Eye on the Prize: Grading Momentum, Self-Denial, and a Request for Good Reading

No Telling

I’m two weeks from No More Papers to Grade. Anyone who teaches knows the final jag of the semester is about responding and grading and paperwork and wrapping things up. They also know it’s a self-inflicted time of pleasure-reading famine. There’s simply no time for the foolishness of lounging with a delicious book.

We who teach know all about self-denial. We’re masters of the craft. We don’t visit anyone, take the night off, dream up exciting recipes for veal, or blog. We eat Lean Cuisines from the microwave and wash it down with cold coffee because both are fast. It’s important, though, to dangle a carrot or two to keep us going. Here’s where you come in.
Give me a list of books to look forward to. Dangle the dream of rewarding hours prone on a divan with piles of novels and poetry and anything that doesn’t resemble a freshman argumentative essay. I live to teach, but the grading stack is high just now and the work is daunting. I need a tasty book list to help me make it through final papers and final exams.
Think of it as a public service.

12 thoughts on “Eye on the Prize: Grading Momentum, Self-Denial, and a Request for Good Reading

  1. Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud by Jonathan Safran-Foer

    Middlesex
    by Jeffery Eugenides

    they are both simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming.

  2. I’m looking forward to reading 30 years of X-Men comics that I just bought on DVD, but I don’t imagine that would appeal to you much…

    I’m finally reading _Wicked_, or I was the other day when I was stuck in the neurologist’s office.

    I’ve read a lot of *really* good YA literature this spring for the class I took. _The Graveyard Book_, _Surviving the Applewhites_, _A Single Shard_, _Dicey’s Song_, _A Long Way from Chicago_… Lots of Newberry Honor and Award books. But skip the _Higher Power of Lucky_– the most interesting part of that book was the controversy.

  3. I recently finished Michael Chabon’s <>The Yiddish Policemen’s Union<>. It’s flawed to be sure, and the subject matter not for everyone, but it’s certainly a different and imaginative work.

    Perhaps this is cheating because I haven’t actually read it yet, but I have Cherie Priest’s latest, <>Fathom<>, near the top of the to-be-read stack, and I’m itching to read it. I have yet to read a disappointing yarn by her. This one departs from her usual southern ghost stories and wades into the dark fantasy world of ancient gods and water witches.

    Chalk this one up to being the parent of a young-un, but somehow I doubt you have an aversion to reading good kids’ books. After many, many years, my sister recently returned one of my childhood favorites, <>The Alligator and His Uncle Tooth<>, by Geoffrey Hayes. When they talk about books transporting a young mind upon far-away adventures, <>this<> is the book that did it for me. Tales of the ocean couldn’t have been further from the arid plains of South Dakota. I read it over and over. Decades later, I still love it. Unfortunately, I think it’s out of print.

  4. Thanks Opal, Abby, and Laura – those are officialy On The List now.

    Olivander, all I needed to hear was “water witches.” I’ve got a water-witch flash piece that needs to be my next NaNoWriMo.

    Just so you know, hearing “out of print” only eggs me on. I love going on the hunt for a book that’s hard to find.

  5. “Just so you know, hearing “out of print” only eggs me on. I love going on the hunt for a book that’s hard to find.”

    Super. If you ever come across a copy of the poem James Russell Lowell self-published for his Harvard classmates, let me know. Should be a few copies still in existence. It’s sort of my personal Holy Grail.

  6. If you haven’t read it yet, “Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Zafon is absolutely fantastic. I also just finished “They Used to Call Me Snow White, But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor” by Regina Barreca.

    I love your blog, thanks for all you do!

  7. Geez, Olivander. Give a girl a tough one, huh? I have a feeling that one isn’t going to show up at a yard sale.

    LdyGray, thanks! The Snow White book is going to the top of my list right now.

  8. Hey, girlfriend! I’ve been a bit snowed under myself of late, but for different reasons. Great reading suggestions.

    If you haven’t already read this, one of my fave reads over the last decade or so was “Failure to Zigzag,” by Jane Vandenburgh. Hilarious, heart-tugging, family dysfunction that doesn’t make you want to throw yourself off a bridge. Contains the immortal phrase “pathological enthusiasm,” which applies to a number of people I’ve met, then tried to avoid, along the way.

    Hang tough, Teach’!

  9. Okay, for something serious, “Crazy Love” by Leslie Morgan Steiner. It’s her memoir about her first husband beating the shit out of her for three years. It will make your hair stand on end.

    For stuff to make you laugh so hard you’ll snort, hit the Sweet Potato Queen stuff by Jill Conner Browne, I’m sure you’ve already read some of it, but “Raising Kids for Fun and Profit” is hilarious, and you’ll end prayers with “come in old man” for the rest of your life. Hippie Mama swears by her book “American Thighs” and keeps saying she’s going to loan it to me, but I’m still waiting…

  10. Definitely Elizabeth Strout’s book, _Olive Kitteridge_. Also _The Thirteenth Tale_ if you like stories within stories within stories. Alice Hoffman’s _The Third Angel_ if you’ve never read a story told backwards. She’s pure magic.

  11. Oh, Candace. Those Sweet Potato Queen books are a scream. Em and I flew through them all. Tell me more about American Thighs.

    Reticula, thanks for stopping by! I’ll read absolutely anything by Alice Hoffman. Grocery lists, bad checks, anything. It seems like I saw Olive Kitteridge floating around on our “borrow” shelf at the office. I’ll swing back by there on Monday to make sure. Thanks!

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