This month was full of both strikeouts with promising books and some great reads based on recommendations from others. I’ve also enjoyed going down the rabbit-hole of some great fantasy series. My strikeouts were mainly based on romance/sex content since I’m finding my mental/spiritual health is better when I avoid most of that. So you’ll notice me referring to the presence or absence of that kind of content specifically throughout this post.
Same as last month, I really enjoyed my nonfiction reading. It’s still weird to hear myself say that, since I’ve historically been a fiction-only reader.
I quite literally happened upon this book on the Libby app. I had to pack up my classroom in my basically empty school building and decided a safe, but interesting audiobook was my best bet, since my classroom computer was already unplugged for the summer. I chose nonfiction and scrolled through the “Available Now” list. I’d seen it a week or so before, and figured, “Why not?”. I listened to about half of it in the time it took to pack up my classroom and boys, howdy, is it ever applicable to my profession as an educator! As Brené Brown herself explains, the book is for any kind of leader in any situation – managers, parents, teachers, CEOs, etc. I especially liked her discussion of shame vs. guilt culture and how to cultivate shame resilience in ourselves and those in our care. Highly recommend!
Based on a reader’s suggestion in a comment on my post last month, I continued my trek into the world of how to organize my time more effectively and manage my technology use more healthily. Newport’s book Digital Minimalism was written after his book Deep Work, and while some reviews on Amazon say that it wasn’t helpful, I actually found it to be the opposite. I appreciated his “Practices” sections at the end of each chapter and found them immediately applicable. While I freely admit I only made it two weeks into his recommended 30-day “Digital Declutter,” I also recognize that he did not write this to be applied in the midst of a pandemic where all work and social interaction is occurring via social media and communication platforms. I think my favorite tidbit from this book and Deep Work is that we have to remember that WE are the ones who choose which technologies we allow to have access to our lives and time. So true!
I started three fantasy series this month, and only finished 2 fiction books that were not a part of any series. I’ll only talk about some of them here.
Mistborn series – books 1 and 2 – by Brandon Sanderson
This was recommended to me a year or so ago by one of my good friends – and then again, fervently, by my siblings. Apparently Brandon Sanderson has been my brother’s favorite author for the last decade. And he’s been holding out on me this whole time!!
After a wait of over one month, I actually almost gave up on it. I picked it up, telling myself that I’d give it one more try, and it took me until I got about 25-30% of the way in, and then I was hooked. Now I’m waiting not-so-patiently with the third book on hold.
Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Mass
Recommended to me by a friend, I picked this up since I was feeling antsy for an escape into another world. It has a strange premise – that of a girl who is about my size (read: small!) who was trained from childhood to be an assassin and then was betrayed and thrown into a work camp for a year. I suppose in similar ways to the Mistborn series, the protagonist has a questionable background but has a strong inner character which enables her to take on the challenges of saving the kingdom from destruction by power-hungry rulers.
My friend informed me that further in the series the romance scenes get a little more explicit, so I may not be recommending this series wholeheartedly to readers; however, I’ll have to see as I go. And if I decide not to finish, then I don’t finish.
I’ve made it a goal for myself as a teacher to read as many of the books in my classroom library as I can, as well as find new or new-to-me books to add later on. To that end, I read Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan and You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly. I am currently reading a new release from Gail Carson Levine, author of one of my favorite kid books, Ella Enchanted.
As an educator, I can’t say enough good things about this book. It deals with some pretty big themes – dysfunctional families, the realities of being biracial, a sibling who has physical abnormalities, to name a few – yet does it all with tact, authentic emotions, and grace. The way Ryan uses language made me stop more than once to simply revel in such beautiful use. And if you want to teach similes using something other than the overused “as busy as a bee,” this book is rife with all sorts of creative similes! I loved her earlier book, Esperanza Rising and highly recommend this one to teachers and their middle grade students.
I chose this based on the fact that I am wanting to create a book list for kids who have difficult home lives and could benefit from reading books about kids with similar-feeling struggles. I’m open to any suggestions you all have, because I didn’t love this one. Yes, the main characters had family difficulties, but by the end of the book, those weren’t resolved. The focus was much more on the difficulties of navigating social life in middle school. It could be okay for that purpose, but not for the purpose of processing difficult emotions due to family circumstances. So I can’t really recommend this very confidently. Becoming Naomi León is much better suited for that purpose.
Books I wanted to like, but didn’t…
I started several books this month that I truly wanted to like, and many of which have important and timely themes, but which I decided not to finish. This decision was usually based on the presence of sex- or romance-related themes, though sometimes by the presence of an abundance of crude language. Certainly my decision was based on personal conviction, but I am a firm believer that not all books are for everyone. It really depends on what your triggers are and what your personal beliefs are. These are the books I didn’t finish this month:
- The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
- Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
- A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
- The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
- Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Hope your reading month was full of good finds! Feel free to share in the comments what your favorite books were this month and/or recommend a book that came to mind while you read this post.
P.S. Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit post