Friday, December 15, 2017

3 Favorite Reads of 2017: 2 Historicals Plus a Modern Classic

Happy Poetry Friday! In today's post, I include an excerpt from a Byron poem quoted in one of the titles I share for our end-of-the year series on our Favorite Reads of the Year. If you haven't entered our current giveaway yet, see the link at the end of this post.

I've enjoyed reading about my fellow TeachingAuthors' favorites: voracious reader Mary Ann shared SIX titles, Esther gave us FOUR, April hosted a guest TeachingAuthor interview and giveaway of her ONE favoriteand Bobbi shared THREE books, including one for adults on the craft of storytelling. 

Like Bobbi, I'm sharing THREE titles today, which brings the total of TeachingAuthor favorites of 2017 to 17 so far, and we still have one more TeachingAuthor to hear from! Some of you have affirmed our suggestions, but if we haven't mentioned one of YOUR favorites of the year, please give us the title in the comments. Meanwhile, here are mine:

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk was a 2017 Newbery Honor book, but our Not For Kids Only (NFKO) Book Club didn't read it until this year. I was immediately drawn in by the book's first line and have added it to my list of great opening sentences:

The year I turned twelve,
I learned how to lie.

As I read Wolf Hollow, I felt I was living inside of the narrator, Annabelle's, skin, walking in her shoes every step of the way. I shared her fears and admired her courage, especially at the end.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This book is the "Modern Classic" I'm alluding to in this post's title. Our NFKO Book Club read it first back in 2012, not long after Wonder first came out. This year, we all went to see the movie together. I re-read the book the week before and was pleased to see that the movie stays fairly true to the book, even shifting the point-of-view character as the book does. All eight of us loved both the book and the movie versions of Wonder. We still don't understand how the American Library Association neglected to give the novel any medal recognition back in 2012. However, I hope this story about the power of kindness does indeed become a modern classic. 

Like Wolf Hollow, the third book I'm sharing is historical. But unlike my other two favorites of the year, this one is for adults: Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini. I don't typically read books for adults, but I couldn't pass up this biographical novel about Ada Lovelace, whom many consider the world's first computer programmer. I've mentioned here before that I have an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. That is part of the reason I ended up writing my young-adult novel Playing by Heart, which is inspired by composer Maria Teresa Agnesi and her mathematician sister, Maria Gaetana Agnesi. Ada Lovelace was born less than 100 years after Maria Gaetana Agnesi, and the two faced similar challenges when it came to earning respect as female mathematicians. Still, I was pleasantly surprised to find the little-known Agnesi mentioned in Enchantress of Numbers. Unfortunately, the reference says Agnesi was a 16th-century mathematician when she actually lived in the 18th-century. I've written to the author pointing out the typo--I hope the publisher corrects it in the next edition.

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron, whom the book's back copy describes as "the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets." Chiaverini uses verses from Byron's poems as her chapter titles, and she occasionally includes excerpts from his poems. In honor of Poetry Friday, today I'm sharing one of those excerpts, which Chiaverini took from the third canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. The stanza mentions Ada and appears at the end of chapter one of Enchantress of Numbers. The chapter title is a line from the stanza: Sole Daughter of My House and Heart.   

   from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
   by George Gordon, Lord Byron

Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child!
ADA! sole daughter of my house and heart?
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled,
And then we parted,--not as now we part,
But with a hope.--
      Awaking with a start,
The waters heave around me; and on high
The winds lift up their voices: I depart,
Whither I know not; but the hour's gone by,
When Albion's lessening shores could grieve or glad mine eye.

You can read the rest of the canto here.

If you haven't already entered our giveaway for a chance to win the acclaimed middle-grade novel Train I Ride by Paul Mosier, be sure to read April's post and do so now.

And then head on over to the Poetry Friday roundup hosted by Diane at Random Noodling.

Don't forget to Write with Joy!


Bobbi Miller said...

O my, these seem like excellent recommendations! I'm drawn to all three. Wonderful!

Bobbi Miller said...

And, I am shamed to admit it, I've yet to read WONDER, despite all the wonderful things I've heard about the book. It's on my list now!

Diane Mayr said...

Enchantress... is on my list of "to be read." I'll probably listen to the audio since I only manage about 10 pages a night before falling asleep. It would take months to actually read it. I spend more time in the car...

My favorite adult book of 2017 was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. LOVED IT!

BJ Lee said...

Thanks for 3 great recommendations. That first line of Wolf Hollow is fabulous! btw, I started out as a computer science major but when I took my first English course, it was all over.

Carmela Martino said...

Bobbi, if you read WONDER, I'd love to know your thoughts on it.
Diane, I hope you enjoy ENCHANTRESS. And I can so relate about wanting to listen to the audio. I can't recall the last time I read a novel that had over 400 pages!
BJ, I was probably the only Math/Comp Sci major who took English Lit courses as electives at my college! But I was determined to get a "practical" degree that would give me a good living. (Sadly, writing does not.)

jama said...

Enjoyed hearing about these three titles, none of which I've read yet. And why didn't I know that Ada was Byron's daughter??

Carmela Martino said...

Well, now you know, Jama. :-) Many aspects of Ada Byron's story are quite sad. Thanks for stopping by.

jan godown annino said...

Appreciations for lighting up my evening, Carmela with book titles.
WONDER is on my list but the other two are new
That name of the book club sounds just the ticket for our crowd.

Linda B said...

I've read the picture book bio of Ada Lovelace and was fascinated. How talented she was and fortunate to have a mother that supported her, too.What a nice surprise they included your Agnesi in it. Sorry for the wrong date! I loved Wolf Hollow, but it is a shivery book, and do love Wonder, read with students, have read the add-ons and today, Ingrid and I just read the new picture book which does hold the flavor of the book, but I did love the teacher's precepts too and they are not included. I peeked back at others' favorites, would add Town Is By The Sea, a beautiful and poignant picture book. Thanks, Carmela.

Brenda at FriendlyFairyTales said...

What excellent recommendations. My son's whole school read Wolf Hollow this summer, if I'm remembering right. My memory is less than stellar when I'm sick. Viruses, yuck. I remember your book about the Agnesi sisters. Ada Lovelace is also of interest to me. It's such a struggle for women to be remembered. Thanks for swimming against the tide.

Kay said...

I heartily second Wonder as one of the best reads this year and beyond. It's one of three books on my very short required reading for life books. The other two are The Outsiders by SE Hinton and Nothing But the Truth by Avi.

Michelle Kogan said...

Thanks for recommending these three rich books Carmela. "Wonder" I have read and thoroughly enjoyed it! You've drawn me into "Wold Hollow" by it's first line and also your comment on how you feel as if you are "living inside of the narrator." That reminds me of the narrator in "The Book Thief," which I also enjoyed, and saw the play too. Your third book also sounds fascinating and familiar to me, and Ada Lovelace was Lord Byron's daughter, how cool, thanks for sharing all!

Carmela Martino said...

Linda, you really want to read THE ENCHANTRESS OF NUMBERS to better understand Ada's relationship with her mother--that's at the core of her story. I'm not sure I'd use the word "supportive" to describe it after reading that. Thanks for your recommendation of TOWN IS BY THE SEA. I haven't read that.
Brenda, I hope you're feeling better by now.
Kay, thanks for your recommendations. I'd count those both as classics.
Thanks for stopping by, Michelle.

Carmela Martino said...

And Jan, I didn't pick our book club name, but it definitely fits!