As soon as I found out that Maria Semple — author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and writer for TV shows including Arrested Development — had a new book coming out, I was overcome with a need to read it as soon as possible. It might have edged its way into obsession territory. Edelweiss to the rescue! As soon as my copy came through, I dove right in.

And Today Will Be Different did not disappoint. Semple’s clear eye for detail and sharp wit carry through this book delightfully. There are some similarities to Where’d You Go, Bernadette in that it’s another great observational critique of this one kind of community, but in many ways this is a horse of another color. Today Will Be Different is not as charming as Where’d You Go Bernadette. Eleanor Flood, our protagonist, is frustrating, if funny, and she is quirky, but not always as endearing. In some ways I think this book is more relatable. The (seemingly) promises one makes to oneself — I will shower and get dressed, I will make an effort with people, I will try — ring very true to my ears.

The struggles Eleanor face bring extra depth and dimension to a refreshing and funny read. There is history and feeling and art and connection in this book and I really enjoyed it.

Today Will Be Different comes out October 4 and you should read it if you like fun, funny books full of heart and hilarity.

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I finished reading Mat Johnson’s Loving Day way back in the beginning of June, but I’ve held off on writing about it. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

The writing is superb, that’s not the issue. The characters are complex and interesting. And infuriating and discomfiting.

I am bi-racial. I am the product of an interracial, interfaith marriage. This is how I have always identified and I wouldn’t know how to claim any other identity.

The assertion that by claiming my bi-racial identity I am denying a part of myself or my history (or cultural history) offends me.

And so reading some of the ideas expressed by characters in this book seriously got under my skin. Yet the characters embracing their combined heritage also irked me. They seemed blinded by their rhetoric, unrealistically idealistic, and downright cultish. Basically, all of the characters said and/or did things that I found wrongheaded and upsetting.

And ultimately, that’s why I think that I might have liked the book. The reading experience was uncomfortable and sometimes difficult; it’s hard to hear unflattering opinions about a group with which you identify, but reading those things helped me think about the various kinds of racial identity in a different way. I haven’t changed my mind about how I identify myself, but I appreciate the glimpse into a different perspective.

 

For the past couple of months I have been working as the project coordinator of the Ellery Yale Wood Collection of Children’s Books and Young Adult Literature. This collection is so great because it spans quite a wide time period. There are books from the the late 18th century through to the early 21st. I have run across all kinds of interesting books, from inscribed copies of Maurice Sendak’s works, to first editions of the His Dark Materials series, to books given as prizes in schools and Sunday schools throughout Britain.

While inventorying the collection I came across a book in the Garden Gang series. It was a cute little book, but it caught my interest because the entire series was written by a young girl.

You can learn more about the Ellery Yale Wood Collection of Children’s Books and Young Adult Literature here and read my post about the Garden Gang books here.

To see other fun and interesting things from the collection, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @Poindextrix.

Readathon? Readathon!

April 22, 2016

DEWEYsReadathon

I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately and so I didn’t even realize that Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon was happening this weekend until I got the Twitter notification that a bunch of people were talking about it. But I’m always down for a bookish party, so I quickly registered and am now throwing together my readathon stack o’ books.

As luck (or, you know, my predictable browsing habit) would have it, I just picked up three books from the library that I’ve been dying to read. They’re all a fairly manageable length and super interesting. It also helps that they’re all different genres (and one is a collection of short stories), so I’ll have a book for every mood.

The Penny Poet of Portsmouth, Scary Old Sex, Pandemic

Woo! Library books!

 

 

 

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah

The Penny Poet of Portsmouth: A Memoir of Place, Solitude, and Friendship by Katherine Towler

Scary Old Sex by Arlene Heyman

 

 

 

To round things out and be my usual over-ambitious self, I’m also going to keep Uprooted by Naomi Novik and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi nearby (also because I’ve been meaning to read Uprooted for ages and I love everything Helen Oyeyemi writes).

And in case that wasn’t enough, I’ve got a few e-books as well. I’m currently in the middle of The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion and I have Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance and Loving Day by Mat Johnson sitting on my kindle app.

Given that I am lacking in both a time-turner and superpowers, I don’t actually expect to finish even a fraction of this stack. Since I didn’t remember that the Readathon was happening, much of this weekend is double booked (see what I did there). I don’t really mind though. I’ll get through what I get through and that will likely be more than it would otherwise be. Also, it’s always fun when the bookish community gets to rally and pour all our enthusiasm into an event like this, so seeing everyone else’s posts will also be great.

If you want in on the action, it’s not too late! You can sign up here and also follow the progress of the Readathon through the 24 hours.

To follow any progress that I do make, you can check my Instagram and Twitter feeds (I’m @poindextrix on everything) as that’s probably where I’ll be updating. Also on Litsy, because that is my new obsession. It’s like a mix of Instagram and Goodreads, so how could I not love it?

So who else is participating? What are you reading? Inquiring (bookish) minds want to know!

The project I’ve been working on for the past two years is over at the end of this month. It has been an amazing experience and over all, I’ve really enjoyed it. Now that the project is coming to an end, I’m mostly panicking, but there is a teeny tiny part of me that is relishing the idea of having a bunch of “free” time in which to read more. Obviously I’ll be applying for every archival job under the sun and hopefully going on interviews, and maybe doing other kinds of work to pay the bills, but I imagine there will be more reading time ahead.

And so, I have devised this reading list for myself, if only to have a bright spot in the gloom of uncertainty. And if you happen to be in the market for an archivist or special collections librarian, call me (I’m kidding {I’m not kidding}).

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace — I have started this, only to abandon it for other (shorter) books on multiple occasions, and more time = more progress, right? When I came up with this idea, this book was the first that came to mind, but as I’ve added to the list I think it might end up bumped down a few spots.

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown — I bought this book back when I lived in New York and then, predictably, got distracted. Since I still feel like I’m mostly just doing an impersonation of a functional human being, I think I could really benefit from reading it right now. And maybe I’ll learn some helpful tips to apply to my job search and living more frugally/successfully while looking for a job.

Negroland by Margo Jefferson — A book that’s about the past, but also about the present and something that our society continues to grapple with. I feel like I will learn a lot when I read this.

Mentors, Muses, and Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives — I find a lot of mentor-mentee relationships fascinating, as well as the everyday lives of writers (“they’re just like us!”), so I expect this to be like candy. And, there are probably tons of great pieces of advice, so I’m going to try to absorb the knowledge and wisdom of these people third or fourth-hand.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi — This is sort of a cheat since I technically started it earlier this month on a really shitty evening during a really shitty week. The details aren’t important, but reading about how literature is, and what it can teach us about ourselves and other people and life just might be.

The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector — An awesome woman being awesome and writing amazing, feminist works throughout her life? I’m here for it. I’ve been wanting to read more in translation and more short stories, and I’m always down for more feminist writing. This ticks all the boxes.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab — Because 1) I’ve been meaning to read this for ages and 2) I need a little magic in my life.

So there you have it. My Unemployment Reading List. Is there anything else you think that I absolutely need to add to this list? Hopefully I won’t be unemployed long enough to finish it, but as Scar says:

Be Prepared!

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:

IMG_2734

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!

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.