Sunday, February 7, 2021

Book Reviews - Things to Think About

And here's another round! Three of the four of these had some great inspiration and reflection opportunities. So, let's go!

Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman is a book I heard about ages (like a legit decade y'all) ago, and I finally have read it! Yay, me? Anyway. The book was first published in the sixties, and almost sixty years later, it is still incredibly relevant. Told in a variety of correspondence methods, this is the story of Slyvia, a young teacher assigned to a metro high school. She very quickly comes to see the realities of this school, including the stories and challenges of her students, the lack of resources to do her work, and the frustrations of administrative demands. Throughout, she tries to do all she can to help her students, while also encountering a variety of barriers through them, her colleagues and the administration. This was such a unique storytelling technique, and it worked so well to really help me see Sylvia's struggles. I was so drawn in, and I was rooting for Sylvia and her students even though the obstacles were many. This is a book whose subject matter is timeless in its frustration, but also in its inspiration. It's one I could see myself revisiting as it's just so well-crafted and has so many messages that are so important to continue to hear about education.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig was such a beautiful, wonderful book. After being totally captivated by The Midnight Library, I needed more of this author in my life. This is a memoir focused on the realities and struggles of mental health told in an honest and authentic way. At times, the story is hard, but those are the parts that are so, so very important to hear and know. Even through the pain, this is above all else a story of hope. As the title says, this is about finding joy and perseverance even in the darkness. This was just a book that had me (predictably) in my feels, but also gave me so much to reflect on and sit with, too. It's another one I can see myself revisiting, and I'm also ready for more Matt Haig reads in my life.

I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers was a re-read in preparation for the two authors coming to an event at work. Y'all, this book is a must-read. I am so appreciative of how these two women are able to speak and explain politics/life. They are able to work through difficult topics with such intentionality and grace. Given I was re-reading, I took time to mark my favorite passages (and there were many), and these are words I will revisit. Also, if you're not yet listening to Pantsuit Politics, it's absolutely a podcast you need in your life. 

With so many of these quartets, you need to cue the "One of these things is not the other" music, and this last one is obvioulsy that!

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade was just a delight of a romance read focused on April and Marcus. Marcus Caster-Rupp is the star of Gods of the Gates (which is akin to Game of Thrones in its hype and fandom). While the show has made him a star, Marcus also isn't so much a fan of how the story has been adapted for TV from books. Wanting to re-write the stories, he finds connection and community in the fan fiction community. April is a member of that community. She finds particular connection with one particular user, and unbeknownst to her, that user is actually Marcus! April also loves cosplay, and she goes viral for one of her costumes. That post catches the eye of the real-life Marcus, and they end up on a date. Marcus learns that April is actually his fanfic friend, but he decides not to tell her. From there, the real-life and online relationships take different twists and turns given what Marcus knows (and April doesn't). I really liked the fanfic angle of this one. It's a dedicated community, and it was fun to see how this story was built around the world they live in and fandom they cultivate!

Onto the next ones!