Two with Pictures: The Singing Bones and Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

I’ve been doing some reading for work. Since I teach 7th grade history and English reading for work takes me places it might not take other grown men. Not that I mind. Two strong contenders for actual classroom use this time around. The first is M.T. Anderson’s graphic novel (illustrations by Andrea Offermann) Yvain, The Night of the Lion based on the 12th century French epic … Continue reading Two with Pictures: The Singing Bones and Yvain, the Knight of the Lion

Becoming Charlemagne by Jeff Sypeck

The farther you go into history, the more interesting things become. I’ve been teaching Medieval world history to seventh graders for nearly two decades now.  So I know a bit about it, but I’m very far from an expert.  Which is one reason why I like to read a book of history now and then. That, and I generally enjoy them anyway. The story of … Continue reading Becoming Charlemagne by Jeff Sypeck

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle is a good time. If I say that it’s just a good read, does that do it a disservice? Do you think I mean to say that it’s not really a great book with something to say? Is calling a book simply a good read marking it down a bit in your estimation? In mine? I don’t mean … Continue reading The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

Sunday Salon: Why the Booker Short List Ruins my Reading and Other Bookish Items

I’m one of those people who get excited over the Man Booker Prize.  Almost every year, once the long list is announced, I head over the my local library to get as many of the nominated books as I can.  Typically, there are a few not yet available in America, and there are a couple my library doesn’t have yet. So I check out two … Continue reading Sunday Salon: Why the Booker Short List Ruins my Reading and Other Bookish Items

Role Models by John Waters.

I heard about this book on an episode of A Good Read my favorite book related podcast from BBC 4. The host and both of her guests loved it, went on and on about how good it was, with a few caveats, it is the BBC after all. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Waters’ work since I first saw Pink Flamingoes, with my hands over my eyes … Continue reading Role Models by John Waters.

Nothing to Envy: Love, Life and Death in North Korea by Babara Demick

While I enjoyed Babara Demick’s book, and found the stories in it compelling and enlightening, a picture she features on page one tells so much that it remains the single starkest image I take from reading Nothing to Envy.  I’ve included it towards the bottom of this review.  You might want to scroll down and take a look before reading further. Reading Nothing to Envy … Continue reading Nothing to Envy: Love, Life and Death in North Korea by Babara Demick

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horowitz

In the radio interviews Tony Horwitz did last year for his latest book, Midnight Rising, he made the claim that the raid on Hapers Ferry, Virginia led by John Brown could be seen as the first battle in America’s Civil War.  An interesting proposition, I thought. While his book is a very good read, it’s much more of a straightforward account of John Brown’s later … Continue reading Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horowitz

The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964 by Jon Margolis

It’s an odd thing for an author to disavow his chosen title in the introduction, but that’s just what Jon Margolis does in his account of America in 1964, The Last Innocent Year.  A nation like America cannot seriously consider itself to have ever been innocent, according to Mr. Margolis.  After all, America began as a slave society determined to exterminate the people who got … Continue reading The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964 by Jon Margolis

The Shipwrecked Man by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

In 1527, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca served as treasurer on an ill-fated expedition to the Florida Peninsula.  Early on, the expedition was shipwrecked near what is now Tampa Bay.  Cabeza de Vaca tried to convince the expedition’s leadership that they should remain on the shore until rescue arrived, but the thirst for gold and the mistaken belief that there were Spanish settlements nearby resulted … Continue reading The Shipwrecked Man by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

A Little Cynicism Goes a Long Way or The Fran Lebowitz Reader

Fran Lebowitz said one of the best things anybody has ever said, “Having had a miserable adolescence does not justify writing a novel.” Unfortunately, I’ve often though of that line over the years–there are a lot of miserable adolescents in modern literature. So I was looking forward to reading this collection of writing mostly from the New Yorker.  The book includes two previous collections: Metropolitan Life … Continue reading A Little Cynicism Goes a Long Way or The Fran Lebowitz Reader

Looking for the Next School Wide Read

Finding a book suitable for grades six, seven and eight is not easy. The difference between a seventh grader and an eighth grader is dramatic, but the difference between a sixth and an eighth grader is stunning. This year we did our first school wide read, Chew on This by Charles Wilson and Eric Schlosser, based on Mr. Schlosser’s best-selling book Fast Food Nation.  Each subject area read several … Continue reading Looking for the Next School Wide Read

Sunday Ramble: Travels, Art and Jane Austen Challenge

C.J. and I visited Los Angeles this past week to see the James Kerry Marshall retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the same show we saw last summer in Chicago.  We’ve become big fans of Mr. Marshall’s work. It was a mad-cap three-day trip–drive down, day in L.A. and drive home–but we managed to visit three bookstores while we were there.  We stayed in … Continue reading Sunday Ramble: Travels, Art and Jane Austen Challenge