Short Recap: I am hoping to rekindle my love for reading, ditch my phone more as much as I can, and learn this year from books I have always wanted to read and never made time for. If you missed the first five, you can check them out here.
6. Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger:
This book is the same age as me, and it’s a murder mystery, so it takes a bit of imagination to remember a world where no one had cell phones. I loved that it was set in northern Minnesota and that I could learn a bit more about the Boundary Waters and some of the indigenous tribes present there, although I do question in the back of my mind if a white male author really has permission to tell native stories. There was more death than I am comfortable with, but it was fun to piece the story together and try to figure out what happened and who did what.
7. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert:
Yes, this is the same author as Eat, Pray, Love. Yes, I understand that may simultaneously excite some and make others roll their eyes. I stumbled upon this book because I was hoping to find the perfect gift for my sister-in-law for Christmas since I drew her name in Secret Santa. I found this title on a recommendation list for people with Enneagram 4 scores, so I bought it. I started reading it to see if it would be a good gift. I figured if I didn’t really understand it, she would probably like it because she is profoundly imaginative and I am not. Turns out, it ended up being a book I didn’t wrap for her but recommended to Ben instead. I actually love the way Gilbert talks about creating. She really got me thinking about how all of us are makers, to some extent, and ideas are all around looking for hosts to bring them to life, so to speak. If you are a writer, artist, musician, painter, sculpter, photographer, creator of anything, read this book.
8. In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It by Lauren Graham:
Okay, this is more of a chapter than a book. Honestly, it took me about 25 minutes to read while I was pumping breast milk from my body, and that includes at least one interruption from a kid. The book is an extended version of a commencement speech she gave to the 2017 high school class of her alma mater. It’s a perfect book for actors, but since I teach high school seniors, I think many of them would like it as well. My favorite realization was that I spend time a lot of time waiting for my “starring” role (not literally on the stage, but usually different seasons of life or something that I’m really looking forward to) when at the same time, there are people aspiring to be in the role I currently have. So she suggests to “treat every day like you’re starring in it.” She also makes it clear that starring means sharing joy in any part you have, not gloating in the spotlight. I like that.
9. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi:
I’m not totally sure why I kept putting this book off- I’m sure it is equal parts my weakness when it comes to guts and blood and my intuition that reading it would be a cathartic experience, which it absolutely was. I wept audibly the last 20 or so pages, out on the couch, after everyone else had gone to bed. These tears were in the same family as the ones I had cried the night after my miscarriage surgery- just raw, guttural release of the desire to process life’s meaning when it’s so filled with both wonderful and tragic waves. Ann Patchett says she “would recommend this book to anyone, everyone” and I support that claim wholeheartedly.
10. This is Not a Test by Jose Luis Vilson:
It took me a couple chapters to actually get into this book, but once I got into the groove, I really appreciated a lot of what Mr. Vilson has to say. He is a black, Haitian/Dominican activist and teacher in New York. I’d say my main takeaway was about “teacher voice” and the notion that nobody really asks teachers for ideas and solutions on how to better the educational system on a nation-wide level and on a building level. It made me realize that I don’t think I do a great job of asking students for ideas and solutions on how to better their own experience within the system and in my classroom. If you want to read more about this book, I wrote a longer post for my SEED class here.