I realize that teachers are notoriously a complaining bunch. Yes we have to put up with the world’s offspring, but honestly, it is a wonderful job. When I was reading about all of the teachers rioting because their pensions were being cut, a part of me wanted to laugh because private school teachers don’t even get one and I still feel that the job is amazing. Why? Because after 9 months of people being forced to listen to what you love, you get three months of freedom. What other job (outside of Europe) gives you this much vacation? I was recently reflecting on my summer and I feel slightly guilty that I had as joyous and free a summer as most kids where I pretty much did what I wanted. Other than my month of perfection in Paris, I spent lots of time at the pool, lots of mornings sleeping in, and a whole lot of time reading. What more could you want out of summer? Here are the books that enriched my summer, in the order in which they were read.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. The whole time I was reading this book I kept on thinking “HOW HAVE I LIVED THIS LONG WITHOUT READING IT????” Not only is Atticus Finch the best example of a modern hero (Note from Amanda: “It goes without saying that you should try to work Atticus Finch into all conversations), but the book had me both laughing and crying within a matter of chapters.
Rapture of Canaan, Sheri Reynolds. A more than slightly disturbing fictional account of a extremist Christian cult which made me thankful that the mean nut cases are wrong about Jesus and how he wants us to live.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua. Strangely warm and funny for a book about ridiculously strict Chinese parenting, this book brought me to two conclusions: I will not be raising my children the Chinese way, and therefore my children will not be playing in Carnegie hall by middle school. I can accept that.
The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Ree Drummond. Don’t judge. I know the name sounds corny, but the Pioneer Woman tells her true story of falling in love with a cowboy and giving up all she thought she wanted to become a rancher’s wife. And I, being a girl, found it endearing.
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath. Most of the books I read this summer were decided upon this way: Amanda to Hannah: “ Have you read ___________?” Hannah: “No . . .” Amanda begins to yank her hair and make really exasperated and distraught noises and then book soon appears for me to read with the explanation “You can’t understand me as a person until you read this book.” And because she is an English teacher and has good taste, I usually end up loving them. This was the case with The Bell Jar, which I have always viewed with a certain amount of apprehension. But though a little traumatic, it was still really good.
The Book Theif, Markus Zusak. Sometimes you read a book so good that you want to stop everyone who passes and yell at them “PUT EVERYTHING DOWN AND READ THIS BOOK NOW BECAUSE IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!!!!” That is how I felt as I read this book. It is about a little German girl during WWII, and though it is a story of war, the Holocaust, and I cried a LOT during the ending, I also finished it with the overwhelming conviction that humans are beautiful.
4 Quartets, T.S. Eliot. I meant to read these during college but got sidetracked by lots of French books were everyone dies. James gave me a copy this past spring and I started reading them on the plan only to quickly decide that they deserved a ceremonial reading in a special place. I selected the very end of the Île de la Cité in Paris and read them cover to cover letting the beautiful poetry mix with the perfect summer afternoon.
The Help, Kathryn Stockett. Yes, I like everyone else decided to read it before the movie came out. Might as well.
I just started John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany (“WHAT?? [pulling of hair] You have to read this to understand me as a person!!!”) But it will not be finished in time to be classified as summer reading. Also, true to my promises at the beginning of the summer, this was a Summer of Art. Other than my sketches in Paris, I also completed this painting earlier this week, alongside some of my former students as I was crashing the summer art class. (Based off a photo I took in Venice a while ago, but with some artistic liberties because as the art teacher at the school I taught at puts it “Why would we want it to look just like a picture . . . then there would be no point to having made it into a painting)