Books

What I read in 2017

2017 was a good year for books. I finished a total of 55 books! Here’s the breakdown: 26 audiobooks, 29 books (8 books, 21 ebooks). The two major categories I read this year were YA (21) and Nonfiction (20). Surprisingly, I only read 3 edu-books this year.

This year I kept a bit more data than I have in the past. Previously, I just listed the books I read. Now, I’m keeping track of completion date, number of pages or hours (although I usually listen to audiobooks on 2x speed, which I take into account in my data), format, and genre. My favorite part of all this data is the graphs I create to go along with it. I like the visual trends for genre and books completed each month. Click here to make a copy of my book tracking spreadsheet for your own use.

Here are some of my favorite books I read this year: (they’re in chronological order

1. Heartless (Marissa Meyer)

I love love love the Lunar Chronicles, and Heartless was just as awesome. This one is based on Alice in Wonderland, which brought in some of my childhood magic. I’m a bit sad it’s not part of a series, because I’ve loved everything she’s written!

2. Caraval (Stephanie Garber)

For my Breakout EDU fans, this book will be a hit! It has the magic of a full-scale Breakout EDU game, as the main character is trying to find her sister before Caraval is over.

3. My Not So Perfect Life (Sophie Kinsella)

I keep coming back to this book all year, thinking about how we portray ourselves online versus the reality around us. The reality is all too real!

4. Yes, And (Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton)

This was recommended by my dear friend Jess Loucks, and her keynote is based on improv. This isn’t an improv how-to book, but rather the ideas behind improv and how they can make us better creators and collaborators.

5. The Inexplicable Logic of my Life (Benjamin Alire Sáenz)

This story is fantastic, complex, and heartwarming. It addresses the real issues around us, including life, love, and loss. He also wrote Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which I read in 2015 — bonus for my Hamilton Nerds, the Aristotle & Dante audiobook is read by Lin-Manuel Miranda!!

6. Fueled by Coffee and Love (Mari Venturino)

I can’t blog about 2017 books without talking about this, I’m still so proud of myself for pulling together Fueled by Coffee and Love. It’s a collection of teacher stories written by teachers all around the world! Please pick up a copy for yourself and a teacher you adore–all proceeds go to classrooms!

7. The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

This book hit the world by storm when it was published in February 2017. I finally got a copy over summer, and binge read the entire thing in just a few days! It’s heartbreaking and eye-opening at the same time. It really framed police violence and BLM in a way that is accessible to a wider population. I highly recommend this book!

8. Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly)

I listened to the audiobook, then watched the movie (*gasp* I watched a movie!). So good! I’ve always been a huge space fan, and in middle school I wanted to be an aerospace engineer; however, why am I just now hearing about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson et al now?! They were left out of history, and I didn’t even know to look for them.

9. Classroom of One (Doug Robertson)

Another gem by my friend Doug Robertson. One of the three edu-books I read this year, and it was by far the best! It prepared me for my first guide teacher experience, and helped me become a stronger and more reflective teacher overall. I highly recommend this to anyone in education!

10. Turtles All the Way Down (John Green)

This is my second favorite John Green book (first favorite is Will Grayson, Will Grayson). This new one definitely didn’t disappoint. I appreciate how much it dove into anxiety and how it affects Aza’s life–but, it’s not forced or overdone.

I’d love some recommendations on books you think I’d like. Please leave me a comment below!

Books

Fueled by Coffee and Love

I am so super thrilled to announce that my first book is now available on Amazon! This is a combined effort of about 60 teachers from all around the world, and I have the honor of coordinating and leading this project!

Fueled by Coffee and Love is a collection of real stories by real teachers. Each person shared a story from their teaching journey. Some will make you smile, some make you think, and some will make you cry. These are our stories. FBCAL Sticker3

The intro was written by the one and only Doug Robertson! And, if that isn’t enough, all proceeds from this book will be donated to classrooms and teachers. (Ok good, you’re convinced. Go buy a copy, then read on.)

Fueled by Coffee and LoveThis project started in February 2017–my AVID 8 students were starting 20Time projects, and I decided to do one myself. My inspiration for this project stemmed from news media and politicians telling a one-sided tale of what teaching and education is and is not. I feel frustrated that the individuals making decisions about our profession have little idea of our day-to-day joys and struggles.

What I thought would be a small and manageable project exploded (in a great way) and turned into a full-scale book project. In March through May, I gathered stories and facilitated the editing process. A total of 53 stories came in! Then, it took May and June to finish the editing, final formatting, getting a logo and cover design created (thanks Michele Osinski!), and getting the whole thing published. (Shoutout to Ray Charbonneau & y42k Publishing Services for making the self-publishing process easy.)

To make things even more awesome, Jennie Magiera’s ISTE 2017 keynote was all about sharing the untold stories! It takes courage to share these stories, and it’s important to shine a light on the great things we’re doing. Jennie mentioned Chimanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk in her keynote–if you haven’t seen it, make sure you check it out!  Adichie says, “Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.” (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TED Talk, The danger of a single story). It is a dangerous thing to allow others to tell our stories, especially when they are doing so for political or economic gain.

One of the biggest challenges in this project was recruiting a diverse cross-section of teachers, especially including teachers of color. Because this project grew out of my group of friends and PLN, I know there is some diversity of authors and I also know it isn’t representative of all teachers. (And, since I don’t know all of the authors personally, I’m making this judgement based on their stories, bios, and Twitter profiles.) This is something in the forefront of my mind as I begin asking for writers for Volume 2. I’d love your help in spreading the word!

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The proof arrived!

It has been such a labor of love throughout this process. And, I’m thankful for everyone who made this project possible. Along with Michele and her graphic design skills, I’m super grateful for Aubrey Yeh, Meagan Kelly, and Nick Brierley for stepping up and helping with extra rounds of edits, bouncing around ideas, and providing constant feedback.

In all honesty, it was such a fun project and I loved every second of it. I will say, it didn’t feel real until I held the proof copy in my hands for the first time. That was an incredible feeling! All our hard work, in a tangible book! Go team!

Get yourself a copy of the book on Amazon or other ebook sources. While you’re there, buy a second copy to gift to a teacher who has made an impact on you! Find out more about the project on the Fueled by Coffee and Love website.

[Update! –> vol 2 happened! Sign up for vol 3 here] And, in true project style, I’m already thinking about a potential Volume 2. If you’re interested in writing and/or editing, please fill out the interest list and I’ll email you once Volume 2 gets rolling (likely September 2017).

Lastly, I leave you with this challenge:

Go thank a teacher who impacted you, went above and beyond for you, or made a difference in your life. Send them an email, a text, a postcard, an owl (bonus points: buy them a copy of the book and write your thank you inside!)…whatever you have to do. Please, take a moment to acknowledge their love and hard work.

Books, Classroom Strategies

Read alouds aren’t only for English class!

Why does reading a novel have to be compartmentalized to English class?
There’s such a huge push for reading and annotating text in all content areas, and most of these are informational texts. While helpful, I can’t say my students are super excited by reading tasks (although the content might be interesting), and it definitely doesn’t foster a love of reading.
My students were shocked when I told them we would be doing a read aloud in 7th grade science. “Why are we reading a book in science?!” they immediately asked.

We Are All Made of Molecules
The book I chose was We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen. I preordered it back in the spring, and when it arrived, I binge read it. It was that good.

The story comes down to Stewart and Ashley, two complete opposites who are thrown together when their parents move in together. It deals with social status and social perceptions, bullying, LGBT prejudice and unhealthy relationships.

If you’re planning to use this book (or any others) with your students, make sure you pre-read it, and decide if it’s appropriate for your students. There are some intense parts relating to Ashley and her boyfriend, which can be shocking or upsetting to some students. However, it all fit in perfectly for my class.

As part of our health unit, we have to incorporate information about LGBT identities, as well as healthy versus unhealthy relationships and dating violence. Even with my passion for teaching help, I was unsure how to approach these topics. The conversations that followed our reading were deep and emotional, and way more meaningful than any Slides presentation.

The Read Aloud
At first, I had no idea how to structure the read aloud. I tried reading at the very end of class, but I kept running out of time. My good friend, Doug Robertson, suggested that I start class by reading. I switched it up, and reading became a habit. It was really nice for students to decompress before moving in to science content.

Each day, my students begged for another chapter! Mind you, many of my students are highly reading-averse…sometimes I indulged their request, sometimes I would quietly close the book while they protested. It took us about 4 months to read the book, although it wasn’t until the last 2 that we actually read steadily.

After the Read Aloud
We finished the book with a huge round of applause. I created a Form for them to share their thoughts on the books, and ask questions to the author. As a class, we narrowed down the questions, and we posted them on our classroom Twitter account (I/we haven’t done much with it as of now, but I’m hoping to add more pretty soon).  Then, we waited patiently for our responses.

Here are a few of the tweets and responses:
Reflections on the Process
I am just in love with the read aloud. First of all, it was such a relaxing way to start class with my squirrely 7th graders. They were super engaged in the reading, and I rarely had anyone being a distraction. This could be a much more ELA-heavy activity, with reading and writing prompts: I opted not to, so my students didn’t feel like we were actually working. Instead, we had partner and class discussions after each chapter.

I’m also so extremely thankful for Susin Nielsen and all her support throughout this process. I reached out to her on Twitter when we first started our read aloud, and kept her updated on our progress. She has an excellent website with educator resources for her books! Thanks for letting us celebrate you!

What’s Next?
Now I’m deciding which book to read next…we’re going to be learning about ecology and the Earth. Considering Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen.  Suggestions welcome!
 
Books

What I Read in 2016

My goal for 2016 was to read/listen to at least 100 books, reading at least 52. I ended up reading 49 and listening to 17, for a grand total of 66 books. Normally I’d be disappointed about not meeting my goal, but I’m thrilled I read as much as I did! This year, I have the same goal. We’ll see if I can pick up the pace a bit.
For the last several years, my dad and I have done a book bingo together. We create 24 categories + 1 free space at the beginning of the year, then try to read a book from each category. These range from silly (book with an orange cover) to diverse (book that is a translation) to old (published before 1000AD). Last year, he finished his whole bingo–must be nice to be retired! I finished about ⅔. We have a new bingo game for this year, so I better get reading. I also created a bingo card to share. Happy reading 🙂
I check out the majority of my ebooks and audiobooks from the public library via Overdrive. I’m usually good about managing the number of books I have and the number of books I have on hold. Pro tip: add books to your holds, then suspend the hold. You’ll move up in position, but the book won’t be checked out to you until you unsuspend the hold or your suspension time is up.
Here are my categories from 2016. As you can see, I mainly read education, young adult, and fiction books. Naturally, Harry Potter gets it’s own category. I used inspiration rather than self-help because it drops the negative connotation.
My book genre breakdown for 2016
 I kicked off 2016 by reading Ditch that Textbook by Matt Miller. It was an inspiring edu-read, and I enjoyed occasionally participating in the #ditchbook twitter chat on Thursday nights. I love anything published by Dave Burgess Consulting, and I think I own about 75% of the collection. Thanks Dave & Shelley for letting me spin the Burgess stop and giving me some wonderful books!
Here are some of my favorite books I read/listened to in 2016*:
Creating Classroom Magic by Shauna Pollock (book) – I love Disneyland and Disney, and I was completely inspired to add in a little more magic into my classroom. Shauna is filled with great ideas and stories.
Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders (ebook) – My science nerd self was fascinated to learn so much about the human digestive system. This book is written to be accessible by all, and there is a lot of practical knowledge for the why’s and how’s.
How Google Works by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg (ebook) – So fascinating to hear more about the Google backstory, their vision and growth process, and their philosophy behind how they treat their employees. Reading this inspired me to dream bigger (10x, not 10%).
We are all Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen (book) – A friend recommended this to me, and I preordered it on Amazon. When it arrived, I had forgotten I had ordered it. It was a quick read, but absolutely heart-wrenching and sweet. I loved it so much that I am using it for a read aloud in my 7th grade science class. It’s not about molecules, and technically it’s a fairly weak science content tie; however, the ideas and themes in this book fit the personal development of my 7th graders, and tie into a few topics we cover (molecules, health, bullying, healthy relationships).
Harry Potter books 1-6 by JK Rowling (audiobook) – I’ve read them multiple times, and friends kept telling me how amazing the audiobooks are. Truth. Jim Dale is incredible. He has a different voice for each character. Plus, it was nice hanging out with my old friends. I was 10 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out, and just graduated high school when the Deathly Hallows was released. I’m most of the way through the Deathly Hallows audiobook, but it expired before I finished it so I’m waiting to get it again.
So off we go in 2017. I’m excited to read more books, listen to more audiobooks, and go on new adventures. You can follow my book journey on my book blog (books.mariventurino.com). I’ll cross-post some of my favorite books to my main blog.
What books did you love in 2016? And what are you excited to read in 2017?
*I categorize books & ebooks (on my Kindle) separately, but count them together as physical books in my data.