Category Archives: 2015 Reads

2015 Reading Challenge – How’d I Do?

I found this reading challenge at the start of the year and thought it was a great idea. Truth be told though, I never glanced at it a second time throughout the entire year.

I already blog about every book I read, and manage to put up a new post every week. So, finding books according to a list seemed a little restricting to me. So, now that the year is over, let’s see what I can knock off of this list.

2015 Reading Challenge


Not too bad, I guess, since I didn’t actively choose books according to this checklist.

Although, it seems I didn’t read as much this year as I did since starting my annual reading log 4 years ago.

Here are the stats,

2012 – 65 Books
2013 – 61 Books
2014 – 78 Books
2015 – 60 Books

That’s a pretty good amount of books read in four years. And it is quite varied as well. I read memoirs, novels, comics, teaching books, writing books, books about music, and a fair bit of non-fiction.

Let’s see how I do in 2016!



Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

I read this book when I was a teenager and it blew me away. I decided that I needed to brush the dust off it and give it a re-read.

This book was written by a plastic surgeon who noticed something interesting in his practice. He would operate on people who might have had a disfigurement or small flaw. And after the procedure, some people were ultimately happier, and others still saw themselves the same way.

He sums it up this way, “You act, and feel, not according to what things are really like, but according to the image your mind holds of what they are like.” 

In other words, our thoughts have way more power than we usually consider. Did you know that your body can’t tell the difference between an imagined experience and a real one?

We can even hold false truths that hold us back from achieving what we want to. Maltz says, “every human being is hypnotized to some extent, either by ideas he has uncritically accepted from others, or ideas he has repeated to himself or convinced himself are true.”

There are chapters in this book that deal with creativity and where it comes from. He tells us how we can nurture ideas and even shares with us his “Five Rules for For Freeing Your Creative Machinery”

He believes that we are machines and within each of us is a success mechanism. He shows us how to unlock that, how to get what we want in life, and how to be happy. And that all comes down to our thoughts.

Abarham Lincoln said it best, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Maltz says . . .

We can acquire the “habit of success”; we can build into our gray matter patterns and feelings of success at any time and at any age.”

This book is so full of wisdom. I highly recommend it! I’m glad I re-read it, but most of his lessons stuck with me over the past twenty years. It truly was a game changer for me.

I hope you enjoy it too!

My List of 2015 Reads – my annual reading log (now complete)

Wit’s End – The Line Between Fiction and Reality

Wit's End

Wit’s End by Karen Joy Fowler

This novel revolves around a successful author who values her privacy. She has a unique way of planning her mysteries. For each book, she builds a diorama in a doll house. This allows her to plan out the murder scene in detail. She never lets anyone see these, however.

Her detective character has spanned several books and television shows and everyone is eager for the next chapter. It had been several years since her last book.

He granddaughter comes to visit her and discovers something interesting about the books. Fans have written letters to the fiction characters, as if they were real. And to complicate things, her father is a character in one of the books. There is quite a similarity between the fictional character and her real life kin.

This book explores the relationship between fiction and reality, the way people feel about fictional characters, and how they can become a part of our lives.

My List of 2015 Reads – detailed personal reading log with links to each title


Little Brother – A Great Read!


Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I love reading Young Adult fiction. Maybe we don’t need this distinction when it comes to novels. A great story is a great story no matter who it is aimed at. And this one definitely fits that.

There is a passage in this book from the main character’s point of view that suggests everyone should learn how to code. We all use computers everyday, but most of us have no idea how they work.

I haven’t had the time or desire to learn a computer language since the old school days of BASIC. But I see how it could be beneficial.

Of course, knowing computers so well, gets our main character into trouble. He is also able to use those skills to get himself and his friends out of trouble and help reshape a society crippled by terrorist attacks.

It’s a thriller, mixed with a lite bit of science fiction. It deals with the issue of how the Internet should be free and accessible to all. To further hammer home this point, the author has made this book available to download for free.

This was  a real page turner and I highly recommend it.

My List of 2015 Reads – very nearly complete now (Stay tuned)



The Last Graphic Novel Reads of 2015

Hydra Ascendant TPB

All New Captain America: Hydra Ascendant

Sam Wilson aka The Falcon has taken on the mantle of Captain America. Although, he still has his wings and hasn’t quite mastered how to target the shield effectively.

His first mission doesn’t go exactly as planned either. He’s unsure that he deserves to be Captain America. He knows he needs to soldier on though. But when he learns that Hydra has affected all of the super-hero teams, including The Avengers, he is not sure who to tun to for help. And to make matters worse, Hydra has a plan to sterilize all of humanity.

This was an interesting read and a fairly good start to the new title and hero. I felt a little out of the loop at points, not having read the Marvel Now version of Captain America before, but it does seem to tie into what has happened in the cinematic and television universe.

I’m not completely won over by Wilson as Captain America. He’s a good hero, but he is also good as The Falcon. I guess time will tell how long he holds the mantle and the shield.

Peaceful Warrior Graphic Novel

Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

Dan Millman wrote a screenplay for the movie version of his popular book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior. That script, however, was not used for the film. This graphic novel is pretty much the same as the movie and story we all love. It is the vision for the film that Millman originally planned. And he gets to share his love of comics with us too. It’s a win-win.

Secret Origins

Secret Origins: Volume 1 – The New 52

Origin stories are a staple in comic books. They get told again and again. Sometimes, necessarily so. I really love how Frank Miller retold the origin of Daredevil and then how Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale told the same origin to explain the yellow costume. Brilliant stuff.

For people unfamiliar with some of these characters, it’s a nice starting point. But if you already know the stories of Batman, Superman, Supergirl, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow, you can skip this one.

They do have an origin of Harley Quinn though. That can get us all prepped for the Suicide Squad movie that comes out next year. There are several other origin tales in this trade paperback as well.

My List of 2015 Reads – now up to date and complete

Are We All Zapped?


Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn’t Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution by Ann Louise Gittleman

In this day and age we are inundated with electronic devices. It’s almost impossible to get away from them. Most of us wouldn’t want to either. These modern conveniences are not only comforting but essential.

So, why should we not use our iPhone as an alarm clock?

According to the author, the human body is susceptible to energy from the environment. This includes wifi, radio waves, and the signal your phone gives off all the time.

I am a big proponent of keeping my cell phone out of the bedroom. First off, it is just too easy to check in the middle of the night if you wake. I remove that temptation by keeping it in the other room. Secondly, getting a break from the electronic pollution at night is an added health benefit.

Gittleman suggests going through your environment to clean up or reduce the EMF waves given off by our electronic devices. It makes sense to me in a lot of ways.

She even talks about dirty electricity. There is pollution there that we never even think about.

This was an interesting read. I think that the effects of wireless devices and electricity is something that needs a lot more scientific study. in the meantime, there are things we can do to reduce the harm that these things may cause.

Dimmer switches for lights are problematic. They produce “electronic fields in the RF end of the spectrum.” She suggests removing the dimmer switch or getting a de-buzzing coil.

Apparently there are filters you can buy to protect against dirty electricity as well. They are expensive but have proven to help people who are susceptible to these harmful effects.

Zapped is the first step-by-step manual for fortifying your body, detoxifying your home, and protecting yourself and your family from invisible electronic pollution.

My List of 2015 Reads (detailed reading log for the entire year)

Life is Great . . . Even When It Sucks

Life is Great Even When it Sucks
Life is Great Even When It Sucks by Ellen Nyland

It’s hard to have a positive attitude when things are going poorly for you. But if you take a moment, it is hard to argue that Life is Good . . . Even When it Sucks.

I am always amazed at how books that are not written for teachers, can have a lot to say about education and help us improve our practice.

That being said, we can all work on personal development and learn from the teachings that Ellen Nyland shares in this book.

Gain Perspective

“The challenge in teaching anyone is that we tend to teach from our own perspective. We don’t consider the person we are teaching. We teach others from our toolbox, our view on life, our circumstances, our failures, and our personal fears instead of modifying our teaching to the toolbox of the individuals we are teaching.”

Nyland suggests that failing to take into account other people’s perspectives might be the cause of all of the trouble in the world. Very interesting theory.

Teach Listening Skills

She goes on to say that we rarely teach our children the art of listening. I wholeheartedly agree. Teaching the art of listening and conflict resolution is just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Understand People’s Levels of Readiness

I like the Feedback Checklist that the author shares with us. We can use it to see if someone is in the right place to hear our message. She believes that if we all used it, “Everybody would be paying attention to others and waiting to discuss issues until the receiving party was ready, willing, and able. What a utopia that would.”

Make Friends with Failure

Nyland writes, “When you take the opportunity to learn, not shut down, you often emerge a better person with a new skill set”

Own Your Mistakes 

She adds, “By owning up to your mistakes, parents show their children the power of personal responsibility and teach, through example, that kids can own their responsibilities.”

More Life Lessons

These are just a few of the notes I took while reading this book. I didn’t agree with everything she had to say, and there were parts of the book that dragged a bit, but overall, it was a good read that has given me some perspective and things to think about next time I get in a classroom.

My 2015 Reading Log – with links to every title I’ve read this year

Sound Unbound- Sampling Music and Culture


Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture. Edited by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky

The basic tenet of this book is . . .

Technology enables creativity, community, art, and love. Crippling it to save someone’s outmoded business-model is a crime against humanity.

Sampling is perhaps one of the least understood concepts about modern music, and, in particular, hip-hop. But believe it or not, some very respected musicians have worked with this form and even helped develop it. Artists that you would be surprised to hear about. Artists like The Beatles.

I took tons of notes while reading this collection of essays, articles, and creative pieces. I plan to blog about it over the next few weeks in detail. Suffice it to say, I truly believe that musicians should be allowed to steal, borrow, sample, and take sounds from everywhere to create new works.

Human culture is always derivative, and music perhaps especially so. New art builds on old art. We hear music, process it, reconfigure it, and create something derivative but new – folk melodies become Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies; Roy Acuff’s “Great Speckled Bird” becomes Hank William’s “Wild Side of Life:’ and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” becomes a John Coltrane classic. 

And that passage didn’t mention hip-hop once. This is how music works. Hip-hop might be know for sampling more than any other genre but it didn’t invent the practice. Not by a long shot. Although, we might have perfected it.

This was a great read and I recommend it for serious music scholars, hip-hop DJs, music producers, artists, and fans alike.

My 2015 Reading Log – now almost complete

“Empty” is Full of Adventure, Thrills, and Chills


Empty by Suzanne Weyn

This book is set ten years from now and things are pretty bad. Oil has become a scarce resource and society is starting to fall apart because of it.

Stores shelves are bare because shipping has pretty much come to a halt. When gas is $50 a gallon very few people can afford to travel far. Food prices tripled, electricity bills have soared, and all of the things we take for granted, are getting harder and harder to come by.

Here is a great passage from the novel that pretty much sets the scene . . .

“Well, we all should have seen it coming,” Mrs. Curtin said, “We’ve been heading down this road for a while. I guess no one – including me – thought the oil would really run out. We had no idea that everything is made from oil – plastic, insecticides, cosmetics – everything. Shampoo and soap are made of hydrocarbons, linked and processed from oil. Bricks and concrete are made with oil. The shingles on our roof. Carpet. Fertilizer. The asphalt we use to pave our roads – that comes from the bottom of the tank after oil’s been refined. When there’s no oil, the bottom of the tank is empty.”

Gwen Jones takes things in stride. She doesn’t know what else to do. Her mom left a few years ago and since then, her older brother and her have managed to survive on their own. School still operates, even though the buses don’t. Things go on like everything is normal. Unfortunately, everything is not normal. A super-storm complicates matters as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed  this book and had a hard time putting it down. Part of me, though, realized that while this is a dsytopian thriller, it is a little close to home. Perhaps we need to think about moving away from our oil dependence before it is too late.

Or maybe this is just a story to enjoy.


My 2015 Reads – my (almost) complete reading log for the year.

A Graveyard, An Ocean Planet, and A Lost Space Shuttle

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The story starts out with a baby escaping more than just his crib. He wanders into a cemetery and is taken in by the ghosts who live there. They keep him safe from the killer who murdered his family.

As the only living being that resides in the graveyard, he is given the power to see and converse with all of the spirits who reside there. He learns how to fade, to generate fear, and to pass through objects.

It’s a coming of age tale unlike anything I have ever read. That is probably one of the reasons it won the Newbery Award for Children’s Literature. I really like the afterword by the author as well. I enjoyed this read and hope you will too.


Ocean / Orbiter: The Deluxe Edition

The first story is this graphic novel takes us to one of the moons of Jupiter. It is essentially an ocean under a very thick coating of ice. A moon that is compatible in size to that of the Earth. And one that has something sinister hiding under its icy surface.

The second story gets a little creepier. A long lost space shuttle returns to earth after an unexplained ten year absence. The ship seems to have had some alterations made to it. A team tries to make sense of the whole thing.

Both stories deal with exploration and the dangers involved. But there is also potential and a glimmer of hope in each. The last tale has me wanting more. I wonder what happens next. That’s the question that drives exploration after all, isn’t it?

Want to Explore More Books?

Check out My 2015 Reading Log (50 books and counting)