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What I'm Reading: June 2010

June 16, 2010 at 8:30 AM

Here are the books I've read and especially admired in recent months, August-May 2010.

  • A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesia, autobiographical fiction
  • Who's Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships That Create Success—And Won't Let You Fail by Keith Ferrazzi, self-help/business
  • The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller, professional/nonfiction
  • Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater by Frank Bruni, memoir
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, nonfiction narrative
  • Strength in What Remains: A Journey of Remembrance and Forgiveness by Tracy Kidder, nonfiction narrative
  • The Brothers K by David James Duncan, fiction
  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, autobiography, nonfiction narrative
  • The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future of Educational Change by Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley, professional
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, fiction
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, fiction
  • Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization by Yong Zhao, professional
  • The Best American Short Stories: 2009 by Alice Sebold, ed. and Heidi Pitlor, series ed., short stories
  • Nothing Was the Same: A Memoir by Kay Redfield Jamison, memoir
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen, memoir
  • Push by Sapphire, fiction
  • Lit by Mary Karr, memoir
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett, fiction
  • True Compass: Edward M. Kennedy by Edward Kennedy, memoir
  • The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, nonfiction/history
  • The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss by George A. Bonanno, nonfiction
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, fiction
  • Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt, memoir
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, fiction
  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard, biography
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy, fiction
  • Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro, short stories
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, fiction
  • Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom, short stories
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, nonfiction
  • Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, fiction

There are a number of extraordinary and memorable books on this list, includingZeitoun by Dave Eggars, Lit by Mary Karr, and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. However, my favorite remains Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. This incredible novel, which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is a captivating, must-read for all who love great literature. Olive Kitteridge, a retired, seventh grade math teacher, is a complex, cantankerous woman who lives in a small town in Maine. Her complex character is vividly brought to life in thirteen chapters, each told by a different resident of the town—Olive's husband, her adult son, a former student, and many others. Through these disparate and sometimes, desperate, honest voices we come to know Olive, to suffer with her, to understand her, to criticize her many failings, and, ultimately, to empathize and forgive this deeply flawed, yet entirely human, character. This book made me feel privileged as a reader, both for the vivid portrait of an unforgettable character and the gorgeous writing.

Commentary: The Joy of Rereading Favorite Books

As soon as I finished Olive Kitteridge, I knew I had to reread it. It wasn't just that my book club would be discussing it and I wanted to be prepared. It was mostly that I wanted to know Olive better, to see if what I thought about her at first would hold up now that I'd finished the book. I wanted to see what clues the author gave into Olive's complex character, actions, and motivations that I missed but could now grasp because I had the whole story. But, mostly, I wanted to savor the language, writing, and characters of this superb book once again.

Over the years I have reread beloved classics such Madame BovaryAnna Karenina,Gone With the Wind, and Jane Eyre, to name a few for sheer pleasure and for reading like a writer to notice "How did the author do that?" More recently, I've reread current titles such as Without a MapOut Stealing Horses, and Team of Rivals. I find comfort and contentment in reconnecting with treasured characters, stories, incidents, and favorite authors. Likewise, we must not just allow but, also, encourage our students to reread for their own pleasure and information. Rereading increases fluency, engagement, enjoyment, and comprehension. Perhaps, just as important, rereading a favorite book can impart a feeling of well being and contentment, very much akin to being with a well-known and respected friend.



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Category: My Reading

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