Stacking the Shelves (4/9/16)

It’s been a big week for books in our house!stsmall_thumb2.png

As I look at all of these new books on our shelves, I know I have to write a Stacking the Shelves post!

First, my team and I received copies of professional development books at work.

Photo credit: Kim Lowden (@ms_itech)

We’ve been waiting for these titles to arrive for quite some time, so it was a really exciting day to come back from spring break and find the books waiting for us!

The first of the three titles that we are going to read is Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros (@gcouros). This book appeals to me, largely, because of my graduate work studying creativity and innovation. Besides discussing the book with one another, several of my coworkers and I are also participating in the #reflectiveteacher book study for this book on Twitter, Tuesday nights through the month of April.

I’ve already read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (@BreneBrown), and I’m looking forward to re-reading it with the rest of my team. I had many take-aways and ah-ha moments the first time I read it. I’m sure that as I read it a second time it will be with a new lens, especially because I will get to reflect and discuss with my colleagues.


Then, another colleague of mine gave me a copy of her novel…that I’ve been really wanting to read. I’m so excited about this one as well!

I put Quantum Leaps in Princeton’s Place on my to-be-read list as soon as I learned that IMG_8403.JPGDonna Clovis (@clovid01) had written it.

It’s historical fiction and set in nearby Princeton, NJ. Over the years, I’ve become more and more interested with reading historical fiction (a lot of that began when I started researching my own family history), and I especially love local history and historical fiction.

I hope to start reading it tomorrow!


IMG_8404.JPGAs if it wasn’t already a very, very exciting week for books with those first few titles, I also received a couple more amazing professional books.

I started participating in a book study for Effective Digital Learning Environments: Your Guide to the ISTE Standards for Coaches this week, so The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar is going to be a nice, related read! (I think it’s also interesting to note that Effective Digital Learning is my ONLY digital book for the week.)

Teacherpreneurs looks like it will be a related read as well; The Innovator’s Mindset is all about innovation in education, so I’m looking forward to seeing what ideas these two books will have in common.


Finally, I visited a book sale at one of my local libraries this morning. It was packed! (Both with books and with people shopping for books!) My mom came with me, and we spent about an hour and a half there, sorting through tables and tables of books.

I managed to find a few interesting titles. (Actually, the greater feat is that I managed to leave some of the books there at the sale!)

IMG_8402.jpgI added two new books to my cookbook collection. While I normally look for older cookbooks, I couldn’t resist these two.

I love ordering risotto when I go out to eat, but I’ve only tried making it at home a few times (and it wasn’t easy!). I’m hoping that reading a book all about risotto will inspire me to try again.

My husband and I are both crazy about onions, so how could I possibly resist an entire cookbook dedicated to one of our favorite foods? (He got a really big kick out of this one when I showed it to him.)

I found IMG_8406.JPGplenty of #Read4Fun books at the book sale, too.

After a week like this one, I’m sure that I’m not going to have any problem completing my goal of reading #SixtyBooks* this year. My only problem is going to be trying to decide which book to read next!

Are you familiar with any of these titles? Have you already read any of them? What books did you stack the shelves with this week?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks and happy reading!


*If you haven’t already taken the #SixtyBooks pledge, you can visit the website for more information and to sign up today.

Stacking the Shelves (2/27/16)


Stacking the Shelves is an idea hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, and it is “all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!”

Reading around #SixtyBooks a year, new titles come into our personal library on a regular basis. Here are two of the newest additions. Both of these books were gifts, and both are very high on my To Be Read list!

51UE4YdSGyL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg      635635336332835083-book.jpg

I love the idea of Stacking the Shelves and sharing out titles that are new to us and our personal libraries. To find out more information about Stacking the Shelves, visit Tynga’s Reviews. I’m sure I’ll be back next Saturday with another title or two. 🙂

Happy reading,


Recent Reads: Jan/Feb 2016

In honor of #ShelfieWednesday, I’ve taken a “shelfie” of my recent reads, numbers 4 through 8 for the #SixtyBooks in 2016 Reading Challenge:


4. A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard

5. Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

6. The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rhode

7. Divergent by Veronica Roth

8. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz IMG_8044.JPG

I’m sure you noticed a lack of theme or consistent genre here, that each of these books is completely different from the next. Yes, they are very different from one another…and I enjoyed each one!

That’s one of the things I love most about reading #SixtyBooks and making reading a regular part of my daily routine:  the variety of topics and different perspectives I get to experience.

What have you been reading?


#SixtyBooks in 2016: End of January Check-In!


Time flies when you’re reading having fun! Our first month of reading together is almost up. Laura and I are thrilled to be in such great company reading #SixtyBooks in 2016!

As we near the end of the first month of this challenge, almost 300 people completed the online form, nearly 50 people have joined the Goodreads group, about 40 people have joined the Facebook group, and well over 100 readers are regularly posting updates about their reads on TwitterWe know there are also hundreds (maybe thousands?) of students taking the challenge in schools all over the country.

The #SixtyBooks movement is not only about our own personal reading but also about taking time to inspire others to read as well.

So, thank you to everyone who is participating in the challenge, spreading the word about #SixtyBooks, and encouraging others to make reading a part of their daily routine!

Laura and I are always talking about new books we are looking forward to reading, so she had the great idea to share some of those books that we “can’t wait to read” with you.

Here are a couple of our “can’t wait to read” titles at the top of our TBR lists:

Melissa’s Books:

Laura’s Books:

Leave a comment below or join in the discussions on social media to let us all know what books you are looking forward reading to this year.

Happy reading! 

Your #SixtyBooks in 2016 hosts,
Melissa (@mmorriswrite) & Laura (@lagnella)

Pen holders from Fenice

At the end of last year (for the last 100 days to be exact), I paid extra FullSizeRender.jpgattention to the material “things” in my life that brought me happiness (all the while being very careful to get rid of anything that didn’t directly bring me happiness) and documented those things for the #100HappyDays project.

The exercise was a great opportunity to reflect on the things around me — literally — and helped me to realize why it was that certain “things” were bringing me joy.

There are clear patterns in the photographs that I took for the project. Not surprisingly, most of the “things” I recorded were either:  a gift from a loved one, a memento of a trip or a special event, something associated with relaxation or eliminating stress, or something directly connected to a creative task.

These pen holders from Fenice fit right in with all of those things I recorded for the #100 HappyDays project. They are a perfect example of how a little “thing” can bring much joy.

IMG_7941These tiny, magnetic pieces of leather are designed to hold a pen, be used as a bookmark, or both.

They work great with both books and journals. They adhere to the books with magnets, so they are removable; they can be moved around to any place in the book without damaging the book and be moved from one book to the next. They make an excellent gift for anyone who likes to have a pen or pencil handy while they read!

The only trouble I found is that these products were difficult to obtain here in the US. I searched online and in person in many retailers, but couldn’t find anything like them. (We were eventually able to find someone selling them on Amazon, but since they came from Korea it took a while for them to be shipped here, and there were also high fees for international processing.)

I’d love to find someone here in the US who sells these products or offers something similar. In the meantime, I am also open to ways we can make something similar on our own. Maybe sewing thin magnets into fabric sleeves or thick ribbons, starching them for rigidity and durability? If you have any suggestions, please let me know!


Book Review: One Word (That Will Change Your Life)

I believe that words are powerful, and so the practice of selecting a word, just one word, to shape an entire year makes perfect sense to me. It’s clear I’m not alone in this thinking, because so many people are taking on this practice in 2016, largely because of the popular book, One Word by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page.

The authors of One Word begin the book by sharing their own personal journeys in arriving to the idea that focusing on a IMG_7816single word for an entire year can have a significant impact on our lives. They share that selecting a word to be our guide is an introspective process, and they invite us to begin our own journey with these simple steps:  1) Prepare your heart, 2) Discover your word, and 3) Live your word.

Early on in the book, the authors discuss the idea of a “stretch team” and the importance of sharing the word with others. They also talk about how the one word we select will have an impact on many facets of our lives including: spiritual, physical, emotional, relational, mental, and financial areas.

Once a word has been selected for the year, the authors share ways that we can keep the word “front and center” in our lives. Suggestions like putting the word on our computer’s screensaver or posting it in our kitchen or car, journaling about the word, and even choosing a song that reminds us of our word are some of the strategies the authors give for making sure that we stay focused on the word throughout the year. And again, they discuss the idea of sharing the word with a close group of people, a “stretch team.”

It is suggested that each year we start afresh with a new word, not repeating words or carrying them over from year to year. At the same time, the authors also ask that we resist the urge to take a “to do list” or “check the box” approach toward this practice. They place a strong emphasis on the One Word approach being a continuous journey.

I would absolutely recommend this book, which is a pretty quick read, to anyone who is open to or looking for new ways of setting intentions and becoming more mindful about how our everyday actions and decisions, including the specific words we use, impact our lives.

IMG_7886(One of my personal reading goals for 2016 is to spend more time reflecting on the books that I read and intentionally incorporating new information into my own life, comparing information or experiences, and seeking out additional or related information. To do this, I’m talking about the books I read with the #SixtyBooks community, keeping a journal just for the books I read this year, and taking the time to write a blog post for each book I read. )

I first started the practice of keeping what I called a “focus word” a few years ago. It was right after a period of time in which I was dealing with many (many!) changes all at once. Because of this, I found myself reflecting on how I wanted to respond to all of the change, the one thing that I knew I could control.

I selected a word, an adjective, as a mantra that I would repeat over and over to myself. When faced with a task or decision, I thought of this adjective and selected the option that I felt reflected it best. I lived each day to embody the word. I used the word when I wrote privately as well as in conversation, not only in describing myself but everyone and everything around me. It was an amazing and powerful experience. Before long, I noticed that people (those I knew well and even total strangers) were using this word to describe me, my actions, and my efforts, and I truly felt like the word described who I was. It worked!

Much like the authors of One Word suggest, I’ve continued to select a new word (for me it’s always an adjective) every January. Where my practice and the authors’ practice differ, however, is that I am very careful not to share my word, at least not in…so many words.

Instead, while I keep the word itself private, I let my actions and the influence the word has on me communicate the focus word. I’m able to know when I am successfully making the intended improvements in my life or growing as a person when I notice others use the word I’ve been focusing on to describe me, my behaviors, or my work.

While I agree with the authors that a single word has the power to shape our entire lives and that we need to “live our word” I think it’s important to keep in mind that how we choose to do so is very personal. One person’s strategy will not necessarily work for everyone else. For me, part of the reason this practice has worked so well is that I make many efforts to express my focus word in other ways than sharing the word itself. For other people sharing the word might make it more meaningful. It’s different for everyone.

One Word is the second book I read for the
#SixtyBooks in 2016 Reading Challenge.
To learn more about the #SixtyBooks reading movement,



From the authors’ site:
One Word creates clarity, power, passion and life-change. The simple power of One Word is that it impacts all six dimensions of your life – mental, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and financial. Simply put, One Word sticks. There is a word meant for you and when you find it, live it, and share it, your life will become more rewarding and exciting than ever.


Nonstories (and Reflecting on the Last Few Reads of 2015)

I think it’s a lot of fun to read books during the time of year that they take place or when the topic is timely. For example, I like to read spooky stories or books like Dracula around Halloween and books set at the beach in the summer.

For the last few years, I’ve been making it a point to read seasonal books around the holidays. In fact, when I’m out at library sales during the year, I’ll pick up some Christmas-themed books so I can stock up and tuck them away until December rolls around. At first it was just one seasonal book a year, then a couple more, and this year it was six.

These are the seasonal books I read in 2015:

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  • Matchless by Gregory Maguire
  • Christmas Legends to Remember by Helen Haidle
  • Promise Me by Richard Paul Evans
  • The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon
  • Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah
  • A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

Deciding on the last book to read for the year was no easy task. (Nor, for that matter, is choosing the first book of 2016!) I’m really glad that for me the last book I read in 2015 was Shreve’s A Wedding in December. I loved the complexity of each of the characters as well as the historical story within a story that develops as we get to know those characters better. In the book, the characters each reflect on the things that have happened to and around them over the years, the consequences of their own choices, and even the nonstories of their lives…the things that could or might have happened, but didn’t. The nonstories are some of the most important parts of the plot and some of my most favorite things about the book.

Nonstories actually occur to me often (both my own potential nonstories and those of others) and since finishing the book, I’ve been thinking about how important nonstories really are to us, whether or not we are aware of them.

What if we took the other job? What if a different neighbor moved in next door? What if we were a few minutes early or late the day of the accident? And there are so many others…

As we welcome in the new year, I can’t help but wonder if these nonstories might be fodder for our new year’s resolutions? Either way, I’m so happy that Shreve’s beautiful words and this notion of nonstories are helping me bridge 2015 and 2016. I haven’t quite figured yet out what sort of bridge it is, exactly, but I’m certainly looking forward to all of the stories and nonstories that 2016 are going to bring.

Though I did complete my reading goal of sixty books in 2015, there were many books that I didn’t read but would have liked to…more nonstories, perhaps?

Do you ever save books for a certain time of year? Do you like to read books “out of season” so that you can celebrate Christmas in July or escape to the beach in the middle of winter? What do you think of nonstories?

Leave a comment below, or join the #SixtyBooks discussion on Twitter.


(And…remember, you can still sign up for the
#SixtyBooks in 2016 Reading Challenge
if you haven’t already!)