Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Summer Reading List

Nope, this one isn't for the students, though they do have one; rather, this one is my own personal summer reading list.

People have the misconception that all English teachers do is read. And while I wish that were true, it's not. In fact, they say if you want to have time to read, teach math. And while I certainly do have some free time on my hands, I don't always use it to read. But I absolutely love reading, and I love getting lost in a new book, which is why I created my own personal summer reading list. I like checking things off of lists, so I'll use that as my motivation. It features the following books, and though I do hope to read a couple more, these are the seven (eight) that I absolutely have to read. They're all new-to-me books, because we all know if I chose to reread my very favorites, I would only read Harry Potter.

Columbine by Dave Cullen
I'm actually reading this book right now and I'm finding it so incredibly fascinating. Being a teacher, the concept of school shootings is very real, though it's certainly not something I ever think about or anticipate happening. I have no recollection of Columbine, as I was just seven years old at the time - though it's funny that I can distinctly remember 9/11 - but to read a true account of what happened on that devastating day. And it's so much different from many of the media reports. Dylan and Eric were just like the next troubled high school student - with lots of friends, who made good grades - and though they left tangible signs everywhere they went - 20/20 hindsight, of course - the Columbine incident was such a devastating tragedy, that I've found it hard to stop reading about what likely went through the minds of these two killers. 

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
This is one of those rare instances when I have seen the movie, but not read the book. For me, it's always the other way around. I am so bad about seeing movies. But I can't take all the credit for this one, as I actually watched it with the Pre-AP English II classes at Westwood last year when I was doing my student teaching. I was surprised by how much I loved it, and I suspected that, as most book and movie combinations go, the book would be better than the movie. I've heard nothing but good things about it from the junior English teachers who actually get to teach it, so I'm excited to cross this one off my list.

Emma by Jane Austen
This one has been on my list for quite some time. Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite books, and I've seen Emma sit high atop many lists. Higher even than Pride and Prejudice, in many instances. In fact, Emma is said to be Austen's "most flawless work," as it explores the mystery that is relationships, and shows the protagonist - Emma, surprise! - going about her every day business. As is my experience with Austen, this one will probably take me a little while to really get into. But when I do, don't expect to hear from me for a couple of days. 

Fences by August Wilson
I'm mixing things up a little bit by throwing a play into the mix. I'll admit, I was actually completely unfamiliar with the works of August Wilson, until just the other week when I was talking with one of my fellow English teachers about some of the works taught in 10th grade English. Fences came up, and he asked me if I was at all familiar with Wilson. I said that I was not, and he recommended I pick up the book from the bookroom if I'm looking for an enjoyable way to spend an hour. Wilson won a Pulitzer Prize for this one, and because plays are meant to be performed, surely it will inspire me to watch the performance. 

Denzel is in it, after all (Source)
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
I love John Steinbeck. East of Eden is one of my all-time favorite books, but to be honest, I have truly loved all that I've read by Steinbeck. Granted, I haven't read all that much, but that's why I'm looking to expand on that number with Cannery Row. The characters are supposedly simple, as are much of Steinbeck's characters, and likeable; the prose is unsurprisingly descriptive - classic Steinbeck - and it's said to provide "deep commentary on human society." Should be a quick yet deep, and enlightening read.

You Don't Know Me by David Klass
This one is actually on the English II summer reading list at Bellaire, and to hear another teacher talk about the plotline is what inspired me to wander into the arctic tundra that is our bookroom and grab a copy of my own to read. It's a coming-of-age novel that should be a quick read, and it evidently focuses on the angst-ridden adolescent, and the increasing pressures of high school, so pretty much a story featuring my students. The protagonist also deals with a very troubled home life, which is a very serious reality that many of my students do face.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Cue the excitement of every single English teacher (and really every person) ever. Originally written in the mid-1950's, the lost manuscript was discovered late last year, and it centers around the character of Scout - returning home to Maycomb to visit her father - 20 years later. I feel as though I should reread To Kill a Mockingbird before I pick up this novel - it's as good a time as ever, right?, but I could not be more excited to read the sequel to one of America's most influential books. I vow to not compare the sequel to the original, because one, it's a sequel, and two, it's been sitting in the vault for a long while. And whatever this book holds, I don't want it to cloud my opinion of the brilliance that I believe is Harper Lee.

She's said to be both humbled and amazed about this publication (Source)
What books are currently on your list? If you're anything like me, you're always adding to it. And of course, I plan to throw in a couple of beach reads here and there. Because I anticipate many of these books to be very heavy reads. I also hope to find some books that will appeal to my reading kiddos for next year, as so many of them don't even know how to look for a book that interests them. Trips to the library or bookstore are no longer treasured events, and I think we owe a lot of that to the standardized test phenomenon. We tell kids what to read and how to read it, so it's no wonder they scoff at the idea of reading for fun. But that's an opinion for a whole other post. Have a great one, and check back sometime this week for an exciting fitnessandfroyo announcement!

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