The Mormon Tabernacle Choir by Michael Hicks

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir by Michael Hicks (University of Illinois Press, March 2015) is a biography of the choir itself. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve grown up with the choir: songs during the biannual general conferences, recordings in my home. Because of my background, I was interested in learning more about the history of the choir.

I found the book to be an interesting read, although I felt a bit overwhelmed and lost at times. I don’t know why. The book clearly followed the choir chronologically from its founding to its current status. Maybe it was a lack of personality in the narrative as it covered the historical events and changing patterns of the choir. Maybe it was simply my frame of mind as I read it. I cannot say that this book was a favorite, but I feel I have a little bit better understanding of the role and significance of the choir to the Church. I am glad that I read the book.

Note: I received a digital copy of the book for review consideration.

The Sound of Music Story by Tom Santopietro

The Sound of Music Story by Tom Santopietro (St. Martin’s Press, 2015) is a celebration and explanation of how a story about a “beguiling” novice becoming the stepmother to singing children became (or inspired), as the book claims “the most beloved film of all time.” It takes a true fan of The Sound of Music to be an eager reader of this book, and I am not surprised to find that I must not be alone, since this book covered the history of the real story and the history of the filming for those interested. I loved learning about the real Maria von Trapp, and the story of the actors, filming, directors, and so forth only helped me enjoy the movie all the more!Continue Reading

The American Plate by Libby O’Connell

The American Plate by Libby O’Connell (Sourcebooks, December 2014) captures the essence of American cooking throughout by highlighting dishes that were essential or popular throughout history. It is truly American history meets foodie, and I love the end result.Continue Reading

How We Learn by Benedict Carey

I read How We Learn by Benedict Carey (Random House, September 2014) at much the same time as I read Born Reading, so I found the correlation between the two quite interesting. Both books were written for very different and unique reasons and for different audiences. But, since I’m a homeschooling mom, I found that I was an appropriate audience for both!

How We Learn is definitely a more technical book, with plenty of references to studies in learning techniques from the past 50 years and more. Nevertheless, Mr. Carey wrote with a familiar tone sometimes, with examples from his own life. These felt more like digressions to me (I honestly did not want to know about his college drug habit!) but overall, the book had a professional feel due to the research involved.

Concepts Mr. Carey covered include basic concepts on how memories form and how we forget, how we best hold on to things we want to learn, what to do about distractions and other difficulties to learning, and how to best tap in to the subconscious to retain learning. I found the most interesting and useful concepts to me as a homeschooling teacher and parent to young children were those about how getting wrong answers and actually forgetting concepts helps strengthen long-term retention. I am all the more eager to give my children “pre-tests” and provide a spiral method to learning and then eventually revisiting concepts.

I also found that it helped me approach the things my son has forgotten in a different way. When he’s forgotten and relearns it, he is more likely to retain it for longer!

In retrospect, the book has stayed with me. While the technical details have escaped me, the basic concepts of learning and forgetting have intrigued me as a teacher. I think it’s a valuable contribution to for the library of teachers and learners!

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for review consideration.