To be honest, work stole my mojo for awhile, and I felt like I just wanted to shut it down and focus everything I had into getting the things completed that needed completing, and then shutting out everything that needed shutting out. Books were not on the "shut out" list, but the pressure of finding time to post and separate everything in my life was definitely on that list!
Things are good now. While I was sad to lose my grandfather this fall, saying goodbye to the last of my grandparents, I felt better equipped to handle it in comparison to where I was at last year. In general, I've fallen back on working hard, playing hard, and embracing the positives in life--not the negatives. That has been a real life-saver for me. Thankfully, I have great family, friends, and co-workers who also embrace that spirit. And at the end of the day, I seriously don't let things bother me.
Having said that, books never went off the radar. Where would I be without the different perspectives and viewpoints that books afford us? This last year has been a good one for reading, and I've loved so many of the books I've read or listened to. Having discovered BBC Radio 4 has turned work time, whether during my prep hour or after school, into something magical! They have had some amazing books and plays broadcast on there, so much so that I'm always scouring their page for upcoming pieces.
I've also fallen in love with FutureLearn's free online courses, where I have taken a number of amazing literature & history courses. Seriously, as a teacher I sometimes feel like I need to feed the engine that got me into teaching in the first place--the passion behind the practices--books and history. I quickly found that after taking these courses, I feel more knowledgeable in my own classroom, as well as inspired to learn more on my own. What could be better than that? (Okay, so I have some classes that took me a year to get through, but I'm not paying for them, nor getting any credit. It's all good!)
Okay, let's get to the real deal now and talk about books! I've been on a modern/contemporary classic binge this year, and finished a number of great novels and am in the process of reading some great contemporary reads. Here are a few:
The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton, forced me to read with an attention to detail that I haven't in a very long time. The number of characters and story lines were so tightly interwoven that you really had to pay attention with this one. I won't lie, that this book took me well over a year to complete, but so worth it for the richness of the mystery set in New Zealand, and the intriguing characters in that time in history.
This book, Redeployment by Phil Klay, I listened to as I drove to and from work. Let me not lie here. It was a tough book to hear. The pain, sorrow, anger, and emotional pain that came through each soldier's story made it difficult for me to hit play each day, and yet I couldn't silence their stories. This collection really reshaped some of my thinking about our vets and the psychological toll they suffer by going to war.
**This is a really gritty novel, full of language and graphic experiences. I'm not sure how you would separate that from their lives or characters and still get the full impact of their stories, and I wouldn't ask anyone to.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a jewel of a read that I'm currently in the middle of reading. My school is using this text for honors classes, and I have put it on my AP reading list, even without finishing it! There are certain books that grab at you from the very first page or chapter, and this is one of those. I'm eager for Christmas Break to get here so I can binge-read the last half!
What can I say? Thrity Umirigar has won my heart and spirit. Both of her novels I received through the Amazon Vine program, and although I'm slow to get through most novels (no thanks to my crazy reading habit of reading about 20 books at once), her novels and characters REALLY speak to me. I love her characters and her ability to craft a story about women and men that you can grow to understand and care about on such a deep level. I'm a little over half way through The Story Hour, about an Indian woman in counseling with her female psychiatrist after an attempted suicide, and I really can't say enough about Umrigar's rich narratives that keep giving. I feel like these women are very real. What can I say? Go look this one up!
Finally, I recently started, and immediately binge read a huge chunk of The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. Confusing at first, I stuck with the splintered narrative to gather who these characters were and the connection to Tasmania, Australia, and the time period--WWII that we get through the narrative. Each character is nuanced, so you have to stick with them so that they will reveal what drives them and why they do what they do. It's an amazing novel so far, and one that sticks with me for days after I read even a short chapter or two. I can't wait to finish this one!
There's the gist of what I've been up to and what I've been reading, listening, or studying! I'm excited for the holidays and for this next year. What about you? What have you been reading or doing the most of this past year?