Monday, January 5, 2015

How to Read More in 2015

Last year, my New Year’s resolution was to read 52 books in 2014, an average of 1 book a week.   In the end I read 43 books—not quite to my goal, but a great deal more reading in a year than I had done before.  It was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to read 52 in 2015.

Along the way, I learned some tips and tricks about how to read more.   I’m sharing them below mostly as a roadmap for myself this year, though perhaps my lessons might help someone else as well.

If you want to read more this year, here are a few ideas:

1.   Make sure the next book you are going to read is on your nightstand.  When Zeitoun was so enthralling I finished it in two days, I didn’t have Helter Smelter yet from the library, so I filled my spare time up with TV and quickly fell out of my habit of regular reading.   Turns out if my next book is sitting on my nightstand, I’m much more likely to read it than if it is still sitting in the public library or Amazon warehouse. :)

2.   Track your progress. It’s startling how satisfying shading in a little box with the book title Middlesex can be, and watching those shaded boxes accumulate over the year.  

3.   Make a list, but leave lots of blank spaces.  In 2012 when I first started this resolution, I wrote down all the books in order I wanted to read during the year, but soon abandoned the list because I really wanted to read The Maze Runner instead of the scheduled Thinking Fast and Slow.   This year a typical month might have The International Bank of Bob and The Fifth Wave scheduled, with two open weeks I could fill with a book that felt like a good read at that point, Quiet, as well as a recent recommendation, The Fault in Our Stars.  (*Note:  You’ve got to decide a week or two in advance of the blank space what book you want to read, so that you can make sure you have it ready to read—see Tip #1.)

4.  Balance fiction and nonfiction.   The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is dense and requires some time to ponder, so it was nice to have it sandwiched between the quicker fiction reads Dune and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

5.   Audiobooks are books, too.   Runaway Jury helped me survive 30 hours in a moving truck driving cross-country.   Ellen DeGeneres was my hiking companion for 10 miles one weekend in Utah with Seriously…I’m Kidding.  I was taken to Mumbai in Behind the Beautiful Forevers when each character was brought to life with a unique voice and accent.

I’d love to hear if any of these ideas work for you, and what other ideas you have to read more.  Whatever you do, pick up a good book, and happy reading in 2015!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

January Books

If you work, anywhere, you need to read this book.  Tony Schwartz lays out how our current way of working (long hours, lots of meetings, endless deadlines, etc) is not working--for us, or even for the bottom line.   He shares research and strategies on how to manage our happiness and work life balance by addressing four areas: sustainability/physical, security/emotional, self-expression/mental, significance/spiritual. Each chapter is chocked full of actionable ideas, and common sense solutions to workplace ills.  Because of this book, I know make sure all meetings I plan are 90 minutes or less, I take walks outside to find renewal in the middle of the workday, and I see myself as the Chief Energy Officer.

This was a great book to start the year with--it's kind of New Year's Resolutions on steroids.   I appreciated learning about the happiness research embedded in the story of Gretchen living our her Happiness Project. The book actually inspired me to adopt monthly resolutions.   My favorite so far?  Go to sleep with a clean house.  Game changer.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Leadership and Self-Deception

I got this book from my sister for Christmas.  Thanks, Maddi!  I was surprised I'd never heard of it--it's apparently quite well known in the business world.  It's definitely a business book, about how we deceive ourselves at work (and home) by failing to see others as people.   It's told in a narrative--we follow Tom as he learns from his boss Bud and others at Zagrum Company.  The narrative format makes the book very digestable.  As a fan of concrete examples and stories, this book delivered--every new idea is introduced with stories and actual examples, rather than elaborating on research.   Leadership and Self-Deception has actually benefited me at work, and caused me to understand why some of my work relationships weren't exactly where I wanted.   Definitely a good read for anyone who interacts with other people. :)

Because of Mr. Terupt

Having just finished Wonder over Christmas break (Fantastic read--without doubt it's the first book I'll read aloud to my firth grade class when I'm back in the classroom), I was in the mood for more in the feel-good classroom genre.
I definitely enjoyed Because of Mr. Terupt, though not as much as Wonder.  It's the story of a new fifth grade teacher who finds a way to reach all of his kids, and puts a lot of trust in them.  Just as he's about to win over even the most stubborn holdouts, something happens. 

  Both stories are told from the viewpoints of several of the characters, but Palacio does a more convincing job of portraying the emotions and experiences of a variety of characters.   That said, I enjoyed the book by Rob Buyea (an elementary school teacher himself) and would definitely encourage my students, and even adults, to read it if that genre sounds appealing to you.

52 Books in 2014

One of my resolutions is to read 52 books this year--an average of one a week.   It took me a while to compile the list, but here it is.   I leave lots of blank spaces for books that I discover, or rediscover, and want to read throughout the year.

52 Books in 2014
Because of Mr. Terupt

Leadership & Self-Deception

The Happiness Project

Be Excellent At Anything


Start With Why

My Name is
Asher Lev


The International Bank of Bob

The Fifth Wave



Uncle Tom’s Cabin

The Casual Vacancy

Teach Like a Champion


Made to Stick




The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

To Kill a Mockingbird


Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Bossy Pants

The House on Mango Street



How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dear Life


A Thousand Splendid Suns

Make Just One Change

The Alchemist





Helter Smelter


Ghostly Matters

Phantom Tollbooth

David and Goliath


Proof of Heaven

The Orphan Master’s Son



Leading So People Will Follow





Saturday, November 10, 2012

You Know You're a Fourth Grade Teacher When...

1.  You're listening to Rihanna in your car and you incorporate the sign language for simile into your dance moves ("...shine bright like a diamond...").

2.  You're calling parents on a Friday night, after sending home progress reports, just to to tell them how great their kid is.

3.  You listen to the chorus of the Owl City song at the end of Wreck-it Ralph and think, "Wow, I should show this to the kids--that's three different sound spellings for long o."

4.  Your biggest smile of the week is when the class multiplication average goes from 74 to 82.

5.  You can't stop thinking long enough to fall asleep because you're so worried about creating differentiated instruction so that all of your kids reach their big goals and get the education they deserve.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cabin 2012

I rounded out my summer of traveling with my annual trip to Grandpa Smiley's cabin in Wood River, Wyoming.   It is probably my favorite place in the world.  My friend John Strott accompanied me for the trip and it was amazing.  Amazing.


The 14-hour ride is make so much sweeter by Maddi's homemade ice cream...

...and beautiful scenery along the way.

We hiked...

....saw incredible views of pristine wilderness...

...and basked in Wyoming awesomeness.

You know it's legit when you get your water from a mountain spring.

Probably my favorite cabin activity--picking wild raspberries.

We drove through Yellowstone on the way home.