And just like that, we find ourselves in the last two weeks of summer. You hear people say it all around you, “It goes by faster every year.” And while you are grateful for the amazing ways that you took in the best season, there are still the things that you thought you would do, that you thought you should do, that you were supposed to do, or that your children were supposed to do. Like their summer reading. Yes, there are some kids out there who are cramming in Jane Eyre or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn over these next two weeks.
I’ve been blessed with two children who like to read, maybe even love to read. They – ok, don’t hate me – usually read their summer reading books in June. It is getting a little harder now as Child No. 1 was supposed to take notes on the book that he read (still hasn’t happened) and Child No. 2 is still working her way through her second book, the autobiography of Helen Keller. Child No. 2 has just figured out that not all books are The Hunger Games and she is a little bit miffed about that, but she is getting into Helen. I actually had to resort to some of the tactics of my favorite expert on how to handle teenagers, Joani Geltman. I love her post on The Curse of the Summer Reading Lists. Her tips on PPD (pages per day) is getting us through Helen Keller this summer.
Another expert I think of at this time of year is my son’s first grade teacher, Mr. Gagnon. He had a method he called Drop Everything And Read (DEAR). During DEAR time in the classroom, all the kids would stop what they were doing, take out their favorite book and just read. This included the teacher, Mr. Gagnon. So I think if you are struggling to get your child to finish their summer reading, you could try the DEAR approach too.
I think one of the reasons that our kids are so into reading is that we are big readers too. I always have a book (or two) on my Kindle, and a stack on my nightstand. In my pool bag/beach bag this summer, I’ve had this group of favorites – and like my kids, I’ve completed some – and I’m almost done with the others.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: This was a school-year project for me that became a bit of an obsession. Marie Kondo promises that if you properly simplify and organize your home, you will never have to do it again. I will say that in the areas that I followed her advice to a T (my clothing drawers, my closet) – she is absolutely right. And it is transformative. After Kondoing, I found that my head was clearer and that I could get through some work tasks (e.g. performance reviews) that I normally found labor intensive, much more efficiently. You have to be ready to make some difficult decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of – and my kids actually hid this book from me at one point – but I loved it and will continue my Tidying project this fall.
Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan: This book is one that I re-read from time to time. It is like a Bible for those of us who have chosen to eat healthfully. Michael Pollan’s rules are simple: Eat Food. Mostly plants. Not too much. If healthy eating is your goal, and you’ve never read this one, take an hour and do it.
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner: This was given to me by my friend, Anne (also a big reader). If the author sounds familiar it is because she also wrote the book that the town of Mansfield chose to read together this past Spring for One Book/One Mansfield, A Fall of Marigolds. Meissner is an author who skillfully draws parallels between historical events and present day.
What Great Parents Do by Erica Reischer, PhD.: I found this gem of a parenting book after reading an article by Erica Reischer in the New York Times. This book is small and simple, yet every single sentence is a powerful and useful tool for parents at all stages of the game. Whether it’s #61 “Great Parents Avoid Power Struggles.” Or # 26 “Great Parents Discipline in Private”. Or #55 “Great Parents Teach Happiness Habits.” Dr. Reischer explains how put this into practice with a two year old, an eight year old, or a teenager.
How Full Is Your Bucket by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton: I read this book this summer as part of a Women’s Leadership training that I participated in at work. I loved this book as it shows you how to greatly increase the positive moments in your work and in your life. It comes with a code so that you can take the Strengths Finder test online. The quiz only took about 20 minutes and I read the book in about 45 minutes. For that little investment, I received a detailed report of my strengths with ideas on how to best use them. There’s a kids’ version too.
Dr. David Katz’s Flavor-Full Diet, by Dr. David Katz: Dr. Katz takes Michael Pollan’s food advice and puts it into practice in his Flavor-Full Diet cookbook. Many of the recipes were created by Dr. Katz’s wife Catherine Katz. I had the honor and pleasure of working with David and Catherine a few years ago when I worked for NuVal and wrote a daily food blog as part of my job. I made, photographed and blogged one of Catherine’s amazing recipes monthly. You can find Catherine’s scrumptious recipes at Cuisinicity.
Commonweath by Ann Patchett: I buy so much fiction on my Kindle, but this one I bought in hardcover, real book form because the author was coming to my favorite book store, An Unlikely Story. If you aren’t on their mailing list, you need to get on it! One of my favorite events last year was when Unlikely Story hosted Mike Lupica, “the greatest sports writer for middle school readers.” My son, who has read every book Lupica has written , got to meet his favorite author (besides Jeff Kinney, of course) and get his book signed. Mike Lupica is coming again 9/14 btw.
That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week by Ana Homayoun: Oh, I have a few books in this genre. And it’s a reminder that we are back in school in 2 weeks. Let’s move on, shall we?
The Science of Skinny Cookbook by Dee McCaffrey: I got this book after hearing about it on NPR. The author was describing how she made zucchini soup taste creamy using cashews instead of cream. She had me at hello.
Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance: No matter if you voted Blue or Red, everyone in America should read this book. It’s another one of those moments when NPR had me riveted as I listened to an interview with the author. J. D. Vance grew up dirt poor in the Rust Belt of Ohio but made his way to Yale Law School. It’s been called one of the saddest and most fascinating books of this recent election season.
Ballerina Body by Misty Copeland: I love the title of this book because Misty Copeland, who made history by becoming the first African American Female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, was told, when she was younger, that she did not have the body of a ballet dancer. Well, she showed them, didn’t she? This book contains an exercise plan and an eating plan to help you get that long and lean, yet athletic look.
New York City Ballet Workout by Peter Martins with Howard Kaplan: This was my first ballet workout/Pilates book. It belonged to my grandmother who passed away in 2003. I inherited all of her books. One of the best ways to remember her is to pull out one of her ballet books and sit down with it with a cup of tea. Or share it with my daughter. This book – and all my grandmother’s books – are a good reminder that even in this digital age, we should still buy real books (and hold on to them, despite what Marie Kondo says in the Tidying Up book).
My daughter still has a couple hundred pages of Helen Keller left to go. So, I guess we will have some Drop Everything And Read time coming up this weekend. Good thing I still have all these books in my beach bag. And if I don’t finish them, I always have a book with me year-round. The key, when you’re waiting (at your child’s appointment, on a plane, on the train) is to put your phone down and read.
Question of the Day: What’s on you end-of-summer reading list?