Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Michael and Claudia's Infinite Book List

My friend, Michael Prier and I are participating in a reading challenge -- it's not a competition, just a mutual challenge to read 52 books in 52 different categories. We want to share our plans with you and invite you to join us.

I love to read and to write about reading. I'm hoping for a quieter year in #oklaed, so I can write more about reading here. I have already shared my top ten fiction and nonfiction titles from last year.

You all know me pretty well, and I’ll let Michael introduce himself here. We met through National Writing Project, and I believe we were actually in the same room once or twice. Nearly our entire friendship has been developed online.  We have always enjoyed discussing books, recommending books, comparing books. So, this challenge will be a great way for us to keep this conversation going.

My name is Michael, and I have known Claudia through the National Writing Project for a number of years.  We worked together on the E-anthology in 2007 and 2008.  I am a high school teacher in Kansas City, KS.  I have taught English sophomores through IB seniors, ACT Prep, Intro to Psychology, IBS Psychology, Etymology, Humanities, and Yearbook.  I have coached cheerleaders, debates and forensicators, boys swim, as well as advisor for Student Council.  This is my 18th year of teaching.  

I saw the Reading Challenge 2015 on Facebook and have been a member of for a number of years.  I thought it would be fun to use the challenge checklist as a means to read new books as well as work on the stacks that I have on my shelves.  The list is diverse and offered enough variety to select various books to complete it.  

My selection process was to only pull books from my shelves that fit the categories, and not buy any new books.  If I did not have a book that met the qualification on the list, I used Half Price Books as a wonderful source to fill in the blanks.  52 books had to be selected, with only 7 being purchased.  Interestingly, most of the books fit the Young Adult category, which has always been a favored genre, and very few being adult books.  Another reason I selected these specific books is some of my students had read them or were interested in them, which is a great way to connect with my kids, even though I no longer teach an English class.  Self-selection of books for pleasure is very important as the students invest more time reading rather than feeling forced to read a book for a class. (You can see why Michael and I are friends! We agree on so many important issues!) Interestingly, some of my educator friends challenged the books I chosen, thinking them not quality literature.  My mantra has always been, who cares if it is not quality, if a student is reading and enjoying the reading, then fine with it.  As of the 18th of January, I have only read four of the books, as I do not want to be forced into reading only the books on the list, and read others not on the list.

I agree whole-heartedly with Michael...a good book is one that moves me. It could be a picture book, a young adult novel, a good nonficition, pop-fiction or a classic. I have never let anyone judge my reading habits. I am very proud of the messiness of my reading choices.

As a child of the 60s and 70s, I’m not planning ahead and am letting my list evolve. “Going with the flow” so to speak.  I’m reading whatever I want, and then looking at the categories later to see if I can find a place for the books. So far, it’s been fun. My strategy, if you can call it that, will be much more expensive than Michael’s, I fear...

I’m very limited in my “a book you were supposed to read in school and didn’t.” I was a good kid. I read the books I was supposed to read...except for two. I DO know I didn’t finish David Copperfield and Silas Marner. So, I’ll have to pick one of them...probably go with Silas.  

One of the categories is “a book that came out the year you were born.” Goodreads to the rescue! The first several books in the list were ones I’d already read, and Michael and I are trying NOT to reread if we can help it. But Cannery Row will be my choice! I’m eager to read it, actually.

Another category is “ a book at the bottom of your to-read list.” My only question is “Which one?” I have stacks of books to read in every room of the house. I’ll choose it later. “A book written by an author with your same initials” may lead me to C.S. Lewis. My initials are C. L. S. I think that works, don’t you?

My selection was very methodical.  I created a spreadsheet on Excel and typed in the list of books according to the Reading Challenge 2015 list.  Then I printed out the list and sat in front of my double-stacked book shelves, pulling books that met the categories.  After I had pulled most of them, I went through the categories, deciding which I would read.

Many books fit into numerous categories, so that was the most difficult part.  The Twilight quadrology fit nicely into four categories (more than 500 pages, female author, one-word title, and love triangle), and I had not read them before.  I am rereading the last three Chronicles of Narnia novels, having finished the first four before the end of the year, and one is under the category of read during childhood, which requires a rereading.  Another book I have reread is Alph, one of my mother’s book club titles that I read back in the 70’s.  Other than that, the rest are books I have never read, but are all on my Good Reads to read list.  

Interestingly, nine of the titles have been turned into movies, and three will be turned into movies soon.  I am anxious to read the story rather than watching it.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang came out the year I was born and was written by Ian Fleming of James Bond fame.  It will be curious to read the book without the musical version flitting through my head.  

I have to say that the book referred by a friend is Beatrice and Virgil, which was referred by Claudia.  I hope I have the same reaction she did when I read it.  Winger is another book she referred, but that is my set in high school book.  I often look to her Good Reads list for ideas of what to read.  I remember she read one book from a trilogy that she did not like, but I ended up loving and reading with a former student.  

The book I look forward to reading the most is the Maze Runner trilogy, as some of my students are reading it, and I loved the movie.  The book I am not looking forward to reading, or finishing, is Fifty Shades of Grey.  Many of my friends and former students have read it, which has made me curious.  It is a very difficult book, but I am enjoying the psychological analysis aspect of it.

I have spent under $30 to fill in categories, having all of the rest from my shelves, garnered from Half Price Books.  When I am done reading them, I can always resell them back to this wonderful store.  The only category I have not selected a book for is a book I did not read in school.  Like Claudia, I was a good student and read all of the books required in high school and college.  This has caused much scouring of my brain and an empty blank on my Excel spreadsheet.  I read more than what the teachers assigned, so this might be one category I do not get to complete.

Wow. I’m totally intimidated by your intentionality, Michael! I’m excited to see what develops from our two strategies...or your ONE strategy and my ‘let it emerge’ attitude. I’ll probably spend more than $30. My copy of Goldfinch, my Pulitzer book cost half that.

I will admit right now I have many more opportunities to read and to abandon and to try again. Being a professional reader, and volunteering at a middle school library and a middle school library actually gives me an unfair advantage.

Michael and I will check in with each other often, and we will report our progress...I know that will help keep ME honest.

If you have any suggestions, or if you would like to join our challenge, please respond. Online book clubs are a lot of fun!

**Extra Credit (our undying admiration and friendship) if you can identify the allusion in Michael's title!


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    1. I may need to figure out a way to read that one cannot be 'a book from your childhood,' because I'm so much older than Michael...I'll see if I can make that work.

      Disney damages every classic it touches...

  2. Accidentally deleted my comment while looking to see if I could fix my punctuation! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a beloved childhood favorite, the cover worn ragged from reading over and over. The Disney movie, not so much. Ugh. Same with The Swiss Family Robinson. A huge letdown. As a teen my favorite book was Mary Stewart's The Moonspinners. Then I found out Disney had actually made a movie of it and I had seen it. It was so stupendously horrendous that I had never ever realized it was about the book I loved! I liked some of the fairy tale adaptations, but when they decided to make The Hunchback of Notre Dame into a children's movie...words fail me. Bonus: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist!

  3. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist!

    I think I might want to try this out...If graduating college doesn't get in the way too much...