Now that NCTE and CEL annual conventions are behind me, and now that I managed to get my family of six invited to Thanksgiving dinner and dessert at two different homes without being asked to cook anything (we brought the wine -- talk about easy!), I can write about my reads from first marking period, which ended last week. Here's the line-up:
Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
My Dyslexia by Philip Schultz
Choosing Hope by Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless
Multipliers by Liz Wiseman
Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
Launch by John Spencer
Ugly by Robert Hoge
Instant Relevance by Denis Sheeran
The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Total Books: 18
Some reflections on my reading life:
- Great YA novels are hard to find. I read YA fiction for my students, and I know they respond to it. This past Wednesday, I had several students as me what I’d recommend they read over the break, and I went right to my YA shelf. I know my students read it, and I know that there are good ones to recommend by good authors. I just haven’t found a great one lately. Nonetheless, just because I don’t think a book is amazing doesn’t mean my students won’t love it, and part of my work is staying fresh on books to recommend to them.
- I need to make more time to sit down and read for myself. Every night after dinner, I read with one or more of my children, but carving out time for my own quiet reading is just as important. This year, I have been conferring with students during the first ten minutes of class, and that is important work, but I do miss reading myself. Yes, in previous blog posts I have talked about how audiobooks are NOT cheating. (They are not!) However, even I am getting a bit tired of folding loads of laundry and doing dishes whilst listening to audiobooks. I want to read a book while I’m doing nothing else. How luxurious! And right before bed is really not the greatest time. I have found that poetry is a good genre for the bedside table, and I browsed Failure by Philip Schultz this fall, though I did not finish all the poems (and that is okay, too -- not everything I read needs to be finished and put on this reading ladder!).
- Literarily speaking, I’m “leaning in.” 11 of my 18 books are written by female authors, and the female characters in most of my works are ones that either struggle with the same everyday issues I do or inspire me to be a better person. They tell the stories that need telling, and they inspire me to tell my own.
- I need to find low-volume, high complexity texts to read. Challenging myself as a reader is always important, and that challenge needs to come in the form of hard copy books, or books that can be read and annotated digitally. Audiobooks are, by their genre, not great for lingering on. So if I want to challenge myself as a reader, then I’ve got to find reasonable ways of doing so in smaller chunks. Perhaps books comparable in length and complexity to A Room of One’s Own might be good, or mid-form articles from The Atlantic or The New Yorker.
On a side note: I am so glad I began this year by asking my 12th grade students to create their own high school career reading ladders. I showed them my ladder from the summer, and then I asked them to write one up to reflect their entire high school reading life. These were a great tool for me to hit the ground running and make recommendations. I keep the ladders in my conference binder, along with the list of recommended books. Each student took a picture of my list of recommended reads to keep on their phone, so that when they finish a book they can browse the classroom library, search titles on Goodreads or pre-read in Google Books to preview titles. It made for a very busy (but inspiring!) start to the school year.
Last side note: The start to this year was rough, on the home front. It felt as if illness struck early for my kids this year, even though every classroom at their schools is stocked with hand sanitizer. I was at the pediatrician’s office several times in September and October, and I battled illness for several weeks in November. I still am not feeling 100%. My husband had several last-minute business trips pop up, which made scrambling for early morning child care an imperative. All the makings of a perfect storm, right? I found that only two rituals helped to calm us: prayer and books. Those bedside prayers and dinner table blessings, and of course the talk that came out of both, were like oxygen. And, if not for books, piles of them in our living room, picture books and chapter books, the opportunity to snuggle up close might have passed us by. Last night, I read A Poem for Peter to my youngest three, and my goodness, the gorgeous language of that book! To read it aloud brought me such pleasure and joy -- it was truly magical. This Thanksgiving weekend, I celebrate my gratitude for books and the joy and wisdom they bring us. May the holidays bring you some amazing reading as well.