Seeing as my social media feeds have been taken over by parents posting pics of their kids going back to school, and seeing as my own daughter is starting preschool for the first time tomorrow (eek!), I figured it was time for me to hide myself in a quiet corner somewhere to figure out my self-assigned reading for the year.
Last year, most of the titles I read were ones that I’d been really wanting to read for years but just hadn’t buckled down and tackled yet. As I planned out my year last time, the titles of likely reads seemed to jump off the page at me, making it easy to choose, and my list seemed to write itself.
This year, no such thing happened. (Of course, that might have been due to the fact that the planning got done during the optimistically-named “naptime,” which I’m thinking of re-dubbing “Singing and Screaming Time,” as the baby is often refusing to be put down even though he’s tired, and Raven is happily singing and playing on her bed rather than doing any real resting.)
But, as my to-be-read (TBR, for short) list is about 300 miles long, I didn’t have too much trouble finding titles I’ve put off for years that I just need to get on with, already. (Oh, and I will say that I favored titles that I already owned since I need to read more of my own books, and as I sometimes take longer than the 3-week loaning period that a library will give me for these self-assigned titles, if we can look to the past as a precedent.)
In case you weren’t around last year, I started assigning myself books to read over the course of the year last August because my reading habits had become a little haphazard and based entirely on whims and whatever happened to sound good at the moment or whatever was available at the library at the moment. While that strategy can often make for a fun reading life, it hardly paved the way for me to reach all the reading goals I have for my lifetime (which, trust me, are plentiful). With this assigned reading in place, I noticed throughout last year that I always read what I’d chosen to assign for myself AND that I always made time to read the “fun” stuff, too. The system has proven to be a total win-win, and I’m planning on continuing the tradition for the foreseeable future.
Here’s how it works:
Assigned Reading (2018-2019 School Year)
Each term, I must read:
* one “hard hitter” (classic) – 40% of course grade
* one “teen star” (Newbery winner/runner-up) – 30% of grade
* one “power boost” (book for personal growth) – 30% of grade
The following are 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)
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Term 1 (8/27 – 11/25)
*HH – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- I’ll admit I’m a bit wary to take on this classic dystopian novel just because I’ve been a bit burned out from the genre for a few years now (I’m still pushing my way through Station Eleven, which I’ve heard rave reviews about but which I put off reading for years just because I got so sick of dystopias). Also, when I look at all my friends on Goodreads who have read this one, almost across the board the rating for it sits at 3 stars, which hardly fills me with confidence that this will be one that I love. That said, I’ve intended to read this classic forever, and as it’s not a super long one (around 250 pages), I figure it’s a good way to ease back into the assigned reading game after a summer of mostly fluff reads.
*YA – Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
- I know almost nothing about this book other than the fact that I own it (I make it a habit of buying any award-winning book I see whenever we go to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale, where we can get everything at half off) and that it’s a Newbery Honor winner. As I’ve been wanting to read much more of my own library for years, I figured I wanted to include as many titles on here that I own as possible. (Note: like many YA titles, this one is a steal on Amazon at only $6.90 if you want to check it out yourself.)
*PB – Deep Work by Cal Newport
- I bought this for Matt for Father’s Day, and it’s one I (conveniently) really wanted to read myself. I’ve been immersed in loads of other nonfiction up until this point so I haven’t taken the time to dive into this one, but I’m pretty excited to get into this and see what all the fuss has been about (since I’ve seen this on MANY of the blogs I follow, including some of those that I go to most for my own book recommendations).
Term 2 (11/26 – 1/27)
*HH – Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
- I know I read some Edith Wharton in my American Lit survey class in college, but I honestly don’t remember much about her. I do know that she was born into a super wealthy family and that money and privilege seem to play a part in several of her books/short stories, but that’s about it. (Fun fact I just found: According to Goodreads, Edith Wharton, who was born Edith Newbold Jones, was born into a family of SUCH wealth that they literally inspired the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses.” Crazy!) This is another one that I’ve owned forever, and it’s also another really short one, coming in at less than 200 pages. (Also, if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read this one for free, like you can with many classics.)
*TS – Doll Bones by Holly Black
- It’s not often that a creepy ghost story wins any kind of Newbery Honor award (in fact, I can’t think of another title off the list that meets that criteria, though I’m just thinking off the top of my head), so I was curious when I saw that this book with its creepy-doll cover had won a spot on the Honor list. I don’t read spooky stuff very often because I’m a big wimp, but if I do decide to do it, you can bet it’s almost always going to happen in late fall or winter. Perfect timing.
*PB – Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
- This is another book I bought for my husband that I wanted to read myself anyway, except that he’s been so busy pressing it into the hands of all his friends up here that I’ve hardly seen it around since he finished! I think it’s about high time that I got my own taste of what this guide to negotiating (written by a former hostage negotiator) is all about.
Term 3 (1/28 – 3/31)
*HH – Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- As all my other classic picks are relatively short, I’m hoping that that will leave me enough steam to get through this 550+ page tome from the 1950’s about an unnamed black narrator who goes on a “nightmare journey across the racial divide” (Goodreads).
*TS – Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
- This won a ton of awards back in 2015 and 2016 and is about a young boy who starts noticing his conspicuous lack of certain material possessions that his friends all seem to have, and who starts to ask his grandmother about why. From what I can gather, the book is kind of in a question and answer format, where CJ (the protagonist) asks his grandmother a question, and she responds in kind. Oh, and it’s only 32 pages long, so…easiest Newbery Award winner ever.
*PB – Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
- I’ve heard of this book for years, but I never realized how short it was–it’s only 184 pages long! (And it’s also pretty cheap to purchase–just $6.59 on Amazon, although this gift edition is the one I have my eye on.) This is Frankl’s memoir about his experiences living in the Nazi death camps and the spiritual lessons he learned from it, including how he learned to find meaning in suffering. (Fun fact: according to Goodreads, when the Library of Congress conducted a survey in 1991 to ask readers which book had made a difference in their life, this one was among the top ten.)
Term 4 (4/1 – 6/1)
*HH – Animal Farm by George Orwell
- I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I’ve never read this classic, as it’s only all of 120 pages long, but so it goes. A huge number of my friends on Goodreads have, however, so it’s been interesting to see that the reviews on this one run the gamut from a decent number rating it at just one or two stars and several giving it the full five. I get the sense that this is one that is better if you have a forum to talk about it, so I’ll be curious to see what I’ll think going into this without the benefit of a class to discuss it with.
*TS – The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
- Another easy pick for my Newbery Award winner (though one that comes with super high ratings from basically everyone I know who’s read it), this is one written entirely in verse about a young teen boy obsessed with basketball. As one of my Goodreads friends put it, this might not seem like one I’d be interested in on the surface, but I’d be WRONG not to give this one a try based on that alone.
*PB – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- I think it’s hilarious that I haven’t read this one yet, seeing as how I’m actually super familiar with the 7 habits, having read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens multiple times as a teenager AND having taught the same to my 7th graders in depth a few years ago. However, though I’ve started and restarted and restarted this one again over the years, I’ve never gotten too far into it, so I’m determined to finally see what the original 7 Habits book is all about, rather than relying on one of its derivatives to tell me everything I need to know.
And that wraps up my assigned reading for this next school year! I’m hoping it’s going to be a good list for me.
Oh, and if you want to check out my final “grades” for what I read last year, check out term one here, term two here, term three here, and term four here.