Summer: the time of year this English teacher can choose book titles, guilt-free.
I mean…don’t get me wrong: the titles chosen by our district are quality books, classics even — and yes, each new read and each new class teaches me something new — but I’ve read Of Mice and Men at least eight times by now. It should come as no surprise that I relish the opportunity to just lose myself in a fresh first read of my choosing!
Here’s what I’ve read lately:
Mighty Be Our Powers, by Leymah Gbowee
As always, I’ll be real with you: this one is not a lighthearted summer read! What it is: heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, but nonetheless empowering. Leymah Gbowee narrates the story of her life in the midst of Liberia’s Civil War — how she not only miraculously lived to tell the tale, but played an integral role in creating the women’s movement that ultimately stopped that same war. Picking this one up, I certainly expected a “you go, girl!” sort of message, but this…this is so much more. An amazing story, an incredible woman, and a powerful reminder that, even in the worst (and I mean worst) of circumstances, we still have the option to choose action over defeat. Verdict: a tough one, but worth it.
What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty
After the intensity of Mighty Be Our Powers, I went on the search for something a bit more in the “beach read” category. What Alice Forgot certainly hit the spot! Not to be confused with the recent Academy Award winning film, Still Alice (which was a real tear-jerker, by the way), What Alice Forgot opens with Alice laying on the floor of her gym having suffered a severe bump to the head upon falling off her bike during a spin class. However, none of the people in the room look familiar, she doesn’t recognize her own clothes or gym bag, and she can’t fathom why on earth she would attend a gym voluntarily (!!!) — because that bump on the head has magically wiped the last ten years of her life from her memory. As Alice struggles to reacquaint herself and come to terms with this life she can’t believe she’s leading, Moriarty forces all of us to question what’s really important in life and to wonder what our ten-years-younger selves might think of our own current states…all while chuckling (sometimes aloud!) through this quick and comical read. Verdict: silly + meaningful = I love it.
Lost and Found, by Carolyn Parkhurst
Truthfully, I picked this book for two very superficial reasons: 1. The cover is adorable, & 2. The author shares my first name. Carolyns of the world, unite! As it turns out, the cover, while very cute, perhaps doesn’t suit the content quite as well as I hoped. Not to say I didn’t enjoy reading this book, but this looks like some magnificent, touching, mother-daughter beachy getaway, but this is a novel about…a reality show. Narrated from the point of view of several different contestants on a show called, what else? — “Lost and Found”, is, at its heart, a story about a mother who discovers her teenage daughter’s very big secret and how they both come to terms with the outcome by traveling the world together as contestants on a reality show. Verdict: interesting and unique, but I’m thankful for the bargain price on this one.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
Evidently Marie Kondo has a 100% success rate with her clients (she’s a professional organizer), but reading about organization from her perspective is just downright funny. Unfortunately, I don’t think entertainment value was the real goal of the author. I can’t help but read excerpts aloud to people near me as I’m reading, and they have reacted so far with, “What in the heck are you reading?!” My favorite section so far discusses the proper way to store socks (useful information), but Kondo goes off the path of normalcy as she explains how hard our socks work all day, beaten down between our feet and our shoes, just to be stretched into a stressful little ball and tossed into a lackluster drawer. Poor little sockies. Verdict: I hope this proves useful in the end, but it’s a little too bizarre for my taste.
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
My most-anticipated read of the summer, no doubt! This book just arrived on my doorstep today. Yard work delayed my reading schedule, so I’m only on Chapter Three, but so far, so good. My not-so-inner English nerd is just loving meeting my favorite characters from To Kill a Mockingbird 20 years later. Final verdict: to come soon!
Let’s get a reading list going: what are you reading this summer? List your favorite titles in the comments below!