What I read: January 2018

Welcome to the first of my monthly installments of the books I’m reading! Per my 2018 goal, I’ll be keeping track of all the books I’ve read this year here, in pursuit of reading over 30 books.

This month, I’ve started and finished a lot of things. I finished rewatching Gilmore Girls, started and finished One Day at a Time season 1, and obviously am caught up on The Bachelor.

I also started so many books–there are 5 books with varying pages bookmarked on my bedside table as I write–but I only crossed the finish line with two. I’m still reading plenty, especially as I’m teaching The Odyssey in my freshman class and The Namesake in honors, but I got fewer chances to read “me” books.

So, January was good, and February should be a good month of finishing what I started!

Here’s my two January reads:

1. Paper Towns, John Green

I’ve lost count of how often my students mention their love for John Green’s books. I had a student last semester who went to the book tour for the release of Turtles All the Way Down and gave me a John Green canvas bag, and I couldn’t in good conscience use this bag without reading a John Green book. That’s the true story of why I bought Paper Towns.

My reaction to my first John Green book: I think 2008 Carissa would have absolutely loved it, and I’m disappointed I didn’t read his fiction earlier. He writes about distinctly high school emotions, and his style is engaging and moves quickly. Reading his fiction as an English teacher provides me with a different perspective: throughout the book, I felt like he was winking at me–helping me do my job better, for example, by placing the notoriously challenging Whitman poem “Leaves of Grass” at the center and making it seem accessible and even cool.

So, even though I’m no longer a huge YA fiction reader, I can appreciate John Green on multiple levels. The best part is that I think reading this book will make students good readers, so I’m glad to have this book under my belt to discuss it with them.

Now the real question, friends: has anyone seen the movie, and is it worth watching?

2. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Timothy Keller

This short treatise was the foundation of a book I read last year, Free of Me. The back cover describes it as “punchy,” which is accurate. Keller gets right to the point and makes it clearly and effectively. I’ll be rolling around a few sentences in my mind for weeks.

Here’s his main idea: “True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”

This is a book you could feasibly read in an hour or two, and it’s worth it. It’s shifted how I view the “self-esteem” vibes that we give to our teenagers and how I view my own faith.

Well, that’s my January reads! I have some fun books on deck: some fiction, nonfiction, and just-for-fun books that I’ll report back on in February!

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