September Reading Update [2019]

As of the end of this month, I have read 71 books this year.  That is more than I read in all of 2018,  2017, or 2015, and two more than I read in 2016. I keep track of these books for my own memory and to compete with myself as a reader. I’m proud that 2019 will be the year I’ve read the most books in the last five years. This month I read:

  • The Friends We Keep by Jane Green – I love Green’s romantic comedy style of writing.  She usually creates characters who are both lovable and realistically flawed, and Topher, Maggie, and Evvie were no exception. These three meet in college in England and become best friends, then part to live their own lives for 30 years, and then reunite in a bittersweet way. I liked the ease of this story and it made me want to live in an old English manor!
  • Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah – After I wrote about loving Nightingale last month, this earlier book by the same author was recommended to me (thanks Andree!). I loved this long, epic story of best friends. Tully and Kate are opposites in so many ways, but their friendship provides them each exactly what they need when they meet as young girls. At times, I was reminded of some of my best girl friends and the fun we had during our closest moments. As they grew up, I was reminded of the two best friends in Beaches. Tully, in the pinnacle of her fame, reminded me of Bette Midler’s selfish character and her famous line, “Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?” This story was sweet and funny and sad and beautiful.
  • Learner-Centered Innovation: Spark Curiosity, Ignite Passion and Unleash Genius by Katie Martin – I’ve had this book on my to-be-read pile ever since it was published. Not only do I love the DBC book family and the connection to The Innovator’s Mindset, but I know and respect Katie and her work. There is so much to learn and love about this book! I appreciate Katie’s focus on making learning more student-driven and relevant, something we aren’t always so good at in traditional school.  I also appreciate Katie’s lessons about professional development for teachers, and ways to make that experience more meaningful and impactful. There were so many lines/ passages I noted and want to return to.  Here are just a few:
    • A twist on traditional evaluation – Have evaluatee write a 3-2-Q Reflection:  3 successes, 2 areas they want to improve, and a question they have for further inquiry or growth
    • “We can change policies and implement new programs, but if we don’t empower teachers and create school cultures where people feel valued and free to take risks, we will miss out on our greatest opportunity to change how students learn.”
    • “When we give people control to make decisions that impact their work, they begin to take risks and trust themselves and most often will exceed expectations.”
    • “Do you see me? Do you know me? Will you grow me?”
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – This was such a bittersweet story. Celestial and Roy have a turbulent and loving relationship that changes dramatically once he is wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. I didn’t get into this story right away because the beginning was written in such a cryptic way.  The author jumped across decades from one sentence to another, fast-forwarding the details to get to the first big event. The writing style threw me off for awhile, but then I was invested in the characters and wanted to know what would happen. I think it ended exactly as it wold have in real life.
  • Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu [audiobook] – This was an angsty YA novel that had me annoyed more than anything else. The main character, Stella, suffers from some mental health issues, and narrates all of her thoughts and emotions while saying and doing what people expect of her. For me reading this as an adult, I wished for a little more details about how she copes with her anxiety and a little less boy-girl and friend drama. Throughout most of the novel, I was thinking that I wouldn’t want any teenagers to actually read this, because there were so many bad examples in Stella’s actions, or lack of action. The ending had some some nice lessons, but it was hard getting there.  It was interesting that the author told the story out of order, literally going from chapter 12 to 48 to 3, etc. I think it was sold as “If you liked 500 Days of Summer…” which is why I originally decided to listen to this book at all.
  • A Delicate Touch by Stuart Woods – I had a low-key weekend where I was fighting off a cold (when everyone around me was getting the flue and/or pneumonia) so I reached for one of my favorite mystery writer’s for comfort.  This was an easy read, where Stone Barrington did was he always does – meets a pretty woman, gets himself into some danger, flies off around the world to escape the danger while trying to beat the bad guys, saves the day with his friends, and returns unarmed.
  • Recursion by Blake Crouch – This book was recommended by Laura Tremaine on my favorite new podcast, 10 Things to Tell You. As an avid reader, Laura has done a few episodes recapping her favorite reads and this was on the list and by her description I knew I wanted to read it. This is a mystery/ sci fi book about memory and time. I don’t want to say more and give anything away, in case you plan to read it. It’s an interesting and scary look into an alternate reality. It was fast-paced (after the first few chapters) and I loved it!
  • I’ll Be There For You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller [audiobook] – Before I tell you about this book, I must admit that I did not enjoy the reading of it on this audio version.  The reader attempted to make her voice different when she read quotes by other people, but her fake accents were bad, making me hate her voice. The book, itself, was interesting. As an avid fan of the TV show Friends, I was excited when I heard about this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect exactly.  The author takes us through the casting of the show, the backstory of the creators, key points of each season, and a lot about the negotiations that led up to their famous salaries.  She also addresses the concerns that come up about Friends – how it was a show with no diversity, not actually representing NYC accurately, and how there were homophobic and misogynistic comments littered throughout the pithy dialogue.  When Friends first came out, these were not glaring issues for many because it was a different time and we weren’t talking about that in many places yet. It was hard for me to hear some of the harsher criticism the author quoted throughout this book, but it made me reflect on what I loved about the show, how different my life was from 1994-2004, and how I hope I would notice these errors today. After all that, this still makes me want to go back and rewatch the entire series for the good parts – good friends who are your family, getting you through the good and bad of life.
  • Big Girl: How I Gave up Dieting & Got a Life by Kelsey Miller – After finishing the one about Friends, I saw that the author had written a very different book – a memoir about her journey to Intuitive Eating. I appreciated her honest, self-depracating, detailed storytelling of past and current challenges related to food, dieting, weight, exercise, and trying to be a normal healthy person in today’s society. I’ve begun to read around the edges of Intuitive Eating and this book inspired me to go deeper in my reading and discovery.

About Amy's Reflections

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