My relationship with books is complicated. I hate reading except when I love it. I love reading except when I hate it. There are quite a few books in my life that I have started but never finished. I’ve always had this relationship with books even going back to when I was a child. I really didn’t like to read as a child. I have talked before about my diet of reading materials as a child (https://fouroclockfaculty.com/2015/05/choose-your-own-adventure/).
As I approached my adolescent years, there were a lot of magazines and newspapers involved until I discovered books that I loved. The first was probably Where the Red Fern Grows. There was something about the book that captured my 11 year old imagination.
When I entered high school, one of the assigned books that I read was A Separate Peace by John Knowles. That book made a lasting impact on me, and was the first book that I ever read multiple times. Author Austin Kleon features a saying on his Twitter profile:
My reading mentality would be the exact opposite. When I start reading a book that I love, I cannot put it down. Throughout high school, there were other books that drew me in. The Old Man and the Sea. Great Expectations. These books allowed me to enjoy my reading experience for the first time. As I grew older, I found that I loved books more than I hated them.
My love for sports books was rooted in reading the sports section of the newspaper everyday from the time I was in the fourth grade. Then I fell in love with The Fab Five basketball team from the University of Michigan. I read the book Fab Five when I was a junior in high school. And so began my love affair with the writing of Mitch Albom. Many are more familiar with his later works but Fab Five is one of his best sports books grounded in his work as a sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press. I have loved his books ever since. Tuesdays with Morrie still remains one of my all-time favorites.
During my college years, the love-hate relationship continued. I grudgingly made it through assigned texts for my classes, but didn’t read much outside of those classes. I was the complete opposite to my friends who couldn’t wait to start reading more of their own personal choices once class had finished. However, I, on the other hand, was just hyper-focused on finishing my degree, so I didn’t really have enough time to read, except for those books that were on my reading list.
The time after college is when my relationship with reading changed. I started to devour books in just a few days, which is not normal for me. Usually, I take a long time to finish a book. The Ben Mezrich book Bringing Down the House was a personal favorite, and I tore through every book that he wrote after that. I loved his tales of some of the smartest students in the best colleges using their genius for some not-so-legitimate business ventures.
After college, I was working in a job outside of my political science degree when I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This is when I made the decision to follow my path to teaching. Nothing could stop me.
When I started teaching fifth grade, I finally had the opportunity to catch up on some great children’s literature that I had missed from when I was a child. It started with watching my cooperating teacher read Mr. Popper’s Penguins to our students when I was student teaching. It became one of my favorite books, and I frequently read it aloud to my own children. My favorite part is when Mr. Popper calls to register his penguins with the city.
During winter break one year, I brought home Holes because all of the children had been raving about it. I sat down in the couch one morning and finally moved three hours later after finishing the book. I loved it that much!
In my early teaching career, I wanted to improve the culture of my classroom. I went to the education section at Barnes and Noble and picked up a book called There Are No Shortcuts. The book had a great impact on my teaching and changed my perspective on classroom culture (https://fouroclockfaculty.com/2015/07/six-simple-words/). Other great “teacher” books helped me as well. The Great Expectation School by Dan Brown. Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.
As I have progressed in my career and gotten older, my reading interests have changed. I became a fan of non-fiction. I rapidly consumed all of Malcolm Gladwell’s works. Outliers changed my perspective on education completely.
This began my obsession with books from outside the educational realm that could help me improve my teaching, management, creativity, and leadership. Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull taught me lessons about culture from Pixar (https://fouroclockfaculty.com/2015/01/become-the-chief-education-officer-ceo-of-your-classroom/). I fell in love with visual thinking by reading Dan Roam’s book The Back of the Napkin. Atul Gawande’s experience in hospitals taught me about the power of checklists. Austin Kleon inspired me to create through his books, Show Your Work and Steal Like an Artist.
I have come to love reading, even though the relationship has sometimes been rocky. It is an important part of my life now. I have tried to model good reading habits for my children, and we love reading Mo Willems’ books together. Our favorites are We Are In A Book and That Is Not A Good Idea. I hope that they grow up to love reading as much as I do.
What are your favorite books? How would you describe your relationship with books? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.