Wow, it’s been a while since my last book report! I don’t know how this got away from me. I’ve certainly been reading. Here are some quick reviews of what I’ve read so far in 2016.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris. This was a book club book, and I have to say I wasn’t impressed. It was about Dan Harris’ on-air “panic attack” and how he changed his life afterward. First of all, Dan Harris is completely unsympathetic. I just didn’t care. His public humiliation wasn’t very humiliating (watch the video… seriously… nobody would have noticed his flub). I mean, it’s great that he became 10% happier, and tamed the voice in his head. Good for him but frankly, I don’t care.
Less is More by Kimberly Hill Campbell. I really liked this education text book. You can read a full review of it here.
Maus and Maus II by Art Spiegelman. This is another one of those books that I read at least every couple years. My brother gave me this book for Christmas the first year he was in college. It’s an incredible Holocaust biography graphic novel where the Nazis are cats and the Jewish people are mouses. I got to see Art Spiegelman speak a few years ago in Eugene. If you’ve never read these books, go do it. They are genius.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Has anyone not read this yet? Such a horrific, heartbreaking, hopeful story. Without spoiling too much, this book is about people before, during, and after a pandemic flu that kills almost everyone. Station Eleven jumps around in time and between characters, presenting the story in an engaging, masterful way. Seriously a wonderful book that is hard to read, but impossible to put down. I love this kind of story about possible futures, but I hate reading about huge disasters because they totally stress me out. The cool thing about this book, is in the end, it isn’t a disaster book. It’s a book about relationships, art, human spirit, and strength.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Whenever a new Harry Potter book would come out, I would reread all the previous ones. That means I’ve only read the final book one time, and I figured it was time to read it again. But I can’t just read the last one, that would be crazy. So I started the series. Unfortunately, the middle school where I was working didn’t have the second book in stock (and it’s the only one I don’t own because it’s my least favorite), so I stopped after the first one.
Cinder and Scarlett by Marissa Meyer. We read Cinder in my book club, and I read Scarlett on my own after I finished Cinder. These are cool young adult science fiction books set in a dystopian future. They are really interesting and have strong, brave female characters who only get a little bit sidetracked by love. They are predictable to my discerning adult reader’s mind, but I can see how they would be amazing and surprising to a middle schooler. There are more in the series, but I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet.
Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. Another book club pick. This one is a book of essays by a narcissistic, mediocre, millennial writer. I kept checking to see if the book was actually written by Hannah Horvath from Girls. I have to admit that I really did like a couple of the essays – the first one especially – but there were a few that were almost painful. There are so many metaphors the book almost flew out of my hands and into the wall, fracturing into 40,000 paper cranes flying back to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Image Grammar by Harry Noden. Another book report to renew my teaching license. This is a good book about how to incorporate figurative language into writing. Maybe Leslie Jamison should read this to be reminded of the importance of doing this in an artful way.
10 Things Every Writer Should Know by Jeff Anderson. Yep, another text book. The ten things are pretty obvious, but the author did a good job giving strategies and materials to teach these things to students.
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. I really liked this book. It was well written, in a way that was unpretentious and relatable. It told the story of a Jewish girl growing up in Boston right after the turn of the 20th century. She is present for women’s suffrage, labor reform, and all those other amazing things that happened in the early 1900s. I loved Addie and loved how she was a strong girl who stood up for herself and made her own way in the world.
The Red Tent by Ania Diamant. After reading The Boston Girl, I was ready for another book by Diamant. The Red Tent is now one of my favorite books. This story of motherhood and womanhood is so important and beautiful. We all know the story of Jacob, but I’ve never even thought to stop and wonder about his wives or his daughter Dinah’s story is eternal and beautiful and connects us all together in a way that Joseph’s never could. I don’t even really have words for how this book made me feel. You know how, when you finish a really good book, you close it and feel sad that it’s over. This book devastated me when it was over. Dinah’s story was so tragic, but the last two pages destroyed me with hope and love and connection. I took a photo of the last two pages so I could always have them with me.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Book club! I have to say that the discussion about this book might have been the best ever. There were so many things to say – so many observations, questions, ideas, reactions. I still don’t know if I liked the book. I mean, it was really, really good, but I’m not sure if I liked it. The characters were completely unlikable, even though they were presented as perfectly adorable. It was an interesting story with lots of twists and turns and it makes me happy for my beautiful simple life. I’m glad I read it, and I would recommend it to other people. I just have a hard time with unlikable characters.
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. I got this book through an Instagram hashtag. A woman sent me the book along with some fabric, and I sent it on to another woman with some of my fabric. The book was a good, interesting story with painfully stiff dialog. It took me a while to get over the dialog and the writing style, but the story was sweet and sad and will stick with my for a while, I’m sure.
Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist with reflections by Debbies Grable and Gibson. Here’s another self-indulgent book of essays. My mom and aunt read this book together a couple years ago, and sent their reflections to each other after each chapter. My mom put all those reflections into a book and I read that along with Cold Tangerines. I have to say that my favorite part of the experience was reading what my mom and aunt had to say about it. I learned about how they see the world, and that was more interesting and powerful than seeing how Niequist sees the world. I didn’t relate to her very much at all, but I found new ways to relate to my mom and aunt.