Tuesday, December 31, 2019

An Annotated List of the 50 Books that Had the Biggest Impact on Me in the 2010s

These are the books that really worked their hooks into me in the last ten years. I've been on Goodreads for the entire decade, but only blogging for the last few years, so it's possible my list will be skewed towards more recent reads. Some of these books weren't on yesterday's EVEN LONGER list because they were published before 2010, but I only read them this decade. Others weren't on the list because there are way too many books in my life to keep track of them all in a really organized way and still maintain the rest of my life. 

  1. The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Life by Dashka Slater. This nonfiction report of what came before and after a Black teen set fire to the skirt a nonbinary teen was wearing was riveting.
  2. All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness by Sheila Hamilton. Hamilton was a local DJ and journalist, and her first book is about her ex-husband's death by suicide. I have loved ones who struggle mightily with depression, and her book was both painful to read and made sense in the way that only #ownvoices writing does.
  3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saénz. Ari and Dante are Latinx and gay in the late 1980s, when I was a teen as well. They have parents who love them (Saénz writes terrific parents for many of his characters), and they learn how to love each other as well. I could have chosen any of the author's books for this list, but I will stick with the one with the gorgeous cover that first introduced me to his poetic writing.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1)

4. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller. This book is a bit of a synedoch for all the amazing teacher authors I've read in the last ten years, people that have pushed my thinking and teaching and completely renovated my career. 

5. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. I'm sure I would have loved this book in print too, but I lucked into listening to the audio version as narrated by the author. True to its subtitle, this is NOT a celebrity bio, but a memoir of life in apartheid South Africa, and an homage to the author's amazing mother. 

6. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. Another graphic memoir, this ones deals with the aging and death of beloved, if annoying, parents. It's rare that a book makes me laugh out loud AND sob, but this one was oh so relatable. 

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?

7. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman. Shusterman is pretty much the author of the decade for me. I think he approaches science fiction much like my literary hero, Ursula K. LeGuin, in that he is willing to raise questions he doesn't have The Answer to. Challenger Deep is not spec fic though, but a story of schizophrenia written with the support of his son, who has schizophrenia, and who did the art for this amazing, challenging, thoughtful and thought-provoking book. 

8. The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to your Adoptive Family by Karyn B. Purvis. My family owes what sanity we have to a workshop we took based on this book. 

9. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. I thought I knew novels in verse. I was a fan of Make Lemonade and Witness, and I'd read some Ellen Hopkins too. But Alexander blew the format out of the water with this hip-hop infused story of brothers, family, growing up, grief, and what it means to be not only a man, but a good one. This book deserved every award and accolade that came its way.

10. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab.  Shwab is another author who blew me away this decade. I wouldn't want to have to choose favorites, but if I HAD to, I'm pretty sure this would be it. Red London, Kell's coat, Rhys's love life, Lila's boldness--I love it all.

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)

11. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I like to think I'm too curmudgeonly to fall for the feel good stories of the recluse who learns to let people in. Then again, The Secret Garden was one of my formative childhood favorites, and this book was my favorite of 2018.

12. Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. When people ask me what I like to read, I say, "adult mysteries and YA fantasy." Carson's first trilogy is a perfect example of why. It's smart, political without being boring about it, sex positive (with one of the healthiest views of romantic love in any book ever), innovative, and fun. 

13. Girl, Stolen by April Henry. In fall of 2015, during my first year teaching reading, I attended the Oregon Council of Teachers of English fall conference, where winners of the Oregon Spirit Awards signed books for us. I picked up Henry's book and shared it with my students. It's been a sure-fire read-aloud hit ever since, and I've taken two different groups of kids to see her speak at Powell's. The conference also opened my eyes to the national events, and really set my feet on the path to where I am now as a reading teacher. As I said above, I prefer adult mysteries, but this one has a great premise and several heart stopping twists towards the end that never fail to delight. 

14. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow  I liked the mystery of what happened, the bi-cultural aspects (I'm a sucker for Denmark), and especially the view of life in 1980s Portland from a point of view very different from mine.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

15. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. This series was brutal, emotional, exciting, enraging, and wholly satisfying to read. Did I mention I have a thing for Scandinavia? Lisbeth Salander is a fully realized, completely unique protagonist. 

16. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. You always remember the first time you read a favorite author. The Graveyard Book has one of the greatest opening lines in all literature, and the combination of sparse and spooky drawings with Gaiman's bizarre and wonderful story blew me away when another teacher loaned it to me in 2010. 

17. Heroine by Mindy McGinnis. I'm finding it interesting how many of my Very Favorite Books of the decade were written by authors with multiple contenders for this list. One thing I admire about McGinnis is her range. Heroine is a wholly believable book about a softball player's journey from car crash injury to full-on addiction, but you would do just as well with her historical fiction, murder stories, or dystopian fiction. 

18. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. A graphic memoir about being raised by his grandparents due to his mother's addictions and his father's absence. I have so many students in non-traditional families, and I am so glad that Krosoczka decided kids like he was need to know they're not alone. Plus his grandparents, for all their faults, are fucking hilarious.

Hey, Kiddo

19. How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon. I've been talking this book up ever since I read it for my first time as a Cybils judge in 2017. A fantastic use of multiple voices to tell the story of what did--or didn't--go down when an unarmed black boy is shot and killed by a white stranger. 

20. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I signed up for Classics Club this year and then kind of forgot about it altogether, but it will not be for naught--I read this novel despite my distaste for true crime, and WOW. Worthy of its status as a classic indeed. 

21. Internment by Samira Ahmed. A chilling near-future imagining of what a Muslim registry might look like and what it might lead to. 


22. Just Mercy: Young Readers' Edition by Bryan Stevenson. Intense, eye opening, and convincing. I remain hopeful that the upcoming movie adaptation will get more people interested in reading it--and then in changing our system.

23. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley. I do pretty well on winning books on Twitter for my classroom, but this is about the only Goodreads giveaway I won and was excited about. Mosley outdid himself in this book, and I say that as a fan of both Easy Rawlins and Fearless Jones.

24. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. Listening to an audiobook slows me down enough to really dig into a story, and this time-travel, alternate universe, historical fiction novel was rich enough that I'm glad I experienced it that way. 

25. Marcelo in the Real World by Marcelo X. Stork. With a cover to rival Aristotle and Dante's, Marcelo's story is another intersectional wonder, this time with a character who is Latinx and on the spectrum. His dad is a complete tool, but luckily Marcello has other people in his corner. 

Marcelo in the Real World

26. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. A trip backwards through time with two Nordic soulmates. Books with untraditional formats and nonlinear styles can by annoyingly gimmicky (I'm looking at you, Illuminae!) or they can be breathtaking, like this one. 

27. Nine Horses by Billy Collins. My taste in poetry is pretty mainstream and middle-brow. Give me Frost, cummings, Oliver, Grimes, and Hayden over any Romantic poet or New Yorker contributor. I like poems that I can GET. I get Billy Collins. 

28. NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. My favorite type of nonfiction is memoir, and this book about raising kids in the modern era is in my next favorite category, sociology and psychology in punchy essays. 

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

29. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt. I just finished reading this aloud for maybe the tenth time, and it always just cracks my heart wide open. It's a short books set in an insular community; the whole thing is in miniature, but the themes are love and death, grief and courage. Like my students, I absolutely hate the ending, but I still suspect this book might be as close to perfect as any book can be.

30. The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye. To quote my own review:
This book just WORKS on so many levels. With the absolutely delicious flapper slang, the shifting time periods, and the way it handles race, sexuality, gender identity, mental illness, violence, poverty without making any of it feel tacked on or tacky, I don't know if I've ever read a book like it.

31. Persepolis by Marjane Satroplis Another graphic memoir--I guess I like these?!?--this time, about growing up in Iran at the end of the Shah's reign, through the revolution, and into the Ayatollah's regime. 

32. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. I hadn't read any Irving in decades, then I read this as part of an online teacher bookclub and remembered why I read so much of his work when I was younger. Okay yes, he's a total Wealthy White East Coast Male Author, but he still has stories to tell about lives that are complex and fractured. 

33. Princeless series by Jeremy Whitley. I do not understand why this series of comics is not more widely known and loved. It's hilarious and sweet with a diverse cast and adventurous stories that just happen to fight against all sorts of gender stereotypes and ridiculous tropes. 

34. Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. With sharper edges than Dumplin' and Puddin', Ramona Blue lives in a specific time and place and shines with honesty and lived experience. 

Ramona Blue

35. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. I love all of her books so far, and yes, Between Shades of Grey has a special place in my heart for telling a Baltic story that isn't well known outside of the region. But Salt to the Sea was the story that surprised and wowed me. 

36. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. This book was romantic and exciting and everyone should read it. 

37. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner  I'm still not over this book. Dill, Travis, and Lydia are all such clearly defined characters, and I wish they could have had everything good. *sobs* I maintain that this book needed more actual snake handling, but if that's your biggest complaint about any situation, things are pretty good. 

38. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. This was one of the most delightful fantasy novels I've ever read. The sequel is great too, as long as I can ignore one horrible piece of it and live in mental palace where all six crows eat waffles and bicker and try not to kiss. 

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

39. The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock. Alaska. The 1970s. Multiple points of view in criss-crossing storylines. Bittersweet. 

40. Strange the Dreamer/Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. I was sucked into this book immediately. Taylor writes with lush prose and dreamy images, which I found worked extremely well in this duology. I cared deeply about every single character, and I loved the way the story peeled back layers and layers of story, history, and mythology. 

41. The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel. This is the true story of a man who lived alone in the woods for 27 years, during which time he once exchanged "hellos" with a hiker. That was the extent of his human interaction. An astonishing story, well told, and never over simplified or forced into any pre-determined shape. 

42. This Side of Home by Renée Watson. I talk a big talk about understanding my white privilege and making space for other points of view, so I was shocked at how hard it was for me to read this book about gentrification in my late grandparents' neighborhood without getting defensive. Being from Portland is an embarrassingly large part of my identity, and it's hard to look at the racism in my immediately surroundings and in my city's past. 

This Side of Home

43.  Unwind series by Neal Shusterman I tried to keep authors to one appearance on this list, but Challenger Deep was so different from the other Shusterman books that I had to sneak one of his sci fi series on here too. And while Scythe is also masterful, Unwind is the series that solidified Shusterman as a favorite for me, and I gobbled up each and every installment in this wild ride. 

44. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli Albertalli is a delight, as are all her characters, but this book especially resonated with me. I saw so much of teen me in Molly, and I learned so much from her as well.
45. The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. From the title on, you know this is not going to be a WWII story you've read before. Ada is wonderful, prickly and angry, self reliant, compassionate, and smart. I love her story--and the sequel was surprisingly satisfying as well. 

The War That Saved My Life (The War That Saved My Life, #1)

46. We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems. I adopted my kids early in the decade, and one of the sweeter aspects of parenting was reading aloud to them. Then my daughter came home from kindergarten and demanded we go to the library and look for books by Mo Willems, whom I'd never heard of and figured she was mispronouncing. His books are comedy gold for beginning readers and their families. 

47. The Wicker King by K. Ancrum. Gorgeous, frightening, romantic, and beautifully designed. 

The Wicker King

48.  The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah Sophie Hannah, Tana French, and "Robert Galbraith" were my big mystery author discoveries of the decade. The Wrong Mother resonated for me in some hilarious and upsetting ways. 

49. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan This series took me in as a fledgling graphic novel enthusiast and led me to the world of ongoing comic series. That also led me to Saga, which is actually a better series, but I'm giving respect to the gateway here. When something kills off all Y chromosome holders in the world except for Yorick and his monkey, shenanigans ensue. 

50. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs. Mostly hilarious, but with occasional deep insights into how humans interact with our ideas of the divine. Two bits that stick with me are him tossing pebbles at random strangers in an attempt to "stone adulterers" without drawing attention to himself, and his wife intentionally sitting on every possible seat in the house while on his period so he couldn't sit down. 

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

As I look over this list, it is obviously very personal and says as much about me and my life as it does about the quality of these books. YMMV, in other words. All of these books went beyond "good story" for me, and nudged me further along life's path. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

Best of the Decade: A Long And Very Opinionated Set of Lists

Because I didn't get organized enough in time to dole this out like a sane person...

This isn't a list of my favorites I read this decade, but my favorites of those published. Obviously, there's quite a bit of crossover between those categories, but for instance, I'm not including In Cold Blood, even though I just read it in 2019. Also, I couldn't come up with a reasonable number for each category (much less reasonable categories, really), though I did prune the YA contemporary list back to 30. Books highlighted in blue are particular favorites of mine.

Favorite graphic novels of the decade

Middle Grade
Dear Sister
Making Friends
New Kid
This Was Our Pact
White Bird

Young Adult
Check Please
Drowned City
Hey, Kiddo
I Am Alfonso Jones
Kiss #8

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride

Favorite Middle Grade books of the decade

novels in verse
Redwood and Ponytail
They Call me Güero

spec fic
Akata Witch
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

historical fiction
Front Desk

Nine, Ten
The War that Saved My Life/ The War I Finally Won

The Benefits of Being an Octopus
Flying Lessons and Other Stories
Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World
Lily & Dunkin
Maybe He Just Likes You
Orbiting Jupiter

Favorite YA realistic Fiction/contemporary
All American Boys
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Challenger Deep
Darius the Great is Not Okay
Death Prefers Blondes
Eleanor and Park
Every Last Word
Everybody Sees the Ants
The Female of the Species
Goodbye Days
A Heart in a Body in the World
Hidden Pieces
How It Went Down
If I Was Your Girl
I’ll Meet You There
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
A List of Cages
Long Way Down
Losers Bracket
The Memory of Light
Ramona Blue
Reality Boy
Saints and Misfits
The Serpent King
The Upside of Unrequited
The Wicker King

Best historical fiction
Code Name Verity
Dreamland Burning
A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
If I Ever Get Out of Here
Murder on the Red River
Orphan Monster Spy
Salt to the Sea
The Smell of Other People’s Houses

Best YA speculative fiction of the decade

Bone Houses
Darker Shade of Magic (series)
Denton Little’s Deathdate
Dread Nation
An Ember in the Ashes
Girl of Fire and Thorns (series)
Not a Drop to Drink
Queen of the Tearling (series)
The Scorpio Races
Scythe (series)
Six of Crows
Strange the Dreamer/Muse of Nightmares
Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful
Tess of the Road
Three Dark Crowns (series)

Best nonfiction of the decade
The 57 Bus
Boots on the Ground
Brave Face
Every Falling Star
Just Mercy
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War
Some Writer!
Symphony for the City of the Dead

Book Love
The Book Whisperer
Born a Crime
H is for Hawk
Lab Girl
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Best adult fiction
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Juliet Takes a Breath
The Last Policeman (series)
One Was a Soldier
Paragon Hotel
Station Eleven
The Steel Seraglio
There There
Trigger Warning: Short Fiction and Disturbances

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday Post #44/Sunday Salon #18

Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz expanded Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read: 8 books finished!
Last week I had nothing to put here; this week I have a bunch, because I either finished reading aloud to my classes, or I ALMOST finished, so I went home and read the end to myself Friday night. Plus, I did the same thing with the audiobook I'd been listening to in the car. 

Period one: The Zebra Forest
We liked it. Solid read-aloud. I read this for the first time alongside the kids, and we were all taken aback at a few of the turns it took. It is a weird feeling to read about a kid who is 11 in 1978-79, when I too was 11, and know it's historical fiction at this point. We were about two chapters from the end, and I just couldn't get us there.  I'll wrap it up with them in January, but read the end to myself real quick before I left. 
Zebra Forest

Period two: Ruby on the Outside
We liked this one too, although there was a GREAT twist that was then just--written off as a mistake and coincidence, which really annoyed me. I had not realized I was doing a "my parent is in jail for murder" theme either. But that's one thing about reading aloud in a classroom--you don't always know who might need to hear a particular story. We actually finished this one on Friday!
Ruby on the Outside

Period three: The Other Boy
Reading this to a class was an experience for sure. The day we found out that Shane is transgender, a student asked a question about that using "it" to describe the character, and another student about came out of her chair at him, so I had to start a "if someone says something out of ignorance, the teacher gets a chance to handle it first" rule. It was so cool to see kids settle into the story and start getting what Shane's experience might be like. I find that girls are much more likely to pick up books with LGBQTIA+ characters than boys are, whether or not the identify with any of those terms, so by me reading it to them, a lot of the boys were hearing that POV for the first time, and once we got going, were just as interested and respectful as the girls. Again, we didn't quite get to the end--one girl borrowed it so she wouldn't have to wait until January. I asked the class if they wanted me to summarize the ending that day, or put it aside and keep reading the end our first day or two back, and they asked for the "real thing."
The Other Boy

Period four: Nightjohn
This is the only one we finished early. It's such a horrifying little book, and Sarny's dialect makes it hard for kids to access on their own, so I really think it's best read aloud. I full on "taught" it many times early in my career, and it was a little less impactful to just read it without adding much. But that toe scene will haunt all of us forever. 
Night John

Period six: Tight
To the best of my knowledge, this was the only #OwnVoices book I was reading, and I wanted to like it more than I did. The kids did okay with it, but weren't nearly as invested as most of the other classes. Then again, sixth period meets right after lunch, has the fewest number of kids who actually signed up to be there of all my classes, and we live in rural Oregon, so "the projects" of NYC require a decent amount of background building.

Period seven: Orbiting Jupiter
I'm pretty sure I could spend the rest of my career reading this book to classes and be happy with that. I don't, because "it's what I've always done" is crappy teaching, but I was happy one group selected this one from the options I had. (The options were basically "books I have in my classroom that are under 250 pages so we can hopefully finish them before winter break.") It was amazing, as always. I didn't get to be there for their period on the final day, so the lucky sub got to read them the scene where PEOPLE DIE, INCLUDING PEOPLE WE CARE ABOUT. I'm sure I'll get yelled at about that when we return. 
Orbiting Jupiter

My commute buddy: Nyxia
This is a Project Lit book, and very few of those are Spec Fic, so I wanted to check it out. I NEVER would have picked it up based on the cover or description, and I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't been listening to it, I would have DNFed it pretty quickly. But there it was in my car's CD player, and the narrator did a great job, and by the end of the book, I was fully invested. (Although talking about  PEOPLE DIE, INCLUDING PEOPLE WE CARE ABOUT! Did NOT see that coming.) I'm actually trying to track down the CD audiobook for my post-break commute.
Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)

The one book I read in one sitting instead of over three weeks: White Bird
This one really got me. Again with the good people dying, but in a Holocaust book you can't really claim to be surprised. I am not the Wonder enthusiast that many of my colleagues are, but despite the book's framing as a lesson for one of Auggie's tormentors, you don't need to know that story to understand this one.
White Bird

What I'm Reading/What's Next
In a classic Wendy move, I brought home two boxes of books to add to the shelf full of library books, not to mention the OBOB books I need to finish reading so I'm ready to start Cybils reading in a week. I was just really struck by how much I enjoyed reading those MG books to my class, and know I could get through a bunch quickly, thus adding to my arsenal of suggestions for students.

Three Things

  • My 13 year old has never seen the LOTR movies and recently asked, 'What's a hobbit?" so last night I announced we were doing a family movie night and showed The Fellowship of the Rings. We don't watch a lot of movies together, and I haven't seen this one since it first came out on DVD, so it really was a lot of fun. I have the other two also checked out and ready to go, so this is my goal for my family for winter break. It's fun seeing the original of the memes...
Image result for you shall" 

  • The budget is tight this year, so I crowdsourced cheap x-mas trees on Facebook. A colleague offered a blue spruce in his backyard that they are planning on removing this spring anyway. It is gigantic, not trimmed to triangle form, and has viciously prickly needles that my husband got a rash from, BUT it is also gorgeous and free and has super stiff branches you can hang ornaments from really well. Here it is before the ornaments went up:

  • It's been pouring the past few days, but earlier in the week I drove to work during a technicolor sunrise. #NoFilter #OregonWokeUpLikeThis

Monday, December 16, 2019

TTT: Books I'd Love to Receive

 TTT is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl .  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check it out!

The topic this week is: Books I hope to find under my tree.

The truth is, I don't buy many books for myself. I am constantly shopping for my classroom, but even the books that I plan to read FIRST before letting the kids get to them are books I'd get at the library if I didn't have a classroom to keep stocked. However, I do have a few weaknesses and special interests that the library doesn't own, and I keep those on my personal Powell's wish list (as opposed to my "classroom library" wishlist and my "URGENT classroom library wishlist."

Links go to the Powells website, or to Goodreads if the Powell's site lacked a description.

Some professional books I've heard wonderful things about:

Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.
Fun fact--the author is sisters with Samira Ahmed, author of Internment and Love, Hate, and Other Filters.

A Novel Approach: Whole Class Novels, Student Centered Teaching, and Choice by Kate Roberts.
Teachers I respect greatly have been raving about what a great job this book does at celebrating and encouraging independent choice reading but still incorporating a shared reading experience into a class.

Books for my Baltic Connection:

White Field, Black Sheep: A Lithuanian-American Life by Daiva Markelis
I'd love to get my hands on this memoir of growing up with parents who fled Lithuania, but even Powell's has it marked "item not currently available."

The Merry Baker of Riga by Boris Zemtzov
I've eaten many a snack at Jautrais Maiznieks, or "Merry Baker" café in Latvian, and I'd love to read the memoir of the American founder's adventures with starting a business in post-Soviet Riga. But alas, it's also "not currently available."

Books to Spend Time With

The View from the Cheap Seats and Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman 
While both of these are available at the library, they are not books I want to power through in three weeks, and of yet, they are too popular to renew for months on end. Plus, although I READ more fiction, I often prefer to OWN nonfiction. Maybe because the plot reveals are less important?

Practical Classics: Fifty Reasons to Re-read Fifty Books You Haven't Read Since High School by Kevin Smokler
I love books about books (of course), but again, don't need to speed through them all at once, so this would be a fun one to own and pick up from time to time.

Books by Ursula K. LeGuin, my Literary Hero
Even with LeGuin, I don't need to own many of her books. I can always get them at the library. The exceptions, again, are her essays and poetry, of which I own a few. 

The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. LeGuin
I also own one of her two giant collections, The Real and the Unreal, collected short stories. So obviously, I need the other book in that set.

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition
I mean, c'mon. Look at this.

The Books of Earthsea

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition
The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition

I would love to receive any and all of these books, but realistically, the professional books are the only ones I'm likely to get, because eventually I'll either buy them for myself, ask my principal to buy them, or put a purchase request in at the library.

It's a crazy week for those who celebrate Christmas, so I hope you are all of good cheer, and still finding time to read!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Sunday Post #43/Sunday Salon #17

Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz expanded Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read
Well, THAT'S weird. I haven't finished any books this week. No wait, I did finish reading Nightjohn to one class. I fell in love with that as a read-aloud during my first year of teaching, 1998-99, and I don't pull it out often anymore, but I knew it would fit in the three week space between Thanksgiving and winter break. We jumped right into the sequel. I think one aspect I've always loved about this book is that it speaks to the power of literacy. Plus, the toes-getting-chopped-off scene is always riveting to middle school audiences.

What I'm Reading/What's Next
I continue to read Tight, The Other Boy, Orbiting Jupiter, Zebra Forest, and Ruby on the Outside to my other classes. I'm enjoying all of them, but I think Zebra Forest and Orbiting Jupiter are the ones that the classes are most enthused about. I got all choked up reading the scene where Joseph finally tells Jack's family his life story, even though this is probably the 20th time I've read it. Sheesh.

 I also think The Other Boy is the first overtly LGBQTIA+ novel I've read aloud to a class--I've read several picture books, but not novels--and it's a little nerve wracking. Some kids keep expressing surprise and confusion, but honestly, this is such a great example of how literature builds empathy. Shane is a character in a book, so they can express their thoughts about him and ask questions about him being transgender in a pretty safe and non-hurtful way, and since it's written in Shane's voice, they're really starting to understand what it feels like to be him.

I also started listening to Nyxia on audiobook. It's a Project Lit book, and I'm trying to read all of those. It sounded super boring to me though, and the cover is not attractive at all, so I thought I'd ease myself into it with audio. The narrator is great, and while it's not my favorite flavor of sci fi, I'm sticking with it.

Three Things

  1. The Winemaker and I went out for dinner and saw Knives Out tonight. I loved it, and he liked it. We used the movie tickets I won in a White Elephant exchange last week and the gift card he got me last Christmas for dinner.
  2. Last week was one of those weeks where on Monday I thought it was Thursday, and the rest of the week I thought it was Friday, and when my second class came in every day, I thought it was almost lunch, which actually happens after my fourth period. We are also having a severe sub shortage, so I covered for art one day and for Spanish one day during my prep period, which probably didn't make the week feel any shorter.
  3. I'm trying to plan a crafting party after school next week, and even if nobody comes I'll have fun. I made some prototypes one night last week:

One more week until winter break! We still don't have a tree! We texted the kid while we were out to ask what she thought about not getting one this year, and her response was "I'd cry." So I guess we're getting one next weekend. 

Monday, December 9, 2019

TTT: Fictional Settings (That Made It Onto My Shirt)

 TTT is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl .  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check it out!

The topic this week is a freebie, so I'm going to dive into a topic I mentioned earlier, but didn't really analyze: top ten fictional places I chose to put on a t-shirt I made at our library's collaborative space.

The mathematically inclined amongst you may notice that is only nine locations, but that's okay; it's been two years and I'm sure I can come up with one I've encountered since then.

The City of Weep
From Laini Taylor's beautiful duology, Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares. I'd want to visit the Weep of Lazlo and Sarai's dreams, of course. 

art by Lesya BlackbirdInk
From Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, the book and series that introduced me to my lifetime favorite author. Also the work that causes me to mispronounce archipelago, because it's one of those words I learned from reading instead of hearing it. I'd like to sail a boat between islands on a beautiful day.

Books That Shaped Me: A Wizard of Earthsea
from the Bantam cover, illustrated by Pauline Ellison

From Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races. I picture it as being like the Shetland islands, only of course with magical carnivorous horses and November cakes. I like my beach towns rustic and windy, so I think I'd like it there just fine. 

Image result for thisby
fan art from "a scorpio races fan blog" on Tumbler

The Shire
I don't really need to explain this, right? I am probably romanticizing the whole rural aspect of many of these, but those hobbit doors!

art by David Wyatt on the Council of Elrond blog

Red London
From V. E. Schwab's Darker Shade of Magic series. Maybe I just want Kell's coat, but damn. I'd like to see the floating parties for sure. I've been to Grey London already, and have ZERO interest in White or Black. Scary.

papercraft art by Rosie

Honestly, I probably wouldn't survive well in the Dregs, but dress me up in furs and set me down in a waffle house. (I don't wear or condone furs in the real world, but once I was waiting for a bus in Latvia in January, shivering in my down parka, and the woman next to me was in a full length fur coat and DAMN I was envious.)

from the sticker by Annalise Jensen

Since I tend to just skim over names when I read, figuring as long as I know who/what that combination of letters refers to I don't need to know how to pronounce it, it wasn't until I designed my t-shirt that I realized the city state many Discworld stories are set in is partially named More Pork. Oh, Terry. 

The map from the Ankh-Morpork board game, which I now want. 

The Shire and Earthsea  are places I dreamed of in my childhood. The next set are all books I read as they came out, which is to say, as an adult who reads a lot of YA fantasy. These next two are places that bridge that gap. I read them as an adult, but before I'd really dove back into reading a ton of YA as part of my job. The Thief was recommended by my sister, and I've loved the whole series as it slowly unfolds. I put Attolia on my shirt, because that's the place associated with the series titles, but Eddis is probably the landscape that sounds the best to me--very mountainous.

Image result for attolia fanart
from King Of Attolia Tumbler


It seems so overdone and trite now, but I remember my niece, who was in about sixth grade, loaning me her copy of Chamber of Secrets, and telling me she thought I'd like it. I had barely heard of it and went it with zero expectations, and ended up loving it. I don't care how snooty people get about the writing or how appalling later statements by Rowling have occasionally been, Hogwarts is sheer magic. (Also, now that my niece is 30, I still take book recommendations from her.)

Yes, that's done on a whiteboard and West Liberty College in West Virginia.

For my number ten addition, we're back to books I've read recently.

The Island of Fennbirn
From Kendare Blake's Three Dark Crowns series. I'd probably go for the naturalist town of Wolf Spring here, specifically, and I have to admit that my mental image of it is not too far off my mental image of Thisby. Unfortunately, the fan art I could fine all seems to be focused on the characters, which is a bit odd, since it is definitely a series where the setting is SUPER IMPORTANT. 

as seen on Instagram of @clockwork.bookdragon

I hope you enjoyed this tour of magical places! What's on your list of fictional settings you wish you could visit?

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sunday Post #42/Sunday Salon #16

Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz expanded Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read
The Second Life of Ava Rivers, which I always (including this time) write/say as The Second Life of Ava Gardner.  I mean:

Image result for ava gardner
Ava Gardner, film star

Faith Gardner
Faith Gardner, author of...

The Second Life of Ava Rivers
The Second Life of Ava Rivers

Image result for two rivers
two rivers
It's not surprising I'm confused, right?

Anyway, it was a solid amnesia/missing person thriller, although I was hoping they wouldn't go where all such stories go, but alas, I was disappointed.

I read that for the Battle of the Books title selection committee, and the next book I read was also for that. I'd read Tess of the Road last spring and loved it, realizing late in the book that it was a companion novel to the Seraphina books, which I hadn't read. So now I had a good reason to read Seraphina. I started listening to it on audio in the car, but couldn't wait to find out what happened next, so I downloaded the ebook, then I found the physical copy in my classroom library and started reading that too. So it was All Seraphina All The Time for a couple of days there, and it was so much fun. I loved it!

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)

I recently won a copy of K. A. Holt's latest novel in verse, a middle grade book about two girls who like like each other. The eponymous Redwood and Ponytail are delightful, and their angst was so relatable. I appreciated how one girl was totally fine with her sexuality and had unquestioning acceptance from her people, but the other wasn't so sure. It seemed realistic, given that society is not 100% on board yet, but some definitely are. I gobbled this book down in one sitting and absolutely loved it.

Redwood and Ponytail

What I'm Reading/What's Next
Obviously I had to move right on to the next book in the Seraphina duology, Shadow Scale. The next OBOB contender I want to read is Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, because I love author Benjamin Alire Sáenz. I'm also in the midst of my once-a-semester madness of reading five different books to five different classes. Re-reads for me are Orbiting Jupiter and Nightjohn, and the books I'm reading for the first time right along with the kids are Ruby on the Outside, Tight, and Zebra Forest. And if any class finishes early, we'll read all or parts of They Call me Güero. So far they're all going well.

Three Things

  1. Today's my 18th wedding anniversary, but we're going to celebrate next weekend. 
  2. We went to a White Elephant party last night. I came home with movie tickets, and my husband got squash and sauerkraut. You win some, you lose some.
  3. I've been watching season 3 of The Good Place, and we've started watching Schitt's Creek. This is a bit unusual, because we haven't watched sitcoms before in any kind of deliberate way. I mean, you catch the odd episode of whatever, but we usually watch sci fi/fantasy or mystery shows.