Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Books that Swallow Me Up

Wednesday at 5am, I'll be corralling a group of 8th graders -  90 strong - at the airport as we prepare for our annual trip to Washington, DC. Wish me luck!

When I fly, I like to have a really good book with me. As I've gotten older, I've become a more nervous flyer. I never was when I was young, but now I'm totally aware of all the things that could potentially go wrong! As a chaperone on this trip, I need to remain calm and appear totally unfazed, so having a good book is one way I can mask any discomfort.

Here are some books that swallow me up...in no particular order.

This is one of the only series I own entirely in hardback because I always preordered them and refused to wait for paperback or to borrow them from the library. I own them all on e-reader now, too. I have a problem.
Harry Potter. I know there are adults out there who still haven't read this series, and I'm only going to pressure you to try them a little, because they're honestly a must-read whether you think you like fantasy or not. I make a habit of rereading this series every summer, and each time I read it I discover more nuances, more humor, more subtext, more magic. I love HP as an allegory for the Holocaust (and when I draw that parallel for my students, their reactions are always priceless) and the dangers of intolerance and prejudice, but it's also just wonderfully written and full of little moments of humor and humanity that we can all relate to. I hope I never tire of rereading the series! 

Right now I'm enjoying watching many of my students read them for the first time, and it's been so fun to watch their reactions as plot points planted in book one come to fruition at the end of the series. Seriously, the way JK Rowling subtly mentions some of the finer details and strung them through 1000+ pages before the big reveal? That's just masterful foreshadowing at its finest.
The TV series is pretty good, too, but I can't get over the major casting flaws.
Outlander. This is another series I've reread quite a few times; the author (Diana Gabaldon) is still working on it, so every time a new book comes out I reread the earlier ones! I first read it when I was studying in Scotland; it was a fun way to experience the country. Like with Harry Potter, the writing is just flawless and I've grown to love and know the characters as if they were real people. I also appreciate how truly well-researched the books are (they're historical-fiction), even if it means waiting years between installments.
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials trilogy). Perhaps less well-known than the other two, this trilogy is no less stirring. Like HP, these books contain a lot of magic and center around adolescent characters, but the allegorical thread is a little more purposeful and direct here. Author Philip Pullman wrote the trilogy in response to CS Lewis's Narnia stories, and they are undeniably anti-church. That said, they're really more "anti-corruption in the church" and "anti-church teachings about sex and puberty" than anything else, and the storytelling and worlds Pullman has created are so vivid and believable, these novels are hard to put down. 

Now for something a little different...

Stiff. This non-fiction book by Mary Roach was seriously impossible for me to put down! I found every chapter to be interesting and I flew through it. The book details what happens to our bodies after we die, specifically if we donate them to science, and Roach's research and writing flow together in a dry, funny, weird, informative, and satisfying read. I also loved Bonk (about the science of sex) and Gulp (about eating and digestion). If you love non-fiction and weird-science, she's a must-read author.

With each of these books (or series), I look up when I'm finished and feel completely disoriented. What time is it? Have I really been reading in a corner for hours? Now that I think about it, maybe these aren't the best books to read when I'm supposed to keep one ear and eye on students at all times!

On another note, I know this trip is going to alter my workout scheduling this week, but I'm not stressing. After all, walking approximately seven miles daily is a pretty solid workout. I probably won't be posting this week, so keep up with me on Instagram if you want to see if I'm surviving the trip!

What are some books that absolutely swallow you up?



  1. The Harry Potter series is a favorite! I only read the books 3 years ago, but have read them so many times since!!

    Thanks for the other recommendations, I requested Gulp and Bonk, because I really enjoyed Stiff.

    The other series that I get completely consumed by is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. They are so intricate, but so addicting!

  2. Also, good luck on your trip!! 90 8th graders all in one place sounds like a big headache! Best of luck to you!

  3. Wow, I am impressed that your school flies the 8th graders to DC! Our 8th grade trip is tomorrow and they only go to an amusement park 2 hours away..lol. I will have to check you out on IG for sure!

    That Stiff book sounds interesting.

  4. Wow, I am impressed that your school flies the 8th graders to DC! Our 8th grade trip is tomorrow and they only go to an amusement park 2 hours away..lol. I will have to check you out on IG for sure!

    That Stiff book sounds interesting.

  5. I would love Stiff!! I listened to a podcast about what happens to your body if you donate it to science. It really made me want to donate it! The books that swallow me up, of course, are true crime. :)

    I can't believe all of your 8th graders FLY TO DC for a field trip! That is just amazing to me. How do they pay for it? Fund raise? What about the kids who can't afford? Are most of your families well off?

    1. The entire class doesn't go. We usually have 1 or 2 go on full scholarship; we do fundraising starting week one at school to help alleviate the costs. Usually about half the class goes and it's about $900 on average each year. The kids who can't afford it stay at school during those three days, but they participate in the other 8th grade field trip at the end of the year.

  6. Love the Outlander series!

    The Time Traveler's Wife was finally available on Kindle, so I downloaded that before we left. But I was also going through the Divergent series and actually did not finish it yet (but am close).

    Pat Controy is also a fav -- pretty much anything written by him -- Prince of Tides is great and so is the movie, a rarity. Water for Elephants is also a great book.

    90 kids. Wow. That's a lot!

    I am not at all a nervous flyer. It's just long & tedious (especially flying across the country!). But at least one flight had free movies, and that helped a lot.

  7. I was thinking about you on Sunday night when I started Sorcerer's Stone for the 100th time. I remember a few years ago when you said you read the entire Harry Potter series every summer and I was like SAME!!! I usually wait until later in the summer but ABC Family (which has a new name name?) was running a marathon of the movies over the weekend and it prompted me to start a little early!

    I will need to check out Golden Compass. I grew up loving the Narnia books, not surprisingly since I grew up extremely Catholic. I'm sure I'll find the books fascinating, I had no idea they were written in response to Narnia.

    Have fun in DC with the kids! The end of the school year has arrived!

    1. I hope you enjoy The Golden Compass. I am obsessed with it!