As promised, I'm listing a few of the titles I heard discussed over the last several days at the NCTE conference in San Antonio. Some of these were mentioned by speakers, some were shared during interactive sessions, and some titles came up during conversations.
One morning, I had an early breakfast and came downstairs at the hotel a little early to choose sessions for the day. The other woman down there at the time looked up from her reading to ask if I was there for the convention too. She was reading This Full House, the third in a trilogy of YA novels by Virginia Euwer Wolff, and she had tears in here eyes. We launched into one of those heart-to-heart sharing sessions that happen so easily between teachers of English. We both taught Holocaust classes. She is a middle school teachers but, like me, she also teaches some classes at the local community college. In addition to the Wolff books (beginning with Make Lemonade), she insisted I should read Sherman Alexie's Flight, a book of redemption, she says. She also mentioned Gary D. Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, which is set in Vietnam and "totally Shakespeare." We both taught Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and used " At the Un-national Monument Along the Canadian Border" by William Stafford.
At the "Readers Ourselves Session," I came away with several pages of notes on books that interested me. Keep in mind that for this particular session, an annual favorite at the conference for the last fifteen years at least, participants are encouraged to talk about what we are reading for pleasure, not what we are teaching.
Among the many, many titles, I noticed that several books mentioned were described as "thin" books, perfect for book clubs. One I am especially interested in reading is Bennett's "Uncommon Reader," a fictional work in which the Queen of England happens into a bookmobile and falls in love with reading, eventually trying to bring together her favorite writers in one place--a fiasco.
Lots of the books mentioned this year were non-fiction, such as Little Heathens, a memoir set "on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression" by Mildred Armstrong Kalish. Someone mentioned a book called Canon by a science writer who asked many people in different fields of science, "What is the key idea in your discipline?"
Lots of people are reading graphic novels, a genre that I haven't entirely embraced, beyond Maus. Someone mentioned a graphic novel by a 9/11 widow, a "tough, powerful read." Another recommended Embroideries, a graphic novel of female relatives talking about sex.
Several people mentioned books I have but haven't read yet: Loving Frank, a novel about the woman who had a love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. Nicole Krauss' History of Love was strongly recommended as a story of "unrequited love." I had recently been encouraged by my friend Sandra to read this one as well, and she's generally right on target with her book suggestions.
That's all I'm going to mention for now. If you have a long ride coming up over the holidays, that should give you a few ideas if you're going by the bookstore. As for me, I made it home from the exhibit hall with Little Heathens and Billy Collins' new book of poetry Ballistics. That ought to hold me until my UPS box of books makes it home.