This year I created a number of different reading goals from my never ending and always expanding want to read list on Goodreads. My goals were to read at least a specific number of books from different lists including some general fiction, some nonfiction, and some from Canadian Indigenous authors. You can see my original goals here.
As I was putting this together I realized that a number of the books I have read in the last few months are included in at least two of my categories here. I hope this isn't cheating.
MUST READ IN 2018
I identified fifty fiction titles of which I planned to read twenty five. I've completed another eleven since April, which puts me at twenty-one. I might actually meet my goal this year!
Here is what I finished so far.
The ones I most enjoyed reading include:
Thousand Star Hotel by Bao Phi
I adored this book. I think it inspired me to write more honest poetry during poetry month. On the other hand, Bao Phi’s writing intimidated the heck out of me.
I have lines and phrases from this book scribbled on bits of paper and in the notes app on my ipad.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This beautifully written book is intense, but worth every page. Historical fiction has much to teach us about who we are, and what we don’t know about the world. I was a young teenager when this novel takes place. The only thing I knew from western media was about the starving Biafrans and how I better eat my vegetables. This book shows us, through the stories of three connected characters, how Biafra came to be, what it was like to live through the war, and how it was lost.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I'll fall into any kind of fantastical world that Neil Gaiman creates. As usual he has spun a tale that sucked me completely into it. Richard Mayhew is an ordinary businessman who, by doing a kindness for a stranger, ends up in a strange and dangerous world under London. The book reminded me a bit of the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. I hope there will be a sequel to this, but given that it was first published in 1996, I doubt it.
MUST READ IN 2018
I've cheated a bit with my nonfiction goal. My goal was to read 12 books from a collection, but my purpose was to ensure that I read at least one information book a month so I've added new books to that list. So far I've completed 6 books since our last update, and started another.
Here is what I've finished since April.
The best of this lot are these:
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This is one of those books I am recommending that everyone who wants to understand America should read. Coates' writing is powerful and profound. There are parts of it that were hard to listen to because it details the dystopian reality of being black in America and Canada too.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
This is an important, profound book. It has much to teach all of us about gratitude, sharing, and reciprocity. These are all critical things if we are going to ensure our existence upon the planet. Ultimately we must defeat the Wendigo of greed and selfishness that leaves us empty, and find a new way of democratically being in the world. It’s going to be hard for many of us to start thinking of all the plants and animals as our equals, but without it we are in serious trouble. (This book counts as both a nonfiction title and an indigenous one)
Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Robert Probst, Kylene Beers
This book provides a new way of looking at how we talk about our reading. While it's set in America against a backdrop of high stakes testing, much of this will be relevant to teachers here in Canada who want to ensure that children grow up to be social activists engaged in deep aspects of democracy.
A couple of things surprised me. First, although I knew the amount of reading a student did made a difference in their academic achievement, the numbers in vocabulary acquisition based on how much reading was going on stunned me. Second, although I would never want to spend more than a month reading a novel out loud, their suggestion that it shouldn't take more than a week was an aha moment for me.
I wish I had read this book while I was still teaching. I hope I can use these ideas if I end up substitute teaching in the coming year. At the very least I hope to be able to use the HBB model for book club conversations.
The most distressing thing for me is that we still need to assert the importance of free choice reading everyday for students.
My other goal was to read at least 25 books by Indigenous authors. Although I'm focusing on Canadian, I included some American writers here. So far I have completed another ten, which brings my total here to seventeen.
Of these I adored:
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
This book will wrench your guts out and break your heart. Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir gave me insight into what it means to have a bipolar diagnosis. Her life has been filled with all kinds of horrors most of us can’t imagine. She seems to have come out the other side, and is a successful writer and teacher, but I still find myself worrying about her.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough!
Ravensong by Lee Maracle
This book is the prequel to Celia's Song, a book I read earlier this year. It was interesting in that many events that happened in this book, were referenced in that one. It is told from the perspective of Celia's older sister, Stacey who is attending her last year of white high school across the bridge from their village. She plans to go to UBC and become a teacher after graduation.
Like in Celia's Song, Maracle makes us aware of the differences between her people's way of seeing the world and our own. Both are important books.
A Day with Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell & Julie Flett
This book takes me back to the landscape of my youth and the times I went gathering wild plants with my family.
In this book a group of children go on a plant harvesting expedition with their Yayah (Grandmother) and other elders. Although I am familiar with many of these plants, I had no idea that some of them, like the arrowleaf balsamroot, are edible. The book integrates Nte?kepmxcin vocabulary into the story. There is a glossary with a pronunciation guide at the end of the book.