Recent Reads

‘Tis the season for listing books, or so my friends at Ignatius and CeilingFlickers would have us believe. Books we’ve read, books we want to read, the best books ever—all excellent lists. And since I’m a bit behind on reviewing the books I’ve been reading (instead of blogging) over the past few months, here’s a list of my own. In no particular order, I present:

Some Books I’ve Read Somewhat Recently

1) Helmet for My Pillow, by Robert Leckie: This memoir, written by a surprisingly articulate and engaging reporter-turned-marine-turned reporter, recounts the story of the 1st Marines in the Pacific theater in WWII. I picked it up at the library after Zach and I watched Tom Hank’s mini-series The Pacific. Leckie’s style is thoroughly enjoyable–his sense of decency, of what is “fit to print” in the 1950s, leads him to compose more…delicate versions of the stories than HBO delivered, but he communicates the heart of the matter powerfully despite this restraint. I’m looking forward to reading With the Old Breed, by Eugene Sledge (the other primary source text for the miniseries) sometime soon. Having spent so much time with my nose in a novel lately, this brief foray into non-fiction was especially refreshing!

2) Cautionary Tales for Children by Hillaire Belloc, illustrated by Edward Gorey: Sam and I spend a lot of time “reading” Sandra Boyton’s books and enjoying the tactile sensations in each of Marley’s adventures, but this little gem is destined to become a favorite in the Good Children’s Library. A gift from Sam’s lovely godmother, Amy, these tales seek to frighten children into obedience (in the most amusing manner, of course). Instead of a description, a single chapter title will suffice: “Matilda, Who Told Lies and Was Burned To Death”.  Oh, okay, ONE more: there’s also the tale of “Algernon, Who Played With a Loaded Gun, and, On Missing His Sister, Was Reprimanded By His Father.”

3) Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: I first encountered this instruction manual for writers when I was in high school. I read the first few chapters, realized it was primarily for fiction writers, and never looked at it again. Until this Christmas, that is, when my dear friend Allison (over at RhetoricalExpressions) placed it back into my hands. Lamott’s advice is so encouraging. Beyond any bit of technical wisdom she offers (and there are many such bits), she frees her students to write by admitting that EVERYone writes crappy first drafts, and most people who write for fun or a living are mildly insane, and should embrace that fact. You can thank (or blame) her and Allison for my attempt to revive this blog.

4) Beowulf, by Anon, translated by Seamus Heany: This was my second year teaching Beowulf, and it is proving to be one of my favorite units. The story is so simple, so raw, and yet provokes such nuanced questions about justice and heroes and the monsters inside of us all. Nineth graders respond well to the combination of mythical creatures, family feuds, and gory battles. I hope Sam is a fan of this one someday. It’s a quick read: return to it through Heany’s masterful translation.

5) Almost All of The Books That Michael O’Brien Has Written: I’m presently about 50 pages from the end of A Cry of Stone, which is the last in his “Children of the Last Days” series. I’ve also read Theophilos and The Father’s Tale is beckoning me from under the Christmas tree. If you haven’t read any of his books yet, you simply MUST. I cannot recommend them highly enough. However, I will attempt to do so in greater detail in a future post.

But enough about me. What have YOU been reading? And what should I add to my list?

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4 Comments

Filed under Poetry, Reading, Teaching

4 responses to “Recent Reads

  1. Sharon

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. ‘Let the Great World Spin.’ if you have one book to read for the rest of your life, let it be that one. If you aren’t convinced, try this on for size http://bcm.bc.edu/issues/fall_2011/endnotes/head-first.html

  2. Sharon

    Ps I love and adore you.

  3. You HAVE said it before, you loyal devotee, and I’m afraid I’ve already taken your advice on that one. I read it last year, around Christmastime and many passages stood out as touchingly beautiful. It’s not, on the whole, I book I would recommend for reading during pregnancy. (But then, neither is Annie Dillard. Or Tolstoy, for that matter. Really, pregnant women should stick to Lord of the Rings and What to Expect if they want to maintain their composure for more than ten minutes at a time.)

  4. Hmmmm. Let’s see, since you’re so obedient…
    Paris Trout/Pete Dexter
    Rules of Civility/Amor Towne
    Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand/Helen Simonson
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell/Susanna Clarke

    Something for every taste. The last two especially safe for those in the family way.

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