This week’s Top 10 is a list of “Gateway” books on my reading journey. So I have 10 (actually 11) books that have meant something to me as a reader or as a reading teacher or as a teacher educator. So I extended the definition of “gateway” to include books that have made me think about something — a theme, genre, content area, whatever — differently, which in turn inspired me to find and/or read more books in the same category.
- The Night Circus (my favorite of 2013) and The Magicians — a reminder that fiction for adults isn’t all Dan Brown (nothing against Dan Brown, it’s just not my style). They’re magic that hit me in that Potterhead place of happiness.
- Kindred by Octavia Butler — this book is the one that gave me permission to be black and like science fiction (none of my black friends were really into science fiction, so I grew up thinking I wasn’t supposed to enjoy things like Star Trek or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). An added bonus: Octavia Butler is The Professor’s favorite author.
- Harry Potter — I know I said I wasn’t going to add Harry Potter to anymore lists, but it’s really the series that got me excited about reading non-canonical texts again (I was an English Literature major. None of those classes tied in YA. Unfortunate.) And have you seen the new covers? My inner dragon (read: book hoarder) covets these just because they’re pretty.
- Tears of a Tiger by Sharon Draper — this is one of the first novels I read as a reading teacher. Draper propelled me headlong into the world of YA literature and I haven’t left much since (see #1)
- Tangerine by Edward Bloor — see #4, but also this was the first book I read with
my first book buddy, my cousin Sam, something like 6 years ago. He’s well into teenager-ness now and doesn’t have as much time to read, but we still talk about books and make recommendations to each other now and then. It was with him that I really learned how to talk about books with kids.
- The Gardner by S. A. Bodeen — Just like I learned to talk to kids about books through Tangerine, I learned how to talk with kids about science through The Gardener. Sure, there are other texts I could use to do this, but I’ve found that this one is accessible, with guidance, to most of my students. Not to mention we do an experiment on exponential growth that utilizes microscopes, and most of my students have never used a microscope (craziness, I know).
- Beowulf — I took a class at university on Medieval literature. The professor put Beowulf into historical context, showing us how the values and mores of the time were evident in the text which made it make so much more sense. Because of this, I fell in love with literature from the Victorian Era. I taught it, and did the same thing for my students that was done for me by Dr. Armstrong. (Yes, I remember her name. Confession: I only signed up for the class because I had a crush on her. I had no interest in medieval literature and there were other, more interesting literature classes I could have taken. For my teaching career, though, I’m glad I took it.)
- Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony — This is the book that really made me think about both inference and interactive reading (two completely unrelated topics). Many of my students are engaged by interactive reading, but I think they don’t read as deeply as they could. This is the book that inspired me to start teaching more visual inference to go along with text-based inference. Interestingly enough, even though my students are bombarded with visual images all the time in their digital lives, visual inference is so difficult for them. We can’t make assumptions.
- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein — I’ve never been a fan of historical fiction. I don’t know what it is that turned me off from this genre, but for whatever reason, I never gravitated in that direction. So when my Twitter friends from #bookaday were going on and on about this novel, I thought I’d give it a go. I loved it. Had conversations with other readers about audiobooks and reading it with a queer lens, and it was fantastic.
- I Am J by Cris Beam — For my Ph.D I took a class on critical multiculturalism and young adult literature (this is not the exact title, but it’s close enough) and this is one of the novels I read. It’s also a novel I’ve taught with graduate students. But before that, it was the first novel I read with LGBTQ characters who were transgender. I found the character irritating, but realistic — someone who is different, complex, and (most importantly to me as a teacher educator) relatable. The first semester I taught I Am J, one of my students said that she was prepared to hate J just because he falls under the transgender umbrella, but found that there were many aspects of J’s character to which she could relate. This led her to reevaluate her assumptions about people who identify as transgender and to imagine them more complexly.
I’m sure there are more — these are the books I could think of off the top of my head. This is one of those lists that makes me proud to be a reader — a concrete representation of how reading has influenced my life.
What are some of your gateway books?
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started by The Broke and the Bookish. Check them out for their Top Ten Tuesdays and more.