Sunday, September 09, 2018

Reading Update

Book #61 of 2018 was a reread: Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words, by Brian McLaren.  You can read my review from the first time I read it here. "How much higher and wider and deeper and richer our lives become," writes McLaren, "when we awaken to the presence of the real, wild, mysterious, living God, who is bigger than our tame concepts of God."

Book #62 was Son, by Lois Lowry. Though I had read the other three books in this series, billed as The Giver Quartet, I hadn't yet read this one, largely because the reviews had convinced me it wasn't much good. That will show me to listen to the reviews. I loved this one, which revisits some of the scenes and characters of the first book. I particularly loved that this was mythic in all the best ways, just like The Giver.

Book #63 was Mozart's Starling, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. I found it while browsing through the e-books at the library, a practice which will never be the same as browsing the actual books on an actual shelf, but which sometimes leads to picking up a surprising new find. This was one example.  Did you know that Mozart had a starling?  I didn't. That was just the beginning of things in this book that I didn't know, from all about starlings, how they are pests but also beautiful and lovable, to all about Mozart, in his complexity as a son, a husband, a musician. Highly recommended.

Book #64 was A Most Wanted Man, by John Le Carré. I find Le Carré's books a mixed bag. I wrote a little more about that in this post. This book was sort of an in-between one; I didn't find it completely impossible to follow, as I do with some, but I also didn't love it.

Book #65 was Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth, by Hugh Halter. I started reading this a long time ago, but was put off by Halter's use of the Haiti earthquake to make one of his points.

Book #66 was Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life, by Gretchen Rubin. I really liked this concept for a biography, and would love to read others in the same vein. Rubin takes various questions about Churchill's life and then answers them, from the evidence, in more than one way.  Was Churchill's depression a major influence on him, or was it not?  Was he a good leader or not? Was he a good father or not?  I loved how this led to a complex portrait of this great man. Just like people we know personally, he was not one thing or the other.

Book #67 was Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf. Wolf divides her fascinating study of reading and the brain into three parts. The first part is entitled: "How the Brain Learned to Read."  In this section, Wolf discusses the way reading and writing developed and how human brains formed new pathways, never needed before in a culture which was largely based on hearing and oral learning.  She explains the reference to Proust in the title with a detailed examination of a description of a reading childhood in one of Proust's books, as she develops the description of how the human race became literate into a study of how individual children learn to read in part II, "How the Brain Learns to Read Over Time." Here she writes about each stage of literacy development, from being read to in the "beloved lap" of a parent or caregiver from infancy, to the formal stages of instruction. Most fascinating to me was Wolf's explanation of how Socrates believed that learning through reading was far inferior to learning through the oral method.  He thought that reading left too much to the individual, and to interpretation.  "I came to see," she writes, "that Socrates' worries about the transition from an oral culture to a literate one and the risks it posed, especially to young people, mirrored my own concerns about the immersion of our children into a digital world."  She goes on to explore how students today must form new pathways in their brains as they process information and knowledge differently using digital media.  Part III is called "When the Brain Can't Learn to Read."  Wolf, the mother of a dyslexic child in addition to being an expert on reading and the brain, discusses dyslexia: its possible causes, its adaptive elements, and how teachers can respond to it when they meet it in students.  The squid in the title refers to the way scientists have used squids to study the brain.  This book goes into a lot of detail about the brain and how it works - really, more than my own brain is equipped to comprehend in much depth.  One thing I learned is how plastic the brain is, and how we are designed to figure things out.  "We are," Wolf writes, "it would seem from the start, genetically poised for breakthroughs."  How encouraging for a teacher!  I was further encouraged by Wolf's explanations of how reading, study of the morphology of words, and discussion can help students. This, like book #63, was one I found while browsing ebooks at the library, and was another great find.

Book #68 was The Other Family, by Joanna Trollope. This is the story of a musician who dies and leaves his two families scrambling to decide how they are going to continue their lives. His first wife and their son form one of the families, and the other is made up of his second wife (who turns out not to have been his wife at all in a legal sense) and their three daughters. I always enjoy Trollope's clear-eyed looks at complicated emotions and personalities.

Book #69 was The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny.  This was the tenth in the Inspector Gamache series. I can't say I love these books, but I put the eleventh one on hold at the library anyway.

Book #70 was Breathing In, Breathing Out: Keeping a Writer's Notebook, by Ralph Fletcher. This one was from my shelf at school. There's a lot of emphasis in recent books for writing teachers on the teacher as writer. Because I myself write, I am able to give my students ideas and strategies that wouldn't be as clear to me if I didn't have that experience. This book is in that vein; it explores the idea of the writer's notebook and gives many suggestions and models for using it more effectively.

1 comment:

Aimee said...

Thanks for sharing your list! I'm looking forward to trying Brian Maclaren's book.