I want to introduce you all to Carina from Reading Through Life blog. Carina is a teacher from Toronto who writes one of my favorite blogs and I am so pleased that I was able to interview her and present to you her thoughtful answers. After you read this interview you need to check out her amazing blog, just click on the title of her blog printed above and it will take you there.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog?
I’m a 20-something teacher in Toronto (Canada) who’s been book blogging for almost a year now. I read a lot, though my speed varies depending on the time of year and the types of books that I’m reading. I really plowed through books over the summer while I was off of school, but my reading (and thus reviewing) tends to slow down a bit over the winter since I have other obligations.
I write about a lot of things on my blog. So far, most of my posts have been reviews, but I’m trying to branch out more into discussions of reading in general, literacy education, and student engagement within the context of reading. I also participate in a variety of events, including read-a-longs, read-a-thons, and reading challenges. This summer, I hosted a small challenge (the Summer Slimdown) and my very first month-long reading event (Ramadan Reading), which will likely become a yearly occurrence.
- Describe your blog in 6 words?
Canadian teacher loves: books, learning, literacy.
- What makes your blog unique?
The most unique part of my blog is probably the variety of books that I read – everything from YA and adult contemporary fiction to manga to political non-fiction to graphic novels to religious exegesis. Also, like I said above, I just finished my first theme month, which featured daily reviews and discussion posts related to Muslims and Islam, for all thirty days of Ramadan.
- Can you share a list of 5 books you would recommend and why?
There are a ton of books that I’d like to recommend, but I’m going to keep myself to books that I’ve read (and reviewed) since I started blogging.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
I think that everyone should read this book (as well as The Handmaid’s Tale) as cautionary tales about where our world could be headed. Plus, I absolutely love Atwood’s writing style and she creates really fantastic and relatable characters.
Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher
Every parent, teacher, and person concerned with literacy should read this book. It talks not only about how the current generation is ending up less literate (and very seldom ending up as “readers”), but also gives concrete suggestions about how different people can work towards changing these things.
Watchmen by Alan Moore
Even if you are not a comic book or graphic novel fan, you should read this. It’s so much better than the movie, and one of my reasons for loving it is in the same vein as my reasons for loving Atwood’s dystopias – it’s a really great cautionary tale about where we could be going wrong with our world, even if it is meant as an alternate history of the Cold War period. There’s also the really great layer of the philosophy behind superheroes, and tons and tons of detail and hidden stuff in the piece that make it way more nuanced than even most full-length classic literature that I’ve read. Hands down the best graphic novel ever written to date.
Palestine by Joe Sacco
Also in the vein of graphic texts – not always “novels”, since they’re not always fiction – are the works of Sacco, of which this one is my favorite so far. As many book blogger rants have gone, graphic texts are a format not a genre, and this is definitely one of the cases that proves the rule. This a piece of comic journalism at its finest, using the visual medium to really portray Sacco’s experiences in the Occupied Territories in a way that words alone really could not. It’s a great work in terms of both the content and the form, something that I think would interest many people.
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Finally, this is my last suggestion, and it’s particular to people who are as immersed in the world of books and reading as we are. This is a fairly short novel in terms of length, but it makes up for it in depth and feeling. I’m not sure if I can really call it a love story in the traditional way, but it definitely has a bit of that feel to it; it’s also a very heartfelt commentary on the last few decades in German society as well as on the issues surrounding reading and literacy and how these can affect people’s lives in the most profound of ways.
- What was your favorite book as a child?
My favorite books when I was a kid were the Bernstein Bears picture books. My father used to read those to me and my siblings before we went to bed, which is one of the best memories I have from when I was a child. In later years, I realized that my dad really isn’t a reader – I think he’s read two books since I was born! – which has made me realize just how much more special those bedtime stories were, since he was really just reading the books to us for our enjoyment and to have some quality time together, not necessarily because he liked books or reading on his own. One of my favorite books from the Bernstein Bears series was The Bernstein Bears and the Truth, which was a consistent read in my house given that I had three younger siblings and we always tried to blame each other for whatever we had done wrong. My parents were quick to pick up on that, and made sure that this book was repeated quite often. I really loved the way that Brother Bear and Sister Bear keep re-telling the story of how the lamp was broken with slight differences, sort of like one of those deja-vu episodes that television shows like to do. It’s definitely a book – and a series! – that I’ll be reading to my kids one day.
- How do you find the time to read and blog?
Now that I’ve started reading much more again (I’m almost finished my 100th book for the year!), I’ve really had to prioritize reading over other things in order to have more time to spend on it. I never really watched that much television to begin with, but I’ve pretty much cut out almost all of my TV-time in exchange for more reading time. I also spend less time blindly surfing the web or talking online to people, choosing instead to be selective about who I talk to online and for how long, and using the “doing nothing online” time that I used to have to read – or blog – instead. I’ve also gotten more into the habit of carving little bits of reading time into my day, such as listening to audio books anytime that I leave the house or am doing chores, making sure to read a bit before bed every night, etc. In terms of actual blogging, it’s really just a matter of prioritizing blogging over other things when I’m sitting at my computer; instead of looking through news websites or facebook for hours, I’ll choose to read blogs or to work on posts instead.
- Do you have other hobbies you enjoy?
Outside of reading and blogging, there are a few other pastimes that I really enjoy. For one, I really love softball during the summer – playing, watching, umpiring, coaching … pretty much anything. Another summer-ish hobby that I’ve picked up fairly recently is geocaching: my partner and I got into it together a little over a year ago, and it’s something that we do with varying frequency depending on the weather and what our schedules are like. My absolutely favorite hobby – if you can call it that – is cooking and baking. I love being in the kitchen and making tasty things! With less frequency, but just as much interest, I also enjoy salsa dancing and sewing. They’re both things that I find really fun, but that I don’t often have real chunks of time to devote to. I’m really hoping to find more time for the sewing this winter, though, once it cools down enough to go outside less and I need something to do at home.
- What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Depends a little on my mood, but I’ve got a few old stand-bys: chocolate chip cookie dough, mint chocolate chip, maple walnut fudge, dolce de leche, peanut butter chocolate, and mayan chocolate (chocolate with cinnamon). Mmm mmm mmm. Right now, I’d say my absolute favorite is peanut butter chocolate, but that really does vary day by day.
- How do you choose what books you will read? Or what is your favorite genres?
I largely choose what to read based on whatever mood I’m in at the time, although there are exceptions. If I’m in the mood for something based on a certain topic – particularly with non-fiction – or with a certain type of narrative, I will buy it and add it to my gigantic mountain of TBR books, even if I’m not necessarily going to read it right away. When it comes time for me to start a new book, I take a look at my piles (or shelves) and just grab the first thing that catches my attention. Sometimes, that means that I buy new books right away, while other times, it means that a book might sit on the pile for weeks or months (or even years!) before I actually get around to reading it. There are two exceptions to this willy-nilly pattern of reading: one is when I have to read something for an event, and one is when I get into a reading rut. If I have a book that I need to read for book club or for school, then it gets put near (or at) the top of my TBR list and comes up more quickly. Also, sometimes I get really into a certain topic or style of book, and I’ll stay in one genre or whatever for a while – for example, earlier this year I got really into food theory/farming-type books for a while, and read in that same vein for a few weeks, and even bought other similar books that I haven’t gotten to yet and are waiting until I’m in the mood for that topic again. But, typically, I change directions quite often and read a very eclectic mix of things.
- What are your favorite movie/movies?
I watch an awful lot of movies, to be honest, and have a hard time picking my favorites because it largely depends on what kind of mood I’m in. The “old favorites” for me, though, are largely dramas: Boys Don’t Cry, Quills, The Virgin Suicides, Philadelphia, and Girl, Interrupted. I watch “chick flicks” and action movies for the fun of it, but own almost none of them: for example, I really loved watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Salt, The Ugly Truth, P.S. I Love You, and others, even though none were particularly “good” movies. I also have a huge soft spots for movies like Sin City and Watchmen. (You also may be able to deduce from my choices that I have mini-crushes on Angelina Jolie and Hilary Swank. I also have one on Drew Barrymore, Johnny Depp, and Ellen Page, among others!
- What is your favorite time period in history?
I think it really depends on the context. In terms of books (so, largely in terms of historical fiction), I really enjoy the period of time in Europe where women were wearing absolutely gorgeous gowns with corsets and stays, men thought that the women were totally oblivious to the world around them outside of the kitchen or outside of pretty clothes, and women were scheming or pulling strings to run things behind the scenes. Basically, the time when people either had money or didn’t, so they were either rich or poor, both of whom make really interesting characters for fiction.
In terms of the real world, though, my favorite time period in history is probably the last few decades, particularly in terms of women’s and queer rights. I really enjoy learning about the sexual revolution, the fight for legal (and safe) birth control and abortions, the protests and such leading up to queer rights both in the States (like Stonewall) or here in Canada (like the bathhouse raids and legalization of same sex marriages). I get chills down my spine every time I read about Trudeau’s historic declaration that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation. It’s a time period that I’m very sorry to have missed in some ways, but happy not to have had to live through in others. I’m very thankful for the women and men who came before my generation who fought for so many of the things that I take for granted now, and that came as pre-cursors to the kinds of things that my generation is currently fighting for.
- Would you like to share a favorite quote from an author or book that you find meaningful?
The first thing that comes to mind is something that I tend to quote quite a lot, and has even been on my Facebook basically since I got one almost 5 years ago:
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because people who mind don't matter and people who matter won't mind." -- Dr. Seuss
It’s something so simple, and yet so profound, especially for a generation of people that are obsessed with the contradictions of working hard to project their individuality while also worrying about the opinions that other people have of them.
- (In case you didn’t want to answer one of the other questions, here is an alternate question) What do you love about blogging?
The thing that I love the most about blogging is getting to have a dialogue with other book lovers about what I read. I also enjoy the sense of community between book bloggers and the events that bring us all together. In more of a “love-hate” way, I love being exposed to so many books and authors that I never would have found out about otherwise – this has both made my wish-list overflow and my mind expand!
Thanks so much Carina for taking the time to answer these questions today, you even answered the alternate question! I appreciate you!