Hump Day Book Look

Reading is breathing in. Writing is breathing out.

During the school year, I teach American Literature and spend A TON of time digging into the finer points of fiction. But no school means that I can read whatever I want! So each Wednesday throughout the summer, I’ll try to post a sort of living, breathing “works in progress” reading list of a handful of books I’m working through, along with a few lines about what I’m learning as I go.

I once heard it said that the books you are reading today is the person you'll become in five years. I really like that idea. Click To Tweet

Fair warning: I’m a “dabbler,” who works in spurts through a ton of different books at a time. Audiobooks, Kindle, PD reads, leisure reading, and a whole bunch of non-fiction books — usually for professional growth along the lines of personal branding or dedicated research for future projects on down the line.

This week’s audio book:*

Jenna Fischer – The Actor’s Life

Beesly!: Like most red-blooded Americans with a Netflix account, I’m a huge fan of NBC’s The Office. And ever since the “Beach Games” episode (season four), I’ve been an even bigger fan of the series leading lady, Pam Beesly — played expertly by the incredibly talented Jenna Fischer. This book walks you step-by-step through her life, chronicling the hard work and daily grind of a struggling actor. Going into incredible detail beyond simply recapping the author’s biography, The Actor’s Life spends entire chapters on finding an agent, getting proper headshots, and learning the ropes behind the audition and rejection process of trying to hack it in Hollywood alongside every other wide-eyed wannabe with dreams of the Silver Screen. It’s easily the most thorough book I’ve ever read on the profession — so much so that it really is more of a how-to than a proper biography.

Verdict: Not quite the book you’re looking for if you’re looking for behind the scenes stories of your favorite TV show. But a much better book for it, and a fascinating read.

This week’s PD read:

Jesper Jull – The Art of Failure: An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games

Game Over: Do you like video games? Better yet – do you hate video games sometimes even more than you love video games? Jesper Jull’s “The Art is Failure” wastes no time delving into the serious psychology behind what makes playing — and failing at — video games just so much fun. As an educator, it pays to know what makes these games tick so that we can borrow many of the same techniques for use in our own classrooms. But be warned: this one reads like a graduate study course on the finer points of video game design. Bring your thesaurus.

Verdict: A solid read, but a punishing one. E.B. White once said that analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog: not very much fun and the thing dies in the process. Sounds about right.

This week on Kindle:

Drew Magary – The Hike

Down the Rabbit Hole: How to describe this book? Put one way: a guy goes on a hike in the Pennsylvania woods, gets lost, and then things go crazy. Like, really crazy.

Put another way: Imagine what it might be like if Alice in Wonderland had a baby with Hunter S. Thompson. Throw in a splash of Cormac McCarthy, a little bit of The Phantom Tollbooth, some Dungeons & Dragons (because why not, right?) and you’re left with a hint of what to expect from this fever dream of a book. Truly unlike anything I’ve read in a long, long time.

Verdict: Gonzo, trippy, and full of ridiculous plot twists right up through the very last page. At times deeply thought provoking and at others full-blown deep dive through the farthest reaches of absurdism. Highly recommended.

*A quick note on Audiobooks: Two hours of commuting every day = lots of time to “read” in the car! And yes, audiobooks absolutely count as reading. The research is super clear on this point, especially for readers with learning differences — including folks with dyslexia like me — and I wholeheartedly encourage my students to do the exact same thing.

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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