Archive for the ‘Fun Stuff’ Category

Progress Monitoring: Checking In On My 2018 Reading Challenge

At the risk of turning this blog into a reading log…

As I have for the past few years, in January I took the annual Goodreads Reading Challenge and set myself a goal of reading 30 books in 2018 (I also set a goal of running 300 miles in 2018, but the less said about that right now, the better).

At just past 1/3 of the way through the year, I’ve finished 15 books.  As in past years, I have my 10+ hour weekly commute and access to multiple audiobook sources to thank for much of my productivity here.  In reverse chronological, these are the books I’ve enjoyed so far this year:

  • A Higher Loyalty, by James Comey
  • Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, & Consent on Campus, by Vanessa Grigoriadis
  • The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
  • Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, by Adam Alter
  • Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading, by Kylene Beers & Bob Probst
  • All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire, by Jonathan Abrams
  • The History of White People, by Nell Irvin Painter
  • Dear Martin, by Nic Stone
  • 50 Instructional Routines to Develop Content Literacy (3rd ed.), by Douglas Fisher, William G. Brozo, Nancy Frey, & Gay Ivey
  • Civil War, by Mark Millar
  • Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience, by Indre Viskontas
  • Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, & Strategies, by Kylene Beers & Bob Probst
  • On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder
  • A Life in Parts, by Bryan Cranston
  • Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, by bell hooks

I’ve got two books in progress right now: the audiobook of Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here is my commute buddy for the next week or so, and I’m just about done with Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele’s When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.

Next up in the hopper: Morrissey’s Autobiography, and I’m really excited about next month’s American release of the latest book by one of my favorite authors, Irvine Welsh’s Dead Men’s Trousers, a continuation of the events of the Trainspotting universe.

I suppose I like to share the books I’m reading in an effort to provide my fellow educators some suggestions for something valuable to read.  I know I rely heavily on suggestions from friends, colleagues, and social media connections, especially when it comes to books about education.

On a related note, I just wrapped up teaching my first undergraduate course in teaching literacy in the content area classroom, and one of the choice assignments my students could choose was to do a book talk and close reading activity on an education-related book of their choice.

I liked this assignment because it was a low-risk way for students to read something they might not otherwise have the opportunity (or inclination) to read and reflect a bit on why they liked it, and why we might like it too.  While I will definitely refine the parameters of the assignment if I teach the class again, it was interesting to hear my students share their takes on books like Teach Like a PirateReadicide, and Understanding by Design with their classmates.  These are books that I’ve only ever heard discussed through the lens of veteran teachers, so to hear pre-service teachers’ perspectives on them was a treat for me, and more importantly, will hopefully inspire their classmates to read them and consider their messages as well as they head into their own classrooms in the coming months and years.

2017 Reading Challenge: Completed!

It’s been way too long since my last post, but life, work, and all the obligations that come and go betwixt and between have conspired to put the kibosh on my blogging mojo.  I’m taking advantage of a rare moment of clarity amidst the otherwise rushed holiday season to write the sequel to this post, in which I outlined my reading list for the first half of 2017.

As I write this post, I am juggling three books, which I anticipate will be the last three books I read in 2017.  If that ends up being the case, I will have finished the year having read 65 books (50 more than originally intended), by far the most I have ever read in a year as an adult.  I plan to put up a separate post in the coming weeks breaking down my 2017 reading habits by format as well as listing my favorites of the year, but for now, here are the books I’ve read/am reading since late summer, in reverse chronological order:

As always, I’m open to recommendations – if you’ve read anything good this year, please let me know!

So Far, So Good: My 2017 Reading Challenge

For the past few years, I’ve taken some space here each December and/or January to highlight the books I read or plan to read in a given year.  Among the many uses I’ve found for blogging in the last decade, goal-setting (and the public accountability thereof) has been one of the top ones for me.

In January, I set a goal of reading 15 books in 2017, 3 more over my goal of reading 12 in 2016.  As of this blog post in late July, a bit past the halfway mark for the year, I’ve read 34 books in multiple formats (e-book, audiobook, and traditional).  After a year or so of making do with my (otherwise excellent) public library’s relatively meager electronic offerings, I pulled the trigger on an Audible account this year, which really expanded my listening options.  Between Audible, the two public libraries of which I am a member, my regular rotation of favorite podcasts, and my music, I finally have enough at my disposal to make the hour-plus one-way commute – dare I say? – pleasant!

Of note: the books I read last year were fairly evenly distributed across formats (4 books, 5 e-books, 6 audiobooks).  This year, traditional books have constituted the majority of my reading (18), with audiobooks in second (10) and e-books shortly behind in third (6).

This balance will surely shift somewhat over the next five months, as I’ll be downloading audiobooks and e-books like crazy before we leave on our annual family vacation next month, but it’s interesting for me to pause my consumption and look at this breakdown and wonder why.  As I’ve previously mentioned, I don’t have an expressed preference over format (though I have found that I find it easier to let my mind wander with audiobooks than with books that require visual decoding).

If you’re interested in what I’ve been reading so far this year, here’s the list, in reverse order (most recently finished first), with links to Goodreads and authors’ Twitter accounts, where applicable:

I’m always on the lookout for book recommendations, so please feel free to leave me a rec in the comments, and let me know what you’re reading, for business, pleasure, both, or otherwise!  Also, please connect with me on Goodreads; I love seeing what teachers, administrators, and other smart people are reading.

2016 By The Numbers: My Reading List

I’ve written in this space before about the importance of setting goals, both personally and professionally, and right around this time last year I was feeling a bit low and run down.  Since I have always enjoyed reading, I thought setting a goal of reading a certain amount of books over the course of 2016 may help to keep me actively focused on doing something I find enjoyable and restorative (instead of just finding time for it whenever, because let’s face it, there’s never any time to just do things – we have to make time).

Last December – quite by surprise – I came across Goodreads’ infographic that outlined the books I read in 2015.  At that time, I set a goal on my Goodreads account of reading 12 books in 2016 (I had read 11 in 2015).  I admit to forgetting all about this goal until about a month or so ago, when I logged into Goodreads for the first time in several months and saw my un-updated progress toward the goal I set myself.

Happily, I’ve surpassed the goal I set for myself, reading 15 books in 2016 – although, as I noted on Twitter, one of them was Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, which really should count for 3 or 4 books by itself.  Here’s my 2016 reading list, in (more or less) the order in which I finished them:

What’s interesting to me in reflection is that this year – more than any year prior – I took advantage of multiple formats for reading.  Of the 15 books above, I read only four in traditional book form (Atonement, Great Teachers, Ride, and Unselfie).  Five I read as e-books via my Kindle app (Hacking, Invent, Thrones, Hamilton, and Kings) and the remaining six (Zealot, World, Furious, Children, Patriot, and Barrel) were audiobooks, either CDs or digital downloads from my local library.  This wasn’t necessarily by design, though I will say that audiobooks are a great solution for somebody who wishes to read more but also spends upwards of 10 hours per week commuting (much safer than e-books or traditional books during that time, too!).

I know some folks are stans for their preferred formats, but I honestly didn’t have a preference – I just love reading, and I like all of the above formats equally.  The only edge, if you can call it that, that downloadable audiobooks have is the adjustable speed setting (my library uses Hoopla and Overdrive, among others, as their digital content distributors) – I often find it more comfortable to listen to audiobooks at 1.25 – 1.5x normal speed.

On deck for the first part of 2017 are The Collected Essays of James Baldwin, George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords (I’m trying to catch up in case Book #6 actually drops in March, as I’ve heard whispered), and Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting sequel The Blade Artist.

As always, I’m eager for your recommendations for must-reads, especially those about education.

St. Baldrick’s: Once More Unto the Breach

For the second year running, this March I’ll be joining my comrades in Lawrence Township Public Schools as we go under the clippers to shave our heads and raise money for childhood cancer research via St. Baldrick’s.  I’m proud that our district fields a few teams – usually at least one from each of our seven buildings – at this community-wide event and that students, teachers, administrators from across the district all join in the fun together.

If you are so inclined, please donate a few dollars and sponsor me.  Like last year, my modest goal is to raise $100, and also like last year, I hope to surpass it, thanks to your generosity.

While this year won’t hold the same sense of wonder for me as last year (never shaved my head before last year; turns out I rock the shaved head look pretty well after all), your money is still good, and thanks to St. Baldrick’s high rating on Charity Navigator, you know you can feel confident in giving.

Last year, after all was said and done, the Lawrenceville event more than doubled their fundraising goal of $75,000.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could push this year’s total from $150K to $200K or more?

Thanks for your consideration.