Last night, we had our monthly Book Night. A chance to teachers and friends to sit around and share what they have been reading (or ‘recently’ read, no rules really) that they would recommend. It’s a chance to bond over a common love, blurring boundaries between age, pay grade, and teaching experience. Finding someone else who loves a book you love, or getting to recommend one to someone needing a boost, is so rewarding at any stage of life.
As we went around the table, summarizing main ideas and themes, blurting connections, drawing and sharing insight and inspiration from writers and characters, I was reminded so much of my recent classroom days. And I realized something: during this writing challenge, I have been reading a lot less. Isn’t that interesting? We so often ask our students to do both at once, but there are only so many hours in a day. There are already so many tasks to take care of to keep a house running, a baby cared for, a little bit of money coming in. I have managed to keep an hour or two for myself almost every day, but that sacred time has much competition for my attention. Like everything, it’s a balance.
So, as I listened to the chatter around the table, sometimes with undivided attention and often lapsing into excited side conversations (hmm… I always found it hard when my students did that, too…) I collected some favs that I hope to get to soon enough.
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Me: “Ok I have two for you all. The Boat People (Sharon Bala), part of Canada Reads 2018. All about the blurred lines between right and wrong when refugees are involved. This year’s competition theme is a book to open your eyes and this one definitely did.”
“Know what else will open your eyes? The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas). Deliberately based on the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, it shows just how much it costs to speak up.”
Me: “And, it’s YA”
“Wow. Sounds amazing.”
“If you like that, you’ll love the All American Boys (Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds). There are two authors – one white, one black – to tell the story of how violence changes everything”
I am reminded of The Beautiful Struggle (Ta-Nehisi Coates), which I started before someone handed me The Hate U Give and I got lost in it completely. I also get lost in thought over the recent National Geographic inquiry into their own systemic racism.
“Ooh then I want to tell you all about The Other Wes Moore (Wes Moore). This is a true story, where a man explores how his own life turned out so completely differently from another man, with the same name, from the same place. It’s both autobiography and biography in one.”
“That’s fascinating and sad at the same time.”
“Want a good autobiography? Read Lab Girl (Hope Jahren). She is my hero. Also, plants are cool.”
I get lost in the Goodreads quotes as the conversation dissolves around me. “Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.” Yep, I put that on my list.
“Ok you guys, here’s my Science is cool segue for Red Rising (Pierce Brown). People set out on this mission to mine Mars, cutting edge, right? Only to find out it’s been colonized for generations… If I can get (my wife) to devour this Sci Fi, you know it’s that good”
Yep. Into it.
“Ok, get this one. Back to biographies. The Centre Cannot Hold (Elyn R Saks). Talk about fascinating; she navigates her own struggle with schizophrenia for her reader. Autobiography from a mind that is not lucid, but manages to tell a lucid story? Incredible.”
I need to read that. I need to understand mental illness and what the experience feels like as deeply as I can.
“Want to get inside someone’s head, or actually, the head of entire nation? Try Without You There is No Us (Suki Kim). She goes undercover at a school in North Korea.”
Me: “Ok, my other one is Marlena (Julie Buntin). This book blew me away. I connected so fiercely to the main character, her need to get drawn into the darkness, and then her struggle back to some sort of light. This book has the best first line of any book I’ve ever read. I was hooked after 13 words.”
“Wow, that’s quite a review.”
“If you want coming of age at it’s finest, you’ve got to watch Ladybird.”
“What about The Invention of Wings (Sue Monk Kidd)? Can you imagine having a slave your own age? How can a child possibly be expected to sort that out?”
“Oooh, what about Patron Saint of Liars (Ann Patchett)??”
(Debate ensues about Patchett’s best work… )
“Ok, I’ve got one. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (Bryn Greenwood). There’s the meth connection to Marlena, and the struggle for love to win over, well, everything else.”
Again, we dissolve into books, books, books…
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I vow to make time to read win out over everything else very, very soon.
3/20 – #SOL18