Summer Reading

My list of books this summer was very eclectic as a result of a new teaching assignment: English 8, English 9 and Social Studies 10 focusing on Canadian history.  But fortunately this meant discovering some engaging reading material!

Sisters in the Wilderness – The Lives of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill by Charlotte Gray proved to be a most interesting books on Canadian history, while read as a fascinating biography on these two sisters.  The day I finished the book, both sisters were mentioned in articles in the Globe & Mail – not bad for a couple of women who died over a hundred years ago.  How Canada was ‘sold’ to potential immigrants makes for a fascinating back story.

The Fault in Our Stars by  John Green This is a book that I plan to use in my English classes.  I think it would be a great book to link with Romeo and Juliet while looking at an inquiry project on “what makes a good relationship?”, or perhaps  “Should you walk away from someone you love to protect them?” In reading this I also discovered John Green on twitter, and he makes some very interesting and informed comments on literature for young adults.

Esther – The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright by Julie Wheelwright brings a personal focus to Canadian history.  Esther’s descendent, Julie Wheelwright, traces the life of her ancestor who was kidnapped as a young child from Maine, adopted by a native family, released to a French Jesuit and taken to live in Quebec where she became a Catholic and refused to return to her family.  All of this before she was 18 years old!

While I remain hopeful, with only 7 days left before school starts, there are a few books that might remain on my shelf tempting me while I should be planning lessons…

Guys write for Guys Read, a collection edited by Jon Scieszka

If Walls Could Talk – An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World – The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and The Endurance by Jennifer Armstong.

But the ultimate reward from this summer is finding a book that my teenaged son would read and complete… After several false starts including The Diviners by Libby Bray and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams, it seemed that the densely worded books simply weren’t going to hold his attention long enough to complete the story.  So I adopted a different approach, suggesting a shorter paperback novel that isn’t much heavier than his iphone.  Upon finishing The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, my son said it was a “powerful story”.  And that was enough to make me happy.

Leah’s summer reads for 2011, and One Day

I was a little taken aback last week when I spotted my most memorable 2010 summer read in Chapters sporting a new cover – turns out One Day is about the be released as a film starring Anne Hathaway. My stomach dropped, and I was rooted to the spot. It took me months to get over this book, now I am about to be reminded of it constantly. Would I feel obliged to see the movie? Could I sit through 90 minutes, knowing the punch that would be heading in my direction at the climax?

Sometimes a book or story just won’t let go of you. You try and live your life as normal, but you continue to have conversations with the characters, dream of new endings, sketch out conflict resolutions. One Day was like that, I kept rereading the same page, hoping the words would change. But I think that’s what made it such a great book, these characters could be someone you know, went to school with, or live with. How would you deal with their circumstances?

Two days after seeing the book in Chapters, I picked up the latest edition of Chatelaine. This month’s author interview? David Nicholls discussing his book and new screenplay for One Day. I think I need a book club intervention, I need to discuss this book!

So what will be a memorable read for Summer 2011? Librarians at Vancouver’s Public Library recently reviewed their top choices and I plan to try the following:

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoft

Jane by April Linder

Cleopatra, A Life by Stacy Schiff

Truth to Tell by Mavis Cheek

What’s best for summer reading these days? A good old fashioned book, a Kindle, a Kobo, an Ipad, or ?? How do those e-readers handle the sand and a little suntan lotion?

Book Club Recipe: Chestnut & Celery Root Soup

After several years of singing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I figured it was time to try cooking something seasonal with them and since our house is heated by a furnace, the open flame idea wasn’t gonna fly.

This soup comes courtesy of Sunset Magazine, and gets 6 thumbs up from my family (ages 11 – 69).

Chestnut & Celery Root Soup

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 1/2 tsp olive oil

1/2 medium onion chopped

1/2 cup peeled, chopped celery root

1 1/2 cups bottled chestnuts

1/2 tsp thyme

3 cups chicken or veggie stock

1 tsp salt

6 tbsp heavy cream

Warm butter and oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion & cook til soft. Add celery root, chestnuts, thyme and stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover partially and simmer until celery root is tender, apprx 20 mins.

Puree soup in blender in small batches. Stir in salt, a little pepper and 3 tbsp cream.

Serve with remaining cream. You could lightly whip the cream and serve with chives, but really, who has the time?