I didn't read nearly as many books this quarter (only 37 as opposed to last quarter's 56) but other than having a lot of baby-related stuff to do (finishing the nursery, etc.) I blame mostly the very real malady of "pregnancy brain" which in my case seemed to keep me from concentrating on much at all for any length of time. (I realize that 37 books is still a lot of books for a 3-month period, but it's really not impressive considering the openness of my schedule. Anyway.)
I love my Nancy Drew bag so much.
I read a lot of fiction this time around (it's so much easier to fly through a novel than a biography!) but most of my favorites were still nonfiction. Anyway, without rambling on any more, here are my recommendations for you (in no particular order except the order I read them.)
1. The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly. I'm always a little leery of a book that tries to modernize or "borrow from" a classic, but this story of three sisters, particularly the middle sister Lulu, and their distant family tie to Jo March (in this book, Jo's a real person) did it exactly right. Lulu feels like a bit of a black sheep in her family (don't all middle children?) and discovers a kindred spirit through Great-Aunt Jo and the letters she wrote to Meg, Amy, Beth, and others in her life. Sometimes when a book contains a lot of letters, it's tempting to skip or skim them, but these captured the voice of the Jo we know and love so well that I actually enjoyed them as much as the modern-day story. It all plays out so well, with sisterly dynamics I definitely recognized, that I found myself wishing it would go on for another hundred pages or so.
2. The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley. Anytime Janssen raves about a book, I know I have to read it, and this was no exception. The author examines the progress of three American exchange students in South Korea, Finland, and Poland and compares their experiences- good and bad- with the comparable education they'd receive in America. I'm not gonna lie- it's a lot of data, numbers, and statistics to wade through, but it's absolutely fascinating to see the way the American education system lines up against these other countries (which have the top three test scores in the world) and the way their approach to schooling differentiates pretty wildly from what we're used to here. (Next time your child complains about homework, you can let him know that students in South Korea spend about 14 hours a day in class or studying with a tutor. Yikes!)
3. Do Over by Jon Acuff. I love this, but then I love anything Jon Acuff writes (pretty big fangirl here.) His newest book is mainly about, well, a "do over" or fresh start in your career (the subtitle is Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck) and I highly recommend it if you're venturing out into a new job or life change. However, there is practical and helpful advice for anyone in any job, even if you've been where you are for 20 years and have no plans to leave. This guy is super smart but also so, so funny and he takes what could be fairly dry information and makes it engaging and practical. So many career-related books are vague ("chase your dreams!" "be yourself!") but this one, while certainly inspiring, gives advice that can actually be implemented in your life. Snatch it up- you'll want a copy for yourself to underline and take notes in!
4. Move Your Bus by Ron Clark. In case I haven't mentioned it before, Ron Clark is my teaching and education hero. This book is obviously from an educator's point of view but applies to any professional, really. He compares different types of employees (Runners, Joggers, Walkers, and Riders) and offers strategies for dealing with each type (and improving if you're a Walker or dreaded Rider.) I think, because Mr. Clark is single and his entire life is devoted to his school, which is fine, that he is maybe a little too impressed with people who basically have no life outside of work. He does mention that he understands that some of his teachers have families but he expects their full cooperation while they're at school, which I understand. But killing yourself day in and day out at any job, even if it's one you love, isn't really healthy and he kind of glamorizes being a "Runner" who's always the first to show up and the last to leave. That's not really sustainable without some major burnout, in my opinion, but other than that one caveat with his philosophy, I love the book. If you're a teacher, it will definitely get you fired up about being the best you can be (and possibly convincing your administrator to install a giant slide in your school's foyer.)
5. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. Oh man, this was so interesting. An American mom (and her British husband) found themselves raising their new baby (and eventually two more) in Paris and the resulting clash of cultures led to some startling insights as to the different in French and American kids. Basically, French kids eat everything (no tasteless rice cereal!) and have more sophisticated palates than most adults (including me), start sleeping through the night very early, and are just generally much more well-behaved than their American playmates. (The author said she only saw one meltdown from a French kid at the park in the three years she worked on this book. One!) Since one of my handful of nonnegotiable goals for Alice is consistently polite and non-horrible behavior, I am definitely going to be implementing some of this advice. (Sending her on a two-week field trip in first grade? Not so much.)
6. NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Another fascinating look at the myths, legends, and otherwise widely-accepted tales we take at face value as truth about kids and parenting that are not necessarily right. This covers a wide range of topics from lying to racial attitudes to sleep patterns, but all of it was super interesting and made me think a lot about the way I want to raise my kids. The chapter I found most interesting was the discussion on praising your kids and how constant praise actually produces anxiety and a lack of effort in kids who feel their only worth is in being called "smart" or whatever other adjective you choose. Specific, earned praise is much more helpful, and even carefully worded criticism can do more to help your child improve than a standard "You did a great job," "I'm proud of you," etc. I don't plan on being a happiness miser and never praising my kids, but doing it thoughtfully makes a world of difference. Good stuff! (I did find some of the statistics pretty disturbing- especially the study on lying that found that pretty much all kids lie and their parents can't tell. I mean, teaching taught me that but still. I don't look forward to it!)
7. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. This book has a lot of negative reviews on Amazon that claim it only applies to upper middle class (or above) career professionals with a lot of disposable income. Well, you could probably make that argument if you wanted to ignore all the helpful information and feel better about yourself, but the truth is there is plenty of advice that can be applied to anyone, even if you don't have the money for a full-time laundry service (one time-saving practice recommended in the book.) Everyone claims to not have enough time to do all they want to do or should do. "There aren't enough hours in the day!" is a fairly common lament from all adults everywhere. But this book highlights the lives of several different kinds of people who actually have fulfilling jobs and home lives while devoting time to hobbies, volunteering, and other pursuits. How do they do it? The author points out that we all have the same amount of time- 168 hours per week- and that by taking a long, hard (and honest) look at what we do with those 168 hours, we can find the time to do just about anything we want. Again, some of what she recommends isn't for everyone (allowing your house to be messy, for example, is not on my list of acceptable exceptions, since that would drive me insane) but there are definitely principles that we all can apply. If nothing else, this will convict you about your social media and TV time, for sure.
8. Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This one might be my favorite of the whole bunch. Not only do I love anything set in the 40s or 50s, but I love baseball, and this book has both. It's a memoir of the author's childhood spent on Long Island as an avid Brooklyn Dodgers fan, an obsession shared by her dad and one that gave them a bond that lasted her whole life. He taught her the game, how to keep score, and the dedication of a truly loyal fan. Since the Dodgers barely missed out on the World Series multiple times during her childhood, she became well-acquainted with the comforting refrain, "Wait till next year." Aside from all the baseball talk, it's a fun look back at an innocent time of tight-knit neighborhoods and communities and just an all-around fun era to live in New York (the three-way rivalry between the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants was practically a living thing.) The author's life wasn't all happy times- her mother died when she was just 15, and she had to navigate through the uncertainty of the Cold War and adolescence, which some would argue are equally terrifying. But overall it's a very sweet book that reminded me a lot of Beverly Cleary's works, both her memoirs and fiction. And the mark of a truly good author, to me, is if I want to reader of their books. I requested everything our library had by Miss Goodwin so she's a winner. =)
There you go! I anticipate my fourth quarter reading to drop off a little more as we get adjusted to life with a new little person but we'll see how it goes! Maybe I'll include Alice's books to boost my numbers a little. =) As always, let me know if/when you check any of these out so we can have a virtual book club! Happy reading!