Read Me

If I were Alice, I’d have exhausted my share of Drink Me’s and Eat Me’s with all the time life has made me feel bigger or smaller than I am. It’s a part of growing up (thinking you’re bigger than the world, to learn you’re not) and becoming an adult (thinking you’re too small for survival, to learn you’re not so small at all), but if I’ve got one thing on Alice, it’s all the Read Me’s piled up around me house.

On my nightstand. My coffee table. My kitchen table. The bookshelves. The floor.

Books abound, beneath my TV, beside my couch. It’s a glorious feeling.

Except all that Read Me is getting a bit too much to swallow. Would it be too apt a metaphor to say I’ve got the words stuck in my throat, sentences strung around my molars and tethered to my tongue?

It’s no secret I’ve got a passion for books (with a name like Writingwolf, how could I not?), and it’s also no secret I’ve been a full-time teacher and a full-time grad student for almost the last year. And because the talk of the town is that teacher’s have the summer off*, I’ve got a reading list ready to tackle.

* The truth is, teachers do a year of work in ten months, so our summers are well-earned, but I’m also teaching summer school, so there’s that, too.

And since the only thing better than reading a book is writing about it, I felt a sudden urge somewhere between clearing through school year clutter and lesson planning to type up an annotated bibliography of all the stories I’m sipping on this summer.

Perhaps you’ll hear about a book just right for you. Perhaps you can share some fond memories of a book we’re reading together. Perhaps, without much further ado.

Everland by Wendy Spinale

I started reading this steampunk adaptation of Peter Pan last summer, and if the length of time I’ve been paging through it is any indicator, it hasn’t been the most enthralling. Sure, it’s young adult lit, but must the writing be so juvenile and the story so plain? Granted, this is Spinale’s first book, so props for that, but perhaps a few more rounds of revision would’ve made it shine as much as all those copper-plated goggles do.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I began this book mid-February when my ninth grade advisory began reading it in their English class. I’ve enjoyed it, though I can’t say I find graphic novels (sans Mous) as engaging as well-written prose, but the real reason I haven’t finished this tale is because of all the time I was kept from reading for pleasure while reading for lectures. But I look forward to finishing this one out. It’s practically nonfiction, and I appreciate the glimpse it gives me into a world I’ve never known on the other side of the earth.

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

Kelly’s book The Upside of Stress is my go-to for life-changing book recommendations, and I imagine once I dredge up the willpower to finish this book, it’ll be right next to it on the bookshelf of recommendations. (In fact, I’ve already recommended it to one student.) The book is like a how-to instruction manual for developing willpower, with all the psychology and engaging anecdotes to back it up. I love Kelly’s writing–a perfect balance between informative and entertaining–but as with my other bookish endeavors lately, it’s taken a backseat to assigned chapters in grad school and reading alongside my kids. However, down the line a bit, I want to adapt her input into a model I can employ in my classroom to help my students take their willpower by the reigns and ride on stress.

The Dead by James Joyce

I love classic literature, dense and dull as it may sometimes be, because it always casts a bright glow of antiquity and warmth, like sitting beside a fire in the twilit dusk of a long winter’s night. This short-story-turned-pocket-sized-Mouse-Book fits perfectly in my pocket and is there whenever I want it–whether it’s five minutes on the bus or half an hour sitting on the sidewalk waiting for the bus I just missed as I helped a man make a phone call because his cellphone was dead. It’s ok. The weather was pleasant. But, seriously, classic literature in the palm of my hand? What more could I possibly ask for?

Masterminds and Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman

I was barely two pages in and Wiseman mentions she’s known as the Mean Girls lady and I immediately broke down in wonderment at the realization that this staple movie of my youth (which was, in fact, the very first PG-13 movie I saw in the theaters, thanks to a wonderful birthday present from my older sister) was, in fact, based upon a nonfiction book examining the Secret Life of Girls and the World They Live In. This much-awaited follow-up to the not-so-eponymous book Queen Bees and Wannabes turns a much-needed eye upon the Secret Life of Boys–and, boy, could I have used this a year ago. Ninth graders much, eh? Anyways, while the slant is toward parenting, the insight she provides into the social dynamics of teenage boys will surely be invaluable, and the illuminating light she shines into the spheres of high school society will help me teach all my students. It’s also been fairly intriguing to see all the ways these unwritten rules of boyhood shaped my own upbringing, and how I often wasn’t as far along the fringes as I thought.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

One of my dearest and longest friends (a middle-school teacher in NC I met while in college) shares a special relationship with me and the Native world: it was through our shared interest in learning more about Native Americans that brought our friendship into focus. We traveled to Cherokee together as a cultural immersion trip led by our residence hall, and we attended a number of Native American History Month events on campus together following that. So naturally, when she was assigned Alexie’s book in her Native American literature course, she told me I’d love it. And while it’s taken me something like four years to finally grab a copy (not in the least because one of my ninth graders is reading it in summer school and I’m desperately trying to help him see the benefit in not skipping classes and losing the chance to recover much-needed course credits), I do, in fact, love it as much as she had imagined I would. Humorous and quirky, and in some senses all too close to reality, this is surely to be my fasted read of the summer and a book I’ll remember reading for many summers to come.

So, my friend, what Read Me are you staring at?

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