Posts in reading
April book report

My reading frenzy, which began in March, is still going strong. I read 11 books in April, which puts me 10 books ahead of my 52-book reading challenge this year.

Here are one- or two-sentences about each of the books I read in April, for future reference:

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Oh, to be Hemingway, when living the life of a starving artist meant maybe cutting short your Swiss ski vacation to a month instead of two! Maybe my favorite parts were Hemingway's scathing descriptions of F. Scott Fitzgerald (and Fitzgerald's various, um, insecurities).  

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I'd never read this — and I had no idea there is so much more to the story than the crazy lady in the attic. Talk about a sprawling novel.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

This book surprised me with its spare, matter-of-fact characterization that somehow still left me with a vivid portrait of the main character's complex and paradoxical emotions. I was also surprised by how much I resonated with Toibin's portrayal of the immigrant experience.

What If? by Randall Munroe

I listened to this at 1.5x speed while I was laid up with a concussion and it was such a laughably poor choice for what was supposed to be a brain-resting activity. I did enjoy it — and particularly liked Will Wheaton's reading.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and John Levithan

This started my dive into John Green's back catalog. I loved the characterization of both Will Graysons — one reminds me so much of a few of my 7th grade boys, it's painful.

Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami

I usually feel deeply satisfied reading Murakami even though I never understand his books, but this time I just did not feel invested. 

The Collar and the Cavvarach by Annie Douglass Lima

Lima is a colleague from our sister school and she is visiting this month to give a talk in my class, so I figured I should read her book ASAP! Happily, I enjoyed it — I found her made-up world compelling and her characters sympathetic. (I cried!)

Animal Farm by George Orwell

WOW. This was so much darker than I anticipated — almost unbearably dark.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

I can see why this remains an enduring Green favorite. He has such a gift for respecting the intelligence and maturity of teenagers.

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Being a middle school English teacher gives me an excuse to read fluffy YA novels. I read one of Smith's other books based on a blogger recommendation and I liked it enough to pick this up from the local library.  

No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre

I read this play for my book club — dark, but darkly funny. Makes me wonder who would be in my version of hell...

Aimless Love

I'm teaching a poetry unit to my middle schoolers right now and I'm very much enjoying hunting down poems to share with my classes.

Here's one I particularly like. (My students found it perplexing.)

Aimless Love
by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.
No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

reading, lifeKate LSComment
Currently

I hope you figured out that I made it to the Pa. (and back!) safely, even though I've been MIA over here for the past few weeks. I've been avoiding an update because there's just too much to write about, namely everything that happened in America (like becoming a US citizen). I have so many thoughts just about that — how I actually feel different being an American, the unexpected angst of my name change, the irony of becoming a citizen right in the midst of such a gobsmackingly insane election season. But my brain hurts from all the craziness of catching up to real life, so I'm going to punt and just write another list post.

Reading

A lot! As I mentioned in a previous post, I've had a tough time getting into books lately. I had my students read an article earlier this year about how we have to train ourselves in the habit of reading (I sadly can't find the article — will keep looking). When I realized I had started nearly a dozen books this year and only finished around three, I considered the likelihood that I've rewired my brain for nuggets of information transmitted through the screen of my iPhone. 

So. For the past two weeks, every time I've felt the impulse to stare at my phone, I've picked up a book instead.

Guess what? I finished a pile books in quick succession (The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Tuck Everlasting, Big Magic, The Quiet American, Silence, and Pax). Which brings me to...

Books

For many expats, one benefit of going "home" is the SHOPPING. I haven't been in Taiwan long enough to really miss anything from America (I'm still marveling over being able to easily buy stuff I've missed my entire adult life, like Yakult and Taiwanese pastries). Except books. I've really missed having access to endless cheap/used books. We do have English-language bookstores here but the books are pricy and stock is limited.

Here's a list of the books I brought back from the US:

The Goldfinch — Donna Tartt (it's been on my list forever)
A Handful of Dust — Evelyn Waugh (book club)
Pax — Sara Pennypacker (I love Jon Klassen. I bought this for Lucy thinking it was a picture book!)
Silence — Shusaku Endo (Recommended by a friend when I mentioned I love Graham Greene)
Big Magic — Elizabeth Gilbert (Read this with a friend)
The History of Love — Nicole Krauss (Own this. Bought to share.)
Unfamiliar Fishes — Sarah Vowell (Found this at Goodwill. Bought it on a whim.)
Small Victories — Anne Lamott (Goodwill)
Unbroken — Laura Hillenbrand (I've heard so much about this but still haven't read it.)
Cutting for Stone — Abraham Verghese (Goodwill — bought to share.)
The Quiet American — Graham Greene (One of my favorite GG books. Bought to reread and share.)
Evolution — Daniel Loxton (requested by Anna)

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Other stuff I bought

This ceramic travel mug — I often have half a cup of coffee left when it's time to rush out the door. This mug is perfect — it has a lid (which makes it splash-proof but not leak-proof, just fine for sipping while walking or driving). It's double-walled but entirely ceramic, so it retains some heat while emitting just enough to give that cozy-mug feeling that's lacking from stainless steel Thermoses. I love it!

Mason jar straws and lids — We got rid of all of our mismatched glasses when we moved here. To replace them, we bought two flats of Mason jars (16 oz and 1.5 pint). I brought a lid/straw and a 1.5 pint jar to school and it's helped me remember to drink more water (instead of just coffee). 

Instax printer — I actually bought this for my brother. He encouraged me to try it and now I want one of my own. The worst thing about the Instax camera (I own this one) is that you sometimes waste film by accidentally taking awful photos. The second worst thing is that you can't make duplicates of your favorite shots. The printer solves those problems. 

Star Wars Lego set for Anna — Just look at that face!

reading, life, stuffKate LSComment