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Halloween Book Suggestions

Ok, it doesn't quite look like this yet, but we're getting close!

Ok, it doesn’t quite look like this yet, but we’re getting close!

Fall is finally in the air here, at least in my section of the East Coast.  The maple leaves are looking good, but we’re still waiting on the oaks to change colors.  With a little less than two weeks until Halloween, it’s the perfect time to check out a scary book!  Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova   This is a fantastic novel.  You might want to read Dracula first, since its based on it.  Fair warning: this book will make you want to travel to central and eastern Europe.  I still have the travel bug to go to Slovenia, and it’s been at least four years since I read it….
  2. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James   Quite simply the best ghost story I have ever come across.  If I had my way, it would be a core book for any basic American Lit class.  I listened to this as an audiobook (on the CraftLit podcast) and was absolutely amazed by James’s masterful plot.
  3. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux   In junior high, my classmates and I were big fans of this book.  Try to ditch any expectations you might have as a result of seeing plays or movies-the original is different and well worth reading.  Interesting side note: the author, Gaston Leroux, is also credited with writing the first locked room mystery.  It’s called The Mystery of the Yellow Room, and I’ve been meaning to read it for years.
  4. Dracula by Bram Stoker   I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one.  It’s a classic for a reason, and the handful movies I have seen don’t do it justice at all.
  5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen   If you’re not in to horror stories, how about a book making fun of gothic novels?  If you don’t want to lose any sleep over your Halloween reading, this is definitely a fun option.
  6. The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright   This is a ghost story for older children or young adults.  I read it in second grade and it thoroughly freaked me out.  It’s a great book though, just probably better suited to readers over the age of 10.

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photo credit: joiseyshowaa via photopin cc

photo credit: Schub@ via photopin cc

Becca’s Summer Reading List

IT IS SUMMER AT LAST!  Having completed my first year as a high school teacher, I am so unbelievably excited to spend time reading what I want, when I want, where I want.  On the beach?  I can do that!  In bed, despite it being in the middle of the day?  Already did it, and I’m not sorry!  Coffee shops, my patio, terrace cafes – I’m so excited to do some lounge reading as opposed to frantically-becoming-an-expert-on-before-teaching reading.  Oh, and everyone who thinks kids look forward to summer more than their teachers – you have obviously never taught!  I am ecstatic!  This summer, on my somewhat ambitious reading list are the following:

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster: I’ve been meaning to read this book to aid me in my teaching for years, but never had the time to sit down and actually finish it.  Anyone who is an avid reader and wants to know what’s going on in their books at a higher level should check this out – it’s like taking a college English class but on your own time and in your pjs, if necessary.

Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Gailbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling): I love Harry Potter an unhealthy amount and really enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy as well – so I’ll read anything by this author.  I’m excited since this is a private detective story following the suspicious death/suicide of a young supermodel.  Looks fun!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: I will admit, I know almost nothing about what this book is about.  On my way to Boston, I met another high school English teacher in an airport bar and was chatted books for an hour – it was lovely!  She mentioned that Neil Gaiman is one of her favorite authors, so when I saw this at the library, I thought I’d give it a go!

Juliet by Ann Fortier: I just finished teaching Romeo and Juliet, and am still a little obsessed.  This book is a combo of modern/historical characters – which I love – and follows Julie, who upon receiving a key to a safe deposit box in Sienna realizes that her ancestor was Juliet (yes, THAT Juliet) and Mercutio’s dying words, “A plague on both your houses…” is quite possibly a real curse still at work today.  The curse’s obvious next victim?  Julie!

The Happiness Project: or why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun by Gretchen Craft Rubin: I wrote my masters thesis on positive psychology in the classroom and now dedicating most of my waking hours to a high-stress job that can make me elated and absolutely miserable, often in the same week.  I want to be happy.  So I want to read this book!

Mean Genes: from sex to money to food, taming our primal instincts by Terry Burnham: There’s not much to say other than I studied evolutionary psychology in college and love reading this stuff.  Are we slaves to nature?  How much self-determination do humans really have?  I’ll let you know when I read it.  (Oh, and maybe the next time a furious student throws a phone at me, I’ll know it’s not her fault… it is just those mean genes!)

The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak: How have I not read this book yet??  I’ve been meaning to for years, and now, in a teacher book club that meets only in the summer months, I am!  Set in 1939 Nazi Germany, a young foster girl collects books that don’t belong to her – and shows how literature can be a powerful, life-changing force.  I’d love to use this for supplemental literature in my 10th grade English class in the future!

Water, Stone, Heart by Will North: Not too long ago on Facebook, an ad popped up that said something along the lines of “Did you love The Forgotten Garden?  Then you’ll love the newest book by Will North, Water, Stone, Heart!”  Well, I DO love The Forgotten Garden.  So I ordered this book without so much as reading a description of it.  Now that I have it, it looks like classic chick-lit.  It is set in England, and tells the story of a woman escaping an ugly divorce and a (I’m assuming HOT) professor of architecture whose wife has just left him.  Who cares what else it’s about – I’m gobbling this one up for sure!

I’m also spending a little time this summer working on a few writing pieces (if I ever stray from my reading list long enough to accomplish anything).  It’s slow going, and I’m not happy with much that I have on paper yet… but I’m starting!  And let me tell you, I have IMMENSE respect for all of the authors we’ve reviewed on the blog.  Writing is not an easy task at all, but oh, how thankful I am for the fruits of writers’ labors.  Enjoy your summer – and don’t forget that a good book and some SPF should be on you 24/7!

– Becca

 

Elizabeth’s Summer Book List

Hi everyone!

My summer vacation doesn’t start until next Friday, but I’m already looking forward to catching up on my reading!  (And feeling jealous of all the other school employees who are already done!)

What I’m reading now: Dog Sense by John Bradshaw and Puppies for Dummies by Sarah Hodgson.  I want to get a puppy this summer!

Here are a few things I am planning to read next:

1. Grimm’s Fairy Tales– I’ve read many of these, but only a few at a time.  This summer, I want to read the whole book!

2. Evelina by Fanny Burney- I found a copy of this in a used bookstore when Becca and I visited Boston.  I’ve seen it mentioned by Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen, and I’ve always been curious to read it.

3. The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig- It’s not coming out until August, but I’m looking forward to reading the latest Pink Carnation novel!

4. A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards- I think summer is the best time to read about travel!

-Elizabeth

Christmas Gift Suggestions

Holiday Books

Holiday Books

Tis the season for some last minute shopping, and here at Of Print and Prose, we’d like to share some ideas of great books to give as gifts.

1. Great Books from 2012

Even if you have a good idea of what kind of books the bookworms on your list like, it can sometimes be hard to guess which ones they’ve already read!  Play it safe and buy them something recent.

  • The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling: I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it’s a safe bet that any Harry Potter fan old enough to be reading adult fiction is interested in this book.
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: It’s in both the editor’s picks and the customer favorites list for Amazon’s Best Books of 2012 list, so it must be good.
  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: A sequel to Wolf Hall and winner of the Man Booker Prize, this novel is a great option for readers who like historical fiction.

2. Holiday Themed Books

It’s the right time of year for them, so why not?

  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg: This is a great option for the kid on your list.  It’s a fantastic Christmas story with beautiful illustrations.
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: It’s a classic for a reason!  I always enjoy rereading this book around Christmas.

3. Books made into Movies

There sure are a lot of these to choose from this year!  The people on your Christmas list are already hearing a lot about these titles.  If they liked the movie, chances are they’ll enjoy the book even more!

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: Don’t give this to a friend who reads a lot of fantasy (they probably already own it) but a friend that enjoyed the movie might want to give the book a try as well.  It would also be a great gift idea for a teen who has been reading young adult fantasy.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Again, Tolstoy is a classic for a reason.  Be sure to get the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (this is true for any classic Russian novel.)
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin: This is a good one for someone who likes history, in fact, Becca and I have already given it as a Christmas gift in years past.  Now that the movie Lincoln has been such a success, I’m sure even more people will be interested in reading it.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: This book is a serious time commitment, but it would be a good gift for someone who loves classics or an avid francophile.

4. Cookbooks

They don’t contain much prose, but a cookbook makes a great gift!  For the novice cook, a basic collection of recipes will be useful and appreciated.  For someone with more kitchen experience, there are a lot of great options out there.

  • Betty Crocker Cookbook: This is our family’s choice for a basic cookbook-our mom gave it to each of us for Christmas the year we had our first apartment.  It has a good mix of basic cooking information and quick and easy recipes, so it’s perfect for a beginner.
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child: This would be my choice for a famous, classic cookbook.  (I received it for Christmas a few years ago.)  It’s a great quality cookbook, with a lot of good information, plus it’s just fun to look through it for inspiration now and then.

-Elizabeth

Best Books of 2012

It’s the time of year where a lot of different groups make best books of the year lists.  Here is the one from Goodreads.  This list was made based off of reader votes.  I’m a little surprised to see that I’m unfamiliar with most of the titles-apparently I need to pay better attention!  The J.K. Rowling book is on my Christmas list, but maybe I need to look for some of these other titles soon!

-Elizabeth

Banned Books Introduction

It’s the first day of Banned Books Week, and we thought we’d start with a little introduction about the banning of books and some links to great websites to get more information (and maybe even pick your next book to read!)

For more resources on banned books, censorship, and defending literature, we highly recommend the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), which Becca is a member of.

The ALA has devoted an entire section of their website to advocating for banned books.  Be sure to check out the list of frequently challenged books!  You can also see statistics about what books are challenged each year and why.  They also have some resources for banned books week, including activity ideas and free downloads of Clip Art for your blog or Facebook page!

The NCTE has issued several statements and guidelines regarding challenged literature in schools.  One of the most important is on the students’ right to read.  They have a copy of their 1984 resolution (Can we just say, what a great year to be talking about censorship!) to collect and develop defenses of challenged books and a 1981 resolution opposing censorship.  Their website also has an excellent anti-censorship center where you can find more information on Banned Books Week and more!

Please take advantage of these resources and show your support for these two wonderful organizations!  We are so lucky to have our librarians and English teachers taking such a strong stance against the censorship of books!  In fact, in the list that follows (of banned classics that we picked our books for this week from) had several selections that were covered in our high school English classes!

Frequently Banned/Challenged Classics (from the American Library Association)

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

Ulysses, James Joyce

Beloved, Toni Morrison

The Lord of the Flies, William Golding

1984, George Orwell

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Animal Farm, George Orwell

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

Native Son, Richard Wright

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey

Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway

The Call of the Wild, Jack London

Go Tell It On The Mountain, James Baldwin

All The King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence

A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

Satanic Voices, Salman Rushdie

Sophie’s Choice, William Styron

Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence

Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

A Separate Piece, John Knowles

Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

Women In Love, D.H. Lawrence

The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer

Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller

An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser

Rabbit, Run, John Updike

11 Children’s Books for Future Strong Women

I Like Me by Nancy Carlson – A great story about self acceptance.  When the pig in the story fails at something, she tries again.  She loves everything about herself – down to her “round tummy” and “tiny feet”.  Body confidence needs to be taught early, and this is a great tool to do it with.  Our grandmother read this to us growing up, and it’s a lovely story.

Olivia by Ian Falconer – Another pig story, Olivia is your classic precocious toddler.  But she owns it.  What more could you want out of a smart little girl?

Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor – One of our favorites to buy for little girls, Fancy Nancy teaches high level vocabulary, explaining them as “fancy” words to replace the reader’s current vocabulary.  Best of all, Fancy Nancy shows little girls you can be smart AND pretty… and confidently wear feather boas in public.  A must-read.

Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson – A story about a hippo who loves to dance, despite the complaints of her neighbors in the wild.  A fabulous (and wonderfully illustrated) story that tells girls (or boys!) to dance to the beat of their own drum, proudly and fearlessly.  It’s not always about doing what you’re great at, it’s about doing what you love.  Amen to that!

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans – (Warning: this book may make your future strong woman want to go to France!)  A classic about a spunky little girl from France.  Madeline is a natural leader who stands out from the crowd at her school.  We recently gave this book to our niece.

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch – A princess story with a twist.  When Princess Elizabeth’s betrothed is kidnapped by a dragon, she outsmarts the dragon and saves him.  When he is less than pleased by her bedraggled appearance and un-princess-like behavior, she kicks him to the curb!  And lives happily ever after.

The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary – Ramona is such a great character for young kids to relate to (not just girls).  She is always having ideas, and her enthusiasm often gets her into trouble, usually with very funny results.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – Another story that allows the princess to be her own hero.  This is a twist on the classic Cinderella story.  Ella is smart, resourceful, and relatable.  This funny and sweet chapter book is perfect for preteens.  If you’ve seen the movie, completely disregard it when considering this book (it is garbage).

The Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene Nancy Drew is a smart, resourceful, and talented high school student who frequently outsmarts adult criminals and solves crimes that have baffled the police.  Throughout the series, Nancy seems to be good at everything she does: swimming, starring in plays, music lessons, etc.  Whatever her hobby, a young woman will probably be able to find a book in the series that features it.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle – This classic is a must-read for your future strong woman.  Not only is Meg Murray smart, brave, and good, but she is brilliant at math.  Her mother is also a brilliant scientist.  This wonderful adventure story could be recommended for so many reasons, but the portrayal of women and girls being successful in the field of math and sciences makes these characters stand out as especially good role models.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – Hermione may not be the main character, but she’s one of the top three, and a great example for female readers.  She’s scary smart, average looking, brave, honorable, and saves the day on a regular basis.  And all the lesser female characters are strong and independent as well.  Additionally, this is an intelligent and imaginative series… something every strong woman should love!

Becca’s very well loved Harry Potter books.  We waited at midnight events for most of these, and finished them within a matter of days.  Sadly, our dog is also quite partial to Harry, as you can see on Books 1 and 5.