My ideal bookshelf – the 2015 edition

So last year, I invited my grade ten students to contemplate their reading lives in essays and bookshelves inspired by My Ideal Bookshelf. The project was such a huge success that I decided to do it again this year, and once more the results were terrific.

My colleague, Jenn, and I made a display in the main hall at school.

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I’d like to share some of the art and excerpts from some of the essays my students wrote. Thanks again to Thessaly and Jane for inspiring this project.

Paige A

Paige: My top three novels (Anne of Green Gables, A Monster Calls, Charlotte’s Web) may never have been considered anybody’s favourite, even though two are classics. To me, these books have meaning and memories attached to them. Some memories are happy and some sad. No matter what, though, I would never want to forget these books and certainly don’t regret reading them.

Destiny

Destiny: As my reading expanded, so did my desire for more of a challenge. I would ask around for new books, but the ones my mother suggested didn’t spark any interest and my sister Dominique, three years older than me, scared me away with her grumpiness and nobody else I knew liked reading. I suppose Dominique must have been in a pretty good mood one day to give me her favourite book, Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris and I have always been grateful. This one book that she loved so much was like a glimpse inside the head of a stranger I called my sister. It was then, as I was reading, that I realized maybe we weren’t so different after all.

Adara

Adara: I can remember when I was little, perhaps seven, I used to rush to get ready for bed just because if I did it quickly enough my mom would read to me and my brother. I would get some pjs on, grab my blue, fuzzy penguin blanket and pillow and settle in to hear her read a few chapters of Pawn of Prophecy. I used to get so disappointed when I didn’t get ready in time, but when I did it was some of the best times of my life. My mom has the perfect reading voice and I would get lost in the book and the sound of her voice. Every once and a while I ask my mom to read, just so I can hear that voice again.

Tatum

Tatum: Grade seven was my first taste of reading for enjoyment. Teachers practically shoved sappy novels down my throat: unrequited love, boy meets girl, the whole lot. But I hated the thought of romance; I liked gore and cussing. I thought I could only get that thrill from games played in the dark, but a fellow student taught me better. My first whiff was The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Sure, I’ve read many other books, but only because I was forced. But this time it was legit. I could not put this book down. This was my first taste of what was soon to be have an addiction because, as you know, one book is not enough.

Ben

Ben: The Green Mile was one of the saddest books I have ever read. I never knew Stephen King could write something other than a scary story. I really grew attached to some of the characters and finding out they died not long after the book ends was really heartbreaking. I often get really attached to characters in stories and if they die, it hurts a little.

Pierrette

Pierrette: My bookshelf is a collection of stories that represent who I am. From childhood stories to books I read on repeat like The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, each book means something different to me and represents a unique part of my reading adventure. As someone who dreams of being an author I hope that, even if my writing never reaches these great heights, my work will make someone pick up another book, fall in love with reading, and truly think about things in their lives.

Parker

Parker: A very important book to me is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because it is the first book I bought with my own money. Everyone told me that it was an amazing series and I knew I had to buy it. That was the first time I wanted a book so badly that I bought it myself and it was worth every penny. After finishing it, I loved it so much that I bought the other two books in the series.

Valerie

Valerie: My mother was my gateway to the world of books. I remember the nights she would arrive home exhausted after working all day and finishing classes in the evenings. Somehow she always managed to read to me and my brother before bedtime. I never questioned this time because I adored it far too much; however I did wonder why those moments were so important to my mother. I no longer ask myself that question as I am fully aware of the gift reading is in and of itself.

Chloie

Chloie: Every year I reread The Art of Racing in the Rain just to remind myself of how impactful reading can be, and to refresh my memory on this more beautiful way of seeing the world. I don’t think I will ever be able to pinpoint exactly why this book is so lovely, but it is the only book on my shelf I love enough to destroy. All my other novels are perfectly kept, no bends or scratches; that’s how I like it. But The Art of Racing in the Rain has pages folded down from my favourite parts, notes written in it and all my favourite quotes highlighted.

Ceilidh

Ceilidh: Teddy Bear Picnic was the first book that came to mind when I thought of an ideal bookshelf. I selected this book because when I was younger it was the one book I picked every time. My mother would use one of my stuffed bears to read it with and I loved listening to her use a fake voice.

Selda

Selda: I actually didn’t like reading books, but my brother loves reading. He gave me a few books when I was nine years old. He said if I read them, he would give me chocolate for each book I finished. That was a good idea. After a while, I loved reading books and he didn’t give me chocolate anymore. All kinds of books should be on my bookshelf: horror, drama, history, liberal education, love, comedy, tragedy. Books are amazing for me because I can live in my own world when I read. They are valuable like gold or silver.

Makenzie

Makenzie: Being a teenager isn’t easy and books have become a great way for me to relieve stress and broaden my perspective and understanding on a lot of things. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time  changed a lot of my views on mental illness and other disabilities. I’ve learned more from this book about happiness and self-worth than I ever would from a therapist. I suppose that is what books are – my therapists. I know no matter what I’m feeling or questioning, there is a book to help me find the answer. Whether it be through some magic time portal, someone’s true-life story or a cheesy young adult novel, I know there is something out there for me.

Spring…has sprung a leak in my basement

I feel as though I have been hibernating for ages…but the days are getting longer and brighter and although there are still mounds of dirty snow everywhere, I am feeling optimistic about – well – things in general. Except my basement. It’s full of water. I am not handy, so I am dealing with the water by ignoring it. I rescued Lily’s litter box and shut the door on the things that are floating down there. (Did anyone else hear Pennywise’s voice just now?)

The water is a recent thing. I have also been distracted by school-related activities. I am the faculty advisor for the yearbook, and while we have finally put the book to bed, for many, many days I was scrambling (along with my very capable student editors) to get that puppy done.

In a perfect-storm sort of way, I was also putting together the fourth edition of The Write Stuff magazine, a literary arts magazine which debuts on April 29th at the fifth annual Write Stuff writers’ workshop. This is a day I very much look forward to attending. Over one hundred students from four area high school will gather at the Saint John Arts Centre to work with a variety of writing mentors. It’s a fabulous day. You can read more about it at our blog, The Write Stuff.

Of course, I am still reading, but perhaps not as diligently as I am re-watching Felicity. After just one episode, I was immediately sucked back into that whole Ben-Noel-Felicity triangle. (I am Team Ben all the way!) I have to step away from the DVDs though so I can finish a pile of books that I have started…but not quite finished…including:

birdbox Bird Box – Josh Malerman

This is actually my next book club read and I am almost done. I have been wanting to read this book for a while and was surprised when it was chosen for my book club since we’ve never read anything like it before. We have a rule in our group – we’re not allowed to talk about the book before the meeting, so I can’t reveal any of my thoughts at this time.

pushing

Pushing the Limits – Katie McGarry

I am about half-way through this hefty YA novel featuring a good girl (with dark, complicated past) and a bad boy (with dark, complicated past) who are thrown together to study but who have a crazy-hot attraction to each other. I’ll finish it, but I’m not loving it.

gun

Give a Boy a Gun – Todd Strasser

I am almost done this book, which I’ve been reading in school and which is a compelling and bleak look at the gun culture, bullying and school shootings in the United States.

silentwife

The Silent Wife – A.A.A. Harrison

I probably only read about twenty pages of this before I got side-tracked by life. I’ll have to restart this book, I think.

grief girl

Grief Girl – Erin Vincent

I think this book is bound for my Book Graveyard, actually. It’s the true story of an Australian girl who suffers a horrible loss when her parents are in a traffic accident. Not grooving to the writing, though.

I don’t normally have more than a couple books on the go at one time, one at home and one at school. That I have so many started and unfinished is an indication of how scattered my life has been of late. What are you reading this spring?

Who’s with me?

26 books in 2015

There are all sorts of reading challenges out there aimed at motivating you to stand down from the TV/computer and read a little bit more. Check out this Pinterest page, which lists LOTS to consider. I aim to read 60 books this year. I didn’t meet my goal of 65 last year and the number really doesn’t matter all that much…so long as I am reading. What are your goals for the 2015 reading year?

My students tackle their ideal bookshelves

For my birthday last May, my teenage son, Connor, gave me the most marvelous gift ever: My Ideal Bookshelf by Thessaly La Force & Jane Mount. This book is a book voyeur’s dream-come-true. Essentially the authors asked 100 plus people to curate their ideal bookshelf – no restrictions. Then they were invited to talk about their reading lives and to explain some of the books they had chosen.

When I finished the book, I had this crazy notion. I teach high school English and I have worked pretty hard over the last few years to create a text-rich environment in my room. I want my students to read. A lot. I have hundreds of books in my classroom and I am happy to say that my little library is well-used. My students know that I love to read and I love to talk about books and I love to recommend books and argue about them. I have some avid readers in my classes and I wondered what they would think about creating  their own ideal bookshelves. Heck, I wanted to create one!

The notion of trying to choose ten favourite books is ridiculous for any bibliophile, right? I stood in front of my bookshelves at home and pulled out 17 books without any trouble. Then I started the process of negotiation. Then I gave up. It’s hard. (In the end I decided on a YA shelf and eventually I’ll do another less specific shelf, but the thing is I’ll never be happy with my choices; I’ll always feel like I’ve left something important out.)

Here is my YA Ideal Bookshelf:

idealbookshelfya

When I suggested to my grade ten students that they were going to create their own ideal bookshelves, they were, I have to say, enthusiastic. They began the work of making lists and I was gratified to see that they had as much trouble choosing ten titles as I did. Once their lists were chosen, I gave them the bookshelf template which is provided in the back of My Ideal Bookshelf and also at their blog . The results were quite delightful.

LouiseT

Louise wrote: “In the fourth grade I was stuck in a Geronimo Stilton phase and I had a cousin who was bound and determined to see me break out of the 100-page cycle. She began sending me “adult” books. The first was The Giver by Lois Lowry. My mother read it first and then advised me to put it away for a few years until I could better handle it. I read it anyway, mainly out of sheer curiosity. And although it kept me up at night thinking about it, maybe that’s what I liked about it. I’ve read it every year since, and it always feels like I’m reading it for the first time.”

DanielleC

Danielle wrote: “The reason I like books so much is because I like to experience other lives; lives that would be impossible for me to even know someone living them let alone live them myself. Books open whole other worlds for me and reading them and experiencing them is like being reborn.”

DylanS

Dylan wrote: “I don’t just read these books, I make my own stories with them and when I was not doing that I’d be dreaming of the worlds of those realms and have myself take a place among the ranks of heroes. Reading definitely changed my life. It gave me refuge from the hardships of life and it’s probably the best hobby ever.”

EricaT

Erica wrote: “My personal favourite book on my shelf is Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I read this book in two days and immediately began to read its sequels. I’ve read the series twice now and I loved it even more the second time. This series had a great influence on me. While reading the third book, I had a strong desire to follow the elves’ path and become vegetarian. One of the main reasons I love this series so much is because of the characters: Eragon’s honour; Shaphira’s wisdom; Roran’s bravery, and Arya’s strength. There is nothing negative I could say about Eragon; I couldn’t recommend it enough.”

BriannS

Briann wrote: “I was a born reader. I even read before I was born. Well, I guess my mother read to me technically, and only when she wanted me to stop thrusting my feet against her stomach. These books are very different from one another, but they all gave me the same pleasure of living a different life through the unique characters. They all show how life can be wonderful and horrible, even if it’s fiction. I could never aspire to write anything as amazing as these authors did, but reading their stories is a reward on its own.”

AlaraS

Alara wrote: “Even though there were many characters I liked, I never identified with any of them. They are their own person; they’re like real people to me. I would be happy for them, get jealous of them, and cry for them and get sad that I couldn’t help them. I love fictional worlds better than this one, I think. I have more than 750 books in my room (I paid my sister $20 to count them) and I wouldn’t get rid of any.”

NoahR

Noah wrote: “I always had great interest in the noble Count Dracula. He was my favourite character for his strength, smarts, fits of rage and great passion. Everything about him was over-the-top, from his ability to shape-shift to his hypnotic and telepathic abilities. He was so cool to me. Every power he had was every power I wanted for my own as a kid.”

AndrewB

Andrew wrote: “My fondest memory of Calvin and Hobbes was in grade five during silent reading I lost it laughing and got kicked out of class. That’s a really stupid and funny moment I won’t ever forget.”

ErinG

Erin wrote: Books that make me cry are the most memorable because it’s a rare occasion when a novel is powerful enough to make me cry. War and slavery books usually leave me blubbering like a baby. The endings of The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas left me wailing. The Lottery Rose gets me to cry my eyes out after chapter three. It’s not easy to make me cry, so these books are extremely important to me.

This is an activity I will continue to do with my students because it was AWESOME!

Saturday Sum up – Feb 29

I am a regular bookstore visitor. Generally on Friday night, after we drop my daughter off at ballet, my son and I head over to Indigo and while away a couple hours, browsing and barely resisting the copious books. I have a Kobo. I don’t even know how to set it up and have no real desire to. We don’t actually have an independent bookstore in my town, although we do have a couple second-hand bookstores, which I try to visit when I can.

This article by Canadian Writer David Bidini is, I think, a sad reflection on the state of independent bookstores.

Reading between the times to understand the death of indie bookstores

Speaking of indie bookstores, The Bookseller posted a disheartening article about the decline of independent bookstores in the UK. Read it here.

But just so you don’t think all is lost – read this awesome story about a young boy who wants to start a library for homeless people.

Enjoy your day!

Saturday Sum up – January 25

Here’s what I found bookish & interesting on my tour around the Internet this week:

I loved this story about people forming a human chain to move books to a new library – now that’s bookish dedication!

For the past couple of years I’ve taken part in Goodreads Reading Challenge. I also track my reading at the 50 Book Pledge, which I love even more as it’s very visual.  I view participating in these things as a way of challenging myself to read more and do other stuff (watch tv, waste time online) less. The Guardian views the reading challenge another way. Read The bad side of Goodreads’ Reading Challenge.

My brother Mark bought me a Kobo for Christmas. He’s a dear man. “You read a lot,” he said to me when I thanked him. Yep, I read a lot….of BOOKS. Like… books that I can hold in my hand with real pages I can turn and then store on my shelves when I am done.  Nevertheless, I tried to set the damn thing up and failed and now it’s just sitting on my bedroom table, abandoned. So…

this makes me inordinantly happy: How Book Porn is Actually Revolutionalizing the Book World

Check out this comprehensive list of 50 Essential Mystery Novels. It’s missing Thomas H. Cook, a mystery writer at the top of my list, but it’s still a great start for newbies to the genre.

Finally – here’s a fantastic list of books for booklovers.

Saturday sum-up – Jan 18th

Here’s what I found bookish & interesting on my tour around the Internet this week:

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Why does too many books still not seem like hoarding to me?

Looking for a way to spice up your reading lives? Check out these cool Reading Bingo Challenge cards over at Random House.

I love The Nerdy Bookclub and they recently posted about Canadian children’s books.

I am a big fan of Nick Bantock. He’s probably best known for his Griffin and Sabine trilogy and if you haven’t read them I highly recommend them. Anyway, my son and I made our weekly pilgrimage to Indigo last night and I stumbled upon Bantock’s latest endeavour, The Trickster’s Hat. I didn’t purchase it, but I’m going to. It’s a beautiful little book about creativity with 49 activities you can do to promote it in your own life. Visit Nick’s Etsy page. (Edited on Feb 22 to add this review of The Trickster’s Hat from the National Post.)

And here’s something avid readers already know: Great novels can change your life…and your brain

Today in literary history: A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh was born in London on this day in 1882. My mom read me and my brotheKumpulan gambar kartun winnie the pooh Yang Lucu dan Imut Brs Winnie the Pooh  all the time when we were kids. I loved those stories, but I loved my mom reading to me even more.

““If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”  A.A. Milne