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I know February is a short month, but it has felt long. (See also: pandemic winter, etc.) Here’s what I have been reading:

The Reluctant Midwife, Patricia Harman
Nurse Becky Myers is much more comfortable setting broken bones than assisting women in childbirth. But when she returns to rural West Virginia with her former employer in tow, she’s called upon to do both. I’ve read this series all out of order, but I like these warmhearted, compelling novels. Also a fascinating portrait of life in a CCC camp during the Great Depression.

Arsenic and Adobo, Mia P. Manansala
After a bad breakup in Chicago, Lila Macapagal is back working at her Tita Rosie’s Filipino restaurant in small-town Illinois. But when the local self-styled food critic (who happens to be Lila’s ex, and a jerk) dies in their dining room, Lila and her family come under suspicion. A smart #ownvoices cozy mystery by a Filipina-American author, with lots of yummy food descriptions (and a dachshund!). I received an advance e-galley; it’s out May 4.

The School I Deserve: Six Young Refugees and Their Fight for Equality in America, Jo Napolitano
Refugees who come to the U.S. often face multiple barriers to education: language, culture, financial hardship. But they should be given every chance to succeed. Education reporter Napolitano follows a landmark case in Lancaster, Pa., in which six young refugees fought for the right to go to their district’s high-performing high school instead of being shunted to an alternative campus. A bit dense at times, but compelling. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 20).

The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman
Coopers Chase may look like your typical retirement village, but it’s full of brilliant minds, several of which meet on Thursdays to discuss old murder cases. It’s a fun intellectual exercise until a local developer and builder are both murdered–and naturally, the club takes on the case. Witty, a little dark and so very British. Recommended by Anne.

All-American Muslim Girl, Nadine Jolie Courtney
Allie Abraham is used to being the new girl, and she’s (mostly) enjoying life at her new Georgia high school. She even has a boyfriend–but there’s a problem: his dad is a conservative talk-show host, and Allie’s family is Muslim. A lovely, earnest YA novel about a young woman grappling with her faith and heritage. I loved how Allie’s family members and friends expressed their faith (or lack of it) in so many different ways.

The Beauty in Breaking, Michele Harper
I posted the dedication to this book on Instagram; I loved Harper’s tribute to the truth-tellers and truth-seekers. She’s a Black ER physician in a male-dominated field, and she weaves together stories of her patients with her journey to overcome her own challenges. Some striking anecdotes and some truly stunning writing. Powerful.

The Voting Booth, Brandy Colbert
Marva Sheridan is so excited to vote for the first time–she’s spent months working to help people register. Duke Crenshaw just wants to vote and get it over with. But when he runs into problems at his polling place, Marva comes to his rescue, and the two spend a whirlwind day together. A fun YA novel that tackles voter suppression (along with a few other issues). Marva is intense, but I liked her, and Duke is a sweetheart.

The Blue Castle, L.M. Montgomery
Valancy Stirling has always done what was expected of her, with the result that she’s had a dull, narrow, lonely life. But one day she gets a letter that impels her to change things–and she starts doing and saying exactly what she wants. I love watching Valancy find her gumption, and her carping family members are positively Austenesque. A fun reread for long winter nights.

Links are to Trident and Brookline Booksmith, my perennial local faves. Shop indie!

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july books 1

Summer reading season is in full swing – hooray! Here are the books I’ve enjoyed so far this month:

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, Jen Hatmaker
I read Jen Hatmaker’s funny, snarky blog occasionally, but hadn’t read any of her books. This essay collection covers her usual mix of topics: imperfect parenting, messy marriage, trying to be a faithful person while sometimes being disappointed by the church. Funny and relatable, though I think she occasionally oversimplifies things. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 18).

To Davy Jones Below, Carola Dunn
On their honeymoon voyage to America, Daisy and Alec Fletcher end up (of course) investigating a couple of murders. The shipboard setting made for a fun change of pace and the end twist was certainly unexpected.

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, Mary Norris
Norris has been a copy editor at The New Yorker for 30-plus years. In that time, she’s learned a few things about grammar and punctuation. This witty book combines anecdotes from her career with practical, thoughtful advice on various matters of style. Gloriously geeky and wonderfully informative.

Lion Heart, A.C. Gaughen
As Prince John continues his campaign of terror and extortion, Scarlet (aka Lady Marian) and Robin Hood must protect the people of Nottingham. A great conclusion to the Scarlet trilogy; I loved watching Scarlet grow as a character. Romantic and full of adventure.

Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph, Kristina Rizga
Characterized as a “failing school” by national testing standards, Mission High in San Francisco is a vibrant, diverse community full of passionate, skilled teachers and intellectually curious students. Journalist Rizga spent four years at Mission and uses it as a case study to explore education reform in the U.S. Thoughtful and well-researched. Particularly interesting to me because of my work at HGSE. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 4).

An Unwilling Accomplice, Charles Todd
Nurse Bess Crawford is tapped to escort a wounded WWI soldier to a ceremony at the Palace – but the next morning, he has disappeared. Then he’s accused of murder and Bess is accused of negligence. To clear her own name, Bess embarks on a journey to find him. Full review coming soon as part of a TLC Book Tour.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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hgse banners harvard

Earlier this month, we had (as I may have mentioned once or twice) a huge, complicated work event, which took up nearly all my time, energy and mental capacity for the first half of September.

We’d been prepping for months, but the days leading up to the event were packed with last-minute details. I worked late four evenings in a row (something I rarely do) and by the time the event was over, my colleagues and I were all so tired we could barely move.

Everything went off wonderfully – we had more than 1000 alumni, students and friends on campus for a day of speeches, panel discussions and fun events, including a performance by Yo-Yo Ma and a block party that took up the whole street.

We are all congratulating each other on a job well done. And while I am so pleased that the big pieces of the day fell into place so smoothly, I want to remember the stuff around the edges.

From before the event:

  • I want to remember the laughter as we spent two days sorting tickets and rearranging name badges, checking names off half a dozen lists and blasting Pandora Radio (first ’80s hair bands, then NSYNC, then Norah Jones) in the background.
  • I want to remember the pizza we ordered one night, mouthwateringly hot and cheesy, eaten standing up in the office, with mini candy bars and tired smiles.
  • I want to remember the joy a box of Insomnia Cookies caused when I carried them into the office on Wednesday.
  • I want to remember the craziness of five Staples runs in two days, carrying (more) nametags and Scotch tape and other last-minute necessities through Harvard Square.
  • I want to remember (cheesy though it sounds) the camaraderie and teamwork, the deep and broad sense that we were all in this together.

And from the day itself:

  • I want to remember walking up to Appian Way at 8 a.m., an hour before I usually get to work, to find the registration table already buzzing and my colleagues dressed up and raring to go.
  • I want to remember the kind helpfulness of every single person who worked the event, no matter their office or role.
  • I want to remember my colleagues all wearing walkie-talkies, looking so Secret Service with their discreet earpieces.
  • I want to remember the eight-day-old baby who was our youngest attendee, snug in a sling against his mama’s chest (she’s one of our doctoral students). I want to remember the joy of her fellow students as they met her son for the first time.
  • I want to remember the riotous applause, not only for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, but for the local kids who introduced them both.
  • I want to remember the intro for President Faust, given by Mayara, age 11: “If Harvard were a band, she would be its rock star. She’s cool like jazz and classy like classical.” Best intro ever.
  • I want to remember the crowds flooding into the morning breakout sessions, so that we needed to grab extra chairs and squeeze people in at the back (standing room only!).
  • I want to remember Monica from the dean’s office making me a welcome cup of Earl Grey, as I collapsed on a bench in the hallway during a rare lull in the day’s activities.
  • I want to remember the smiles on the faces of our doctoral students as they got to meet the donors who are making it possible for them to be here.
  • I want to remember Yo-Yo Ma and his fellow musicians, bringing down the house in a truly inspired jam session.
  • I want to remember the enthusiasm of every student I spoke to, all of them so thrilled that this day happened while they were on campus, elated to be a part of it.
  • I want to remember the convivial crowds at the block party, munching on fish tacos and fruit cobbler and sipping cold drinks, shivering in our jackets but so glad to be here, together, celebrating a place we all love and a mission we all believe in.

I didn’t take many photos that day – I was too busy running around like a crazy person, directing traffic and helping out wherever I was needed. But these are the details I wanted to capture. I want to remember this day.

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book art brookline booksmith

(Book art found at Brookline Booksmith.)

One Plus One, Jojo Moyes
Jess is nearly at the end of her rope – caring for two kids on her own and trying to make ends meet. When a road trip to a maths competition for her daughter goes disastrously wrong, she gets help from the last person she expected. Funny, sweet and un-put-down-able, like Moyes’ other novels.

The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan
I’ve been hankering for a reread of the Percy Jackson series. This first book was just as action-packed and entertaining as I remembered – I love all the references and clever twists related to the Greek gods.

Mrs. Pollifax, Innocent Tourist, Dorothy Gilman
Mrs. Pollifax travels to Jordan with a fellow CIA agent, and quickly discovers she’s being followed. Political intrigue and a flight into the desert ensue. The penultimate book in this series, which I love.

The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession, Dana Goldstein
Goldstein reviews the tumultuous history of American education, from “missionary” teachers on the frontier to the rise of “normal schools” to today’s various paths into education. Well-researched, highly readable and particularly interesting to me because of my day job. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 2).

Lady of Quality, Georgette Heyer
When Miss Annis Wychwood takes a runaway heiress under her wing, her very correct brother (and most of Bath society) are slightly scandalized. My first Heyer book; a fun, witty Regency romp. (Like Jane Austen, with 200% more exclamation points!) Found in Rockport (for $7!).

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, Peter Enns
The Bible is an ancient book – which means it doesn’t behave like a rulebook, an owner’s manual or a modern historical text. Enns gives a fresh perspective (with plenty of snark) and argues convincingly for accepting the Bible on its own terms. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 9).

The Sea of Monsters, Rick Riordan
When Percy Jackson returns to Camp Half-Blood, he’s shocked to find it in chaos. With two friends (one human, one Cyclops), Percy sails for the Sea of Monsters to rescue another friend and (he hopes) save the camp in the process. So much fun, like all the books in this series.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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