My reading took a noticeable nosedive in the last two months of the school year. The main reason for this is that I abandoned my morning reading with coffee. Books stopped grabbing my attention and I quickly lost the habit. This summer has seen a mild resurgence and a return to form, but my production is way, way down.

With that said...


Essentialism - Greg McKeown

I plan to post Book Notes on this one in the coming weeks, but the short of it is this: Essentialism is about determining what is important in your life and then structuring your time in a way to maximally service that one thing. In this regard, Essentialism's thesis is more or less identical to The One Thing. Essentialism is The One Thing if The One Thing didn't suck.

The book does a much better job of defending it's thesis. It runs into similar problems as The One Thing (and Getting Things Done [below])--mainly that you can fit all of the important information in this book on the back of a few index cards. Still, McKeown supports his thesis with evidence and livens his narrative with anecdotes. 

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

The next two entries are a large reason for my decreased productivity during the final months of the school year. I taught both TKAM and Grapes of Wrath. I've read TKAM before, but I try to re-read texts with my students when time allows. This took up a large piece of my time.

I won't say much about it here. What is there to say that hasn't been said. It was excellent the first time I read it. It was even better this time through. 

The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

When I told my dad that I was teaching the Grapes of Wrath to my Junior/Senior American Literature class, he said, "Why don't you save them the trouble and have them slit their wrists now?" At that point--not having read GoW yet--I didn't understand just how spot-on that remark was.

The Grapes of Wrath is Depressing. It's dang depressing. It follows the Joad family in Dust-Bowl-era Oklahoma as they leave their farm and move out west to find work. Along the way they encounter crime, starvation, murder, and oh-so-much death.

The underlying theme is one of hopefulness. The book is meant to show the resiliance of the human spirit in the face of all adversity, but jesus christ it's painful getting there.

Students hate this book. I can understand why, but I would contest that students don't read it correctly. This book is a slow burn. It is remarkably good and pulling you into it. The long, dismal chapters allow you to experience life as the Joads. Sitting in your chair, you feel a despair settling around you. Not much happens. Not much is supposed to happen. It doesn't vie for a reader's attention like a plot-heavy book might, but there is a quiet urgency in its pages.

Still, it's hard to sell high schoolers on terms like 'soft despair' and 'quiet urgency.' It's a book that--while as timely as ever--does not compete well in a world with constant demands on our attention.

Getting Things Done - David Allen

This book is a classic in the world of productivity. It was assigned as homework to me by the excellent Hello Internet podcast produced by CGP Grey and Brady Haran. Listen to the linked podcast for a full review, but--like Brady--I found this book tedious.

From my point of view, it suffers from a pair of problems. The first is personal: One of the reasons I found GTD so tedious is that I've already adopted--more or less--a comparable system. For a year now I've been using the Bullet Journal system. It's what I came across first, but--after reading GTD--it is very clear to me that it is based on the GTD system.

The second problem is structural. This is another book the suffers from the Index Card Problem. GTD has established itself as a classic in the field, but that doesn't change the reality that the hundreds of pages could be condensed down to a handful of index cards and almost nothing would be lost. Don't beleive me? Read this: Getting Things Done in 15 Minutes