Monday, September 1, 2008

The Short List

I hit one of those rare moments recently when I didn't have a book going. I even finished my current book on CD, Song Without Words by Ann Packer. Much like Friday afternoon, with all the possibilities of the weekend ahead, book choosing time is both exciting and frustrating.

Just to be clear: nothing I read for school counts. Honestly, I read whatever I assign to my students, no matter how many times I've read it before. In the last two weeks, I've read the first half of On Hitler's Mountain and the first chapter of Images from the Holocaust: A Literature Anthology for the Holocaust class I'm helping to teach. I've also read Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener," Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," Ernest Hemingway's "Soldier's Home," Faye Weldon's "Ind/Aff: In and Out of Love in Sarajevo," and William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily."

I decided to start Clyde Edgerton's new novel The Bible Salesman, especially since he will be appearing at school in the spring. Meanwhile, I started reading Jumper by Steven Gould, passed along by a student in my literature class. I needed something going on my eBook at the gym, so I've started My Name Is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield. That doesn't begin to scratch the itch though. Just walking in the study, I see Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land, recommended by Kevin Walters.

Then I started browsing Carol Jago's site (see her link on this page) and--lo and behold!--more books I need to read. I first met Carol at an NCTE conference where she facilitated a regular session called "Readers Ourselves," which gave teachers a chance to talk about the books we were reading, not the ones we were teaching. It's one of my guilty pleasures at each conference. I don't come away with lesson plans; I come away with another book list, tried and true. I'm following her lead on Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses.

Kathryn Stripling (Kay) Byer, NC's poet laureate, recommended Not the Battle to the Strong: A Novel of the American Revolution in the South by Charles F. Price. (See her blog in my list too.)I have also been in touch with several of my former students who were--and are--avid readers. They've passed along titles they've read with their book groups or discovered on their own, as well as one or two written by friends.

I'm reminded of a quote from Anna Quindlen I found long ago and keep tucked in my file of favorites: "I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."

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