Reading Through the Years…



Beginning in January 1992, I began to make a list of every book I read. At the time, it seemed like it would help me to give recommendations to others (especially when I couldn’t remember what I’d read five books ago). Nineteen years into “the list,” it has proven to be that and so much more. Not only do I pull out my lists when trying to recall something, but the list has become a diary of sorts.  I can see what interested me, what author caught my attention.  For example, in 1993, I read three novels by Willa Cather.  If you’ve never read, Death Comes for the Archbishop – add it to your list for 2011.

I can also look at the number of books read in a given year and know exactly why the number was high or low. Take 1995.  My son was born in December 1994. So, in 1995 I can see that The English Patient took me three months to read!  I must have been reading pages in the middle of the night while feeding him. Admittedly, I don’t recall much of it. Of course, that was also the year I read Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott. 

What’s interesting is that every year after Bob was born, the number goes up. In 1995, I read only 14 books. But, it climbs steadily as he gets on his feet (literally) and by the time, he goes to school – I’m reading 50 books per year. I can see when Harry Potter arrives on the scene and the books people were talking about. What’s really interesting is when I begin graduate school. The number skyrockets! In 2004, I read over 100 books – nearly all of them assigned in one of my classes at Simmons. There are a few I remember reading on the subway – turning pages as fast as I could.

Which brings us to the 2010 list. I read 56 books this year. I finished one last night, and unless I read one today, that’s the total. I just looked over the list, and came up with my ten favorites of the year.  I’m not separating novels for children and adults – this is what stands out.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line by Martha Sandweiss

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Small Island by Andrea Levy

The Cradle by Patrick Somerville

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Annexed by Sharon Dogar

I hope 2011 brings you good books and safe travels. Happy New Year!


Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

1 Comment

Our students are on summer vacation now, but if I could get our 4th through 8th graders gathered together for a few minutes, I would push hard for all of them to add Sharon Draper’s new middle grade novel to their summer reading list. As other reviewers and bloggers have suggested, Out of My Mind should be required reading for many students.  It is the story of a girl named Melody, a ten-year-old who has cerebral palsy which limits her body, but not her mind.

Melody’s story is powerful because she tells it.  She tells the reader exactly what it feels like to be misunderstood and let down by adults and kids. Out of My Mind would be a great book for kids to read with a teacher because there are so many possibilities for discussion.  This book is written for just the right age group. Eleven and twelve-year-olds are all about trying to figure out who they are by identifying what they are not.  Melody’s story forces them to reconsider how we make judgments and the price of small cruelties.

Draper’s wonderful novel is definitely on my list for next year, but in the meantime I may keep a copy in my car – just in case I see any of my students at the grocery store.