Saturday, April 25, 2015

2015 Books, Pt 1

One of my goals for 2015 is to read 40 books.  I'm 1/4th of the way through and still going strong.  In fact, I'm in the middle of about five books right now, but I'm going to focus on my favorites of the first ten that I read this year.

Favorite Fiction: "Bellman & Black" by Diane Setterfield

I was a huge fan of Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, her breakout novel.  Bellman and Black wasn't as good as Tale, but it was still my favorite fiction book from the first chunk of books I read.  It had a few families as the main characters, it was a little on the dark side, and it had a little bit of magic in it.   It helps that it was also set in Victorian times, my favorite period.  Setterfield is great at creating characters that you can't help but to root for, even as they spiral into an ultimate demise (spoiler alert?).  Great for reading on rainy days with a cup of tea or coffee.

Favorite Non-fiction: "The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way" by Amanda Ripley

This year, I'm trying to read a handful of books as part of my professional development as a teacher.  I want to be up-to-date on the evolving world of education, and this book is fantastic for that.  Ripley spends time outlining some of the top superpowers in K-12 education, shifting her focus from overall education to specific things schools do to promote different styles of learning.  She highlights where countries like Finland and South Korea get things right as well as where they get things wrong.  She discusses the evolving atmosphere in our current US education system, including standardized tests, subject matter, grit, parental involvement, and graduation standards.  It was a real eye-opener to look at the best parts of each educational system, and raised a lot of fantastic questions about where the US can go, both in early ed, public schools, and even the first few years of college.  It's a must-read for educators and parents!

I Wanted to Like it More, but Didn't: "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath

Yes, this is touted as one of the greatest coming-of-age stories out there, but Plath's novel just didn't hold the intrigue for me that I wanted it to.  I really enjoy Plath's essays and poetry, but her novel felt- and I wish it didn't- almost juvenile.  It wasn't that it was too simple, it just seemed to me that her main character's demise into the depression that led to her hospitalization seemed a bit abrupt and almost out of place.  I really wanted to enjoy it, but unfortunately it just didn't keep my attention as much as I would have hoped.

I've been leaning towards non-fiction lately, so a lot of the books I'm reading now are in that vein, but hopefully I'll find a good fiction book to enjoy after school is out.  I have to admit, I wasn't terribly impressed with any of the fiction I read at the beginning of this year.  If you have suggestions, let me know! :)  I'm always looking for a good book to read!
Hopefully this intrigues your own reading list!  I'm especially excited for my summer reading to take off; I usually read a book or two a week once I'm done grading papers.
Speaking of which, back to the grind... :)


SteveQ said...

Coincidentally, I just posted 40 books I plan to read this summer (and fall and probably winter).

Anne S. said...

Bellman & Black sounds right up my alley :) I recently read and would recommend Ghettoside for nonfiction. I'm about 90% done with Donna Tartt (sp? too lazy to look it up)'s The Secret History and really liking it--gonna go finish it in a few minutes! Did you ever read that one? I always meant to after The Little Friend (or whatever that one was called) but forgot about it until recently.

Mary Seelye said...

One of my favorite authors is Catherine Valente. If you are looking for books to keep you captivated and begging for more, I'd suggest any of hers. Her way of writing is like nothing I've ever seen before and I have yet to find a bad one!
Also, I too set up a book goal for the year of 50 books...I'm almost half way there, but more than halfway through the year.