Assigned Reading, Book Recommendations, Reading

Final Grade On My Spring Term “Assigned Reading”

I decided school years must go a lot faster when you’re not actually, you know, teaching during one because I kind of can’t believe I’m already about to start the last quarter of this academic year.

(If you’re just tuning in, at the beginning of this “school year,” I decided to set myself some assigned reading to rev up my reading life and motivate me to read some of the books I’ve been putting off for years.

Each term, I assigned myself three books and awarded each book a “percentage”—how much it would impact my term’s “final grade” at the end, if you will.)

Starting out, I didn’t really know how this new experiment of assigning myself books over the course of the year was going to pan out. In the past, I’d set some goals for my reading (like a number of books I wanted to read in a year, or the number of books off a certain list I wanted to try to read), but they had always been rather general and vague and left a lot of wiggle room.

I actually think that I prefer this new method of assigning myself books better because otherwise, honestly, I probably won’t ever get around to a lot of the books I intend to. Plus I think that this challenge (somewhat surprisingly) has made me read MORE since I’m so in the habit of being able to just read whatever books tickle my fancy that I find that I still make time to squeeze ALL of them in.

Additionally, it should come as no surprise that I like a bit of structure in my life, and that includes my reading life. This challenge has provided just that!

All of this is to say that this will likely be something I do for the next several years, I think.

On to the numbers, though!

For a quick recap (in case you don’t want to go back to visit that original post), each of the three books I assigned myself fell into one of the following categories:

  • a “heavy hitter” (aka, a book most people would agree is a “classic”)
  • a young adult award winner, or “teen star” (I used the Newbery awards as a guide)
  • a “power boost” book (one that was meant to stimulate personal growth in some way)

The Grading Breakdown (from original post):

* “hard hitter” book – 40% of course grade

* “teen star” book – 30% of grade

* “power boost” book– 30% of grade

The following were opportunities for extra credit:

* anything off another recommended reading list (+10% to grade)

* poetry, full book (+10% to grade)

* parenting books (+ 5% to grade)

* any book out of my reading comfort zone (+ 5% to grade)

My “fall term” reading was summarized here, and the winter term summary is found here. This current spring term went from 1/29 to 3/31, for your reference.

***Note: You’ll notice the titles below are affiliate links if you click on them, which help support To Love and To Learn at no extra cost to you.

Assessment Breakdown of Winter Term Reading

1. “Heavy Hitter” – Lord of the Flies by William Golding

  • Total Number of Pages: 208
  • Number of Pages Completed by Term End: 208
  • Percentage of Pages Completed: 100%
  • Rating Awarded on Goodreads: 4 stars
  • Reasons for Rating Given:
    • It’s always a bit hard for me to give ratings to most classics, the reason being that while they’re not often all that enjoyable to actually read, I can almost always see why they’re considered “important.” Admittedly, this classic proved harder than many for me to plug my way along and get through, which is why my Goodreads rating will seem so shocking. However, I decided to rate this book not on enjoyability (for which it would have gotten a pretty low score from me), but rather decided to rank it on terms of impact. While I will not jump to read this title again, I can also state that I will probably never forget the plot of this book or the issues it made me think of. I can also state for a fact that I would have LOVED to read this with a group, as I think the discussions surrounding it would have been quite illuminating.
    • That said, I did knock a star off because 1) I didn’t love it and don’t want to read it again, and 2) parts of the writing style REALLY bugged me; namely, the fact that the author didn’t always clearly designate who was speaking or who certain actions belonged to (which is usually done through the use of dialogue tags or paragraph breaks). The book probably would have read much faster for me if I wasn’t having to stop every page or two and figure out yet again who was speaking, or who had made a particular gesture.

2. “Teen Star” – Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

  • Total Number of Pages: 256
  • Number of Pages Completed by Term End: 256
  • Percentage of Pages Read: 100%
  • Rating Awarded on Goodreads: 4 stars
  • Reasons for Rating Given:
    • Books written in free verse are kind of funny territory, I think–on the one hand, the writing is almost always gorgeous and heart-wrenching, even in its spareness, but on the other hand, it IS sometimes difficult to get as into the story and characters as you would with a novel that follows a traditional format. While I loved the overall storyline in this middle grade novel and found the characters to be compelling, I couldn’t give the book the full five stars because I found I wasn’t able to get deeply enough into their stories through the free verse alone.
    • This book is beyond sad, but I did like that it ends on a definite hopeful note (which I’ll always be a sucker for).
    • I think this would be fascinating if paired with The Grapes of Wrath, as they are both about that same period in history (and take place in roughly the same location). Both feature strong women as main characters (Ma Joad in Grapes and 14-year-old Billie Jo in this one) and also have a strong emphasis on families learning to stick together through the hardest of hard times.

3. “Power Boost” – How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen

  • Total Number of Pages: 221
  • Number of Pages Completed by Term End: 221
  • Percentage of Pages Read: 100%
  • Rating Awarded on Goodreads: 4 stars
  • Reasons for Rating Given:
    • This book, which takes business leadership strategies taught by a renowned Harvard professor and applies them to real life, came highly recommended to me by one of my favorite sources for books to read next, and it was easily the book I got into first out of the three, as well as the book I finished first. I particularly loved the author’s personal stories and examples interwoven throughout, as they showed his faith and his integrity and his persistence despite going through several hardships and unexpected detours in his life. I also found several of the business principles to be interesting on their own, just because I’ve always been kind of interested in how companies run and what makes some companies more successful than others.
    • That said, being a stay-at-home mom myself, not all of the book felt applicable to me at this stage in my life, which is probably the main reason I didn’t give it the five stars. I also found some of the examples and explanations of the business concepts to not be as clear and to-the-point as I would have liked—there were a few times throughout where I had to read a couple of the explanations several times to see what he was driving at.
    • Overall, I did find this book highly enjoyable. I marked several passages (especially when he related certain business leadership strategies directly to parenting), and it motivated me to want to try harder to make sure I’m measuring the success of my life by the right yardstick.

4. Extra Credit Opportunities

  • Total Number of Other Books Read During Term: 14 (Yeah, this was an AWESOME term when it came to how much reading I did!)
  • Number of Books Falling Under Extra Credit Categories: 2 (Although Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety really SHOULD have made it onto at least one of my recommended reading lists)
  • Title of Extra Credit Book: No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury (That link will take you to the Kindle edition, which is only $5.99 at the moment)
  • Category That Title Fulfills: Parenting Book
  • Extra Credit Percentage Awarded: +5%
  • Quick Thoughts:
    • Parenting books can be a tough beast to get through for me. On the one hand, I like how many offer concrete strategies I can put into place, but I also find that many come off rather judgmental and kind of like there’s only one good way to parent, which was definitely the feeling I got from this one.
    • However, I did get some great takeaways from this that I’ve been using ever since, which made it entirely worth the read (and the occasional frustration/guilt trip), seeing as how they’ve seemed to be pretty effective. Three of those are:
      • 1) Even if they seem totally irrational, I need to acknowledge my child’s feelings. This can be as simple as saying, “You’re upset because I wouldn’t let you run by yourself in the parking lot.”
      • 2) State limits in first-person language, rather than in third-person or in other vague terms. (In other words, say, “I won’t let you hit me” rather than “Hitting isn’t nice” or even “Mama doesn’t like it when you hit her.” After, gently grab child’s hands or feet to prevent the action from being carried through, which is something we were doing anyway.)
      • 3) If I find myself getting ruffled or feeling distinctly angry or annoyed, chances are good I didn’t set and enforce a boundary soon enough. Try to set boundaries EARLY while chances are still good that I’ll be able to remain calm throughout the encounter.
  • Title of Extra Credit Book: Christy by Catharine Marshall
  • Category That Title Fulfills: A Book Out of My Reading Comfort Zone
  • Extra Credit Percentage Awarded: +5%
  • Quick Thoughts:
    • Honestly, this is a book I probably would NEVER have picked up on my own. In fact, since my husband was the one to get it from the library for me, he even asked me uncertainly when he came home with it if I was SURE that this book was the one I’d meant for him to get, since it looked nothing like what I’d typically read. Honestly, this is one of the reasons I love being in a book club because it’s a great way to force myself to read stuff out of my comfort zone that I wouldn’t pick up on my own AND push me through until the end once I’ve gotten it.
    • If I was rating this book on the plot alone, the rating would have been higher. This book about a privileged girl from an upper-class home going out to the middle of the backcountry woods to teach has a decent storyline, with a decent amount of action that drives the book forward, as well as some really interesting insights (all about Christianity). However, I found the writing style distinctly not to my taste at all, as it was filled to bursting with unnecessary descriptions, a lot of “telling” and not “showing,” and just overall with a lot of flowery, cliched language.
    • I must say though, I was in the distinct minority when it came to being on the fence about this book. Literally everyone else in my book club who read it LOVED IT, and some of them even listed it as their favorite book of all time. So…take my opinion with a grain of salt, as my pickiness exceeds that of a normal person’s when it comes to certain things.


All in all, though none of my picks for this term got five stars, I was pleased with the assignments and especially pleased that this was the first term where I’ve actually finished everything on time AND gotten extra credit. It’s like I’m back to my old school self again!

Final Grade Awarded for Spring 2018 Term: A+ (110%)

(40% HH + 30% TS + 30% PB + 10% EC= 110%)

And, in case you’re curious, my current summer term reading is:

*HH – A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

*TS – The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

*PB – As A Man Thinketh, Volume II by James Allen (and edited by my dad!)


Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for her Quick Lit series!

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