Thursday, April 21, 2011

What I'm Reading Now: Too Many Books

My current crop of YA reading includes Jonathan Stroud's new Bartimaeus book, The Ring of Solomon, which reveals some of the demon's past in Jerusalem, where he makes sassy djinn comments on humanity's weaknesses, with footnotes; Helen Frost's Keesha's House, a book in poems (starting off with sestinas! not an easy form) about kids in trouble who need a safe house; Paul B. Janeczko's Worlds Afire, also poems, telling the story of a 1944 circus fire; Paul Fleischman's Dateline: Troy, which I've meant to read for some time now and which tells the Trojan story in spare text juxtaposed with newspaper clippings from the present to make the visual as well as textual point that our great stories from the past are repeated today; Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, a werewolf story told in two voices.

Then there are the professional books: Steven L. Layne's Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers; Nancie Atwell's The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers; Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child; Kelly Gallagher's Teaching Adolescent Writers; two by Tom Romano, Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers and Crafting Authentic Voice. I just finished Cynthia Carbone Ward's How Writers Grow: A Guide for Middle School Teachers. I think that's all I'll admit to reading concurrently right now, though I've dipped into a few more that I plan to commit to quite soon--Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell, and Storm Front by Jim Butcher (because Karrah loves the Dresden Files so much), along with James Bucky Carter's edited collection, Building Literary Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel and Penny Kittle's Write Beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing.

I am a grazer and sampler of books. I love moving back and forth among a variety of genres and styles. At Christmas time I was rereading Jane Austen, and I've been working at a biography of Coleridge on and off for close to a year. Last (academic) year, I taught Senior Seminar in English and spent lots of time with nineteenth-century British lit (my first love as a reader--unless you count my childhood obsession with fairy tales), and while I was writing Reading Julia Alvarez (just released March 30), I read several Caribbean and U.S. Latino writers' works. Last fall I took a big turn back into the literature related to my upper-level writing classes, mostly creative nonfiction, and I just bought a William Stafford book I didn't already own, along with Bret Lott's Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer's Life and Amy Tan's The Opposite of Fate.

It's obvious that something ignited "a lifelong passion for reading" in me! In the past couple weeks I've loaned out several of my YA novels to students, borrowed a book from a student, and ordered Hamlet's Blackberry by William Powers. I attended a library-sponsored discussion of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love about three weeks ago and a conference panel on To Kill a Mockingbird more recently. And the Teaching Writing students are writing annotations of picture books, so my head's full of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Stinky Cheese Man, and wondrous books for kids.

There. I've done it. I've admitted to my addiction. Where's my list of those twelve steps, now? Under that pile of books, no doubt.

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