January Reading Update

For the last few years, I have published a blog post every month, listing what I read in the month. At the end of the last three years, I published my full list of books read (2018 2017   2016). I enjoy looking back at these posts as a reminder of what I’ve read and enjoyed, and to see what I’m gravitating towards as a reader. My 2018 list was full of mysteries, and sorely lack in YA. I hope to balance that a little more this year, with more YA and more books by authors from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.

This month included a 5 day vacation for me, so I was able to read a lot early on. I read more this month that I did in any one month last year.

  • Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein – A new mystery author I discovered via my Library app – I love finding new authors! Unfortunately, this was a book in a series and I didn’t start at the beginning, so it was confusing at times. I liked the idea that the main character was a female D.A. who worked directly with NYC police detectives to solve crimes. I plan to research the series so I read more.
  • The Path to Serendipity: Discover the Gifts Along Live’s Journey by Allyson Apsey – This is a professional book I’ve wanted to read for awhile. It’s one of the book options for the district book study I coordinate and this is part of the “educator self care” themed book study. I appreciated the author’s honest storytelling, vulnerability, and eternal optimism. She lays out her challenges as well as some advice for living your best life.
  • The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History by Megan Mullaly and Nick Offerman [audiobook] – I love both of these actors separately, and only recently learned that they are married. This was a great book to listen to read y the authors, while on vacation. The audiobook literally felt like listening to a married couple perform a one act play and/or have a random mix of conversation – it was so much fun to get to know their lives a bit!
  • Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger – I discovered this author last month, and I enjoyed the first two books I read by her. This third book was different, and I did not enjoy the narrator (Ridley) who was a clueless, victim protaganist throughout most of the story. I did enjoy some of the twists of the storyline, but it wasn’t my favorite plot or storytelling.
  • The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt [audiobook] –  What a beautiful story! I loved listening as this mother and son got to know each other through a series of letters they exchanged after she turned 91. I knew practically nothing about Vanderbilt’s life history, which was sad and fascinating; her son didn’t know many of these details either. I love that these two are closer than ever, after losing Anderson’s father and brother too early in life. The image of the rainbow coming and going in life was a powerful way to end a touching story of family and love.
  • For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Emdin – This is another book that will be used by the teacher leadership book study that I facilitate in my district. The author spoke to a small group of educators in our district last year, and I am so disappointed that I was unable to attend. Reading this book reminded me so much of my first few years as a young teacher, when I was trying desparately to connect to my students, trying to be “cool” so they would like me and my class. Emdin’s reality pedagogy would have helped me be a better teacher soon. As I read about the seven C’s (cogenerative dialogues, coteaching, cosmopolitanism, context, content, competition, and curation) I recognized piece of what became my own pedagogy in my classroom, but I also recognized significant gaps I could have improved. I always used music that my students enjoyed to connect with them, and to connect them to some content. I never did anything that involved cogents where I brought together a small group of students to give me feedback on teaching and learning in my room, nor did I ever take the coteaching idea beyond the times students did group presentations on small topics within our content. There is so much more I wish I had done for my students, to connect with them and to help them connect to the content. This is a powerful read for all educators who work in urban education.
  • Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed – This year I want to read more YA books and books by authors of color; this book checks both of those boxes. What a bittersweet coming of age story for young Maya, an Indian-American teenager wrestling with her family’s expectations, her personal dreams, and the realities of racism in America. I appreciated the silly teen drama side as well as the serious racial implications of being a Muslim in post- 9/11 America.
  • Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram – What a beautiful story! This is another YA, introducing me to another culture very unknown to me. Darius is a teenage Persian whose family goes to Iran to visit his family, whom he has never met before. As he struggles with depression and general teen angst, he finds a friend, gets to know his family, and finds a way back to a relationship with his father, who also struggles with depression. I learned a lot about Persian culture and I appreciated the way the author addressed depression in a realistic way.
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond – This is another book option in my district’s January book club, focused on culture and equity. Having recently read Emdin’s book for the same book club, I found a number of connections between Emdin’s focus on “neoindigenous students” and Hammond’s “dependent learners”. Both argue for a systematic approach to teaching with a cultural frame of reference. Hammond introduces her four part Ready for Rigor Framework, and takes you through each element. She quotes a lot of research and big theories, but is not as prolific on direct strategies. I appreciated the refresher on how our brain functions, how we built long-term memory, and the implications for the classroom.
  • Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brene Brown [audiobook] – What a powerful book! I think all leaders and all humans, would benefit from reading/listening to this book.  Brown’s research on vulnerability leads to so many recommendations for building positive relationships at home and at work. I appreciate so much about this book, and the resources that are available on her website.  There was a section talking about the “stories we tell ourselves” that really resonated with me.  When we jump to conclusions and assume things about others, we are telling a story that impacts our emotions without facts to back them up.  By being honest and able to say to someone, “The story I’m telling myself is that you think I’m a bad leader and a bad person because X went wrong,” we open up the opportunity for real dialogue.  She talks so much about recognizing and naming our emotions, something that many of us are weak in. This reminds me of my desire to spend this year studying Aguilar’s Onward to build habits in emotional resilience.
  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – I loved this book! It wasn’t until I read the afterword notes that I learned how much of it was loosely based on historical facts about the women spies of WWI. I enjoyed how the story was narrated by two different women, Eve and Charlotte, and it flipped from the past to the present, as both women discovered themselves as they navigated through life challenges. This was a great historical fiction novel that had me intrigued throughout the entire story!
  • An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena – This was a quick mystery read from the library – a group of stranger arrive at a cute inn for a disconnected winter weekend, only to find a brutal storm that knocks out the power. Then, a guest is murdered. Everyone is on edge as they try to figure out what is happening, distrusting and suspecting each other as more people are killed.  It was a fun whodunit!
equity books

The Culture & Equity books for my district book study this month

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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