Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Summer in Review

September has begun...we've said goodbye to Labor Day, longer days, and stifling (but wonderful) heat.  I am going to be honest - my goal of reaching 100 books in one year seems further from my reach.  While I will not reach 100 books in 365 days, I am making progress and putting together an extensive reading log for the year.  Not exactly 100 books, but I'm confident my annual reading journey will be a good one.

With that being said, I am going to share with you my favorite reads of this summer.  We still have a few months of 2013 left - make it count.  Pay a visit to your local library and/or bookstore and begin stocking up for the winter.  Squirrels will gather their acorns, geese will begin to fly south, but you, my dear furious readers, will have books to devour.  Make your lists now before the first snow hits.

1.  Ragnarok:  The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt --> To know me is to understand my undying love for the Canongate Myth series.  This is a series where brilliant, talented, contemporary authors are given an opportunity to rewrite a popular myth or story.  In this particular novel, Byatt (her most famous work is Possession, which is another great read) takes on the complicated world of Norse mythology (if you have trouble keeping up with the Greeks, wait until you spend time with Norse gods).  Byatt juxtaposes her retellings with the story of a young girl hiding out in the British countryside to wait for the end of WWII.  She finds a book of Norse gods and goddesses and uses this book - while extremely violent and sad - as a healing potion to get her through the war.  It is a beautiful story of the power of narrative and life before, during, and after war.

P.S.  Loki is pretty awesome in this book as well.  Is it wrong that I imagined him to look like Tom Hiddleston?

2.  The Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, a short story on the side called "Dream Dark," Beautiful Chaos and Beautiful Redemption) 
--> Nothing says "summer" like a young adult, paranormal series.  I loved the Southern town Garcia and Stohl created - especially the areas that were haunted by Civil War ghosts.  Ethan Wate is a fantastic narrator, but the real story belongs to his relationship with Lena, who has a destiny of her own.  Throw in a few trips to New Orleans, a family of incubi, and witchcraft and you have a series that leaves Twilight in a pile of (sparkly) dust.  I was disappointed by the movie, but the cast is well chosen. I just wish Hollywood puts the same care into smaller YA series that they use for larger, nonsense series such as Twilight.  There is more to a YA paranormal series than including vampires.  I'm glad Garcia and Stohl are here to teach us that.

3.  How Soon is Never? by Marc Spitz -->  As a kid born in the 80's but raised in the 90's, I did not feel such a strong connection to the Smiths as Spitz's narrator.  However, I do love the Smiths so I picked up this book and began to read.  How do you reunite an international superstar band?  Well...you don't...but you learn a lot about the obsession of music and the lure of living in the past.  Joe Green, the novel's protagonist, is a horrible person.  I hated him from beginning to end.  Sounds crazy, but it made the book better.  If I grew to love him and all of his horrible vices and selfish ways, I would have been disappointed in Spitz AND myself.

4.  Will Grayson, Will Grayson by  John Green and David Levithan  --> Um...can we say "magical?"  This book is funny, heartbreaking, beautiful, annoying and perfect in one big gulp.  I love everything these two men write and to write a book together makes the YA reader inside me swoon.  One fateful (emphasis on the word) night, Will Grayson meets will grayson.  Sounds improbable?  Believe or not, it all makes sense.  Green channels one Will Grayson and Levithan channels the other- the chapters are split between Will Grayson and will grayson (I LOVE when font is used for storytelling purposes!).   The narratives head toward an amazing finale that features a musical written by Will's very large, very gay, football-playing best friend named Tiny.

I will say no more.  If you have not discovered the worlds of John Green or David Levithan, apologize to yourself and then go read everything they have ever written.

5.  If You Can Read This:  the Philosophy of Bumper Stickers by Jack Bowen -->  Since my classrooms are filled with students from all different disciplines, I like to bring different subjects to my lectures.  Bowen uses the popular culture of bumper stickers and marries it with semiotics, philosophy, and science.  I have to agree with Bowen that one's choice in bumper stickers provides a very telling visual into our worldview, whether we like it or not.  If you CAN read this great piece of non-fiction (sorry, couldn't resist), you'll think twice before altering your car's bumper.  Plus I got to show my students that anything in our culture can serve as subject matter.

My top five for the summer.  Go forth and build your bookshelves!
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