Reading Life Series: Books for a Time

Jesuits in space. A young girl coming-of-age in the middle of an apocalypse. And a girl growing up in Brooklyn who finds beauty in the strangest places. What do these things have in common? Me, apparently.

Recently, I’ve listened to a few episodes of a new podcast, “What Should I Read Next?,” which is hosted by Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy. Each week, Bogel’s show features a new guest, and she does a little book matchmaking for them. In order to recommend appropriate books, she asks her guests to list three books they love, one book they hate, and a book they are currently reading. One of the things I find fascinating about the show is that for most guests, the books they love reveal something interesting about their psyches and their lives. The guests  often don’t make the connection themselves until Anne remarks on the connection between the books they list and what those books reveal about the readers.

I also appreciate that Anne doesn’t ask her guests that most dreaded question: What is your favorite book? While naming my favorite book is difficult, I feel like I can safely list three books that I love (with the understanding that these are not the only three). Since I first listened to the show, I have been thinking about which three books I would list if asked to do so.It’s harder than it sounds. Once I decided on three books I love, I thought about my reasons for choosing these three and what these books say about me and the kinds of stories that speak to me. Without further ado, here are the three books I love (now). Continue reading

Summer Expectations

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Like most teachers and academics, I have big goals and expectations for summer. I don’t have any classes to teach, so I begin making a list (sometimes in January) of all the things I need and want to do that I just never have time for during the semester. Things like reading all of the books. Catching up on movies and t.v. shows.  Or cleaning out closets. Or researching. Or completing projects on the house. Getting back into shape and making more time for yoga. Relaxing. Teaching myself something new. Crafting. Writing. Spending more time with family and friends. The list goes on.

This summer, more than most, I am quickly realizing that all of these things are simply not possible. Sure, I can do some of them, and I will accomplish some goals.I have already read several books. I am making a blanket. I cleaned all of the kitchen cabinets and baseboards. We installed new blinds on the kitchen windows.

But, I am learning that I need to change my expectations because my work to-do-list is also quite long. And I need to not be disappointed with myself for not doing all of the things. I think what I need most this summer is to learn to breathe, to be proud of the things I accomplish, to take care of myself, and to let things go. I guess those are my new goals this year.

What are your plans for the summer? What expectations do you have? And what needs to be let go?

Reading Life Series: Bend it Like Buckwheat

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For a while now, I have kept a journal of quotes and passages that are important to me. These quotes are not just memorable lines from books I’ve read and enjoyed; they are words that I cling to during hard times, during times of grief, and even times of celebration and success. And sometimes, they even come from books I didn’t enjoy. As I looked back at some of these quotes, I realized that my life almost could be charted through the books I’ve read and through the quotes that have become an indelible part of me. So, I thought a good way to begin my blogging journey would be to write a series of posts (published every Friday for the next six weeks) that focus on these favorite passages and the most influential books in my life.

I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading, so I can’t point to one particular book that “hooked” me. I do, however, remember the first book I ever read on my own (Little Witch’s Big Night), so I guess I could count that. When I was a child, reading was an escape, one that allowed me to travel without leaving home and to experience adventures that weren’t possible in a single-parent household. We didn’t take vacations, and I often spent a lot time alone, especially during the summer. So, I read. Reading will always be a sort of escape for me, I think, but as I grew, I began to gravitate toward books that dealt with issues I faced in my own life. I wanted books that provided words for things I couldn’t yet describe, and I wanted books that allowed me to explore the complicated and confusing ideas I had. Then, when I had enough of the real world, I would look once more to those grand adventures and fantasy. Ultimately, I realized that the books I read (the ones that really stick with me, anyway) reveal something about my life at the time and what I needed from my books and even the world around me. I was dating for the first time. I had a fight with a childhood friend. I was a graduate student. I was recently married. I was grieving. I was hopeful. I was teaching four classes and managing an overwhelming service load. All of these phases of my life are represented in the books I read. In a way, someone could read me and the significant moments in my life by looking at the books that were most relevant to me.

Continue reading

“Everyone is an Author”

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Every year, I teach at least two sections of Expanded Composition, and for the last three years, we’ve used the textbook, Everyone is an Author. The book is not perfect, but in many ways it aligns with our course goals and learning outcomes, especially for Expanded Composition. This course is designed to support students who score 19 and below on the ACT by providing them with a full year to meet the learning outcomes for ENG 101. Our department’s research shows that the students enrolled in Expanded Composition often outperform their peers in 101 and in the research-focused 102 course. The Expanded course allows students more time for each project and, because the classes are a little smaller, more one-on-one time with the instructor. Therefore, the students tend to be more prepared for future coursework. Every year, after the course ends, I reflect on what my students and I have achieved, and I set new goals for myself for the next year. It’s a time that is important for me as an educator: to decompress and to refresh. And this year, now that the semester has ended, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to teach Expanded Composition, how I can do my job more effectively, and what it means to be an author. Continue reading