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!

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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!

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!

The Last Batch of 2014

January 14, 2015

In my life I am constantly reading and though I try to stay consistent in my reviewing, I am usually a bit behind in that area. Yes, I’ll pause for your gasps of shock and disbelief. It’s a new year and there’s a new crop of books, so I figure why should I bring my backlog with me? So now you’re getting little snapshots of many of the books I read in the latter part of 2014. Some books won’t be mentioned here because I plan to talk about them in a slightly different context. But more on that later.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah follows Nigerian teenagers Ifemelu and Obinze into and out of other countries as they enter adulthood and navigate race, romance, and relationships. Sharp, funny, and fearless, it’s a great read fro pretty much anyone.

 

The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney

Hatshepsut was the longest reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt, but her rise to power and the circumstances of her reign are shrouded in secrecy. The language of this book kind of bothered me — the whole thing was necessarily somewhat speculative, but the continuous hedging irked me. I would have preferred a disclaimer at the start that allowed it to be written with clearer, more certain language.

 

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Boy, Snow, Bird is an enchanting reimagining of a classic tale. This book is masterfully inventive and Oyeyemi’s strong, brilliant, beautiful voice shines through.

 

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell 

This collection of essays is just as weird as I would expect something from Karen Russell to be. I didn’t like this collection as much as Vampires in the Lemon Grove (which is newer). There is a kind of extra melancholy streak to these stories besides the dark twisty-ness of other stuff of hers that I’ve liked.

 

Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear

Dana Goodyear jumps —tastebuds first— into “foodie” culture and the world of extreme eating, following devotees of ultra-authentic ethnic cuisines, raw food aficionados, and so much more. I would eat maybe two of the things described in this book, but I’m bizarrely fascinated by these people and their lifestyles. Sometimes I wish she would have dug a bit deeper or described a bit more, but this was an enjoyable read.

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A superflu wipes out huge swaths of the population. Fifteen years later, a roving band of actors and musicians travels between communities of survivors performing Shakespeare. The narrative hops between the Traveling Symphony and the decline of civilization immediately after the pandemic. It’s a vivid and utterly transfixing novel.

 

The Martian by Andy Weir

Due to a series of unfortunate events, astronaut Mark Watney is living alone on Mars. And no one knows. With no way to signal Earth, a limited food supply, and a dogged determination to stay alive, Watney puts his skills and smart-assert to the test. I read this in 24 hours. I did not stop. I completely blew off familial obligations while reading this over the holidays. I have no regrets.

 

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

This is the first romance novel I’ve read in quite some time, and I really enjoyed it. It’s the first book in the Rules of Scoundrels series which revolves around London’s most exclusive gaming hell. I won’t say much about it, but it’s significantly less ridiculous than a lot of other historical romance tends to be.

 

So now you’re mostly caught up to where I am now with my current reading. As I mentioned before, this isn’t a complete list of everything I’ve read this year, but I think it gives a pretty good picture. There will be a few other things that mention books from 2014, but my 2015 book reviews will start popping up here pretty soon. We’re moving onward!

Well, the New Year is upon us and with it comes every possible promise of personal betterment. I’e never been particularly keen on New Year’s resolutions, perhaps because I fear both commitment and failure, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is: the kind of resolutions I can get enthusiastic about are, unsurprisingly, reading-related.

I was 9 books shy of my 100-book goal for 2014, so I’m shooting for it once again in 2015. Additionally, I want to further diversify my reading. I read a good amount of women writers and writers of color as it is, but I want to make a more conscious effort to do so. I also want to read more in translation, as that is an area in which I am lacking.

For a very brief moment I entertained the idea of echoing my friend Elizabeth’s resolution to not buy any books. Yes. Any. With the idea that it forces one to read the tons of books already in one’s possession. But I’m all about attainable goals and, besides, it runs somewhat counter to my other goals for 2015, so instead I’m just going to try to read more of the books I already own. That’s a compromise, right?

I’m also going to continue tracking my reading and I hope to better organize my bookshelves. Those might not be reading goals, but they’re book related and reading-adjacent, so I’m including them.

So these are my 2015 resolutions. They are resolutions I believe I could keep, and that’s the beauty of it.

Do you have reading resolutions? Regular resolutions? Tell me all about ’em!

 

Sabriel — Review

November 7, 2014

I initially decided to pick up Garth Nix’s Sabriel because it was one of those books that I kept hearing about every once in a while when talking about books and then we were coming up on the release of Clariel (which is part of that series) and there was so much buzz. So I got my act together and added it to my never-ending holds list at the library.

And I really liked it.

It has multiple forms of magic and a girl hero coming into her own and a snarky sidekick. What more could you possibly want?

There are hints of romance which I could really take or leave, but I get the impression it’s sort of important for plot things later on. In any case, the driving force of the plot in Sabriel is not the romance.

So here’s the thing. I enjoyed this book and went to find out which was the next book in the (then) trilogy (now it’s a series—Clariel is the fourth book). That’s when I realized it isn’t really a continuation of the story, though it is connected. At that point I decided that I wasn’t going to continue with the series.

Now if you follow me on instagram (which you should because I post all kinds of awesome book pictures … and sometimes pictures of my cat) then you’re calling shenanigans because you know that I picked up Lirael and Abhorsen in my last library visit. Well, everyone kept gushing about Clariel and as we’ve already established, I’m weak in the face of the giant monster that is book buzz.

So there you have it: I loved Sabriel and I buckled in my resolve to not read the rest of the series, so those reviews will show up at some point. Though I picked up four other books at the same time and have countless other ARCs and books I’ve bought that I should also be reading.

If we could just stop time for a bit so I could get some reading done that would be super.

When I saw a blurb about Marja Mills’s The Mockingbird Next Door on Book Riot I was so excited. I think Harper Lee is amazing and this book promised a glimpse into the famously reclusive author’s life and an answer to the question everyone asks: why didn’t she write another book?

Now, having read the book, as well as Lee’s statements against it, I’m feeling a bit conflicted.

There’s an NPR piece that looks at things from a slightly different perspective and doesn’t make Mills seem quite so predatory/opportunistic, but I still have lingering doubts and that makes me somewhat uneasy and unsure of how I should feel about this.

I will say that this does read much more as a memoir than a biography (whether that was the initial intention, I can’t say). Mills reflects on the time she spent with Lee and her inner circle and shares some of their stories and anecdotes, but this isn’t the all-encompassing story of Lee’s life. I enjoyed the glimpse into the everyday lives of Nelle Harper, Alice, and their group of friends.

All the same, the book doesn’t quite deliver on all of its promises. We get a partial answer to the big question, but nothing really solid. And while Mills paints a picture of what a day spent with Harper Lee is like, readers don’t get a full idea of her life or much of the Lee family history. There is also a bit of repetition in some of the descriptive language and the anecdotes that Mills shares.

If Mills was a close to that group as her book suggests, then she lived the dream. I always want to know what it would be like to spend time with a great author — to simply share stories and talk about life and literature. Lee comes across as a woman with incomparable intellect and wit, with a unique take on life. If Lee never gave her blessing to the book, then I respect that, but I’ll still cherish the peek at her personality and the spectacular relationships she has with those around her.

***

There will be a lot of reviews in the coming days. I appear to follow a very loose pattern in which I post reviews regularly for a while and then accidentally stop for a period of time (I don’t stop reading, of course. That would be absurd). I’ll work on being better at that, but no promises. If anything, we’ll say that my sporadic posting encourages appreciation of each individual post.

BEA14 Recap

June 3, 2014

Let us rejoice, fair readers, for I have returned triumphant. Book Expo America — the one day of it that I could attend — was a success!

I arrived in New York Friday night after quite a few wrong turns and extra bridges (my GPS and I had a disagreement — she really wanted me to go to Staten Island) to my friend’s lovely and welcoming apartment. After some food and conversation it was off to bed and a few hours later we were up, grabbing bagels (oh, how I miss NY bagels) and heading to the Javits Center.

I checked in and got my badge and we waited in line until the exhibition floor opened at 9. Then it was GoGoGo until the show closed in the afternoon.

Unlike in previous years, the Power Readers (or Book Con-ers, this year) were segregated to one section of the floor. While this made certain parts blissfully open, the other section, where much of the action was happening, was horrifically crowded and claustrophobic.

Even with all the extra people, I got tons of books.

I’d like to think I was more discerning this year, and perhaps I was, but all the same, I am already out of bookshelf space. There are just so many books and they all look so good! So yeah, this should prove interesting.

Now, I know you actually care very little about my experience at the expo. You just want to know what books I got. So, without further ado, I present my BEA14 Book Haul:

The BEA14 Book Haul Pile

The BEA14 Book Haul Pile

The Tastemakers: Why we’re for cupcakes but fed up with fondue by David Sax
The Happiest People in the World by Brock Clarke
Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev
How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by Chris Taylor
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore
Zac & Mia by A. J. Betts
The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett
On Immunity: An inoculation by Eula Biss
Juliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen
The Black Butterfly by Shirley Reva Vernick
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A writer’s life by Pamela Smith Hill
Pioneer Girl edited by Pamela Smith Hill
Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini
My Real Children by Jo Walton
All Roads Lead to Jerusalem by Jenny Jones
City of Lies: Love, sex, death, and the search for truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai
The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
The Dogs Were Rescued (and So Was I) by Teresa J. Rhyne
Empire’s Crossroads: A history of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day by Carrie Gibson
Alice + Freda Forever: A murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe
Madame Picasso by Anne Girard
Straight White Male by John Niven
Let’s Get Lost [excerpt] by Adi Alsaid
Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf
Misdiagnosed: One woman’s tour of and escape from healthcareland  by Jody Berger
Good Chinese Wife by Susan Blumberg-Kason
The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Stars of the World Cup
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Fridays at Enrico’s by Don Carpenter, finished by Jonathan Lethem
Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican
Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s first bohemians by Justin Martin
If Only You People Could Follow Directions by Jessica Hendry Nelson
The Girl Who Never Was by Skylar Dorset
Turkish Coffee Culture
A Millennium of Turkish Literature
The Aegean Mythology
Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow
Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
Drawing Amanda by Stephanie Feuer
Turkish Coffee by M. Sabri Koz and Kemalettin Kuzucu
The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith
Jackaby by William Ritter
The Black Hour by Lori Radder-Day
Neverhome by Laird Hunt
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Liberty’s Torch by Elizabeth Mitchell
Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis
The Jewel by Amy Ewing
10:04 by Ben Lerner
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
The American Plate: A history of the United States in 100 bites by Libby H. O’Connell

So remember when I went to Book Expo America last year and ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, only more book crazed? Well, I had every intention of doing that once again this year (maybe slightly less headless-chicken-y, but just as book-crazed). And then I got a job and it turns out you can’t up and go to New York in the middle of the week when you’re gainfully employed.

So my four days of book bliss has been cut down to one. I have my faithful friends looking out for books for me, and after work today I’m driving up to NY. Saturday is Book Con, so it will be crazy, but I will be brave! I will weave through the dazed Book Con-ers and get the books I want and hand out my cards to the publicists I see because I am a BEA veteran! I’m getting a bit dramatic here. Sorry…

Anyway, you can probably tell that I’m super excited. If you’re going to be there and you see me (you know what I look like if you follow me on Instagram — gotta get my shameless plug in there), come say hi! You can also just walk around the Javits Center yelling “Poindextrix!” and if I hear you I will reply… How shall I reply? Polo? Let’s go with “Polo!” as I’m not feeling particularly creative at the moment. [Seriously, if anyone does this, I may love you forever].

More incentive to follow me on Instagram/Twitter (*shameless plug, shameless plug*), I’m going to try to take pictures and tweet things that happen throughout the day, so even if you’re not at BEA, you can pretend you are.

I’ll try to bring you an update after the fact with at least some of the books I’ve snagged. No promises though. I have a hazy memory of being exhausted and footsore and wanting nothing more than to sleep for a week after BEA.

So yeah… BEA! Onward!

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while now. I have that compulsion to always read the book before seeing the movie, so when there was all that buzz about the film it moved up a bit on my list. And yet I only got around to reading it a couple of months ago (and I’m reviewing it now. This should give you an idea of my backlog/time management skills). It felt oddly appropriate that I didn’t get around to reading it until after I moved to Philly though.

I have to say, while I enjoyed this book, it didn’t really thrill me like it did a lot of other readers. I’m really going to blame the expectations game for that one. You see, I don’t have any particular criticisms of the book. I think that the characters were well-developed and their relationships complex. Parts of the plot might have been a bit far-fetched, but I can spare a bit of suspension of disbelief as a reader now and then. When this book fell a bit flat for me, I think it was just because I had heard such great things from so many people that the book couldn’t possibly meet the expectations I had built up in my mind.

I don’t think I would go so far as to call this a story of redemption, but it is at least a story about the beginning of recovery and forgiveness. Even if it wasn’t at the top of my list of things I’ve read recently, I’d definitely recommend it.

At some point I plan on watching the movie and seeing how it stacks up against the book. The book had some unexpected twists and turns and I’m wondering how they’ll play out on screen. I also found it difficult, on occasion, to connect with the characters, and I think that the movie could either really improve on that or really botch it. I’ll have to wait and find out!