Monday, September 5, 2011

End of Summer Thoughts

Every year as school comes to an end in June I make a list of all the things I am going to accomplish during what at that time seems like a long summer that lies ahead. The list includes things for home (paint a room, clean thoroughly, fix something that is need of repair), for me (read, sew, craft a bit, socialize, lose weight), and for school (organize something so that it is more user friendly, get some new books, plan for the coming year). These lists have been a major project in themselves in years past. This year they were more scratched notes and thoughts.

Neither of these approaches seem to work completely. I did some of the things on my lists, but I am far from completing most of the things on my list. We did get one room painted, but the transition of that room into a guest room is still far from complete nor are the two other rooms that were a part of the transformation looking much different from than they did in June. Socialization was an important part of the summer, but there are still many people that I want to see. I also am into an intensive exercise program that is getting me on that bumpy road to fitness. The library is a little better organized, but much of what I did gave me ideas for other changes that must now wait until school gets under way.

One thing I did succeed in doing was to read some good books (and some not so great ones). As is always the case, however, I found more to add to my list of books that I want to read. Here are a few of the adult titles that I read and enjoyed this summer.

The Worst Hard Times by Tim Egan offers a fascinating and clearly well researched look at life in the heart of the Dust Bowl. It is not as well written as I would have liked, at times repeating itself or making confusing leaps in time or place, but it made up for those lapses by offering a very complete story of people who lived in this time and place. The relationships between the environment and politics should give us pause in today's world.

Freedom Summer: The Savage Season that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy by Bruce Watson looks at yet another devastating time in America, the summer that the Freedom Riders headed south to register African Americans to vote. The story is difficult as it gives straight forward accounts of the people who were killed in tortured in this agonizing and powerful time.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared Together by Alice Ozma is a memoir that centers around a pact between a young girl (the author) and her father, a school librarian. They agree to read together every night for 1,000 nights. There are tales of having to read in a parking lot or even over the phone so that they can meet their deadline as they move beyond those 1,000 nights. It is high praise for the joys of reading together and a good reminder that no one is too old to enjoy sharing a book. Keep reading to your children.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell is not the only fiction I read this summer, but is what I enjoyed most because it is a wonderful melange of odd characters in unbelievable yet realistic settings. The Bigtree family has owned Swamplandia since Grandpa moved to Florida to find his fortune. Instead he finds lots of large gators to wrestle and from their a show grows. The story begins, however, as the glory days are ending. Grandfather is now in a nursing home. Grandfather Sawtooth's son, Chief, is struggling to keep things going after his wife, the star of the show, dies. The three children all try in their own ways to save the park. The symbolism of The World of Darkness amusement park is worthy of a literature class discussion. I know not everyone likes quirky stories, so I will forgive you if you are put off by this book. However, if you like a wild romp, this could be just the book for you.

Now, I am composing lists of things to accomplish during the school year. Let's hope that get some of those things done.

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