Just so you know, I rarely accept adult fiction for review. I love being exposed to new non-fiction (biographies, parenting books) and children’s literature, but I am very choosy about the novels I want to read, based often on friends’ recommendations. Here are my faves from my summer reading.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The story of a woman’s journey with early-onset Alzheimer’s, this is a book that you will not be able to put down, and that will stay with you forever. Telling it from Alice’s point of view makes it all the more real, painful and illuminating. I forgot to copy down my favourite quotes before returning this one to the library (not an early sign, I hope!) but I cried at least a dozen times, based on a single line or moment.
Left Neglected also by Lisa Genova
After loving Lisa’s first book, I couldn’t wait to read this one: the story of a busy wife-slash-mom-slash-80 hour a week career woman whose life comes to a halt when a car accident leaves her with a brain injury and a condition called “left neglect”. When you suffer from this, your brain forgets that you have a left side. It doesn’t process anything on the left of your field of vision (in a room or on a page) and you cannot make your left arm or leg obey your commandments (even if you can convince yourself that they still exist.) A great story about changing life plans, and a lesson in slowing down.
(The author has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard, and her background knowledge of subject matter really adds to power of the books.)
On a totally different note:
Bossypants by Tina Fey
This memoir is full of funny stories from both Tina’s childhood and adulthood, always told in her self-deprecating manner. My favourite chapter was the one about her daughter (perhaps because I can relate to parenthood more than I can to improv comedy or photo shoots).
“I chose to breast-feed, and it was an amazing time in my life. It really changed me as a woman, and is the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done.*
*Except for several very satisfying work-related things.”
“‘How do you juggle it all?’, people constantly ask me, with an accusatory look in their eyes. ‘You’re f—ing it all up, aren’t you?’ their eyes say. My standard answer is that I have the same struggles as any working parent but with the good fortune to be working at my dream job.”
Tina gave birth to daughter number two, Penelope, on August 15th. The final chapter of Bossypants is all about her struggle to decide whether a second child was right for her (“Science shows that fertility and movie offers drop off steeply for women after forty”) but clearly the decision has now been made!
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Yes, this was my first time reading the award-winning (and by award, I mean both Pulitzer and National Book Award) classic. This story of two black sisters is compelling and disturbing…and now I want to watch the movie. (No, I’ve never seen it, either.)
The End of Molasses Classes by Ron Clark
Teachers must read this. If you’re not a teacher, but you are a parent, you could certainly take away a few tidbits as well. I’ll save the teacher talk for another time, but some of Ron’s (as in, Ron Clark, founder of the Ron Clark Academy, Oprah favourite and past American Teacher of the Year) gems for parents:
Limit chaos in the mornings
Read everything that is sent home from school, and return forms on time
Use car rides to discuss what your child is learning in class
Never speak negatively about a teacher in front of your child
He has strong opinions, such as: “Not every child deserves a cookie.” Too often we give rewards to everyone just to be fair…which means, they aren’t really rewards. Not every child deserves an A, a merit award, a trophy, a spot on the team. He also includes great tips for what to do if you are unhappy with your child’s teacher. (Hint: always go to the teacher first. Not the principal, superintendent, newspaper or entire PTA.)
You can’t help but be blown away by the incredible work being done at the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia…and I am already implementing some of his tips in my new class.