Tag Archives: Books

Columbine – A Book Review


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Columbine by Dave Cullen is utterly engrossing, disturbing and moving. Exhaustively research and intricately told, this story about sadness, violence and its aftermath pulls the reader in from the first paragraph and keeps its hooks in until the last. The players in the story become more than characters, they become people we know and understand. The events of the tragedy become more than plot points, the become signposts of change in the lives of those directly affected and in ours. Columbine is a brilliant piece of investigative journalism that sheds light on a crucible moment when, it is not too hyperbolic to say, the world completely changed.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the book should not shock us anymore: the narrative of the attackers and the attacks is almost entirely wrong. Much of the misinformation and myth of the story of the Columbine High School shootings is being dispelled, especially as we approach the 20th anniversary of the massacre, but the pieces that hang on – the ideas of outcast gunmen, the trench coat mafia, the targeting of specific students, the girl who said “yes” – remain almost fixed in place as if dispelling them would somehow to a disservice to the memories of those who were lost and changed by this day.

As a high school administrator, I can say that my colleagues should, conversely, read this book immediately and avoid it patently. We should read it to allow ourselves into the important what if journey and to open ourselves to the more critical what can we do question. We should not read it because it is a terrifying and maddening experience invoking sadness and confusion and helplessness.

I am not one to avoid truths and there are many to uncover in Columbine. I can write with certainly that I am forever changed having read it.

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2018 – And There Came My Favorite Things of the Year | Books


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At the end of 2018, AND THERE CAME A DAY shares favorites of this past year… not bests because “best” is surely in the eye and the opinion of the beholder but favorites as in my favorite movies, television episodes, comic books, books and moments.

This edition: BOOKS.

What were your favorite books of the year?

BOOKS


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  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
    • This is a book I read EVERY year and was blessed to teach it over the course of the last few weeks!
  • Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull
    • My friend The Junior Senator gave me this one a few years back and I finally got around to it this year… I shouldn’t have waited so long!
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
    • I LOVE true crime. What a great book this was… soon to be an HBO miniseries…
  • Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
    • If you think Harry Potter is all JK Rowling can write, think again. Her Comoran Strike novels (which she writes under the pen name Robert Galbraith) are tremendous!
  • The Pepper Effect by Sean Gaillard
    • Leave it to my incredible friend The Esteemed Principal to combine his love of the Beatles with his love of and expertise in education to pull this incredible book off!
  • Stalling for Time: My Life as a Hostage Negotiator by Gary Noesner
    • After watching Waco, I was interested in the true story… this was a great book!

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Link’n’Blogs – 10.26.18: Stephen King – Ranked


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as fun or thought provoking as I have.

Halloween is just around the corner. Each Halloween, I select a Stephen King book to read or, more likely, re-read. Believe it or not, my choice this year is going to be IT which I will listen to as I commute to and from work.

Only in the day time.

Only in the light.

Barnes and Noble has provided us with a list of all his novels ranked from least to most scary… click Uncle Stevie below for their list, if you dare.

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The Escape Artist – A Book Review


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The alternating story of two characters, army artist Nola Brown and Dover Air Force Base mortician (you read that right) Jim “Zig” Zigarowski, The Escape Artist attempts to spotlight both characters while telling a compelling story about government secrets and high espionage. The results and very mixed and your mileage with the book may vary. I wanted to like The Escape Artist. I very much want to like novels by Brad Meltzer. I have read a few of them and they left me less than excited. I was hoping The Escape Artist would inspire a different reaction.

It did not.

While Nola Brown has elements that make her compelling, she is no Lisbeth Solander as I have read suggested. She is fairly well written, but there are some parts of her story that are so impossible to swallow that they strain credulity. And her counterpart Zig Zigarowski is the type of character who the reader is supposed to believe can do things far beyond what his experience would suggest simply because he has lived his life around the military. While there are interesting elements to both these characters, especially to Nola, neither riveted my attention for the entire book.

There is a surprising amount of darkness in The Escape Artist. Dark back stories lead to dark plot developments which lead to some very, very dark conclusions for characters. I was not expecting that from a book like this and, while I do enjoy being surprised as a reader, some of the turns were just a little too out there. They took me out of the story.

I will say, from a plot stand point, there is something fun going on here. Brad Meltzer is well known as a debunker of American (and worldwide) myths and an uncover-er of secret portions of history. He lends the plot of The Escape Artist that kind of gravity, suggesting that one of the most famous men in American entertainment history was, in fact, a spy for the US government. The conceit (pun intended) works and the plot hums along at a pretty solid pace.

But the dialogue has two major issues: one, the characters do not have distinct voices. They all sound alike. Two, the characters speak too cleverly by half. Not everyone has razor sharp, Aaron Sorkin-like wit in the real world. In Meltzer’s world, they do.

The Escape Artist is not a bad book, but I wanted it to be so much better…

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When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing – A Book Review


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When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing is a wonderful book and one that delighted, challenged and affirmed. Daniel H. Pink is a television show host, a best selling author, a social observationalist and one of the most renowned business thinkers today. His books, including Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us are highly influential and he is a sought after lecturer.

After reading When, I can see why.

This is a terrific book for anyone who is interested in when successful people do things. The central concept of the book is that when we begin things, when we change jobs or buy homes, when we start diets, when we make decisions is critically important to the success of those decisions, job changes, diets, etc. The central conceit of the book is that people are fairly good at why, or, at least, people are very good at thinking about why they do things. They make check lists and pros and cons columns and flip coins and plunge ahead.

Rarely, though, do even the most careful thinkers consider when.

As it turns out, according to the book, the when of when we do things is very, very important to the success of those very things and Pink cites plenty of data – anecdotal and scientific – to back up the claim. Covering concepts like temporal landmarks, chronotypes and “time-hacking,” the book makes a compelling case that we should factor the whens along with the whys as we set out to make decisions.

For educators, whens are critically important and Pink’s book set me thinking about beginning conversations with my colleagues about why we do things when we do them. It sounds like a basic and simple concept. Pink illustrates that it is neither, but it is a central one to success.

Pink is engaging and funny and easy to read. This is a solid book.

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A Reader’s House

I was guest lecturing in The Cinnamon Girl’s Sociology class last week (speaking about The Portrayals of Women in American Comic Books) and I found myself – as I always do when I am in front of a captive audience – joking around. I teased the students about reading in the 21st Century, explaining to them what a “book” is and telling them they should try opening one for pleasure and fun sometime. Following the class, I was gently taken to task by two students who identified themselves as “life-long read readers.”  They proceeded to tell me about all the books they were currently reading to make their point.

It was a fun exchange and made me realize two things: I love opportunities to talk about reading with kids and I, too, identify myself as a life-long reader.

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When I was young, I would descend the stairs in my grandparents’ house, always careful to be sure the lights were on in the basement to ward off any ghosts or other scary things before I did.  I would creep down through the hallway, past the telephone table and into the big room beyond. There were three or four large shelves packed with paperbacks in there and those shelves were what drew me to that recess of their house. They were both readers, Grandma and Grandpa, and they had hundreds of novels. I would switch on the light and scan their shelves, looking for something to catch my interest. From those shelves, I pulled and read Coma by Robin Cook and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I found The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy and Trinity by Leon Uris. I borrowed Centennial by James Michener and The World According to Garp by John Irving.

More than a few of these books made indelible and lasting impacts on me, especially my reading of The World According to Garp, and I know that I never thanked my grandparents for opening this world to me for who recognizes how important these moments in our lives are when we’re living them? I also don’t remember what happened to their collection when my grandmother moved out of her house years ago. I am sure it was not as vast a gathering of novels as I recall, but it was a fairly large one to be sure. I ought to have grabbed a couple paperbacks for myself.

There is a realization here. Though The Cinnamon Girl and I have many books in our home, we don’t have anywhere near the amount we used to. Because of this, our kids and grand kids (grand kids who will arrive YEARS AND YEARS from now) will not be able to see what we’ve read by walking along the shelves of the living room. They will not run their hands along the spines of the books or pull them down from the shelves.  They won’t regard our home as an adjunct library.

And I think that’s a loss.

I love my Kindle app on my iPad. I love being able to read and night and not keep The Cinnamon Girl awake. I love being able to “shop” at any hour and download books in seconds to my device. The convenience is wonderful. I have also adjusted to feeding my weekly comic book addiction digitally though Comixology, an application owned by Amazon. I should be embarrassed to admit that I buy anywhere between 7-10 comic books a week. While one could have worse addictions, 7-10 physical comic books a week pile up. Literally. Having them on the iPad alleviates this issue.

I have embraced technology for my reading and, while I am a collector, I know that I cannot collect everything. The house isn’t that big and the desire to continue to collect may not be that healthy.

But I have come to realize that, while most of my shift to digital is positive, there is a significant drawback which I don’t really know how to address.

No one can walk through our living room and see everything we’ve read.

And yet, we still live in a reader’s house. Now we just talk with people more frequently about what we’re reading. That’s a plenty good thing, too.

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