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What I'm Reading: August 2009

August 01, 2009 at 4:40 PM

  • The Good Parents by Joan London, fiction
  • What Really Matters in Response to Intervention by Richard L. Allington, professional
  • Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence by Anne. D. LeClaire, memoir
  • Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman, nutrition/eating
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova, fiction
  • Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry by Donald Hall
  • Leading Change in Your School by Douglas Reeves, professional
  • Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl, nonfiction
  • Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother by Barbara Graham (editor), short essays
  • When I Forgot by Elina Hirvonen, fiction
  • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, fiction
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, fiction
  • Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher, nonfiction
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, fiction
  • RTI From All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know by Mary Howard, professional
  • Reaching Out by Francisco Jimenez, memoir
  • How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins, nonfiction/business
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, fiction
  • What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen, memoir
  • House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday, fiction

The most memorable book on the list is The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. If it weren't for it being a selection of my monthly book group, I probably would have passed this great title by. Even so, I had to work hard to sustain my interest through the first twenty-five pages because of the many historical footnotes. (Those footnotes provide the necessary historical context for the Dominican Republic setting under the brutal reign of Trujillo.) That said, once you get hooked—and you will—the book is mesmerizing. It's the most original and energetic writing style I've encountered in many years. The construction of the poetic prose—both English and Spanish, the intersection of truthfulness and fanciful imagination, the juxtaposition of excruciating heartbreak and amazing humor, and the lively voices of the narrators in this unforgettable story all make this book a joy to read and savor.

Commentary: The Winding Path Toward Reading Good Literature

I didn't become a reader, that is, someone who chose to read for pleasure and information, until I was a teenager. Looking back, I believe two major factors finally caused me to take the leap into voluntary reading of "good" literature. First of all, as a romance-crazed girl following the adventures of Archie and Veronica and the like, I was hooked on romance comics and I insatiably read those, every night, under the bed covers. Other than reading my way through the Nancy Drew series, I honestly don't remember reading many books. Reading comics to my heart's content eventually made me graduate to the finer fare my mother had been encouraging me to read for years. Secondly, my grandmother read aloud to me Gone With the Windwhen I was fifteen. I was mesmerized by the language and couldn't get the characters and story out of my mind. Grandma's lilting, expressive voice and her obvious joy of literature was such a profound influence that I was driven to pick up the book on my own.

I think because I spent so many years reading "lesser fare," today I gravitate towards very well-written fiction and nonfiction. My own experience has led me to encourage teachers and parents to let kids choose to read any genre that interests them, whether it be old-fashioned comic books, graphic novels or magazines and, at the same time, to continue to read aloud great literature regardless of the child's age. Children who become great readers read voraciously. As teachers and parents, we need to be careful not to derail kids' curiosity and interests with early restrictions. Independent reading time means giving kids access and choice to a wide range of materials. With freedom of choice and our gentle guidance, our children and students do eventually move towards higher ground in reading.

Category: My Reading

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