Friday, July 1, 2011

First, What are You Reading? Volume 11, July 2011

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list/pile to read? 

As always, I hope you'll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

What are you reading?  

A lot.  We've had some extended family vacation time, and that has allowed me to bring along a lot of varied books and to actually read most of them.  Here are just two.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory & Why Outsiders Thrive After High School by Alexandra Robbins, after I learned about the book when Mary deTurris Poust put it up on her Facebook page and then wrote about it here.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, a classic that I read about somewhere recently and wanted to preview for my children.

What do you like best about it?

For The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, I would have to say the title, and that's about it.  (This is a reversal for me, as I usually am disliking the title of books, or the profusion of subtitles).  Honestly, the title is the "one great thing" about this book.   This book really, really dragged as Robbins tells the stories of how being an outsider is good by following a half-dozen or so teens and giving them a challenge, then peppering it throughout with examples and studies to prove the point.  I was shocked at how little I came away with.  Truly, the New York Times article about the author and the book gave all the information one needs to know about it.

The New York Times article really made the author likeable and the message of the book much more accessible than in the book, frankly.  I would really enjoy getting to talk with the author about quirk theory, etc., but I would not want to read another book from her unless it was wildly different.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, so far, is not wowing me.  I don't know if I'm just disliking everything I read, or this book is a clunker to me.  I'm trying to give it a chance as a way to learn more about early 20th century Irish immigrants in NYC, but so far it hasn't impressed.

What do you like least about it?

I think I've already covered that in "what I like best," but let me share one more thing.  When Robbins shares stories of the teens, the parents and other siblings are virtually absent from the narrative.  And I'm thinking, what?  Wouldn't it be helpful to have a parent or two, or a sister or brother, talking a teen through some of these issues?  I felt she really downplayed the importance of family as a way to navigate the world.  I'm not sure if that's because she is not a parent (I'm actually not sure if she is or not), or she doesn't consider parents or family relevant, but that in itself seems weird to me.

At the end, Robbins does share some short, helpful tips for teens and parents to allow young people to embrace their difference in order to

What’s next on your list to read?

I think I need to re-read Marybeth Hicks, Bringing Up Geeks, because this was a book I thought The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth could have been.

Bringing Up Geeks is a nice reflection and validation of being somewhat countercultural, from a family perspective.  This to me seems much more helpful than individual kids making their way through the Wild West of school and teen culture.  From my notes about the book when I read it several years back:

GEEKs is Hicks' acronym for genuine, enthusiastic, empowered kids. Hicks, a columnist, has a sensible, fun style that is enjoyable to read and glean from. Unlike the teens in The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth, where the teens are left to fend for themselves, Hicks advises parents to be mindful of their influence on kids.

Here are just a few of her "rules" that I found resonant: raise a brainiac (one who values learning and is curious); raise a sheltered kid (one who consumes appropriate amounts and kinds of media); raise a true friend; raise a faithful kid.  When my teenager saw The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth and we had a discussion about it, I told her I thought we could instead together read and discuss Bringing Up Geeks, so maybe that will be a mid-summer project.

So, what are you reading?  Care to recommend some good titles?


  1. I just finished "Death of a Pope," and am reading Pope Benedict's new Jesus of Nazareth book, Dynamics of World History by Christopher Dawson, and Toward the Gleam by T.M. Doran (fiction).

    Death of a Pope was pretty good--not riveting but creative and interesting enough to keep my attention. I haven't read Church-related fiction like that in a long time, so that was a nice break from my usual genres. I liked the combination of real people and events (JPII's sickness and death, Cardinal Ratzinger) and fictitious ones (the Prefect for the (imaginary) Congregation of Catholic Culture).

    Dawson's history book--really a set of essays he wrote over many decades--is brilliant. His is a Catholic historian and makes no apologies for including faith and God and the Church in his historical analyses.

    Pope Benedict's book, while academic at times, has also shed new light on old Bible passages that I had never considered before. Readable and interesting.

  2. I just finished up The Rite, by Matt Baglio ( )
    I am happy to announce that the book was NOT as scary as I thought it might be. In fact, with its journalistic style, it was simple, but interesting; fascinating but low-key. I have no plans to see the movie.
    My personal mental jury is still out on exorcism. Yet the book covered many scenarios that would leave most of us skeptical, indicating that actual possesion is quite rare. The depictions of Rome and the Religious there was interesting and I enjoyed being in that world.

    At the same time, I have been reading "In the Begining" by Pope B, for a summer book group. Wonderful! I have not finished yet. ( )
    I find it inspiring to see a compatable understanding of creation and 'the big bang', as the Catholic church supports and Cardinal Ratzinger explains. Pope B is not as difficult to read as JP2, nor is he as poetic. But he does have his own, surpisingly pleasant and wonderful style, which I am very much enjoying! (it must be hard to follow a pope like JP2!)

    And for some Catholic end-times fun, I am following up with the 3rd of Michael O'Brien's book in the Children of the Last Days series, Eclipse of the Sun. ( )O'Brien's characters and settings are so familiar I feel comfortable with them immediately. He incorporates theology lite in an unassuming story-line, and is not afraid to call evil evil. I particularly enjoy the thoughts of his characters- so real and like my own internal debates.
    Earlier in the year, I read Father Elijah, also by O'Brien, and a fiction book re children's reading titled A Landscape with Dragons.
    O'Briens thoughts are clear about what constitutes *good* fiction for child readers, and he offers excellent food for thought: Dragons should be the bad guys, never a buddy, while a young child develops in his sense of morality.
    Ok! I think that is enough recs for today!! Thanks for your wonderful articles Nancy!! :)