Mid Year Recap

(July 2022)

Amidst trauma, a difficult year of public school teaching, and several reading slumps, I’ve still managed to read some outstanding books this year. Here is a full list of titles with more detailed highlights of my favorites so far in 2022.

Books Read:

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Grenade by Alan Gratz
The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
True Beauty by Yaongyi
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Lawson (reread)
Saga (Vol 1 & 2) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (reread)


The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

In an effort to read books that had been on my bookshelf for awhile, I drew this title (written on a slip of paper) from a jar. This was my first book by Becky Albertalli and it won’t be my last! This book was delightful! I adored Molly and Reid as characters. The Maryland setting was a fun surprise, as that’s where I’m from. The themes of first love, self esteem, and sisterhood were thoughtfully done. Highly recommend!

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

This audiobook was truly outstanding and I can’t imagine reading this book any other way. With three different point-of-view characters, the narrator (Julia Whelan) expertly crafts distinct speaking styles for each character and makes them come to life. This book tackles tough topics such as adoption, teen pregnancy, alcohol addiction, guilt, family, and belonging. There is a reason this is a National Book Award Winner, but I’d encourage you to experience it in audiobook form. I couldn’t wait to have a quiet moment to listen and the characters stuck with me long after I was finished. Highly recommend!

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

I’ve always had a thing for post-apocalyptic survival stories, and this one caught my eye on a school library visit with my classes. Another book with three point-of-view perspectives, I grew to care about each character. My favorite scene took place in an abandoned Books-a-Million store, and I was quite upset that they didn’t just spend the rest of the book camping out there (that’s what I would have done). This book may not be everyone’s cup of tea right now with reminders of recent pandemic experiences. My biggest takeaway was how this book inspired gratitude for small moments in everyday life. I found the ending to be a tad anti-climactic, but if you enjoy this genre and want something weird, give it a shot.

Daughter of the Pirate King and Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

This series was recommended to me by a student, and I thoroughly enjoyed them! Pure pirate fun! The series is a blend of fantasy, action adventure, and romance intended for a young adult audience. The main character, Alosa, is a witty and confident female pirate captain. Loved her! While I predicted a few twists, overall the pacing, world-building, and sharp dialogue were excellent and made for an engaging read! Highly recommend if you are looking for a fun and light young adult read.

The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton

This is one that I can’t wait to recommend to next year’s students. Middle grade fantasy is one of my most requested genres and this will certainly feed that appetite. If you’ve read Dhonielle Clayton’s YA title The Belles, you’ll know that she excels at world-building. And while I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in the world of The Belles, the world of The Marvellers is a different story! The Arcanum Training Institute is a magical boarding school in the sky with sensory descriptions that paint a vivid world in the imagination. With a diverse cast of characters from all over the globe and opportunities to have conversations about bullying and prejudice, this is a fantastic addition to classrooms and libraries! Highly recommend!

Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe

While on a trip to Vermont, I visited the most wonderful indie bookstore (Northshire Bookstore). My husband had to drag me out of the store. I could have stayed there all day. I noticed one particular staff member had similar taste in books to me, and she recommended Lore Olympus in the graphic novel section. I bought it. I loved it. And discovered it was a Webtoon. The volume I purchased only had the first 25 episodes, but there were currently over 200 episodes on Webtoon… hence why the Webtoon app is now downloaded on my phone. I was skeptical of reading comics on my phone, but it is gorgeous and intuitive with the full color and scrolling panels. In addition to Lore Olympus, I also read the wildly popular True Beauty. Webtoons are a great alternative to mindless phone scrolling with their quick episodes and appealing graphics. Give the app a try if you haven’t already!

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

I read this book-in-verse for a teaching professional development session. It is a valuable read for teachers to reflect on their role in the school-to-prison pipeline. The book features two characters in teaching roles who are opposites in terms of their approach, and we had a valuable discussion as educators about power: wielding power vs empowering students. This book spurred me to dive deeper into learning about the flaws of our criminal justice system. Yusef Salaam is one of the “Central Park Five” who were wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman in New York City. While this book is a work of fiction, Yusef contributes his experience and perspective as someone who spent six year in prison for a wrongful conviction. (If you are unfamiliar with the Central Park Five case, the Netflix miniseries When They See Us is well done and will break your heart.)

Let me know if you have questions about any of the books I’ve read so far this year! Are there any books you recommend I check out in the second half of 2022? Below are the titles that I am hoping to read soon!

Books featured: Book Lovers, Violet Made of Thorns, Iron Widow, The Last Cuentista, The Midnight Library, A Darker Shade of Magic, A Magic Steeped in Poison

How I’m Resolving to Read More Books

BookshelfI used to read closer to 70 books a year, but it’s been well over 5 years since I’ve achieved my goal of 50 in the Goodreads challenge. It’s frustrating because reading is my favorite hobby. Some of my best memories are devouring books in the summertime whether under the hot sun on a beach towel or lounging on an air-conditioned couch.

I spent some time reflecting on what had changed between now and 5 years ago to result in such a decrease in the number of books I read in a year.

  • I cook more now. I used to eat a lot of microwave meals, and now I cook from scratch most nights. Much healthier, but time consuming.
  • Five years ago, I used my Kindle a lot. It was new and I enjoyed reading on it. I have since stopped using Kindle, and read more paper books. I do have a Kobo eReader that I use now, though less often.
  • I was single. In the evenings, I entertained myself rather than spend time with another person. But my boyfriend is pretty great, and I like spending time with him 🙂
  • My commute was only 10 minutes rather than 35-60 minutes, giving me more time for hobbies.
  • Social media was a less constant presence in my life. I looked up when the Facebook App for iPhone was introduced–2010-2012. The last year I completed my Goodreads goal: 2011. Coincidence?

If I’m going to reach my goal of 50 books, some things will have to change. But there are things I’m willing to change, and things I’m not. Here are the ways I plan to read more this year:

Always have a book with me and use even short periods of time to read. My Kobo eReader will come in handy here. It is small, light, and easy to carry with me. Instead of pulling out my phone while I wait in the checkout line, I’ll pull out a book. On my lunch break, instead of checking Facebook, I’ll read a chapter. When I’m waiting for a pot of water to boil, I can knock out a few pages.

Utilize library apps, especially for free audiobooks. Audiobooks are pricey. But they could be the biggest advantage I have in reaching my goal this year. I started listening to more audiobooks last year during my longer commute. And audiobooks totaled about a third of my finished books last year. My two favorite library apps are:

  • Libby (by Overdrive): This app has the biggest selection of books, including popular titles. But there is often a waitlist for the books I want, which can be frustrating.
  • Hoopla: With this app, I get 10 borrows per month. I mostly use my allotted 10 for audiobooks, but they also have eBooks, movies, TV shows, music, and comics. The selection isn’t as wide as Libby, but I can usually find something to listen to while I am waitlisted for another title on Libby.

Restrict social media use: This is the hard one. The best method I’ve found for restricting my social media use is to not have my phone within reach. If I plug my phone in upstairs, I’m unlikely to check it while I’m down in my office. Using social media once or twice a day (morning and/or evening) will be my goal. An hour of social media scrolling is beginning to feel like binging a whole pint of ice cream. Fun in the moment, but I feel kind of gross afterwards. I feel more at peace, healthier, when I use it less. And reading a good book is the best use of my time!

Set concrete goals: Using Goodreads, I analyzed some of my reading numbers. I want to set a daily page goal–something to achieve daily. I read 9,673 pages for a total of 24 books in 2017. If I want to double my goal, I should double my pages. If I divide 9,673 by 365 days a year. I was reading 26 pages a day. Doubling that–I should be reading 52 pages a day. That’s my concrete goal. It also allows me to calculate deadlines for when I should have books read by with a daily page goal in mind. I’m using an online calendar (Asana) as well as a reading planner (from my December OwlCrate) to keep track of my reading goals.

Are you resolving to read more? How are you planning to achieve your reading goals this year?

Books as Windows and Mirrors

Windows MirrorsA friend of mine introduced me to the idea of books as windows and mirrors. She introduces the idea to her students at the beginning of the school year as a way of discussing book selection.

A book that serves as a mirror is one that we see ourself in. These kinds of books can help us get a better understanding of who we are, what we value, and how we navigate the world.

For me, a mirror book would be about a white girl who loves books and words. A recent read that was a mirror book for me was A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. While reading that book, I posted something about how the book was “speaking to my heart” because the main character resonated so powerfully with how I see the world.

A book that is window allows you to view a world outside your own. These books are the kind that let you step into another person’s shoes, however briefly, and see the world as they see it. These books promote empathy and understanding for people and situations outside our own experience.

For me, a recent window book was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book allowed me to see and understand the world from a black teen’s perspective. The book gave me empathy and understanding for all that a black teen might be dealing with, from code-switching, to police brutality, to interracial relationships, and more.

As you set reading goals for the new year, I encourage you to think of books as windows and mirrors. We need mirror books to become more self-aware and understand ourselves.

But we also need window books. Oh boy, do we need window books. We need to push ourselves to better understand other perspectives. With the understanding and empathy that window books provide, perhaps we can create a world with more love, more peace, and more kindness.

And if you want to watch a great video on the power of reading and empathy, check out this gem from the channel Just Write:

My Year in Books 2017

My Year in Books 2017

Overall, I wish I’d read more books and hit my goal of 50. I tended towards lengthy books this year and tackled several series, which definitely slowed me down. Audiobooks were a little over a third of my reading.

Goals for 2018: Decrease social media use. Set weekly reading goals. Read 3-4 books a month. I’m going to keep my overall goal at 50 books, despite not reaching it this year. I know it’s an achievable goal for me, especially now that I’m more savvy at checking out free audiobooks from the library via Hoopla and Libby (by Overdrive).

How was your 2017 in books? What are you pleased with? What do you want to change in 2018?