What I Read: August to December 2018

photo of mountain with ice covered with black and gray cloud
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Well, if you’ve been keeping score at home, my initial goal for this year was to post every month about the books I’d read during that month.

That didn’t happen.

However, I did end up reading and tracking the books I read, and that led me to plenty of reflection and sharing. So I’ll count this as a win for my 2018 resolution.

I read 24 books at the beginning of the year, and I’m wrapping up the year with 38 books, surpassing my goal of 30 that I made at the end of 2017. I’ll do a post a little later compiling all the books I read, but for now, here are the books I’ve read since August:

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

We began the year with this slave narrative in my American Lit class. I was struck by the way that Douglass uses the full spectrum of language to write about his experiences. He manipulates language emotionally in some areas, and in others he makes such a clear ethical case against slavery that it would put anyone to shame.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

I had so much fun reading this classic with my freshmen, and they loved the drama of the Greasers vs. the Socs, the way characters break out of stereotypes assigned to them, and even the lingo of America in the 60s.

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

Wrapping up the tour of my students’ summer reading, this is a book about a doctor in Haiti who defies human limitations to reach as many patients as he can. Of course, Dr. Paul Farmer is an incredible and legendary man. I imagine someone who is interested in the medical field or inspiring true stories would really like this book; ironically, because I felt like it was required reading (I adopted the class’s former teacher’s summer reading list) it dragged on for me! At least it helped me understand how my students feel sometimes…

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

The movie adaptation of this book came out last year, but my bigger motivation to read it was the absolutely gorgeous cover. It’s a great young adult novel about a girl who can never leave her home because her immune system isn’t strong and her ensuing love story with a boy on the outside — engaging, captivating read, and it looks good on my shelf!

Remember God: How to Ruthlessly Believe in an Incredibly Kind God by Annie F. Downs

I listened to this book on audio before it released, and goodness. It is raw, it is real, and it does not pretend to have all the answers. I really appreciate the vulnerability that Annie models in this book, and I hope for other Christian writers to demonstrate similar openness — not a false humility, but a true openness and willingness to reflect.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

I love reading and teaching this novella every year. It was made even better this year when I asked students to write their own House On Mango Street-inspired vignettes, emulating the innovent, sincere style of young Esperanza and her reflective introspection on childhood and growing up. This book is a gift that keeps on giving.

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood

When Adam’s sister got an extra copy of this novel, she offered it to me, and I happily enjoyed this charming tale of Gatsby-like parties and one girl experiencing the joys and pitfalls of an abundant lifestyle. Oh, and the book design is very pretty.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

This story of a grieving girl who’s lost her sister is poignant and honest. I didn’t immediately love the narrator, but as the story goes on I came to understand her and the complexities that make her who she is. A beautiful voice of a girl growing up.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

This book has an excellent narrator on Audible, and it is an awe-inspiring and hopeful story of a young man struggling to understand the racism and violence around him through a school project writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Much like The Hate U Give, it immersed me into the experiences and struggles of black people in America.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin

Shannan Martin is a blogger and her husband is a jail chaplain in a small town in Indiana. Together with their adopted children, they love their community in a way that is exemplary not because it’s extravagant, but instead because it’s simple. I hope to reread this book often to remind myself that the Great Commission can truly be as simple as chips and salsa at the kitchen table or showing up for someone.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

In the fall, Adam’s sister Rachel and I attended a book signing with this author, Laini Taylor. Laini is Rachel’s favorite author, and when a prolific reader like her chooses a favorite, you pay attention. I started from the beginning and have been immersed in these stories – I’m almost done with book #2 now!

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

This book is written in verse form and most of it takes place in one minute. It’s fast, engaging, and powerful. It leaves you asking serious questions about systems of violence and how we handle tragedy.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I have loved Michelle Obama’s public initiatives and warm, positive vibes since her husband was president, and this book conveys all her kindness, compassion, and sincerity. She details life before and during the presidency, and blessedly maintains her focus on her life, work, and legacy and limits her political talk to issues that matter to her the most. It’s a touching and delightful behind-the-scenes look with America’s favorite woman.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

I teach To Kill a Mockingbird using resources from Facing History and Ourselves, and I visited EJI’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice earlier this year. I still could hardly believe what I read in this book as Stevenson outlined legal cases where clearly innocent black men were oppressed by a system deeply rooted in racism, and the incredible work he’s done to get them out. He writes, “The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned. We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated.” As he says, only when we understand how the race systems in our nation affect the present can we begin to dismantle it, and this book is a well-done primer on the issue.

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