Robyn's Reads: December 2016

8:00:00 AM

I feel like December is when I finally got back into the full swing of all things reading, and it was so much fun! Of course I still read a bunch of books to Corinne all the time, but it was fun to do some reading for myself for a change. This month I continued with my Harry Potter rereads, but sprinkled in a non fiction book and one written in prose as well.

Death Coming Up The Hill (Chris Crowe)

Summary: It’s 1968, and war is not foreign to seventeen-year-old Ashe. His dogmatic, racist father married his passionate peace-activist mother when she became pregnant with him, and ever since, the couple—like the situation in Vietnam—has been engaged in a senseless war that could have been prevented.

With the help of his high-school history teacher, who dares to teach the political realities of the war, and a beautiful new student whose brother is missing in action, Ashe grows to better understand the situation in Vietnam, his family, and the wider world around him. But when a new crisis hits his parents’ marriage, Ashe finds himself with no options before him but to enter the fray.

Death Coming Up the Hill is a moving and illuminating narrative in haiku form, each passage introduced with a chilling statistic chalked on the blackboard by Ashe’s teacher: the number of soldiers killed that week. Here is an innovative and deceptively simple telling of the momentous events of 1968 as seen through the eyes of a perceptive seventeen-year-old American male. (Goodreads Here)

My Thoughts: This book was recommended to me by my sister in law that teaches high school English. She is always on the hunt for young adult books that she can teach in her class that also correspond to what her students are learning in their other classes as well. Death Coming Up The Hill is the perfect book for this. The book itself is written in a series of haiku poems, grouped in chapters, and with the first person perspective of a teenage boy during Vietnam. Lots of teaching material here! It was also written at a perfect level for teenage understanding with a simple plot line that underscored the greater idea of living in a time of such war and death. It was easy enough to read that I did so in literally 2 hours, but a class could take the time to break it apart into however many sections to make it manageable for all students.

The part of the book I found the most interesting was actually the format in the first place. Crowe broke the book into a series of haiku poems for a very specific reason. In his research for the book he learned that 1968 had the highest amount of deaths in the war, and that that death count was a highly publicized. Crowe toyed with the idea of starting each chapter with a haiku, but then looked to see if the number of deaths, 16,592, was able to be broken into stanzas, and it was. So the book is written in 976 different haiku stanzas, honoring each life lost with it's own syllable. The creativity and dedication needed to write an entire story like this is fascinating to me and something I really appreciated.

This is the kind of book that if I was still teaching history I would love to use in my own classroom, (hopefully in tandem with the English teacher!) and will have to keep this littler literary nugget in my back pocket for if that day ever comes.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Happiness Project (Gretchen Rubin)

Summary: Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference. (Goodreads Here)

My Thoughts: I already shared a few of my more detailed and personal ideas about this book when I talked about my resolutions in this post, but I do have a few more thoughts. Overall, I loved it and it was exactly what I needed at the exact time I needed it. This book encouraged me to do what Rubin herself does and look for small things I can do in my daily life in order to cultivate the happiness that I already have or that I am close to. It definitely has influenced how I looked at my 2017 resolutions and the expectations I have for the next year.

I think that everyone should read the introduction chapter to the book, whether you want to continue with the other sections or not. The introduction allows Rubin to explain why she thought focusing on her own happiness in the context of her already existent life was so important. She talks about how she wanted to become happier without a large dramatic change like a move, career, change, or crazy excursion where she ditches her life for something completely new. This is in context to a lot of research she does about happiness, especially on the idea that people think they will be happy "when" but then "when" comes and they move on to the next thing that they think will make them happy. So instead, focus on ways to be happy with the life you already have, unless of course there is a dramatic change that should happen. But no dramatic change just for dramatic change sake!

The only negative thing I will say about this book is that I did end up skimming the last few section (months October-December of her project) just because it was feeling a little repetative and the subjects were more personal to Rubin herself. That being the case, I still skimmed them and I definitely got some good material out of it, I just only read the parts I was interested in. That's why I knocked off a star. But if we went just based on how inspired I felt after finishing, it would get a 5!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Perfectly timed with my reading high and the start of a new year I also got a bunch of new books for Christmas this year and I can't wait to get going on them too!

Possible For Next Month:
Moneyball (Michael Lewis)
Attachments (Rainbow Rowell)

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