Category Archives: reading

October Reading List

halloween still life at

We finally live in a trick-or-treating neighborhood after more than a decade, so we had some fun decorating for Halloween.

Fewer books than normal this month, I think. I abandoned more than one, for various reasons, and A Little Life is more than 700 pages. I didn’t even realize that when I requested it via Overdrive, and it’s a perfect use of a Kindle, in my opinion. I fell asleep reading it one night when my husband was traveling, and if I’d done that with the hard copy, I probably would have injured myself. Anyway, here’s October’s list–and honestly I’m amazed I’ve continued to keep track through ten whole months–with, as always, books I particularly liked marked with an asterisk.

The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
Life and Other Near Death Experiences, Camille Pagan *
The Wave, Todd Shasser (handed to me by my eldest, so of course I read it)
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson *
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara *
Who Do You Love, Jennifer Weiner
Two Sisters, Mary Hogan
The Death of Santini, Pat Conroy

Have you read anything good lately?

September Reading List


I thought this month would end up a little lighter on books, but I see I read ten. This surprises me only because I learned, this past month, that our library system has loads of digital magazines available to borrow. Using the Zinio for libraries app, I always have a magazine or two loaded into my phone. It’s been fantastic–and free. I love libraries.

So, books read in September, with, as always, an asterisk next to ones I really liked. (Although if I can’t stand a book I don’t finish it, so if it’s on the list, I liked it enough to read it.)

Bookends, by Jane Green
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kennedy
How to Write a Novel (A Novel), by Melanie Sumner *
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson *
The Yokota Officers Club, by Sarah Bird *
In the Language of Miracles, by Rajia Hassib
David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell *
What a Mother Knows, by Leslie Lehr
The Writing on My Forehead, by Nafisa Haji *
The Rumor, by Elin Hilderbrand

Speak was given to my 13yo by the middle school librarian, and when he was done, he handed it to me. Another mom in the neighborhood saw me reading it and felt it was highly inappropriate for the librarian to give it to my son without asking me, because it deals with rape. It’s a YA novel and these situations happen to kids whether we want to think they do or not. I had no problem with my son reading it, and I like that he handed it to me to read, knowing I would and we could talk about it.

August Reading List

August book list at

A sweet book playhouse/reading nook behind the Annapolis Bookstore.

I’m a little late with this, but here’s what I read in August. Again, books I particularly liked are marked with an asterisk. I didn’t include the books I abandoned for one reason or another. (Life is too short to read badly written and/or dull books.)

Housebreaking, by Dan Pope
Very Good Lives, by JK Rowling
The Sweet Spot, by Christine Carter, PhD
The Beautiful Struggle, by Ta-Nehisi Coates *
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
Reunion, by Hannah Pittard *
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion *
Fly Away, by Kristin Hannah
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates*
Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline *
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison (re-read) *
Crossroads of Should and Must, by Elle Luna
The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd

(Sometimes I feel like I should annotate these lists a little beyond starring the ones I really liked, but it’s always thoughts on ones I wasn’t that impressed with, so I end up going with the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” So I don’t.)

July Reading List

July looked a lot like this.

July looked a lot like this.

July was for reading–sixteen books on this month’s list. It contains some fluff, but it’s got balance to it overall. As always, books I particularly enjoyed are marked by an asterisk. In the order I read them, here they are:

All the Single Ladies, by Dorothea Benton Frank
Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation, by Ann Marie Thomas *
Flora, by Gail Godwin
The Matchmaker, by Elin Hilderbrand
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee * (re-read)
Death Comes For the Archbishop, by Willa Cather *
Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri *
Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner
Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger * (re-read)
Judge This, by Chip Kidd
The Wednesday Group, by Sylvia True
The Daughter, by Jane Shemilt *
The Shell Collector, by Anothony Doerr
The Listener, by Rachel Basch *
Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older *

I’ve also been inspired by some maker-type books, too. I’m going to try to get back to more regular posting in August, because I’ve been experimenting here and there, in between the reading and general stew-pot weather-induced lethargy. However, this computer is also lethargic (it’s the oldest laptop in the house) and I don’t always have the patience for it. So we’ll see how it goes!

June Reading List

One of the first things the kids and I did in Maryland was get library cards.

One of the first things the kids and I did in Maryland was get library cards.

I’ll post about moving and settling in soon–June was such an exhausting month, it’s going to take me a while to recover. In the meantime, here’s June’s reading list. I actually managed to read, even when between libraries (that’s when I read the Hincapie book, which the kids and I gave to my husband last year–it definitely got me in the mood for le Tour!). As always, books with an asterisk are ones I especially enjoyed.

How to Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran *
The Memoir Project, by Marion Roach Smith
Van Gogh: A Power Seething, by Julian Bell
A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Loyal Lieutenant: My Story, by George Hincapie and Craig Hummer
Election, by Tom Perrotta *
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng *
The Wishbones, by Tom Perrotta

May Reading List

This is how I'm trying to keep this move organized.

This is how I’m trying to keep this move organized.

Things are intensifying around here. June means the last three weeks of school, with its attendant events; my husband going back and forth between Maryland and Rhode Island while I stay with the kids up here; 18 doctors/dentist appointments for me and the kids between now and June 18; and the Monday after school ends, our house is getting packed out. The next day, I drive down to Maryland with the kids and the cat and wait for our household to be delivered. Our closing is supposed to be that week too, but that’s still not, um, finalized. (I hate real estate transactions oh yes I do.) The adults here have begun saying July like a mantra.

Well, onto the reading list. I’m amazed I’m reading anything, except I can’t fall asleep without it. I’m including two nonfiction I only read partially, and as always, anything I really liked is marked with asterisks.



Rocket Girl, by George D. Morgan
First Frost, by Sarah Addison Allen
A Small Indiscretion, by Jan Ellison
The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison–I read about 2/3 and then, frankly, tired of the author’s voice.
The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy **
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast **
We Were the Kennedys, by Monica Wood
Craftivism, ed. Betsy Greer–partial, flipped through and read what was interesting to me
A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit **

By the time I post another reading list, I’ll be doing it from Maryland!

April Reading List

daffodils at

The daffodils are finally blooming around here.

Here we are, another month, another list of books. The house still hasn’t sold, we are getting things rolling for moving within two months anyway, my jaw aches constantly, and my attention span is wavery. I began and abandoned three books this month–that might be a record. Here is the list of books I read all the way through in April, with the ones I really liked/would recommend starred.

Rainey Royal, by Dylan Landis*
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn*
Lost and Found, by Brooke Davis
Happy are the Happy, by Yasmina Reza, translated by John Cullen
Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande*
Dr. Mütter’s Marvels, by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran*

Did you read anything especially good in April?

March Reading List

Maybe we'll get spring after all! I found these on my walk this afternoon in Providence.

Maybe we’ll get spring after all! I found these on my walk this afternoon in Providence.

Every single book I read in March was well worth it. Isn’t that great? More snow, family illness, husband travel–but the reading was terrific. I liked them all, but I marked the ones you should go read right now with a double asterisk.

Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
The Night of the Gun, by David Carr **
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, by Catherynne M. Valente **
Disgruntled, by Asali Solomon **
Lillian on Life, by Alison Jean Lester
Egg and Spoon, by Gregory Maguire **
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (Short Stories), by Hilary Mantel
Sparrow Road, by Sheila O’Connor
Missing Reels, by Farran Smith Nehme **
Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

February Reading List

State of the snow pile next to the stairs as of this morning.

State of the snow pile next to the stairs as of this morning.

February included some very meh books, including one I gave up on after 30 pages (One Step Too Far, by Tina Seskis), but it finished strong. Again, books I especially liked are marked by **.

Real Santa, by William Hazelgrove
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
Doll Bones, by Holly Black
The Arsonist, by Sue Miller
The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano (re-read)
Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
Lisette’s List, by Susan Vreeland
Guests on Earth, by Lee Smith**
Happenstance: Two Novels in One About a Marriage in Transition, by Carol Shields**

I read books two and three of the Penderwicks series out loud to my daughter, followed by Ribsy, and we are halfway through Little House in the Big Woods. And I have a stack of library books to dive into in between shoveling. Snow last night and two more storms in the forecast for this week. Please don’t tell me March means spring. Not here.

Raising Readers (Or, Why I Don’t Approve of Book Logs)

Why I Don't Approve of Book Logs at

Last week I had a little twitterrant about book logs and similar assignments that extend a teacher’s reach into reading a child does for pleasure on his or her own time. I’ve made a lot of mistakes as a parent, but one of the things I’ve got right is raising kids who love to read. I’ve been at it for over a decade now, and my methods have been proven successful, so I really bristle when school reaches in and messes with it. My oldest and only schooled child is in sixth grade. None of his teachers have bothered him with a book log since he began school in second grade; he entered reading voraciously and well beyond grade level. Earlier this spring his teacher went on maternity leave, and the sub decided he needed to fill out a book log. At parent/teacher conferences several weeks ago, I brought it up and got him excused, pointing out that he’s often read the assigned 20 minutes per day before he even gets to school, because he reads on the bus. He also frequently reads entire books in one school day because he finishes his work early and they have nothing else to offer him. Last week, he came home and told me she’d now assigned him to write a weekly summary of a book he read on his own time for fun in place of the book log. This is beyond the reading-related assignments he does for school. She told him she wanted to make sure he understood what he was reading.

He takes standardized tests that measure reading comprehension. He writes summaries and does assignments for books assigned as class reading. I know he understands what he’s reading because I talk to him about what he’s reading. A book log is a tedious exercise in time wasting, and writing a summary of a book you chose to read for pleasure just so school can check a box is odious. Both of these activities attach a chore to reading for fun, which is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing if we want to raise kids who like to read.

I’m not just against book logs for established readers. My younger son, who was schooled from K through second grade, was not reading fluently when he began second grade. It hadn’t clicked for him yet, by which I mean he hadn’t crossed that magical bridge when you cease to think about reading and find yourself simply doing it. When his teacher assigned a book log, I explained that we wouldn’t be participating. I knew my child; he has a contrary streak and requires ownership of his learning and doing. I worried that if he got a whiff of an idea that reading was something he should do because school said so, he’d decide it wasn’t for him. Also, writing down everything you read is, as I’ve said, tedious; I’ve tried it. I wanted him to come to reading in his own time, without pressure, and develop into someone with a lifelong love of books. I wanted that much more than I wanted to not be the Difficult Parent.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both teachers with whom I’ve had to discuss book log requirements have said they didn’t like to read as children. Book logs begin with the assumption that kids won’t read unless we force them to and then hold them accountable. I don’t like this assumption. To me, the fact that schools require them as a matter of course demonstrates that schools have given up on the idea that kids will read for fun and they view it as one more thing that needs to be forced down kids’ throats like medicine. That’s not the attitude my kids have towards reading. So, how did we do it?

My husband and I both read, and the kids see us reading. But setting an example isn’t enough. We hope the kids love to read, but having that hope isn’t enough. We have a family culture that values books and reading, and I feel that’s why we’ve successfully passed on our love of reading. Our words and actions are all in line with the idea that we value books and time spent reading. I’ve been taking my kids to the library since they were infants, as much for my sake as for theirs. We remain heavy library users, and librarians at all three branches of the town system we use the most know all my kids by name. I can’t even begin to estimate how many hours of my mother-life I’ve spent reading aloud: it surely must be in the thousands. And not just stories before bed; we have shelves packed with books, and I will read aloud at any time of day. Some days it was all I did, reading entire chapter books to ill little boys. (Those are good memories!) While we ask the kids to save their own money for certain purchases, they know I’m a soft touch when it comes to books. Unless we decide it’s a book they’ll finish quickly and never re-read (in which case, it’s borrowed from the library), I will hand over money for just about any book purchase.

As a result of allowing the kids to learn to read at their own pace without external pressures, valuing reading and books, taking time to read aloud every day and almost whenever asked, providing the kids with books they ask for, talking about what we’re all reading, demonstrating in word and deed that my own reading time is just as important to me—as a result of all of this, I have kids who love to read, who won’t leave the house without a book in hand (and an extra, if they think they might finish the first one en route), who don’t understand why anyone would not want to read. Sometimes my boys and I, or the boys and my husband, will read the same books and discuss them. The boys pass series back and forth. My oldest has subscriptions to two adult science magazines and chooses his library books from all sections of the library: kids, YA, adult, fiction, nonfiction. My almost-10yo will still choose picture books even as he ranges up to the YA section for chapter books. He also loves nonfiction as well as fiction. My daughter can’t wait until she can read, too; she’s already planning to re-read favorite series that we’ve read aloud together. I have never once told any of my kids they had to read at least twenty minutes per evening and then hand me a list to prove they did.

I realize teachers don’t know what happens in every household, but I was and always will be my children’s first teacher. I expect any classroom teachers they have to be my partner in this; information goes back and forth so we can both do our best. If our goal as teachers and parents is to nurture children who love to read and freely choose reading as an enjoyable leisure activity, then when my kid is doing just that, we’ve met our goal. Back off with the book logs and busywork summaries; they’ll just undermine the idea that reading can and should be fun. As for kids who aren’t there yet, introducing the idea that you read because school says so leaves no room for the idea that reading can be intrinsically fun. Rating books by level, telling kids what sorts of books they should be reading, valuing one kind of book over another, requiring a certain number of pages read in a certain time period…none of this creates a culture of reading. It creates a culture of control, and that’s no way to nurture kids who choose to read for fun.

(I never forced my kids to eat vegetables, either, and you know what? They all love them.)