I love how word-magicians weave their words into sentences we've never seen and cause us to think what we've never thought before. I love to hold a book - made of paper and ink - and circle the phrases that punch me in the gut. I love to reread familiar stories and see what I missed before.
I love books.
Here are my thoughts on some I've read this summer.
- How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. If you work with children in any capacity, you must read this one. My favorite part was all about rats (which you might think are totally disconnected from human children other than the messes they make, but you would be wrong. Fascinating stuff). Two groups of baby rats (pups) were studied, and the astounding finding was that pups who were licked and groomed by adult rats after highly stressful events performed better on subsequent tests. "They were better at mazes. They were more social. They were more curious. They were less aggressive. They had more self-control. They were healthier. They lived longer" (30). The implication for humans is that nurturing in early childhood - regardless of whether it comes from a biological parent or not - sets us up for success in multiple areas later. What did this book teach me? That I need to be a mama rat for my own pups and those under my influence. Worth your money? Oh yeah.
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This fictional story is one that slowly builds and gradually gives details that mess with your mind. Reminiscent of Gone Girl (but not nearly as exciting), it's about a girl named Rachel who rides a train past the homes of people she feels like she knows. She becomes involved in a criminal investigation related to the people in the homes, and you're left wondering what in the world is going on. I know this all seems kind of vague, but it has to be. If I tell you much more, it'll be too much. The bottom line? Entertaining if you have hours to kill on the beach, but I would check it out from the library rather than spend my money on it.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Oh, this one. Don't let its thickness deter you. Read this one, and then read it again. The story's protagonist Marie-Laure is blind, and her father helps her learn the set-up of their neighborhood by building mini replicas. She and her father have to run away to her great-uncle's house after the Nazis invade Paris, and there's the added drama that they might have with them a jewel that brings danger and incredible value. Werner, an orphan who ends up in the Hitler youth because of his knack for radios, eventually crosses paths with Marie-Laure. It's a heartbreaking, beautiful story. Worth the time and money? Every bit.
- Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. Y'all. I can't even. Look, I teach To Kill a Mockingbird, and if I have another child, my husband will have to pin me down to keep from using Scout somewhere in the name. Atticus is the most perfect fictional character I know, and I feel like Jem and Calpurnia are family. So when I started reading this book (because I felt I had a duty to do so as an English teacher), I felt betrayed. Jem is dead, Scout is called Jean Louise, and Calpurnia has turned against the little girl she raised. Atticus is a racist, and the earth feels like it is spinning out of orbit. My perfect little Maycomb no longer looks familiar. My recommendation? Read it if you must, and then forget you ever read it. I'm going back to Mockingbird and choosing to believe it is what Harper Lee really wanted out there. It's the only way I can cope.
Have you read any of these? Tell me what you think! Need some more recommendations? Check back next Wednesday!