My 2015 Summer Reading List / by Krista Boivie

The cupidity of honest things is not dishonest.
— Petrarch

I stumbled upon this quote during curriculum writing this summer, and it immediately struck me.  I did, however, have to look up what the word cupidity meant--excessive greed of material things. Petrarch, the 14th century Italian humanist writer, goes on to say: 

Gold, silver, diamonds, purple mantles, marble houses, cultivated gardens, paintings, adorned steeds, and all the other things of this kind, generate a mute and superficial pleasure. On the contrary, books delight deeply, they speak to us, they console us, and remain with us in a familiarity that is alive and witty.
— Petrarch

I thought these two quotes summed up my feelings as I reveled in some great books over the past two months.  This summer has been the busiest summer break I've had since I became a teacher.  With a combination of conferences, professional development, curriculum writing and unpacking boxes to set up a new high school I've only had brief periods of time off.  I tried to be strategic with my energy this summer because it is easier for me to manage my energy than my time.  Instead of binge watching Netflix (which I have been known to do in my down time), I decided to make it a summer full of reading. For my long time readers, have no doubt, I had a list of other projects that I worked on as well...I will have another post next week covering that topic.

Here is the full list of what I read from June until today.  I know I still have three weeks before school officially begins, but the number of items on my to-do list, coupled with the meetings I still have to attend make me think I probably won't any much more free time to do any additional "fun" reading. As someone that appreciates learning, this summer has been a feast of knowledge and growth. Books marked with an asterisk I have read before, but I decided to read this summer again.


Us: A Novel
I am a fan of David Nicholls after reading One Day, and so I was excited about this book. The story is about Doug and Connie on the verge of a divorce, who take one last family vacation through Europe before their son graduates from high school. I enjoyed that the story was told through the eyes of Doug. I would have liked to have had the perspective change between the spouses because I never understood Connie and the decisions she was making.

Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park is the second book I've read from Rainbow Rowell, and she has a way of hitting an emotional nerve with me, unlike most authors.  Eleanor and Park is about two teenagers who have a very untraditional love story.  Rowell's writing is true to the voice of teenagers, and I ached for the kids every moment of this story. (Caution: adult language)

On Golden Mountain
I wasn't sure where to list this book because it is based on fact, but it reads like a novel.  I was also under the impression that there were elements of the story that were embellished.  Written by Lisa See, this story is about the history of her Chinese relatives, and their triumphs and problems as they navigated life as immigrants in the U.S.  I found the discussion of culture, perspective, and adversity of the various family members really fascinating.

The Whites: A Novel
The Whites was a book club reading selection for March that I never got around to reading.  I was not a fan of the story. Richard Price and Harry Brandt tried too hard to make this crime novel gritty and edgy. I would have liked more development of the key players in the story so that when the climax came I would have cared how the story resolved itself. (Caution: adult language)

Kristin Lavransdatter: Book One - The Wreath
This epic Norweigan trilogy by Sigrid Unset was suggested to me by my brother Steven.  I only managed to get through the first book of the trilogy.  I normally love historical fiction, but I struggled to enjoy this book.  I found the development of the story both too slow and too quick.  It spent a lot of time focusing on details I considered unimportant and then not spending enough time developing more interesting elements of the story.  I will finish the trilogy and see if my feelings remain the same with the remaining two books.


Non-Fiction

Paris in Love: A Memoir
I love Paris, and so it doesn't take much to get me to read a book about the city. Written by Eloise James, the romance author, who spent a year living in the city with her husband and kids. Unlike a traditional memoir, this was written as little insights and thoughts. A quick, fun read that just made me long to travel again.

The Gifts of Imperfection; Daring Greatly; I Thought It Was Just Me
Brene Brown wrote all three books. Brown is an academic who has spent her career researching shame and vulnerability.  Although each of the books had a different approach, they were all thematically the same. I recognized myself in the books as someone who is a "busy-a-holic." I keep myself busy with projects and activities so that I won't have to address  the issues of vulnerability and occasional loneliness.  There were many lessons I learned, but I can't share them all so I would STRONGLY recommend reading any one of the books. The Gifts of Imperfection focused on how to create a wholehearted life.  Daring Greatly challenged me to rethink what it means to be a teacher and a leader.  In I Thought It Was Just Me, I realized that I work hard to create a carefully edited version of myself for the world because I spend so much energy wanting people to like me.  Instead, I just need to be authentic, real, honest and kind and not worry about how others perceive me.

Genghis Khan: Making of the Modern World
The Mongols are usually my students favorite topic in World History.  They are also a favorite of mine, and that is why I am surprised it took me so long to read this book.  It was given to me by a former student back in 2009. For anyone who is a history fan, I can guarantee you will find this a riveting book.  The story details not only the rise of Genghis Khan but also how his children & grandchildren created one of the most significant empires in history. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Jack Weatherford:

In American terms, the accomplishment of Genghis Khan might be understood if the United States, instead of being created by a group of educated merchants or wealthy planters, had been founded by one of its illiterate slaves, who, by the sheer force of personality, charisma, and determination, liberated America from foreign rule, united the people, created an alphabet, wrote the constitution, established universal religious freedom, invented a new system of warfare, marched an army from Canada to Brazil, and opened roads of commerce in a free-trade zone that stretched across the continents

The First 20 Hours
Josh Kaufman teaches in The First 20 Hours how to work on rapid skill acquisition.  His argument is that twenty well planned and prepared hours of practice is all that is required to become proficient at anything.  As someone that likes to collect skills and knowledge, I enjoyed the book.  I now have to determine what skill I want to acquire and implement his approach.  I think the best place to start would be learning how to play my guitar.  In 2011 I hand made an electric guitar as part of a professional development workshop at my high school, so it only seems fitting I should learn how to play it.

Flow
One of my favorite genres of books is business/leadership books.  Almost all of the business/leadership books I have read over the years have referenced this book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is about how to get in a state of perfect performance where time slows down, and you are in a "zone." Csikszentmihalyi says that the more flow experiences we can create the more enjoyment we will experience over our lives.  He says the elements that must be present to experience a flow state are:

  • participating in a challenging activity that requires skill
  • the activity should have clear goals and feedback
  • we must be able to maintain concentration
  • we need to feel as though there are elements within our control

Flow was a very different book, but I enjoyed the science and studies they used to illustrate and teach the principles of how to create flow states.

How to Take Charge of Your Life: The Users Guide to NLP
NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming or the study of how to change our beliefs to control our emotions and negative thinking. Written in the form of a fable by Richard Bandler--it leads the reader through one of his 3-day NLP seminars. I hated the format of the book and would have preferred just a list of his exercises and how to practice them.  I am glad it was a free download, and I hadn't spent money on the book.  There were two visualization techniques I liked, and I think I will use with my students this fall.


Religious

To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson
Thomas S. Monson is the current President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and this biography details how his entire life has been about service. If you are allowed to have a favorite apostle, President Monson has been my favorite since childhood.  I have always appreciated his use of true stories to teach gospel principles. I was awed by his tireless ability to seek out the One and demonstrate on a very personal level not only his love for the people he serves but also show God's love for his children.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ*
We were encouraged as a Ward congregation to read The Book of Mormon this summer. This summer as I read it I decided to focus on two ideas: faith and obedience.  Reading the words of the prophets, helped strengthen my testimony of this book of scripture--and increased my faith.


What were some of the books you read this summer? I would love your recommendations.