If you’ve been following any of my posts recently, you might already know that this is the term of self-assigned reading that very nearly did not happen.

Like, at all.

In fact, there were several points throughout the last month when I was seriously tempted to just call quits on the whole thing (this “whole thing” being the self-assigned reading I’ve started giving myself each year), chalk it up to an experiment that was only successful the first year, and move on.

For starters, I wasn’t overly excited about any of the titles I had chosen for this term. I knew they were titles I was going to want to read EVENTUALLY, but they just weren’t calling to me RIGHT NOW, ya know? All month, I argued with myself–

What was the point of forcing myself to read stuff I didn’t want to read right now? Was I really wanting to kill my drive to read, period?

(But if I keep putting off these books for “someday,” they will forever and always be displaced by newer, shinier titles that ultimately usually end up with little staying power.) So I’ve GOT to stick with this!

That’s how it went. All. Month. Long.

So I had to seriously force myself to dive in.

Also, I happened to be in the middle of a ridiculous number of books this month (I prefer to be reading around 4 at the same time, but this month, I was averaging 8-9). Many of them were titles that I had started ages ago and stalled on (*cough* Brave New World from the last self-assigned reading term *cough*), so I wanted to try and force myself to finish some of the old stuff before I let myself start on anything new.

(It is for that reason that I have two library books I’m super excited to dive into but that I haven’t even cracked open yet–I just couldn’t stomach being in the middle of one more book.)

But finally, I just forced myself to get started. First, I made myself actually FIND the books (which took an embarrassingly long time). Then, one by one, I forced myself through.

And the irony?

I ended up liking all of them.

Go figure.

But let’s get onto the nitty gritty details, shall we?

For a quick recap (in case you don’t want to go back to visit the original post where I outlined my self-assigned reading for this year), each of the three books I assign myself each “term” falls 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:

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

* “teen star” book – 30% of grade

* “power boost” book– 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)

(If you want to see what made last year’s assigned reading list + my final grades for each of the 4 terms, click here.)

***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 (11/26/18 – 1/27/19)

1. “Heavy Hitter” – Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

  • Total Number of Pages: 140 (rough, right?)
  • Number of Pages Completed by Term End: 76 (though I’ve since finished)
  • Percentage of Pages Completed: 54.3%
  • Rating Awarded on Goodreads: 4 Stars
  • Reasons for Rating:
    • First off, this book is depressing as all get out. In fact, while I was entering my own review of it on Goodreads, I happened to scan through a couple of the others and laughed out loud when I read this by another reviewer: “Finally, I have the right word for this predicament: When a capable author uses her prowess to create a work whose sole purpose seems to be to depress the reader, it can be described as Frome. This word can also be used as a verb, noun, adjective (Frome-ish, Frome-ier, etc), adverb (Frome-ly), etc. to similarly describe the effect it has on the reader, (ie, “I was Fromed.”)” So yes, this book is depressing. If you go into it not expecting a tragedy (we’re talking Shakespeare-level tragedy in some ways, here), you’re probably not going to like this. At all.
    • However, I personally don’t need a book to be happy or even hopeful in order to appreciate it. The reason I liked this book was because I’m a total sucker for books where the setting is so well-drawn that it’s like it becomes a main character itself in the book, and that’s how I felt about this one–the desolate wintry landscape of rural Massachusetts was done so well and fit in so precisely with much of the bleak scenery outside of my own windows right now that it just worked for me at this point in time.
    • Also, I love books that have great discussion material, and I feel like this short work provides a LOT of fodder for a rich book discussion. I’m half tempted to have my book club read this one sometime just because I want to talk about it with other people.
    • In short, if you’re looking for a classic that’s easy to understand with a fairly interesting storyline (and that’s only 140 pages, to boot!), this one might be a good one to dive into (that is, if you don’t mind super depressing stories where everyone ends up miserable. Just saying.)

2. “Teen Star” – Doll Bones by Holly Black

  • Total Number of Pages: 244
  • Number of Pages Completed by Term End: 244
  • Percentage of Pages Read: 100%
  • Rating Awarded on Goodreads: 4 stars
  • Reasons for Rating Given:
    • I definitely don’t do truly creepy books, but this one had just enough of a creepy flair that made it fun, not nightmare-inducing. The story follows 3 middle schoolers, who have all been playing an elaborate make-believe game for years together, as they grapple with the expectations that come with growing up (namely, that their friend dynamic is about to change forever and that make-believe is about to become part of their past).
    • When I taught 7th grade, one of my favorite poems to teach was “On Turning Ten” by Billy Collins, which was all about growing up and leaving behind your childhood, and the bittersweet taste that leaves in your mouth. I’ve loved the poem for years, and this book perfectly captured the same feeling.
    • Since I’m used to longer, more detail-heavy books (aka, books written for adults and not for middle schoolers), books with a much younger intended audience can sometimes feel a little sparse on character development and nuance to me, and this was no exception. However, the trio’s final adventure together before their dynamic changed forever was a surprisingly fun (and fast) read, and I’m glad I finally gave it a shot.

3. “Power Boost” – Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

  • Total Number of Pages: 288
  • Number of Pages Completed by Term End: 288
  • Percentage of Pages Read: 100%
  • Rating Awarded on Goodreads: 4.5 stars
  • Reasons for Rating Given:
    • This was a title I bought for Matt for Father’s Day (because that’s a true Father’s Day gift–a book that will teach him how to win every argument) that I’d heard a lot of buzz about. Matt read through it fairly quickly and then started pressing it into the hands of everyone he talked to about it, so I figured it was about time I saw what the big deal was for myself.
    • First off, I am no negotiator, or at least, I am not a person who happily negotiates unless forced to. So a book all about how to get the upper hand in any negotiation didn’t really feel like my thing. But! The author was a former FBI hostage negotiator and starts each chapter with totally thrilling tales from his line of work, which definitely sucked me in immediately. Then, as I got further into the book, I realized that this stuff actually WAS applicable to my life, even as conflict-averse as I am. In fact, this book gave me tools to AVOID a lot of conflict when it comes to negotiating, some of which I’ve already deployed with great success.
    • I also liked how this book addressed many different scenarios in which you might use the tactics it talks about, including several outside of the traditional workplace environment (such as buying a car, negotiating for a discount in rent, helping someone to see your side, etc.).
    • Basically, I walked away from this thinking that everyone would benefit from reading it (although at the same realizing that that might decrease my negotiating power since then they’d know all my tricks, ha ha).

4. Extra Credit Opportunities

  • Total Number of Other Books Read During Term: 7
  • Number of Books Falling Under Extra Credit Categories: 2
  • Title of Extra Credit Book: The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel
  • Category That Title Fulfills: Parenting Book
  • Extra Credit Percentage Awarded: +5%
  • Quick Thoughts:
    • This book was paradigm-altering for me, not only in my parenting life, but in my own personal (emotional) life. Basically, it helped me to see that in order to teach my children how to properly process and express their emotions, I had to realize first that they way I personally have always dealt with my own emotions is actually not the best way (not by a long shot). So, since reading this, I have also started applying the techniques to MYSELF as well as to my parenting, and we’ve all come off much better because of it. A very high recommend (though I will say that this is not a super quick or easy read, which is why it took me several months to get through even though it’s not long).
    • My Rating on Goodreads: 5 stars
  • Title of Extra Credit Book: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Akeson
  • Category That Title Fulfills: Parenting Book
  • Extra Credit Percentage Awarded: +5%
  • Quick Thoughts:
    • Another great parenting read! (Can you tell I was on a kick since I published my round-up of my favorite parenting titles and got so many great recommendations from all of you?) While I’ve always enjoyed being outside (and try to get out daily whenever the weather is good), I haven’t delved much into the research backing up why outside playtime is so important for kids, so this was fascinating. It also gave me a good kick in the pants that I shouldn’t just be allowing my kids outside in good (read: sunny and warm) weather, but that I should also encourage them to play in the snow and rain (if properly dressed, of course). Since finishing this, my oldest has spent a LOT more time outside this winter, and it’s been exactly what was needed to stave off the winter doldrums. (And, bonus–this is highly readable as it reads as part-memoir, part self-help, part research.)
    • My Rating on Goodreads: 5 stars

Final Grade on Winter Term Assigned Reading: A- (91.7%)

(21.7% HH + 30% TS + 30% PB + 10% EC = 91.7%)

And, in case you’re wondering what’s on the docket for the new spring term:

My Self-Assigned Reading for 2018-2019
For thoughts on why I chose these particular titles, you can click here for my original post detailing this year’s self-assigned reading.

Have you been Fromed (by this particular Wharton book, or by any other title)? And how do you feel about negotiating–is it an art form? A necessary evil? Or something to be avoided at all costs?