This is a charming-disturbing young adult novel about a boy so nondescript, he's "invisible-ish." It's intriguing and a little bit bizarre. I liked it...moreThis is a charming-disturbing young adult novel about a boy so nondescript, he's "invisible-ish." It's intriguing and a little bit bizarre. I liked it.(less)
I read this book because I found a unit on it and am thinking about teaching it next year. It took me out of my comfort zone because I'm not a science...moreI read this book because I found a unit on it and am thinking about teaching it next year. It took me out of my comfort zone because I'm not a science fiction reader at all (I don't see the point in reading about stuff that doesn't exist). Ursula K. Le Guin (I got several chapters in before realizing I wasn't reading a book by the author of A Wrinkle in Time) says in her introduction, "In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it." This was true for me in this case. I really did get lost in the world of this novel and was captivated by the characters and plot. What a pleasant surprise.(less)
A few months back, The New York Times ran a profile of George Saunders that made him sound like Jesus: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/mag.... Then,...moreA few months back, The New York Times ran a profile of George Saunders that made him sound like Jesus: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/mag.... Then, I noticed that a lot of my friends had marked his books "to-read" or given them five stars. I wanted to find out if Saunders was Jesus or not, so I picked up Pastoralia.
This book of short stories is off the hook. Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You is in a similar but softer, cuter vein. Both writers' works take place in a sort of uncanny America that sounds right despite its not quite right soundingness. Corporate culture, social class tension, and social awkwardness are all amped up to severe degrees. The stories are funny, but they also make you really, really, REALLY uncomfortable. "Pastoralia" and "Sea Oak" are the standouts in this collection, and I recommend picking up the book for them alone. The former is about a character who works in a cavemen reenactment display at an amusement park and the latter involves a zombie of sorts. Reading them both, I thought to myself, "I can't believe I'm reading this. I can't believe this was written."(less)
Forgive me if my thoughts on this collection of short stories don't fully cohere? I read a lot of it when I was tired and distracted, and I'd like to...moreForgive me if my thoughts on this collection of short stories don't fully cohere? I read a lot of it when I was tired and distracted, and I'd like to come back to it someday? I've never seen an author use ?s as effectively as Saunders does to achieve tone, meaning, and humor (!). "Escape From Spiderhead" and "The Semplica Girl Diaries" were so good, they woke me out of my stupor of exhaustion. Saunders is a Buddhist, and maybe it's just because I read this book after doing a week-long silent meditation retreat, but I almost feel like I'm practicing mindfulness when I read his stories. It's like his narrators are observing what's happening in their characters' minds, narrating from this state of hyper-awareness of the present. I don't know how else to explain in. It's kind of amazing, and I've never read anything like it.(less)
This is a gorgeous, perfect book! The poems, which are classic, fit perfectly with the conversations throughout which they are interspersed. The whole...moreThis is a gorgeous, perfect book! The poems, which are classic, fit perfectly with the conversations throughout which they are interspersed. The whole idea and execution of this book is just really, really commendable--I want to read it over and over and over again; it's pleasurable down to the texture of the pages. Kunitz's ideas concerning poetry, gardening, and his life story are so unified, how he sees them as all parts of the same thing. I stumbled upon this book at a poetry reading in a mattress store, and it was a true find.(less)
This is a fantastic memoir! It reminded me of Patti Smith's Just Kids but a couple decades earlier and less concise. I picked up Recollections after r...moreThis is a fantastic memoir! It reminded me of Patti Smith's Just Kids but a couple decades earlier and less concise. I picked up Recollections after reading DiPrima's Memoirs of a Beatnik, which confused and kind of offended me. It turns out Memoirs isn't a true memoir but one DiPrima was pressured to make exaggeratedly salacious by her publisher. Many of the same stories are told in Recollections, but they're told more humanely.
DiPrima says, "I write this book to try to understand what messages I got about being a woman. What that is. How to do it. Or get through it. Or bear it. Or sparkle like ice underfoot" (27). Through a combination of linear storytelling with memory and dream fragments and excerpts from contemporary journal entries, she tells things like they were in the moment while also reflecting on her values and choices made in the '50s from the perspective of a woman in her 60s in the 2000s.
DiPrima's generation were really the first teenagers. In some ways, they made a lifestyle that is now a norm possible. The first 100 pages or so of Recollections are like a love song to adolescence; they still ring true even though the music is different. The book chronicles the first 30 years of DiPrima's life, and while I can't fully relate to some of her experiences and points of view, I was incredibly moved by it, having recently reached the milestone of my own first 30 years.(less)
I read this book for a book group. I would have appreciated more of the Dalai Lama's words and less of the Western psychiatrist's. I'm not sure who th...moreI read this book for a book group. I would have appreciated more of the Dalai Lama's words and less of the Western psychiatrist's. I'm not sure who the intended audience is for the book. I think the ideas in it would be of limited utility to anyone who doesn't have a mindfulness practice already, yet that seems to be who Cutler is addressing. To me, everything in the book made sense because I am familiar with Buddhist concepts and practices, but if I didn't have that background information, I'm not sure it would really help me identify concrete ways to make myself happier.(less)
This book is OK. The title's proper inflection is How to Think More About Sex rather than How to Think More About Sex. Alain de Botton is kind of a we...moreThis book is OK. The title's proper inflection is How to Think More About Sex rather than How to Think More About Sex. Alain de Botton is kind of a weird thinker/writer. I'll be reading along, totally feeling his ideas, until he whips out something like this, describing a woman who has "none of the sullenness of the supermodel, none of the resentment towards their own good looks that beauty sometimes generates in ambitious and intelligent young women, and which causes them to take offence at just how much more interested most of the world is in their physique than in their ideas." WTF. I also found his view of pornography a bit bizarre. He hates it so passionately it made me wonder if he himself has dealt with some kind of porn addiction. But then he has this vision of an "enlightened or integrated pornography of the future," which is intriguing but unclear (something to do with Botticelli paintings of the Virgin Mary). Also this line: "The entire internet is in a sense pornographic"?!
Aside from those issues (and his analysis of fetishes, which was too Freudian for me), I did enjoy the book. It has some great cynical/realist one-liners, like his suggestion for a marriage vow that goes, "I have surveyed the different options for unhappiness, and it is you I have chosen to commit myself to." I guess that sounds kind of crass out of context, but the whole book is about the intersection of sex and love, the tension between sexuality and commitment, and what we really want when we want sex. Those issues are not discussed in our culture in very open or humane ways, so even though this book is flawed, I applaud it for dealing with the topic in a fairly non-judgmental way: "It's time for the need for sex and the need for love to be granted equal standing, without an added moral gloss."(less)
This was required summer reading from my new principal. It's good, but I don't think classroom teachers are its target audience. I got a few good idea...moreThis was required summer reading from my new principal. It's good, but I don't think classroom teachers are its target audience. I got a few good ideas for things I might do in my classroom, like critiques, but it read more like a memoir of Berger's work at a truly amazing-sounding elementary school in Massachusetts and his consultancy work in some less amazing schools. It's something policymakers and schoolboards populated by people who have misguided ideas about education should read. I hope they do.(less)
The audience for this book is college applicants, but I can't imagine what high school student would pick up and read an entire book about writing the...moreThe audience for this book is college applicants, but I can't imagine what high school student would pick up and read an entire book about writing their college essay. Bauld does give good writing advice, which I've passed along to my seniors, but his sense of humor isn't my style. I feel like he's trying too hard to seem funny to teenagers, and I have to work hard to look past the bad jokes to glean the good advice. There are some helpful examples of strong writing in here, but unfortunately, they're mostly from the '80s, and a lot of the references (for example, to darkrooms and E.T.) are outdated.(less)
This book quickly added itself to my list of most useful teaching books I own. What's so great about it is that the ideas and handouts in it are adapt...moreThis book quickly added itself to my list of most useful teaching books I own. What's so great about it is that the ideas and handouts in it are adaptable but it also includes many lessons on specific films and film clips. As an English teacher without much of a film background, I would have been lost without this book. It has a great film terminology glossary, suggested clips to use as examples of the terms (and includes background info, timing, and discussion questions for each clip), and resources to use film analysis as a bridge to textual analysis. This book is so awesome!(less)
I enjoyed the Berkeley-Oakland history and trivia in Telegraph Avenue and even learned something about an old neighborhood of mine that I was glad to find out. But I can't imagine this novel being worth the plod through for anyone who doesn't have a personal connection to the area. It's too long, there is a totally unnecessary 12-page sentence in the middle (ugh), and there are too many characters, none of whom I could muster enough feeling for to care too much about the plot. (less)
I read this book because I'm going to teach 8th grade for the first time after 5 years teaching upper high school. I noticed a lot of middle school cu...moreI read this book because I'm going to teach 8th grade for the first time after 5 years teaching upper high school. I noticed a lot of middle school curricula organized by genre, and I wanted to know why. Lattimer teaches genre as inquiry-based studies of text forms, which students can "leave owning their knowledge." Students read many, many examples of each genre, discover its characteristics for themselves, use pieces as models for their own writing in different genres, and integrate genre knowledge into their own schema that they can apply when reading future texts.
The book is pretty stellar. I like how the genre studies build off each other and how each chapter includes a lot of real teacher talk, real student comments in response to lessons, and the teacher's thought process as she made decisions about what to teach next based on students' developing understanding. Also, real students' writing samples are included, which could be very useful to use as models in one's own classroom.
There were some things that frustrated me about this book, though they are more complaints about the working conditions of teachers than the book's overall quality:
1. It was frustrating to read about how much time these teachers put into reading multiple drafts of student writing, having individual writing conferences with students, prepping materials, and modeling their own writing process for the class. It made me feel like a bad teacher for not having the time to do all those best practices all the time (I teach 5 preps!). It's important to remember that these units were developed with two teachers working together, not by one teacher alone in the classroom.
2. The book presumes a familiarity with reader's notebooks and writing workshops. My students annotate and respond to literature and each other's writing all the time, but I've never used notebooks. This book refers to students' reading notebooks often, but doesn't explain how they're set up.
3. The genres covered are all short texts (articles, fairy tales, short stories, etc.), which poses the challenge of finding materials. The book gives many recommendations of publications, anthologies, and other sources of texts, but once again, the problem of time. How will I find enough to seek, read, and anthologize all those texts for myself?
4. Finally, I wish the book had more graphic organizers that could be adapted for classroom use. Rubrics are included for some but not all of the units (Lattimer says she creates them with her students, but never describes how this process works). Of course, this is inquiry-based teaching, so it's not about worksheets, and reading through the unit and lesson descriptions, you get a clear picture of what was done in the classroom. However, that means it takes time to read this book. It took me a month, even though I was on summer vacation. It was totally worth it, but definitely not something I would recommend reading during the school year if you need something for immediate implementation.
Like I said, these aren't criticisms of the book, just things I think any teacher should be aware of when s/he picks it up. The book is excellent, and I plan to draw on it heavily as I organize my 8th grade curriculum.(less)
Hands down one of the best teaching books I own. This book strikes a perfect balance between offering the theory behind, well, teaching theory and pra...moreHands down one of the best teaching books I own. This book strikes a perfect balance between offering the theory behind, well, teaching theory and practical lessons that are easy to use straight out of the book or adapt. There are 34 classroom activities/handouts included in the appendix as well as extensive discussion about how real teachers have used these lessons in their classroom contexts. It is impeccably organized. If you're a secondary humanities teacher who wants to get your students thinking about critical theory (gender, social class, postcolonialism, deconstruction, etc.), I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's so good I own two copies -- I first read it right before the second edition came out and found the contents so valuable as to be worth paying again just for the new chapters.(less)
This play is fantastic! It was written in 1971, but I had never heard of it until recently. I love the way it incorporates lines from Emerson's and Th...moreThis play is fantastic! It was written in 1971, but I had never heard of it until recently. I love the way it incorporates lines from Emerson's and Thoreau's writings. It seems to use the stage economically by using lighting to facilitate quick back-and-forth scene changes that characters step into and out of. The text does a great job exploring the tensions between working within vs. outside the law and being a part of vs. apart from society.(less)