November Book: Speak


I haven’t written about my books for a while, but I’ve still been reading. November’s book was recommended by one of my favorite professors. He taught High School English before becoming a professor, so he and I got along really well.

One day we were talking about “cannon” literature, and I was saying how important I thought it was to read the Classics. He surprised me by responding that he didn’t place as high a value on the Classics as Modern literature. He said he felt modern literature resonated more with modern students, because it deals with actual issues of our day. I was initially mildly offended, but I’ve given thought to his opinion, and I see where he’s coming from. Modern literature does raise discussions that are more relevant to the life of a Generation Z teenager. (That awkward moment when Millennials are all grown up.)

So Speak. (Subtitle: The groundbreaking novel that changed everything.) Melinda is 13 years old and just beginning her first year of High School. She ruined a wild back-to-school party by calling 911, and now everyone hates her. The actual incident that caused her to call the cops isn’t revealed until later in the book, but once she’s able to speak up and talk about it, everything changes. Powerful story. Not 6th grade.

I’m interested in others’ thoughts on Classic vs. Modern literature. Pros and cons? Is one better? Is Hawthorne timeless? (Obvi HP is a Classic.)

July Book: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child


It’s time for me to review #CursedChild. I read it as soon as I could get my hands on it, and although it was different from the seven books in the Harry Potter series, I loved it. It felt magical and nostalgic and familiar, albeit different and different and different.

It’s different.

People seem to collectively hate this play (it’s a play! Not a novel!) because it’s not the same as the seven HP books. If you’re expecting Harry Potter 8, you’ll be disappointed. But this isn’t Harry Potter 8; it’s a play about Harry and his family 19 years after the 7th book.

I’ll admit there were some weirdish things, like the trolley cart witch and Voldemort having a kid. But a) whatever and b) two other guys helped JK Rowling, so it’s not like this is canon…

Here are a few thoughts of mine:
1. If this doesn’t confirm that Ron and Hermione are soulmates, I don’t know what else could.

2. Voldemort doesn’t have a kid.

3. Aww Albus and Scorpius. Aww Scorpius and Rose. <3 4. Awwwww Malfoy!! :'( 5. Not a huge fan of Hermione being minister. Not that she wouldn't be FANTASTIC. I just distinctly recall her saying, "No, I’m not [going to work at the Ministry of Magic], I’m hoping to do some good in the world!" 6. So Harry made some parenting mistakes. Literally everyone does. 7. Trolley witch???? 8. Portrait Dumbledore?? 9. This is Back to the Future meets Harry Potter 10. Get me to London RN. So yeah. I'm happy. I'm not really taking this as canon, but it filled me with joy all the same.

May Book: Quiet


Upon Lucy’s and Kristen’s recommendations, I started this book like five years ago. For some reason I never finished it, so this month I decided to get ‘er done. I’m glad I did it.

I feel like my experience with this book was vastly different from Kristen’s and Lucy’s because they are both introverted, and I happen to be very extroverted. Coming from that different perspective, I can offer my take on the book– I felt like in Susan Cain’s efforts to expose some less-celebrated virtues of introverts, she sometimes made me (an extrovert) feel like a bad person. But that aside, I gained several insights on myself, my loved ones, and past and future students.

1. This world needs BOTH introverts and extroverts
2. A good talker is not necessarily a good thinker
3. Introverted students needs to be accommodated for
4. Listening is key
5. We should try to get everyone in their “sweet spot” (#classroomgoals)

April Book: Holes


If you’re like me, you read Louis Sachar’s Holes at least once in Elementary school. Since I’m back in Elementary school now, I’ve been rereading Elementary classics, and Holes is the one I chose this month.

If you’re unlike me and pretty much every other kid, and you’re unfamiliar with the story of Holes, I’ll give a quick synopsis.

Holes is about a boy named Stanley Yelnats, who is wrongly accused of a crime and sentenced to serve time at Camp Greenlake– an alternative detention center for juvenile delinquent boys where the days are passed digging holes. The story is fraught with mystery, suspense, comedy, and intensity. Join Stanley as he embarks on a quest to break the curse brought on by his dirty-rotten-no-good-pig-steadling-great-great-grandfather.

March book: Life of Pi


Ohhhhh my goodness. This book. Adjectives include, but are not limited to: exciting, thought-provoking, insightful, life-changing, beautiful, eloquent, unique, entertaining. Defs in my top 5 faves of all time.

Life of Pi is about an Indian boy named Piscine Patel (Pi for short) who is tragically shipwrecked and orphaned, and left to traverse the Pacific ocean on a lifeboat with a 450-pound Bengal tiger.

Allow me to share a few of my favorite quotes.

“If we citizens do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams” (XII).

“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation” (28).

“Hindus, in their capacity to love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims” (50).

“I offered prayers to Christ, who is alive. Then I raced down the hill on the left and raced up the hill on the right– to offer thanks to Lord Krishna for having put Jesus of Nazareth, whose humanity I found so compelling, in my way” (58).

“These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. Meanwhile, the lot of widows and homeless children is very hard, and it is to their defense, not God’s, that the self-righteous should rush” (71).

“I must say one word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary. … Quickly you make rash decisions. You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There, you’ve defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you” (161-62).

“Time is an illusion that only makes us pant. I survived because I forgot even the very notion of time” (192).

“I cannot think of a better way to spread the faith [than leaving Bibles in hotel rooms]. No thundering from a pulpit, no condemnation from bad churches, no peer pressure, just a book of scripture quietly waiting to say hello, as gentle and powerful as a little girl’s kiss on your cheek” (208).

“Faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love” (208).

“The lower you are, the higher your mind will want to soar. It was natural that, bereft and desperate as I was, in the throes of unremitting suffering, I should turn to God” (284).

“Isn’t telling about something–using words, English or Japanese– already something of an invention? Isn’t just looking at this world already something of an invention? The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?” (302)

February Book: The Pun Also Rises


This is a clever nonfiction book about the history of punning in the English language. There is at least one pun per page, which makes it a joy to read. One example of punning in this book is the subtitle: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics. Haaaaa.

This is one quote that I particularly loved:
“The assumption that puns are per se contemptible, betrayed by the habit of describing every pun as a ‘bad pun’ or a ‘feeble pun’ is a sign at once of sheepish docility and a desire to seem superior. Puns are good, bad, and indifferent, and only those who lack the wit to make them are unaware of the fact.”
Preach! I HATE it when people say stupid things like, “Pardon the pun.”

So if you want an interesting, witty, informative book, I recommend The Pun Also Rises.

Some favorite puns from the book:
The ham walked out of the doctor and said, “I’m cured!”
The archaeologist’s career ended in ruins.
Dermatologists sometimes make rash decisions.
How many ears does Davey Crockett have? Three- a right ear, a left ear, and a wild front ear.
Why did the golfer wear two pairs of pants? In case he got a hole in one.
A distraught patient rushes into a psychiatrist’s office. “Doctor, doctor! I think I’m a wigwam, then I think I’m a tepee. I’m a wigwam, I’m a tepee. I’m a wigwam, I’m a tepee.” “Relax,” the shrink says. “You’re just too tense.”

January Book: Love That Dog


Sophie gave me this book for Christmas, and I just finished it. Absolutely adorable. It’s a collection of poems by a little boy who’s grieving over the loss of his dog. The poems are sweet, simple, heartfelt, and really beautiful. TBH one made me cry.

This book is a quick read, but it leaves a lasting impression. There was a period of my life when I hated poetry, but I can now say it’s one of my favorite genres. This book got me stoked to do a poetry unit with my kids.

December book: The Book of Mormon

Okay, so I didn’t read the whole book in December. I actually started this particular copy of the BOM on my mission, and I’ve been slowing working through it for about 6 months. Obviously this isn’t my first time to read it, but this time was unique, because I read it in a different way than ever before.

On my mission, I read a talk by Elder Bednar that suggested that each time we read the BOM, we start with a new copy, and read it with a specific question in mind. One specific suggestion he gave was to ask how to be more Christlike, and then mark each Christlike attribute with a different color.

I did it, and it was one of the most valuable scripture experiences I’ve ever had! I noticed that different attributes stuck out to me in different ways, based on whatever I was going through in my life as I read.

As with every time I read this wonderful book, I felt the confirming witness of the Spirit tell me that THIS BOOK IS TRUE. It’s not just a good book– it’s an actual, real, true book! I learned more about becoming like Christ this time than I ever have, and that to me is one of the greatest blessings of the Book of Mormon: we can learn more about our Savior, and how we can become like Him. I love this book!

November book: Mockingjay

Yeah yeah yeah. I know everyone and their dogs have read this.

I didn’t read this series in High School, when there were Midnight book releases and most of my friends were reading them. At the time, I felt the premise was too morbid (kids killing kids?!?!) and I had no interest.

However, the first movie came out my Sophomore year of college, and I have a policy to always read the book before seeing the movie, so I read the entire series in about a week. Let me tell you, they’re a bunch of page-turners.

In preparation for the final film (Mockingjay, part 2) I reread the last book. My honest opinion: the movie is better than the book. It as fun to reread and bring back memories of my early college days.