Thursday, December 17, 2015

Always a Great Source for Book Recommendations: NCTE

For most of my teaching career, I attended the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English wherever it was held. Held the weekend before Thanksgiving, this conference felt like the teaching equivalent of a gospel tent revival, sending me home with a renewed enthusiasm for this profession I have loved. I always came home with practical ideas I could use in class the next Monday, Wednesday at the latest, and a head full of ideas.
I developed friendships at these gatherings with people who shared common bonds, especially those who loved books as much as I do.  Among all the practical sessions, I always made time for one guilty pleasure, a regular session called Readers Ourselves. In this session, participants talked about books we had read for pleasure, not for the classroom. We were given an index card (low-tech, eh?) to note any titles we mentioned.  Michael Moore, one of the facilitators, always gathered the cards with contact information and shared the final list with everyone. He started this sharing before internet, but now the list comes via email.
At another regular session High School Matters, one of the larger double sessions, roundtable discussions alternated with some keynote speakers, the rock stars of the English profession.  My friend Carol Jago, one of the most voracious readers I know, always shared a list of her book recommendations.  Eventually her husband started printing up book marks so participants could listen without having to write (and keep asking, “What did she say?”). I always knew I could trust Carol’s book choices.
I’ve missed the conference for two or three years now, because of school budget constraints, but Carol and Michael generously share their lists anyway. I, in turn, will share them here (with the ones I've read highlighted). After all, who doesn’t need one more book list?
Carol Jago’s List:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
David McCullough, The Wright Brothers
Kamil Daoud, The Meursault Investigation
Brian Turner, My Life as a Foreign Country
Lydia Davis, Can't and Won't, stories
Claudia Rankine, Citizen, An American Lyric
Gabriella Coleman, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy
Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman

Readers Session – Minneapolis:

My Dear, I wanted to tell you – Louisa Young -- Historical fiction, WWI
The Hero’s Welcome – Louisa Young – Historical fiction, WWI
The Three-Day Road – Joseph Boyden – Canadian First Nations’ Soldiers in WWI
Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf – 2 small town neighbors who have lost their spouses –
want to spend nights together talking
Dead Wake – Erik Larsen (Nonfiction, the Lusitania Tragedy WWI)
How We Learn – Benedict Carey (cognitive science)
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent – Last woman to be publicly executed in Iceland
The Rosie Project; The Rosie Effect – Australian scientist w/ Aspergers
Longbourne – Jo Baker – Pride and Prejudice the servants’ stories
Accidental Saints – Badia Bolz-Webber – NPR featured-memoir of unorthodox
Lutheran minister
Learning to Swim – Sara J. Henry – A woman thinks she sees someone fall off a Lake
Champlain ferry-and jumps in to save the person – mystery novel
Dead Man’s Land – Robert Ryan – Doctor Watson in the trenches of WWI-Someone is
using the cover of war for murders (mystery)
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea – Barbara Demick
Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes
The Wave – Todd Strasser
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
Hold Still – Sally Mann
How I Shed My Skin – Jim Grimsley
Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson
I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend – Martin Short
The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkinson
Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant – Roz Chast
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea – Barbara Derrick
Minds Made for Stories – Jim Newkirk
People of the Book – Geraldine Brooks
10% Happier – Dan Harris
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Kondo
The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown
We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
Hate List – Jennifer Brown
The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson
Orphan Train – Christina Baker Kline
The Devil in the White City – Jeff Larson
Gifted Hands – Ben Carson
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doer
The Lotus Eaters – Tatiana Soli
The Serpent of Venice – Christopher Moore
Waking Up White – Debby Irving
The Year of Lear – James Shapiro
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare – James Shapiro
Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Guernsey Literary and Sweet Potato Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer
Make It Stick – Peter Brown
How We Learn – Benedict Carey
Lila – Marilyn Robinson
The Girl With All the Gifts – M.R. Carey
Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cannot Stop Talking
Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Boys in the Boat
Submission – Michel Houelebeque
The Map & the Territory
The White Road – Edmund de Waal
My Struggle – Karl Ove Knausgaard
The Wright Brothers – David McCullough
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Year of Lear – James Shapiro
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
The Awakening - Kate Chopin
One Thing Stolen – Beth Kephart
Vernacular Eloquence – Elbow
Being Mortal – Atul Gawande
The Sixth Extinction – Elizabeth Kolbert
The Brothers Karamasov – Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation
The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories – Gene Wolfe
Embers – Sandor Marae – Two older men – once friends-Reconnect after 40 years –
story reveals the secrets that cause the 40 year break
Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marsha Pessl – at its heart is a murder mystery –
just a remarkably different voice
Horrorstory – Grady Hendrix – An IKEA like store is the hellmouth
The Distant Land of My Father – Boo Caldwell – Historical fiction that takes place in
Shanghai during the Japanese Occupation
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating – Elizabeth Tora Bailey – Memoir , a quiet
book about a woman who accidentally becomes an invalid and begins to
nurture the snail who arrives with get well flowers – fascinating
Biography of Georgia O’Keefe – Mike Venezia
The Norton Book of Nature Writing – Finch,E Elder – Literary authors on nature and
philosophy. Leads to exploring other works by authors.  I just finished a book
by Sigurd Olson and one by Louise Erdrich
Elements of Style – E.B. White’s wit
Biography of Woody Guthrie – Joe Klein
Difficult Men – Brett Martin – The third golden age of television.  The backstory behind
The Sopranos, The Wire, the Shield and others.
Just Kids – Patti Smith – Patti and Robert Maplethorpe in NYC in the mid sixties to mid
The Three Arched Bridge – Ismail Kadare – Nobel Laurette and a different kind of
magical realism
The Prophets – A.J. Heschel – Shows transactional consciousness is as old as Amos
and Isaiah
Soul Dust – Nicholas Humphrey – scientific theory of the evolution of not just mind but
soul in warm blooded creatures as a magic theatre that creates attachment to
one’s own life, to others’ lives, and to life itself.  A scientific justification for
putting the humanities at the heart of education once again.
A Woman in Charge – Carl Bernstein
Hillary’s Choice  - Gail Sheehy – Shows the Clintons as good and hopeful people.
Primary Colors –
Self and Soul – Mark Edmundson
The Idiot and The Devils – Fyodor Dostoyevsky


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