Book Juggling

February 4, 2016

If you were to look at my “currently reading” shelf on Goodreads right now, you might raise a skeptical eyebrow. See, the thing is, I am “currently reading” seven books (OK, I’m really actively reading six, but that seventh is there because I’ll get back to it one of these days).

It isn’t particularly uncommon for me to be reading a couple of books simultaneously, but I don’t generally read this many all at once. Every so often though, I go through this weird book juggling phase and I have no clue what triggers it. Normally it’s just a different way for me to read, but right now it’s kind of stressing me out.

It isn’t that the books I’m reading don’t hold my interest (they do when I’m reading them!), but for some reason I’ve recently felt this drive to keep starting new books. Heck, I’ve actually had to stop myself from starting some other new ones even as I struggle to finish the ones I’ve got going right now.

I’ve been making better progress in the last couple of days, so it’s possible I’ll be out of this phase soon, but if not, I might just let myself abandon some for now. After all, I can always go back to them later, right?

Do any of you go through these kinds of book juggling phases? How do they make you feel? Do they stress you out, or do you just go with the flow? How do you jumpstart your reading and get back to “normal”?

Recapping #24in48

January 19, 2016

Sooooo I kind of failed spectacularly at my first attempt at the #24in48 Readathon.

I could make excuses, but basically, I just suck at planning and so it didn’t really work out.

I still had a decent amount of fun reading and posting and following along with other participants, so it’s not like it was a complete bust.

During the readathon I finished Undermajordomo Minor and read the majority of Bad Feminist, as well as bits of Missoula and the Alexander Hamilton biography.

Like I said, I had fun. Maybe I’ll try again. Or maybe I’ll just stick to regular reading weekends.

#24in48 Readathon

January 15, 2016

The #24in48 Readathon is upon us and I have decided to participate because why wouldn’t I want to take a read-cation?

I have a few commitments on Saturday and Sunday, but the beauty of the 24 in 48 format is that there is flexibility.

Surprising no one, I was super indecisive when trying to pick which books I’d try to read during the ‘thon. Knowing full well that I won’t get to all of these (and that I might jump around between a few of them), here’s my physical stack:

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I also have Missoula by Jon Krakauer and The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondatjee on my kindle app.

I will probably be posting most of my readathon updates on instagram and twitter using the #24in48 hashtag, so follow me @poindextrix for all the bookish fun.

 

Now that we’re firmly entrenched in 2016 (I say this as if we could somehow slip back in time…) I’m taking a moment to look back on my year in reading and figure out my 2016 reading goals/resolutions.

I use a combination of Goodreads and a variation on Book Riot’s ultimate reading spreadsheet to track my reading. It has been super helpful, but I’m often pretty bad at adding books to my spreadsheet in a timely fashion. I’m going to try to be better about this — mostly for my own sanity; it’s way less overwhelming if I add books as I go and not in giant batches every few months.

In 2015 I finished reading 112 books. 26 were by people of color. 71 were by women. 5 were in translation. There is clearly room for improvement here, so diversifying my reading is a main goal for me. In addition to people of color and works in translation, I want to read more books by and/or about people who are LGBT, disabled, and otherwise outside the “norm” as defined by mainstream publishing. I’ve added columns in my spreadsheet to cover “other author diversity” and “diversity representation” to try and track this (I know it’s flawed, but it’s the best I’ve come up with so far. I’m open to suggestions if you have them).

I’ve also been tracking where the books I read come from because I think that’s incredibly interesting (and/or I’m a colossal nerd). 34 of the physical books I read came from a library (I’m extremely fortunate in that I can borrow from both the public and university libraries). 26 of my books consumed were audiobooks and 32 were e-books (only 4 of which were not borrowed electronically from the Free Library of Philadelphia). I really started exploring audiobooks this year and it has tremendously enhanced my reading life, so I plan to continue that practice in 2016.

In addition to getting better at tracking, reading more diversely, and reading more in translation, I’d also like to branch out more when it comes to genre — especially comics. Maybe I’ll even go crazy and start a pull list this year.

And, of course, I want to blog more. I’m working on it, really. But I’m also all over bookstagram, so if you get too impatient waiting for me to post here about the stuff I’m reading, follow me @poindextrix for books, cats, and other random bits of whimsy.

Now I’m heading back to the Alexander Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow. It’s the book on which Hamilton (the musical) is primarily based (sort of). In addition to scratching that Hamilton itch, it’ll check off a few boxes for the Book Riot 2016 Read Harder Challenge!

What are you reading right now? Do you make reading resolutions? If so, what are they? Do you have suggestions for books in translation that I should read? Put ’em in the comments!

Happy reading, friends!

Yep, I’m jumping on that bandwagon and presenting you guys with my own list of best books of the year. Since I haven’t read anywhere near all the books (or even all the buzziest books) published this year, my list is pulled from the books I’ve read in the past year. Some of those are 2014 or 2015 books and some are super backlist.

These are all books I enjoyed or that made me think. There isn’t that much more of a method than that. So in no particular order…

2015 titles:

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina McLaughlin

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Slade House by David Mitchell

The Girl Who Slept with God by Val Brelinski

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen

Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConick, Valentine De Landro, Taki Soma, and Robert Wilson

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee (OK, technically this is a 2016 book, but since this is a list of the best books I read in 2015, I’m counting it).

Backlist titles:

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

Stiff by Mary Roach

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

 

Now I’m off to ring in the new year in (relative) style. Happy New Year to everyone and I’ll see you in 2016!

I’ve been meaning to write about Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night for a while, but I kept getting distracted. If the title sounds familiar, it’s possible that you’re a Book Riot fan and heard Liberty proclaim that she would eat James Patterson if this book doesn’t do well.

Well, I’m a lucky duck with *connections* and I managed to get my hands on an advance copy.

Guys, I think James Patterson is safe.

The Queen of the Night is so good. So. Good.

I love historical fiction and I love sort of epic, sprawling tales that follow characters through radically different stages in life. This book scratches all of those itches for me. I love how the protagonist is able to shift and adapt to new situations — she’s a strong, if somewhat selfish character. She is complicated and intense and I really liked seeing her story unfold. I also enjoyed how opera plays an ongoing role in the book. It added an extra sense of depth to the story. That being said, I don’t think that an interest in/knowledge of opera is necessary to enjoy The Queen of the Night.

I don’t want to say any more about it at this point (other than it’s fantastic and you should read it) because I want you to really be able to take it all in fresh when you read it.

It comes out in February 2016. Plan accordingly. Once you start reading it, you might not want to stop and it’s a hefty-ish book. But yeah, read it. Make sure James Patterson is safe.

Before heading up to NY for Book Riot Live (or book nerd camp for grown-ups, as I’ve decided to call it), I spent an evening at the Free Library of Philadelphia listening to a conversation with Patti Smith. She was on tour to promote her new memoir M Train, but spoke a bit about Just Kids as well.

I’d re-read Just Kids in a sort of semi-preparation for the event and was experiencing a flurry of mixed emotions. I loved Just Kids the first time I read it. I’ve proclaimed (often) that the book changed my life and when that thing about listing your 10 most important books was all over Facebook, you better believe that it was on my list.

And so, when I re-read it (with pen in hand to underline all the lines that changed my life) I felt a little bit let down. Much of the language is poetic, and I still find the evolution of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe beautiful and inspiring, but something was missing — I didn’t feel the same stirring in my soul as the first time I read it and I found this troubling.

Hearing Patti Smith speak was lovely, but the amazing (for me) moment came during the audience Q & A at the end. A woman stood up and said that Patti Smith had been a great role model for her as an artist, a mother, and a feminist and asked her what advice she would give to a young girl growing up right now. Patti Smith started talking and I found myself taking fevered notes on my phone:

  • Do the best that you can
  • Think for yourself
  • Don’t judge based on superficial things
  • Feel yourself as an individual
  • Connect with the world, but remember who you are [when] unconnected

In hearing this advice I was able to identify why Just Kids meant so much to me when I initially read it and why it didn’t hit as hard upon re-reading.

I will be the first to admit that I definitely don’t have everything figured out, but I can say with some amount of confidence that I’ve begun to figure myself out. I think reading Just Kids had a lot (though admittedly not everything) to do with that; it showed me the merits of embracing my “authentic self.” The process of being who I want to be — quirks and bizarre enthusiasms and all — began long before I read Just Kids and continued after, but I think that the book helped something click in my brain. And so when I began my re-reading, that switch was already flipped and the book didn’t feel as revolutionary.

Without this revelation, I’m not sure how I would feel about this book right now. In acknowledging what I took from it the first time, I feel like I can still call it a book that is important in my life. And it’s entirely possible that I’ll pick it up again some time in the future and have other, entirely different feelings about it. I believe that I have changed a lot as a person, especially in the last 5 years, so it makes perfect sense for the way I experience books to change.

I don’t have to give up books that meant a lot to me at the time just because I’ve grown and changed. And that realization has been particularly freeing.

Book Riot Live!!

November 10, 2015

Book Riot Live was in New York this past weekend and I had such a blast that I’m having trouble adjusting to “regular life” again.

It was exciting to meet Rioters and spend time with so many glorious book nerds. The atmosphere was incredibly positive and inclusive and representative of why I love the bookish community so much. One minute you’re geeing out with other fans about an author and their work, and the next moment you’re geeing out with that author.

All of the panels that I had the opportunity to attend were fantastic and really echoed the values that I’ve come to associate with Book Riot — enthusiasm for all kinds of books and fandom, inclusivity and attention to diversity, and devotion to inspiring thoughtful conversations about important topics in the bookish community. My main complaint about Book Riot Live is that there were too many interesting panels happening at the same time and I hate choosing! Clearly next time around there should be some Book Riot time turners so that attendees can go to everything.

This weekend at Book Riot Live was fantastic. I learned about (and bought) so many new books, connected with other enthusiastic book nerds, and met some amazing authors. Now it’s time to sit back, brew some tea (or, let’s be honest, open a bottle of wine), and dive into my pile of newly acquired books. I probably have enough books and recommendations to last until Book Riot Live 2016. Probably…

And now, I bring you some of my favorite photos from the weekend. Follow me on Instagram (@poindextrix) for future real-time book nerd-dom!

Posing with my badge. I also got a wizard/activist ribbon from the Harry Potter Alliance!

Posing with my badge. I also got a wizard/activist ribbon from the Harry Potter Alliance!

The pigeon's name is Reginald. We became fast friends.

The pigeon’s name is Reginald. We became fast friends.

Lithographs made temporary tattoos of lines from The Handmaid's Tale for the Book Riot Live tattoo chain. They saved the first line for Margaret Atwood.

Lithographs made temporary tattoos of lines from The Handmaid’s Tale for the Book Riot Live tattoo chain. They saved the first line for Margaret Atwood.

This is my line.

This is my line.

Speaking of Margaret Atwood, she had some great things to say at the "Writing What You Don't Know" panel.

Speaking of Margaret Atwood, she had some great things to say at the “Writing What You Don’t Know” panel.

The shelf for the Harry Potter Alliance's apparating library was overflowing with fantastic choices.

The shelf for the Harry Potter Alliance’s apparating library was overflowing with fantastic choices.

A peek at my purchases post-cocktails at the Strand.

A peek at my purchases post-cocktails at the Strand.

Liberty and Rebecca show off their big spoon/little spoon shirts at the taping of the All the Books podcast. They're kind of fantastic (the people and the shirts).

Liberty and Rebecca show off their big spoon/little spoon shirts at the taping of the All the Books podcast. They’re kind of fantastic (the people and the shirts).

Speaking of amazing people, did I mention that I met and took a picture with Margaret Atwood at the cocktail party at the Strand?! Because that happened!

Speaking of amazing people, did I mention that I met and took a picture with Margaret Atwood at the cocktail party at the Strand?! Because that happened!

Another awesome thing: In what will probably be the best idea I'll ever had in my life, I got some of the women of Book Riot to sign my copy of Bitch Planet.

Another awesome thing: In what will probably be the best idea I’ll ever had in my life, I got some of the women of Book Riot to sign my copy of Bitch Planet.

And here's my full book haul! Lumberjanes (books 1 & 2), Nimona, Bats of the Republic, Life After Life, I Capture the Castle, And Sometimes I Wonder About You, Faceless, All Fall Down, Saga (book 5), Bitch Planet (book 1), A Darker Shade of Magic, Housekeeping, and The Handmaid's Tale.

And here’s my full book haul! Lumberjanes (books 1 & 2), Nimona, Bats of the Republic, Life After Life, I Capture the Castle, And Sometimes I Wonder About You, Faceless, All Fall Down, Saga (book 5), Bitch Planet (book 1), A Darker Shade of Magic, Housekeeping, and The Handmaid’s Tale.

 

 

I’ve been a terrible book blogger recently in that even though I’ve continued to consume loads of books, I haven’t been writing about them (I have, however, continued to post stuff on Instagram and twitter, so you should clearly follow me @poindextrix on both #shamelessselfpromotion).

But since I’m about to embark on what I can only describe as a book nerd-dom bonanza, I thought I better pop in with a quick update (with the obvious fingers-crossed promise that I’ll be better about updates in the future).

Last week I went to a Free Library of Philadelphia author event in which Ruth Reichl talked about her new book My Kitchen Year. She was fabulous, this book is fabulous — and gorgeous — and I’ll hopefully start making things out of that and tell you about it soon.

But tonight. Tonight I’m heading back to the Free Library to see Patti Smith talk about her new memoir M Train. You may remember how much I love her first memoir, Just Kids. For those just joining us: the answer is a lot. A whole lot. M Train talks more about the later years, the less Robert-centric years, I take it. I’m incredibly excited to read it and super excited to meet/see/breathe the same air as Patti Smith and hopefully get her to sign my copy of Just Kids, which I just finished re-reading.

Crazily, I won’t even have time to come down off of my Patti Smith high, because as soon as I leave the library, I’m heading up to New York for Book Riot Live. When people ask me what my plans are for this weekend I’ve been saying I’m going to a book nerd convention, and I think that’s describing it pretty accurately. It’s not like BEA in that this is way less industry-centric. This is an event for readers and it’s mostly about what readers love and care about and I’m so excited in case you couldn’t tell by my complete incoherence.

I’m really looking forward to this weekend. I think it’s going to be fantastically bookish in the best ways. If you’re at Book Riot Live and see/recognize me, come say hi!

Readathon In Review

October 14, 2015

I’m a bit delayed in this, but I’m finally sitting down to recount my Popepocalypse Readathon experience. I think it ended up going really well. It was nice to have a few days in which I decided to just devote the time to reading and relaxing. Also, the weather was great, so I spent a ton of time out on my balcony (did I mention my new apartment has a balcony? It’s fantastic and I’m kind of obsessed with it) and at the local coffee shop’s outdoor seating just enjoying the lovely weather with tea and books.

Yeah, yeah, I get it. I should stop blathering on about the weather and tell you about the books.

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First up was Woman Rebel by Peter Bagge. It’s a graphic … biography? (like graphic novel, but a biography. Can I just call it a graphic novel even though it’s a true story?) about Margaret Sanger, who is generally regarded as the mother of birth control. She’s was a bit of a complicated woman and remains a polarizing figure since she wasn’t super intersectional in her feminism, but I think that this was book was a fair representation of her. The art style of this wasn’t my absolute favorite, but I think that’s just personal preference.

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After that, I moved on to Peter Pan. I mean, it’s a classic. I don’t even have much to say about it beyond that. It’s a good deal darker and a kind of more bizarre than all the Disney-fied versions that we see these days.

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The next book I read was Bloggess Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy. I honestly recommend that everyone read this because it is touching and inspiring and hilarious and so many other things that I don’t even have words for. But careful reading it in public because after a while it becomes really difficult to stifle all the laughter.

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Then I moved on to Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older. This had been on my list for a while and I realized that this readathon was the perfect time to dive in. You guys, this book was so good and so much fun. So. Much. Fun. It’s part of the Bone Street Rumba series and I’m excited to read the other books that take place in this world.

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The book I closed out the readathon with was Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. Again. So good. This is one that I think I want to read again even though it’s only been a couple of weeks since I finished it.

I had so much fun doing this readathon and sharing pictures of what I was reading and my progress on social media (and if you’re not following me on Instagram, why not? You’re missing out on some awesome bookish pics. And random shots of food and my cat for variety). Can I just have a three-day weekend to do this every couple of months? That would be spectacular.

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