Sunday, August 29, 2010

School Reading List 2010-2011

I forgot to check my mailbox this week so I'm not sure what new books I got. I apologize if you sent me something last week and I still haven't thanked you yet!

I didn't want to not post today so I thought I would share a bit about what I'm reading for school. I'm curious if people want some school updates? Nothing too long, just what we are reading and whether I liked the book or not. Or something like that. Let me know in the comments (if there are no comments I'll assume that means no one cares about my school life, which I completely understand. Hearing about school is depressing).

Social Studies Reading

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer

Soccer is much more than a game, or even a way of life. It's a perfect window into the crosscurrents of today's world, with all its joys and sorrows. In this remarkably insightful, wide-ranging work of reportage, Franklin Foer takes us on a surprising tour through the world of soccer, shining a spotlight on the clash of civilizations, the international economy, and just about everything in between. How Soccer Explains the World is an utterly original book that makes sense of our troubled times.

-Did this book explain the world? Was it utterly fascinating? Yes. I know how to play soccer but I don't watch it, I just hop on the bandwagon when the World Cup comes along. This book provided a great look at the world of soccer (it's not the best book to use as an introduction to the soccer world because at times I was a bit lost). We had to read a book over the summer for my Comparative Government class (which was a first. My school never assigns summer reading) and the choices included this book, The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria or Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni. Obviously I picked this book and while it wasn't my original choice (Lipstick Jihad was checked out of my library at the time), I'm very glad I read it.

Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni

Azadeh Moaveni was born in Palo Alto, California, into the lap of an Iranian diaspora community longing for an Iran many thousands of miles away. As far back as she can remember she felt at odds with her tangled identity. College magnified the clash between Iran and America, and after graduating, she moved to Tehran as a journalist. Immediately, Azadeh's exile fantasies dissolved.

Azadeh finds a country that is culturally confused, politically deadlocked, and emotionally anguished. In order to unlock the fundamental mystery of Iran-how nothing perceptibly alters, but everything changes--she must delve deep into Tehran's edgy underground. Lipstick Jihad is a rare portrait of Tehran, populated by a cast of young people whose exuberance and despair bring the modern reality of Iran to vivid life. Azadeh also reveals her private struggle to build a life in a dark country--the struggle of a young woman of the diaspora, searching for a homeland that may not exist.

-I have a friend who doesn't like to read much (at least I don't think she does. I don't know, we never talk about books but I digress) but she really really liked this book. My teacher has talked about it a bit and I think it sounds like a great read. The first country we are studying is Iran and since I don't know much about Iran's history, I figured I would start reading this book while we study Iran. I'm heading to go get it today. Plus I'm eager to learn about youth culture in Iran, specifically the underground movement.

English Reading

Junior year is British literature. I'm not particularly pleased about that (dead white male authors), but I will try and have an open mind (based on the syllabus we received the only book we read by a white female is Daughter of Time by Josephine Fey. There are no authors of color on the list, even though our teacher told us that Brit Lit includes literature from former British colonies like Jamaica, India, etc. For the record my English teacher is not white, but is a male.)We are starting off reading The Book of Lost Things.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.

-This was a surprise read. I had never heard of this book and I didn't think we read modern literature (published in 2007). We are currently reading it and it's very good. Very creepy, but I love the twisted fairy tale setting. I can't wait to finish this book (I usually read ahead in school reading but I don't have much time to do that this year) because I have a feeling the ending will be good.

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (Translated by Seamus Heaney)

Composed toward the end of the first millennium, Beowulf is the classic Northern epic of a hero's triumphs as a young warrior and his fated death as a defender of his people. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on, physically and psychically exposed in the exhausted aftermath.

-We read this next. I.DO.NOT.WANT.TO.READ.THIS. It sounds boring, the movie looks too long to watch and it had to be translated from Old English to modern English. UGH. I need someone to tell me that I will not despise this book.

The rest of our list consists of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens.

I would love recommendations of British literature that is not by white males (Helen Oyemi comes to mind). I can't read it now, but maybe for the summer.

So has anyone read these books? If so, what did you think of them?


  1. I read Beowulf last year in school. You will not despise this book (I think). It was mildly entertaining and the main character was so arrogant that it was funny.

    Not that I'm saying you'll love it, but there are a lot of books that are worse to read.

  2. I never had to read any of those. Not even Beowulf (I did see the CG movie and it was stupid). Good luck with all your readings.

  3. So disappointing to hear about all the dead white guys for your Brit lit class. I never took that in high school, so I don't really have any suggestions, but you'd think there'd be an Austen or Bronte on there! Still white and dead, but at least their stories were by and about women. Interesting your teacher considers works from the colonies to be Brit Lit - those were always put into post-colonial literature in my studies (in college).

    Lipstick Jihad, on the other hand, definitely sounds interesting. My social studies classes never involved reading anything other than a text book, so I think it's cool your teacher has other texts for you guys.

  4. I'm not a fan of Beowulf, too much manly chest beating for my taste, but I have heard good things about the Heaney translation, so maybe that might help? One of my English lit professors in college was a total medieval lit geek, and adored Beowulf. After reading that in our class, he declared our motto for the rest of the semester was WWBD (what would Beowulf do)....the answer was usually plunder, pillage or cut off their heads/limbs. That was probably the only enjoyable thing I got out of it. :)
    And boo for the lack of dead white males in your British lit class. I would think at least VS Naipaul (as much as I hate his misogyny), Nadine Gordimer, or Derek Walcott would have been considered being Nobel laureates. Or Salman Rushdie.

  5. Lipstick Jihad and the book about soccer both look good. I hope British Lit isn't too deadly for you!

  6. I certainly want to hear about your school year...please do keep us readers updated!

  7. I got the Connolley book for Christmas, but I haven't cracked it open yet. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it.

    And since modern British Lit is a possibility, there's always Zadie Smith!

  8. If you haven't already, a good book for you to read would be The Kite Runner. It isn't set in Iran, Like Lipstick Jihad, but in Afghanistan and other parts of the middle east. It's written by Khaled Hosseini, and was made into a movie sometime in 2007. It's about the turmoil the main character goes through as he betrays his best friend, moves to a new country, and returns home to find everything destroyed by the Taliban. I had to read it for a summer project this year, and it was amazing. Quite possibly the best book I've read in the past few years. =)

  9. I'd love to tell you that you won't hate Beowulf, but I can't. I hated it SO MUCH and I had to read it three times between high school and college. However, it isn't that long, so I guess it could be worse.

    Lipstick Jihad looks really interesting, and I'll be curious to see what you think of it. And Daughter of Time is good. Promise. :)

  10. I would love to hear about your school reading and you are reading way cooler stuff than I did in school!

  11. I actually liked Beowulf when I read it a second time in college. And, as others have said, I never read much of anything other than the text or the typical reads for other classes, it's nice to see reading lists expanding!

  12. Ari,
    I'm so glad you did this post! I've found it quite interesting. Sounds like the Brit lit will cause you to stretch your repertoire, but I know you're up to the challenge! I love that social studies classes that have you reading outside the textbook!

    How's the college search coming? I did ask what you're majoring, your search should revolve around your major.

  13. This is the second time I've seen Lipstick. If you're reading it, I want to read it.

  14. I read the John Connelly a few years ago and thought it was stale (sorry! hope you like it though)

    Ari I found another interesting UK writer I'll send you, Diana Evans. Have you tried any Salman Rushdie?

    Just came over to get the link to put in my letter to Borders. I didn't come up with anything so I'm sending it to the CEO at their headquarters. Will drop you the link in the next couple days.

    Wish we'd got to read stuff like this when I was in social studies!


  15. @Priya-I am so relieved to hear that.

    @Najela-LOL if the movie was stupid does that the mean the book will better? I have no idea. Hope so!

    @Angela-Bronte was too much to hope for, but I did think one of Austen's books (we have two English female junior year teachers and one of them does teach Pride & Prejudice). I was surpsied that he considered it Brit Lit too because like you, I thought that would be colonialism lit. But I was mad because after he said that he passed out the dead white male syllabus! Well John Connolloy is still living and Jospehine Fey is obviously not male but still.

    Well I'm reading Lipstick Jihad on my own. It was an option on our summer reading list so technically we aren't reading it while in school. But so much better than a textbook!

    @de Pizan-hahah that would be funny! I may bring that into our English class after we read Beowulf. WWBD?

    We did read Salman Rushdie freshman year and I quite liked it.

  16. @Helen-I hope so too, thanks :)

    @Rasco-That seems to be the prevalent opinion, will do!

    @Lawral-It's dark and violent, but not boring so for school I like it. Would I have read it on my own? Probably not (never even heard of it before).

    Oh yes, Zadie Smith! I forgot about her. I need to read White Teeth.

    @QuirkySista-Wow the best book you've read in years? I have heard of The Kite Runner but only had a passing interest. I will keep my eyes out for it now! (commented further at your blog)

    @Jenny-You had to read it 3X?? That's awful. I'm going to try and have a positive attitude for Beowulf. *sigh*

    I'm glad to hear Daughter of Time is so good!

    @Amy-I shudder to think of what you read in school, becuase my school reading does not seem particuarly thrilling. except for our summer reading options which I didn't even really want to do.

    @campbele-Don't even want to think about college right now. haha. I'm torn on major. I will probably major in politics or international relations with a minor in something that translates to publishing. Thank you for your advice =)

    I will definitely be stretching!

    @susan-It's good so far, very eye-opening. I think you'll like it (although I'm only on chapter 3).

    @tricia-No problem, I appreciate honesty! It's good as far as school reading goes, in my opinion. I'm half into it.

    I read and really liked Haroun & The Sea of stories (freshman year world lit class). I haven't heard of Diana Evans.

    Off to read your letter!

  17. school posts sound wonderful. beowulf, however, does not. (but maybe i'm remembering wrong...maybe i loved it?) i've been wanting to read the foer book -- thanks for the rec! happy school!

  18. Some people like Beowulf - hurray? I'd probably like it if I went back and tried again, but Grendel is not as exciting as he sounds.

    How come if you're reading Brit lit as modern as John Connolly you can't have other books by oh I dunno say Zadie Smith (critically acclaimed) or Monica Ali (oh so critically acclaimed!) or about a million other people? Rage! I would consider books from what were the colonies collonial fiction. Keep us informed about the dead white male situation - maybe we can suggest fun, more diverse Brit alternatives for when the class is finished.

    Oh and yay I want to hear about your school reading, such an interesting idea that I wish other teen bloggers did too (am nosey).

  19. I loved The Book of Lost Things. I was blown away by it, and it's on my list of books to reread.

  20. @olugbemisola-I'm thinking I'll do quarterly updates of what I'm reading. Unless the book is so good or bad that I simply must share/vent. I highly recommend How Soccer Explains the World.

    Same to you :)

    @Jodie-Mixed reviews on Beowulf. We start it next week so wish me luck. I refuse to buy it so I'm going to have to hunt down a copy in the EXACT translation my teacher requires. ugh.

    I need to read Zadie Smith si it owuld have been nice if that was one author I could have crossed off my list courtesy of school. haha. But no. I just googled Monica Ali *is embarrased* and Brick Lane sounds like it would be a great read. I'm not as big on reading about the generational immigration experience anymore but this novel has a British twist :)

    I will totally ask for suggestions once school is over because there is some Brit Lit I want to read (Dickens, Chaucer, Shakespeare) but I also want to be introduced to the diversity that I know Britain has. Especially since we are reading more modern books too.

    I thought teen bloggers did keep readers informed? Actually, I didn't really check if they do share that or not but I'm happy to share my thoughts (and vent if need be) on the blog (especially since my friends gneerally say they hate all the books we read, so they aren't very objective/balanced).

    @Medeia-Surprisngly my list of books to re-read is not that large. Thank goodness. I have about two-four to re-read. Whoa, glad to hear you liked BOLT so much! We are almost done and it was a great way to start the year.

  21. You're reading THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS for school? Lucky you! I mean, the book creeped me out, but at least it's something modern.

    As for the others - I'll be interested to hear what you think. THE CANTERBURY TALES is fun ...


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