My top three picks for Spring 2018 reading would be Little Bee, Purple Hibiscus, and Between Shades of Gray (if you’re a YA or historical fiction lover) or It’s All Over but the Shouting (if you’re Southern). I know this is four which is why I teach in the humanities; I’m comfortable with the abstract. Here’s a comprehensive list of what I read the last three months; there are some great titles in here!
Little Bee ★★★★★ (Cleave, 2009, contemporary fiction)
This book, people! How did I make it so long in life without having read this story? It’s beautiful, thought-provoking, and tragic in all of the right ways. This story will stay with me for a long time, and I pray one day that we will be able to fight off all of the baddies and truly achieve globalization. I was telling my class about this book today and have two students starting it tomorrow – what a great choice for independent reading.
A Long Way Down ★★★★★ (Reynolds, 2017, novel in verse, young adult)
First, the premise of this book is amazing. Who would ever think to write a book that spans the time of an elevator ride? Such a great idea! Next – the style. This book reads like unconventional poetry without confusion and draws the reader in immediately; even my most reluctant and lowest readers will be able to handle this without any sacrifice of depth. And I love the anagrams throughout. I can’t wait to add this book to my classroom library.
It’s all over but the Shouting ★★★★★ (Bragg, 1998, memoir)
I really cannot believe I have made it this far in life without reading Bragg’s flagstone book. I have been a huge fan of his always flipping to the last page in Southern Living first like so many others and taking a trip down memory lane through his words. I grew up about 50 miles east of Bragg and am just a few years younger, so many of these stories, details, and expositions on southern culture and thinking are deeply embedded in me. I laughed, and I cried. Mostly, however, I respected his mother. What an amazing tribute to her. This was my book club’s book for April because Rick Bragg came to the Carter Center at the end of the month to speak. Hearing him is always a thrill for me, and he serves as one of my biggest influences in writing.
The Poet X ★★★★★ (Acevedo, 2018, novel in verse, young adult)
YES to this free verse book where love wins through poetry. This book is beautifully written and brings to reality the growing up and becoming your own person. I LOVE this book and am excited about adding it to my classroom library because so many of my students are going to relate to the story Xiomora’s struggles through her teen years.
The Wife Between Us ★★★☆☆ (Pekkanen, 2018, thriller)
This is really a 3.5, and I think I would have liked it more if I had not read Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. It’s a great beach read if you’re looking for something in the psycho wife genre.
Purple Hibiscus ★★★★★ (Adiche, 2010, fiction)
I was pulled into this story immediately and could not put this book down. This book in many ways reminds me of The Poisonwood Bible but is much more accessible. I love the parallels between the family and Nigeria and the kids and their quest and struggle for freedom. If you are looking for a book to expand your worldview with characters you’ll both love and hate, this book is for you.
All 4s and 5s: A Guide to Teaching and Leading Advanced Placement Programs ★★☆☆☆ (Sharos, 2018, professional development)
I hate to give a fellow educator such a low rating but this book was just not that helpful for me. The bottom line is I think he approaches his class is much more test prep focused than I think is necessary; we just have philosophical differences in teaching AP. I do think his method works for him. If you’re considering reading this book and have any questions, feel free to ask me privately as I don’t want to speak negatively in a public forum about another teacher.
Americanah ★★★★☆ (Adichie, 2008, fiction)
I listened to this as an audio book which took over a couple of months. The story of a blogger who explores life as an American who has moved from Nigeria is insightful, interesting, and definitely entertaining. The book seemed a little lengthy and messy at times which probably had more to do with me listening to it as opposed to reading it. It’s not my favorite Adichie, but it’s good.
The Immortalists ★★★★☆ (Benjamin, 2018, fiction)
This book was given to me as a gift and was a great beach read. Of course, reading on the beach makes any book good, right? I thought the structure was so interesting as each sibling’s story picked up where another left off. I also loved looking at a family through the eyes of four different children and seeing how their childhood shaped the paths in life they choose. Good book, good stories, and an AMAZING cover!!
Girls Burn Brighter ★★★☆☆ (Rao, 2018, fiction)
My rating is really 3.5; I just haven’t figured out the half stars yet. The story of Poormina and Savitha is both heartbreaking and a testament to the will and power of the human spirit to not only survive but to rise above. I am still so saddened by their story because I know that these stories are not merely fiction to girls around the world. If you liked A Thousand Splendid Suns (but really is “like” the right word to use), you should read this book; they have many similarities. The book is beautifully written with the opening just breathtaking. I did, however, not enjoy the last part of the book – the story by the man, the scene in the field, and even the ending were puzzling to me as author choices. Is this book necessary reading? Yes. Is it enjoyable reading? No. Can I recommend to a student? I’m unsure.
We Should All Be Feminists ★★★★★ (Adichie, 2014, essay)
YES, YES, YES to this little book! I plan on voting for Adichie in the next election; I’m a fan. This essay originally began as a Ted Talk and was published as a booklet. Adichie explores the idea of feminism, what it really means, and how loaded the word and polarizing the word has become.
If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free ★★★★☆ (Ivey, 2018, memoir)
So I would actually give this 3.5, but that’s not an option. I love Jamie’s story, and it’s hard to give anyone’s story less than 5 stars. I felt like the book was not well written, but I would recommend her podcast (the Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey) to everyone. She’s genuine, honest about struggles when it comes to living a life of faith, and adorable.
Between Shades of Gray ★★★★★ (Sepetys, 2011, young adult, historical fiction)
Why did I wait so long to read this book – especially after reading and loving Salt to the Sea? The story of Lina and her journey toward to the Arctic Circle during WW2 is so moving and beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. I would strongly recommend this YA book to any of my adult reading friends who like historical fiction. I am excited about adding this to my classroom library and will definitely be recommending to my students who love historical YA lit. This would pair nicely with Night.
Exit West ★★★★☆ (Hamid, 2017, Magical Realism)
I will begin by saying that magical realism is not my genre, so this book was outside of my normal reading. I fell in love quickly with Nadia and Saeed and love for their characters pushed me through the magical realism elements. The ending was beautifully written – and realistic in feelings – and left me sad but not without hope.
I also read 1,500 essays at the AP reading, saw two Shakespeare plays (Much Ado about Nothing and the Tempest), and am slowing catching up on New Yorkers that I’ve been saving. Spring and summer tend to be when I read with wild abandon, and being between schools has really allowed me to lean into reading this summer. I’d love to know what you’re reading and what I should add to my list.