An English Teacher’s Reading Life: Fall 2018

Finishing the year with some strong reading choices with many thanks to my friends for the recommendations. I will follow up in the next day or two with the 18 best books I read in 2018, but for now here’s what I read this fall.

The Power of Moments ★★★★★ (Chip and Dan Heath, Nonfiction, 2017)

I love these type of books to begin with so when a friend (shout out to Joe Ferraro – listen to his 1% Better podcast) suggested this, I immediately downloaded it on audible. So much of life is the jeans we’re dealt and out of our control. But there is also so much that can create and control and fail to do so. This book offered specific suggestion of areas to create powerful moments and is applicable to both personal and professional life. Love, love, love this book.

Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God  ★★★★☆

(Winner, Nonfiction, 2015)

This book unpacks metaphors throughout the Bible used to describe God. Winner goes deep into these – sometimes a little too deep for me but sometimes not as well – offering a clearer understanding of how people in the Bible understood and related to God and what we can learn from that today. I used this book more like a devotion reading a small portion each day thus working myself through it over a course of three months and would recommend reading this way to fully take in all of the information.

Behold the Dreamers ★★★★★ (Mbue, Contemporary Fiction, 2016, Oprah’s Book Club)

This book has been on my TBR list for a while and it did not disappoint. Stories have the ability to connect readers to issues in a way that news just cannot. And while it’s easy for some people (or all of us to a certain extent) say “I believe this or that” without considering how it plays out for real people, books like this should be paired with the news in order to have a full picture of policy. This book (fiction) paired with Tell Me How It Ends (nonfiction) and Citizen Illegal (poetry) could be the bones for a great unit on immigration; I would love to see students to a multi genre study with these texts. Oh – to the basis of the book review (as opposed to the teacher review) – I love the contrasts between hope and reality, dreaming and working, and America and Cameroon. This story will pull you in with its believable characters, reality-driven plot, and short chapters. Highly recommend!

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassins ★★★★☆ (Hayes, Poetry Collection, 2018

This is real, people – real feelings, real oppression, and real anger and grief over issues in current society. First, Terrance Hayes is a genius; his style, form, and way of stringing words together is modern and unique. While I love the message, some of the poems are a little too in-your-face for me personally. And while I can (and will) use some of these in the classroom, I would not be able to teach this collection in its entirety. Still – it’s brilliant, and I definitely recommend this collection.

The Glamor of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English  ★★★★☆ (Clark, 2010, Nonfiction)

It’s no secret that I’m a Roy Peter Clark fan, and this book did not disappoint. Anytime someone can write a witty book about grammar, that person is a genius and the book is a hit. This will be the type of book I pull out again and again for mini-lessons and teaching.

Atonement ★★★☆☆ (McEwan, Fiction, 2003)

An English teacher recommended this book to me, and I had such high expectations. Sadly, this book didn’t measure up to them. I know – some of you are HUGE fans of this book, but for me it moved too slowly and just seemed boring. There – I said it – I was bored. This may say more about me than the book, but I just couldn’t get into it even though it did pick up a little after about 300 pages (that’s not a joke). Don’t let my review keep you from reading it since so many people love it.

Half a Yellow Sun ★★★★★ (Adichie, Fiction, 2003)

In all honesty, this book would probably be five stars if I read it as opposed to listening to it on my commute; listening here and there after a long day of work over a few weeks is not the way to best take in any Adichie novel. Her work is meant to be thought through and savored, and this book is no exception. This books clearly details the grim reality of war and the lives affected because of it, yet even in the most difficult of circumstances, her characters hold onto a thread of hope. Many claim this is her best work (I give Purple Hibiscus the edge of this one), and I can see why. Characters, whose flaws only make them stronger, history told through story, and beautiful writing.

If They Come for Us: PoemsIf They Come for Us ★★★★★ (Ashgar, Poetry, 2018)

WOW – this book is from the heart and pushes the boundries both in content and form. Asghar’s experimentation with structure still has my mind spinning and provides so many teaching and talking points in the classroom. Pakistani, Muslim, American – she embraces and weaves all of these parts of her story together and brilliantly and beautifully shares them in this collection.

 Frankenstein Meets Santa ★★☆☆☆ (McDermott, 2015, Fiction)

I hate giving two stars reviews because I can only how much work goes into writing a book. This book, however, was just too simplistic for me. A student gave this to me after many class discussions about Frankenstein being the real Santa. In all honesty, how do you follow Mary Shelley with a sequel?

The Parable of the Sower ★★★★☆ (Butler, Fiction, 2017) 

Dystopian – check. Young adultish – check. Story of a writer – check. This book checks for many of my boxes. I didn’t LOVE it liked I hoped because it seemed too much of the same over and over. But I did like it a lot. This reminds me in some ways of The Road.

Becoming ★★★★★ (Obama, 2018, Memoir)

YES!! This book is so great and listening to Michelle read it made it even better. I was so captivated by her story, her insights into life, and her impressions of others. No matter what political affiliations you have, this book is a must read. Love, love, love.

Think Like Socrates: Using Questions to Invite Wonder and Empathy Into the Classroom, Grades 4-12 (Corwin Teaching Essentials)Think Like Socrates: Using Questions to Invite Wonder and Empathy into the Classroom ★★★★★ (Peeples, 2018, Professional)

Consider this book a tool box full of ideas for inquiry in the classroom. The book is rooted in theory and research but is set apart by its classroom practicality. While student inquiry is typically associated with ELA classrooms, this book has sections for different disciplines with ideas to encourage inquiry within each discipline. This is Shanna Peeples at her best – using her experience and wisdom to help teachers get better thus offering students a richer education.

The Nix ★★★★★ (Hill, 2017, Fiction)

My last official book of the year recommended by my nephew who read it in his contemporary lit class in college. I LOVED this book (my nephew knows me well). It’s lengthy (700+) but reads quickly. I love books that weave stories and characters from different time periods together and found myself being caught up in all of the stories (except for possibly the Elfscape substory). Not too heavy, not too light, and shockingly plausible and current.



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