When the Goal Gets in the Way

I’ve decided to drop part of my goal for 2013- reading 10 big books. Over the past several weeks, I’ve realized the goal isn’t working for me for several reasons. I never clearly defined what big books were. I imagined books weighty both literally and in ideas, but what I’ve realized is that was a placeholder in my mind for “books that I feel like I should have read, but I haven’t.” I told myself that this is because I lacked the time or the focus to read these books, but what I’m realizing is that I lacked the desire.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve read two books- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Words that Work. I read Mr. Penumbra because I’d seen it on a list of books for adults that teens might enjoy. I’d had it around for a week or so, but what kicked me into reading it was a notification from the library saying it couldn’t be renewed because someone had checked it out. I was hooked by just the first few pages. It’s an adventure kind of book, about old technologies and new technologies. (It reminded me of Ready Player One.) There are geek and pop culture references galore. It’s certainly not dense reading, but it addresses broader cultural issues and themes.

Meredith Stewart (msstewart) on Twitter

I read Words that Work because a friend loaned it to me to read. It’d been sitting on my nightstand for weeks. I wanted to read it because it was important to this person, but I kept having difficulty finding time to dive into it. So on this lazy Saturday morning, I decided to read it fast, around an hour for the whole book. I picked up the key ideas and anecdotes, more than enough to have a good conversation about it with him, which was my goal in the first place.

As with most things, guilt isn’t a particularly powerful motivator, at least not one that makes you feel good about being spurred to action. For now, I’m just going to read. I’ll probably continue to pick up The Brothers Karamazov from time to time. Maybe this will even be the year that I finish it, but I’m taking it off the nightstand where it feels like it’s judging me for not finishing it.

Converted Skeptic

The following are books I was initially skeptical about, but which turned out to be some of my favorites of 2010.

Shaun Tan Tales from Outer Surburbia
I initially read a  few pages of this book and abandoned it, but I’m so glad I picked it back up. It beautifully weaves text and illustrations to tell out of the ordinary stories in the most ordinary of places. I’m using it as a read aloud in my 6th grade Language Arts classes; they love it!

Troy Hicks The Digital Writing Workshop
Because I already frequently use digital technology in my classroom, I doubted this book would be useful for me. I was wrong. What the book does well is to offer a conceptual framework for thinking about the use of digital tools in the writing classroom and connection to previous work on the writing workshop.

Paul Elie The Life You Save May Be Your Own
This book weaves together the lives of  four Catholic writers- Flannery O’Connor, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Walker Percy. It’s a long read, but when you finish it, you feel like you’ve read four books instead of one.

Cormac McCarthy The Road
I tend to avoid reading books when they become pop sensations, and an Oprah book club nod is usually the kiss of death. A friend pressed into reading The Road, and I finished it and McCarthy’s The Sunset Limited in under 18 hours. Both are intense and beautifully haunting.

Final Summer Reading List

Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir by Stanley Hauerwas

Lots of reading for Klingenstein

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Why School? by Mike Rose

Timmy the First (unpublished) by Jacob Burt

“A Thousand Writers Writing: Seeking Change through the Radical Practice of Writing as a Way of Being” by Robert Yagelski

The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination by Robert Coles

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Teaching What Really Happened by James W. Loewen

Where God Happens by Rowan Williams

Listened To:
The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely

The Twentieth Century: A People’s History by Howard Zinn