Summer Reading: Check this out! (Literally)

In the kids’ section of the library, Liam pulls book off the shelf with wild abandon, especially if he sees pictures of trucks or construction vehicles.  This has proven quite effective and we have read some great books because of this approach, but it is also nice to have recommended books to look for and check out.

Also, besides reading students’ stacks of poetry and unfinished novels, one of the top things English teachers are asked to do is recommend books.  Here are some recommendations from my family:

I Stink!I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMullin Book and CD recommended by Patrick and Liam

This is an absolute favorite in my house (and van) from the audiobook section for kids. The garbage truck has the perfect voice for narration. The alphabet soup of trash list (especially puppy poo and ugly underpants) makes my kids laugh every time.

iyamadonkeyI Yam a Donkey by Cece Bell recommended by Patrick

Patrick came home so excited about this book that his ELA teacher read to the class, so we made sure to pick it up at our next library visit. He loved the humor; I loved the sneaky way this author teaches subject/verb agreement.  We took turns reading the parts of Donkey and Yam in funny voices, and the last line is so memorable the kids continue to repeat it (but I can’t give it away!).

spoonSpoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Scott Magoon recommended by Patrick and Liam

I think I loved this book and its companion, Chopstick even more than the kids. It uses such clever wordplay as Spoon struggles with the fact that fork, knife, and chopstick all have much more exciting lives than him.  I think you can see the lovely lesson that unfolds in the end. It is a stirring read. 🙂

Recommended for adults

Well, here is my summer reading stack. I took this picture in May and the stack has increased at least two fold. This also doesn’t count my Overdrive queue of audio and Kindle reads.


alandmorekindthanhomeA Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

This book was recommended to me by @karlahilliard who will be teaching this novel as a part of One Book, One West Virginia’s Common Read for the State.  Cash is also the current Appalachian Heritage Writer in Residence at Shepherd University and writes about the mountains of western North Carolina. This is a suspenseful novel told through three narrative perspectives with a plot largely revolving around a snake handling church with a pastor who is equally as captivating to his parishioners as he is villainous.  Cash’s essay at the close of my copy of the book “Why I Write about North Carolina” offers intriguing insight into his inspiration for the novel and the title.

handmaidThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

In anticipation of the Hulu series that launched this spring (and has 10 episodes now streaming) I knew I had to read this book before watching the shows. Several students have used this for independent reading over the years, but I was not convinced that it would be a genre or subject matter that I would enjoy. Well, I loved it. This novel takes the Old Testament principle of the use of handmaids for procreation and sets it in a dystopian future.  Atwood is a master of language, character development, and suspense.  I look forward to reading more of her novels.

Poetry: Counting Descent by Clint Smith

countingdescentReading poetry as a complete collection is something I have only done a few times, especially the poetry of a living, breathing writer. In Counting DescentClint Smith speaks so clearly for this generation on difficult issues in a way that honors the complexity of our changing world.  I feel so strongly about this work that I launched my first Donors Choose Project to obtain a classroom set to use with all of my students next semester.


hillbillyHillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

The book seems to be the topic of conversation everywhere I turn where readers are divided over whether Vance is condescending towards the people he grew up around or recounting an honest memoir.  I found this a fascinating read largely because I recognize many of the qualities in his main characters in people I have encounter in southern Virginia.  Read this book and enter the conversation yourself. If you are an educator, join the Talks with Teachers Summer Book Club discussion of it this July.

The_Color_of_Water_coverThe Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother by James McBride

This memoir has been published for over 20 years, but somehow I missed it until a co-worker put it on our freshman honors list this year. I am so glad she did!  If the sub-title doesn’t pull you in enough, McBride’s alternating narration between his own childhood and that of his white, Jewish mother who married a black man in the 1940s certainly will.



Recommended on audio:

Some books just have that special quality of an excellent narrator who makes them even better to listen to aloud. I listen to audiobooks when I am getting ready in the morning, cleaning, and/or exercising.  I love to multi-task, and audiobooks help make mundane tasks more enjoyable.  Here are some of my favorites from the past few months:

onwritingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

I avoided this book for many years despite repeated recommendations because I thought “I don’t even like to read horror novels, and I most certainly don’t want to learn how to write them.” This part memoir/part writing instruction book is so much more than that.  King narrates the book itself, which adds so much to the enjoyment of the work. He uses colorful language and tells it like it is and was during his childhood with a single, working mom.  I recommend this for anyone, but especially teachers of writing and students who aspire to write well in any genre.

amancalledoveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman

I recommend reading this book in any format that you please, but the audiobook narrator illustrated Ove’s (which he pronounces OO-vah) gruffness with perfect timing. This book made me smile, laugh out loud, and tear up. When you hit that trifecta, then this book is worth reading and sharing.

I’d love to see your summer recommendations in the comments below (even though I am not sure that my physical stack or my Amazon cart can take anymore).

Happy reading!

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