A Fresh Start
I’ve been going back to school almost every September of my life, so this is a much more natural resolution-making time for me than January 1. There are all kinds of things I plan to start up/get back on track (far too many, as always), and one of them is blogging.
I thought of this summer as a fallow period. I checked in regularly on work email and managed some ongoing tasks there, but I didn’t really think about work or plan for the tweaking of my course that I scrambled to do in the last two weeks of August.
I went for walks, ran errands, puttered in the garden, and sat on my back deck looking into the trees and reading. I vaguely thought about blogging, but the part of my brain that could dig into ideas about books and reading was vacant. I miss thinking, though, and it’s time to start doing it again. Fingers crossed! (I mean sometimes I wonder if I still can think . . .).
I have 13 prompts left for the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge (out of 50), so I may actually finish it–especially now I’ve remembered there are four months left in 2018, not three! I’m not sure I want the rest of my reading year to be so heavily shaped by those prompts, but we’ll see.
In my semester-prep frenzy, I ordered a bunch of books on teaching composition and suggested to a colleague that we start a reading group of some kind. We can dream big before the reality of the midterm workload sets in! I’m up in the self-evaluation rotation this year: it’s a formative project, and I want to do something on incorporating more reflection on the writing process and how that might help students transfer their skills to other courses. Some of my work reading relates to these topics. So I may post some on that too.
You can see mini reviews of books I read this summer on Goodreads. There weren’t any 5-star standouts, but a lot of solid 4-star reading. I feel nostalgic for last summer when I took on the Booker longlist and discovered some books I absolutely adored. This year I didn’t try Booker reading, partly because I was on vacation later in the summer. My library has very few of the books longlisted. I’ve requested a handful that appealed to me, but they’re still on order–which means they will probably all arrive at once during the first week of school.
Highlights of summer reading:
- Last summer vacation, I started Dorothy Dunnett’s Queen’s Play, but set it aside for the Booker longlist and never went back. This year I picked it up again, made good headway while away on vacation, and finished it on my return. I had mixed feelings: I think I would have adored Lymond had I read these when I was younger, but now I find him kind of exhausting and annoying. He’s a little too perfectly perfect. However, the end of Queen’s Play suggested that some of the book’s characters felt the same way, and that a reckoning with human fallibility might be coming for him. I have already bought The Disorderly Knights, so my quest to read the Lymond Chronicles continues.
- I read The Road to Lichfield by Penelope Lively while staying with my parents, and as a result it really resonated with me. They downsized from their 18th-century house this spring, and while their new place is just right for them, the visit involved some nostalgia and mourning. It also meant finding familiar things in new places–furniture and art that had been in my childhood home, my grandparents’ homes–and lots of discussion of their origins. (Who was Aunt Ditty of Aunt Ditty’s Table, anyway?) What does that have to do with Lively’s novel, you ask? It’s about Anne, a history teacher who travels back and forth one summer to visit her dying father and begin sorting through his house–in the course of which she discovers things that make her reconsider her view of her family. There’s lots of reflection on what we value from the past, on memory and loss, on how or whether the past influences us. It was a case of book meeting reader at just the right moment, and I loved it. Years ago I read Lively’s City of the Mind, and now I wonder why I haven’t read more of her.
- I read more romance! Not a ton, but more than I have for a while. It was a mixed bag, but I hope I am finding my way back to enjoying the genre. The standout here was Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords, a debut that falters some in the second half, but has many of the strengths of her later work.
What was your favorite book of the summer? (Or for my Southern hemisphere friends, your winter?)