“What did you read this summer?”

I begin each semester asking this question.  I get a few summer reading titles, I get a few other titles, and sometimes I get dead silence.  I then move on to film, music, art, and experiences.  It’s a good icebreaker.

It’s also a great insight into someone’s personality.  I want to get to know my students– don’t get me wrong– but I also have other motives.  I’m  jotting down their responses.  I use them as references throughout the semester.   I can talk about style whether I’m talking about Henry Miller’s Black Spring or Welcome to Nightvale.  I can talk about characterization whether I’m talking about Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.” or Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  The point is that I meet my students where they are, and then I eventually lead them to higher ground.

I’m of an age that the pop culture references that I used when I first started teaching don’t mean anything to my current students.   Why aren’t they laughing at my Seinfield references?  “What do you mean, you haven’t seen the X-Files?  We’ve got some serious work to do.”

So, what did I read this summer?  Mostly, I read blogs and news feeds, but I also managed to work in a few real in-your-hand books and literary magazines.

Mostly fluff, a few re-reads, and some of our school’s summer readings… I don’t teach any of those works in my courses, but I like to talk to my students about what they’re reading.

Can’t see the titles?  Here you go:

  • Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (re-read)
  • Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis
  • The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
  • Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  • The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (summer reading)
  • Island by Aldous Huxley
  • Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy  (re-read)
  • The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
  • The Pinch
  • The Paris Review
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