A very happy holidays and good reading for all
There’s nothing like relaxing with a good book for the holidays. And if you find yourself with a little quiet time and are looking for some reading recommendations, we, as always, are here to help.
Here’s what we’re reading for the holidays.
I’m reading several books. One, I’m finishing All the Light We Cannot See. Yes, this was on the bestseller list last year, and I was finally able to get my hands on a used copy. The writing is utterly gorgeous. Take this quote, for example:
“They clomp together through the narrow streets, Marie-Laure’s hand on the back of Madame’s apron, following the odors of stews and cakes; in such moments Madame seems like a great moving wall of rosebushes, thorny and fragrant and crackling with bees.”
Really, how do you get better than that? I’m also currently reading aloud Kwame Alexander’s Booked to my two daughters. We love that this book is in poetry form, and crawls inside the mind of a 12-about-to-be-13 year old boy.
As for education? Well, there are several on my nightstand that need attention. One, Better Conversations, which was recommended by a colleague. Two, The Art of Coaching Teams, which I need to circle back to, but is a great resource about working with teacher teams. If only I could read all day!
I’m not gonna lie: I’m not reading anything remotely related to work. Instead, I have my traditional holiday read, Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett, and a bunch of classic mysteries set around December, because festive:
I have a book problem: too many books I want to read, too little time.
Recently, I really liked Station Eleven – a dystopian tale of the near future after a global flu pandemic wipes out 99% of humanity. It was especially excellent because I was reading it during the recent week-long power outage- and my world looked a lot more like that fictional world than it usually does!
If you’re feeling moved to explore personal growth, Brené Brown’s new one, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, is inspiring (really, any of her books are!). Along the lines of building understanding across difference, I also picked up Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right at a relative’s house over Thanksgiving and got sucked it – if you liked Hillbilly Elegy (maybe liked isn’t the right word, appreciated?) you’ll like this.
And I have a feeling that Santa might bring me The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and our Energy Future. I heard about this one when the author was interviewed on NPR discussing the state of our electrical infrastructure, and how we can produce more alternative energy than we can handle (but we can’t store it!), and I decided I missed my calling as an electrical engineer.
Professionally, I’m reading Out on the Wire: Uncovering the Secrets of Radio’s New Masters of Story with Ira Glass – an excellent graphic novel about radio podcasts and storytelling.
Apparently, I really like books with subtitles.
If you are looking for a slightly edgy and super hilarious novel that’s chock full of references to nerd culture and dictatorial regimes of the Dominican Republic, please check out The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. It’s like no book you’ve ever read. And when you have finished, if you want to hear more from Diaz about his personal immigration story, then listen to his interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, or if you want your mind completely blown then try to hang with his interview with Krista Tippett for On Being about his short but powerful essay Radical Hope is the Best Weapon. In my estimation Diaz is one of the geniuses or our time.
Angie Thomas’ genius is apparent in her debut novel The Hate U Give, which is getting a lot of well deserved acclaim. It has all of the elements of a great YA book: school drama, complex relationships, moral dilemmas, and a non-disastrous ending. Definitely one for your classroom library! Yet it stands on its own as a powerful exploration of critical issues as well. I learned so much about race dynamics in general and the challenges of combatting police brutality in particular from this book. Her Twitter @angiecthomas has also taught me a lot about how to react when your book gets banned, how to graciously share the struggles of your writing process, and how to interact with young readers.
And finally, if you are looking for a good read aloud for the family, look no further than The Order of the Trees by our very own (resident genius) Katy Farber. My 5- and 8-year-old girls both deemed this their favorite book as we finished it (my wife and I were too choked up to respond). The writing is beautiful, the Vermont setting is pitch perfect, and it explores coming-of-age themes within a lovely narrative full of magic and nature. And rumor has it that Katy is very generous with book signings and correspondence so don’t be shy in reaching out to her on Twitter @Non_Toxic_Kids.
I am a huge fan of Jennifer Egan so am looking forward to spending a few evenings diving into Manhattan Beach. And, for work related reading, I’m reading Switch by the Heath brothers to explore why it is just so darn hard to make lasting change (just in time for my New Year’s resolution).
I just started reading Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson and I am already smitten! Jeanette Winterson tells great stories, and there is the promise of magic, humor, mystery, and wonder in this collection. PLUS recipes with their own stories to help us celebrate the holiday!
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez is also on my to-read list. Malu starts a new school in a new city and makes a mess of it, not an uncommon theme for middle grades lit. What makes this book unique: zine pages embedded between chapters and a fresh perspective: Malu is a Mexican American, punk rock, skateboarding, vegetarian. I’ve recently read two great YA books with Latina main characters (I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and The Poet X) and I’m looking forward to seeing how this book compares.
I’m hoping to read The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Two heroes talking about joy, how could I resist?!
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by the Heath brothers is my choice for a professional read. I loved their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard and found it extremely relevant to school change. The Power of Moments, while not about schools, has important implications for our work. It is all about what makes some experiences memorable and how to create more memorable moments for ourselves, our children, and (my extension) our students.
What could be more relevant to the work of education?
I am looking for some seriously light and engaging reading this holiday. I’ve survived my first semester of doctoral work and am looking forward to 42 days of reading for pleasure.
At the moment, I’m really hooked on a mystery series by Louise Penny. I credit our TIIE director, Penny Bishop, for introducing me to these charming and intriguing stories. The setting is around the quaint village towns outside of Montreal, and the star of these books is Inspector Armand Gamache; he’s an absolutely heartwarming hero. I just finished the second book, and am almost ready to dig into the third and fourth. Some nights I kind of want to hide in my bedroom and devour these literary treats.
Jeanie, I want to give support for The Book of Joy. It’s an amazing audio book, too; it features the actual voices of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu, who sound like two old buddies who happen to understand the secrets of the world.
So if anyone saw my Diigo booklist this image might be an accurate visual representation. Like my colleagues, I have a book problem too! I tend to collect books and recommendations faster than I can read them. After reading this post I have bookmarked a few more, thanks team!
During the holiday season, I throw out (figuratively) all my professional reads and go for purely self-serving reading adventures. In my holiday queue I have a few books that I’ve started to dig into.
The first book is in anticipation of some bucket list travel plans. I am enjoying Fodor’s Essential Ireland . A travel book counts right? It’s really enjoyable to read about the historic placed I might visit. Who doesn’t want to spend a night in a castle?
The second book is well out of my wheelhouse. In full admission, I have been binge watching The Curse of Oak Island and they frequently refer to the Knights Templar. A group and time period I know almost nothing about. I’ve just started Secrets of the Knights Templar: The Hidden History of the World’s most Powerful Order.
A very merry Christmas, happy holidays and good reading to all
We’d like to wish a very happy holidays and best returns of the year to all our readers. We appreciate each and every one of you, and look forward to connecting with you when we return from break, on January 3, 2018.