I Am Malala

Over Christmas break, me and my mom have been alternating in reading the chapters of the autobiography called I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. This is the girl that was shot by the Taliban for wanting the right to an education. She is a very good role model and speaks truths about the hardships in her home country of Pakistan and how women are treated there. In the beginning chapters, she goes in depth on the history, culture, and traditions of her home country. We learn many things about Pashtuns and what they do and how they do things. She also talks about her family, focusing on her father because he is the one who helps her realize how important education is for all genders and how to take a stand on that important issue. Malala discusses the history of her country and the people in it and we see a different side of Middle Easterners than the side we see on the news where they are depicted as terrorists. As I said before, Malala is a very good role model and she is one of my own. Why should young girls be looking to Miley Cyrus who twerks and is half-naked all the time when they can look towards a young girl in Pakistan who just has a hunger for knowledge. It is these people that hardly get recognition, however Malala did because her case was extreme, surviving a gun shot to the face. I believe that we take education for granted here in America. Most teenagers I know dread going to school, while I am happy for the opportunity to. I know there are people out there like Malala that would love to take my place. We need to realize here that education is what brings people together and what can possibly bring world peace. Educating ourselves about other cultures and customs would prevent many conflicts or wars in my opinion. Malala is a bright light in a dark world of mistreated women who just want the opportunity to learn.

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Winter Break Reading List

Over school breaks, I like to try and accomplish a lot of reading. Usually this doesn’t end up working out, however I always like feeling a little ambitious. The following books are ones I wish to read or at least start over the Christmas break (if I read one with my busy schedule that will be an accomplishment in itself).

I Am Malala

20131218-165233.jpg   As you might know, I find Malala Yousafzai one of the best role models a woman can have. The girl stood up against the Taliban for the right to an education and     was shot because of it. She survived the ordeal and is very outspoken about advocacy and awareness to get women education in her home country of Pakistan. Malala  spoke to the United Nations on her 16th birthday, something none of us would ever dream of doing. This book intrigues me because I am a strong advocate for education as well because I want to be a history teacher. I think we really take education for granted here in America when there are people like Malala getting shot just because they want to learn. This is not right. I love how demanding Malala has been for her story to be heard by everyone and her activism in wanting an education and wanting every single women in the world to have the right as well. She has had many interviews with famous people and she is so well articulated and you can tell she’s very educated. She is a girl that takes her education and gives it purpose, not something that everyone in the United States can say for themselves. I am very excited to start reading this book and I definitely will be posting about it soon.

Blue Zones

20131218-165413.jpg This book was a random thing that I stumbled into. I went to my weekly Key Club meeting and some representatives for the Blue Zones were there to talk to us. If you don’t know what the Blue Zone project is, it was first a research study in all parts of the globe to see what places had people that lived the longest and why they do. These people are known as centurions because they lived into their 100s. The research consisted of diets, habits, lifestyles, and relationships. There are many checklists and guides to see if you’re living the Blue Zone lifestyle. The book is by Dan Buettner and he has started a healthy revolution with his research. Schools and communities have taken part of the action and even my hometown is racing to be one of the first Blue Zone communities in the nation. I want to read this book because I want to see the research and how it was collected and learn more about these people who have lived over a century. I also picked up some pamphlets and checklists from the representatives to see if I’m living in the guidelines of the Blue Zone. I took the Blue Zone pledge during the meeting but I don’t really know if I understand what I’m getting into. If you want to learn more about Blue Zones and how you can change your life, go to www.bluezones.com

Doctor Zhivago

20131218-165518.jpg I am so excited to read this book! I really hope I get the chance to read all of it over vacation, but with it’s 613 pages, I doubt that will actually happen. Historical fiction has always fascinated me because it’s really great to see history in a certain time period from a certain point of view. To be completely honest with you all, I saw half of the movie before I read the book (I know, shun me). What I did see of the movie was pretty great. The story is set in Russia during the time of the Bolsheviks and the Red Army and all things related to that. A doctor falls in love, a war begins, the story has been seen before. However, no story can be told the same and I’m sure that this one won’t disappoint. I don’t really know why I’m so excited to read this, maybe just because reading in itself is exciting. I do hope that I can find the rest of the movie to watch after I read it because I really want to see how filmmakers portrayed such a classic novel. The well-acclaimed novel is written by Boris Pasternak and the copy I have that is pictured is translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. My copy also has some poems in the back written by the main character and some notes on the reading.

All Through the Night

20131218-165656.jpg As some have seen in my previous post, I am a big fan of Mary Higgins Clark, or as known as the Queen of suspense. She has written so many books, even some holiday themed books like the one pictured. I thought it would be fun to read a book set in Christmastime on the Christmas holiday. This book is quite small, with only 206 pages. I also usually breeze right through a Mary Higgins Clark book. What I’m really excited for is that this is one of her books that I haven’t read (which is surprising) and also because in the back, there is a short written interview with Mary Higgins Clark about her life and her writing. I think it’s astounding that she has been able to write over thirty books all about mysteries. If that were me, I would most likely repeat myself on accident. In this novel, Clark does use previous characters but she does it on purpose because the two characters were popular. Clark has aged but that hasn’t stopped her from keeping writing and her latest novel came out in April of this year, if I am correct. I want to continue to expand my collection of Mary Higgins Clark’s books and I plan to read all of them in my lifetime, if time permits.

Well, that is my Christmas reading list. I really hope I will get them all done. What are you reading this holiday season?

Annie Dillard

Recently I had to read some nonfiction books by Annie Dillard for an author study and I chose The Writing Life and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (if I have time I will also read For the Time Being). I finished the former novel recently and it really made me think differently on how writers do their job. She opens up about her way of writing, even going so far as to say how she hates to write, not something you would expect from a renowned author. The writing process is delved into in this book, where Dillard talks about how “it takes years to write a book” and “the written word is week”. Her obvious experience with writing shows in the book and this makes her credibility already established. There are some great quotes to take away from in this book. For example, Dillard speaks about writing: “Write as if you were dying- at the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case, what would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?” Dillard speaks volumes about the ethereal nature of writing. Her writing itself is so different from things I have read before, probably because I don’t really go out of my way to read nonfiction. She jumps- more like glides- into random topics in the course of the text which is broken up into small sections throughout the chapter. She does focus on nature quite a bit, however. The last few chapters of The Writing Life tell the story of Dillard’s presumed friend who was a pilot, and how that friendship affected her. This nonfiction book will really help with my author study goals to analyze her writing (I mean, she has practically given me a cheat sheet in book form) and deduce her style.

Genres

I’ve always wondered why we put books into genres. The word comes from Latin, meaning “kind” or “sort”. In my opinion, books, like people shouldn’t be labeled. For example, if people were books, a flirtatious woman would be romance, a typical teenager would be young adult, and a detective would obviously be a mystery. I feel like books shouldn’t be given labels. Some books don’t even fit into their defined genres. No novel is like the other and a genre shouldn’t define them. I do understand that humans function by putting things into categories and it’s safe to say that my life is as categorized as much as I can make it. Categories are how we organize information and make it easier to understand. However, with all of the new books being written and published, it’s becoming increasingly harder to categorize them into a genre. Take Hunger Games for example. Wikipedia classifies it as adventure, dystopian, science fiction, and action. Personally, I would’ve just called it a young adult novel. This is just one representation of how genres can be confusing or misleading. I’m not a fan of science fiction so if someone told me that Hunger Games was a science fiction novel, I probably wouldn’t read it. However, it has become a massive fandom and I have read them and enjoyed them, but I don’t consider it to be science fiction. The categorization of books also makes me wonder what authors who write these books think about genres. Do the authors set out to write a certain genre? If they don’t, do they agree with the genres that have been placed on their books? This may not be the most persuasive argument but it was just something that was on my mind. What do you think about genres?

Books v. E-Readers

Disclaimer: my post may be sort of biased since I am much more comfortable with a physical book. However, I did not make this post to put down e-readers so bear with me!

Some of you are like me: you have to hold a book in your hand to feel connected to the story. To me, an e-reader provides so much distractions and for some reason, I just find it hard to understand what I’m reading. Whereas with a book, you are able to go back to certain pages to reread something again. Personally, I think with e-readers that is harder. However, the allure of e-readers has peaked my interest and I thought I would make this post to deliver my pros and cons of books and e-readers.

Books- to me, a book is one of the most magical things and I cannot get enough of them. I don’t really read for the experiences people get from losing themselves in a book. I read to compete with myself, in a way. I have to read as many as I possibly can in an allotted amount of time and if the number of books I read increase, I feel better about my speed reading ability. However, some books are quite large and take a long time to read when you add the stresses and responsibilities of life. Books can kind of add up as well, considering mass and money. Books can be quite large, and consequently heavy. Take my AP Art History book for example- it is almost a foot long, over nine inches wide, two inches thick, with 1,088 pages. If you can picture this in your head, you are probably overwhelmed. But never fear! I get to keep the book at home. Books can be a heavy burden-literally. They can be pretty expensive, for example I purchased I Am Malala for $26 at Barnes and Noble. However, the lasting impact of the book usually outweighs it’s monetary value. They also need good lighting to even be able to read them. However, books can be written in and carried around and shared and felt. You can never get the experience of holding a book in your hands anywhere else, it is just a personal connection.

E-readers and I have had mixed feelings towards each other. I am not ‘techy’ therefore figuring my way around an e-reader like a Kindle or a Nook can be challenging and this part of my post will not be very credible since I have never gotten my hands on one for an extended period of time. I also get very distracted when using things like e-readers. When using iBooks on my iPhone, I find it difficult to ignore every text message or twitter notification. Anyways, e-readers are light and easy to carry around and it will always weigh the same no matter how many books you download.  This is great for avid readers who don’t feel like carrying around tons of books. However, an e-reader can cost a fortune. I recently saw a commercial for the Kindle Fire where it cost $397. Now I do understand that authors make their commission from people purchasing books on e-readers but if you’re already paying almost $400 for an electronic to read books on, why would you want to pay more money every time you want to read a book? In my opinion, this would make me really cautious about purchasing a book. E-readers also condense books, making the page count smaller. E-readers have also advanced over the years, with brighter screens or ones that you can reader without the nasty glare from light sources. Overall, books and e-readers can have the same impact on a person and ultimately prove that it doesn’t depend on the form, it depends on the story.

The Extraordinary Cases of Sherlock Holmes

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Picture from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18942.The_Extraordinary_Cases_of_Sherlock_Holmes

Sherlock Holmes isn’t like any other detective. Instead of using hunches or premonitions, he uses inductive reasoning and actually uses the evidence around him through science and clear thinking. Sherlock may seem unorganized and messy but that doesn’t at all mean he’s not clever. Although Sherlock is the main character of the story, his counterpart Watson is always the narrator. He tells the story like, well, a story and it seems that he is telling it from a later time apart from when he knew Sherlock. However, you can tell that they were very good friends. Watson is almost a foil of Sherlock, he being organized and hesitant, while Sherlock is chaotic and willing to take risks. Sherlock is street smart while Watson is book smart.

I honestly decided to read The Extraordinary Cases of Sherlock Holmes instead of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes mainly because of time constraints. School and life in general has been piling up and I needed to go back to something simple, which would be the book I’m blogging about now. It contained eight famous stories of Sherlock’s cases like ‘The Speckled Band’ and ‘The Reigate Puzzle.’ Stories like these were well-known during the time of the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who published many Sherlock stories. In fact, Conan Doyle actually killed off Sherlock in one of his books, but due to his popularity he was brought back for readers to enjoy.

What I love about the Sherlock Holmes stories is the tone and feeling I get when reading them. I feel like they would be best read on a dark and stormy night when everyone in the house is asleep. Although we are nowadays accustomed to suspense, with moviemakers and authors having to make things scarier, Sherlock Holmes can still give you shivers from the way he effortless solves his mysteries and he will make you smile with the humor he brings in rough times.

Little House on the Prairie

Little house books

Picture from: http://www.myrnamackenzie.com/2011/08/little-house-on-prairie.html

As I look back  on my childhood, one thing I know for sure is that I was always reading (hence the title of this blog). I can remember a Christmas morning about 11 or 12 years ago when I received the complete set of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the series called The Little House on the Prairie. The story follows the author through her childhood and adult life, as well as a spin-off story featuring her future husband, Almanzo. The series has nine books: Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years.

Laura starts out as a young girl in Minnesota. As she grows up, her family moves around to look for suitable land to farm and she gets to experience a lot of new places and people. She has her Ma and Pa and her sisters Mary, Carey, and Grace. Along with new places and people, Laura experiences a lot of hardships and trials that make her what she becomes later in life. She experiences things like the death of her dog, her sister going blind, and numerous things that happen on the farm. The books are easy to read and really tell a great story.

Along with being a historical novel (my favorite), the books are also factual and informative. In them, you learn a lot of historical facts, like how to churn butter or how to cross a river with your covered wagon pulled by horses. While you may never need to know these things, it’s still interesting to know if you are a history buff like me. If you have the time, I recommend reading the Little House on the Prairie series, especially if you love historical novels.