I guess it's kind of an understatement to say I read a lot--I definitely read more than the average bear and always have, but since I started working in publishing, I've gone from reading 30 or so books a year to upwards of 50 and 70 and 80. And granted, there are people in this world that read 100+ titles every year, but I have a feeling that these people 1) don't have day jobs and/or 2) aren't writers. I'm sure I've explained this a thousand times before, publishing houses work a year ahead, which means we're reading books that are coming out a year, sometimes even two years, ahead of when the rest of the world gets to. Right now editors are acquiring for 2013, but Marketing and Publicity are brainstorming for, and reading, Fall 2012 titles. I work for one of the biggest of the Big Six Publishing Houses, so it is near impossible for me to read every single manuscript in a given season. Certain titles are considered priorities either for the company as a whole or just my little department, so those are the ones that get read first. I genuinely try to read at least the first 3-5 chapters of each book as they come in, so I can at least make educated comparisons when I'm pitching the books to people at conferences, but sometimes... it's just impossible to get to all of them. Some slip under the radar.
Let me tell you, I so learned my lesson about this a few weeks back. Starting around October, people in house began to mention a certain galley that they were reading and loving. And I mean loving, to the point that they could quote from the book, or list out every scene that made them cry. I've become a super emotional reader as I've gotten older (see: the train wreck I turned into at the end of Outlander), so I kind of backed away a bit and was all, "I'll read it, I'll read it, I swear [when I have a box of tissues within reach and won't shame myself in a public place]!"
Well. I finally read it.
I read it on the subway to and from work and missed my stop on two separate occasions (and was secretly glad about it, because it meant I had more time to kill waiting for the train to come from the opposite direction). I read it under my desk at work, which actually doesn't make sense to me know that I'm thinking about it because clearly no one would have been like, "Hey! STOP READING ONE OF OUR FANTASTIC BOOKS AND GET BACK TO WORK!" I read it on the airplane heading to Chicago for NCTE. I finished it in the hair salon while waiting for my dearest Kitty to get to hair fixed up after an unfortunate, unplanned foray into ginger-hood. And, oh man, I cried.
I mean, I CRIED.
And not even just because some of the scenes were so unflinchingly brutal in their honesty and so true to life. The main character is a truly extraordinary kid, but its easy to recognize aspects of your own Middle School experience in his story--the mean kids, navigating the cafeteria, the teachers you love and the ones you hate, the horrible things about yourself that you overhear by accident. I have to tell you now, the real waterworks come in the moments you least expect. Small acts of bravery and love... between family, friends, and even strangers.
What book am I talking about?
Now, I realize that I may be coming across as biased seeing as this is one of my company's books, but y'all know how rare it is for me to 1) dedicate a whole blog post to any one title and 2) actually post a review on Goodreads, even if it's just a few words. But I'm not at all alone in my love--this one is killing it with reviewers.
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?
I was totally delighted--and surprised--to find out that the book doesn't just stick with Auggie's perspective. It moves, in a very organic way, through his friends and acquaintances and shows the ways, large and small, that Auggie has influenced their lives. I'd actually argue that his sister has one of the most moving sections of the entire book as she heads to high school and starts to question the status quo of their family. OH, and their family--this is one of those rare books that made me wish I could crawl into the pages and live with a fictional family for a while. The Pullmans are a rare breed of awesome, trust me.
Auggie especially. I think there's a lot that we can learn from him, in particular his indomitable spirit, and his young, wise ways--qualities he initially doesn't even recognize in himself. This is not a book that people will feel naturally inclined to pluck off the shelf, I will freely admit that. This is a book that has to find its way to you, and your life will be so much better for it.
Mr. Browne’s precept for October was:
“Your deeds are your monuments.”
He told us that this was written on the tombstone of some Egyptian guy that died thousands of years ago. Since we were just about to start studying Ancient Egypt in History, Mr. Browne thought this was a good choice for a precept.
Our homework assignment was to write a paragraph about what we thought the precept meant or how we felt about it.
This is what I wrote:
“This precept means that we should be remembered for the things we do. The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they’ve died. They’re like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made out of stone, they’re made out of the memories people have of you. That’s why your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of with stone.”