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Fall Books to Fall For from Sherman Alexie, Craig Childs, and more

September 28, 2017

To combat insomnia, I have taken to getting off my computer before midnight and taking to my bed with a book. It has to be the right book– it really has to be beautifully written and engaging, but not suspenseful.

So what have I been harvesting? What books have I been falling for this autumn?

to that end, I have recently started working through books by naturalist Craig Childs. I’ve known about his work for years as he is friends with friends of mine. First I read House of RainTracking a vanished civilization across the American Southwest and now I’m reading Apocalyptic Planet. Both are sumptuous reads, just perfect to relax into at the end of the day because even though the one I’m reading now is indeed about climate change and the coming apocalypse if we don’t change out behaviors and soon, Childs describes the amazing places on this planet so well-written that is incredibly satisfying.

I’m also reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert which was sent to me to review in consideration of using it in class as a reading on writing book. So far it’s good and some of the ideas are great, but it doesn’t necessarily fit in as well as the other books students read:

  • Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • The Craft of Revision by Donald M. Murray
  • On Writing by Stephen King

If I was going to add a book on writing and/or creativity, it might be John McPhee’s new book on writing and life. But as much as I love  his writing about natural history (and I’ve taught his essays and other books), I need to read it first to make sure it will work in the context of this class.

On my to-read list for a while is the novel Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood which is Ventura College’s “One Book One Campus” text. The other day when I was in the library I picked up a copy of the book and an audio version.

Also on my reading list since summer has been Sherman Alexie’s new memoir You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (2017). I’m also going to do a book club with friends about this book, and I’ve added it to the list of books that my students can read in book clubs this fall.

Other books that we are considering reading include:

  • Violence Girl by Alice Bag (2011)
  • Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard (2005)
  • Boy About Town by Tony Fletcher (2014)
  • Bad Indians by Deborah Miranda (2012)
  • Life By The Cup by Zhena Muzyka (2014)
  • Always Running by Luis Rodriguez (1993)
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed (2012)

A future book club book might be The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. It looks well-written and well researched and it is on a topic near and dear to my heart, similar to Last Child in the Woods which I used to teach as a book club book before I moved to a focus on memoirs.

Today I’ll ask my students to do some research in the computer lab and give me a note about which book they want to read so I can form groups of students reading the same book. Usually I form groups of 4-6. The students do a group presentation about the book and, individually, they write a critical analysis or book review about it. We won’t starting reading the books for two weeks but some students like to get started early or they need time to acquire the book.

What I want to know–

1. which book is their first choice to read and why,

2. which book is their second choice to read and why

3. which book they don’t want to read and why,

4. who they’d like to work with and why

5. who they’d prefer NOT to work with

6. whether who they work with is more important than what they read.

I’m also going to ask them which is their reading on writing group, who is in it, and what they like best about that book.

So what books are you falling for? What books are you harvesting?

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