Sunday, March 4, 2012

3ish Book Reviews - Education Trade, Thriller, How-To, and Inspirational

So I've read 4 more books already including an education trade book, a thriller, a how-to book on speed reading, and a quick inspirational Christian read. This is CRAZY!!! It's totally my kindlefire's fault as well as the prevalence of FREE books for kindle available on in droves. But is being addicted to free books and devouring them insatiably really a bad thing? I'm leaning on the side of this being a positive addiction...

This education trade book, written by a former school board member and teacher, provides great insights into several of the current problems in our educational system. I love the way this book is set up in having chapters that each specifically focus on one issue in a sort of anecdotal form with citations of support where necessary. This guy is funny and extremely enjoyable to read! Chapters include discussions of arbitrary rules and regulations in getting students out of and into tracked classes, the administrative rewarding of snitching, the lack of meaningful civics education in schools, what makes being a teacher so difficult, and the mind-numbing realities of school boards. While I may not have agreed with absolutely everything Good presented, I really appreciated his personal experiences and thoughts on specific educational problems. This book is not dry in the least and is quite entertaining as he details his daughters "adventures" in school. I absolutely recommend this book for educators and non-educators! I'm also super excited about the references listed at the end of each chapter - looks like some great future reading... 5/5 stars

Still Coming by Joseph Flynn (Book #16 of 2012) [NOTE: Atm, this book is FREE for the kindle]
Wow, what a crazy and unique concept. A super-selective small liberal arts college receives a variety of threats from a group of students who were not accepted. Are these students already on campus? What did the school president do that was so bad? What will the big finale be? These questions and more were all running through my mind throughout most of the novel and while some were answered just over a third of the way into the book, others were not answered until the very end. I was really impressed with Flynn's ability to carry out a thriller in which the main characters were truly fleshed out people the reader actually cared about...or in Dula's case, really hated! Despite the book's frightening cover art, this novel is mostly quite light hearted in a sense, although the emotions felt by the rejected students are certainly palpable. There is a sub-plot that threw me off for a while, but as the book progressed, I saw why it was a necessary part of the story. The only criticism I have is that the chapters are WAY too long at times, but maybe that's just me. When chapters are shorter I find it much easier to get hooked into a book thinking, "Oh I'll just read one more chapter." But with some of these chapters being some 30 or more pages long, that wasn't really possible. Regardless though, it still managed to be quite a page turner most of the time. I think in the end I have to give this book 4.5/5 stars because while all of the mysteries/questions were explained eventually, one of them was not really explained in much detail and I was left a little confused as to the logistics of it, but then I'm always hungry for the whys and hows of pretty much everything, so others may not have the same issue. Essentially, I loved it!

Since the following 2 books were both quite short (one was really short), I've combined them into Book #17 of 2012.

Visual Reading and The Snowball of Understanding by Hyo Sang Shin [Note: Atm, this is free for kindle IF you are an Amazon Prime member]
Hmm...this one was a bit strange. It's basically a book about speed reading, but from a more New-Agey perspective. At least I thought it was quite New-Agey. The concept was pretty far out there to say the least. I bought this book because it was free at the time for kindle and I thought it might be an informative read, which it certainly was, I just don't really think the method is for me. Shin seems to be a super legitimate person in regards to this technique so I guess I shouldn't be so skeptical. The book presents 2 case studies of students who have gone through his 10-week program and consequently went from 120 words per minute to 600+ words per minute - wait...600+ wpm! I'd like to see that... Essentially, visual reading is a method where you see the connections between all the words and see sentences as structured 3d objects. When you achieve this, words seem to flow together, and as place receptors in your brain are turned on (the cells that allow us to create memories of experiences) you begin to see the words on the page as a movie in your mind. As you get into the rhythm of reading in this way, you increase your speed immensely and a snowball of understanding occurs where all the connections are automatically formed in your brain and you can remember far more of what you are reading. Shin's argument is that people who sub-vocally or vocally read are only using their working memory to understand the words on a page and since this part of our memory is so short and limited in capacity, these readers quickly forget what they have previously read. I have never found this to be a problem though and I am definitely a sub-vocal reader. If I get confused about something I'm reading I just flip back and see what I'm missing to make the proper connections with what I'm currently reading. And when I'm reading academic material, I like to take notes in the margin and highlight important passages so that I can consciously make connections to my own experiences, personal thoughts, and previously learned information. Shin's reason for promoting this type of reading which apparently can yield up to 1200 words per minute (CRAZY!!) is that if people can read this fast with the supposed enhanced understanding that comes with it, then more people can be exposed to all the great ideas people have presented in the past on how to fix the ills of the world. A noble goal, but I guess I'm too set in my reading habits to consider the training required to master this method of reading worth my time...

Faith Notes (101 God Notes) by Pauline Creeden [NOTE: Atm, this book is FREE for kindle]
Okay, so this was actually only 18 pages long (I guess it's more of a pamphlet lol). Very short, very uplifting. It's just a list of 101 Bible verses and biblical thoughts from the author. I think having this book handy could be quite useful when I get down on myself or upset with others. Definitely some great insights into paralleling your life more closely with that of Christ's. 5/5 stars

That's all for now :-) Happy reading!

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