Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Books for Thought

I've always been a pretty avid reader - it was something came naturally to me, a skill that I'm extremely thankful for. 

I'm also in charge now of ordering all the books used by teachers in my building - so I get control over the novels, short stories, etc. that we have money in the budget to now possess. When I first started teaching, we did not have a single novel in our building; I was in fact given only textbooks (and not enough for every student to use one), and was told that nothing mattered besides getting them the scores to pass their GED. As an excited first-year teacher, that depressed me so much that I started using my own resources, my prep and lunch time, etc. to create more dynamic, text and story-based lessons that would hit on the skills needed for the GED, but in a more exciting way. This step definitely paid off, and I've enjoyed selecting and teaching the different works I've picked. 

Recently, a student came back to tell me that one of the books that we read last year, "still haunts her" and has really shaped her and how she looks at things. It got me thinking, and serves as inspiration for this post about books I've read that have shaken me, made me think, or inspired me to want to do more. 

Night by Elie Wiesel

This was actually the work that the student came back to speak to me about. We read this aloud in class, which gave such a haunting feel to it. Reading something to yourself is totally different than hearing someone else - especially when they get choked up, or horrified by what they have read. I make each of my classes read this, and there has never been anyone who has said, "I wish we never read that." They may not love the book, but they learn from it, through Wiesel's harrowing account of Auschwitz. It's a book that just baffles you that something like the Holocaust and the treatment of human beings in this manner could even be possible. It's one that will make you think of what you would do and how you could help/what you would have done to try to change what was going on and acceptable, and it's important to read just for that reason alone. 

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

God, I love Steinbeck. I read this my senior year of high school - we were all thrilled because we had struggled through "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe, and this one was only 99 pages long, so it seemed like a winner. What we didn't expect was for the story of Lennie and George to be so beautifully disturbing. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and one of my favorites to teach - when it first starts, the students aren't usually so into it (Steinbeck tends to be slightly wordy with his descriptions, which isn't for everyone), but less than half way through, they want to keep reading. 

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Okay, so legitimate warning first-  I still don't know how I feel about this book and I read it over the summer. My emotions and reactions included the following: what the fuck?!, horrified, disturbed, never sleeping again, disbelief, needing to speak to someone else who had read this book, depressed, saddened, shocked. 
The fact that I had such a strong reaction to this book though, means that Shriver did something right. I wouldn't recommend this one to everyone though - it's extremely difficult to read because the emotions conveyed are so intense that you may need a whole bottle of red wine to erase this one from your memory for the day - or a Xanax.

You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn was an absolutely incredible human being. I'm so awed by him and have such a sense of admiration for what he stood for and that he was so present in such a vast majority of history. This is his reflection on how taking a stance when you're in disagreement with things really can make changes - how conforming is one of the worst sins that can be committed by mankind.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

I don't know how I missed out on reading this book. It's a memoir of a white journalist who decides to go undercover to find out what life really is like for African Americans during the 70's. He goes to the extreme of taking medication to alter the pigmentation of his skin so he really does transform into someone with darker skin. He goes from place to place in the South (which is a terrifying thought to begin with!) trying to experience life and race relations. It was a fascinating read, and one that really made me want to do more with my life and not just talk about things.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I was late to the party with this one. It was another one that just totally and completely messes with your head. You'll think one thing, then another, then another.. It was so well written and well crafted that it stirs up such a variety of emotions within you (seriously, I think I went through the full spectrum of ups and downs). Such a fast-paced read that you will want to bring to the gym so you don't have to put it down (I brought it to work and ate through lunch so I could keep reading).

Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury

Confession: I never know how to actually spell Fahrenheit - I just wait for auto-correct to fix it for me. Oops. Confession aside, this book has remained one of my favorites since I first read it in 8th grade. It's just SO good and so thought provoking. I'm a huge fan of Bradbury as a human being, and this work is just quintessential Bradbury. If you avoided this one during high school, I'd definitely recommend checking it out.  

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

I'm only 100+ pages into this one after a friend sent it to me for a book swap, but I'm in love. The writing style of Márquez is unbelievably beautiful, his sentence structure is flawless, and although I get the characters mixed up (because they all seriously seem to have the same name), I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Even only 100 pages deep (out of 400), I have no hesitation in saying that it is becoming one of my favorites. 

Have you read any great books lately? I'm ALWAYS looking for recommendations (and for friends on Goodreads, if you have an account!). What have been some of your favorite reads as of late? 

Currently listening to: Video Games - Lana Del Ray


The Dainty Dolls House said...

I remember reading these books. Of Mice & Men is one of my favourites, I remember the first time I read it in school & when i got to the bit at the end, I burst into tears right in class & my teacher gave me a tissue as she had it ready because she knew where I was in the story, haha. But, to this day I still remember it so well and I cry sometimes. But, I do just love books!! I actually need to read more, I have a pile of books I haven't gotten to yet, so I must do that. I hope you have a gorgeous day doll xo

The Dainty Dolls House said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sage Grayson said...

I've heard of all of these books, but weirdly, I haven't read any of them. Adding 'em to my (very long) to-read list! :)

Tallia said...

these are amazing picks! Night was absolutely amazing

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Olivia Fuller said...

Thanks for your sweet comment on my last post, your replies are always so nice to read :). So sweet of you to send good vibes for Tom, I think this whole experience is going to be good for him. He's spent years just physically working such a hard job, and it's time he let his body rest, and really put his mind to work. He's excited and nervous, but mostly excited! LOVED your black outfit on Insta today, by the way :).
Your post brought up a couple of my favorite reads, Of Mice and Men, and Night, and I'm currently reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, too! I took an extended break from it, not because of boredom AT ALL, just because of school. It's so hard to read for pleasure in college. I'm definitely taking note of these though, I especially want to read 'You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train.'

♥ Olivia

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Iwona said...

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HiFashion said...

I've read exactly half of these books and I'm currently just about to get the other half. Night in particular sounds incredible. I love just sitting down and reading, and books that haunt are the best. I recommend you add Shadow of the Wind to this list. And The Night Circus. Both are hauntingly beautiful.

Sara Louise said...

I'm reading Gone With the Wind for the FIRST TIME EVER! How is that for being behind the times!

Joëlle said...

I just recently finished 'Gone Girl' in two sittings - I couldn't put it down! Luckily for me, I had only discovered the hyper surrounding the book after finishing it, so the plot took me completely by surprise!

Some of my favourites are 'Tuesdays with Morrie' by Mitch Albom and 'She's Come Undone' by Wally Lamb. Both are books that I could, and often do, read over and over again.

Ashley said...

I love this list! I'm always looking for book recommendations, too -- I'm really wanting to read all of the books-turned-movies set for 2014! Also can't wait until they make a movie out of Gone Girl, seeing as I think I read that book in 24 hours and couldn't put it down...

Elle Sees said...

haven't read gone girl, but the rest i love. i quote OMAM all the time. and the poem it was based on, which random knowledge will come in handy one day!
ps thanks for your sweet comment!

Rebecca Harasym said...

I haven't read any of these books but now I am going to add them to my must read list!


Rachel @ The Redhead Fashionista said...

I was OBSESSED with Gone Girl. I refused to put that book down! I wasn't happy with the ending, but it was a great book overall. I'm curious to see if the movie does it justice!

The Redhead Fashionista
The Haute Notes

Carol {Everyday Delights} said...

I could not put Gone Girl down either!! I hope the movie is just as good!