2018.3 – You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

The start of 2018 has been super book exciting! At the end of December, I saw a flurry of tweets with authors excited for their books to come out in January. As I started following those retweeted authors, I found even more book retweets. Before I knew it, there were 5 pre-orders in my Amazon cart and numerous other books on hold from the library.

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

One of the books with a lot of happy buzz was You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon.

This is book #3 for 2018, although it’s the first book I started and finished in 2018.

After reading Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell) back in 2014, I fell in love with books told by two perspectives. You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone is told by twin sisters Adina and Tovah, who see and experience the world in two very different ways. The blurb on Rachel Lynn Solomon’s website states that it is “A heartbreaking and lyrical debut novel about twins who navigate first love, their Jewish identity, and opposite results from a genetic test that determines their fate–whether they inherited their mother’s Huntington’s disease.”

I love how open and raw the story is, neither character is forced or overdone. They are perfectly imperfect, struggling with big issues and handling them like teenagers tend to do. And, the thread of wrestling with their Jewish religion was beautifully intertwined into the story.

Confession: I read the first 3 chapters on Friday night, then read the rest of the book on Saturday. It’s the kind of book where I finish it, look up, and it takes a good few minutes before I can re-adjust to reality. Binge reading at its finest!

Overall, I highly recommend this book. Buy yourself a copy, and buy an extra one for a friend or your school library!


For the last few years, my dad and I have done Book BINGO together. The first year, I found one online and we used that. The last three years, we’ve created our own BINGO game with 24 categories + a free space. It has been fun to think up creative categories, share books we’re reading, and compare our BINGO cards at the end of the year.

My dad retired in summer 2016, and has had much more time to read. He is good about getting all his spots filled out, while I seem to only finish ½ – ⅔ of them. It’s more about the journey than the destination.

The best part about Book BINGO is that it encourages us to find new and different books that we wouldn’t have thought to read! I love the adventure and the challenge! For example, last year we added “audiobook” as a category because my dad hadn’t caught onto that game yet. This year, I challenged my dad to read a book on his iPad–he’s definitely a book traditionalist!

Some of our categories include: a book with a ______ color cover (we start with, “hey Mom, name a random color! — she’s onto us now, and this year she said chartreuse…thanks Mom!), book that won the _____ prize, book written before 1000 AD, book that includes mythology, and book about food.

I’ve created a Book BINGO for you to use, personally or with your students. I hope this helps encourage you to try new books and expand your library! Happy reading!

Do you have ideas for categories! I’d love to hear! Give me suggestions in the comments.

What I read in 2017

2017 was a good year for books. I finished a total of 55 books! Here’s the breakdown: 26 audiobooks, 29 books (8 books, 21 ebooks). The two major categories I read this year were YA (21) and Nonfiction (20). Surprisingly, I only read 3 edu-books this year.

This year I kept a bit more data than I have in the past. Previously, I just listed the books I read. Now, I’m keeping track of completion date, number of pages or hours (although I usually listen to audiobooks on 2x speed, which I take into account in my data), format, and genre. My favorite part of all this data is the graphs I create to go along with it. I like the visual trends for genre and books completed each month. Click here to make a copy of my book tracking spreadsheet for your own use.

Here are some of my favorite books I read this year: (they’re in chronological order

1. Heartless (Marissa Meyer)

I love love love the Lunar Chronicles, and Heartless was just as awesome. This one is based on Alice in Wonderland, which brought in some of my childhood magic. I’m a bit sad it’s not part of a series, because I’ve loved everything she’s written!

2. Caraval (Stephanie Garber)

For my Breakout EDU fans, this book will be a hit! It has the magic of a full-scale Breakout EDU game, as the main character is trying to find her sister before Caraval is over.

3. My Not So Perfect Life (Sophie Kinsella)

I keep coming back to this book all year, thinking about how we portray ourselves online versus the reality around us. The reality is all too real!

4. Yes, And (Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton)

This was recommended by my dear friend Jess Loucks, and her keynote is based on improv. This isn’t an improv how-to book, but rather the ideas behind improv and how they can make us better creators and collaborators.

5. The Inexplicable Logic of my Life (Benjamin Alire Sáenz)

This story is fantastic, complex, and heartwarming. It addresses the real issues around us, including life, love, and loss. He also wrote Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which I read in 2015 — bonus for my Hamilton Nerds, the Aristotle & Dante audiobook is read by Lin-Manuel Miranda!!

6. Fueled by Coffee and Love (Mari Venturino)

I can’t blog about 2017 books without talking about this, I’m still so proud of myself for pulling together Fueled by Coffee and Love. It’s a collection of teacher stories written by teachers all around the world! Please pick up a copy for yourself and a teacher you adore–all proceeds go to classrooms!

7. The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

This book hit the world by storm when it was published in February 2017. I finally got a copy over summer, and binge read the entire thing in just a few days! It’s heartbreaking and eye-opening at the same time. It really framed police violence and BLM in a way that is accessible to a wider population. I highly recommend this book!

8. Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly)

I listened to the audiobook, then watched the movie (*gasp* I watched a movie!). So good! I’ve always been a huge space fan, and in middle school I wanted to be an aerospace engineer; however, why am I just now hearing about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson et al now?! They were left out of history, and I didn’t even know to look for them.

9. Classroom of One (Doug Robertson)

Another gem by my friend Doug Robertson. One of the three edu-books I read this year, and it was by far the best! It prepared me for my first guide teacher experience, and helped me become a stronger and more reflective teacher overall. I highly recommend this to anyone in education!

10. Turtles All the Way Down (John Green)

This is my second favorite John Green book (first favorite is Will Grayson, Will Grayson). This new one definitely didn’t disappoint. I appreciate how much it dove into anxiety and how it affects Aza’s life–but, it’s not forced or overdone.

I’d love some recommendations on books you think I’d like. Please leave me a comment below!

2017.21 – Yes, And

Yes, And: Lessons from the Second City
Yes, And
When I started Yes, And I thought it was going to be light and funny, similar to both Bossypants by Tina Fey and Yes Please! by Amy Poehler. (If you haven’t read either of these, do it! Or better yet, listen to the audiobooks!) Within the first few pages, I realized this isn’t a lighthearted comedic book. Instead, it details the elements of improv comedy, and how they relate to our everyday lives and jobs. Of course, there are funny parts too!

I bought Yes, And after watching my dear friend Jess Loucks keynote at the Southern Summit. She inspired us all to take risks and make room for creative chaos in our classrooms and schools.
Teaching isn’t an easy career, and neither is working with people. The skills required for improv are extremely relevant for navigating all types of social situations. To start, the concept of “yes, and” is powerful; rather than shutting down and saying “no” right away, or even worse, “yes, but,” the words “yes, and” acknowledge the person’s idea then builds on it. It propels brainstorming and creative thinking!

The day after I finished Yes, And I overheard a mother and young son (maybe 6 years old) chatting. The son had done something minor wrong, and said “I love you mommy!” The mom replied, “I love you too buddy, but we don’t…” I actually stopped what I was doing and went into deep thinking mode. How often do we unintentionally say“yes, but” in our lives? And, how often do we tie conditions to our love? Or acceptance of a new idea? I know I am guilty of this!

Another big idea in Yes And is the concept of active listening. I wish the chapter dedicated to listening had come up earlier; it’s such an important idea. Just as essential to “yes, and” in improv is the ability to actively listen to what your partner(s) is saying and build off of that. I know I’m guilty of frequently “listening to respond” or pretending to listen; instead, I need to work on “listening to understand” with both my eyes and ears.

I’ve never done improv comedy or take any sort of acting or improv classes…and now I think it would be a lot of fun!

2017.11 – Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Somewhere in late 2016, I saw a list of hot new books released in early 2017. I immediately got onto the holds list from the library. A few of them I had to recommend to the library e-collection. Recommend means they don’t have it in their collection, but it alerts them that I’m interested. Somehow, maybe once they have enough requests, they will purchase the book and I’ll receive an email. So, I got on the waitlist, and waited.

Caraval and a couple other books came up for me at the same time. Usually, I’m good at suspending my holds (stay on the holds list, but it wont check out to me until I unsuspend the hold–definitely a pro move!), but I got too busy and forgot. Now I have a whole lot to read in 3 weeks!

I started Caraval, and wasn’t so sure about it at first. The story was a little slow and the characters seemed to drag out a bit. Then, after about 25% through the book, I started getting really into it! In fact, I started reading on Saturday afternoon when I was at about 35% completed…and binge read the rest of the book!

All you need to know for this book: if you love Breakout EDU and/or escape rooms, then you’re going to go nuts over this book! Scarlett has always dreamed of the magic of the Caraval, a cross between a game and a performance where reality and fantasy are often a thin line. When she and her sister, Tella, are whisked away to the game, Tella is kidnapped, and Scarlett must navigate magic, heartbreak, and twists in order to save her before the five days are up.

This is one of those books where I read a few chapters, then have to get up and walk around. It was fairly intense, but even more confusing and complex.

At the end, I was left in the fogginess, suspended between fantasy and reality. I look around, and try to piece my life back together, remembering who and where I am. I call this experience a book hangover. (Makes sense after a reading binge, right?)

2017.7 – Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

I was so excited for the new book by Marissa Meyer, Heartless. You may know her from The Lunar Chronicles series–book 1 is Cinder. I just loved The Lunar Chronicles, all based around fairy tales. I listened to all of the Lunar Chronicles books on audiobook in 2015, except for Stars Above, which was released in 2016.

When I saw that Marissa Meyer was coming out with a new book, I made sure to get on the holds list from the library as soon as I could! Success! I was one of the first in line for the Heartless audiobook! This is a new book (hopefully a series?) based on Alice in Wonderland. Without giving anything away, let’s just say I was shocked by a few of the plot twists.

Let’s talk audiobooks in general
Just like I become a fan of specific authors and their books, I’m also a huge fan of certain audiobook narrators. For example, Jim Dale narrates all of the Harry Potter books. Even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, you need to listen to at least one of the audiobooks–Jim Dale has a different distinct voice for each character in all 7 books. Talk about making a book come to life!

Rebecca Soler narrates the Lunar Chronicles series, and returned for Heartless. As soon as I heard her voice, I felt a surge of happiness and excitement. It’s amazing how a voice can bring back so many happy book memories. She does a great job portraying the characters and adding anticipation and excitement as she narrates.

When I’m recommending audiobooks to friends, I consider both the book itself, and who narrates it.

What are your favorite audiobooks and audiobook narrators? 

What I Read in 2016

My goal for 2016 was to read/listen to at least 100 books, reading at least 52. I ended up reading 49 and listening to 17, for a grand total of 66 books. Normally I’d be disappointed about not meeting my goal, but I’m thrilled I read as much as I did! This year, I have the same goal. We’ll see if I can pick up the pace a bit.
For the last several years, my dad and I have done a book bingo together. We create 24 categories + 1 free space at the beginning of the year, then try to read a book from each category. These range from silly (book with an orange cover) to diverse (book that is a translation) to old (published before 1000AD). Last year, he finished his whole bingo–must be nice to be retired! I finished about ⅔. We have a new bingo game for this year, so I better get reading.

I check out the majority of my ebooks and audiobooks from the public library via Overdrive. I’m usually good about managing the number of books I have and the number of books I have on hold. Pro tip: add books to your holds, then suspend the hold. You’ll move up in position, but the book won’t be checked out to you until you unsuspend the hold or your suspension time is up.
Here are my categories from 2016. As you can see, I mainly read education, young adult, and fiction books. Naturally, Harry Potter gets it’s own category. I used inspiration rather than self-help because it drops the negative connotation.
My book genre breakdown for 2016

I kicked off 2016 by reading
Ditch that Textbook by Matt Miller. It was an inspiring edu-read, and I enjoyed occasionally participating in the #ditchbook twitter chat on Thursday nights. I love anything published by Dave Burgess Consulting, and I think I own about 75% of the collection. Thanks Dave & Shelley for letting me spin the Burgess stop and giving me some wonderful books!
Here are some of my favorite books I read/listened to in 2016*:
Creating Classroom Magic by Shauna Pollock (book) – I love Disneyland and Disney, and I was completely inspired to add in a little more magic into my classroom. Shauna is filled with great ideas and stories.
Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders (ebook) – My science nerd self was fascinated to learn so much about the human digestive system. This book is written to be accessible by all, and there is a lot of practical knowledge for the why’s and how’s.

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg (ebook) – So fascinating to hear more about the Google backstory, their vision and growth process, and their philosophy behind how they treat their employees. Reading this inspired me to dream bigger (10x, not 10%).

We are all Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen (book) – A friend recommended this to me, and I preordered it on Amazon. When it arrived, I had forgotten I had ordered it. It was a quick read, but absolutely heart-wrenching and sweet. I loved it so much that I am using it for a read aloud in my 7th grade science class. It’s not about molecules, and technically it’s a fairly weak science content tie; however, the ideas and themes in this book fit the personal development of my 7th graders, and tie into a few topics we cover (molecules, health, bullying, healthy relationships).
Harry Potter books 1-6 by JK Rowling (audiobook) – I’ve read them multiple times, and friends kept telling me how amazing the audiobooks are. Truth. Jim Dale is incredible. He has a different voice for each character. Plus, it was nice hanging out with my old friends. I was 10 when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out, and just graduated high school when the Deathly Hallows was released. I’m most of the way through the Deathly Hallows audiobook, but it expired before I finished it so I’m waiting to get it again.

So off we go in 2017. I’m excited to read more books, listen to more audiobooks, and go on new adventures. You can follow my book journey on my book blog (books.mariventurino.com). I’ll cross-post some of my favorite books to my main blog.
What books did you love in 2016? And what are you excited to read in 2017?
*I categorize books & ebooks (on my Kindle) separately, but count them together as physical books in my data.