This week is traditionally the coldest week of the year. After the arctic blast we had to start January, that’s a frightening thought! Still, as we trudge through winter and outdoor activities are not as plentiful, it’s always a good time to find a new book to read and new worlds to discover.
I enjoy reading; that much should be obvious. Michelle and the kids also are voracious readers. One thing I’ve found over the years is the great pleasure in sharing a good book and being able to talk about it with others.
I do this in my classes. My 7th graders read Tom Sawyer and The Outsiders, two books that many of my readers have probably read as well. My 8th graders read The Diary of Anne Frank, The Revealers, and Tex. Part of the joy of teaching these outstanding pieces of literature is the discussion portion of class. Kids come up with fascinating ideas on their own, and it’s also fun to see the light go on in some students’ eyes as we discuss a part they previously hadn’t understood.
Students often ask me what my favorite book of all time is. That one’s easy: To Kill a Mockingbird. As with many of you, I first read Harper Lee’s masterpiece in high school. I’ve read it a number of times since then, and the great thing about this book is that every time I read it, I think things will turn out differently in the courtroom. Atticus Finch has such profound arguments that I think no jury can find Tom Robinson guilty.
What else tops my list? The Hobbit is another great work of literature. I’m afraid now that we’ll have a whole generation that will watch the movies first and never bother with the novel. This is another book I read back in middle school and even used to teach. The descriptive prose that J.R.R. Tolkien uses can take some getting used to, but it has a lyrical quality that makes it even better when read aloud. In fact, since studies show you should read to your unborn child, that’s the book I chose to read to Jayna while she was waiting to be born.
Frankenstein is a classic novel, but many people often just think of the monster movies from the past and brush it off. Try it though; the monster is a sympathetic creature, and Mary Shelley gives some real human qualities to it, while removing those same qualities from its creator. While it certainly has a tinge of science fiction, it’s a compelling read.
You might ask, “How about more recent books?” Michelle and I both read Stephen King’s 11/22/63 last year and found it an amazing read. The best part was reading it and discussing different aspects of it together afterward. “Are you at this part yet?” was a common refrain. I’m not normally a big King fan, but there’s not really his typical horror element here. There are parts that are disturbing, but the question of, “Would you try to save JFK if you had the chance to go back in time?” is scintillating in how King approaches it. Even though time travel is involved, it feels real.
Michelle has been reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. These books also have a time travel element, but my wife has said it’s not a typical time travel story. These books are about a woman who is torn from her present in the 20th century and thrust back to the 18th century. It has romance, historical fiction, adventure, and science fiction all mixed together. Michelle is eagerly awaiting the eighth book that will come out in June, as well as a TV series on Starz.
There are certainly other books that are worth reading. I enjoy the Harry Potter series, as well as the Game of Thrones series. I read a lot of comics that are great prose, mixed with great art. Watchmen might be the best example of this. Sharing these great books with you gives me pleasure, and I’d love to discuss them with anyone who wants. I’m also always looking for new books that you might feel are really good. Let me know; maybe we can share some good stories!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is hebetate, which means to make dull, as in, “The teacher tried not to hebetate the great novel by discussing it in too much detail.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!