Monday, April 01, 2013

Reading Update

Book #7 of 2013 was Sold, by Patricia McCormick. This book is written in a series of simple, poetic vignettes, but the subject matter makes it difficult and painful to get through. We follow Lakshmi, age 13, from her rural home in Nepal through her journey of being trafficked and becoming a prostitute in Calcutta. The story is made even more horrifying by the fact that it happens every day.

Book #8 was Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism, by Carl Medearis, who suggests that instead of sharing -ologies and -isms, Christians merely talk to others about Jesus.  If you go read the reviews at Amazon, you'll see that Medearis irritates a lot of people who are concerned he's leaving out doctrine and theology.  I don't think he's saying those things don't matter, just that when people meet Jesus, often those things fall into place.

Book #9 was The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy. I wanted to like this book much more than I actually did, because it was given to me by a beloved former professor who loves it. I have to read it again. And again. Until I become worthy of it.

Book #10 was Passage, by Connie Willis. This one was recommended by my daughter. It's a novel about near-death experiences, and is quirky and fascinating.

Book #11 was Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, by Shauna Niequist.  I got an ARC of this book, which made me feel very important and literary.  I wrote a whole post about it here.

Book #12 was The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life, by Parker Palmer. This was one of those books whose time had really come in my life. A good friend is in a study group reading this right now, and after reading the first page he thought, "This sounds like the way Ruth talks about teaching." He promptly sent me the book (for my Kindle, so it really did arrive promptly). Here's how it starts:
"I am a teacher at heart, and there are moments in the classroom when I can hardly hold the joy. When my students and I discover uncharted territory to explore, when the pathway out of a thicket opens up before us, when our experience is illumined by the lightning-life of the mind - then teaching is the finest work I know.
But at other moments, the classroom is so lifeless or painful or confused - and I am so powerless to do anything about it - that my claim to be a teacher seems a transparent sham. Then the enemy is everywhere: in those students from some alien planet, in that subject I thought I knew, and in the personal pathology that keeps me earning my living this way. What a fool I was to imagine that I had mastered this occult art - harder to divine than tea leaves and impossible for mortals to do even passably well!"
Yep, that's how I talk about teaching.  Some days I love it more than anything else, and other days I hate it with a passion.   Some days I feel thrilled and alive in the classroom.  Other days I feel like an abject failure.  Parker Palmer totally gets it, and he's perhaps the first writer I've read who really does.  Frank McCourt comes closest in Teacher Man, which I wrote about a little bit here. But most books about teaching are about technique, rather than about what happens inside you while you teach.  Here are the chapter titles: "The Heart of a Teacher: Identity and Integrity in Teaching," "A Culture of Fear: Education and the Disconnected Life," "The Hidden Wholeness: Paradox in Teaching and Learning," "Knowing in Community: Joined by the Grace of Great Things," "Teaching in Community: A Subject-Centered Education," "Learning in Community: The Conversation of Colleagues," and "Divided No More: Teaching from a Heart of Hope."  I can imagine some people finding this book too touchy-feely, but for me it was exactly what I needed to read at this point in my teaching and learning life.  My favorite parts were when Parker Palmer gave personal examples of what can be an extremely abstract topic.  I will be reading this again, and I recommend it to anybody who sometimes talks "the way Ruth does" about teaching.

Book #13 was a reread of a favorite: The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. Oh man. This book is so good. It was even better than I remembered. If you haven't read it, you really should. It's the story of an American family - mother, father, four daughters - going to the Congo in 1959. They get caught up in the events on both a national level and a village level. We then get to see the rest of the lives of everyone involved, and how moving to Africa changed them all forever. A classic. I won't give any spoilers, but there's a marriage in this book that is one of my favorites in fiction. And no, it's not Orleanna and Nathan's!

Book #14.  Well, you win some, you lose some.   Reviews promised me that The Photo Album, by K.B. Dixon, was odd but rewarding. It was definitely odd, and made me laugh from time to time, but I didn't find it especially rewarding.

1 comment:

Janet said...

I'm reading a Connie Willis book right now too -- 'To Say Nothing of the Dog.'

So you reread Poisonwood, huh? I'll probably reread it before I'm done. I'm thinking I know the marriage you're talking about.