Category Archives: recommendation list

My Year as a Reader: Top Ten Books of 2013

I generally count my time in alignment school years: September is the new year and August is the month of reflection and generating new ideas for the coming year, so it’s always interesting each December to examine and reflect on the calendar year.  And actually, it’s probably healthier to not count my days by my profession.  This year was one of my favorites:

First and foremost, I got engaged on January 1st and our wedding in August was a celebration with family and friends I will truly never forget (especially my grandpa organizing the Yager family at the hotel bar Friday night, dancing to Gloria with my Uncle Bob at the reception, or my Brooklyn girls fulfilling their promise of charging to the dance floor as soon as the music started, hands in the air).

Personally, I have learned so much about paying attention to small moments of beauty and truth, breathing deeply, and taking the time to nurture creativity.  Professionally, this summer I had the opportunity to be inspired by kindred educators at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s institutes, which has driven so much of the energizing work happening right now in my classroom and my ability to truly celebrate each of my students and their voices.

As a reader, I set a resolution at the end of last year to not buy any new books until I made it through the ones I already owned.  I did pretty well on that until the spring and it completely fell apart once June hit and I decided that summer reading was an exception.  Oops.  But, I did buy a kindle and used the kindle app on my ipad to read multiple book, and learned about how to check out e-books from the library.  Also, I’m such a fan of independent book stores, that it was hard to walk in and NOT buy something, just to show solidarity in their mission, especially Greenlight, Community Bookstore, and Book Court.

Regardless of how I got them, though, below are the ten best books that narrated my whole path this year:

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: This was story tucked into story tucked into story, told in a mirror image format that was the most challenging and most thought provoking fiction of the year. I couldn’t stop thinking about the thread that tied the narratives together.

Quiet by Susan Cain: The subtitle really says it all for this one–the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.  This was the best nonfiction book I read all year and help me to not just own my introverted nature, but think about how I can empower my introverted students.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: This short book is for adults who have forgotten the magic of being a child. At once fantastical and realistic, this story was phenomenal and my favorite fiction book of the year.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness: My cousin and her son recommended this middle grade book to me and I think it is one of the most important I’ve ever read about life and loss.  I wept at the end, which is rare for me, and had a hard time recovering–but this is because it beautifully captured so much of what it means to be human.  The illustrations were breathtaking, as well.

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy: Van Booy has become one of my favorite authors because of his poetic style and ability to capture tiny moments of humanity at its most beautiful.  As suggested by the title, it follows multiple story lines to show how people are much more connected to one another than we realize.

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson: I read mostly mystery for the month of August and this was my favorite by far.  Atkinson’s protagonist is born in 1910 and the story continually resets itself and re-imagines what her life may have looked like.

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala: This memoir is one of the most discussed books of the year and Deraniyagala’s story of grief after losing her husband, sons, and parents in the 2004 tsunami is heart-wrenching, powerful, brave, and important.

Everyday by David Levithan: This book was by far my favorite Young Adult read of the year.  The protagonist is, essentially, a soul–s/he inhabits a different body each day and the reader gets to experience this unique voice and watch as s/he tries to craft a life outside the inhabitation s/he cannot control.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown: By far the most transformative nonfiction/personal growth book of the year, especially for this Type A/Oldest Child combination.  She helped me find some grounding and do a lot of the thinking work that propelled me from May onward through the year.

1,000 Mornings by Mary Oliver: This short book of (accessible!) poetry grounded me as the seasons changed and helped put some of the wisdom I took from Brene Brown to work.

(Looking for more recommendations for your reading year? Click here to read my year in review posts since 2007.)

As always, I’d love to hear your best recommendations & reading plans for the new year!

summer reading is almost here! or, an abundance of links and recommendations to help you craft your own summer reading list.

Officially summer starts June 20 though people have been in summer mode since Memorial Day, but mine starts June 28th.  Mt first day off school.  I love my job for a lot of reasons, but especially for the glorious time to get lost in a crazy amount of books for 8 weeks every year.  Last year my book club committed to a tiny type 1,000+ page book which was great, but consumed my summer reading life, so this year I’m looking forward to more freedom. The end of the school year is also always so hectic, so I am looking forward to thinking a bit more deeply in the coming months, which was an upside to last summer.  Here’s the list so far, but I’m still soliciting recommendations and leaving some room for spontaneous decisions, obviously.

From my ongoing book list
{summer reading start}

I have been compiling a list on my phone of book titles I come across browsing in my favorite bookstores, in magazines and on blogs that sound compelling.  On Sunday I walked over to my favorite bookstore in Brooklyn, Greenlight, and went through the list and picked out the four that made me the most excited to get started with the reading plan:

1. A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert: this has been on my mental list for years and chronicles the story of five generations of women and studies the relationship of mothers and daughters.

2. Broken Colors by Michele Zackheim: from one of my favorite imprints, Europa (see The Elegance of the Hedgehog and A Novel Bookstore), this story is written up as lyrically beautiful and historically set, two of my favorite kinds of books.  It follows a woman’s life through her artistic passions.

3. Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears: a highly recommended mystery set in London, Paris and Venice, told backward in time from 1909 to 1867.

4. Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy:  three characters’ paths cross one summer in Athens

Young Adult

{young adult non fiction}

Of course, I have a few titles I want to read for the youth.  This summer, I’m trying to focus on some of the new non fiction I have in my classroom that I’m hoping to use in book clubs in the fall.  These titles range from a graphic novel version of the 9/11 report to one about Charles Darwin and his wife.  Sometimes I get a little leery of reading too much young adult fiction in the summertime, but I’m excited for what these titles could do for kids as readers.  Initially I hoped to be done with all of them by the end of June, but I think that’s a bit lofty of a goal. Ha.

Recommendations and Rereads

Geek Love and Ender’s Game from Nikki
reread Danny, the Champion of the World from Jenna
I always reread The Summer Book  
So, I’ll be writing along the way from Brooklyn, Louisville and the Hamptons this year, with an overview in September.  If you want to read along, let me know, because I am always up for book talks:) 

Best Books of 2010.

This year was the first year that I actually numbered the reading experiences. Each is linked to the original blog post (or two).  Enjoy.

10. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It’s a mystery about (life and) books. It’s set in Barcelona. What is not to love?

9. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I thought it would be a little too sappy or not well written, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

8. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemiresky.  I love historical fiction and Nemiresky’s personal story as connected to this unfinished piece about Germany’s occupation in France was fascinating.

7. American Pastoral by Philip Roth. I wasn’t sure how I escaped Roth.  This dark story went along brilliantly with a lot of the cultural portraits and critiques I’ve read or seen recently.

6. March by Geraldine Brooks: how I got away with not writing about this book, I have no idea.  This short book followed the father’s story from Little Women, but had plenty to say about both men and women. Post to follow soon!

5. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy by Steig Larsson: I jumped on the bandwagon and got sucked in.  These are incredibly smart and addictive mysteries (technically I’m finishing the third one in the final days of 2010…100 pages in as of now).

 4. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver: The Poisonwood Bible was one of the most thought provoking books I’ve ever read.  My book club decided to read this as soon as it came out and it was a gorgeous blend of storytelling and history.

3. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann: this book was phenomenal. Go buy it now. 

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling reread with students: Harry Potter 7 made my top ten list back in 2008, but this fall’s rereading experience with my students was a-maz-ing. So much passion. So much intellect.

1. Great House by Nicole Krauss: History of Love, Krauss’ second novel, made the top ten in 2008 right along with HP. I could not wait for this book to be released and had its date on my refrigerator months in advance.  This book is beautiful, haunting and thought provoking.

Short Recommendation.

I have no idea how I haven’t posted about Sloane Crosley after reading her first book of essays, I Was Told There’d Be Cake a few years ago. But since I made a hard cover purchase the day her second book was released (I can count all previous hard cover purchases on one hand…and I buy a lot of books), I realized it’s high time that I publicly recommend her highly amusing essays to the 5 people who read this blog.  Crosley’s essays resonate with me as she grew up in the suburbs, moved to New York and is about my age, but I remain convinced that they are pretty funny for almost anyone.

Anyway, nothing too deep, but if you are looking for an entertaining summer read, either of these two would work.

Year In Review Part One

My Top Ten Reading Experiences of 2008, in chronological order:

1. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

2. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

3. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

5. Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken

6. The Summer Book by Tove Jansen

7. Amulet by Roberto Bolano

8. Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson

9. Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

10. Not For Sale by David Batstone