Star Wars: Light of the Jedi (The High Republic) – A Book Review

I must admit that I wasn’t that excited to hear about “The High Republic” campaign. This new Star Wars onslaught is set 200 years before the prequels and explores the Star Wars galaxy at a time when the Jedi were at their most powerful and the Republic was at its most efficient. I call it an onslaught because “The High Republic” includes novels, young adult novels, children’s books, comic books, talk shows, video games, and presumably a Disney+ event.

Personally, I enjoy moving forwards in terms of story, not backwards. I thought it was a mistake to do a “pre-prequel” storyline across so many mediums.

Frankly, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I checked Star Wars: Light Of the Jedi out from my local library. Within the first twenty-five pages, I returned it and then bought a copy of my own. That’s how much it instantly captured my interest. Before I got anywhere close to finishing it, I wanted it on my bookshelves.

The premise involves a catastrophe regarding hyperspace that scientifically (in Star Wars’ reality) shouldn’t have happened. The book first executes the disaster, then explores the aftermath of the disaster, and then sets the stage for the ramifications of the disaster.

Furthermore, it introduces a whole new batch of Jedi and dives deeply into both the characters and their connection to the Force. The author, Charles Soule, presents a new philosophical take on the Force that I found both groundbreaking and riveting. I won’t spoil it too much, but he details how each Jedi interprets and uses the force differently, both in everyday life and in battle. These nuances were such thoughtful, fresh perspectives on the Force–it truly fascinated me.

I also consider the format of the book a real victory. It begins as a countdown of sorts and then reverses that format and introduces a build-up. It also alternates chapters between several different characters as they deal with the disaster and then the fallout of the disaster. Each chapter was relatively short, which made a fast paced plot move even more quickly.

The characterization proved engrossing, the storyline captured my interest, the structure and format of the book made reading it a pleasure, and the hints at things to come piqued my curiosity, which guaranteed my return for book two.

Despite my initial doubts, The Light Of the Jedi should be considered an unmitigated success. I highly recommend it to any and all Star Wars fans.

Phasks™: My Short Story Of the Week

PHASKS

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She lifts the Phask™ to her face, holds it nearer and nearer her skin until it connects with her Tempts®, and then exits her apartment. As she heads for the elevator, she tells her quarters to lock up before also hailing a DrUber©.

While riding down the elevator, she dictates a few messages to her friends, confirms the weather, and watches a cat video her sister sent. It’s hilarious.

Her building is an older one, practically historic by the city’s standards, and it hasn’t yet been outfitted with exterior ports. Keeps the rent down, but definitely an inconvenience to actually have to ride an elevator.

After exiting her building, she finds her DrUber© waiting at the curb. She climbs in and takes the only empty seat available. It’s at the front, on the left. There are five other people.

DrUber© flashes a message across her visual welcoming her and then prompting her to confirm the destination. She does so, and it next merges seamlessly into the city’s ever-flowing traffic.

A call pushes through. She sees it’s Alejandra and quickly answers.

“Hey, Alejandra!” she greets.

“Hey, Zee! Just wondered when you’re going to arrive?”

“Hold on, let me check …” Zee asks for an ETA. Her DrUber© messages that it will be three and a half more minutes—they have to drop off one more passenger first. “Just a few,” Zee informs.

“Cloo,” Alejandra says. “That’s about the same for me, too.”

“I’m so excited,” Zee says.

“I know!”

“How many people do you think will be there?” Zee asks.

“Well, fourteen confirmed, so let’s hope we have at least that many, right?”

“I never dreamed we’d get enough people together to start a Jill Thompson fan club!”

“I know! I loved looking at my dad’s copies of her graphic novels when I was a kid, especially Wonder Woman: The True Amazon. She’s such an amazing artist. This is going to be so much fun!”

Zee’s nose suddenly tickles. “I’ll see you there, Alejandra. I gotta go—I think I’m going to sneeze!”

“Get your Phask™ off! You’ll gross it!” Alejandra cries.

Zee disconnects her Phask™ just in time to hold her finger up to her nose and belay the sneeze. “Whew!” she says. “That was close.”

Before replacing her Phask™, Zee waits to see if another sneeze threatens. She relaxes while enjoying the slight hum of the vehicle. The three remaining people surrounding her—two men and a woman—all wear Phasks™ and, judging by their hand motions, seem to be carrying on fairly animated conversations. That, or they could be gaming. Maybe both.

Now alone in the front seat, Zee slides to the right side of the vehicle so she can look out the window at the few people walking. It always amuses her to see all of the adults wearing their Phasks™—No Two Ever Alike—and their children walking alongside them, barefaced. Kids are too little for Tempts®, so they have to make do with handheld devices. She remembers when her doctors said she could finally get a Phask™—it was the best day of her life.

One pedestrian catches her attention. He wears no Phask™, has no device in his hand, doesn’t seem connected at all to anything or anyone. In fact, Zee thinks he looks a little horrified.

Confident her sneeze has completely abated, she puts her Phask™ back on and G-Scans the guy.

No matches. Weird. She can’t remember a single time that’s ever happened.

The DrUber© reaches her destination, attaches to a lift, and then ascends. Even though she’s received thirty-two messages during her sneeze dilemma, she pauses all the activity on her visual and marvels at the parked cars sliding to and fro in order to make way for her DrUber© as it climbs the building. It reminds her of the ant farm she loved as a kid.

“Hey, it’s me again,” she says to Alejandra. “You there?”

“Yeah,” Alejandra replies. “Did you sneeze?”

“Sneeze avoided.”

“Cloo.”

“You know it!” Zee giggles.

“Hold on,” Alejandra says. “I’m talking to Eve. She says Jill Thompson might drop by!”

“No way! That would be fantastic. Makes sense; she does live in Chicago and all …”

“Give me two secs,” Alejandro says before cutting out.

The DrUber© docks at the 201st floor, unloads an occupant, then travels to the 218th. After docking again, the DrUber© alerts its occupants that they can safely exit the vehicle.

Zee double checks her evite to verify the apartment number when Alejandra breaks back in by saying, “Hey, I’m here!”

“Me, too!” Zee responds.

“At the party?”

Zee answers, “No, I’m in the hall, walking to the apartment.”

Zee abruptly feels a tap on the back of her shoulder. She spins around to see one of her fellow passengers standing behind her, removing her Phask™.

“Zee?” the person asks.

Flinging off her own Phask™, Zee questions, “Alejandra?”

“Yes!”

The two women hug while laughing hysterically.

“Oemgee!” Zee shouts. “Did you just get out of that DrUber©?”

“Yes! We’re such itzes! We’ve been together the whole time!”

“Ha! My dad would have a field day with this!”

Alejandra agrees, saying, “Oh, man, don’t even.”

“Well,” Zee continues, “it’s nice to meet you, Alejandra.”

“Yeah, like, in person and for real,” Alejandra says with a grin.

The two women resume walking, side by side, with their Phasks™ by their sides.

“So,” Zee begins, “is Jill Thompson actually coming?”

They reach the apartment.

“This is it,” Zee says. “Let me put on my Phask™ and I’ll let them know we’re here …”

“Girl!” Alejandra chides.  “Just knock!”

Zee raps against the door a few times, then repeats, “So? Is she here or what?”

Alejandra smiles brightly at Zee as the door opens. She says, “Just you wait, Zee. I think you’re going to like what the future holds.”


Copyright © 2017 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

How To Get Your Child To Read This Last Half Of Summer

We’re already over half-way through the summer, and a return to school is probably beginning to loom on both students’ and parents’ minds.  (Maybe even some teachers, too.  I’m just sayin.’)

If you’re a parent, maybe you’re feeling a little guilty because your child hasn’t done much summer reading so far.

No worries.  Better late than never, right?

You can start your student on a reading program this week!  Studies show that 20 minutes a day really is enough to keep them sharp.  Your local library undoubtedly has programs of some sort.  Most have probably been going on for a while at this point, but it could be a little extra incentive for your child.  In case the local programs have ended, you could always even find your own way to incentivize them!  Maybe if they read 20 minutes a day for seven straight days, you can take them to a movie.  You know, that kind of thing.  We all love prizes, don’t we?

Now, feel free to email me if you’d like to really dive deeply into the benefits of reading, but for the purpose of this article, I’m going to keep it pretty simple and commonsense.

First and foremost, though, let me say this: there is NO downside to summer reading.  Again: there is NO downside to summer reading.  It’s ALL positive.

Whew!  Glad to have that out of the way.

Okay, so, it’s a fact that summer loss can occur if a student does not continue to engage their brain with reading and math.  It makes sense, right?  The brain is like a muscle–if it doesn’t get exercise, it gets weak, flabby, and kind of useless.  Some studies have shown that those students who don’t read over the summer can spend the first few months of school trying to catch up to where they were at the end of the previous year!  Yikes!  So, if nothing else, reading in the summer keeps that brain in shape.

Furthermore, just like with exercise, the more a student reads, the stronger a reader they become.  Their vocabulary will continue to increase; their comprehension will grow; their creativity will progress; even their writing skills will improve.  After all, it was Stephen King who said–and I paraphrase–the best writers are always voracious readers.

I bet right now you are pretty on board with me, right?  But you’re also thinking, “Scott, buddy, I’m not much of a reader myself.  How in the world am I supposed to know what to give my kid to read?  I’m not a teacher!”  Luckily, the answer is pretty simple.  Let them read whatever it is that they want to read.  Easy, right?

Of course, use common sense.  I don’t know that I would allow a ten year old to read Fifty Shades of Grey.  The truth is, in my opinion, that it’s going to be hard enough to get most students to read in the summer.  If you try to dictate the material, well, you may be destined for disappointment.

For example, my oldest daughter loves graphic novels.  I pretty much let her grab whatever she wants from the children’s section of our local library.  I quickly flip through them, just to see if anything catches my eye.  However, I also get her a stack of chapter books that I think will interest her.  I don’t force those chapter books on her, but I do every once in a while suggest that she gives one a try.  More often than not, she’ll have a chapter book she’s working on while she tears through several graphic novels.

If your student loves sports, get books about those favorite teams or athletes.  If they love video games, get them books about the history of the industry, or how to enter the field as an adult.  If they love fashion, get them books about famous designers or books about how to break into that world.  I believe with all my heart that a student will read if you put a book in front of them that deals with their interests.  In the teaching biz, we call that “high interest reading material.”

Finally, you’re surely concerned about how to check to see if your student is actually reading.  (Some of us have mastered the fine art of sleeping with our eyes open, after all.)  Again, you don’t have to be a teacher to pull out some basic comprehension questions.  Here are five simple ones to get the ball rolling …

  1.  So, tell me, what was your book about?
  2. What did you like about the main character?
  3. Describe the most interesting part of the book for me, please.
  4. Why do you think I would enjoy this book?
  5. Talk to me about how this book reminded you of other books or movies.

Of course, you may need to press a bit.  If they didn’t like the book, ask them why.  In other words, try to avoid “yes” or “no” questions, because those don’t really facilitate any sort of analytical response.  You can’t gauge comprehension with a “yes” or a “no.”

Oops, one more thing: practice what you preach.  Read a book along their side.  You know this.  Kids can sniff out a rat faster than anyone.  If you tell them reading is important, but you’re not willing to do it yourself, they are going to think you’re full of hufflepuff.  What’s that?  You’re saying, “But, Scott, I don’t like to read!”  Remember all that stuff I said about high interest reading material?  Suck it up and apply it to yourself.  Heck, you might even enjoy it!

Okay, for real this time, I’m almost done.  If your child starts reading a book, and they don’t like it, let them put it down.  That book is not attached to a detonator that will blow up the house if left unfinished.  In the real world, people don’t finish books that they don’t like.  Most of us don’t expect to take a test or write a paper over our bedtime reading material.  Don’t freak the kid out about finishing every book they pick up–that’s the teacher’s job.  (I’m joking … mostly.)  Give them the freedom to pick up books and put them down as they please.  Let them choose their own material (within reason).  Let this experience be … <gasp!> … FUN!

Thanks for reading.  (Man, that pun was totally unintended, but I love it.  I’m keeping it in there.  That’s the benefit of not having an editor.)

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Let’s Make This Book Reading About You

Our local Barnes and Noble invited me to conduct a book reading tomorrow, and I couldn’t be happier.  It’s truly an honor to be recognized by my community.

That being said, I want to make sure I satisfy everyone’s expectations tomorrow.  I’ve gotten so much positive feedback about the event that I honestly hope to leave everyone with a great feeling.

Typically, most book readings include a chapter reading (duh!) followed by a question and answer session.  Finally, the author sits at a table and (hopefully) signs a few books that people have decided to purchase.  That’s my plan as well because it seems to work.

However, I’d love to shake things up a bit.

I’ve given a few readings in my day, and I’ve also attended several by other authors.  It’s always a fine line.  Keep your reading and Q&A session too brief and you don’t capture people’s interest.  Go on for too long and you bore people to death, which prompts their immediate retreat.

As a teacher, I’m accustomed to reading facial expressions.  I can tell when I’ve got an engaged audience, and I know when I’m losing everyone.  Typically, I react accordingly.

That being said, I’d like to know what you would like to experience while attending tomorrow’s reading.  Is there anything in particular you would like to see or hear from an author?  Just like with my classroom lessons, I’m always looking for ways to spice things up.

So sound off!  Be heard!  I would very much appreciate your thoughts in the comment section below …

I can’t wait to see you tomorrow!  Remember, the event is Sunday, October 21st, at 2:00 p.m.  I’ll be there until 4:00 p.m.  Barnes and Noble will have plenty of copies available of my science fiction novel, Andropia.  See you soon!

 

 

 

Back In Touch With An Old Friend …

A few days ago I struggled to make a dent in a book that will remain unnamed.  As it happens, a student in my class raved about an old Stephen King book he’d just finished — Pet Sematary.

Like you, I know about his classic novel, Pet Sematary.  I seen bits and pieces of the old movie on TV throughout the years.  However, I’ve never actually read the thing.  If you’ve visited this site for awhile, you know I’m a Stephen King fan.  His nonfiction is always sublime.  I could read his thoughts on all manner of subjects day and night.  He’s one of the few contemporary writers who strikes me as both present and wise.

His fiction, though, it a little hit or miss with me.  I’m not an admirer of his work past the year 2000 (with the exception of his Dark Tower books).  Much of it strikes me as inflated and meandering.

The classics, though?  You know it.  For the most part, those babies are tight, fast, and going places.  Unfortunately, I haven’t read as many of his classic titles as I would like.

So anyway, as I listened to a student rave about Pet Sematary, I thought to myself, “Yeah, let’s do this!  It’s October; a trailer for the new film adaptation recently released; I’m not enjoying the book I’m currently reading — this is perfect timing!”

I literally put the book down that I was not digging and picked up Pet Sematary.

Ah, as soon as I started reading, it felt like I’d just reunited with an old friend.

I know the Pet Sematary years were a rough patch for King.  He’s very much on record with his addiction struggles.  I’ll be darned, though, if he wasn’t at his peak during those tumultuous days.  I’m in no way suggesting he should go back under the influence — absolutely not.  His style and voice during that time, though, were just so easy to get lost in, and remains so to this very day.  (That voice is still present in his nonfiction, by the way.)

Pet Sematary, like his other works from that era, connect with me in a way his current work does not.  I’m having an absolute ball reading it.  King’s appeal is obvious — there’s a reason he’s been a best selling author for almost fifty years!

It’s wonderful to pick up a book, start reading, and feel instant comfort.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Green Lantern: Earth One by Hardman and Bechko – A Book Review

It made my day when I won this graphic novel by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko through Goodreads.  I’d been hearing good things about it, and even though I’m not a huge Green Lantern fan, I thought the idea of reworking him within the Earth One concept could be a wonderfully entertaining experience.

Even though Green Lantern has been rooted in science fiction for the last sixty years or so, word on the street said this book would strip away all of the fantasy elements the character carries and make it a true work of science fiction.

If you’re unfamiliar with the character, Hal Jordan is a test pilot who was chosen to replace a deceased member of the Green Lantern Corps, which is an intergalactic police force.  Each member wears a ring that will create hard light constructs of anything the wearer imagines.  However, Green Lanterns must recharge their ring every twenty-four hours with a battery that looks quite a bit like a … well, lantern.  That’s green.  This corps has hundreds if not thousands of members, and you can imagine all of the betrayals, deaths, love connections, uprisings, reshuffling of power, and so on that has occurred during the last several decades.

In this version, they broke with tradition and made Hal Jordan a rejected astronaut who currently works as a space prospector.  And … that’s about it.  Though the circumstances are slightly different, he still happens across the ring.  He eventually connects with other Green Lanterns.  He organizes and leads them.  This Jordan is more of an underdog, but I found the whole book very similar to what’s come before.  Even his costume is pretty much the same.

In my opinion, they did not take it nearly far enough.  They did not break away from his Silver Age roots in any meaningful way.  That’s generally been my issue with all of the Earth One books, though.  The idea is that these books would depict what these heroes would be like in today’s real world, and the answer is … pretty much the same.

I do want to commend Gabriel Hardman’s art, though.  He’s got an expert sense of anatomy and perspective, and his backgrounds are exquisite.  I also very much enjoyed Jordan Boyd’s colors.  His use of green light surrounded by the darkness of space felt fresh.  At times he seems to employ a dot matrix technique, which was also felt both nostalgic and original.

So while the book is well executed, I didn’t find it particularly inspired.  It wan’t the innovative science fiction extravaganza that I expected.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Pops by Michael Chabon – A Book Review

If you visit this site regularly, you probably know I’m a bit of a Michael Chabon fan.  (I met him once, you know.)  His latest book recently released, and I could not wait to read it.

Pops is a very slim collection of nonfiction essays.  I particularly enjoy Chabon’s nonfiction because he is unafraid.  He addresses topics that would scare most authors.  Specifically, he has no issues admitting that fatherhood, and manhood for that matter, is a bit of a work in progress for him.  Even though none of us have it figured out, he readily admits that fact.

Remember, Chabon is a world-renowned Pulitzer Prize winner.  He should have an ego the size of a mansion, but he doesn’t.  His humility is both refreshing and inspiring.

At just 127 pages, Pops succinctly delves into Chabon’s adventures in fatherhood.  If I’m not mistaken, each of his children serves as the focus of an essay.  The themes range from discovering the true nature of a child to seizing upon missed opportunities to trying to teach boys not to act like assholes.  There’s much more, of course, but the unifying factor throughout is Chabon admitting to his own mistakes and simply trying to do the best he can.

The book ends, interestingly enough, with Chabon writing an essay about his own father.  If you are a consistent reader of Chabon, you understand that this is well-covered ground.  He is not mean when it comes to his own father, yet he also isn’t sugarcoating anything.  It’s obvious that he loves his own dad, but it’s also apparent that he didn’t always like the man.

If find it fascinating that in a book about his own trials, tribulations, and triumphs as a father, he ends on a note that helps us to understand the events that forged the sort of father he would one day become.  Now, I trust Chabon completely.  I’ve been reading him since 2004, and I’ve never had reason to doubt his honor or sincerity.  However, it is worth noting that in all his recollections regarding his father, we’ve only had his unique perspective.  And now, in writing about himself as a father, we only have his point of view.  What would his own children say about these essays?  Will they find Chabon’s writing compatible with their own personal experiences?

Chabon is incredibly intelligent.  It would not surprise me at all if he were to have his children participate in a podcast or an interview or something to serve as a companion piece to this novel.  It simply struck me as an interesting thought.

As always, Chabon delivers beautiful prose describing his escapades in parenting.  If you love his writing, you’ll love this book.

 

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Discussing the Merits Of Moonglow On the Normal Public Library Podcast

I had the honor of joining Normal Public Library’s podcast entitled “Check It Out.”  Though I thought we would only be discussing the fantastic novel Moonglow by Michael Chabon, Jared was also kind enough to ask me about my own work both as a writer and educator.

It was as fantastic experience.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Click HERE to give it a listen, and be sure to check out the other episodes as well!

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Moonglow by Michael Chabon – A Book Review

While I admit that Michael Chabon is my favorite author and that I’ll read anything he publishes, I won’t go so far as to say that I love every single thing he releases.  Gentlemen 0f the Road missed the mark for me, and Telegraph Avenue simply did not connect to my soul like I thought it would.

On the other hand, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the book I name when someone asks for my ultimate favorite.  Nearly all of Chabon’s books are the perfect blend of writing prowess and narrative charisma.  He not only writes engaging, relatable stories, but he writes them better from a technical aspect than nearly anyone other contemporary author out there.

So, with all that being said, Moonglow is my second favorite book by Michael Chabon.

Let me tell you a little bit about the plot without spoiling too much.  Essentially, in 1989, Chabon visited his dying grandfather.  Terminal, Chabon’s mother transported the grandfather from his home in Florida to her home in Oakland.  There, while the grandfather fought against death and the painkillers flooding his system, the grandfather did something which had before proven a rare occurrence – he spoke … at great length.

Chabon learned more about his grandfather in that last week of his life than all the years previous.  He learned of his grandfather’s misspent youth, his grandfather’s time in the war, his grandfather’s prison stay, his grandfather’s kinship with the stars, his grandfather’s struggles with fatherhood, his grandfather’s last months in Florida, his grandfather’s obsession with rockets, as well as his grandfather’s passionate love story regarding his grandmother.

Make no mistake, however, this story is not just about the grandfather.  The grandmother quickly becomes a star in this book as well.  Mysterious, emotional, brave, witty, beautiful, and ultimately unbalanced, Chabon’s grandmother is not what she seems – not to Chabon’s grandfather, his mother, or even to the grandmother herself.  In fact, in the end, Chabon is the only one who seems to know the truth about his grandmother.  I won’t tell you why or how.

I love this book because his grandfather is the coolest man to have ever lived.  You can’t help but think of the best aspects of your own father or grandfather as you read this story, and, believe me, he will remind you in some facet of your own paternal role model.  Chabon’s grandfather isn’t perfect, not by any means, but that’s also what makes him so loveable.  Plus, as you well know, much like ourselves, our own fathers and grandfathers are not perfect, either.

Chabon also plays with the narrative style quite a bit in this novel.  In terms of time, it is not linear.  Nothing happens in order, and it’s up to the reader to piece it all together.  But Chabon makes it a fairly seamless task for the reader, and in using such a structure, he ultimately builds mystery, suspense, and provides great emotional payoff.  Chabon’s choices are right on target; his pacing is a joy to experience; his tone, while at times very somber, is also light and warm in a manner that will draw you in and make you happy.  There’s even a great joke about Chabon’s style, delivered from the dying grandfather himself.  Be on the lookout for it.

Furthermore, Chabon makes a point to let you know that while this story actually happened, his novel is fiction.  He’s the first one to admit that he has taken great liberties without too much care or concern.  Some of it is probably word for word truth, and some of it is probably completely fabricated, and the beauty of it is that we, the readers, have no idea how to distinguish one from the other.  And to that I say, “Who cares?”  In my mind, reality is always a matter of perception.  When I read a book, I perceive, interpret, and process the story within my mind, which thus makes the book a part of my own personal reality.  As a result, “fiction” and “nonfiction” become a bit of a moot point when it comes to things like this.

I’d also like to say that this is perhaps the most straight-forward of any Chabon novel I’ve ever read.  Is it well-executed?  Magnificently so!  I laugh with my friends that I don’t believe Chabon used the same sentence structure more than once in the entire thing.  That’s an exaggeration, of course, but he’s that much of a master at writing.  And yet, this novel is easy to digest.  It’s easy to follow.  It’s not rife with metaphor.  It’s got great humor, great sadness, great love, and great action.  Oh, what action!  The World War II parts of this book set my imagination on fire.  In fact, because the grandfather is such an unusual everyman, and because the WWII scenes are so vibrant, I actually gave a copy of this book to my own father for Christmas.  I’m not sure when he read a book last, but he made a point today to tell me how much he’s loving Moonglow.

As we live our lives, they, for the most part, probably don’t seem that varied or interesting.  Yet, by our life’s ending, I’ll warrant most of our stories could fill a book, and I imagine that most of our children or grandchildren would love to read that story and experience who we were at 15, 35, 55, and even 75.  Chabon tapped into something wonderful by utilizing such a concept, and he’s got the talent to make it work.  Moonglow has shot to the top of my list of gifts to give friends, family, and coworkers.  I truly believe it’s a guaranteed good read for any reader.

How good is this book?  The minute I finished it, I turned back to page one and started reading it again.  Even better the second time.

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Books To Win Over Your Reluctant Reader

I have the privilege of teaching a reading class primarily aimed at seniors in high school.  It is by and large a free-choice reading class, meaning students choose to read whatever they desire.  If a student doesn’t like a book, they are welcome to put it down and pick up a different one.

Some of the students come in excited with a long list of what they hope to get through during the semester.  Other students are not so excited to read, and those are the students I most enjoy.  I love those students in particular because I get the honor of helping them to rediscover their love of reading.  It all comes down to finding the right kind of book for them.  Once they discover their niche, they are off to the races.   I’ve had so many tell me that they like to read again because of the class, and I tell you what, you haven’t experienced joy until you’ve heard a student say that to you.

Listed below are books that always prove to be winners with my reluctant readers.  I’ve tried to divide them up by very general genres, and I’ve included a very simple summary.  Though this is but a small sample of literally hundreds I could recommend, I hope one of these will win over the reluctant reader in your life!

YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE

Monster – Written from his perspective, Steve is a sixteen-year-old on trial for the murder of a drugstore owner. He says he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and had nothing to do with the killing.  The prosecution refers to him as a “monster,” and the book features Steve struggling to deal with the awful stress of an uncertain future.

Eleanor & Park– Perhaps the most authentic book I’ve ever read about high school romance, this book is funny and heartwarming while still retaining an edge.  It perfectly captures the very adult emotions teenagers experience while still having to abide by their parents’ rules.  Best of all?  It never veers into the dreaded world of “sappy.”

Touching Spirit Bear – Cole, a juvenile delinquent, accepts an offer to follow a Native American practice and live isolated on a deserted island rather than face jail time.  Angry, unreasonable, and bitter, Cole respects nothing until he chances upon the Spirit Bear, a legendary creature that will inspire Cole to change after a violent encounter.

Tears Of a Tiger – When a high school superstar dies in a drunken car accident, his best friend Andy, who drove the vehicle, must deal with the guilt of the horrible tragedy.  It has one of the most shocking endings students will ever read.

The Fault In Our Stars – Though this book deals with very serious subject matter — teenage cancer — John Green somehow blends great humor into his characters.  In order to deal with terminal cancer, the teens make fun of it and riff on it to no end.  A romance ensues, but beware, there can be no happy ending with terminal illness.  Fast, funny, and thought-provoking, this one is always in demand.

Crank –  A brutal book depicting the depravities of meth addiction, this is the story of Kristina, a good girl who becomes addicted and develops a split personality to handle the awful things she does for meth. This book is graphic and pulls no punches, so be aware.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Batman: Year One – This gritty book depicts Batman during his first year as a crime fighter.  He is raw, inexperienced, and at his most vulnerable.  Fans will love the moody art, quick dialogue, and grim characterization.

American Born Chinese – This book blends Chinese Mythology into a young boy’s life as he must deal with racism we rarely take into account.  Insightful with great swatches of humor, this one very much will make a student look at life a little differently.

Wolverine – Students love this graphic novel because it finally provides Wolverine’s origin story.  They will be shocked to learn Logan’s life is far different, and longer, than anyone expected!

Kingdom Come – Set in the near future, this beautifully painted graphic novel deals with older classic heroes like Batman and Superman coming to terms with new, violent, immoral crime fighters.  Poignant in today’s world, this story delves deeply into the problem of how far one should go to save people from themselves.

The Dark Knight Returns – This graphic novel changed the entire industry.  It imagines a retired Bruce Wayne in his sixties who decides to put on the cape and cowl again.  However, he is not nearly as fast, agile, or reflexive, and so he must learn to become a whole new Batman if he expects to survive.  Dark, violent, and generally unsettling, this story illustrates a side of Batman never before seen.

All-Star Superman – This book will delight even the most casual of Superman fans.  Grant Morrison has taken the best Superman stories since 1938, put a modern twist on them, and connected them into one linear, cohesive story.  The art is exquisite, and this Superman is charismatic, fun, and a true hero.

NOVELS

World War Z – Written as nonfiction, this book will make you forget it’s all make-believe.  Delivered as a series of eye-witness accounts, field reports, and interviews, you will begin to think this book really happened and get more and more unsettled with each page.

Gone Girl – If you’ve seen the movie, the huge surprise is already ruined, but this book is fantastic because it keeps you guessing and virtually none of the characters have any redeeming qualities.  It’s a little bit of a thriller, a little bit of a mystery, and it will keep a student riveted throughout.  Be aware, however, it is written for adults.

The Gunslinger – Part one of Stephen King’s epic series, Roland is a cowboy with a six-shooter forged from Excalibur who must make his way to the Dark Tower in order to restore order to reality.  As the series goes on, it weaves its way into other Stephen King books, and at one point Stephen King becomes a character himself!  This series is amazing because once reluctant readers get into it, the enormous size of the books don’t bother them at all!

The Martian – Set in the near future, Mark Watney is left behind after a manned mission to Mars.  Much of the book is from Watney’s perspective, and it’s fascinating to watch him run though the math and mechanics to keep himself alive on an inhospitable planet.  Though the book is very heavily rooted in science, Watney’s sense of humor as he’s describing it makes it very entertaining to read.  This is definitely a feel good book and a must-read.

American Gods – This novel imagines the gods of the old world covertly battling the gods of the new.  While it can be something of a crash course in world mythology, at its core the book is about Shadow, and ex-convict trying to find peace with his past, his present, and also his future.  Lovers of the fantasy genre will adore the scope and nuance of this masterfully written work.

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Don’t let the title fool you, this is the absolute best time travel story that I’ve ever read.  The author goes to great lengths to make sure everything is connected, logical, and executed well.  The main character is genetically predisposed to lose his place in time, and in doing so, meets his wife as a little girl.  But then a question arises … does he condition her to one day be his wife, or, when she meets the young adult version of him for the first time, does she condition him to be her husband?  The complexities of cause and effect mixed with potent emotional moments between man and wife make for a wonderfully written, highly engaging read.