A Peculiar Giveaway

June 20, 2016

Hey there bookfans!

Remember Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? Think back to the awesomeness. It’s fine, I’ll wait…

Good? Good.

It turns out that the first installment of this delightfully creepy and fun and peculiar series was published FIVE YEARS ago.

To celebrate this momentous anniversary as well as the upcoming movie (coming to a theatre near you in September. Mark your calendars!), our friends over at Quirk Books are having a photo contest. They’ve commissioned a limited edition poster featuring fan art and photographs.

This is where you come in — you post your fan art, Peculiar-inspired costumes and photos, etc. on social media and tag it #5PeculiarYears, or go to quirkbooks.com/5PeculiarYears and submit it via the widget there. In addition to contributing to this fun, limited edition poster, there are also prizes! It’s also a great opportunity to show your creativity and your love and appreciation for the series.

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Check out this “My Peculiarity Is” tote. You know you want one…

Since Quirk is so awesome and completely embraces the peculiar, they sent me one of their glorious “My Peculiarity Is” tote bags (super on-brand for me, repping the peculiar and whatnot) AND another one to give away to my followers. So! Comment below or on my Instagram post with your peculiarity and I’ll pick a winner this Friday (June 24) and send you your lovely tote!

And don’t forget to send your fan art to Quirk! They want to see your creativity and peculiarity at work. Also tag me (@poindextrix on all the things) so that I can bask in your awesome, bookish peculiarity.

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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!

#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!

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.

Captain Underpants is in the bookish news right now and this time it has nothing to do with being challenged (this series is frequently banned for being inappropriate or encouraging children to disobey authority).

The full story can be found here, but the long and short of it is that in the course of the newest book, it is revealed that one of the characters is gay. And it isn’t a big deal. In fact, it isn’t even remarked upon.

This is incidental diversity and it is exactly what needs to happen in literature. Kids (and all readers for that matter) need to see characters who are like them in books, but the stories they read don’t always need to be about how they’re POC, gay, differently-abled, etc. In some ways this just highlights differences and reinforces ideas that a white/straight/cis experience is the norm and anything else is a variation.

Incidental diversity shows that a gay character can be gay without that being the story. A character who is a POC or differently-abled or of a different religion can have varied experiences in a multitude of genres and that part of their identity is just that: only a part of who they are.

 

So while I don’t care very much about Captain Underpants, I am super excited about this. Hopefully more authors/illustrators and publishers will take note and we’ll see more diverse characters being regular characters.

On becoming a DNF-er

April 11, 2015

I have a problem. I finish books. All books.

In actual fact, it isn’t usually a problem, since I’ve picked the books and I generally know what I like, but sometimes I’m (hold on to your hats, folks) wrong. And when that happens I have the book-nerdiest of wars raging within me. On the one hand, I started this book and I’m not really enjoying it, but what if it gets better?! If I stop reading now, I’ll never know! On the other hand, I’m not enjoying it and there are so many other books that I want to read. There are times when I actually get sad thinking about all the books I won’t have a chance to read simply because life is too short.

So what’s a book nerd to do? Well, I’ve been tracking my reading for a while now and I figure that if I really wanted to (and if I was any good at math, but details) I could calculate a rough estimate of how many more books I will read in my lifetime. I have absolutely zero inclination to do this, but there’s nothing like the harsh reality of estimated numbers to spur a girl into action — even if that action happens to be the cessation of one (i.e. abandoning a book partway through and moving on).

Since coming to this realization I’ve only DNFed (that’s Did Not Finish-ed for those who’ve yet to memorize the book nerd code book) a couple of books. Being a bitter-ender is still my default and I find myself rationalizing and continuing past the point where I should probably give up time and again. But I’ll keep working on it. Who knew quitting took so much practice?

I have consulted numerous electronic and paper calendars and all of them have told me the same thing: it’s springtime! But here in Philadelphia, the weather doesn’t seem so sure of that fact. It seems like for every nice day we have, we get a week of cold temperatures, rain, and overall gloom. I shouldn’t complain too much since that is prime reading-with-a-cup-of-tea weather, but I’m ready for reading-on-a-picnic-blanket-in-the-park weather (I’m not saying I do this, but I want the option).

I don’t generally tailor my reading to the season because I’m just not that organized, but this super prolonged winter has me yearning for sunnier books.

So here’s my list for what to read when nature has betrayed you and continues with the cold, grey weather.

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s a big, epic book filled with love and war and magic. It will draw you in and completely transport you to the mythical Macondo, which is in Latin America and therefore is a warm and sunny place at least most of the time.
  2. Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. I’m cheating with this one because it isn’t actually sunnier, but we’ll get to why I picked it. This is a dual narrative combining the fascinating story of the build up to the Chicago World’s Fair and the chilling tale of a string of murders committed by H. H. Holmes in the city around the same time. It is utterly enthralling and after reading about the creepy murders and how Holmes pulled it all off, you might not mind being cooped up inside.
  3. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by is bloggess Jenny Lawson’s sidesplittingly funny (mostly true) memoir. There are some serious bits interspersed with a whole lot of hilarity. I challenge you to read it and not be in a good mood afterward. I’m pretty sure it can’t be done.
  4. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This book is enchanting and whimsical. There’s mystery and adventure and it takes place in bright, sunny California (though often at night…).
  5. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. I’m looking out of my living room window and it’s all grey and I think it’s spitting rain and I can’t help thinking of that titular story with the wizened old vampire drinking lemonade under a Tuscan sun…
  6. iwanttogotothere

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are just a few of the books that might numb the sting of being betrayed by ole’ Mother Nature. What would you add?

 

In the past six months or so I’ve gotten really into podcasts. I started listening to them as a way to fit more (yes, more) bookish media into my day, but now my listening has expanded to other nerdy interest/pop-culture things.

The one that started this new obsession for me was the Book Riot Podcast. It’s bookish and awesome and I highly recommend it. They talk about book news — whether it’s giant news like the new Harper Lee book or smaller news like a young kid prevailing over city council and getting to keep the little free library on his front lawn — cool things in the book world, and  new books released that week.

Book Riot also has two other podcasts that I listen to: Dear Book Nerd, which is an advice podcast, and Reading Lives, in which Jeff O’Neal has conversations with guests about their reading lives. Maybe it’s some voyeuristic tendency I have, but I love hearing about what other people have read and loved and how they discovered their love of books.

Other book-specific podcasts I listen to are Books on the Nightstandthe Bookrageous Podcast, and the New Yorker poetry and fiction podcasts.

I also listen to the New York Public Library Podcast. The NYPL has a number of talks and events throughout the year that they record and then later make the audio available as a podcast. They have a wide variety of guests, from authors, to visual artists, to musicians.

Similarly, I subscribe to TED Talks Audio, which is the audio of TED Talks given around the world (since some of the talks are very visual-reliant, the audio feed sometimes leaves something to be desired), and also to NPR’s TED Radio Hour, which focuses each episode on a specific theme, drawing from past TED talks.

Continuing in the NPR vein, I’m impatiently awaiting the next season of Serial, the long-form journalism-type podcast following one story week to week. I’m also waiting for Invisibilia to start up again. Meanwhile, I listen to This American Life and Pop Culture Happy Hour. PCHH is so funny and makes me feel like I might be able to keep slightly more up to date on things that are happening in pop culture.

Next: Dear Sugar Radio is a podcast version of the advice column from The Rumpus. Both Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond host and offer advice (with many lovely guests). Like the column (and Strayed’s book Tiny Beautiful Things) it can get a bit heavy at times, but it is so lovely and insightful and I really enjoy listening to it.

Last, but certainly not least, is the podcast I have most recently begun listening to: Nerdette. As the name suggests, this podcast is two ladies needing out about TV, books, movies, games, music, and everything else awesome in life. Since I just recently discovered it I’ve been going back and listening to the backlist (is it called a backlist for something like this? Who cares, that’s what I’m calling it) of episodes. I cannot even begin to express how much I love this podcast. Everyone involved is great (it’s hosted by Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen, but they have other contributors and guests) and they talk about fun things in such an interesting and often lighthearted way. They fully embrace everything that’s awesome about being a nerd and loving the things you love whole-heartedly and that’s something that I can always get behind.

SO. Those are the podcasts I’m listening to right now. What podcasts do you love? Which should I add to my ever-growing list? Do you stick to a certain type of podcast (bookish, comedy, advice, etc.) or do you roam free from category to category?