Tag Archives: books

My Year in Books

This year I definitely embraced my librarian-ness and read 94 books (ooh, so close to 100!). You can my Goodreads Year in Books here, or just look at all the pretty covers:

I have been thinking it hasn’t been a great year for books for me (there’s probably an additional 10-15 not listed that I did not finish), but looking back there have definitely been some that have warmed my heart! I am quite stingy with my 5 star ratings (it must be a book that I want to put in the hands of every person that I know), but these are the ones that made the cut.

My Favorite Book of the Year

Chemistry by Weike Wang
I love this type of writing of style: short, succinct, and a bit snarky. This is the only book I’ve ever left on my Kindle after reading it because I knew I wanted to read it again. Which I am doing right now and loving it just as much as the first time. It follows a woman trying to get her PhD in Chemistry and it is funny and sad and moving and smart. For all you math lovers out there, the epigraph of the book is the mathematical definition of epigraph. Swoon! (psst, if you like this style of writing, check out Suzanne Finnamore’s Otherwise Engaged and The Zygote Chronicles, two of my favorite books of all time.)

Other Five-Star Books:

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crowe by Jessica Townsend
Yes, I know you’ve heard a lot of “this is the next Harry Potter,” but this might actually be true in this case (there’s already plans for a movie). There is just so much to love about this book–it’s fast-paced, heartwarming, and wonderful world-building. If you have kids, this would make a great read aloud (I know because this was the book I did read it aloud on our Thanksgiving road trip to Houston. Made the 11-hour drive fly by!)

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
John Green at his finest, making you love a girl with mental health issues without turning her into a manic pixie dream girl. I think anyone who knows someone dealing with mental health issues should read this, by which I mean everyone should read this.

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris
This brought back memories of the wonderfully fun, nonsensical poetry of Shel Silverstein. Another great book to read aloud, but be prepared for pleas of “just one more!”

The War that Saved my Life and The Way I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
I love books that make you want to give every character a hug and a warm mug of tea. I also love any book involving found family. And I love books with imperfect heroines. Summary: I loved these books.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery
“Why would I want to read a book about octopuses?” BECAUSE OCTOPUSES ARE AWESOME. And this book is wonderfully written and gives you a sense of awe and wonder about nature and life. AND ALSO OCTOPUSES ARE AWESOME.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
So I read that other best non-fiction book of the year about crime and it felt a little bit like homework. The story was interesting, but I just couldn’t get into it. Then I read American Fire and remembered that the telling of the story is just as important as the story. Even though the culprit is known early in the book, Hesse kept me on the edge of my seat for the whole wild ride.

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet
Yes, it has a really weird title. But every time I see this book in the library, I clutch my heart and let out a little sigh because it’s another book where you want to give every character a hug and hot cocoa. Plus, feel old as the history of the Berlin Wall is explained to children who have no memory of seeing pieces of it for sale in department stores. Also has a beautifully written scene about jigsaw puzzles.

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
First: THE DOG IS OK. I repeat, THE DOG IS OK. (Yes, I did have to flip forward, which I never do, to check.) Do you like rockets? Do you like kids and narrators that see the world a little differently? Do you like found family novels? Do you like books where the DOG IS OK? Then read this already, ok?!?!

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet
Make sure to read the book-book of this and not the ebook, because each page is a work of art. I had no idea E.B. White may be one of my favorite authors. And it introduced me to this letter.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I did have to bump this rating up from 4 to 5 because I spent the entire year telling people to read this book. An important read that would make a great school-wide book club choice.

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
This book is indescribable, as it is “not exactly a memoir,” but more if you had a super-awesome, funny, smart best friend who would email or text you random bits about her life. Knowing that she died from ovarian cancer in March (but not before trying to find her husband a new wife), makes many of the entries that much more moving. Another book that needs to be read in book-book form and not an ebook.

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz
This was almost going to be my favorite book of the year. It reminded me of the best part of Harry Potter, which is the band of three against the world. There are dragons and knights and books and, of course, holy dogs! This would also be a great read aloud and has so much to discuss about morality, friendship, otherness, books, history….  I plan on listening to the audiobook for the start of my fitbos challenge next year, but then again, the book is so charmingly illuminated, I may want to read the hardcover again. I really want someone else to read it so we can talk about how magical it is.

For 2018, I’m going to try to tweet my reviews using #read2018. Please join me!

Category: Life Outside of School | Tags:

Year in Books 2016

My goal this year was 52 books. I ended up reading…73! Wowzers! According to Goodreads, that was over 22,000 pages. Here they all are:

booksread20161 booksread20162 booksread20163

Please do not take the fact that a book is posted as a recommendation. There are quite a few stinkers on here (and about 25 others that I stopped reading). But here are some highlights and books I *would* recommend (links are to amazon page):

My favorite book of the year:

The Sun is Also a Star Nicola Yoon: Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I’m a sucker for “look at how all these lives intertwine” stories (see: my favorite of all time, A Constellation of Vital Phenomenaand this one did it so well. I was so entranced I tore through it; now I want to go back and savor it.

My other five-star books of the year:

Salt to the Sea Ruta Sepetys Of all the WWII novels I read this year, this was by far my favorite. My mom and dad both read it and liked it as well. Not only did this involve “intertwining lives” but also “found family,” another one of my favorite themes. I challenge you not to be moved by this book.

Homegoing Yaa Gyasi: Each chapter tells the story of a generation of two families. Each chapter could be a stand-alone winner. Each chapter makes you sad when it ends, but then each new chapter draws you in anew. Also, holy crap, I just noticed the cover and got the meaning.

The Thing About Jellyfish Ali Benjamin: Hey, you know how every “great” middle grade book ends with someone dying? In a twist, the girl dies at the beginning! But it’s not all sad. Also winner of “Best Use of Costume” and “I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying Over Best Use of Costume” awards.

All Over but the Shoutin’ Rick Bragg: I know, how have I lived in Alabama all this time and not read this book yet? This is a masters course in fine, fine writing.

Be Frank with Me Julia Claiborne Johnson (Hey, it’s currently on sale for $1.99 Kindle!) I did have this rated as 4 stars, but I had to up it since it met my five-star criteria of “Do I want to recommend this to everyone I know?” About the only thing I like more than “found family” and “intersecting lives” is “believably-precocious kid teaches us all some life lessons, especially a curmudgeonly adult.” Frank checks that box off wonderfully.

Honorable Mentions:

Lab Girl Hope Jahren: Fascinating look into what it means to be a scientist (and also plants are cool).

Good As Gone Amy Gentry (Currently Kindle is free with prime!): My favorite suspense/mystery of the year.

Scientist Greater than Einstein Billy Woodward with Joel Shurkin and Debra Gordon: I read this based on the recommendation of the creator of graphfree.com and I’m glad I did: it was FASCINATING. If you’re into science and/or medicine, this is a must-read! (Yes, I wish they would have found at least one female to put on the list, but that doesn’t take away from the amazing tales that are included!)

I’ve set another goal of 52 books for 2017, and I hope to have a bit more stars awarded next year. Here’s wishing you a happy cozy reading year!

Category: Life Outside of School | Tags: ,

More Books, Books, Books #MTBoS12Days

So this is an extended version of the “books read” prompt: the annual Insert Clever Pun Here Book Awards (also known in the industry as the “ICPBies”).

I had to hunker down this past week to finish my goal of 52 books, but I did! Here are the books I read:



And some stats:

Books read: 52
Pages read: 17,235*
Shortest book: 79 pages
Longest book: 599 pages
Average length: 331 pages
Average rating: 3.41/5 stars
E-Book:”Real” Book::30:22

*My actual page count was higher, as there were at least 20 books that I abandoned before finishing them. I am a firm believer in Rule #3 of The Rights of The Reader.

(pdf available here, book available here!)

And now it’s time for the ICPBies! (Click on any book’s picture to be taken to the Amazon page for it. And no, I’m not an amazon affiliate, but I did use my smile.amazon.com link. 🙂 )

Best Non-Fiction

If you’re a nerd (you’re reading a math blog that’s writing about books…YOU ARE A NERD), then you’ll love to geek out over this book. Warning: you will annoy all your friends and relatives with odd little facts about everyday material after reading this. Also: chocolate is amazing.

Best Education Book

In fact, my brochure that I handed out to my students with excerpts from this book was one of my more popular posts! Go read the post to learn more about the book.

Best Use of Typography and “Found Documents”

PLEASE spend $10 today and buy the hardbound copy of this book. And then read it. It is such a fun, creative, suspenseful page-turner. I think you’ll be disappointed if you get the e-book version; there is a reason it won this specific award!

Best Graphic Novel

If you are a nerd (which has already been established), then this book will warm your heart. It is a steam-punk-ish graphic novel about an alternate timeline where Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage get to be awesome together, with lots of long footnotes. I know, you’re sold, right? But really, I enjoyed every page of this book.

Best Book for Dog Lovers

People, this is a STEAL for the current price of $12 for the hardcover. First of all, it is a gorgeous book, with a wonderfully textured cover. Second of all, inside the book are gorgeous (watercolor?) pictures of Plumdog, our hero, throughout England and Scotland. Third of all, it’s written by Plumdog! Buy it for yourself and every dog lover you know. It will be their favorite gift!

Best Book, First Runner-up

A book that made me happy. And the dog is just there to be a dog and DOESN’T DIE. And it’s on sale for $3.99. I’m not sure what else I can do to get you to read this book.

Best Book of The Year

If you need to restore your faith in humanity, read this book.  If you need a good laugh, read this book. If you need a good cry, read this book. If you need to read, read this book.

Thanks for indulging me in my annual ICPBies! What books did you love this year? What books do you want to read next year? Do you secretly want to quit teaching and open a bookstore, only because then you could (a) get books to read for free and (b) tell other people what to read?

Category: Life Outside of School | Tags:

Best Books of 2014

Ok, it’s been about a month since I’ve blogged (do I sense a New Year’s Resolution about that?), but I’m not here to talk about math.  Let’s talk books instead.  Namely the best of the 61 books I read in 2014:   booksread2014 2booksread2014 1booksread2014 3

And now my personal favorites:

Best Laugh:

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

I stayed up way too late finishing this one yesterday (note: it was also released yesterday if that tells you how much fun it is). Make sure you read The Rosie Project first!

Best Tearjerker (tie):

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay.  If you like YA, you’ll LOVE this one.
City of Thieves by David Benioff Set in Russia, so you know it’ll be full of rainbows and unicorns.

Best Celebrity Memoir (tie):

Neil Patrick Harris Choose Your Own Autobiography
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

Surprisingly, both involve large castles/homes owned by Englishmen.  I might have given the slight edge to Princess Bride, but NPH’s also had 3 magic tricks, so it ended up being too close to call.

Best Book about Being Trapped (tie):

Thirteen: The Apollo Flight that Failed by Henry S.F. Cooper Jr
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Trapped in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that set them free by Hector Tobar

Yes, you know the endings to both of these stories, but these are well-written, captivating, behind-the-scenes accounts that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Best Smartypants Book (tie):

How Not to Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg
What If? by Randall Munroe

My husband got to “enjoy” most of these books as well, since I could not stop reading parts aloud to him.  Maybe a slight edge to Munroe due to awesome use of footnotes.  And footnotes to footnotes.

Best Testing Tip:

The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Stier

In a timed test, set your (analog) watch to 12:00 when the timing starts. That way you can easily see how much time you have left instead of dealing with “25 minutes from 9:42.”  (Although I think I would set it so that it would hit 12:00 when time was up, but I still like the tip.)

Best Not-Pictured-Above Picture Book (Children’s Category)

I’ll just quote my tweet: Girl Engineer?  Check.  Dog Assistant? Check.  Adorable drawings? Check.  Growth Mindset? Check. LOVE IT.

Seriously, the small children in your life need this book.  And probably some adults, too.

Best Not-Pictured-Above Picture Book (Adult Category)

This is on sale for $20 at B&N  (or Amazon) right now. Go pick it up. Turn the pages. Be amazed.

Best Fiction

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

As good as it was, I think Eleven was slightly overhyped (not as much as The Goldfinch, though, which I gave up on with 100 pages to go because SERIOUSLY PAY FOR AN EDITOR).  As good as it was, I think Fikry was underhyped as I haven’t heard anything about it and it’s an adorable story for anyone that likes books.

And finally…..

The moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The Best Book of 2014

You need this book in your life just for the Nutella-stuffed muffins.  Or the peanut butter cookies.  Or gingersnaps!  I’m not sure what is the best compliment I can give: (a) this has turned me into a baker or (b) none of my pants fit me anymore. You could always check out Sally’s blog if you want to just dip your toe in the waters.

Do you have a favorite book of the year?  Did we read any of the same books?  Are you craving some cookies right now?  Let me know in the comments!

Category: Life Outside of School | Tags: ,

Sunday Summary

3 things to share

1. Man, don’t you hate it when you figure out a better way to teach something the day after you teach it?  Although trig equations went pretty well this year (well, we’ll see tomorrow on their quiz), I think next year I will structure it differently. Here’s where we started:

CaptureCapture2Next year, I’m going to start at the end with the calculator/desmos, with a -4π to 4π window to discuss the general form.  Then do some examples with θ between 0 and 2π, then non-calculator examples.  Then on day 2, graph 2θ (or θ/2) on the same graph to discuss getting more/less answers.  If you’d like to modify this for me (doesn’t hurt to ask, right?), or if you want to use it as is, here is the .doc file (with bonus homework at the bottom!)

2. Now, day 2’s note-taker-maker, I’m kind of in love with. (ok, technically this was day 3 because I ended up teaching day 1 slowly)

Capture3The only thing I might change is super-reinforcing the ZERO product property rule is not the “ZERO or sometimes 2 or 3 or -7 product property rule” because some of my students are still having issues with that. (btw, Snoops is dancing because it’s already factored.  Also, it is super fun to have a kid ask later, “How can we solve this?” and you reply, “Cute and cuddly, boys!”  File link.

3. I finally figured out about 3 years ago how to make linear programming less painful…get the mechanics of it out the way first!

Capture4Let them spend a day finding the feasible region, vertices, and max/mins.  Then the next day you can focus on the finding the equations from those long scary problems and the rest is the same as these notes.  Much less stress than trying to introduce all of it the same day.  File here.

2 good books I’ve been reading

We took a quick weekend trip to Chattanooga last week where I started David Benioff’s City of Thieves and could not put it down!  It’s like a buddy cop movie set in the absurdity of World War II.  It reminded me of Anthony Marra’s Constellation of Vital Phenomona, one of my favorite books of the last few years.



Hector Tobar’s Deep Down Dark is the reason I haven’t gotten anything done today!  How did he make this so compelling when I already know the outcome?  I’m about to go draw a bath and try to finish it tonight; it’s such a page turner!  And don’t worry, he does a really good job making sure the reader doesn’t get lost with all the people in the story (I’m horrible at remembering names in both book and real life.)


1 thing I’m meh about

I have to write a unit plan about complex, polar, and parametrics using some premade lessons (and adding others as I see fit). The premade lessons are really expecting a lot from our students and I’m not sure if I will get the outcomes desired by using them (unless the desired outcomes are tears and frustration).  But I’m having trouble finding a lot of great stuff that I can easily replace them with (I have a few things thanks to @mrdardy and @crstn85).  So if you have some cool stuff to share, please do so!  The state of Alabama will thank you!