Here it is--my list of reading for 2013. For curiosity's sake, books read in kindle form are indicated (52% of this year's reading), and extra asterisks are put by books that I would especially recommend.
1. 14/1/13 Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa by Melanie Dobson *Kindle
a. I have no idea why I was driven to download this book, but it had surprisingly interesting information about the Amana Colonies (where it was set) and was an enjoyable light read about faith, family, and—yes—a love story.
2. 1/2/13 ‘Tis by Frank McCourt
a. This autobiography by McCourt shows some insights to Irish culture I didn’t know. His style is fresh and energetic. Definitely worth a read, and it makes me think again that I ought to read Angela’s Ashes.
3. 11/2/13 Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce by John Piper
a. This short biography is another reminder of what a life wholly surrendered to God looks like and what God desires to and can accomplish in such a life.
4. 17/2/13 Matilda by Roald Dahl
a. I considered using this book with some students, so I had to give it a read. It was a delightful tale with the always-surprising twists, turns, and language of Dahl.
5. 22/2/13 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
a. Another potential read for my students. Lots of wordplay and pun-iness mixed in with wisdom about how we make our choices and live our lives.
6. March/2013 A Country Christmas by Louisa May Alcott *kindle
a. I think this is actually a short story—Amazon estimates it at 33 pages. I read it well after Christmas, but I enjoyed its spirit, not only of Christmas but of the simple and truer joys that come from a simple lifestyle and hard work.
7. March/2013 The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
a. Again, reading provoked by being a teacher. I used this text in one of my classes at ISO.
8. 23/3/13 The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
a. A novel based on the biblical Dinah, the sister of the 12 sons of Jacob. Her narrative and language weave an interesting tale. Her reinterpretation of the Biblical narrative I found a bit unnerving, but from a literary perspective, I think she made some very provoking reinterpretations.
9. 30/3/13 Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
a. Interesting illustrations and a selfish main character. There are some things that show me how it would be appealing to young readers (especially because the illustrations/cartoons are quite nice), but there’s also a lot to be desired I think.
10. 21/4/13 Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin **
a. A great read showing how education can transform an entire society. Also, very insightful on a part of the world I need to learn more about (Pakistan mostly).
11. 25/4/13 I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer *kindle
12. 26/4/13 Eugene Oneguine (Onegin) by Aleksandr Sergeevich *kindle
a. After seeing two performances of this in Czech, I decided to read it. The second performance I saw was brilliant. The actors were so compelling and well-communicated all of the tension and conflicted emotions within real life relationships. To be honest, I flew through the book, but I find the substance of the plot and the character of Tattiana marvelous.
13. 23/5/13 or so Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull
a. I read this in an Argo edition that had Czech and English. This book reminds me of The little Prince, only with more of a reincarnation push than a picture of Christ. Still very inspiring and with some positive principles to take from it.
14. 15/6/13 The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde *kindle
a. A humorous and light read on a return trip from Israel.
15. 27/6/13 Radical by David Platt
a. A refreshing look at the biblical teachings of Christianity and attempting to separate it from the cultural add-ons. The subtitle is “Taking back your faith from the American Dream.”
16. 29/7/13 The Exact Place by Margie Haack ***
a. recommended by Sarah Johannsen, this book did not disappoint. A memoir, it speaks giving life to the sensory experience of growing up in Lake of the Woods in Northern Minnesota. The difficult rural experience is seasoned with well-written prose and a gentle interweaving of Haack’s spiritual experience.
17. 6/8/13 A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Evans *kindle
a. This book was an examination of the role/function of women in the Bible. The author decided to take on some of the characteristics/roles associated with the “biblical woman”—some of which are characteristics created by culture rather than the Biblical text (ie 1950s wife). Throughout the book she looks deeply at scripture and provides some good insights.
18. 21/8/13 Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
a. This story of a girl given up for adoption and the ensuing life of her adoptive parents and biological parents raises some interesting topics for consideration. The writing style is sometimes strange due to the use of the present tense, but it was worth the read. (I’d picked it up at a library book sale.)
19. 31/8/13 Persuasion by Jane Austen *kindle **
a. I first read this book as a high school student and enjoyed the fact that it’s protagonist was 27 years old and it was the story of a woman who had rejected her lover out of a sense of duty as a teenager and had to deal with the emotional consequences thereafter. Now, reading it at my current age (25), I still found the story compelling, though I wished there had been more dialogue by the protagonist (Anne), to give the audience a better sense of her person through her own voice rather than through some 3rd person description.
20. 15/9/13 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
a. I read this book as a possible book for grade 9 lit. It’s written from the perspective of a person with autism. The author effectively shows and explains the perspectives
21. 2/10/13 Life In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson
a. This was a quick read—the memoir of a girl who tried to kill herself by throwing herself under a train, only to lose her legs but not her life. The incident proved spiritually transforming. The style of writing wasn’t the most compelling, but that didn’t diminish the power of the story.
22. 4/10/13 The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, kindle
a. This story read quite slowly, but I appreciated the sense of reality it gave. As it followed the main character, Archer, through the New York social scene, I felt the thoughts, tensions, and real inner debates within him were well-represented. In short, this book expressed the real turmoil of the balance between norms and conscience as well as between convention/duty and passion/desire.
23. 18/10/13 One Child by Torey Hayden
a. This was given to me by a colleague and is the true account of Hayden’s work with one particular student placed in her classroom for severely disabled children. It has a good balance of narrative and exposition as well as a balance of hopeful and discouraging accounts of the classroom.
24. 24/10/13 Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim, *kindle
a. This was a free kindle download. The read was quick and focused on the relationship between a white child and her black wet nurse (set pre-Civil War in the USA). While an interesting read, I thought that sometimes it was a bit superficial, and I struggled with how the white girl seemed more the heroine with her fairytale ending . . .
25. November/13 Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship by Joshua Harris *kindle
a. I had never read anything by Joshua Harris before. Reading this book was almost like a culture shock, considering that he writes it from the perspective of American conservative Christianity. Nonetheless, I think he made some good points.
26. 26/12/13 The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
a. Always the English teacher, I decided to read this book that I knew many students had read and would be interested in reading. I found this book somewhat compelling at times, which I think would make it even more interesting for younger readers. With the plot involving Greek gods and goddesses in a contemporary context, I felt it might be an easier way for students to get familiar with the various Greek gods and goddesses and their roles/functions.
27. 30/12/13 The Cider House Rules by John Irving
a. This was my travel book. I remembered finding the film remarkable as a child and decided to take a gander. It was more or less engaging at various stages. At some points I considered putting it down, partially because it seemed so obvious in its aim of promoting pro-choice. Nonetheless, the various relationships among the characters kept the book interesting.
This list is once again shorter than the previous year’s—the mark of a teacher’s lifestyle I suppose. I still have four books in progress, two re-reads and two that I’m reading for the first time. They are, respectively, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, and Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama.
As I reflect on this year’s reading, I see that there are many books that I read because I thought about using them in the classroom. There are also many books which were read because of their convenience, such as their presence in the school library or a friend’s bookshelf, or their being cheap kindle buys. I think 2014’s reading may need some more vigor. Feel free to comment with your recommendations.