Room 313

adventures in teaching creative writing

Archive for the tag “books”

Having a Summah

Tomorrow I report back to Deer Creek, my district since 2005 when I entered the teaching profession. I’m starting my new role as the secondary curriculum instructional technology integration specialist. I know, it’s a mouthful. The acrostic is SCITIS, which my funny friend Debbie says sounds like a back problem. In this new position I’ll be helping teachers at the high school and middle school levels improve their craft. Once students return, I’ll just be SCITIS in the morning, and then I’ll still teach for three hours in the afternoon: student council and 2 sections of creative writing. I’m happy to still be in the classroom with students. They are why I got into this teaching gig to begin with. It will be strange not teaching English, but I’m embracing this new opportunity. Since I won’t be in the classroom for the full day, I have to move out of room 136, which has been the name of my blog. I suppose I should change it now. I’ll have to think about that. I’m hoping this week I can move a lot of my things (including my classroom library) into my new classroom. I will also have an office in DCHS library, so I also need to get settled in there.

I’ve made the most of my summer, or summah, as Howard Kramer pronounces it on the Who Charted? podcast, which I started listening to this summer. My hobby of listening to podcasts continues to grow. I’ve also added Invisibilia, More Perfect, Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, Revisionist History, The Sporkful, Freakonomics Radio, and Criminal to my list of go-to pods. It’s kind of ridiculous how many podcasts I listen to, but they help me pass the time on my walks and doing chores around the house. If I’m being completely honest with myself, podcasts also feed my need for conversation in the summer. As a single man, I get information and entertainment from podcasts as well as some companionship. As an English teacher, I feel a bit guilty for not reading more books in the summer and listening to so many podcasts instead. I tell myself this is okay, though, because by listening to podcasts, I am learning more about our world, which can in turn lead to writing prompts and lesson ideas for my creative writing class.

And I have read two books this summer (as well as various articles from The New Yorker). We started a teacher book club and met in June to discuss All the Light We Cannot See (New York Times‘ review), and we met this month to chat about The Serpent King (Kirkus Reviews’ review). Both of these books were excellent, and I’m glad to have emerged a bit from my reading rut. I find it all too easy to watch shows on Netflix and Hulu or play Fire Emblem on my 3DS while listening to podcasts. They are fun ways to unwind, but I know I should be reading a little bit more. I actually did read the play The Humans after it got so much buzz at the Tony Awards. I’m sure seeing the play is way better than reading it, which did not impress me a whole lot.

I’ve continued to meet with my writing group this summer as well. We started back in the fall at the start of the 2015-2016 school year, committing to meet every month to share a meal and share some writing for honest and critical feedback. This summer I’ve written some on a young adult novel about Oklahoma’s panhandle being sold off to a mysterious investor who will eventually open it up to all the anti-vaxxers in the nation. I’ve barely started, but it’s been fun to write it.

Speaking of writing, my summer would not be complete without some involvement with the Oklahoma Writing Project. I went through their summer institute in 2009, and I’ve been faithfully involved ever since. This summer I got to present two different workshops to the SI, speak at their learning symposium, and create their anthology for the summer institute. The final draft is now complete. These are good summer side-gigs to have. I also got to work with Norman teachers on two of the new English language arts standards, and I also recently attended the OWP stakeholders meeting.

On top of education-related things, I got to go on two trips. I traveled to Houston for my friend Liz’s wedding, which was lovely. It was good to be together with our crew of friends. I also fulfilled a tiny dream of visiting my grandpa’s hometown of Kirksville, Missouri. I initially planned to road trip alone, but then quickly decided to invite my mom since it would be her daddy’s hometown. Plus, she just works on Mondays, so it would be easy for her to get away. My dad decided he wanted to come too, so it became a family affair. We made sure to drive through Kansas City on drive there, so we could hit up some barbecue places like Jack Stack and Q39, both excellent. I had ribs at both places. I liked the meat more at Q39 and the sides more at Jack’s Stack. (Cheesy corn, you are bad but also very, very good.)

The Kirksville trip allowed me to explore my roots. We found the 1930 census records on microfiche at the Kirksville Public Library, and I set to work reading the cursive entries at a 90 degree angle. As luck would have it, I found my great-great-grandma fairly quickly. After a little more searching, I also found my grandpa and his family’s entry as well. This was all on our first day in town, and we’d already hit the jackpot. (I was only about 15-20% of the way through the microfiche at this point.) The next step was to look for the addresses of the homes listed on the census. Only one remained and was now a frat house for one of the local colleges. The other house (my grandpa’s rent house, which his family paid something like $16 per month for rent) was now gone, a parking lot for the college. Later on, we discovered the old high school where my grandpa attended as well as the gravestones for my great-great-grandma and my great-grandparents. We also visited the historical society to find out more about the shoe factory where my great-grandpa worked as a man and my grandpa worked as a boy. One of the final significant places we found was the old theater my grandpa used to attend as a boy, which was now an antique mall. The fancy tile work in the lobby still stood as well as the flash ceiling decorations.

With one day left of our trip and everything checked off our list, we drove the hour or so to Hannibal, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River–the boyhood home of Mark Twain. It was a fun but hot day of exploring and visiting historic places, including Twain’s boyhood home. As an English teacher, I was grateful we got to see some sites. My parents were not up for exploring one of the Tom Sawyer caves, but we still got to see a lot. The town of Hannibal is very charming.

I guess this blog post is here to say that teachers need time to unwind and recharge in the summer but also time to learn. It’s a balance, and I feel pretty good about how I’ve spent my time. So teachers, how do you spend your summers? Anything you’re proud to have already accomplished? What’s on your summer list of things to do? Have you even allowed yourself to start thinking about school yet?



Classroom Library Reboot

Yesterday I made some of the final touches in preparing my classroom library for another year of use for my Pre-AP English 2 and creative writing students. I have had a classroom library since my first year of teaching back in 2005 when I taught 7th and 8th grade literature. I still have a few books in my library that my middle school students bought for me at our school’s book fair. I know because I saw the donation sticker when I was sorting. My library was much smaller then, and I have grown it over the years in a number of ways:

  1. buying used books online for pennies (the $3.99 shipping is what costs)
  2. buying books at the Friends of the Library sale for super cheap (maybe your state has something similar)
  3. using Barnes & Noble gift cards to stock my shelves
  4. books gifted to me by students
  5. Scholastic Warehouse sales
  6. spending my hard-earned cash on hardcovers I can’t wait for (titles have recently included Winger by Andrew Smith and We Were Liars by e. lockhart)

Back to the revisions that I made to my library. I have my books divided by genres into tubs, which something I saw firsthand in a classroom of my colleague Kari Steele when we taught middle school together. Until this summer I had tubs devoted to Chick Lit, but I decided this was unfair because I discovered I had guy students who enjoyed the occasional romance story. Chick Lit tubs became Romance tubs.


In my efforts to weed my library, I discovered some duplicate titles, but I didn’t want to get rid of all of them. In fact, I thought I would create a tub called “Read with a Friend,” an idea I remembered reading about in this Franki Sibberson article. Now, I realize I teach high school, not elementary, but I think my teens will enjoy this tub. I’ll have to keep you posted on how it goes. If you look at the picture closely, you’ll notice there’s currently only one copy of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but that’s because I have the other copy at home for a presentation next month.

friend front viewfriend side view

I already had tubs dedicated to nonfiction and memoir, and I think it was just this past year that I decided to organize my memoir tubs a little more. Subcategories included men, women, intense, humor, war and adventure, and classics. I realized my copy of Bossypants was missing when I looked through my tubs yesterday. This happens, and I usually replace books when I can.

memoir war intensememoir women menmemoir classics humor

My nonfiction books, on the other hand, were scattered across four tubs with little rhyme or reason. They needed the same treatment as my memoir books, so I came up with war and crime, American history, sociology, and science. My goal is to add another tub or two of nonfiction this coming year, but I’m not sure yet what those will be. Maybe a psychology tub?

nonfiction sociology science nonfiction war history

My final change was to expand my singular Oklahoma author and setting tub into two distinct ones. This past school year I required my students to read either a book set in Oklahoma or written by a current or former Oklahoman. In order to make the books easier to find, they got a tub, but as I increased my search of these books, they no longer fit into one tub. Voila!

Oklahoma author setting

In all, I have 66 tubs in my classroom library, and it took nine years to get to this point. I’m sure I will make other tweaks and changes in the future, but what will not change is my dedication to giving my students an opportunity to become lifelong readers.

First Lines Writing Game

My parents have hosted dinner parties for as long as I can remember. Dad cleaned, Mom cooked, and my sister and I mainly stayed out of the way. Usually the families we invited over had children around the age of Lynn and me, so we kids entertained ourselves after dinner by playing outside or invading the play room. The adults usually just visited, but sometimes they played a game they called Dictionary, which you might know better as Balderdash. In Dictionary, one person flips through a dictionary and finds a word whose definition escapes everyone. That person copies down the actual meaning on a slip of paper while everyone else writes down a definition that will fool everyone. The more people you fool, the more points you get and win the game. Sometimes the game devolved into writing down humorous definitions instead. I observed this game, and  as I got older, I eventually got to play. I recall sometimes playing just with Mom, Dad, and Lynn.

Imagine my delight when I heard of a similar game but with first lines of novels. I’m a regular listener to the Book Riot podcast, which shares news about all things bookish in the world, including this First Lines game. The person who created this game focused mainly on genre fiction–romance, mystery, etc.–but I think almost anything could work.


  1. Show participants the novel’s cover.
  2. Give participants the title of the novel.
  3. Give participants the summary of the novel from the jacket flap or back of the book.
  4. Have participants write down the best first line that fits with the title and summary while you write down the actual first line.
  5. Collect all the slips of paper and shuffle them. Read them aloud.
  6. Have participants vote for their favorite line. The participant with the most votes wins that round.

I decided to try the First Lines game with my Creative Writing 2 students. For the book, I chose The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon.

Summary from the back of the paperback:

The summer of 1985 changes Reggie’s life. An awkward thirteen-year-old, she finds herself mixed up with the school outcasts. That same summer, a serial killer called Neptune begins kidnapping women. He leaves their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, displays their bodies around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother, Vera, the most, Vera’s hand is found on the steps. But after five days, there’s no body and Neptune disappears.

Now, twenty-five years later, Reggie is a successful architect who has left her hometown and the horrific memories of that summer behind. But when she gets a call revealing that her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.

First lines from my students:

  • Today is Mother’s Day. [This line was ultimately chosen as the winner.]
  • Reggie sat up quickly, hands shaking from the reoccurring nightmare of that day in 1985.
  • Summer of ’85 was hands-down the worst summer of my life.
  • It was the summer of 1985 that my mom’s hand appeared on the step.
  • I’d never smoked pot before the summer of ’85.
  • He had a hunger that only hands could satisfy.
  • I have a weird face.
  • I try to forget what happened so long ago.
  • Nothing could ever be so horrifyingly unforgettable as the sight of her mother’s severed hand.
  • It was a dark and stormy night, when suddenly, all hell broke loose.
  • What’s worse than a bee sting? Seeing your mom’s severed hand. This is my story.
  • Cereal [sic] killers, to your surprise, do not kill cereal; they kill people.
  • Ever since my childhood passed, life was great.
  • Where are my hands?
  • Ring! Ring! Reggie’s phone began to ring.
  • Just one call and the nightmares resurface as I remember the one I left behind.
  • I had hoped to forget these things, along with my mother.
  • I guess you could say things got a little out of hand that summer.
  • I’m a cold, sassy tree.

The actual first line: It began with the hands. [No one chose this line as the actual first line, so I fooled all my students.]

I think this game offers students an opportunity to study the elements of different genres. It can also generate interest in the book being used for the game. If you’re ever at a loss for what to do in your English class or need something for a light day when half the students are gone, give the First Lines Writing Game a try.

Tour my House through Books

Do you stash books throughout your house like me? I started thinking about all my book stacks in my condo and decided to make a video, showing off all my books and talking about some of them. I just used my iPhone to record, and I had a hard time getting the video to upload to YouTube. I wanted to use the highest quality setting, but it somehow ended up as a basic quality. Throughout the video, you’ll hear my phone alerts go off twice. I wish I had thought to silence my phone before I started recording. This video is in fact a second draft. My first recording was shakier than this one, and I walked into dark rooms, realizing I should have already turned the lights on.

I think I might use the Vine app tomorrow to show off which books my English students are reading. Vine is a lot easier to use than YouTube. I might use Instagram instead, since it now has a video option, and I can post Instagram to both Facebook and Twitter. Plus, you can record more seconds in Instagram.

Enjoy my book tour!

Visual Reading Biographies

On the first day of school on Thursday, August 15, I introduced myself to my sophomores through a visual reading biography. I displayed it on my SmartBoard and briefly talked about each book. My most influential (and favorite) professor in college introduced me to One Hundred Years of Solitude. I devoured all the Ramona Quimby books as a kid. My second grade teacher, Miss Rice, read Charlotte’s Web aloud to us in 2nd grade, and I’ve reread it on more than one occasion. The funniest book I read over the summer was Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat. And one of my favorite YA authors is A. S. King. I think my students quickly caught on that I loved books and reading, and that I would expect them to be readers in Pre-AP English 2 with me. I wanted to use this assignment as a way for my students to start thinking of themselves as readers.


I told my students that they too would be creating visual reading biographies. This was the first homework of the year: tell me about yourself as a reader. I did not supply a rubric for this assignment, but I did provide these guidelines:

  • Use plain 8.5 x 11 computer paper
  • List your name on the poster
  • Choose 3-5 categories and label them on the paper
  • Find images of the books or create your own (a lightning bolt for the Harry Potter books works)

The reading categories:

  • Book I’ve reread
  • Book from my childhood
  • Book I want to read
  • Book I read this summer
  • Favorite series
  • Favorite book
  • Favorite author
  • Book I wish more people knew about
  • Book I was surprised I liked
  • Book recommended to me
  • Book I like more than the movie
  • Book I like less than the movie
  • Book I abandoned or struggled to finish
  • Popular book I haven’t read

(Notice I did not encourage my students to be negative. Least favorite book, author, and series were not listed as choices. This did not stop one of my students from sharing his least favorite book.)

The second day of school, a few students already had their posters ready. This was a Friday, and the assignment was not due until Monday. I kept their posters, so they wouldn’t lose them. On Monday, almost every student had their poster, and we took time in small groups to share our reading histories. This built community and reinforced that all students were readers at one time if they currently weren’t. Then every student picked one book from their poster and quickly shared it (along with their name) with the class.

By parent night, I had put up all visual reading biographies on the front wall of my classroom. For this blog post, I used pixlr to edit the posters to remove the students’ last names. I hope you enjoy their posters!

How do your students share their reading lives with their classmates?



Favorite Podcasts

I resisted getting an iPod when they became popular when I was in college. Even when I started teaching in 2005, I thought I could live without one, or any MP3 player for that matter. A few years into teaching, though, I asked for an iPod for my big Christmas present from my parents. They got me an 8GB black iPod mini–at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.

Overtime, I expanded the use of my iPod from just listening to music by subscribing to podcasts. I quickly found Grammar Girl‘s podcast along with NPR’s podcast featuring education news. I also discovered why Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion is so popular. I rounded out my initial subscriptions with This American Life, another classic. While walking my dog, I could stay current on issues relevant to my profession as well as just enjoy some news and entertainment.

More recently, I discovered The Moth, which was featured on This American Life. The Moth features storytellers telling their stories live on stage, and they often deeply moving / hilarious / surprising.

My friend Maggie posted a picture of the Selected Shorts podcast’s logo on Instagram a few months ago, and I’ve found those podcasts to be equally entertaining, although a little challenging at times since the literature can be complex at times, and it’s hard for me not to have the text right in front of me.

Somehow a few years ago I stumbled upon Amanda Nelson’s blog, Dead White Guys or her Twitter. She was hilarious and bookish, and she wrote for a website called BookRiot, which recently started a very informative and entertaining podcast. I found out that Rebecca Schinsky, one of BookRiot’s hosts, also contributes to the Bookrageous podcast, which has quickly become one of my favorite book-related podcasts. Rebecca and her two colleagues/friends, Josh and Jenn, bring such a fun energy to their discussions about books, and there are many podcasts in the archives.

*     *     *

This summer I wanted to expand my podcast subscriptions. I reached out to Twitter (Thanks, Kevin!), and I also just browsed the iTunes library. Here are a few more podcasts that you might want to consider adding to your list of must-listen-to podcasts. I’ve organized them by topic.


  • NewsHour Poetry Series | PBS Poetry Series | PBS
  • IndieFeed: Performance Poetry
  • Poem of the Day (Poetry Foundation)
  • Slate’s Poetry Podcast
  • All of these short podcasts can be found through Stitcher, a free iPhone app that automatically downloads podcasts. You can skip the syncing and just listen to them on your phone as you get ready in the morning. I’m still downloading in iTunes in case I want to keep any of them long-term.


  • The Lit Show
  • NPR: Books Podcast
  • ReadWriteThink – Text Messages: Recommendations for Adolescent Readers!
  • I’m so glad that Kevin told me about Text Messages because it fills what I thought was a void: a podcast about young adult literature. There are a few others out there, but Text Messages is definitely the best one. I still kind of think there’s room for another one. I just don’t know if should devote the time to tackling it. Me? A podcaster? We’ll see. 🙂


  • Slate Presents Lexicon Valley
  • That’s What They Say
  • Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac Podcast
  • New Yorker: Fiction

I’m not sure if I have time for another podcast, but I’m willing to listen to your recommendations. What are some of your favorite podcasts?

Favorite Books: 2012-2013

At the start of this school year, I challenged my students to read 20 books a year, 10 books per semester. To wrap up this school year, I asked my students to choose at least one favorite book of the entire school year, not just this semester. Some students just gave me one title, but quite a few gave me multiple titles, which made me happy. A few students had to rack their brains to land on a title, but others knew immediately which book was their favorite.

I put all the titles into a PowerPoint. I initially had students add their own slides, but some of my sophomores could not handle such a responsibility. One student, instead of getting the image of his favorite book, opened my My Photos folder and inserted a picture of me that I had on hand for a bulletin board. I was working on other things in the classroom, and students were supposed to just go up one at a time and add their slides. Anyway, I quickly retook the reigns and was able to power through all my students and their titles in about two class days at the start of class. Of course, some students were absent, so I had to wait for their return and for their titles. I didn’t want to leave anyone out. Then I found this helpful video on how to convert a PowerPoint 2007 into a video.

Basically, I had to save all the slides of my PowerPoint as JPEGs and then import them into Windows MovieMaker. I did all this on my school’s computer because my laptop is way old and needs replaced. Besides, I had already created the PowerPoint during class time. It only made sense to finish the video at school. I typed up a script for the introduction to the video and recorded it using Sound Recorder, found in the Accessories > Entertainment folders. It took me a while to realize I needed to zoom in on all my slides to make the audio last the perfect length. Anyway, here’s the result, which I will share with my current and future students:

Note: My school computer could not link up to YouTube, so I had to save the MovieMaker file to my flash drive, move it to my laptop, and upload it to YouTube from my laptop.

Tweaking the Reading Routine

In room 149 we are one month into the second semester. I’ve been tweaking how we begin class since I read Penny Kittle’s Book Love. The ten minutes of sustained silent reading was non-negotiable, but I wanted to give more book talks, so I started each class with a book talk or two. It was a little jarring at first because students were used to reading as soon as the bell rang. Now I was talking about books before they got to read. Some of my more voracious readers ignored me and got even more reading time in. These are the same students who try to read during a lesson or activity. I feel bad telling them to put their books away, but that’s the way it has to be.

I quickly realized that I couldn’t keep up giving daily book talks, so I decided students would give book talks on Wednesdays. Some hours are more willing to talk than others, so I sometimes have to call on specific students. My seventh hour has the most willing students. They actually come to the front of the room to talk rather than talk from their desks like my other hours.

All year long we have used the first few minutes on Fridays to update our reading checkup charts. Students record the book they’re currently reading, their page progress (e.g., 134/358), and their total number of books read. Here’s one of my blog posts that goes more in depth on how we do that, which includes some student samples.

Most recently I started showing book trailers from YouTube to start Monday classes. Yesterday I showed book trailers for Stupid Fast and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. By my second English class, both books had been checked out. Here’s my current playlist of book trailers I’m collecting on YouTube. My plan is for this list to grow throughout the school year.

To recap, here’s our weekly schedule at a glance:
Mondays: book trailers
Tuesdays: I give book talks
Wednesdays: 3-4 students give book talks
Thursdays: I give book talks
Fridays: Students update their reading charts

Recently students have volunteered to help me add up the weekly total of books from the checkup charts. I sometimes let them help me, especially if quite a few students need to have a book chat with me on that day. But seeing each student’s progress helps me motivate the ones who have not read much in the past week.

With our new media center opening, some old book shelves became available, and I nabbed one. I gave a smaller bookshelf away to one of my colleagues to make room for it. Here’s how my classroom library looks now:


In January I explained to students the quote bulletin board I had left empty the entire fall semester. To kick things off, I put up the famous quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Only one student brought quotes for the board, but she brought a lot. Here’s the board:


This semester I’m having students read a book that’s been nominated for our state’s Sequoyah award. Instead of limiting their choices to only the winners of the Sequoyah award, I’m letting them choose any titled that’s been nominated over the past four years. I posted all the titles they could choose from, and I arranged for our librarian to come give book talks on some Sequoyah titles to all my classes. She has the Sequoyah titles labeled with different colored stickers, so that’s why the list is color-coded.


Along with the number of books read per hour, I’m also calculating the average books per student, or bps. I had some students move away between semesters, and I also gained some students, so that’s why my student numbers changed. I should probably reprint them, but it’s not a priority.



I also chart the overall book progress on this semester chart.


I’m also keeping a running list of all the texts we have shared together as a class, an idea I think I got from Donalyn Miller.


These routines work for my students and me. Feel free to borrow and tweak them for use in your own classroom.

New Library

My school recently had its soft opening for its new media center/library. It’s most impressive and more than doubles our previous space. We are now a 5A-size school, and our former library was designed for a 2A school.

Our librarian weeded out many old nonfiction books before the big move, and students have noticed. “Where did all the books go, Mr. Stephenson?” they have asked me. I support our librarian’s decision to weed. She cut books about computer repair from the 1980s and craft projects that have not been checked out in 10 years.

Check out a 1-minute video tour and some pics below. I’m experimenting with my iPhone, which I used to record the video and take the photographs.







2012 Reading Reflection

Looking back on the past year, I wonder how I read 75 books. Teaching high school English keeps me busy, and I devote more time than I care to admit to TV (Chopped, Parenthood, The Big Bang Theory, Homeland, The Good Wife, SNL, Happy Endings, Elementary to name some series). Part of my secret is that I read quite a few poetry collections (14) and graphic novels (18). I recorded four picture books toward my goal, but I read more than that. During a drive to Kansas and back, I listened to a John Grisham audio book, and I checked out and listened to two YA audio books from the Edmond library over the summer.  I also occasionally read with my students, but that is rare because most of the time, I’m having book chats with students during their 10 minutes of SSR at the start of class. Aside from those tricks, I simply carved out time to read–sometimes before bed, on weekends, on vacation. Almost anywhere I went, I brought a book with me.

According to Goodreads, I’ve grown in my amount of books I’ve read over the past five years. I think this chart also demonstrates my devotion to Goodreads, which I did not use much in 2008. I have been keeping a Word file on the books I’ve read since 2005, but now I’m pretty faithful to record my books in both the Word file and on Goodreads. I also keep a graphic reading history in Publisher and print off the titles to tape onto my classroom door. Each time I finish a book, I chronicle it 3 different ways! That might be too much. I could probably just use Goodreads to create my graphic reading history. Maybe I’ll try that this year to save myself some time.


My pages show growth as well, which shouldn’t be surprising.


Goodreads also gave me the option to see how I rated the books I read this year. Shout out to Claudia Swisher for giving me the idea to write about my ratings. (You should check out her blog!) Of the 75 books I read, I gave only 1 a score of 1 (“didn’t like it”). I gave 7 books a 2 (“it was ok”). I gave 19 books a 3 (“liked it”), 37 books a 4 (“really liked it”), and 11 books a 5 (“loved it”). That means my overall average rating for a book this year was a 3.67, which I think is excellent.

ratings_2012The above chart also shows that my longest book was Erik Larsen’s The Devil in the White City and that I categorized my books in a wide variety of genres/shelves. Currently on Goodreads, I’ve rated 620 books with an average overall rating of 3.59, so my 2012 ratings are close to my overall average. I’ve written 252 reviews for those 620 books, which I also think is pretty good.

I’ll wrap up this reflection by copying and pasting my 2012 book record from my Word file. I’ve selected 2 books from each of 4 different time periods to highlight as outstanding reads. I was very happy with most of the books I read this year, and I look forward to another year of reading in 2013.

2012 Reading History

Spring 2012


  1. Scott Card, Orson. Ender’s Game. © 1985. 324 pages. Sci Fi / YA / Annoying.
  2. Dawson, Mike. Troop 142. © 2011. 150 pages. Lad Lit / Graphic Novel.
  3. Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. In Evil Hour. © 1979. 183 pages. Multicultural literature.
  4. Fey, Tina. Bossypants. © 2011. 275 pages. Memoir / Humor.
  5. Garfield, Simon. Just My Type. © 2010. 331 pages. Nonfiction.
  6. Macaulay, David. Black and White. © 1990. 30 pages. Children’s book.
  7. Janeczko, Paul. Requiem: Poems of the Terezín Ghetto. © 2011. 94 pages. Holocaust poetry.
  8. Rosenthal, Amy. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. © 2005. 225 pages. Memoir.
  9. Grisham, John. The Associate. © 2004. 434 pages. Legal thriller.
  10. Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. © 2012. 313 pages. YA: CRF.
  11. Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back. © 2011. 228 pages. YA: CRF.
  12. Borden, Louise. His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II. © 2012. 131 pages. History: Children’s Book.
  13. Kohn, Alfie. Feel-Bad Education: And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling. © 2011. 204 pages. Education.
  14. Greenberg, Jan, Ed. Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art. © 2001. 73 pages. Poetry & Art.
  15. Kooser, Ted. The Blizzard Voices. © 1986. Poetry: Historical Fiction.
  16. Kooser, Ted. Bag in the Wind. © 2010. Children’s Book.
  17. Kooser, Ted. House Held Up By Trees. © 2012. Children’s Book.
  18. Sepetys, Ruta. Between Shades of Gray. © 2011. 341 pages. YA Historical Fiction.
  19. Kohn, Alfie. The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards.© 1999. 237 pages. Education.
  20. Carson Levine, Gail. Forgive Me, I Meant To Do It: False Apology Poems. © 2012. 80 pages. Poetry.
  21. Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. © 2012. 304 pages. Children’s Lit.

Summer Break 2012


  1. Wilson, Maja. Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment. © 2006. 109 pages. Professional.
  2. Morrison, Toni. Home. © 2012. 146 pages. Historical Fiction.
  3. Handler, Daniel. Why We Broke Up. © 2011. 354 pages. YA: CRF.
  4. Brosgol, Vera. Anya’s Ghost. © 2011. 221 pages. YA: Fantasy / Graphic Novel.
  5. Backderf, John. My Friend Dahmer. © 2012. 199 pages. Memoir / Graphic Novel.
  6. Kohn, Alfie. The Homework Myth. © 2006. 198 pages. Education.
  7. King, A. S. Please Ignore Vera Dietz. © 2010. Audio / 336 pages. YA: CRF / magical realism.
  8. Crawford, Brent. Carter Finally Gets It. © 2009. 300 pages. YA: Lad Lit.
  9. King, A. S. Everybody Sees the Ants. © 2011. 279 pages. YA: CRF / magical realism.
  10. Hinds, Gareth / Homer. The Odyssey. © 2010. 249 pages. Classic / graphic novel.
  11. Chast, Roz. What I Hate from A to Z. © 2011. 64 pages. Illustrated / Humor.
  12. Pyle, Kevin C. Take What You Can Carry. © 2012. 176 pages. CRF / Historical Fiction / Graphic Novel.
  13. Anderson, Jeff. Everyday Editing: Inviting Students to Develop Skill and Craft in Writer’s Workshop. © 2007. 158 pages. Professional.
  14. Ferguson, Craig. American on Purpose: the Improbably Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot. © 2009. 268 pages. Memoir.
  15. Palacio, R. J. Wonder. © 2012. 313 pages. YA: CRF.
  16. Tovani, Cris. So What Do They Really Know?: Assessment That Informs Teaching and Learning. © 2011. 156 pages. Professional.
  17. Herbach, Geoff. Stupid Fast. © 2011. 311 pages. Realistic Fiction.
  18. Martin, Walter & Paloma Muñoz. Travelers. © 2008. 81 pages. Art / Photography.
  19. Larson, Erik. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. © 2003. 396 pages. History.

Fall 2012


  1. Fies, Brian. Mom’s Cancer. © 2006. 115 pages. Memoir / Graphic Novel.
  2. Koertge, Ron. Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses. © 2012. 87 pages. Fairy tale poetry.
  3. Trethewey, Natasha. Thrall. © 2012. 78 pages. Poetry.
  4. Knisley, Lucy. Relish. © 2013. 173 pages. Memoir / Graphic Novel.
  5. Duffy, Carol Ann. The Bees. © 2011. 84 pages. Poetry.
  6. Thompson, Richard. Cul de Sac: Golden Treasury. © 2010. 197 pages. Comic Strip.
  7. Thompson, Richard. Shapes and Colors. © 2010. 127 pages. Comic Strip.
  8. Thompson, Richard. The Mighty Alice. © 2012. 128 pages. Comic Strip.
  9. Knisley, Lucy. French Milk. © 2007. 193 pages. Memoir / Graphic Novel.
  10. Anderson, Jeff. 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know. © 2011. 266 pages. Professional.
  11. Ronson, Jon. The Psychopath Test. © 2011. 272 pages. Nonfiction.
  12. Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. © 2010. 328 pages. Nonfiction.
  13. Heard, Georgia, Ed. Falling Down the Page: a Book of List Poems. © 2009. 45 pages. Poetry.
  14. Scieszka, Jon. Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories about Growing Up Scieszka. © 2005. 106 pages. Memoir.
  15. Bracey, Gerald W. Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality. © 2009. 259 pages. Nonfiction.
  16. King, A. S. Ask the Passengers. © 2012. 293 pages. YA: CRF.
  17. Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me. © 2012. 237 pages. Graphic Novel Memoir.
  18. Kittle, Penny. Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers. © 2012. 169 pages. Professional.
  19. Grisham, John. The Appeal. © 2008. Audio.
  20. Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. © 2008. 285 pages. Nonfiction.
  21. Regnaud, Jean & Emile Bravo. My Mommy: is in America and she met Buffalo Bill. © 2007. 118 pages. Graphic Novel / Memoir.
  22. Ryan, Kay. Say Uncle. © 1991. 76 pages. Poetry.
  23. Hicks, Faith Erin. Friends with Boys. © 2012. 211 pages. Graphic Novel: CRF & Fantasy.
  24. Ruddell, Deborah & Joan Rankin. A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: a Forest of Poems. © 2009. Children’s poetry.
  25. Lee, Nelle Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. © 1963. 384 pages.  Literary Excellence: Historical Fiction.
  26. Chaltas, Thalia. Because I Am Furniture. © 2009. 352 pages. YA CRF: Novel in Verse.

Winter Break 2012


  1. Yang, Gene & Thien Pham. Level Up. © 2011. 160 pages. CRF/Fantasy: Graphic Novel.
  2. Moore, Alan & David Lloyd. V for Vendetta. © 2005. 265 pages. Dystopian Graphic Novel.
  3. Gregorich, Barbara. Jack and Larry. © 2012. 92 pages. Historical Fiction Novel in Verse.
  4. Bingham, Kelly. Shark Girl. © 2007. 276 pages. YA CRF Novel in Verse.
  5. Zuniga, Lauren. The Smell of Good Mud. © 2012. 92 pages. Poetry.
  6. Bragg, Georgia. How They Croaked. © 2011. 161 pages. Nonfiction.
  7. Urban, Linda. Hound Dog True. © 2011. 148 pages. CRF Elementary.
  8. Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink. © 2007. 276 pages. Nonfiction.
  9. Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth. © 1961. 256 pages. Classic Fantasy Elementary.
  10. Newman, Lesléa. October Mourning: a Song for Matthew Shephard. © 2012. 91 pages. Historical Fiction Novel in Verse.

Post Navigation