It’s AP Exams season where I work, and finals time for many a college and high school. Which means legions of bleary-eyed students trying to summon up the discipline for a last surge of studying, even though they just want to be done. The sunshine is calling. I hear it too, and even though I’m well past the exam-taking phase of life, I’m still in crunch mode, trying to power through to many deadlines.
For the dedicated bookworms among us, studying for exams generally requires two sets of reading; the materials we’re actually supposed to be reviewing, and the reading we sneak for “study breaks.” This is a calculated strategy (no, really!) designed to achieve the perfect balance of discipline and release, allowing us to get all the necessary reviewing in while also getting enough of a break to feel revived and ready for…still more reviewing. Because the internet and everything that lives there can rapidly turn into a vast time-suck, all responsible students (and worker-bees) know: if you’re serious about getting something done, you have to stay (temporarily) signed out of all the stuff, especially this close to the finish line. And the pitfalls of streaming-binges are obvious, so the TV’s got to stay off too (as do the game consoles).
But a book…a book feels studious, even if what we’re reading isn’t likely to show up on any exams, or help cross anything off a task list.
So. What to read when you don’t really have time to be reading at all, but you absolutely must get a little escape in if you have any hope of staying motivated long enough to cover everything you’ve still got to do?
Unless you are a reader with very good self-discipline, novels are probably out. Novels are what we get to read when everything on the task list is actually done, when grades are in, school is out, and your to-do list is all inked-out lines.
Page count matters when you’re on a deadline. Short-ish graphic novels and short story collections are what we need when time is at a premium; pieces vivid enough to truly escape into, and short enough that we emerge from our work-respite refreshed and ready to dive back into the task at hand.
Here, then, are some suggestions for quick escapes, to tide you over until the freedom of summer is a reality, and not just a highly-anticipated future fantasy.
Lips Touch, Three Times by Laini Taylor. Are you a fan of sweeping fantasy shot through with romance, like Taylor’s epic Daughter of Smoke and Bone series? Well, here are three short stories about three different girls who’ve never been kissed, told in Taylor’s distinct, dramatic style, with brief page counts (but high pulse rates). A 2010 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults book.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. This is an I’m-too-busy-to-read jackpot of a book; short chapters in graphic format, thematically connected to make one creepy wave of foreboding descend over the reader. Gorgeous colors, stick-with-you-after-dark frames, and spare, haunting prose combine to make this 2015 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens pick a fast – but memorable – escape into the murky depths of the woods.
The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang. This is another short story/graphic novel hybrid, with three distinct tales showcasing Yang’s mastery of the form. For stories so short, these reach serious emotional heights, exploring big, sticky ideas with compassion and humor. A 2010 Best Books for Young Adults pick.
Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. Certainly one of the most entertaining questions of our time, answered in alternately amusing, creepy, horrifying, and moving stories by an, ahem, veritable stable of YA’s most celebrated authors: Alaya Dawn Johnson, Maureen Johnson, Carrie Ryan, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Diana Peterfreund, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, and more. A 2011 Teens Top Ten nominee, and, as an audiobook, a 2012 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults pick.
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan. Margo Lanagan builds strange, vaguely sinister worlds peopled with slightly off-kilter characters. If you like your fairy tales more Grimm than not, she’s definitely an author you should be reading, and this is one of her most celebrated collections. A 2006 Printz Honor book, and a 2006 Best Books for Young Adults pick.
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson. See Carli Spina’s awesome post on this year’s Eisner nominations for more about this origin story that is a great mash-up of tried and true comic tropes and some much-need new angles.
These are just a few suggestions for those times when you really really don’t have time to start a new book, but you’re going to anyway (full disclosure: my college “study break” reading of choice was Harry Potter, over and over again, but I cannot in good conscious recommend that as a “quick” break, because I always got sucked in 100 pages longer than I’d budgeted for!). What are some short, quick reads you’re excited to fit in when there’s really no time to fit anything else?
-Carly Pansulla, currently reading Vango by Timothée de Fombelle
Not signed up for YALSA’s 2015 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 9 counts, so sign up now!
There are six weeks left in the Hub Reading Challenge and I’m pretty close, but having a hard time concentrating and prioritizing. I blame (at least in part) the season, a combination of spring fever and an abundance of television series finales and big movies which, like Geri, distract me to an embarrassing degree (though in my case it’s Agent’s of Shield–well, the whole MCU actually–Orphan Black, The Americans, Vikings, iZombie…) Plus, I have been doing oodles of reading for the One Thing Leads to Another interview series (such a hardship! Not.) and that has actually cut into my challenge reading to a significant degree.
Still, with six weeks and seven books left to meet the challenge it’s possible. It could happen.
What about you? Have you developed a laser-like focus? Are you overwhelmed by end-of-the-school-year or beginning-of-summer events? Are you close? Have you given up on meeting the deadline but are dedicated to finishing anyway? Have you finished?
Let us know where you’re at in the comments, and keep the conversation going on social media by using the hashtag#hubchallenge to post updates on Twitter or by joining the 2015 Goodreads Hub Reading Challenge group. You have until 11:59 PM EST on June 21st to finish at least 25 books from the official list, and if you participated in the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge this year, you can count the books that you read for that challenge for this challenge as well. Also, don’t forget to post the Participant’s Badge on your blog, website, or email signature, and, as always, if you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email.
If you have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response and, perhaps best of all, to notify you if you win our exciting grand prize drawing! Be sure to use an email you check frequently and do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles.
Here is a roundup of the tweets that you might’ve missed this week!
- @PenguinTeen .@sarahdessen‘s #SaintAnything is one of @BnBuzz‘s top teen fiction picks for May! http://bit.ly/1E9gtDt
- @harperteen Get to know the Selected suitors from THE HEIR by @kieracass. Watch the interviews: http://shrd.by/Sw1v29
- @GdnChildrensBks Lauren Oliver: I lost a boy I loved in my 20s and it changed me. Interview with Delirium author @OliverBooks: http://gu.com/p/486am/stw
- @kieracass Did a little interview with @EW: http://www.ew.com/article/2015/05/05/kiera-cass-talks-latest-ya-novel-heir …
- @NYPL Fantasy of Power and Betrayal: @NYPL recommends Game of Thrones readalikes for teens. http://on.nypl.org/1F45bGr
- @GuardianBooks Which books made the Branford Boase shortlist 2015? http://gu.com/p/4858a/stw via @GdnChildrensBks @BranfordBoase
- @HuffPostBooks Mindy Kaling announced a release date for her second book, and we seriously can’t. wait. http://huff.to/1JOXsNz
- @BookRiot 3 On a YA Theme: Realistic Fairy Tale Retellings http://ow.ly/MAr1J
- @TheMarySue Oh, for a Time-Turner! @jk_rowling has apologized for killing off one of her #HarryPotter characters. http://www.themarysue.com/rowling-apologizes-for-killing-potter-character/ …
- @Deadline Katherine McNamara Cast As Female Lead In ‘Shadowhunters’ On ABC Family http://deadline.com/2015/05/katherine-mcnamara-cast-female-lead-shadowhunters-abc-family-series-1201421824/ …
- @annehelen THERE’S GOING TO BE A MYST TV SERIES?!?! http://www.blastr.com/2015-5-6/hulu-picks-high-concept-tv-series-based-1990s-video-game-myst …
- @Variety Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s #Supergirl with a series order at CBS. http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/supergirl-cbs-melissa-benoist-greg-berlanti-1201489184/ …
- @MTV We need more #BlackWidow merchandise. Please & thank you: http://on.mtv.com/1Ka56yM #WheresNatasha
- @AlyssaRosenberg On Black Widow and the Hulk as an inverse Buffy and Angel: http://wapo.st/1QishLf
- @ALALibrary #nlld15 was a success! Check out our update on District Dispatch http://www.districtdispatch.org/2015/05/hundreds-to-gather-in-d-c-for-41st-annual-national-library-legislative-day/ …
- @jacksondevious NSFW John Oliver interview w/ Snowden referred to by Ashley Houghton on #nlld15. Hilarious but scary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEVlyP4_11M&sns=tw … via @youtube
- @educationweek What’s wrong with standardized testing? Watch @iamjohnoliver offer his analysis: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2015/05/whats-wrong-with-standardized-testing-watch-john-oliver-give-an-explanation.html?cmp=soc-edit-tw …
- @Scholastic Authors @mstiefvater, @JacksonPearce, @mdnorthrop, @laurenTarshis, & more have teamed up to celebrate #summerreading http://bit.ly/1OXoBS1
- @sljournal Why Makerspaces are Changing the World — Medium http://ow.ly/MDRcS
Just for Fun!
- @Grammarly Missed out on #MayThe4thBeWithYou? Learn to speak like Yoda: http://bit.ly/tw_yodaspeak
- @nypl You love #bookface, @NYPL loves #bookface, the @nytimes loves #bookface! http://on.nypl.org/1IbAeRf
- @BuzzFeed Choose your own teenage adventure: Can you survive a day of high school? http://bzfd.it/1F0Jc1l
-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading The Heir by Kiera Cass
This month, I thought I would take a look at some of the great works by women that are nominated for this year’s Eisner Award. The Eisner Awards, or more correctly, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, recognize the best achievements in American comics on an annual basis. The award nominations are typically announced in April with the awards being presented at San Diego Comic Con in July. This year, some wonderful works by women are nominated and it seems like a great time to consider both those that I have previously written about and some new gems. This post won’t look at the work of all of the Eisner nominated women, but will instead focus on those that will appeal to teens and fans of young adult literature.
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona, Saga by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples, and Bandette by Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover are three of only four titles to have received three or more nominations which doesn’t surprise me at all. Ms. Marvel has been extremely popular for the way that it has reimagined the Ms. Marvel character as a teen Pakistani-American named Kamala Khan who is a huge fan of Carol Danver and ultimately ends up stepping into her shoes as Ms. Marvel. The series received a lot of publicity for the fact that Kamala Khan is the first Muslim character to headline a Marvel series and the story has helped to keep it popular. It earned not only Eisner nominations in the categories of Best New Series, Best Writer (for G. Willow Wilson), Best Penciller/Inker (for Adrian Alphona), Best Cover Artist (for Jamie McKelvie/Matthew Wilson), and Best Lettering (for Joe Caramagna), but also a Hugo nomination and a spot on YALSA’s 2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.
Saga is another well-known and critically-acclaimed work and a big part of this is Fiona Staples’ artwork, which brings Brian K. Vaughn’s story to life. It is exciting to see the story recognized and to see Staples’ work recognized in the Best Penciller/Inker category. Bandette falls into a slightly different category as a webcomic, which earned it a nomination in the Best Digital/Web Comic category, but that didn’t keep it from also earning a nomination in the Best Continuing Series category as well as a separate nomination for Colleen Coover’s work in the Best Painter/Multimedia Artist category.
Emily Carroll, who wrote the creepy short story collection Through The Woods, is nominated for a web-based short story called When The Darkness Presses that manages to be extremely creepy while taking full advantage of the online form. The story is available for free, so if you are a fan of the horror genre, you should check it out right away!
El Deafo by Cece Bell, which was selected as both 2015 Newbery Honor Award book and a 2015 Great Graphic Novel for Teens, has been nominated in the category of Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12). This is a great book that definitely is one of my favorites within the last year and it is really exciting to see it recognized by the Eisners. While it is aimed at the 8 to 12 age group, it is a truly great read for graphic novel fans of any age.
The team of Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson & Brooke A. Allen are nominated for their work on Lumberjanes in both the Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17) categories, which is unlikely to surprise most comics fans. This series burst onto the scene this year and has left many comic fans anxiously waiting for each new issue to come out. Noelle Stevenson’s work has also been recognized in the category of Best Digital/Web Comic for her comic Nimona. If you haven’t already started reading her comics, I highly recommend checking them out.
These nominees are just some of the ones that I have read, but there are plenty of other great nominees this year. So, if you are looking for more of the best comics of the past year, check out the full list of nominations and pay attention in July to see what wins the big awards.
If a teen is passionate about reading and actively reads books, shouldn’t he or she enjoy any book whether it be for school or recreation? What is the difference with reading for school and reading for “fun?” What makes a teen engage in reading books in the first place?
The aforementioned questions are some that I will attempt to investigate in my evaluation of school reading versus recreational reading. School reading consists of reading any book that is required by the school curriculum, typically for English class but sometimes for other subjects as well. Recreational reading is when teens choose to read books in their own free time, there is no requirement for this type of reading. Generally, I believe teens prefer recreational reading to school reading for two distinct purposes—freedom of choice and personal interest.
For the most part, teens enjoy having independence, and this desire for individuality also plays a role when it comes to choosing what book to read. I see reading as an opportunity to absorb more knowledge, learn about new perspectives, and engage in a creative realms. For recreational reading, teens have the freedom to choose which book they would like to delve deeper into. In this case, reading becomes more of an option and an opportunity to partake in intriguing new subjects. However, when it comes to school reading- the books are already selected. Thus, the students no longer have the freedom of choice when it comes to selecting which book to read. School reading is mandatory, whereas recreational reading is entirely discretionary.
Students tend to engage in reading books that they are most interested in. With a vast range of genres and literary styles, the reading possibilities for young adults are endless! The plethora of reading options makes recreational reading that much more exciting. Some students enjoy reading only action packed books, others enjoy romantic novels, while others like to read poetry. When it comes to recreational reading students can choose to read whatever interests them.
Additionally, books selected as a part of the school curriculum typically involve a series of tests and quizzes. For the most part, teens do not enjoy taking tests and quizzes. Thus, applying a test or a quiz to a selected book, tends to divert the readers from the idea of reading for pleasure and makes them focus on the idea of studying the book instead. Although one might argue that tests and quizzes help the reader develop a deeper understanding of the book and its purpose, I think that linking a school book with tests makes it easier for students to become less focused on enjoying the book and more caught up with memorizing facts and quotes that will help them score higher on the test.
On the other hand, when it comes to recreational reading there are absolutely no tests and quizzes involved, there is no deadline to finish reading the book by, and there are no expectations. For these reasons, recreational reading seems to be more appealing to teens as it provides them with more freedom to choose the books they are interested in reading and read the books at their own pace. Eliminating the expectations makes reading more of a pleasurable opportunity rather than a daunting task.
Although there are various differences between school reading and recreational reading, I do believe that some parallels exist. Just because a book is a part of the school curriculum does not mean that it is “boring.” In fact, most of the books that students read in school are some of the most well-known and famous books of all time.
I think that it is important for students to understand that although recreational reading offers more freedom of choice, it seems as though school reading opens the door to new ideas and potential interests! For example, this year in AP/IB English, I read the renowned novel The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. This was a story about the tragic decline of a once very affluent family told through multiple different perspectives and concepts of time. After reading the book and writing an essay on it I realized that I had learned so much about how an author can use both a literal and thematic lens of perspective to convey a deeper, more profound message about the work. I also had the opportunity to read Einstein’s Dreams as a part of the English curriculum. Written by Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams was an intriguing and creative story about different universes, each revolving around a unique concept of time. If students can think of reading school books as an opportunity to become more well-rounded readers and scholars, then they can reduce the overwhelming feelings that are associated with school reading.
After all, according to Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
-Nedda B., currently reading This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith