wanted to read this b/c the protagonist is named Alexandra, my daughter’s name. I LOVE Willa Cather, the idea of the vast West, and the cultivating land dream. Loved this book. It was like a soap opera of characters and drama.)

The Gold Cell by: Sharon Olds (Great, powerful poetry. Blogged a bit about it here.)

Matched and Crossed byAlly Conde (Another dystopian Young Adult trilogy a la Hunger Games, but this female protagonist willingly chooses to be a part of a revolution in contrast to Katniss who is the reluctant revolutionary. I don’t think the third book is out, yet, but the first two were good, quick reads.)

Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer’s Workshop by Jeff Anderson (Where have you been all my life, book? This is an excellent text with concrete ideas on how to use model texts to teach students grammar and sentence structure. Love.)

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindnessby Michelle Alexander (Blowing. My. Mind. And beautifully written. I can only read about 10 pages at a time b/c it has so much rich information that I simply cannot process all of it at once. Plain amazing.)

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (A teacher used this in her AP Literature class at my school last year, and the title captivated me. Only a few pages in, but it takes place in Jamaica and is full of race, class, and other tensions so far. Narrative is a bit fragmented so it takes so paying attention to in order to get it, which is why falling asleep on the train while reading it is not a good idea!)

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (Yes, I did. And it is the worst book I have ever read, but I still enjoyed it! I do love a good, bad book. And yes, I am reading the next two, too. No shame. Blogged about it here.)

They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff & Cathy Birkenstein (I am a fan of writing templates for struggling writers. That is honestly how I got many kids who were reading years below grade level to pass the New York State English Regents. But beyond test prep, once a student can master basic organization and transitions, s/he is free to explore the creative side of putting words on paper. This book is a total gem.)

This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman (I love, love, love memoirs, but this one is too damn slow. About a girl raised by parents who moved to Maine to live off the land and how it eventually tore them apart. I”m on page 100 and forcing myself onward. I hate breaking up with a book, but I might with this one.)

Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with his Mother by Sonia Nazario (First, the whole idea of a young boy risking his life to be with his mom just made me teary. I read this book b/c the super awesome ESL teacher at my school highly recommended it as a lower level/higher interest book that she has had a lot of success teaching. It was a bit slow for me, and the writing too journalistic-y (not pretty enough for my tastes), but I could see students loving it. And it has amazing photos. It’s also non-fiction, so it meets all those Common Core Standards requirements for non-fiction. Check it out.)

When Kids Can’t Read What Teachers Can Do by: Kylene Beers (I was told to read this book about six years ago; it has sat on my shelf since then. Oh, I was so stupid not to read it! It is fab.)

Blue Nights by Joan Didion (An emotional punch in the chest, this book explained poignantly how vulnerable you are when you become a mother. Also, Didion’s daughter was adopted, so she ruminates on what that means. For me, an adoptee, it was interesting to read her perspective on adopting and mothering an adopted child. What a beautiful and painful book.)

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by: Daniel Smith (my friend’s husband wrote this book. It’s getting great reviews (Go, Dan!), and it’s making me–a pretty anxious individual–feel very, very normal. Thanks for that, Dan. Compared to you, I’m totally sane!)

Fifty Shades Darker by: E.L. James (I debated on whether or not to include this, but I’m a brutally honest person by nature. Yes, I’m reading the second book. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as the first, but after a day of academic reading and writing, it’s mindless and I love that. I am not ashamed to admit that I like to read a little smut. I’m not one of those academics who is above that. Confession over.)

Fifty Shades Freed by: E.L. James (By far, the worst of all three. I found myself skimming it just to hit the major plot points, which were haphazardly constructed and oftentimes made little sense, but I finished it! And no surprise, everyone lives happily ever after. I was kinda hoping for some dark ending, but I should have known better.)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (Just read this post and you’ll understand how deeply I loved this book.)

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (I love end-of-the-world novels, and this one was exquisite. I read it in two days. The narrative voice of the sixth grader is a unique position from which to explore the beginning of the end of days. Sometimes, while reading this book, I’d find myself rereading a sentence or a paragraph over and over because it was so beautiful. The author lives in Brooklyn. I might have to stalk her. I would love to teach this book.)

Thirteen Reasons Why by: Jay Asher (I don’t know how I came to order this book. I often peruse YA literature, and it looked interesting. It was a bit slow, but it has a great premise:¬† A girl kills herself and leaves a box of cassette tapes of the 13 events/people that were her end. A good read on how even small events/jokes can have lasting ramifications for a young person. I would teach this book in a skinny minute. It’s a great book–and with the documentary “Bully” out, if could be paired nicely with that to really talk to kids about how their behaviors affect others’ lives.)

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (More heartaching bliss in written words. Excerpts from an advice column that Strayed wrote under the name “Dear Sugar.” I am reading this now, and sometimes I have to put it down because I lose my breath reading it–it is THAT awesome. It might just be my new Bible.)

Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (Wow. Just wow. As an adoptee, never have I see another adoptee so honestly register the complicated nature of finding and meeting your biological mom, nor the struggle it is to find a place in a family that labels you as adopted. I want to get lunch with Ms. Winterson very badly so personally thank her for writing this book.)

Feed by M.T. Anderson (In an attempt to find a novel on consumerism, Feed was suggested to me and it did not disappoint. Set in the future, Feed’s premise is that humans of a certain class get a computer implanted in their brains and their feed is controlled by corporations. Fascinating! A YA novel, I would love to teach this. I particularly think young men would like this, as the male protagonist is a real guy’s guy. Great book.)

REREAD: They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff & Cathy Birkenstein (as mentioned in this blog post!)

Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by: Danny Danziger (We are using this book for an upcoming elective course called Arts in NYC, and it reads so easily and beautifully. It is a series of interviews written into narrative pieces about a cross-section of employees of the Met. A great book about art and the nature of work, too. Honestly enjoyed it. People are plain mesmerizing. So are museums. And money. Whoa–lots and lots of money.)

Cloud Atlas by: David Mitchell (Oh my lovely. Someone posted a trailer to the upcoming movie on facebook and I was intrigued. But I never let myself see a movie based on a book without having first read the book. This book is amazing on many levels. The dialogue, the premise, the chapters, the characters…It has been a blissful escape and I literally can’t wait for my commute every day to read it. I am nearing the end and already getting depressed about it ever ending. I want it to go on forever.)

Ready, Willing, and Able: A Developmental Approach to College Access and Success by Mandy Saviz-Romer and Suzanne M. Bouffard (Suggested by a former colleague, this book looks at adolescent development in tandem with college access programs and why there is a disconnect. I haven’t gotten to the part where they suggest other approaches–interrupted by reading Cloud Atlas!–but it’s a unique approach to thinking of college and secondary school students traditionally underserved or unserved in areas of college prep.)

The Happiness Project¬†by Gretchen Rubin (Was not in love with this book, but it had some super helpful ideas in it that I adopted, so I guess I can’t hate on it too too much.)

The Muses Go to School: Inspiring Stories about the Importance of Arts in Education edited by Herbert Kohl & Tom Oppenheim (Suggested by a different former colleague, it was only “meh.” I liked Rosie Perez’s piece. Most of the stories were interesting to read and definitely reinforced the importance of the arts, but the essays in response to the stories were the “meh” part of the book. Stopped reading them after two.)

Back to School: Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education by Mike Rose. (If you don’t know how much I love Mike Rose already, go here. Will update this soon.)

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien (A YA book on a dystopic future when many women are infertile and have to give over a quota of their babies to the government called the Enclave. Female protagonist Gaia awakens to the fact that it is wrong and decides to act. Setting is super interesting in a post-oil America…I love dyspotic YA literature. Need to post on it soon. Good book.)

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