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Archive for January, 2008

Learning to Read #2

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

This I chose because of its “Bestseller” status and because Jodi Picoult currently has a gagillion popular books on the shelves.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit to having read this novel (or should I say that I’m embarrassed because I really enjoyed it?…). It’s almost like a really dark Lifetime movie in written form, but the girly-girl in me always finds a good melodrama highly entertaining (She Cried, “The Tenth Circle”?). Seriously, couldn’t put it down.

The basic premise of the story is how a 15 year-old’s alleged date rape impacts both her and her family (this being the whole Lifetime component if you couldn’t tell), but what shakes this story up a bit is the mystery involved. Though one might think she’s got this story figured out, the reader doesn’t really know all of the facts about the situations that have transpired; Picoult did a great job keeping me on my toes. I also enjoyed some of the more unique elements she included in the story: the changing point of view, the included comic book pages created by the father character, the references to Dante’s Inferno.

All in all I’m hesitant to put a stamp of recommendation on this novel, but I will say that I enjoyed tearing through it. Maybe I am no smarter for having read this, but I was definitely entertained.

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Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell

I decided to start with this book having seen it listed on our small group’s “Books We Recommend” section of our webpage. I thought, “We do?!”, and decided I would like to participate in what the rest of our group is reading.

I knew a bit about Rob Bell because of a series of videos he helped produce, and have always appreciated his revolutionary thinking. I really enjoyed his candidness in Velvet Elvis and as I’d hoped was really struck with his insights regarding faith and the Church. There’s a part of me that’s hesitant to take his word at face-value (which thankfully he encourages early on in the book), but overall thought this book was very thought-provoking; I like that he prompted me to soul-search a bit.

The English teacher in me struggled a bit with his style; his is a pretty choppy (well, almost Blog-like really) write. But having watched several of his Nooma videos, the book read very similarly to how Bell actually speaks. So my suggestion to those who are interested, watch a Nooma video first before you read and then you’ll get the feeling as though Rob Bell is actually talking to you through the pages. I definitely would recommend this.

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Since I am no longer teaching middle school students the fundamentals of reading and writing, I find myself in an interesting position. What on earth does a grownup read? I’ve never given it too much thought before because I always stacked on my nightstand choice novels that I believed might appeal to my 11 and 12 year old students. Now I’m not bashing adolescent literature; there have been many books that I grabbed because of their youthful focus that I believe are amazing stories. However, I am a 26 year old mother for crying out loud; it is high time I venture to other parts of the library that are not adorned with pictures of Curious George and those creepy monster things from Where the Wild Things Are.

A few weeks ago I began my quest. My dear husband (a voracious reader) was kind enough to accompany me to Borders so we could search for some books for me. After we entered the store, Ryan started to head off towards his areas of interest when I grabbed his arm. Apparently he forgot that this was not a recreational expedition—we had some serious work to do.

“But how am I supposed to find a book?” I asked him as he tried to hide his impatience from being kept from his precious tales of baseball statistics. Can you believe he actually had the nerve to laugh at me? After seeing my expression, he quickly wiped off the smirk and suggested that I look at the best-seller lists and start there.

I didn’t end up buying any books that day, but the debacle at Borders inspired me. I couldn’t just walk in to a bookstore and expect to start reading like an adult. I needed a battle-plan, a decisive course of action to help steer me towards stories more fit for my life stage. So here’s what I came up with.

Step 1: Get a library card.

Once I had my “reading badge”, I began looking to people I respect for insight as to what I should read. I started with my husband’s book suggestions that he has made for our small group from Church, then looked at several of my friends’ blogs, and finally drew inspiration from my favorite TV show. I also heeded to my husband’s advice and looked at a few bestseller lists as well.

My friend Jeremy has a really neat blog (inspiring, really), and I love to check his posts regarding the books he has read and how he felt about them. Call me an old-school copy-cat, but I plan to do the same. I think I’ll enjoy coming back to earlier times through this site and see my evolution of reading like a big person. Plus putting this on the web opens up opportunities for me to hear what thoughts others have about what I’m reading or suggestions as to what books I might want to try.

So coming soon: My Reading List Book Reports. And I promise to keep these a bit shorter than my previous marathon blogs.

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You’ll have to forgive me because I am quite intimidated by this whole “online blog” thing. There’s something about knowing that I could flippantly type a word or phrase that is instantaneously broadcast for the world to see that makes me a bit nervous; plus I am a former English teacher, so there’s that added phobia that anything written must be for a grade. Buuuut, I do so appreciate catching up on what my friends are thinking/reading/doing, plus I love to read the occasional post my husband will pass on from a stranger’s site that he thinks I might find interesting. I guess I just wanted to join in on the fun!

As far as the “grownup” thing goes, I realized recently that for the first time in my life I am completely responsible for making sure that I as a person do not become stagnant. In the past I have been able to rely on the ebbs and flows in my day to day existence to keep me sharp (uh…sharper…), to instill challenges, and to make sure that I don’t become too comfortable in my own skin. Until recently I had a job that took place outside of my home, I interacted with hundreds of different people every day, and I had others to keep me accountable regarding whatever deadlines and responsibilities were on my plate.

As of October 25th, 2007, this is no longer my life.

Though I must confess I much prefer my new job of taking care of our newborn daughter over that of teaching, there are things about my former life that I am afraid will be tossed to the wayside if I let them. I don’t relish admitting this, but I am not the greatest at challenging myself; I have always allowed outside factors to do that for me. Not that parenthood hasn’t come fully equipped with its own challenges (those with children, feel free to “Amen”), but I don’t have the accountability that was once there. My baby doesn’t care if I spend the day watching “Prime Time in the Daytime”, if I read nothing more than the guide function on the DVR, if I write nothing more than my grocery list.

Thankfully I have a great model on self-improvement as seen in the lives of my friends and family…real grownups that don’t rely on their careers to make them responsible. Through these people I have witnessed first-hand what it means to really think, and from what I can tell this maturity comes from reading, wrestling with the ideas of others, and throwing out personal insights so one’s own thoughts can be challenged by other thinking people. It scares me to think that becoming a real grownup will mean more self-evaluation and chasing endeavors I know are potentially difficult, but what scares me more is the thought that my daughter could be raised by a pseudo-grownup.

So I begin my pursuit of adulthood. Feel free to card me at anytime.

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