How to Live on 24 Hours A Day Book Review

Author: Arnold Bennett
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Here’s something people may not expect – a self-help book about productivity written over a hundred years ago. We like to think we’re in an age where there’s never enough time and the golden era of leisure was yesterday.

Arnold Bennett comes out and, in a fun and entertaining British way, writes his advice for a middle/upper class society who feel miserable about their existence.

In this book (which is public domain and therefore free), he tackles the issue of people going to work, coming home and then wasting their evening away until they wake up the next day to do it again. All the while, they complain about not having enough time to pursue anything meaningful in their lives (hmmm… sounds familiar…)

While today’s self-help genre focuses toward the idea of being your true self, finding your passion or making money (usually the latter… which only profits the author, but that’s another rant), Bennett focuses on taking advantage of time.

Specifically, how one is able to maximize every minute of every day given to them. Money can be replenished, but time is something that can never be banked. Instead, one should learn how to find all the spare minutes of their day and use it to start living, not merely existing.

It’s a short book and if you’re willing to delve into it, you’ll find plenty of wisdom that is highly useful today.

Movers Book Review

Author: Meaghan McIsaac
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It’s exciting to read a sci-fi book, especially one written for a younger audience, with attention to world building. Yes, this is a sci-fi book set in the future… and yes it has time travel elements… and yes, it’s dystopian (have we hit all our YA sci-fi cliches yet?), but it moves in a different direction.

Forgive the dad joke.

This story is centered around Pat, who is in a world that is overcrowded and with little resources to spare. To compound the issue, there are people in the world known as ‘Movers.’ They are connected to others in the future, called ‘Shadows’ and the movers have the ability to move shadows into the present time.

The issue is the government doesn’t want this happening as the world’s resources are already stretched thin and adding more to the mix only makes it worse. Hence, any time they detect someone moving, or in large suspicion of moving, they put that person to sleep.

Pat is not a mover, but has latent abilities. His sister and classmate, however, are a different story. Right away, they find themselves tangled up in an issue where they are on the run. The story keeps you hooked all the way until they end as they discover secrets about the world, the government and themselves. It ends on a massive cliffhanger.

While I found the book took a bit long to get going, the students I’ve offered it to said it gets exciting right away. This may be a case of my over-saturation with the genre in comparison to their eager and young minds. The fact the few who have read it blasted through it in less than a week speaks volumes of how it plays to a younger audience.

For something different in the YA Sci-fi genre, it’s worth picking up.

Seven Myths About Education Book Review

Author: Daisy Christodoulou
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As someone committed to professional growth and constantly on the lookout for material that will get me there, I was excited to pickup this book. From the onset, I made the assumption I would largely be agreeing with Christodoulou’s arguments and it was partially true.

The backbone of the entire book is Myth 1: Facts Prevent Understanding.

Twenty years ago (further if you count the outlier teachers who were early adopters), the push for education in Canada was to move from knowledge based to skills based education.

Knowledge based education was (and still is) looked upon with serious disdain.

Of course the common argument about moving away from knowledge based education is the average student will never need to memorize some random fact they’ll never use again. This is true.

However, what Christodoulou brilliantly points towards is knowing one random fact on its own isn’t useful, but knowing many is crucial to making connections.

Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on a Wittenberg Church door in 1517. The town had approximately 2000 people in it at the time.

Based on that bit of information, it’s difficult to answer why the Reformation even happened. However, when you add the following two facts:

Gutenberg invents the printing press in 1440.
Explosion in literacy because of easy and cheap access to printed materials.

Connections can be made. The people of the town reprinted those theses and distributed them far and wide across the continent. In essence, Martin Luther created a viral post that spurred the masses.

After the first myth, I was committed to reading the rest. Unfortunately, each subsequent myth pointed towards many common education reform ideals (teacher led instruction is bad, project based learning is best, etc.) but still fell back on the first myth. There wasn’t enough in each to follow the depth of argument I was already primed to hear.

This may have been a case of Christodoulou trying to get her thoughts packaged together, but it may have been more beneficial to focus on her primary point and use those other myths as extensions.

In her mission to get me thinking, however, she succeeded.

Moribito Book Review

Author: Nahoko Uehashi
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This book is what happens when you mix anime style ninja/samurai guardian tropes with classic touches of fantasy.

I would call this a fun read for someone who is looking for a lot of action in their fantasy without getting bogged down in the details that can plague newcomers to the genre. It drips out the explanations just enough for you to easily follow along without scratching your head trying to connect it to an earlier info dump.

The story begins with our guardian, Balsa, who tasks herself with protecting a young prince named Chagum. Along the way, you learn the history of Balsa, the prince and the mysterious great egg dwelling inside of him that he must bring to its source. Given this was meant for a younger audience (teen fiction according to the library label), it will be familiar territory… although there were a few surprises.

There’s enough intrigue in here to keep you turning pages, although the action sequences (which you wait patiently for) don’t quite live up to the hype that’s built around them. Perhaps this is just me being nitpicky, but when you’ve read enough incredible action sequences from a variety of texts, your expectations are a little high.

Still, the book was fun enough to have a permanent home in my classroom library. I hope my students will dive into it and discover this fun world for themselves.

Number the Stars Book Review

Author: Lois Lowry
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In considering a book for my Language Arts class this year, this title came across my desk. Having read “The Giver” back in elementary school out of a suggestion from a friend, I knew Lowry wouldn’t disappoint.

Number the Stars is a look at World War II as seen through the perspective of the people of Denmark. The backdrop is already more fascinating than the typical settings of a war novel, giving it an extra allure for young readers.

Annemarie is a young girl who is now living through occupied Denmark, after having the king surrender to Nazi Germany. As the troops begin their mission to “relocate” the Jews, Annemarie must protect Ellen, her friend, and her family.

The story expands to one about the entire country of Denmark trying to smuggle every Jewish person across the sea to Sweden, all told through Annemarie’s perspective.

It’s a quick read for the avid reader, but it grips you. You find yourself interested in both the history of what’s happening combined with the tale it’s woven into and cheering for every victory along the way.

It’ll be exciting to read it with my students this year, who may be given their first introduction to the deeper history of World War II and the writings of Lowry.

The Book Whisperer Book Review

Author: Donalyn Miller
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If “Book Love” was enough to inspire a new pedagogy for my classroom, “The Book Whisperer” puts it over the edge into a solid commitment.

Miller is a grade six teacher who has taken the idea of getting students to read and accelerated it to its max. She espouses the idea that traditional methods of getting students to understand reading strategies (worksheets, notes and disambiguated examples) pale when putting books into students hands and getting them to read.

First, I am jealous of her classroom library.

As someone who purged most of his books over the past five years (close to two hundred)… mainly because they were nothing more than showpieces… and because they were burdensome to keep moving… I am kicking myself for not saving them for my classroom. I’ve been slowly building it over the course of this year, and noticing its huge success with my students, but hearing she has 2,000 titles? Well, now I’m envious.

If there’s one thing Miller does, is instill confidence into teachers to attempt a new approach that gets students falling in love with reading. Really, it’s a simple matter of learning to let go and getting ready to pick your battles with those who would fight against the status quo.

She provides ample examples to follow and you can feel her passion for reading bleed off the page. She is even as extreme as getting students to bring their books with them when they wait in line for getting their pictures taken. The fact she gets them on board with that level of commitment is impressive.

The sad part in reading near the end is hearing about her students who come back to her upset their reading expectations after her class. You begin to understand that a love of reading is possible, but we never give young people the opportunity to discover it in school.

It’s an inspiration for me to continue down the path in my own class. Even if my students leave never getting a chance to read for the pleasure of reading, at least they will have this year as a foundation… and I will work hard to make it so.

The Pulp Jungle Book Review

Author: Frank Gruber
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Reading this book is enough to make today’s writer feel lazy.

I first heard about it through an off mention in a Dean Wesley Smith post and decided it was worth the effort to procure. Reading through confirmed it was worth every penny to get it to my doorstep.

While it can be looked at as a history book of where writing was in the thirties, as it follows the lives of those who wrote for the pulp magazines (”pulp fiction”), it’s really a story about what writers were doing and sacrificing to earn a living.

Gruber does a lot of name dropping, which would be neat if you knew who any of these authors were, but the gems were in-between (and a few times on) the lines.

While today’s bite-sized social media laden messages about rejection and never giving up are meant to be an inspiration, it was an accepted part of the job for these writers. Gruber speaks about the numerous times he kept submitting to magazines without any avail (for years, in a few cases) and how this was the norm.

You submitted work and it was either accepted or rejected. You hoped for acceptance, but if you didn’t get it, you kept going. Even after establishing yourself, there was still a chance you would be rejected (as was the case with Gruber trying to break into Hollywood).

Then there were the stories of the work ethic of these writers, including one who, in the middle of a party, realized he needed to submit a 12,000 word short story for publication in the morning. He sat in the corner, typed non-stop for four hours, then came back to enjoy the festivities.

There is also an entire chapter between the meeting of Gruber and Max Brand (the pen name of one of America’s most prolific literary giants). Between the consistent output and constant drinking, it’s stunning to hear his commitment to the written word.

Gruber does provide direct advice to writers near the end. What’s telling is the advice he gives here (written in the 1960s), is identical to what every working writer suggests today:

Put your butt in the seat, write a lot, read a lot and put it out there.

I’m glad to have read through this one.

The End of Absence Book Review

Author: Michael Harris
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After reading Solitude, I decided to go back and read this earlier work from Harris. If I wasn’t a fan the first time around (which I am), this book sealed the deal.

Harris takes an exploration into the world we are moving towards, where a generation will have no idea what it’s like to be disconnected. There is still a gap where some of us will know life before and after the Internet, which is a huge issue I still wrestle with… especially as a teacher and seeing the ubiquity of technology in the classroom.

This book is for anyone looking for sympathy as they sit at a table with others and watch helplessly as they stayed glued to their phones. It’s also for those who get tired of taking second place to a conversation with a person because they keep turning their attention away from you. It’s for people who feel frustrated and helpless to do anything because they know it’s not going to change.

The biggest geek-out in the book was his meeting with Douglas Coupland, who still remains a favourite author of mine. To hear Coupland’s words about never wanting to go back, and I understand the reasoning, was a seal of the times we’ve entered.

While I work through my own digital sabbatical, albeit not quite as extreme as the one Harris took in this book (which I also felt dragged a bit), it’s created room for reflection in my own life with my relationship to technology. I’m just happy there’s someone else out there who is struggling with the same questions as myself.

Refugee Book Review

Author: Alan Gratz
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Out of all the potential words in the English language to describe this book, I’m going to have to settle on amazing… which is a shame, because it deserves something more grandeur.

Refugee follows three different storylines of refugee families: a Jewish one escaping Germany before the war, a Cuban family trying to make it to Florida in the early 90s and a Syrian family trying to make it to Germany in 2015.

The brilliance of this novel is how all three stories connect together in the end.

Gratz did the work to add as much truth as he could (real stories) into the fictional tales he’s written. Each story feels real and you can empathize with all the characters during their struggles.

It’s one of those books where you walk away with a newfound respect, and compassion, for the people who flee their countries in hope of a new life. It compels you to think differently and want to do something substantial.

Any book that can elicit that level of emotional response is a success indeed. Still… in my sleep deprived state… I can’t think of a better word than amazing.

Don’t Live for Your Obituary Book Review

Author: John Scalzi
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Reading John Scalzi is both a fun aberration from life and a thought-provoking pleasure wrapped in humour.

Don’t Live for Your Obituary is a collection of his posts about writing for the past ten years. As someone who hasn’t been reading his (20+ year!) blog consistently, I didn’t mind that he wanted to compile some posts together and sell it as a book.

It is refreshing to hear the voice of someone who has been in the writing field offering solid advice, rather than those who have seen success after a few years and claim their own guru status. It’s also enjoyable to read his potshots against elitism in writing while admitting his own shortcomings (and successes).

I often found myself captured by the arguments he was making and forget to highlight key passages that stuck out at me. Not that this should ever be an issue for a reader, mind you.

Could you imagine?

“Hey, Scalzi. Do you think you could ease up on your prose so it’s not so compelling? I need a break now and then. Thanks.”

Anyway, this book will appeal to anybody who wants the veil of writing lifted for them. For those who are starting, many of these chapters will be helpful in discerning the long road ahead.

And yes… and with great gratitude… Scalzi is one of the very few people who will admit luck has a huge part in success.

For those who have been in it for a while, it’s a refreshing and honest take on what another professional is doing.

Not every chapter will appeal to a reader and even I admit to skimming over a few of them. Perhaps at another point when I’m feeling particularly passionate about the subject will I return to pore over the fine details.

In any case, I look forward to his next ten years of writing.