Friday, August 1, 2014

2014 Booklist

I haven’t kept good track of what I’ve read for the last several months, but here’s what I could come up with.


Think Like A Freak28) Think Like a Freak, by Steven D Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner.  With more than ten hours of flying ahead of us, we browsed in Hudson before boarding when I came across the latest by the Freakonomics authors.  They are always worth reading and their writing paralleled some things I had heard about in other reading.  I also had some tidbits at the ready for cruise small talk, though their ideas are bigger than that.  Worth reading!


Uncovering the Logic of English27) Uncovering the Logic of English: A Common-sense Approach to Reading, Spelling, and Literacy, by, Denise Eide.

The title may make you drowsy, but I thought this was an excellent book.  It makes the case that the conventional wisdom of English being a language with more exceptions than rules in false because most of us simply aren’t taught correct rules.  This book will be helpful both as a parent and an educator.


Fixing My Gaze26) Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist's Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions, by Susan R. Barry.  More vision therapy research.  This Ph.D. had vision problems all her life and finally did VT in her 50s.  Suddenly being able to see real life  in stereo (or 3D) was her biggest surprise, but being able to drive at night was one of the ways her life improved.  Very readable as a memoir and interesting personally as a parent (and daughter!) of those who need vision therapy.


Understood Betsy25) Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. I loved, loved, loved this book as a child, checking it out over and over again.  One of my summer projects was to buy this book and read it aloud to my children.  Wesley didn’t get much out of it, but the girls, especially, Kyla gobbled it up and had lots to say about it.  It’s got two interesting themes going for it: what life was like on a farm long ago, somewhat like Little House books, and helicopter versus “cage-free” parenting, a theme I didn’t consciously notice 30 years ago.


24) The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. A bit Spanish, a dash Gothic, a sprinkle of horror and mystery, a fairy tale, all centered around a wonderful and rare book.  The story itself is worth reading, but if you like to analyze literature through visual imagery, patterns, etc, there’s a lot there for you!



Product Details23) The Story Girl, by L.M. Montgomery.  You may recognize this author of the Anne of Green Gables series (as well as other of my favorites).  I began reading this aloud, but got the audiobook just before we left for Sunriver.  It entertained all five of us for the entire book (several hours-yeah!) and there is still the sequel, The Golden Road, in store for us.


Mating in Captivity22) Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic + the Domestic, by Esther Perel.  I heard her on NPR, probably, and then again somewhere else, a good reason to pick up any book.  Her premise seems obvious, once you’ve read it—it’s very hard to have a romantic, titillating relationship while also being  stable, respectful, and loving.  Perel would say that jealously can make for great sex but a lousy marriage.  It’s a book worth reading no matter what aspect of relationship you have.


Sister21) Sister, by Lupton, Rosamund. Generally, I avoid contemporary fiction as I don’t find books that parallel my white, middle-class life interesting.  However, we chose it for book club, and I like mysteries and this had a twist which I never saw coming (extra points!).  But it still left me slightly unhappy.  I want books to either fully entertain me by removing me from my world (like #1, 11, & 12 on this list) or  give me new, interesting ideas.  This did neither, but it wasn’t that bad.


Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading20) Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading, by Tommy Greenwald.  I picked up a bunch of books for our schools parent-led book groups, and this was one.  It’s a fun read, and while meant to appeal to boys (and possibly girls) who hate, hate, hate reading, it’s pretty entertaining to bibliophiles to.  It’s been fun getting back into YA (young adult) literature again—at least YA that doesn’t involve dystopia youths killing each other.


Ungifted19) Ungifted, by Gordon Korman. I Red heart Gordon Korman.  I Red heart-ed him when I was ten and discovered his I Want to Go Home, which I read under bedcovers dozens of times and was caught often by laughing so hard, and I Red heart him now because he is still writing great kids books 30 years later.  Ungifted is a story about a boy who always, always does really stupid things.  He has no impulse control but some sense of self-preservation.  When he does his stupidest thing yet, the superintendent accidently puts him on the list of the gifted school, which he willingly goes to hide out until his latest prank is forgotten.  It’s got heart and laughs—a good read for boys and girls, smart kids and others. 


18) Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life by Karen Karbo.  Karbo writes biographies of famous women, and she’s okay.  She makes lots of assumptions, such as they the reader wants to be Julia Child and is reading this book to discover the secret.  I do know more about this famous icon now.


17) Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World by Peggy Orenstein

Peggy Orenstein wrote another book a few years ago that I loved (that somehow didn’t get written in this blog) called Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I really like how she takes topics relating to girls and women and examines them through many lenses.  In both Flux and Schoolgirls, she looks across socio-economic status and race.  Schoolgirls was especially alarming from a parent, teacher, and student perspective.  Another reason to make a difference in the world.


16) Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self Esteem, and the Confidence Gap by Peggy Orenstein





15) When Your Child Struggles: The Myths of 20/20 Vision, What Every Parent Needs to Know, by David Cook.  I will have lots more to say on this, as its very relevant to our life right now. It was a 90 minute read and I learned a lot about the difference between eyesight and vision.  A really good hour and a half investment of time.


File:Anansi Boys.png14) Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman. When we chose it for our book club, I was pumped because I loved his award-winner The Graveyard Book.  This one was just as imaginative as Graveyard, but without any likable characters, a quality I can’t overlook.




13) Bellman & Black, by Diane Setterfield.  I loved her debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale, and had this one on hold long before it was released.  It was beautifully written, amazing imagery, interesting plot and yet not quite as good her first one.  Like #14, the characters weren’t quite as engaging. 


11 & 12) Heir of Novron, Vol. 3(Riyria Revelations), by Michael J. Sullivan.

Yeah, judge a book by its cover.  This trilogy (with #1 on the list that I read Jan. 1) is that awesome.  Great characters, amazing adventure, plot twists galore.  Ah, if only I can find far more books like this….well, I’d never sleep.

Rise of Empire, Vol. 2 (Riyria Revelations), by Michael J. Sullivan.






10) America's Women Four Hundred Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines, by Gail Collins.  Her Texas book (#2 on the list) was interesting enough for me to download this title and listen in my quiet moments.  Great information plus great writing style equals a wonderful listen. My current favorite statistic from the book is “in 1972, a woman with a college degree could make as much money as a man with an eighth grade education”.

Product Details9) When Kids Can't Read, What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers, 6-12, by Kylene Beers.  The class I just completed was facilitated by Dr. Beers, who is completely unrelated to this Dr. Beers, but it caught my eye and I enjoyed reading the Kylene articles, so I found this book.  Her failures in teaching are my failures, so her reflections and new methods resonated with me.  I don’t think it goes far enough, but I will look this up again when I get closer to being back in the classroom.

8) The Penderwicks: a Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and A Very Interesting Boy, by Jeanne Birdsall.  Read The Penderwicks.  Listen to The Penderwicks.  Wait for the movies to come out in several more years.  Buy several copies and lead a 5th grade girls book club at your local school with it.  Listen often with your younger children so they can be exposed to wonderful story telling.  Yeah, I Red heart Rosalind, Skye, Jane, Batty, Jeffrey, and Hound. 

7) Love, Ruby Lavender, by Deborah Wiles.

My kids’ beloved kindergarten teacher recommended this title to me after she read the Penderwicks and wanted to share one of her favorites.  I love Ruby Lavender and want to be as wonderful as her grandmother someday.



6) The Wide Awake Princess, by E.D. Baker.  From the author of Kyla’s beloved Tales of the Frog Princess comes the story of Sleeping Beauty’s little sister who is unaffected by magic, which is a fine twist.  Unlike the Frog series, this one is not on audiotape so Mama gets to read it often. 




5) The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, A Flavia De Luce Novel, by Alan Bradley.  The sixth in the series, it might be the last.  I love, love Flavia and the last book turned everything upside down in the very last sentence, and this book kept it going through the end. Supposedly, it’s even better on audiobook (from a reliable source, BFF Susanne) and I found the first two books on CD at Value Village, if anyone wants to try them out.

4) Love Does: Discover A Secretly Incredible Life in An Ordinary World by Bob Goff.  He’s got a surreal life story but an even more extraordinary heart.  It’s quick, but worth reading. 




Read Right: Coaching Your Child to Excellence in Reading3) Read Right: Coaching Your Child to Excellence in Reading by Dee Tadlock.  I picked up this book on the on a chance encounter who (3 degrees of separation) knew that Garfield HS in Seattle used this program for its struggling readers.  When I began this, I had to vent in a document I called “Read Right notes—Stupid things it says that make me angry”.  I did read the whole thing because it turned my brain (and a lot of my graduate work) on its head….pardon the pun.  I’ll be gnawing on this information for a while, but I will give the author a D for unprofessional writing. 

As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda2) As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda, by Gail Collins.  I’m not sure exactly why the title appealed to me.  Maybe I need a boost in feeling Superior in Seattle while laughing at Texas, but it was a really fun audio-read.  First it gave an insightful historical perspective of what being a Texan means, from the Alamo to the Empty Spaces paradigm.  Then it gave several examples from financial deregulation, education, business, and global warming that “as Texas goes…so goes the nation.”  I think the author began in earnest to be fair and even-handed, but by the end of the book, you could tell she was rolling her eyes.  I’ll read more by her and try not to have nightmares about Texan presidents.

Theft of Swords (The Riyria Revelations, #1-2)1) Theft of Swords, Vol. 1 of Riyria Revelations, by Michael J. Sullivan.  Some of the final books I read and loved in 2013 were two prequels of a fantasy adventure genre.  So I was really excited when the 650-page first volume of the actual trilogy came in just before Dwayne sent me to the cabin for a few days.  I read it in less than 24 hours in a overstuffed leather chair in front of a cozy fireplace.  It was the perfect book to read in the perfect setting.  Think of it as a book along the same style as The Princess Bride, but one you would never read aloud to your children.  (It’s a tad bit violent with magical dragon-weapons eating people gruesomely.)  This books sets a high standard for fun reads for the rest of this year.  Luckily, I have two more extra-thick volumes of this series to go.


As always, red denotes nonfiction.

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