For many years, if I started a book, I finished it. No matter what. It just felt wrong to read a 100 pages only to set the book aside. I adhered to the belief that the only bad books were those that were unread. Even if I had to trudge through a book, taking weeks or months to finish, I wouldn’t read anything else until I had finished that book. I knew that if I picked up another book that grabbed my attention, I would never return to the one I set aside.
I know where this attitude originated for me. Growing up, I didn’t own many books and used the library a lot. But, when you don’t have much money and don’t have a great selection to choose from, you read what you can get your hands on. Also, in college, I had to read a number of books I didn’t enjoy, but in reading them, I learned interesting things about the world, about writing, about myself. I could appreciate the books, even if I never planned to read them again. Besides, I’m no quitter. I like to see things through.
A couple of years, however, I reevaluated my reading habits. I wasn’t reading as much as I wanted, and I was trying to figure out the problem. I noticed that my reading numbers were much lower when I was reading a book I wasn’t enjoying. I made a decision that I would try setting aside books that weren’t keeping me engaged. I gave myself permission to bail and to move on. Continue reading
I will get caught up. I will get caught up. I will get caught up.
That has been my mantra this year. I never seemed to get caught up, however. In my last post (in October! gasp!), I mentioned some of the busyness and teaching difficulties I was dealing with. Just when things seemed to be settling down at the beginning of November, I was asked to take over an ENG 102 class when the instructor had to take a leave of absence. With only six weeks left, I had to teach a crash course in research writing to a group of tired and overwhelmed students. We all survived (and some really good things came out of the class), but my blogging, reading, and writing came to a halt. Now that I can breathe a little, I decided a good place to start back would be with a year end review of my favorite books this year.
Before I begin, I need to provide a few caveats.
- I have a love/hate relationship with end-of-the-year lists. I love to read them, to see what books other readers enjoyed, to affirm my own loves of the year, and to add to my ever-growing TBR. But, I also hate when books are overlooked, and I find it so difficult to come up with a list.
- I don’t read books that I don’t enjoy. If I don’t like it, I stop reading (there will be a post about this in 2017). The result is that my list of books at the end of the year is a list of books I loved–or at least liked–which makes narrowing the list really difficult.
- I challenged myself this year to read more diversely. I wanted to expand the genres I read, the authors I read, the places, experiences, and cultures represented in the books I read. In some areas, I succeeded. I read more creative nonfiction and debut novels (categories severely lacking in my previous reading lists). In others, I still need more work.
- Although I still don’t feel like it’s enough, I read more this year than I have the last three years. I’ve enjoyed something about every book that I read. The books that follow, though, are ones that have stuck with me the most.
“A good knife is hard to come by, about as hard as finding a good person in this damned country. When your life is your only currency and you got debts to pay, a good knife can make all the difference.”
One of my reading goals this year was to read more debut novels, and I’ve read several. The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis was one such novel that I had added to my TBR almost a year before it was released in July. But, where The Wolf Road differs from the other debuts I’ve read is that this novel doesn’t read like a debut. This is a stunning novel written by a skillful writer and storyteller. Continue reading
Summer is coming to a close for me…much too quickly. I’m already in the midst of creating curriculum and dealing with pre-semester administrative tasks. And I haven’t read all of the books I wanted to before school is back in session. So, I thought this weekend would be a perfect time for me to try something I’ve always wanted to do: a readathon. Continue reading
Most educators, especially those teaching English, have at least one teacher that inspired them to learn, to read, and to follow in their footsteps. For me, that person was my seventh grade English teacher. She was warm, passionate, kind, and engaging. And her love for life and literature was contagious. Continue reading
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
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.