The end of summer and the beginning of the school year (which is the middle of summer for most people) brings a shift in my reading from contemporary fiction and young adult literature to professional development books. This was certainly true for me this year. If you’re an English teacher, you’ll find this particularly interesting; if you’re not, you’ll have to wade through all of the “teacher” books. I promise though there’s something in here for everyone!
July – finishing up some fun reads but thinking ahead to school
Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ★★★★★ (Riggs, 2011, Young Adult)
If this had not been our book club choice for the month, I probably would have never read this book, and I would have missed out. I’m not really a fantasy fan, and while I read a lot of YA books, it’s not my go-to genre. This book, however, had me from the start. I was fascinated with the photographs throughout the book, and the mystery pulled me in from page one. I plan to read more of Riggs in the future.
Disruptive Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (Beers and Probst, 2017, Professional)
This book seemed to be making the rounds in education circles, and I was quick to jump on the bandwagon. I am a huge fan of choice reading, and this book confirms its importance. The book further unpacks ineffective teaching methods (some I have used) and details how to better position students to be successful readers. I highly recommend this book especially for educators who teach a literacy-based class (which is every teacher).
Beloved ★★★★★ (Morrison, 1987, Fiction)
Why have I waited so long to read this Pulitzer Prize winning novel? Honestly, I need to read it again to fully soak up the complexity in the characters, relationships, and themes. Toni Morrison is basically brilliant, and this book is a masterpiece. While good, this is a heavy read so be prepared for time to think and process some deep themes.
Digging into Literature: Strategies for Reading, Analysis, and Writing ★★★★★ (Wolfe and Wilder, 2016, Professional)
Speaking of beach reads, here’s what I read at the beach. While everyone else at the pool was reading Big Little Lies, I read Digging into Literature – nerd alert at the pool! This book – or teaching manual – is already full of turned- down corners and stays on my desk. I love the specific guidelines offered for digging into texts and writing different types of analyses. It’s a must for all English teachers.
52 Things in 52 Years ★★★★★ (Peeples, 2017, Inspirational)
This free download from Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, is insightful, humorous, and personal. I would advise reading one a week as opposed to plowing through it like I did.
August – the start of school so my reading is way down
The Pocket Instructor: Literature: 101 Exercises for the College Classroom ★★★★★ (Fuss and Gleason, 2016, Professional)
The reading fun continues (I really do think this type of reading is fun) with another manual for secondary teachers; this book is full of exercises for English teachers. This is so practical and stays on my desk under Digging into Literature only because it’s bigger.
The Glass Castle ★★★★★ (Walls, 2009, Memoir)
This book has been on my list for a while, and I read it because the movie came out in August. I always read the book before I see the movie, but I never got around to seeing the movie. This memoir was sad and disturbing at times, but a great reminder of the human spirit and its will to not only survive but to thrive. Walls is brutally honest and lets us see her struggle of loving and hating her parents. I love her story!
September – School is in full swing so I am now reading more so I don’t have to grade.
Feedback the Moves Writers Forward ★★★★☆ (MeGee, 2017, Professional)
I have completely revised (no pun intended) the way I teach writing over the last five years and have become slightly obsessed with writing instruction. This book (K-12) has some good suggestions for helping students set goals for their writing and how teachers can spend less time grading (I’m all about this) and offering feedback to not simply correct mistakes but move students forward in their writing.
Counting Descent ★★★★★ (Smith, 2016, Poetry)
It’s no secret: I am a Clint Smith fan. This is my second time to read Counting Descent this year; I read it this time with my students. His poetry on is beautiful, challenging, and painfully current. If you’ve ever thought about reading a poetry collection but don’t know where to start, start here. More on why I chose to teach Clint Smith in next week’s post.
Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions ★★★★★ (Luiselli, 2017, Essay)
This book about undocumented children is fascinating from both the subject matter to the way it is written. The author tells her story of being a translator for immigrant children in the federal immigration court in New York City embedding the 40 questions on the questionnaire for children throughout. How brilliant is that? This is a short read but stays with you for a long time.
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Returning to the Church ★★★★★ (Evans, 2015, Memiorish)
I’m still finding my way after being a pastor’s wife for 25 years and now just being a “regular” church member. While I have not experienced a crisis of faith, I have experienced a crisis of church (not my church – just church in general) and its role in society and culture. This book put into words a lot of what I have been feeling lately and helped me process changes in my life and thinking about church.
Citizen: An American Lyric ★★★★☆ (Rankine, 2014, Poetry)
Wow – what do I say about this book? First, the experimental style of this poetry is far edgier than anything I have ever read; I love that it pushed me in terms of style. The book also challenged me in terms of how I think racism plays out on a daily basis. If you want to read cutting-edge modern lit, this is for you. (I am participating in a Twitter chat on this book Sunday night and am excited to hear what others took away from this book).
My Name is Lucy Barton ★★★★☆ (Strout, 2016, Fiction)
Ahhhhh – contemporary fiction – my sweet spot. I’m actually finishing this book tonight but really love it so far. I first heard about this on the What Should I Read Next? podcast from the Modern Mrs. Darcy. The relaxed narrative pace is just what I need as I am getting ready for exams next week. I have my theory of how the book will end and am interested to see if I’m right. This is a perfect calm you down book.
Also – miscellaneous and random reading this past quarter
I have the coolest friends, and my friend Brian Sztabnik has put out this teacher journal for daily reflection. I have found the quick focus at the end of each teaching day has helped me stay on track and even live a more balanced life. I’ll have more on this journal and daily reflection in an upcoming post. Find out how to get a journal of your own here. I know he’ll be coming out with another one in January which would make a great teacher gift at Christmas (for me) or for your second favorite teacher.
Speaking of cool friends, I had the privilege of editing two devotional books that friends of mine wrote. I worked on both of these in July and am proud to have friends who are writing and making their Bible studies available to a bigger audience. Be forewarned though – be careful what you ask for if you ask me to edit your work.
New Morning Mercies (Tripp, 2014, Devotional)
I am continuing to read this daily devotional and am currently hand copying Paul’s letters in the New Testament. This practice that I adopted from my friend John Orr slows me down and allows me to really focus on words and phrases. I try to do this in the morning but am not legalistic about it. If night works better, so be it.
Looking back over my year, I am starting to make observations about what I have read and think about my next three months of reading. I know I will read Talk Like Ted and Just Mercy before the end of the year. I also plan to reread A Prayer for Owen Meany because I love that book; I think there’s so much value in rereading books. Other than that I plan to read some lighter contemporary fiction (Big Little Lies) and some student recommendations.
A couple of random thoughts. People always ask how I read so much. If you know me, you know I am a high capacity person. I also don’t watch television; my nights consist of reading and writing. I don’t have young kids in the house. Finally, I read at work; I consider reading part of my job. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t read this much; it’s okay.
Enough about me – what are you reading?