By: Mrs. McClean
With a recommendation from Mr. Nelson, a colleague for whom I have great respect, I recently read Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation in which the author explores her passion for the circumstances and lore surrounding the Presidential assassinations of Lincoln, McKinley, and Garfield.
Although I am not a natural history buff, I enjoyed this text immensely as Vowell went beyond the dreaded names and dates of the standard history text, telling not only the stories of the horrific events themselves, but also those of her pilgrimage to different museums and historical sites while she conducted her research. Vowell seamlessly combines her sense of humor with sober reflections on death, murder, children, luck, heroism, politics, and Americans as a people.
I live for an audiobook. As an English teacher, people assume that I spend the majority of my time outside of school reading. This is false. In fact, I am typically the person who falls asleep open mouth having not completed a paragraph only to wake a few hours later recognizing that I will be returning yet another library book with drool stains on page one. Fortunately, the local library also has a plethora of audiobooks available, and I have about a half hour commute to work. Some audiobooks are better than others, and it has everything to do with the voice and cadence of the narrator(s). Sarah Vowell narrates her own work (I love it when authors do this because only he or she is able to capture the true tone and essence of the text.), and she brings in some others to bring history to life. Conan O’Brien, Catherine Keener, Jon Stewart, and Greg Giraldo all make appearances, to name a few. Perhaps the best part about listening to this text, after getting to hear Violet Parr’s voice from The Incredibles tell me about the dichotomous personalities of John Wilkes Booth and his brother Edwin, is listening to a woman tell me about some interesting pieces of our nation’s history. In thirteen years of public school and nine history credits during undergrad, I had just one female social studies teacher: Ms. Odell for seventh grade civics. She reminded me of a cross between Nurse Ratched and General Patton, and while I learned a lot from her, it was out of sheer terror. History is such a male-dominated subject area in schools (perhaps due to a male-dominated curriculum) that I think many girls, myself included, have been a bit turned off of studying it. Sarah Vowell (and, to be fair, Mr. Nelson) have gotten me interested in history again through Assassination Vacation, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
By: Mrs. Weinke
The Life We Bury is a mystery about a college student, John Talbert, who has to write a biography about an older person. He comes from a very dysfunctional family and so he visits a nursing home in order to find someone to interview. The only person at the nursing home who is coherent enough to talk to John is a man who was in prison for the murder and rape of a fourteen-year old girl. While interviewing this man, John quickly figures out that this man was wrongfully accused. John makes it his quest to find out who the real murderer is.
By: Miss Luckow
Craig Gilner is a freshman in high school when he starts to feel like the pressures of the world around him are beginning to suffocate him. After a night of suicidal thoughts, Craig admits himself into an adult mental hospital in order to get the help that he deserves.
In the hospital, he meets a cast of characters ranging from his nearly-silent Egyptian roommate to the mysterious other teen in the ward.
Through each other and through his own art, he begins to understand that getting help takes strength, that he has a gift that others appreciate and who his true friends are.
The author, Ned Vizzini suffered and unfortunately lost his battle to depression shortly after writing this book. It was refreshing to see an author rawly and accurately depict one’s thoughts as they go through depression. Most YA novels tend to romanticize mental illness in a way that furthers the misconception in our society today. This novel, however, did not. I loved the depiction of depression and how Craig’s mind works–it was very accurate.
However, I think I wanted this book to be something more. While, it didn’t romanticize mental illness with its depiction of thoughts, it romanticized it in the storyline. I felt that it ended too neatly with a bow on top. Although, I would love that to be the case in real life, pretty packaging and bows are hard to find. With the majority of the book giving the reader very real emotions, a fake outcome seemed forced. This bothers me.
However, overall, it was a refreshing, relatable read for those who love realistic fiction sprinkled with humanity and humor.