If you recall, at the end of 2010 I challenged myself to read 12 in 12 in 2011. The entire year I felt pressure to "perform" if you will. My name is Susanne and I am a goal-setter. There, I've said it. Setting goals is like a compulsion for me. I live, no,thrive because of them. This is something my husband does not understand and something that I can't explain. So it remains a mystery. My goals range from, "I will finish my homework, then I will go to Disneyland" (sensible) to "I must complete this blog entry before I can eat breakfast" (????). The first one makes sense and makes me look responsible. The second one makes me seem like I have a problem. But anyway, I better hurry up because I am hungry and would like to have some breakfast!
So here they are in the order I read them:
Sh*t MyDad Says by Justin Halpern- This is a book I bought for my husband last Christmas. He heard about it on a podcast and really wanted to read it. And now, a year later, he still hasn't read it. But I have. This is a very funny book about the relationship between a father a son. But it is the father in this true account that makes you audibly laugh and at the same time well-up with a so much love that you wish you were a father yourself. This book started as a series of Tweets Halpern began when, as a grown man, he had to move back in with his parents. His father is a genius, both professionally and in the way he weaves words. The man says what he is thinking, leaving no room for you to misinterpret his meaning, while at the same time making you appreciate social civility which demands false politeness. Halpern would daily Tweet some of the ridiculous comments his father said. This quickly garnered him a huge following, a book deal, and a TV show. While the things that Halpern's father says do not fail to shock, it is the passion and love he has for his son that truly touches and surprises.
Lift by Kelly Corrigan- I saw this book while at work one day. I was taking a group of clients out to Walmart and I saw this book on clearance. I was drawn to the cover. Yes, I am one of those people. I am weak-minded enough to actually judge books by their cover. I don't do it all the time, but when I see a compelling cover I will pick up the book 9 times out of 10. I can't help it! It's so pretty! So it was with Lift. I saw the cover. Liked it. Saw the price. Loved it. Sold! This a short book that was written as a letter by Kelly Corrigan to her daughters. In it she tells three stories about what adults go through when they choose to be parents. She gives it straight, saying that it is tough and scary and grueling, but it is worth it. While written from the perspective of a parent (something I am not), I found that I was able to relate to the call to live life more fully, to embrace the pains and the trials as part of the journey which is also filled with wonders and beauties.
How to Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris- If you are a frequent listener of "This American Life" then you have likely heard David Sedaris reading one of his essays on that program. That is how I met him. Sedaris is a master storyteller. This book is a compilation of his essays/stories. In it he tells autobiographical accounts of seemingly normal things, like a family summer vacation, or staying in a hotel, and is able to draw out the less obvious humor of the events through his observations of the ridiculous. His stories are funny, interesting, and oddly relate-able, especially as my own upbringing and life couldn't be more different from his. But that is the magic of his writing. He is able to take his own severely unique experiences and help us see ourselves in those places through his witty observations. This was a fun read, and I plan on reading more of his other books.
Listening Is an Act of Love edited by Dave Isay- This was another find I got when I found Lift by Kelly Corrigan. Do things ever happen in multiples in your life? You know that saying, "When it rains it pours"? Things seem to come into my life like this. I was listening to NPR and they had clips of regular people (not anchors or reporters) sharing their stories with loved ones. A few days later I was listening to NPR again and Dave Isay was on talking about the National Day of Listening (a day that encourages people to interview a loved one and listen to their story). Then a few days later I was in Walmart for work and I saw this book on clearance. When things happen like this I take as a gentle prompt or suggestion. So I bought the book. It has to be one my favorite books of the year. It is filled with interviews between all sorts of people- friends, lovers, parents and children, strangers, etc. The stories are as diverse as the people themselves. The stories are organized in the following general themes: Home and Family, Work and Dedication, Journeys, History and Struggle, and Fire and Water. It is a wonderful attempt to tell the American story.
Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris- This is book 10 in the series. This series is my guilty pleasure. You know, I have tried to read a few other series and they just didn't have the combination of intrigue and pacing that I like in order to keep me hooked. Yes, I did read the Twilight series, but let me tell you, if that series was any longer that 4 books I would have been out. I also tried to get into the House of Night series, but it felt too much like a high school soap opera, and I hated high school when I was in it. This series is just right for me. This book was a little slower than the others, but, you know, even Sookie needs a break once and a while. Poor thing.
Tell Me Your Name by Arthur Zannoni- My spiritual director let me borrow this book. It was after a discussion about how difficult it was for me to separate myself from the thinking of God as male. I really want to understand God as completely and fully as possible and to do that I need to embrace all images of God, not simply God as male. Specifically I have been trying to understand God in female images. My spiritual director wisely pointed me to this book. This book explores all the metaphors and images used to explain God in the Bible. God is a rock, an eagle, a mother hen, a storm, a father, a mother, a priest, a prophet, etc. This was the gentle introduction I needed to release myself from the masculine culture that dictates our current religious practices. This book helped me maintain my faith in my God when the temptation of throwing the baby out with the bath water was so strong. A small book filled with substantial wisdom and truth!
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf- I read this story for an assignment in my Masters program. The assignment was to design a lesson around a children storybook that address multicultural and diversity issues. Now you may be wondering how this book meets that criteria when stories about ethnic minorities would obviously be a shoo-in. Well, let me illuminate. Stories about ethnic minorities are important, but I was thinking about my students specifically. They don't quite grasp the concept of racism, or prejudice. That is not to say that they don't participate in these social barriers. However, they are not able to explore these concepts in great depth. But they do understand what it is to feel different, to be punished or treated badly for being different. And that is where I saw the connection to Ferdinand. This a classic book about a peace-loving bull who sees the world in his own special way. The world tries to make him be something he is not, only to realize that he is happiest when he is just himself. I want my students to know that it is okay to be who they are. The world may not understand you, but that is okay too. You are not alone, and you are just wonderful! Such a simple book with so much depth. Loved it and I can't wait to share it with my kids.
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket- I read the first three books (Bad Beginnings, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window) to my students this year so that we could watch the movies based on those books and compare and contrast them. I thought that the books would be a little difficult for my students to follow along with. It seems more appropriate for a 5th grader, and my students usually comprehend at a lower level. However, I decided to give it a go. I read with character voices and frequently paused to clarify confusion, resorting often to acting out or drawing out some of the scenes. It took quite a long time to finish these three books, but you know, my students surprised me with how well they were listening to them. I think this is a testament to how entertaining the stories are. Some warned me that they were very dark. And they are indeed dark stories compared to Charlotte's Web (which we are reading next) but they are no darker than some of the other things my students are exposed to on the weekends at home (so sad). I think many of them found the eerie atmosphere of the story refreshing, and the perseverance of the Baudelaire children inspiring. And so do I.
Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris- This is book 11 in the series. In this book we, the readers, are definitely being prepared for a conclusion. And while I have enjoyed my adventures with Sookie, the poor girl needs a break. She has had a rough life ever since being made aware of the world of magical creatures. What we are all dying to know is whether Sookie will ever find a life partner, and if so, who will it be? Will she remain human forever, or will she make the permanent leap into the world of magic herself. A friend told me that there are only a few more books left in the series, according to the contract Harris signed, so the answers to these questions will be revealed soon.
The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan- When I finished reading Lift I let my friend Emilee borrow it. She then let me borrow this book by the same author. This is the book that launched Corrigan's career as a writer. In this true story, Corrigan explores the place between feeling truly grown up and still feeling like a child. It is her struggles with breast cancer that bring her to this middle place where she needs to be strong for her young children and yet yearns to be comforted by her own parents. This is an honest depiction of the forward and backward ebb and flow of life. I think Corrigan is a skillful writer who is able to capture the humor and holiness of life's little moments in a way that only someone with her experiences could.
So, there it is 12 in 12 (if you don't forget to count the 3 books of the Lemony Snicket series). In case any of you are questioning the validity of the 12 because, well, The Story of Ferdinand is a children's book, and A Series of Unfortunate Events was read for work, I would like to show you this:
I read more than half of these books from cover to cover and the other books I read the majority of, not to mention the pages and pages of articles I read that, when compiled together, would have resulted in a thick text itself. So yes, I went easy on my 12 in 12 goal this year, but that doesn't mean I wasn't reading, because I was! In fact, I think reading is the activity I did the most this last year. So...
Huzzah!!! Huzzah!!! I did it! I read 12 in 12, and I think I am up for the challenge again. I mean I have to since it is 2012, right? So who's with me? 12 in 12 in 2012 anyone?