Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Booklist—In Review

Fifty-two books in fifty-two week!  Thirty-three of the books are nonfiction.  I’ve definitely changed my reading habits over the last few years.  My goal was not to read a book a week, but when I realized I was at 51 books before Christmas, I knew I had to add at least one more book.  I have several partially finished books I will start my 2014 list with soon.

53.  Fanfiction.net is a fun place to poke around and I have seasons that I read a lot from here but never record it as part of my “real” reading.  But if I spend a month or so reading the arguments for and against nontelelogical evolution as well as a dozen books about dyslexia, I certainly get to spend some time searching for good stories about Draco and Hermione (yes, from Harry Potter).  Clearly, I wasn’t the only who was unconvinced by a successful Hermione & Ron union.  The obvious is Harry and Hermione but Draco is far more fun.  My favorite is an unfinished story by ThinksWithPen called A Prat for All Seasons.  Forgive her her comma splices but love her story telling. 

52. Mapping the Origins Debate: Six models of the beginning of everything, by Gerald Rau.  I had to finish the last chapter this week, so I could count it in my list.  It’s a technical, but interesting, survey of six models (mostly from a Christian world-view, as opposed to Hindu or other) with the contributions of each to our understanding of the origin of 1) the universe, 2) life, and 3) humans.  The six models include Naturalistic Evolution and cross the continuum from secular to religious gradually by way of Nontelelogical Evolution, Planned Evolution, Directed Evolution, Old Earth Creation, and then to the side furthest from Evolution, Young Earth Creation.  What was best about was that the author really tried to deal fairly with each of the models while acknowledging that it is impossible to write without revealing prejudices.  In footnotes, he tried to explain why he chose some phrasing over others to explicitly show the word choice bias.  It wasn’t exactly a treatise of theology, but it did make me realize what I’ve haven’t reached conclusions on yet. 

51. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And other thoughts on being a woman, by Nora Ephron. We read it for book group. Fine, but no ringing endorsement. I will say there is a bit of a chasm between West Coast and East Coast cultures, even among white upwardly mobile women. It’s blow-outs vs. ponytails, if you will.

50. Divergent, by Veronica Roth. This year’s (or last years?) Hunger Game-esque young adult dystopia. I wasn’t really getting into it, because it started off fairly typically: Oh, I’m a young girl and I am so different from everyone else around me. But I saw the trailer of the upcoming movie (1st in a trilogy, of course) when we went to see Catching Fire, and the trailer inspired me to give it a second try. I will at least read the next two books.

48-49. The Rose and Thorn, by Michael J. Sullivan

The Crown Tower, by Michael J. Sullivan.

I stumbled on this “prequel series” by accident when I liked the cover in the Paperback Picks section at the library. The original trilogy, which I am not-so-patiently waiting for, is about two men who fight against injustice, etc. The prequels are about how these two became partners. Here’s the teaser:

A warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most valuable possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels the old wizard is after, and this prize can only be obtained by the combined talents of two remarkable men. Now if Arcadias can just keep Hadrian and Royce from killing each other, they just might succeed.

Very fun and a bit out of the ordinary. I finally found some fiction in 2013 that I couldn’t put down!

47. The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen. This book is the reason I was so sensitive to the “Oh, I am the only one so different from all other teens” drabble of Divergent (#2). Dessen is a really popular young adult author, but there are really good and interesting books out there, so I will probably pass on more Dessen.

46. The River Why, by David James Duncan. All really good fishing books are really about life, and usually really good books about life are about God. The River Why is a really good fishing book. Someday I will come across a dusty copy in a thrift store and I will snatch it up, reread it and immerse myself in underlining all the exceptionally well-turned phrases and big & beautiful ideas that are naturally interwoven into a good narrative. This is a book to read every decade of my life to see how we are both changing over the years.

45. Overcoming Dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level, 1st edition, by Sally Shaywitz. The bible of dyslexia. I read it years ago for the fun of it, and now I read it for function (and it was the textbook for my early course on dyslexia).

44. Breaking the Code: the new science of beginning reading and writing, by R.J. Gentry. Rarely do I get so many new ways of thinking about reading (and spelling!) in on short book. Really applicable in my goal for becoming an expert in everything involving literacy and dyslexia. It’s given me new ways of working with both Piper and Kyla (and Wesley).

43. Why can’t my daughter learn to read?, by E. Hurst. The gender difference isn’t really worth a whole book, but if this is the first book you come across when your child is struggling to learn to read, then you have done well.

42. The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A blueprint for renewing your child’s confidence and love of learning, by Ben Foss, 2013.  Shaywitz may have written the bible for dyslexia, but Ben Foss has written the owner’s manual. As a highly successful dyslexic, he gave me a new, positive outlook on dyslexia and introduced the notion of eye-reading and ear-reading, validating the latter in a way I had never thought about before. Probably one of the most important books I’ve read this year, at least as far as dyslexia is concerned (and I read A LOT!).

41. Essentials of Dyslexia Assessment and Intervention, by Mather, N. and B. Wendling. An alternate to Shaywitz (#47) about dyslexia. It is much better organized, but doesn’t have the “ground-breaking” status that Overcoming Dyslexia has. It appears to be very technical, but I think it is far more user friendly for those who want answers now.

40. David and Goliath: Underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants, by Malcolm Gladwell. Always, always, always read Malcolm Gladwell. This one will not disappoint. And, he too, has a fantastic chapter on dyslexia, a bit of a bonus for me this year. I think new thoughts reading his books and I come away with a new facet in my world paradigm.

38-39. Disconnected Kids:  The ground-breaking Brain Balance Program ™ for Children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia and other Neurological Disorders.  Achieve results at Home and Without Drugs!, by Dr. Robert Melillo. For the low, low price of…. Snake oil, but he swears by the results. Not worth your time.

Reconnected Kids: Help your child achieve physical, mental, and emotional balance.  Discover the Brain Balance Family Empowerment Program, by Dr. Robert Melillo. Ditto.

37. The Working Brain: Train your brain to function stronger, smarter, faster, by Tracy and Ross Alloway. These two researchers created a computer program to help children and teens improve their working memory and then wrote a book about all the research they conducted. The sources aren’t exactly independent, but I’m interested in the definition and improvement of working memory. (One of the more negative refrains around our house is how I don’t want to be The Working Memory for the entire family.)

36. The Spark: A mother’s story of nurturing genius, by Kristine Barnett. A severely autistic son who measured an unbelievable IQ. Have you heard about the boy who’s IQ is higher than Einstein’s? This is the boy’s mother’s experience. A great book to “walk a mile in another mom’s moccasins.”

35. Smart But Scattered: The revolutionary “executive skills” approach to helping kids reach their potential, by Peg Dawson. Between “smart” and “scattered”, it is a toss-up which Kyla more is of. I bought the book hoping it would be a great resource, but I find nothing revolutionary about it.

34. Hungry: What eighty ravenous guys taught me about life, love, and the power of good food, by Darlene Barnes. After hearing Darlene’s interview on our local NPR station about being a cook at a UW frat house, I checked on her book. Nothing life changing, but overall an interesting read. Very Seattle—kale and locally-sourced beef!

31-33. The Penderwicks [A summer tale of four sisters, two rabbits, and a very interesting boy]

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, by Jeanne Birdsall.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

[The best thing about the author, Jeanne Birdsall is that she has two more Penderwick stories planned!]

I love, love, love the Penderwicks, mostly on its own merit, but also because Kyla, Piper, and even Wesley, love, love, love listening to the Penderwick series. While it appeals to all ages, it’s written for preteens. The series is a celebration of childhood, sisterhood, family, friendship and wholesomeness without slipping into sappiness. Part of its magic is that it is timeless—phone calls are made, but are they on smart phones or landlines? Jane types up the final draft her stories on something, but the technology is vague and peripheral. This could take place last month or 60 years ago. The girls are all different and, while they don’t stab their classmates (Wesley….), they have no pretentions toward perfection.

Penderwicks have infiltrated our regular life. The OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick, responsible for any younger Penderwicks) has morphed into OAN in our household, both Kyla and Piper taking any bestowed OAN responsibilities quite seriously.

Kyla and I have been known to steal the CDs from each other because we couldn’t wait to read more.

30. Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts of life unarmed, by Glennon Doyle Melton. Glennon writes a blog, thermomastery.com, that I follow. This book is both a biography and the extensions of her best thoughts. I’ve written about her several times on the blog http://needopedia.blogspot.com/2013/09/momastry.html

http://needopedia.blogspot.com/2013/06/my-zen.html. This ranks easily in my top ten books for the year.

29. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple. Hilarious novel of a Seattle woman/wife/mother/genius. It was on top ten lists all over the country, and especially here, and it was very enjoyable. Unfortunately, I picked up another of her novels and couldn’t finish it. I’ll keep trying her other novels, though.

28. She Matters: A life of Friendships, by Susanna Sonnenberg. A fairly unlikeable author’s account of how bad she is at having healthy friendships with other women. A book group read, but not a great one.

27. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, by Phillip Pullman. Remember Pullman? He’s written several novels for young adults, but he made headlines with his Dark Material trilogy, beginning with The Golden Compass. He sort of does for atheism what C.S. Lewis did for Christianity at the level of children’s literature. It’s a quick read of Pullman’s view on how a great man like Jesus became known as Christ.

26. Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, by Susan Cain. A book about me. I really enjoyed the information and validation on introverts.

25. The Joy of X: A guided tour of math, from one to infinity, by Steven H. Strogatz. A long book about math? Yes! Strogatz is a wonderful writer and if you just like to have a new way of looking at old things (or things you’ve never quite grasped), this book is worth reading. To put it another way, Dwayne and I each tried to reach for the book before the other got it.

24. A Framework for Understanding Poverty, by Ruby Payne. Social-economic status is as much as nation as political borders, and just as we need a travel guide to navigate a foreign country, this book offers navigation through what poverty looks like in the USA. My understanding of poverty here is only as it is a comparison of my middle-class attitudes. I thought Ruby Payne gave a less judgmental framework of the differences between cultures of wealth, middle-class, and povert, but I have come across several criticisms of her work since. The most eye-opening is this quiz about how you’d do in wealth, middle class, or poverty.

23. How Children Succeed: Grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character, by Paul Tough. This author wrote Geoffrey Canada’s story of changing education in Harlem that I read last year (Whatever It Takes). This book is a fascinating marriage of current studies of children, success, and learning with case studies of visionaries and schools that bring the research to life. This is a topic close to my heart and I wrote more about this book here.

22. All Over the Map, by Laura Frasier. Excellently titled, this travel writer’s memoir is the story of a middle-aged single woman who loves her exotic, adventurous life while she longs for love and children. She envies her married, child-ful friends almost as much as she envies them. But her journeys go deeper than simply Samoa and blind dates—she is a living, breathing, interesting person who hits hers 47th birthday as she completes this book. Worth the read.

21. Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg. I ran out of sticky arrows to mark important passages in this important manifesto. Very readable, but more importantly, more “thinkable”. I wish she had written this ten years ago; my history would probably be different. But I’m willing to be Mrs. Sandberg will be influencing my future. More importantly, I hope I will be influencing my future. For those who want the short version, click here. It’s a verbatim list of passages I marked.

20. Parenting a struggling reader by Susan Hall & Louisa Moats. Good information for those who might be the parent described in the title. A decent handbook to get you started.

19. Teaching on Poverty Rock / Joby McGowan. It’s not his first year teaching, but it’s his first year teaching on Mercer Island. A very short memoir.

18. To Sell is Human: the surprising truth about moving others / Daniel Pink. I read Drive, a book on what motivates us, last year. He’s a writer like Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell, great at taking diverse studies and bringing interesting information into a cohesive framework. He’s just a fun read! And we all so spend a lot of time “selling”—what to put in a subject line so you will read—and respond—to my email, advertising old stuff on craigslist, convincing someone else to do a job so you don’t have to…

17. Giving Our Children a Fighting Chance: Poverty, literacy, and the development of information capital / Susan B. Neuman, Donna C. Celano. This is the perfect book for me—the tale of two libraries, it deals with literacy, learning, poverty, the achievement gap, technology and education all within the parameters of an empirical research paper published as a book. (Those who listen to NPR will recognize the Susan B. Neuman name.) In case you find this as interesting as I do, you are in luck! KCLS didn’t have this book until I requested it and it looks like I will have to buy the book as it has some water damage. Hmm.

16. The Introvert Advantage: How to thrive in an extrovert world / Marti Olsen Laney. I am interesting in this topic, as I consider myself quite introverted (social, but introverted) and at least one of my kids has my same introvert characteristics. Recently, I went to a very engaging Susan Cain lecture about introverted children. Her book, Quiet, is on my hold list at the library and I think I will find it more interesting than this one.

15. Gilead / Marilynne Robinson. We read it for book club. It was excellently written, and it was hard to believe the nearly 80 year old pastor narrator was written by a middle age woman. It was pretty good.

14. Dawn Huebner has written 6 books, the first two I have read and recommend:

1. What to Do When Your Temper Flares: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Problems With Anger

2. What to Do When You Dread Your Bed: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Problems with Sleep

3. What to Do When Bad Habits Take Hold: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Nail Biting and More

4. Sometimes I Worry Too Much, But Now I Know How to Stop

5. What to Do When You Grumble Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Negativity

6. What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Anxiety

13. Going Bovine / Libba Bray. Great title. Great cover. Lousy story.
12. The out of sync child: recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder / Carol Stock Kranowitz. I read this to see if it fit anything we had been seeing in one our little darlings. It didn’t. Here was the companion book: Answers to questions teachers ask about sensory integration : forms, checklists, and practical tools for teachers and parents

11. Fluency instruction: research-based best practices / edited by Timothy Rasinski, Camille Blachowicz, Kristin Lems. (2006). Great articles about, well, fluency. Quickest summary: kids learning to read fluently should read the same thing 4 times.

10. Tears of the Giraffe / Alexander McCall Smith. The second in the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I really like listening to this series. Luckily, there are lots more.

9. Becoming a Thinking Christian: If We Want Church Renewal, We Will Have to Renew Thinking in the Church / John B. Cobb, Jr. From the publisher, “This book challenges Christians to think. Committed lay Christians, says Cobb, are already theologians; he wants them to realize this and then to become good theologians. Laypersons are just as capable as professional theologians of intellectual hard work, but they no longer expect the church to ask this of them. Cobb discusses why it is important for Christians to think about their own beliefs and assumptions.”

[Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This is supposed to be an excellent book. I picked it up and started reading it at the library while Wesley slept in my arms. I had a few concerns about the subject matter, so I read the ending, decided I would hate the novel, no matter how well-written, and put it in the return box on the way out.]

8. Speaking Among the Bones (A Flavia de Luce novel) / Alan Bradley. This is the 5th in a series that I am on the library hold lists long before the book is published.  A day’s read if one ignores one’s duties enough.  I adore Flavia, who is now almost twelve.  The last sentence in the book is the best/worst I’ve read in a mystery.   Unfortunately for my sanity, the sixth book isn’t scheduled to publish until “early 2014”.  You’re killing me, Alan Bradley.

7. Radical: Fighting to put students first / Michelle Rhee.  I read a book about Ms. Rhee last autumn and got a lot out of it, including a radical crush on Michelle and her philosophies.  I bought Radical when I went to see her last week at a Town Hall lecture (thank you, Seattle Public Library!). There were pickets and protests and hisses and everything.   Since leaving the Washington, D.C. district, she has started StudentsFirst, a union of sorts for students.  She’s considered controversial, but I support her positions.  I definitely want to teach again when the kids are all in school, but she inspires me to move to the inner city and work harder than I ever have in my life to be the best teacher any kid has ever had.  I’ve already said it: she’s inspiring.

6.  All There Is: Love stories from StoryCorp / Dave Isay (editor).  I put this on my Hold list when I got on my This I Believe essay kick last year, one of NPR’s great features.  Forty minute interviews between lovers, friends, and family are written up in short essays.  It’s an excellent peek into the love lives of representative slice of America. 

5.  American Dervish / Ayad Akhtar. We picked this novel for book club and I loved it.  I learned more about Islam, Jewish-Muslim-Christian tensions, and the Koran through this piece of fiction than I’ve ever gotten out of a deliberate study.  Ah, the power of story.  It brings up some great discussion topics, not only for book club, but even for Dwayne and me.   Unfortunately, this is the author’s first book so as much as I would like to grab from the shelves all his other brilliance, I will have to wait. 

4. Blueprints for building better girls / Elissa Schappell.  Meh. A collection of short stories that I didn’t realize were about the same women until nearly the end.  If you decide to read this book about anorexic girls with more issues than food, know that Elizabeth, Bender, and B are the same person.  Maybe now you will get more out of this than I did.

3. The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron.  Another audio read, I found this is the section of previous Newberry winners.  Lucky, a ten year old orphan, is trying to find her Higher Power, a concept she has heard about while eavesdropping on the different “Anonymous” meetings her in small, small town.  Hey, it won a prestigious award—always worth reading.

2. Predictably Irrational: the hidden forces that shape our decisions, by Dan Ariely.  This was an audio read for me and both the reader and subject were fascinating.  It’s in the same genre as Freakomics or anything by Malcolm Gladwell.

1.  World without End, by Ken Follett.  Our book group read Follett’s Pillars of the Earth a few years ago and decided to tackle the sequel, giving ourselves December and January.  It’s 1,050 pages about life in a English town and priory in the 14th century.  I love his historical fiction—I can read a history book about Martin Luther’s protests of certain Church practices, but fiction makes the fact more real.  The author uses a few prototype characters no matter what century he’s writing in, but overall, I’d say my enjoyment of the novel was just about worth the 4-5 other books I gave up reading to get through this one. 

[Red denotes a work of nonfiction.]

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