May 22-28, 2017

The past five days have been a total blur, so much so that I didn’t even post on Sunday/Monday about my week in reading. It is now the following Friday, and yet another reading week is almost over.

All of the blame goes to a super cute new puppy friend we made that Thomas rescued last weekend. Let me introduce you to Sam…he also goes by Sam Finnegan, Pup-Pup, and Lil Baby. He has been a handful when it comes to feeding, training, taking out every 2-3 hours because his bladder is tiny, puppy classes, first vet appointments, and of course receiving much loving and attention from us. He is very cute, but he is also hogging up all the time!

I also started volunteering/interning at the UF libraries with a College of Journalism & Communications librarian, which is also a new development that has been taking up some of my time (and requires early mornings)! I have enjoyed it so far. That plus continuing my weekly volunteering at the public library has me feeling like I have found enough things to put on my plate this summer before we leave for Colorado.

This post also was supposed to be done during Memorial Day weekend, which was my brother Junior’s birthday. He is 10 now… so that’s ludicrous and real life. My baby brother is 10. I went home and celebrated with him.

Anyway, let’s finally talk about the reading I’ve been doing. (Honestly, not much.) Since my last post I’ve finished The Vegetarian by Han Kang, which was one of the most memorable books I’ve read this year. It was hard to put down the first 2/3rds, extremely sad, but also smart and thought-provoking. I really enjoyed my experience reading it with two other lovely ladies as part of a buddy read, and I definitely will read Human Acts before the year is over.

I also finished Photobooth: A Biography by Meags Fitzgerald. It was a completely different kind of graphic memoir, looking at the history of photobooths and then entwining that with the author’s own personal history with photobooths. Some parts were more engaging than others – I don’t really feel the same niche passion about photobooths, but I can definitely tell it was important to the author. I enjoyed learning more about what photobooths meant to the author and her reminiscing.

I did get back into audiobooks this week. On Friday I drove for five hours for Junior’s birthday, and for the majority of those five hours I listened to The Song Machine by John Seabrook. It is super easy to listen to, especially because it’s about pop songs and narratives I know. As I got home I had an hour or so left, which I got to finish on my drive back north on Monday.

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May 15-21, 2017

My reading week has not been I’ve-finished-books productive, but it has been productive in starting new things I have been really excited about and am enjoying.

I finished Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, which I was close to finishing last week. I liked it, but it struggled to resonate emotionally for me. I felt this same way with Another Brooklyn, which is slightly disappointing, but I do value the themes and topics Woodson explores and I do enjoy her writing. I finished The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg too. I enjoyed that a lot more than I initially expected. It was so whimsical, self-aware, and fun to see bamf women and girls outsmart manipulative punks. I liked it quite a bit.

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Right now I’m in the middle of three things: Pride and Prejudice, The Vegetarian, and Photobooth: A Biography. I am finally reading my first Austen – and a book I had on my 2017 TBR list – with three lovely women as part of a buddy read. I am about a third of the way through and I am so interested to see how this will come together. I want to learn more about both Elizabeth and Darcy. So far I love the dialogue and have been enjoying listening to it on audiobook on YouTube.

I am reading The Vegetarian by Han Kang, which I started quite a few days ago. I read the first 60 pages in a sitting or two and was so HOOKED IN. Everything about it is calling me to rate it 5 stars so far. I love the way it’s written/translated and it’s so suspenseful, gripping, and thought-provoking. I’ve joined a buddy read of it now too, so I will definitely be finishing that soon.

Photobooth: A Biography by Meags Fitzgerald is something else I have started. I am really enjoying its set-up: I find myself most interested in graphic novels/memoirs that don’t follow the typical graphic novel structure. It also mixes both the author’s experience with an actual history of photobooths which is teaching me a lot!

I’ve been failing recently on audiobooks. I think it’s mostly because I don’t have to drive for long periods of time right now, so I am still reading Maya Angelou’s autobiography. I started H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald, listened to an hour, and decided to return it. I don’t think I want a book centering on grief at the moment. I felt like I wanted something more light, so I checked out The Song Machine by John Seabrook, which I have heard mentioned often in the Switched On Pop podcast. We’ll see if I finish any audiobooks this week. I should be moving the majority of my stuff into Thomas’s house for safekeeping, so maybe I’ll listen to audiobooks as I go about finishing packing and doing the move.

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May 8-14, 2017

My reading this week was a bit more stilted than last week. I feel like last week I was go, go, go right after Thomas left for his trip. This week was a bit more slow, but I still got some things accomplished.

I finished Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar, which was fantastic. I’m almost sure I liked it more than Into Thin Air (I’m placing all the outdoorsy hiking tragedy books in my head I suppose). It was so fascinating to learn about something so mysterious, creepy, and seemingly unsolvable. We will not know what actually happened, probably ever. But it was insightful to learn what theories have been posited before and to learn Eichar’s new theory as well. I definitely learned a lot about Russia I didn’t know prior, including information about the Mansi people, the importance of hiking for many young adults at the time, and the incredible weather conditions they faced. I’d be surprised if this doesn’t make it to on my favorites list at the end of the year.

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The moment I realized I was going to have nightmares that night.

I also finished the first volume of the Archie reboot. To be honest, it was slightly disappointing most of the way through. I think I am way more lenient towards graphic novels, and especially first volumes, but I thought there was room for improvement here. Overall, I enjoyed the tone and the characters (I can easily say I liked this Archie way more than The CW’s rendition of Archie), but I think some spark was lacking. Maybe it was that I expected automatic friendship between Betty and Veronica. It’s highly likely I am comparing this reboot to The CW show too much, because I’ve never read any Archie comics before. I will try volume two though.

I started a few things this week too, which I’m hoping to finish next week. I need to get it together and finish Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I am enjoying it, but it’s not one I crave to pick up. I have less than 75 pages to go, probably. I also started The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg on Sunday, which I hope to finish soon. I’m definitely enjoying that one and what it’s saying about storytelling. I’m still about a third of the way through Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

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2016 Read Harder Challenge

It’s down to the wire and I really have to get it together in the next month to accomplish this challenge.

The 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge:

✔ Read a horror book: Uzumaki, Vol. 1 by Junji Ito.

✔ Read a nonfiction book about science: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Read a collection of essays.

✔ Read a book out loud to someone else.

✔ Read a middle grade novel: I’ve read lots. But The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket for the first time was a treat.

✔ Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography): Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik.

✔ Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel: Sweet Tooth, Volume 1: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire – I’m on Vol. 3.

✔ Read a book originally published in the decade you were born: The Giver by Lois Lowry.

✔ Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award: Yes Please by Amy Poehler.

✔ Read a book over 500 pages long: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling.

✔ Read a book under 100 pages: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie… another great one that’s fiction: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami.

✔ Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender: George by Alex Gino.

✔ Read a book that is set in the Middle East: Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkeyby Ozgë Samanci.

Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia: I was going to read The Sympathizer but it will take forever to get to me from the library, so I will probably read The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Singaporean author Sonny Liew.

Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900: Still debating what to do for this one. I thought I’d do Burial Rites by Hanna Kent or Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon, but we’ll see.

✔ Read the first book in a series by a person of color: March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. I’m on book 3 and still rating them five stars.

✔ Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years: Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsch and Yuko Ota.

✔ Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie.
Debate which is better.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. I think I decided I liked the book better, but the film was great.

✔ Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer.

Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction): Thinking of doing Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.

✔ Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction): America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert.

✔ Read a food memoir: Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley.

✔ Read a play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two

Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness: Going to do Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson on audiobook.

As of late | May 27, 2016

It’s been almost two months since my last “as of late” post, but that will be mitigated today! I have been keeping track of stuff I want to talk about on my Google Drive, but haven’t sat down and actually written the post. Alright, enough rambling, here’s what I’ve been into as of late…

Booktube’s influence in my life –> What Should I Read Next podcast

I’ve realized that booktube has been influencing the books I’ve been reading lately – more so than I really want it to be influencing what I’m reading. I don’t remember the last book I picked up that wasn’t even tangentially a recommendation from outside of booktube. YouTube is a great platform to get across to others that you love a book and that they should pick up said book and love it too. For this reason, I have been picking up more booktube recommended fiction and YA fiction than normal. There is nothing wrong with either, but I want my reading experience to be more diverse genre-wise and for my recommendations to come from more diverse sources, too.

As a result, I found a new podcast! Podcasts are the second most common way I find recommendations (typically On Point or Fresh Air or On the Media) will talk about books in segments they are doing, thus piquing my interest. Then, I’ll get the book, I’ll read the book, and I’ll love the book (best example: Matt Bai’s All the Truth is Out: the Year Politics Went Tabloid, which was a recommendation of On the Media).

I haven’t been following up on podcast recommendations lately, so I found “What Should I Read Next,” a podcast by Anne Bogel. She has guests with very different reading tastes and asks them about books they’ve loved, hated, and what they are currently reading. Then she finds them new books based on that. My favorite thing about this podcast is that Anne has “normal” readers like you and me on her show – it’s not a show with authors, or well-known people in the book world, so it’s very grounded.

So far I am really loving the format and the book picks. I shall get to reading some of them soon. (I need to find more reading podcasts that match my tastes, so if you have any you should drop them in the comments.)

 

booksareweapons 2Books as weapons

Librarians were important in the war effort during WWI and WWII. They provided books for soldiers to lift morale, to offer technical education, and often to help soldiers connect with the world they knew back home. During WWI and WWII, librarians were responsible for collecting 10 million and 17 million books, respectively. You should read the short piece on NPR if you’re a fan of libraries and history (hey, that perfectly describes me).

Recently added to my TBR

One of my favorite past time is adding new books to my monstrously huge TBR (it’s well over 200 books… I don’t have enough hours in the day and I don’t have enough years of life!!).

I have been fascinated by White Trash: the 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. I first heard about it on On the Media and it pretty much has all the history things I find interesting: the intermingling histories of culture, race, and class. I’m also really excited to read Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. Again, topics I find fascinating: culture and how it impacts sexual ideals and sexual pressures.  Another Jon Krakauer book (I read Missoula this year): Into Thin Air. I’ve been researching Mt. Everest a lot recently since in the past week a handful of people have died trying to climb or descend the mountain. I’ve heard Into Thin Air is gripping, so it might be the perfect non-fiction book to get me back to non-fiction. Ok, I will stop writing about TBR books after this one: Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams. This one I got from What Should I Read Next as a “beach read” that still has great, well-developed characters you can connect with, AND a 1960s historical setting. We shall see if I like it!

A really fantastic YouTuber I found recently

Typically I watch either booktubers or family vloggers on YouTube. The other day I found a new YouTuber that is neither of those. Evelyn from the Internets makes more comedic videos based on stuff that happens in her life. I found her through the VEDA videos she was creating in April after I saw a link to her videos on Rosianna Halse Rojas’s Twitter. The one that made me laugh the hardest – like my belly hurt from laughing – was one about how Kanye West saved her life. Her video about Beyonce’s Lemonade album got featured at Beyonce’s concert tour. She also made a reaction to that a few days ago which is amazing (linked below). I haven’t watched all of the VEDA videos but hopefully I can make my way through them soon.

The cicadas are here

Have you guys heard? A brood of cicadas that have been in the ground for 17 years have started to come out. They are mostly found in West Virginia and Ohio, but will also make appearances in some parts of the surrounding states. David Attenborough’s video about these long-in-the-ground cicadas were my first introduction to what these cicadas sound and look like. I have already started to see them on the ground and on trees. Of course, nothing is as gross and aggravating as cockroaches, so I think I am good. However, the 17-year cicadas haven’t started “singing” to mate just yet. If you go to 1:52 in the David Attenborough video and listen to the noise the cicadas make you can get an idea… I don’t know if I am ready for that mental torture.

Great stuff in short

New currency featuring women and people of color. I am really happy they decided to not just re-do the $20, but to re-do a bunch of other bills. I love that Eleanor Roosevelt will be on the back of the $5! 

New national monument to women’s equality in D.C. I will be taking a trip to D.C. with my dad and brothers this June, so it’s definitely on the list of things I have to see.

Jeffrey Golberg on On Point with Tom Ashbrook about Obama’s foreign policy. This hour honestly explained everything I could ever imagine asking about Obama’s foreign policy and how he sees the world. If you’ve ever been stumped about how to think about Obama’s foreign policy, Jeffrey Goldberg explains it in terms we easily understand, and then we can compare Obama’s policies and ideologies with how we (ourselves) think foreign policy should be done.

The Lonely Death of George Bell by N.R. Kleinfield. This story is just, wow. It was first published in 2015, but I never read it until it was nominated for a Pulitzer. At first I was like, “This is way too long” but then I started reading and soon I couldn’t stop. A great piece of journalism, which also poses lots of questions about journalistic ethics (would George Bell have wanted this published?). 

This is what happens when I rack up all my favorite media things for a month and a half: 1200 words… hopefully I’m back sooner than this next time!

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My stained glass experience

Last week I took a stained glass class and made my own creation. Truly, something I never thought I’d do when I moved to West Virginia.

We made a Friendship Ring quilt pattern and we got to pick the stained glass pieces we liked. In part because the glass pieces were ready for us and in part because our teacher was incredible, this project was 100 times easier than I expected. I learned all kinds of terms, including solder and flux. I learned how to use these tools, best practices for getting smooth soldering, how to put putty so the piece is more stable, and then cleaning it by using sawdust.

Appalachian crafts and skills are so incredible. Where I come from, I just go to Walmart and buy what I need. I never really get to create things; I never get to express myself using art.

Before I took this class, I was a little bit resistant because of the price tag, but my supervisor pushed for me to take it. It was so worth it and I’m so glad I ended up doing. Pretty, pretty cool!

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My workspace before I got to work!

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Getting started… we used push pins to keep our glass pieces in place and stuck lead pieces between each glass piece.

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Getting there!

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Ready to start using the iron for the outside!

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Ta-da! I made this! From nothing! (Well not from nothing but…)

Until next time, from this #EmbarrassingFloridianInWV to you.

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As of late | March 17, 2016

 

It’s been a while, but I’m back with another post about what I’ve been thinking about the media I’m consuming…

News

New technologies at the library: When I told a librarian at my local library back home that I was thinking about going to back to school to become a librarian, she was supportive and told me how much she loved her job even after 30 years. However, she didn’t let me go without a couple of warnings about the future of librarianship. She said I should consider being a librarian if I’m passionate about technology and new innovation. She talked about how her job has changed: the library has had a decline in circulation so they’re focusing on new ventures to get patrons, such as 3D-printers, e-books, and other technologies. Librarians now have to be on the cutting-edge of all that is innovative because they feel that’s the future of getting patrons to step in the door. In this story, we see how people are using these technologies at libraries. The reality is that libraries need to change to survive and they believe this should be their new focus. I’m not sure if I am as into new technologies as the librarian thinks I need to be, but I can see how the technology has increasingly become important. And at least it seems to be bringing new people into the library. To me, libraries can be both spaces for books AND innovation, and just getting people in the door (for whatever reason) is the first step.

The biggest abortion case to come to the Supreme Court in decadesI watched a bunch of John Oliver clips with Thomas the other day, including one about abortion rights and the Supreme Court case heard a couple weeks ago. The decision has yet to come on the case, but I still think it’s important to be aware of the general facts of the case. Lawmakers and proponents say that this law protects women’s health and ensures their safety. As a result of HB2, which laid out new requirements for clinics (for example, wide hallways and admitting privileges at a local hospital), 26 of 36 clinics closed from 2013 to June 2015. There are now only 10 clinics in the state. Furthermore, 25% of women in Texas have to drive 100 miles to find an abortion provider and there’s almost a complete wasteland with no abortion providers west of Ft. Worth/Austin/San Antonio (see this map). I will definitely be watching for the decision this summer.

Podcasts

On The Media always ends up discussing things I’m interested in, but this past week they did an episode about all things bookish and lit! They dispelled the idea that e-books were going to take over the world (in 2015, physical book sales went up). To be honest, this was never something I really thought would happen – people enjoy physical books and everything (even e-book use) goes in cycles of popularity. I used e-books quite a lot when I was in college, but since 2015 I’ve been frequenting my library to get physical books. There are also entertaining stories about the biggest book thief, how a company is selling/recycling books by the foot for show houses and offices, and how coloring books got started as a political statement and typically mocked 1960s corporate America. I love OTM and they are always teaching me something new.

This episode of RadioLab about debate succumbed me. It really had all the elements  to grip me: a story of an underdog, a story of race and queerness, and a story of the power of words. I never knew much about debating before this (especially debate-speak). I also found it interesting to see the experience of children of color in a typically “white space” like debate. The end is interesting too, including what the POC debate community sees as a “backlash” and a consequence of Ryan Wash’s story. You should check this one out.

Another story that had the same tone (emotional and deep but also humorous at times) was Radio Diaries’s recent story about Frankie Lewchuk. Mostly, Frankie as a narrator is what made me love this story. He talked about growing up in the South (his accent is contagious) and his losing-est but still fun high school football career. Then, in the next episode about a grown-up Frankie, which looks back to his teenage years, things get way more serious and heartbreaking with stories about his dad’s past and stories about Frankie using drugs.

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