What are your five favorite books and why?
The Delta Function by Rosa Montero is one of my all-time favorite books. It chronicles the life of a Spanish film director as she comes to terms with her past while facing terminal cancer. The author has such an interesting way of showing how intertwined the past and the present are by merging the narrative from the past with the narrative from the present. As the main character nears the end of her life, the narrative switches more suddenly between past and present.
The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman: This is an illustrated memoir of sorts. The illustrations are quite lovely as is the inner dialogue that accompanies the artwork. I have read this book countless times, and will continue to do so.
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver: When I lived in Minnesota, I was able to hear Barabara Kingsolver do a reading from The Lacuna, which was truly an unforgettable experience. This particular book takes place in Mexico and the United States during the 1930s and ’40s and joins fiction with historical topics with its featuring of such dynamic characters as Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera.
Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger: The book follows the relationship between a brother and sister as Franny (the sister) encounters an existential crisis while away at college. I related to the connection that Franny had with her older brother as I remember often seeking answers about life’s unanswerable questions from my older brother.
The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen: This book is about an American woman who marries a man from Saudi Arabia and moves there to live with his family. The book was written by an American woman who spent the first 12 years of her life in Saudi Arabia. I enjoyed reading this book because it has an interesting perspective on Saudi culture.
What is the last book you’ve bought?
The last book that I bought was Games for Language Learning (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers). I teach in the American Language Program, which is an intensive English program. Due to the nature of an intensive language program, I’m always looking for new interactive and engaging ways to teach my classes.
What’s your “guilty pleasure” – a book you love but don’t often talk about because it’s not “serious” literature?
Bossypants by Tina Fey is definitely not in the category of “serious” literature; however, the book was such a pleasure to read. There were countless times that I could not help but laugh out loud it was so funny. I still remember exactly where I was when I read it, which I consider to be a true testament of a great book.
What books have helped you most in your career?
I’ve read a few of the Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers and have found them to be really good resources for teaching English as a Second Language. In particular, Penny Ur’s Grammar Practice Activities: A Practical Guide for Teachers gives great suggestions for making grammar interesting and engaging for ESL students.