(*Please, at least one person, tell me you get this reference.)
Authored by Marty Kelly
In my last post I confessed to not reading any books this semester. Well, technically I think I confessed to not finishing any books this semester. Which honestly is weirder than my saying I haven’t started any books. You see, I can go through dry spells without reading, but when I do pick up a book, I must finish it. Like, immediately. Books and bottles of wine: I never start what I can’t finish. So the fact that Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell sits looking at me, only partially-read on my bedside table is, for me, akin to my mother’s raised, reproving eyebrow. Or The Office’s Kelly Kapoor when she demands of Ryan the temp, “I have a lot of questions. Number one: How dare you?”
Seriously, how dare I. Especially since I am the person who, when taking a three day beach trip, packs (at minimum) three books because I know I will read one for every day I am there. And it’s not like I am reading rigorous, academic tomes outside of school. My husband, whom we will also generously call a reader because he reads online articles about sports, makes fun of my penchant for reading anything with “girl” in the title. I mean, in looking back at my list of books I’ve read, I see it’s not *exactly* untrue. I’ve got at least 19 girl-ridden titles under my belt: Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, Luckiest Girl Alive, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/in the Spider’s Web/who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest/who Takes an Eye for an Eye, All the Missing Girls, The French Girl, The Perfect Girl, The Girls, Local Girl Missing, The Girl With No Past, The Girl in the Ice, The Perfect Girlfriend, The Good Girl, Woman in the Window, The Kept Woman, The Woman in Cabin 10… okay so some of them matured into “woman,” but still, this is getting embarrassing.
As a teacher of primarily classical literature, I really should be highlighting the other genre of books I love, which I call revisionist fiction (some just call it “retellings”; some call it “historical fiction” but that label is a fiction itself; but the best description is probably “parallel novels”): I’m talking about the books that revisit myths to expand on the story or explore the story from a different perspective. Some of these include Circe and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (yeah, girls again, I know), The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes, and that cheeky little Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell that judges me from my nightstand. And now, we’ve come full circle. So in another episode of what I call “getting other people to do my job for me” (and to live vicariously through those around me who are indeed still reading), I asked other Upper School faculty to recommend some books for us, just in time for the holiday break!
Blake Ware: I’m in the midst of The Art of Loading Brush by Wendell Berry. It’s been good. He’s basically a cranky old agrarian who is critiquing modernity, which is different from his more well-known fiction, although obviously on brand.
Dawn Denham: I read 100 pages of The Sun Also Rises on the plane yesterday. Because my son had it on his coffee table and because I’ve never read it and because many of my students did last year!
Lara Kees: I read Home, by Marilynne Robinson. It’s part of her Gilead quartet (I guess that’s the term–there are four). Anyway, I loved it and those books in general. Small-town life in Iowa in the 1950s-ish. I find Robinson very insightful in terms of the real, felt effect religion has in everyday American life.
Gracie Bellnap: I finished Song of Achilles (interesting read since I completely forgot about the movie Troy and the myth), Alice in Wonderland (haven’t read it since I was a kid and it was just as weird and wonderful as I remember), and Comfort Me with Apples (A wickedly weird and dark and twisted story— more like a novella— that I read in an hour and loved so much), and I am almost finished with The Four Winds (a horribly depressing book following a mom/daughter through their life during the Great Depression in west Texas and California).
Catherine Bishop: I had totally planned on reading Dispatches from Pluto, but the best laid plans… it’s definitely on my list, though.
Price Chadwick: I just finished Woke Racism by John McWhorter. John McWhorter is a professor at Columbia University. Here is a snippet from Penguin Random House: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/696856/woke-racism-by-john-mcwhorter/
And then here is a Washington Post article that calls the book horrible: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/at-war-with-the-woke-a-fresh-perspective-makes-the-same-tired-arguments/2021/11/24/7dcd37d8-38e7-11ec-91dc-551d44733e2d_story.html
Lauren Powell: I started reading A Gentleman in Moscow, almost done. The review does a much better job of explaining why this book is so marvelous but I love the characters, the Russian history, and the seamless connections between things like the importance of a great meal, the necessity of a life philosophy, and the art of finding meaning in life. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34066798-a-gentleman-in-moscow
Claire Whitehurst: I just finished GRASS, a graphic novel by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, about Korean comfort women in Japan during WW2. It was gorgeous!
Burton Inman: Right before Thanksgiving, I recently read Anxious People, Fredrik Backman’s latest novel and I LOVED it! I’ve read a few of his works before this one and was so eager to read it given how much I loved A Man Called Ove and Us Against You.
In this book, Backman does such an excellent job of weaving together multiple story lines and placing these different characters together in a way that is just so charming and engaging. I loved the way that he writes about human beings and the simple, common struggles that we all have. A bank robbery turned hostage situation can warm your heart and make you laugh–yes, you read that right!
Linda Rodriguez: I have a few favorites that you might like:
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – great backstory about Shakespeare’s family
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – explores ancient womanhood through the story of Dinah, Biblical Jacob’s daughter
Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis – the Cupid and Psyche myth retold
The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier – a classic time travel story with a twist
Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis – murder mystery set in the ancient Roman world
Marks McWhorter: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins: it’s the most impactful book I have ever read in regard to how I look at science as a whole.
Kendra Perkins: I re-read an old favorite (Skellig by David Almond), it’s a middle school book, but it’s one of those that’s such a powerful story and such incredible writing that it’s a wonderful read at any age. This author is British so you can enjoy the fun language he uses so well to tell this story.
This (12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson) is one of those books that I wish had been published when I was younger. It has revolutionary, yet simple ideas to help anyone navigate through the trials and tribulations of life with a practical and positive outlook.