Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

Team Options’ Holiday Reading List

It’s December! Our students have had a busy year so far—applying to their dream schools, working hard on their assignments, and attending to their many, many commitments—and, as their consultants, coaches, and cheerleaders, so have we. To relax, the Options team will be performing the usual holiday rituals: spending time with family, eating too many cookies, and trying to stay warm. We’ll also (surprise!) be reading. Here’s what we’re enjoying this season:

Michelle, Educational Consultant: “I’d like to share a children’s book, The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and charmingly illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. If you’re spending the holidays with little people this year, you will want to share this story. It will make you laugh out loud and look at a box of 64 crayons in a very different way…

Melodie, Office Manager: “I’ve always been fascinated by world rulers, especially the historical British kings and queens. At the local library, I signed out Cleopatra: A Life by Stacey Schiff, thinking I might enjoy learning about one of the most famous women in the world. Schiff’s book is an excellent biography and historical account of Cleopatra. Be prepared for continuous violence and political intrigue. Cleopatra’s lovers were the famous rulers Caesar and Mark Antony; Schiff shows that Cleopatra was a successful and clever ruler in her own right. The author dispels some of the romantic myths that have formed and gives Cleopatra depth and credit (where previous historians have not). My other recommendation is Nathan Philbrick’s Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. I’ve been researching our family’s genealogy for the past several months and recently learned that my husband’s 10th great-grandfather was one of the Mayflower passengers. Intrigued, I picked up this account of the Mayflower’s journey at Stillman’s used bookstore in White Rock. What a fantastic read:  it’s detailed, balanced, organized, and well-researched, and it manages to be both fact-based and incredibly moving. Learning that four months after the pilgrims’ November 1620 arrival in America, only 52 people (out of an original 102) were still alive, I realize that it’s a small miracle my husband exists.”

Katherine, Educational Consultant: “Joanna Goodman’s Home for Unwanted Girls is a poignant historical novel based on Quebec’s orphanage system in the 1950s. Thousands of orphans in Quebec were declared mentally ill as a result of a law that provided more money to the Catholic Church for taking care of patients in psychiatric hospitals rather than in orphanages. This gripping novel follows Maggie and the daughter she gives up as they navigate a harrowing system and reveals a sad part of Canadian history I knew nothing about.”

Melinda, Educational Consultant: “I am currently reading Lethal White, the latest installment of the Cormoran Strike series, by Robert Galbraith. Galbraith is actually J.K. Rowling of the Harry Potter series, and this series was her attempt to write a crime series and not have it connected to her previous work. I don’t read a lot of crime drama/who-done-it books, but I really enjoyed the first three books and appreciate that I learn more about the different regions in the UK and their justice system. I am also super impressed with the incredible vocabulary that Galbraith uses so naturally, not something you usually see in a best-selling crime series. I am also reading Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead (I usually read both a fiction and non-fiction book at all times). She talks about empathy, courage and connection as the keys to leadership and encourages both people and organizations to be braver, more daring. I especially am enjoying the “Living into our Values” chapter, which encourages us to never be silent about the hard things.”

Amanda, Educational Consultant: “Lisa Jewell’s Then She Was Gone was not a book I might have normally chosen, but my book club host picked it and, well, I couldn’t put it down! I was actually thankful for two plane rides to Kelowna to help my aging parents so that I could burrow my head into this book and read. The novel centres on the story of a girl who goes missing, telling it largely from the grieving mom’s perspective. It’s full of bizarre twists and turns, some perhaps a bit predictable, but it was an engrossing read nonetheless. At the airport for the second time in a week and desperate for another quick read, I grabbed another of Jewell’s novels, I Found You, which I’m enjoying as well.”

Mikayla, Office Manager: “I’ve got several recommendations. First, Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl. Diamant has such a beautiful way of telling stories about the strength and compassion of women throughout different eras. I feel like all women should also read her novel The Red Tent. Next is Aravind Adiga’s Selection Day, which is being turned into a series on Netflix. Adiga, whose novel White Tiger won the Man Booker Prize in 2008, has the incredible ability to bring humour to his writing without taking away from the story or devaluing the characters. For some non-fiction, I’m planning to read Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. I thoroughly enjoyed his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and as Harari takes us from the past into the present, I’m hoping to gain insight into what we can learn from both our ancestors’ mistakes and their innovations. Lastly is John Carryrou’s Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, which chronicles the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her billion dollar scandal.”

Alyssa, Writing Coach: “Over the holidays, I’ll be reading A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I picked this book up almost a year ago, and it’s been hanging out on my book shelf, just waiting to be read. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of novels that explore shifts in time, flashbacks, flash forwards and the like, and Egan has a knack for breaking from the chronological order of things. Plus, when I was flipping through the book, there are about 70 pages of Power Point slides included. Can’t wait to figure out what that’s about.”

Elyse, Operations Manager: “I’m currently reading Lisa Ko’s novel The Leavers, which tells the story of Deming Guo, an 11-year-old boy whose undocumented Chinese mother never returns home. Adopted by a middle-class white family, Deming is transformed into Daniel, but his ties to his mother and his memories of his culture make his transition to his new life a complicated process. The novel explores Deming/Daniel’s and his mother Polly’s viewpoints, flashing back and forward in time to tell a compelling story about belonging, identity, and the immigrant’s place in American society.”

Edwin, Educational Consultant: “I grew up playing tennis, modelling the technical prowess of many formidable Grand Slam champions, but one racquet-wielding sensation stands out as the Greatest of All Time: Roger Federer. I am curious as to how his seemingly-polished childhood, tattered with tantrums and tennis brat behaviour, made him the gentleman player that he is known for today, pushing the age boundaries of tennis greats. Federer by Chris Bowers provides glimpses into his extraordinary career thus far, depicting all of his trophy hunting moments and triumphant return from injuries, from the London 2012 Olympics to his nearly 100 title wins. It makes an enthusiast of the sport hopeful in achieving some semblance of text-book tennis, with RF providing the richness and grandeur of an oil-painting to his game: one-handed backhands, ball-crushing forehands, line-licking serves and catlike agility on the court.”

Monika, Educational Consultant: “I recently read Turtles all the Way Down, by John Green. This is a young adult novel about a young woman, Aza, who is dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder, navigating high school, and a murder mystery. The story is compelling and I found the portrayal of Aza’s mental illness really interesting. I am now working my way through the Millennium Trilogy for the second time. Written by Stieg Larrson, this series featuring Lisbeth Salandar is a totally suspenseful, trashy read, but the writing is strong and intelligent.”

Jenny, Writing Coach: “I’ve been reading Janet Wallach’s Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia. This is the biography of Bell (1868-1926), a woman who would have been extraordinary in any time, let alone a period when high born society women such as herself were expected to stay home and look pretty. She was a skilled diplomat and fearless adventurer, knowledgeable at politics and history and brilliant at forging relationships with the many movers and shakers of the Middle East. She worked with British Intelligence during WWI and eventually actually drew the boundaries for Iraq! But she didn’t fit in with her times. She was born into privilege and high ranking connections, both of which she used to full effect. She probably had little understanding for the life of ordinary mortals and actively fought against the suffragette movement. Overall, the book presents a fascinating look at the life of a complex and thoroughly unique individual.”

Marisa, Writing Coach: “For some reason, at this time of year I tend to gravitate towards the surreal. Sabrina Orah Mark’s Wild Milk, which offers strange, enigmatic little stories, and Can Xue’s Vertical Motion, employing dream-logic to great effect, perfectly fit the bill. I’ve also been slowly, slowly making my way through Catherine Leroux’s Madame Victoria in French. There’s an English translation, too, but my students studying French might want to take on the challenge. I’m reading this one with a dictionary by my side, not going to lie.”

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