Top Ten Inspirational Book Quotes

Hey everyone!  So last week was horrible for me, what with someone I trusted assuming I’d be ok with being treated badly while he benefited from it.  (Spoiler alert: I wasn’t ok with that.)  I had to make some really difficult decisions and, you know what?  I could use some inspirational quotes.  This Top Ten was perfectly timed.

I like to think of myself as a collector of quotes (I have 56 pages of quotes on Goodreads and 3 notebooks full of them), so it’s taken me a while to make this list.  But I hope you find something that strikes you in the here and now!

Top Ten Inspirational Book Quotes

1. “And that is how change happens.  One gesture.  One person.  One moment at a time.”  –Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing

2. “But if everything was always smooth and perfect, you’d get too used to that, you know?  You have to have a little bit of disorganization now and then.  Otherwise, you’ll never really enjoy it when things so right.”  –Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

3. “All this time I’ve hated myself for it.  I thought I’d given it up for nothing.  But if I hadn’t fallen, I wouldn’t have met you.”  –Becca Fitzpatrick, Hush, Hush

4. “The whole point of growing up is learning to stay on the laughing side.”  –Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

5. “A wish is a good place to start but then you have to get off your butt and make it happen.  You have to pick up a quill and write your own damn story.”  –Suzanne Selfors, Saving Juliet

6. “This is our life.  We get to decide the rules.  We get to say what goes and what stays, what matters and what doesn’t.”  –Sandhya Menon, When Dimple Met Rishi

7. “We don’t forgive people because they deserve it.  We forgive them because they need it–because we need it.”  –Bree Despain, The Dark Divine

8. “It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.”  –Agatha Christie

9. “Having to fight for the thing you want doesn’t mean you deserve it any less.”  –Anna Kendrick, Scrappy Little Nobody

10. “I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.”  –Brigid Kemmerer, A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Honorable Mention

(Let’s not lie–there were some I just couldn’t put on the list but are equally impressive.)

  • “What’s the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?”  — John Green, An Abundance of Katherines
  • “Sometimes you make choices in life, and sometimes choices make you.”  –Gayle Forman, If I Stay
  • “If God wanted a world full of saints, He never would have created adolescence.”  –Susan Beth Pfeffer, The Dead and the Gone
  • “He was fantastic eye candy and I earned the right to have a few cavities.”  –Lani Woodland, Intrinsical
  • “Stories let us see and hear and feel what someone else does.  They build bridges to the other islands.  That’s why stories are so important.  They create true empathy.”  –Cynthia Hand, The Afterlife of Holly Chase
  • “Sometimes we misjudge what is possible and what is not.”  –Aimee Carter, The Goddess Test
  • “We are a country built by immigrants, dreams, daring, and opportunity.  We are a country built by the horrors of slavery and genocide, the injustice of racism and exclusion.  These realities exist side by side.  It is our past and our present.  The future is unwritten.  This is a book about ghosts.  For we live in a haunted house.”  –Libba Bray, Before the Devil Breaks You

Everybody Is A Reader…If You Can Only Find Them the Right Book

As an English teacher, this is my guiding philosophy.  I mean, I became an English teacher for my overwhelming, all-consuming love of books.  It wasn’t because I was a card-carrying member of the Grammar Police (though I totally am), and it wasn’t because I enjoyed writing (though I do).

It was because I saw the magic that each book could hold.  I could explore ancient civilizations, fly to outer space, hang out with coolest people ever, and sometimes even perform a little magic of my own.

I’ve loved reading since I was young and my mom would read me books almost every night before bed.  From 6th grade through college, I carried a book with me to every single class in case I had time to read, even if it was just 2 minutes.  Sometimes, even just 10 seconds was enough to find out what happened next.

This is what I want to pass on to my students.  This love of discovering new worlds in the palm of your hands.

Every year, this is a challenge.  I’ll see a couple of kids who are clearly readers and I connect with them quickly.  But I teach what’s called “academic English”, which is basically your low to average students.  The high-flyers belong to another teacher.  So basically, my kids mostly hate school, would rather be anywhere else, and only grudgingly follow my directions.

Getting these kids to love reading is a huge challenge.  Especially since most of them won’t read anything I assign anyway.

And I don’t like being that person.  I hate giving a bunch of assignments while they’re reading something because it completely takes away from the fun of reading and seeing what happens next.  I hated more than one of the novels I was assigned to read in high school and college for that reason.

But y’all…I’m making magic this week.

I’ve referenced this a few times now in my reviews, but I gave my students a dozen books to choose from for a novel project.  I read them the back of the book, told them what I liked about them (and what I didn’t), and let them choose the one they wanted most.  The novels include:

  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  • The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry

And a few more I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard of.

The point is that there is a huge selection of novels to choose from, in all shapes and sizes and content.  A lot of the kids go for Night because it’s short and it’s nonfiction; others clamor for Divergent because they love the movie.  And some really die-hard weirdos want Fahrenheit 451 (which I only grudgingly read in high school).

I’m going to tell you the story of two of my students who changed after reading their novels.

Let’s call the first one Erica* (not her real name, obviously).  Erica is a fantastic student–hard working, thoughtful, conscientious, quiet.  She told me early on that she did not care for reading.  Her older sister was the reader, not her.  She chose Divergent as her book and was so worried that I wouldn’t have enough copies for her to get her book.  She was excited to read it.  She, a nonreader, read the book in about 3-4 days and adored it.  A couple of days later, she was asking me if she could go to the library to check out Four, the collection of stories told from Four’s perspective.  A few days ago, she came to class over halfway through Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck.  She told me that her older sister has been trying to point her toward books she might like (though older sister also told her how Allegiant ends, ugh).  And she said that she’s never been like this before, constantly wanting to find another book to read.

If I had turned only her into a reader, then I would feel like I’d made my mark on this class.

But let’s take a look at Simon*.  Simon is belligerent, sarcastic, and prone to extremely dark humor.  He’s something of a problem child, the one every teacher kind of hates.  I met him the year before and was acquainted with his home life situation (it’s not good), but also I respected his love of Hamilton and 80s rock.  So I tend to cut him some slack when I maybe shouldn’t always.  Simon read Night because I said it was the darkest book of the bunch.  (He also complained it wasn’t dark enough.)  Recently, while everyone had a chance to read their books, he came up to me holding a book.  It was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  He asked if I’d read it before.  I said yes, twice.  It quickly became clear he was asking if it was any good.  I said I liked it, but there’s a lot of philosophy and it can be a little confusing at times being a story in a story in a story.  His eyes lit up when I said there was philosophy.  He was totally interested.

Later on, Simon asked me where to find the assignment they needed to be working on.  I told him and his friend went, “I told you that already!” to which Simon replied, “I wanted to hear it from someone with a teaching license.”  A girl nearby, having overheard this chimed in, “Simon, I think that’s the first time you’ve ever listened to a teacher.”

I told another teacher what happened after class and she couldn’t believe it.  Then again, neither could I and I was there.  Somehow, I think I got through to this kid.  Maybe not entirely, maybe not enough, but I get the feeling I’m doing something that’s helping him.

This.  This is why I teach.  For these small moments where I see light in their futures, where I see them embracing ideas they never would have before.  They can forget my name, my class, but I just hope they never forget how they felt in those moments when they discovered books.

For anyone who may be looking for tips to get someone interested in reading (whether you’re a teacher, parent, or friend), here are my simple suggestions:

  1. Give them some choice.  Not all of my students would have been happy reading Divergent or Night, no matter how popular both of them are.
  2. Give them some space.  When we read novels like this, I try to show the kids I trust them to do the work.  I give them time in class and very few assignments.  I check in occasionally by having them verbally tell me what’s going on, but this change of pace is really good for most of my kids.  Of course, I step in when I need to, give them deadlines, things like that.  But everyone reads at their own pace, so I like to let them have the space to learn what that is.
  3. Share their excitement.  Since I’ve read all the books, it’s easy for me to jump in and ask, “What did you think of this happening?” or “Oh, I was so mad when Tris did that!”  It gets the conversation going and they get more invested in their books, knowing they can talk to me about them.
  4. Be honest with them.  If I hate something about a book I’m giving them, I’m upfront about it.  I want them to know that books aren’t perfect.  And sometimes knowing that I hate a book makes them more interested in reading it.  For example, I don’t like Boy in the Striped Pajamas because I think Bruno’s an idiot.  I flat out tell them that.  Some agree with me; some think it’s cute.  But either way, they know I’ll tell them what I think.
  5. Audiobooks are your friend.  For a lot of my non-reader students, they feel they read really slow or get easily distracted.  They like audiobooks because it keeps them on pace and/or helps them block out the rest of the class.  They follow along with their books, but they process the story better if they can hear it.  And I’m all for whatever’s going to help them understand the story.

 

That’s it!  I’m hoping in the next week or so as we finish up the novels that I’ll have more stories like this.  I’ve had some people talking to me more in the last two weeks than they have all year, simply because books give us common ground.  It’s so fascinating to watch this all happen.

Uglies (Uglies, #1)

Image result for uglies scott westerfeldFirst Lines: The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.

Recently, I gave my students the opportunity to read one of a dozen different books.  Eight were related to the Holocaust (our last unit) and four are dystopians (which have a lot of similarities to Nazi Germany).  I’d read this book before in 2010, but I figured since it was one I hadn’t reread since then, I needed to try it again.

Tally can’t wait to turn sixteen.  On her birthday, she gets to have the operation that takes her from a hideous Ugly makes her an outstanding Pretty.  And with that surgery comes her chance to live in the high-tech Pretty Town, where every day is a party of epic proportions.  But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be a Pretty.  When Shay runs away, Tally suddenly learns that the pretty world isn’t that pretty after all.  And Tally will have to make a choice: find her friend and turn her in or never turn pretty.

Back in 2010, I loved this book.  I thought it was original, unique, exciting, and (somehow?) incredibly similar to The Host.  (I mean…I guess??)

Now, though, after having read a lot of other dystopians since then…I kind of just thought this was a bit better than average but not as unique or exciting as I did the first time.  I actually even struggled to keep reading it sometimes.

There were things I did still like.  Uglyville was great for world building.  There, they have their own linguistics, like how they call each other by their biggest physical flaw.  (“Shorty,” “Squints,” etc.).  Their vocabulary and technology are awesome.  Those were really immersive for the story.

But outside of Uglyville…it wasn’t as vivid.  It actually started to fall apart a little for me at those times because it didn’t have anything about it that stood out.  I got bored when she was out alone on her journey.

I do also like the overall concept, about showing how each of us are beautiful in our own ways.  How the things that stand out about us make us unique and special and, yes, even beautiful.  Seeing Tally discover that for herself is awesome.  And the fact that it’s not easy for her is something we can all empathize with.

The hardest thing for me, though, is that I didn’t feel like any of the characters except for Tally are really dynamic.  Some of them undergo a bit of a change, yes, but there really isn’t any other character I’d consider to be a main character besides her.  Even Shay and David feel like minor, mostly static characters.  And maybe that’s intentional, but I like stories where I can connect with multiple characters, not just the main one.  I struggled with that in this book.

It’s got a great premise and I’m not mad that I reread it, but I just didn’t feel the same excitement about it that I did 9 years ago.  YA has gotten a lot more daring in that time.

But some of my kids absolutely love this book, so I’m not complaining if it’s getting them reading.

That Night

Image result for that night by amy gilesFirst Lines: It’s funny, in a tragically not-really-that-funny kind of way, what I do remember of that night.  Like how warm it was for March and Ethan wouldn’t shut up about how that was because of global warming.  How the last of those dingy gray mountains of snow piled up in the corners of the parking lots had finally melted, leaving behind puddles as the only evidence of their once-towering existence.  How Marissa was wearing Ethan’s hoodie because she said she was cold, even though it was warm, and how I realized with the passing of that sweatshirt that my brother and my best friend liked each other.

For some reason, this caught my eye at the library.  And even though it’s another incredibly dark topic, I kind of really wanted to read it.  (Someone really needs to start acting as my conscience when I go to the library.  Jiminy has disappeared.)

On a warm March night, an unspeakable tragedy takes the lives of 18 people in a Queens neighborhood, throwing the lives of Jess Nolan and Lucas Rossi off-kilter forever.  In the year since the shooting, Lucas has taken up boxing and deals with his over-protective parents while keeping a list of random acts of kindness he’s done to repay the universe for letting him live–and repaying the debt to his deceased brother.  Jess struggles to take care of her extremely depressed mother and make ends meet with the help of her elderly neighbor.  Without her best friend, who now attends a post-trauma school halfway across the country, and her brother, who died that night, Jess feels completely alone in the world.  When Jess and Lucas’s paths cross at their after school job, they start becoming friends, and maybe more.  Their community was changed by violence, but Jess and Lucas are learning to move forward–together.

As a teacher who’s gone through at least 2 intense active shooter drills in the last 5 years, I mildly thought I was insane for even picking this book up. But at the same time, I was drawn to it because it is something we, as a society, have created.  We made this mess and this is the consequence.

And honestly, it didn’t go the way I expected. Not exactly.

The story starts almost a year since a shooting at a movie theater that took the lives of 18 people. It never goes into detail about the shooting and instead focuses on those left behind. Jess was at the movies with her brother and best friend. She survived because she went to the concession stand. Lucas was there with his older brother, who shielded Lucas during it all.

But it really shows the ripple effect. The loss of even just one life affects so many people. To take 18 lives at one time, the seismic shift is so much more severe. And grief impacts everyone different, from the way Jess deals to the way Lucas deals to the way their parents deal to the way the random kids at school deal with it. It’s heartbreaking but also incredibly hopeful in the way that life can continue on after. (That feels like it’s insensitive, but this story truly is about learning to move past the tragedy.)

The characters all felt real and their journeys even more so. You feel the pain along the way, but also the blossoming hope as they find solace in each other.

The plot was good, though admittedly pretty depressing in the beginning. It’s a little hard to want to keep reading it at that point, but it does get so much better. And I learned a lot from this.

This was really good. In this day and age, this book seems incredibly important because it reminds us to focus on the people left behind, the survivors. Not the tragedy itself or the perpetrator. The survivors are the ones that need our attention.

The Librarian of Auschwitz

Image result for the librarian of auschwitzFirst Lines: The Nazi officers are dressed in black.  They look at death with the indifference of a gravedigger.  In Auschwitz, human life has so little value that no one is shot anymore; a bullet is more valuable than a human being.  In Auschwitz, there are communal chambers where they administer Zyklon gas.  It’s cost-effective, killing hundreds of people with just one tank.  Death has become an industry that is profitable only if it’s done wholesale.

It’s April, so it’s that time of year when I dive head-first into Holocaust texts.  (My students read Holocaust novels this time every year.)  A couple years ago, one of my students got hold of an ARC of this book and I never forgot about it.  I wanted to see how it was, but until I’m knee-deep in Holocaust talk at school, I can’t bring myself it immerse myself in it.

Based on the experiences of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the story of a girl who risked everything for books.  After being sent to Auschwitz from the Terezin ghetto in Prague, Dita adjusts to the terror of Auschwitz by volunteering at the school in the family camp, Block 31.  When the Jewish leader of the school, Fredy Hirsch, asks Dita to take care of the eight smuggled books they have in their collection, Dita accepts.  Never has a librarian had more responsibility rest on her shoulders.  One book left out in the open means certain death for those nearby.  But with this responsibility comes great joy–the joy of the written word in a place that tries to squash happiness.

I liked Dita. I thought she was a good lead because she had the curiosity and spunk needed to keep moving in one of the worst genocides in modern history.  And the fact that she is a real person whom the author interviewed and molded his character around makes her that much cooler.

But Dita wasn’t the only narrator, and I liked and disliked that. Sometimes Dita’s story line was a little boring, so it was nice to switch to someone like Rudi or Fredy (especially Fredy). But sometimes it would switch for one paragraph and then switch back and it was hard to follow exactly what was going on. I’d be halfway through the next paragraph before I realized what had happened and that I’d been picturing it wrong. But the other characters made the story more rounded, so…yeah, I’m conflicted on this.

This book did not try to grind off the edges of what happened in the Holocaust. There were definitely moments I was hoping it would avoid some of the horrific things, but every gory detail has been included. I mean, it’s good that those details are out there and have survived, but I wasn’t necessarily ready for it. It often showed up in unexpected moments.

Also what was really interesting about this book was the parts about Auschwitz that I’d never heard of before.  I’ll not pretend that I’m an expert, but I do revisit the topic every year and I try to read up on it each time.  But things like the family camp or some of Dr. Mengele’s truly bizarre quirks (experiments not included) were new to me.  Things like how Auschwitz actually functioned (i.e. how people moved from one camp to another, how Kapos got their power, etc.) had never really sunk in until I saw it played out here.  And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.
But what I really appreciated was all the exhaustive research the author included at the end, describing who was real and what happened to them after we saw them last in the story. I liked that he was vivid in his descriptions of his interviews with Dita. I know the story is a work of fiction, but there’s way too much there that you just know it true. It rings differently than fiction does. Some stuff you just can’t make up.

This was horrific and touching and hopeful and depressing. But if you picked this up because “Auschwitz” was in the title, then you already were hoping for that mix.

Top Ten Tuesday: First Ten Books I Reviewed

Hey everyone!  So I’m actually really excited about this one because I started this blog in 2011.  It’s been a little while since I’ve looked back at those early reviews and, while I’m sure some of those reviews were a little cringe-y, I do remember liking some of those early books.  And I also remember that they were the reason I started this blog.

So let’s step into the Time Machine, back to when Obama was president, no one had heard of SnapChat (which wasn’t a thing for about 6 more months), and The King’s Speech and The Social Network were winning Oscars.

First Ten Books I Reviewed

1. The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg  (Reviewed 4 Feb 2011)

Oh, I have such a soft spot for this book for being my first review here.  My review is cute, the book was funny, and right from the beginning, I was telling you weird facts about myself.  To note: I strongly dislike the Beatles.  True story.

2. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (Reviewed 4 Feb 2011)

This is one of those haunting reads that I can think back to and remember pieces of it, even all these years later.  And for being only my second post, I’m kind of proud of how it turned out.  Even then, I was fighting for stronger female characters.

3. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (Reviewed 6 Feb 2011)

The only reason I read this book is because it was supposed to be a movie.  This never did become a movie did it?  I did not like this book, even though my review kind of says I did.  I was being nice.

4. We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni (Reviewed 9 Feb 2011)

It’s incredibly clear to me now that my tastes in books has not changed at all.  Historical fiction, scams, ghosts…yeah, I would absolutely pick up a book like that to this day.

5. Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney (Reviewed 16 Feb 2011)

OH!  MY FIRST ARC!  I didn’t know this was in here!  I won this book rather than having an author give it to me, but that didn’t make it any less special.  It’s still on my bookshelf.

6. Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols (Reviewed 18 Feb 2011)

Ugh, I was definitely trying to find my voice in this one.  I was experimenting with different ways of doing my blog and this was an awkward post that shows how I was stumbling around in the dark.

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (Reviewed 20 Feb 2011)

Eight years later, I’ve bought this book for my bookshelf, I’ve reread it at least once more, and I adore it still.  But it will always remind me of the unrequited love I was in at the time I read this.  My 19-year-old angst is on *full* display in that review.

8. Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder (Reviewed 23 Feb 2011)

One of my first books ever that I read in verse and it kind of shows that I had no idea how to write what I thought about it.  Actually, that’s kind of a recurring theme.

9. Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto by Eric Luper (Reviewed 26 Feb 2011)

Ugh, I did not like this book.  Even 8 years later, I remember using this review as the one where I could always find the 3 Roses picture for book reviews.

10. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh (Reviewed 7 Mar 2011)

I’m glad to see I pretty much found my voice by this point.  It’s maybe not as meaty as I would want a review to be, but I hit the highlights.  And I still have this book.

****

This was fun!  Maybe I’ll have to do more Time Machine moments in the future, perhaps matching up events that happened in that month with my reviews?  Hmm…