Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Book Whisperer, part 2

I'm supposed to be writing final papers that are due tomorrow, so this will have to be brief.  But I wanted to share Donalyn Miller's blog which is also called the Book Whisperer.  I haven't read much of it yet, but so far it looks like a very interesting commentary on books and reading.  I look forward to reading more.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Book Whisperer

Despite the fact that I should be writing final papers, I bought a new book this weekend and finished it last night:  The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller.  Ms. Miller is a 6th grade Language Arts teacher who has developed and just about perfected a reading instruction method that has yielded phenomenal results with her students.  The book chronicles her journey and shares insight and lessons about why kids read, how they can be supported as readers, and why reading is so important.  Her intended audience is clearly other reading teachers, but it was engaging and information for someone like me who simply loves books and is interested in literacy.  

In some ways, it is also a memoir of Ms. Miller as a reader.  She describes "Miller Mountain"- a teetering bookshelf in her home that struggles under the tonnage of the books she plans to read.  I smiled at that description as someone who has destroyed two different bookshelves by sheer book mass.  She also discusses her reading habits and how she squeezes in extra time to read the books she loves.

I loved The Book Whisperer, and it also rekindled a desire in me to work to promote literacy and reading, especially with children and young people.  I loved helping eager children select the perfect book this Saturday at local RIF book fair.  These reminders are helpful to me as I continue my job search.   

This blog has also helped me to realize that I love helping the right title find its way to an eager reader's hands.  I hope to read through my stacks of books this summer to be able to offer better informed recommendations.  Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

book lists?

How do you keep track of the books you've read or want to read?  I have Amazon (and now Shelfari and Goodreads) to keep track of what I want to read.  And I use them to remember what I have read as well.  I had been keeping a word document of all the books I'd read since freshman year of college, but now I can't find it.  I transfered it into my Goodreads/Shelfari accounts already, but I still loved to look at the list organized by year.  I'm afraid I accidently deleted it in a housekeeping frenzy to free-up some computer space.  Boo.  Oh well!  

Do you keep lists of the books you've read/want to read?  I'm thinking of starting some kind of reading journal or log.  Does anyone do that?  

Monday, April 27, 2009

Shelfari? Goodreads?

Does anyone have a page on Shelfari or Goodreads?  I confess I have one on both, but I've been neglecting Goodreads for a while now.  I started there and loved it!  I added all the books I could think of, found some new interesting ones to read, and connected with a few friends.  Then I was seduced by the flashy shelf widget of Shelfari and started adding books there, too.  The only problem is, I don't really know anyone that uses Shelfari and so I don't have very many people to connect with there.  Is it bad that I was seduced by the flashy graphics?  I suppose I am judging the proverbial book by its cover!  It does have great features as well.  I'm starting to think I'll just keep up with both sites...but is that a waste of time?  

Aside from the snazzy virtual bookshelves, both of these sites are terrific ways to connect with other readers, get a visual representation of the books you have read or want to read, and find new books!  A few times, when deciding what book to post about, I've found my answer on Shelfari faster than I found a book on my physical bookshelves. 

So, do you have books lists on either of these?  If so, do you want to be my friend??  :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist

To continue my Sunday feature on spiritual writings and books, today I'm going to share a book about Buddhism.  That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist, by Sylvia Boorstein.  It's the fascinating record of the faith journey of a Jewish woman who finds meaning and joy with Buddhism.  As she becomes more involved with Buddhism, she continues to practices her Jewish faith as well.  As a Christian who is intrigued by Buddhist practices, Boorstein's journey was an insightful example of how I might navigate my own path.  It is also filled with funny stories and inspirational moments.  Check it out!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What are YOU reading now?

Since some people responding to a previous post that they did, in fact, also read multiple books at a time, I began to wonder what those books were.  When you have multiple books going at once, are they all similar?  Or are they different types of reading?

I usually have different kinds of books going at once.  For example, currently, I am reading Revolutionary Road, Pen on Fire, Making It All Work, Creating True Peace, and The Well-Educated Mind.  So that's a novel, a book about writing, a self-help type productivity book, a spiritual book, and a book about--well, other books!  I read Pen on Fire before bed because Rev. Road is a little depressing.  So I read that during the day.  Making It All Work is on my iPod for the gym, and the other two I've been dabbling in when I want a break from the others.  Sometimes, if I am reading two novels, I'll have one light one and another that's a bit more substantial.  

So, what are you all reading right now?  Anything good?  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Living Without My Books

Thanks to Jess' reply regarding my previous post, I was forced to face an issue that will rapidly be before me.  Packing.  I graduate and move back to Texas in three weeks  (eeek!) and so that means the apartment needs to start going into boxes.  Some things like dishes, toiletries, and school supplies can't go in yet.  So what to start with?  Out of season clothes, games, and oh yeah-my shelves and shelves of books.  

And there's the rub.  My dad wants me to get packing and several friends have graciously offered up boxes.  I'm procrastinating on my final papers and packing would be a seemingly productive way to accomplish this.  So what's stopping me? Well, swimsuits and winter coats only take so long to pack.  Scrabble and Pictionary?  Check!  And we're back to the shelves.

When Jess mentioned that she can't check the publisher of most of her favorite books because they're in storage, I gasped!  Not only for her, but for me, because my stuff will be in storage for a while when I get to Texas as well.  What if I need to look up that funny line from the book I read three years ago?  Yes, I suppose that is what Google is for, but that's not the point.  I'm going to have to pack a special box with the books I can't be parted from that will not go into storage. 

However, my reluctance to pack them isn't even really about not being able to access my books.  They'll still be here, just in boxes.  The real problem is that my shelves will be empty.  I love looking at my books.  They are so pretty!  Some filed in upright and others laying sideways.  With the occasional tea pot, giant iron fleur-de-lis or wooden owl thrown in for interest.  I like that I can look over my TV right now and see Emma's maroon spine resting next to One Hundred Years of Solitude's green one.  (And yes, Katie, I fail at the Dewey Decimal System, but I do have my own system of organization.)  Empty white shelves will be so sad.  And so I procrastinate on my designated procrastination activity.  It's going to be a fantastic three weeks.  

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chronicle Books

Generally, I don't pay much attention to publishers.  But about a year ago, I started to notice little pair of round glasses on the spine of many of my favorite books.  I have a set of organization books, The Home Organizing Workbook and The Personal Organizing Workbook, by Meryl Starr that I LOVE.   I think they were the first books I noticed with the glasses.  Then I noticed a few of my other favorites had them too: In Stitches by Amy Butler and Apartment Therapy Presents by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan.  

So finally, I made the connection that all these wonderful books were published by the same place: Chronicle Books.   Not long after this revelation, I noticed that two of my favorite series of children's books were from Chronicle as well: MiniMasters and the Finger Puppet books (this is not their technical name, but here is one of them.  They are both fantastic books for children and some of my young baby-sitting charge's favorites.  MiniMasters are beautiful little board books that use paintings of well, "masters", and pairs them with whimsical little poems.  Before she was two, E (the girl I baby-sit for) could correctly distinguish between Monet and Matisse.  It was a fun party trick for her parents!  

After looking around on their website, I found a variety of fabulous books that I want to add to my wishlist.  Secrets of Simplicity, 52 Ways to Make a Difference, and Ask Click and Clack: Questions from CarTalk.  They have such a wide range--it's amazing!  I love their tagline: "An independent publisher of distinctive books and gifts."  And it's true, they publish more than just books-decks, workbooks, puzzles, and many other interactive mediums.  

It feels weird to be such a fan of a publishing company (I'm officially their fan on Facebook, follower on Twitter, and a subscriber to their blog), but I'm finding more and more than I am partial to the little round glasses.  Not that I won't buy stacks and stacks of books from other publishers, but I'm definitely always on the look out for Chronicle Books.  

Does anyone else have some favorite books from Chronicle?  Did you notice the glasses?  Does anybody else pay attention to publishers or have a favorite?  

Coolest Job Ever

How fun would it be to have this job?  

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I've decided to start a regular feature on Sundays about religion, faith and spirituality.  I will include books, songs, prayers, poems, and quotations from many different faiths.  

For this first Sunday, I want to share on of my favorite books: Credo by William Sloane Coffin. Rev. Coffin was a freedom rider, the chaplain at Yale for many years, and the long time pastor at Riverside Church in New York. This book is a collection of excerpts and quotations from Rev. Coffin's many sermons and speeches, with occasional nuggets from other people added in.  

They are organized in different topics including faith, death, economics, and patriotism.  His words are inspiring and thought-provoking.  Here's one:

"The longest, most arduous trip in the world is often the journey from the head to the heart.  Until that round trip is completed, we remain at war with ourselves.  And, of course, those at war with themselves are apt to make casualties of others, including friends and loved ones."  

He also wrote some other superb books, including Letters to a Young Doubter.  It's a collection of letters from Rev. Coffin to a fictional college freshman.  His words are comforting, probing, reassuring, and challenging all at the same time.  

Rev. Coffin was a gifted writer and a powerful spiritual leader.  

Friday, April 17, 2009

This is Just to Say

I have eaten 
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which 
you were probably 
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

-William Carlos Williams

Another great poem from Caroline Kennedy's collection of poetry for children.  I enjoy poems whose titles actually start the poem.  Instead of the titling the poem using the first line, the title actually functions as the first line of the poem.  I don't care as much when I am just reading a poem, but it makes a big difference when you are reading it out loud.  

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Six-Word Memoirs

Has anyone read Six-Word Memoirs?  I've heard several of them on NPR, and they also made an appearance in a sermon at my church a few weeks ago.  I've yet to read it but I absolutely love the concept.  How hard to sum up your life, or even your experience in only six words.  Perhaps the first six-word memoir was "I came, I saw, I conquered."  

This book would be great on my night-stand-to read a few before bed.  No plot to follow, or characters to remember.  I always like to have a few books like that around.  It's nice to be able to pick up a book after months, and to enjoy a few pages without having to start over from the beginning.

Does anyone else read more than one book at once?  I have a terrible habit of starting books before I've finished another one.  I'm probably in the middle of 8 or 10 books right now.  I always like to have a few non-fiction books going, a novel or two (usually one serious one and a light one), and then a few other random books.  I finish them all eventually.   It keeps things interesting, but it does mean I take a long time to finish anything.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Starbucks Quotation

“What I look for in musicians is generosity. There is so much to learn from each other and about each other’s culture. Great creativity begins with tolerance.”  -Yo Yo Ma

This was on my Starbucks cup tonight...

Reading in the Dark

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx

This quotation is printed on the back of a t-shirt from my favorite bookstore, Joseph-Beth's in Lexington, KY.  I thought of it last night as I sat on my bed, reading Revolutionary Road in the dark with a little flashlight.  My apartment hasn't had power in over 24 hours.  Here's hoping that it's back on when I get home from school this evening.  

There were crazy high winds Monday morning that uprooted a giant tree near my complex that toppled over some power lines.  It also fell clear across the road making it still impossible to turn right out of my apartment building.  Power may not come back until tomorrow.

I had big plans for posts the past few days, but I was thwarted by the lack of electricity and internet.  Perhaps my brilliant blogging schedule will begin next week...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Quotation by Alan Bennet

"The best moments in reading are when you come across something--a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things--which you had thought special and particular to you.  Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met before, someone who is long dead.  And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours." -Alan Bennett 

I love this quotation from Alan Bennett.  I think it came from the shopping bag I received from Waterstones bookstore in London.  They had several different versions of the bags they put purchases in, and each one had a different quotation about reading or books.  What a grand idea!  This one was particularly meaningful for me. I have certainly had that experience in books, magazines, and now blogs!  (and I guess technically, I kind of had the same experience he is describing when I read what was printed on the side of a plastic bag!).  

Also, Alan Bennett is awesome.  I believe his History Boys was the second play we saw in London.  AMAZING.  The whole class was floored!  And then I read it as well, and did my final paper for the Contemporary London Theatre class on his writings.  His writing is humorous, poignant, a little bit dark, and very honest.  I love it!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Keep a Poem in Your Pocket

The little girl that I baby-sit for has this great book of poems for children, edited by Caroline Kennedy.  The illustrations are beautiful and it's a wonderful mixture of silly "kids" poems and "real" poems.  I don't know what I really meant by that except to say that there's something for everyone in the book-not just children.  The little girl is two and wants me to read to her from this book often.   Here is one of my favorites from there: 

by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

Keep a poem in your pocket and a picture in your head
And you'll never feel lonely, at night when you're in bed.  

The little poem will sing to you, the little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you, at night when you're in bed.

So-keep a picture in your pocket and a poem in your head
And you'll never feel lonely, at night when you're in bed.  

Isn't that sweet?  It feels quite comforting.  Apparently, New York likes it as well.  The City of New York has made April 28 "Poem in Your Pocket Day".  I think I want to participate as well.  What poem should I choose?  Caroline Kennedy also edited another anthology of poems.  Maybe I'll pull that off the shelf and pick one of those.  But first I need to pick a poem to take with me tonight when I go to sleep...

Monday, April 6, 2009

when books are made into movies...

...I usually end up getting pretty disappointed.  I understand that they can never be exactly the same, but somehow I always end up hoping for my exact experience as a reader to be replicated as a movie-goer.  This rarely happens.  I am perpetually excited to hear when I book I enjoyed is being made into a film, but it never turns out like I hope.  For me, the shining exception has always been To Kill A Mockingbird.  To be sure, the book and movie versions are distinct, but they are absolutely of equal quality, and they evoke the same emotions.  Others have come close, but for me, Mary Badham as Scout will always be the best book character come to life.  Perhaps this is because both the book and the movie were created long before I was born.  Still, I read the book before I saw the movie, so I think it still counts.

Now that I have finally come around to accept that movies will be exactly like the books I loved, what is the criteria for a good movie adaptation?  I think my major problem with certain movie adaptations is when major plot points are eliminated, or worse--changed.  I understand that many elements have to be cut, but when whole characters are eliminated, merged, or change beyond recognition, I get upset.  I can think of examples, but I won't mention them here.  Books can do things that films cannot--they allow deeper characterization and exploration that movie-goers may not have time for.  Movies also have benefits over the written word.  Obviously, they literally bring characters to life, but also enhance stories with music and color.  Thoughts?
My new favorite movie adaptation--which prompted this post--is The Secret Life of Bees.  I read the book years ago, and I didn't remember specific details, so maybe that helped my viewing experience.  However, I recalled the essentials and the film nailed them.  More than that, it brought to life the same mesmerizing and enchanting feeling that I experienced while reading the book.  Both mediums created an entirely different world that was a joy to visit.  I recommend both.  After watching the movie this evening, I am tempted to reread the book.  

One final musing:  my biggest pet peeve when it comes to movie adaptations is when they reprint the book with the movie actors on the cover.  I know that people tend to buy books when they are made into popular movies, but do the celebrities really need to be on the covers.  If they do, then fine.  But sometimes, the original version goes out of print and it's almost impossible to find the original cover.  It makes it seem like the book was printed as a companion to the film.  This frustrates me.  But I guess it's not all bad if it prompts viewers to read the text.  And I'll admit that I'm being a bit of a snob here.  Forgive me.  

exciting times

I am so very excited to be starting a e-course on blogging this week.  I am looking forward to learning more about the who process of blogging, as well as getting some inspiration for some great new posts.  The course is being led by Holly Becker who has a great blog about design.  I can't wait to get started!