On Buying Books

Since becoming more familiar with the online book community, I’ve known that I’ve wanted to write a post about the importance of libraries for communities. While doing some research, I came across this article that is focused on community-centered reasons libraries are important. This article was better researched and written than anything I would have produced, so I hope that you’ll take some time and read it. I wanted to focus this post on something more specific, the privilege behind buying books and receiving publisher arcs/copies of books.

I was browsing booktube and came across this video, which I originally thought was a spoof of booktuber book hauls. Well, I guess it is in a way, but the person who created the video is also a booktuber who posts book haul videos… I’m not sure if that makes it more or less funny? Something I’ve been noticing about the community is that it’s really young. The main responsibility of my job is to work with college students on expanding their perspectives and (hopefully) educating them to become more conscious global citizens. So when I look at these first year college students, high school students, and recent college grads posting videos about the importance of reading diversely and queer literature – my heart swells just a tiny bit. Someone is doing something right in these young adults’ lives.

However, I’ve also noticed something a bit problematic surrounding how we talk about our access to books. I own A LOT of books (or at least I think so). Having moved to 4 different states over the past several years, I’m acutely aware of how difficult it is to transport your library. When I first started watching these individuals on YouTube, it was clear that they had double the amount of books I currently owned, and I thought it was so awesome to see young people who were so read well. Seriously, what was I doing with my life?!? Then I realized that TBR didn’t just mean books you thought were cool and might pick up some day, but rather books you owned but hadn’t read yet.  I discovered this through the abundance of 0 TBR by *insert X year* challenges. I was shocked to see so many people who had upwards of a hundred books in their possession that they had yet to read. Right now, I have a lot of books that I recently received from my mother, which ups my total unread a lot (to 28).

So here’s the problem…

Not everyone can afford to buy books. This seems like a simple fact, but I don’t think it’s acknowledged enough. I often time video book hauls and other things ignore those individuals who don’t have access to pre-released materials (maybe because they’re not a reviewer, but also maybe because they don’t have access to the time and equipment needed to be a reviewer) and those who cannot afford to purchase 15-30 dollar books. Some reviewers talk about libraries, but they’re not mentioned nearly enough. The vast majority of the books that I read come from the library, and frankly always have come from the library. Libraries are such a great place for books, but also for the general education of the community. I hope that there can be a movement within our community to find different ways to support authorship, while also advancing the purpose of literature as an educational tool. As a person who possesses a lot of privilege, and who has the ability and access to publish reviews, I want to make sure that my content and posts are also helping advance this purpose.

#endrant

Until Next Time World…or until Obama takes me to a bookstore…

 

UPDATE: I found this YouTube video that offers a different perspective.

First & Then

First & Then by Emma Mills was supposed to be my first video blog post. As you can see, this is not a vlog. I guess I’m a little too camera shy. When I was reading this book, I enjoyed it so much because it reminded me of a cheesy romantic comedy. I think in the book world we can sometimes be a little snobby toward the overused tropes and over the top lovey-dovey romance outside of the romance genre. I’m calling BS on that. Romantic comedies sell really well, and so do books that have elements of romance. If they did help a book sell, then authors would stop adding romance to stories! I thought it would be cool to share my thoughts about this book through a visual medium, but you’re stuck with just my old writing. When I eventually work up the courage to post a video blog, I’ll be sure to keep them short and simple, like my reviews.

First & Then is about a high school girl, Devon Tennyson, who is trying to figure out her not-so-distant life after high school. Mills brings an interesting cast of characters to help Devon sort through her senior year concerns and worries. Foster is her recently abandoned younger cousin. Cas is her male best friend, on whom she is obviously crushing. And where would this book be without the superstar jock (jerk) athlete Ezra. Let me tell you, this book was cute. It was definitely romcom material cute.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the amount of character development the author was able to go into without it seeming too forced. Cas was by far the least developed character, and as a reader I was a little confused as to why Devon even liked him. Ezra, was a great character. I felt he was developed pretty well, and generally had high school boy emotions. Sometimes I find that authors write HS boys like they’re heaven descended on earth. They are not. Not even the good ones. So I appreciate what Mills did with  Ezra.

Although the character development is good, I think the plot had a little too many points. This book touches on so many different topics – from drug use to anger management to coming-of-age-isms. Mills was trying to do a lot. I think in attempts to tie everything up into a cute bow, some of these points were lost or brushed over. This would be the one issue that I had with the book. I think that it should have had about 60 more pages to further expand on some of those plot points and make the ending feel less flat.

I think that anyone who wants a cute, fast read should consider picking up this YA book. It left me with warm fuzzies.

Until Next Time World…

 

Life, Love, & Romance?

I have a love-hate relationship with Aziz Ansari, and he doesn’t even know it yet. 

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari is a book about dating and romance in modern society. It hit bookstores last year and flew off the shelves, even winning a Goodreads Choice award for best non-fiction. This book had been several years in the making, and Aziz has some hilarious stand up on the modern dating scene. It was pretty obvious that I was going to have to read this book.

And well…I did. I finished the book in December, and it left something to be desired. I’ve waited to write a review on this book, because I wanted to be able to better articulate my thoughts around it. I’ll start off with the things that I really enjoyed about the book.

  1. It really is non-fiction. This book is well researched. It gives the reader lots of recommended reading if they’re interested in exploring a topic more. Ansari did a great job of intimately tying sociology into his take on romance today.
  2. It gives a brief history of romance. When I went into this book, I thought that it would be solely about dating. Again, Ansari surprised me by talking about how the history of romance and how we chose our partners has been revolutionized in the technological age, accompanied by the ability to travel.

With the good, often comes the bad…

  1. Why was it printed in color? This is a petty point. I know it’s a petty point, but it still bothered me. The publishers (editors? Ansari?) chose to print this book in some kind of weird color format that only emphasizes shades of blue. It didn’t make the graphs easier to read, and I kept wishing they had just printed it in black and white.
  2. The jokes Ansari tries to insert inside of statistical data are bad. It’s not that they’re just not funny; they’re actually really bad and ill placed. Whenever I read an interesting fact, Ansari came stomping into the end of the paragraph with some weird comment that had no relation to anything. He often inserted motifs from his own life, most surrounding yelp and brunch, in order to attempt to connect to the reader. I don’t have famous Hollywood friends, and I can’t afford to spend ridiculous amounts of money on lavish meals. So instead of making me connect with Ansari through this data, it made me wish someone else had written the book without the “funny” commentary.
  3. 75% of the book was fairly common knowledge. I have read other books on dating/romance in today’s society. I love to read the statistics that OkCupid produces every year and how their CEO analyzes the data. So, I can understand if someone who has zero exposure to any of this might find this book new and revolutionary.  However, I was bored. A lot of the theories present have been written about many times by many people. Even though it’s a short, quick read – I felt like it dragged on, making similar points in different chapters.

Although I was not a fan of this book, several of my friends really enjoyed it. I haven’t been on the dating scene in a while and Ansari does give some useful advice for those people who are still on the prowl. Overall, if the topic appeals to you – it won’t hurt to read this book.

Until Next Time World…

Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is the much anticipated “sequel” from the To Kill A Mockingbird author so widely read in American literature classes in high school. When it was released last year, I was excited to see where the characters that were so beloved in To Kill A Mockingbird would go. Since I  am always a little late to the game (and I also have a Goodreads TBR of over 300 books), I didn’t get a chance to read it until this year.

If you don’t know about this novel, it was the “first draft” of To Kill A Mockingbird. Supposedly, when Harper Lee turned it into the publisher it was rejected and the current TKAM was created. TKAM focuses on race relations in Alabama during the height of the Jim Crow era. For many, this book has provided hope for race relations in the US and is a classic example of socially conscious literature. Go Set A Watchman has a different message, and it’s not presented in a nice, neat package.

Before I get too far into my analysis of the book, I have to start off by saying that I LOVE this book. Part of why I love it stems from it’s release several decades after TKAM. It’s essentially the continuation of a conversation on race relations and morality. Go Set a Watchman is the story of a twenty-something Jean Louise “Scout” Finch who is returning to Alabama for a mini-vacation from her New York reporter life. She’s returning home to an aging Atticus and a childhood love interest.

The main conflict in this novel is that Atticus, Scout’s beloved moral father, is involved with a suspect group of prominent white men who want to restrict the opportunities of Blacks in the county. When this is revealed Scout calls into question her entire childhood and moral upbringing, and she is forced to reconcile what happens when someone you love holds different beliefs than you share. She goes and visits her Black caregiver, Calpurnia, in attempts to gain some perspective about her childhood, but is only turned away with more questions than answers.

Before I read this book, I kept seeing negative reviews from TKAM fans. I think that the reason so many people dislike this book is because there is no clear resolution. We don’t ever get insight on Atticus’s motives. There’s no resolution with Calpurnia that is either positive or negative. We don’t know what happens with Scout and her potential love interest. It’s a little too much like real life. What makes this book special to me is knowing that it painted a more realistic picture of racism. A lot of times prejudice is placed in a vacuum. People are all good or people are all evil. I think this theme is more evident in Go Set a Watchman than it was in To Kill A Mockingbird. As I followed Scout’s narrative and emotional reactions to what she was witnessing and feeling, I could completely understand the frustration and hurt that one feels when they think they are being betrayed by a loved one. I don’t think there are enough books that touch on the delicacy of these emotions, especially within a political context (HELLO, STATE’S RIGHTS).

I think this message is important, and it is necessary in today’s racial/political climate. It’s possible to raise children to be more morally sound than we are, and it’s also important to understand that most people’s beliefs cannot easily be summarized. This book is short; so if you’re a fan of TKAM or interested in socially conscious literature, I’d check out this book.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

I’ve been trying to prepare to do a couple of video blogs (look out for this coming out soon!), but in order to put up content I thought I’d participate in some Book Blogger Appreciation Week action. Being new to the legitimate blogging world, I think it’s cool to acknowledge some of the great people who write what I love reading about and inform my reading year.

The prompt for the first day is as follows: Introduce yourself by telling us about five books that represent you as a person or your interests/lifestyle. 

So without further ado…

alltheking_0 All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren is my favorite book of all times. I believe that reading this book in high school proved that I loved politics before understanding politics proved it. Since this book was also set in the South, I feel that I could relate to a lot of the points in this book. If you haven’t read this classic, I highly recommend it. I’ll also be re-reading it in March for my re-reading month!

blj_coverBlue Like Jazz by Donald Miller is representative on my love of non-religious writings on religion. I consider myself a very religious person, and probably less spiritual than I would like to admit. I think Donald Miller is really approachable. He explains religious contexts and movements through approachable and funny stories. [The movie was awful, please don’t watch it.] If not this book, then some book by Donald Miller would be representative of me and my interests. I especially loved his book about growing up without a father figure.

51eycyx7crl-_sy344_bo1204203200_How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper is representative of my interpretation of my mental illness. I love Jonathan Tropper. I don’t really care that all his male early 30 characters may be the same, I like the character he has created. Although this book is not my favorite (that would be The Book of Joe) this book was incredibly funny, while being uber realistic. I think there are times when we don’t allow ourselves to feel a certain way, and constantly have to explain our actions to others. I like how much time Tropper spend on this book debunking that. I appreciate it, and if you want to know how I feel when I’m in a “mood” this book is a pretty accurate representation of that.

51s9komz02blSomeday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron was probably my first foray into Young Adult literature. I read this book in college, and I think that I read it at the right time. In the first chapter the narrative of the story makes a 9/11 reference about whether people will forget the year it happened, comparing it to Pearl Harbor, and I knew I’d like the book. I think it’s smart writing about a teen struggling with his identity and trying to survive being a teen. Working at a university, I am fortunate enough to work with students who are battling big battles. This book reminds me of why it’s important to do this.

fireThe Fire Next Time by James Baldwin is a book that I recently read. I can’t believe that I haven’t read James Baldwin before last week, but it was amazing. Baldwin has such great thoughts on politics and love, specifically from a racial perspective. I appreciate he thoughts on loving your fellow man, and I can really get down with what he says in this short book.

That’s me in 5 books! (Sort of) Be on the look out for a video blog sometime toward the end of the week.

 

Until Next Time World…

The Opposite of Loneliness

I’m not so sure that there’s a “right” time to read a book. However, if there is I definitely read The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan at the right time. The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of fiction and non-fiction essays written by Marina Keegan during her undergraduate years at Yale. Five days after her graduate, she was killed in a car accident on her way to celebrate with her family and boyfriend. In an effort to honor Marina’s legacy, her parents and professors selected several of her essays for compilation, resulting in this book. “The Opposite of Loneliness” is the title of an essay that went viral after her death in 2012.

I went into this book with a lot of preconceived judgments. Although I understand that everyone at Yale is so much smarter and more motivated that I am, I just don’t believe that. There’s so much privilege and prestige that is unnecessarily given to the ivy leagues, that I find myself proceeding with caution whenever I realize someone has studied at one of them. Secondly, in the times of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and so many others – how is society really praising their lives? Where are their books, their musings, their writings? Terrible I know, but I can’t help but see the privilege that Marina’s parents were able to publish her works into a novel. Despite these notions, I still requested the book through inter-library loan. I received the book just a few days before I found out that one of my friends and classmates from college had died just a few days before his 28th birthday. Having recently moved back to New England, I had lost contact with a lot of my friends and classmates through my move to the Midwest. As I work my way around the states, I find myself catching up on the old times and remembering why these people were a part of my life to begin with…but there isn’t enough time for everyone.

As I read the first couple of essays in Marina’s collection, I was skeptical, disliked several, and overall felt unimpressed. Then I attended the wake and services for my college friend. Throughout the services I kept thinking about his parents. Being an only child myself (as he was), I couldn’t even begin to imagine the grief that they felt nor would continue to feel after he was laid to rest. Upon returning home, I found myself locked outside of my apartment (thanks work!) with ample time to finish the book. As I read the rest of Marina’s essays (her non-fiction voice, being MUCH stronger than her fiction voice), I thought about Marina and my friend and wept for them. Two incredibly intelligent people, whose time was cut too short on this earth.

As far as The Opposite of Loneliness is concerned, Marina was an excellent writer. I think she would be upset to find some of these clearly unfinished essays in this book, but there’s no doubt that she had a sound literary voice. I particularly think that she might have had a knack for investigative non-fiction, particularly in the time of Making a Murderer and Serial. By the end of the book, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of the appreciation that her parents and professors had about her talent during her short time on earth. And honestly, if publishing these essays gave her parents any solace at all – I’d pay to give them just a little bit more.

 

Until Next Time World…

Sunday Funday***

It’s Sunday, which is usually the day I sit down to write my blog posts for the week. A lot of my friends and colleagues have been fascinated by the amount of books that I’m able to read in the course of any given month. I think my January was a little intense with 21 books, but I can average around 15 in a good month. I thought it’d be fun to share my reading strategy and see how others conquer those every growing TBR piles. I’m also going to leave some suggestions for how to read more if you’re not an avid reader…yet.

The Strategy

I read once that a good strategy for reading a lot of books in a month was to read books in parallel. When I was in college I would read one book to completion before moving on to the next one. So when books took to long to get through or lost my interest (I’m looking at you Wally Lamb books), I’d give up reading for an extended period of time. It seemed as though adding multiple books would help me through those periods. This blogger recommends reading books across genres to do this. Since I mainly focus on works of fiction, instead of varying my books across genre I’ve been varying my books across media. At any given time I’m listening to an audiobook, reading an e-book, and have a physical book handy. (Right now it’s The Audacity of Hope on audiobook, The Book Thief on e-book, and Passenger in physical copy.) I enjoy this approach, because it allows me to maximize my time reading. It also allows me to realize when I haven’t devoted enough time to reading my e-book or listening to an audiobook.

My second piece of advice regarding reading would be to look at reviews. We live in the age of smartphones and the internet. I’m on Goodreads more than any of my other social media sites. Due to this technology, I find myself reading books I’m more likely to enjoy and steering away from ones I’d probably dislike. When you’re interested and invested in a book you’re much more likely to finish it and enjoy the journey.

It’s that simple. I’m not a slow reader by any means, but I’m not a speed reader. If I’m motivated I can spend all night reading a book, but more often than not I try to go to bed by midnight. I work full-time, and although I devote a large amount of time to reading, I still hang out with my friends, go to the gym several time a week, and talk to/spend time with my partner. I do treat reading like a third job though. At minimum I need to get through 3 books a week to make my Goodreads goal. I understand when people say that they don’t want to be forced into a goal, but isn’t that the point of one? To make sure that we’re holding ourselves up to a set of standards. I welcome goals and challenges in my life, because I think they make me a better more focused person.

For those of you who are not yet avid readers (AKA the majority of my friends), my recommendation is to set a small goal. If that’s reading for 10 minutes or 1 chapter before bed, or in the morning with breakfast, then all the better. When you accomplish it then you’ll feel better for doing it. And when you have a busy morning or night and forget, it’s okay too because there’s always tomorrow.

Until Next Time World…

 

***My iMac bit the dust, so this blog was started on a Sunday, but finished on a Monday***

Good Kings, Bad Kings

This is the perfect title of Susan Nussbaum’s book about a state-run facility for disabled youth. Good Kings Bad Kings is a poignant story told from several view points of the kids and adults that are affiliated with the facility. As I write this from snowy New England, I immediately thought of her book full of kids who need a wheelchair to be mobile. On the campus where I work and live there is moderate, but mostly poor snow removal. Because of this there was a snow day and all classes were cancelled. However, those students who needed to eat breakfast at the dining hall this morning were out of luck. At 4PM the walkways are sort of better, and wheelchairs can probably navigate the paths that have been left by the snow plows.

Reading diversely is something that I’ve seen a lot around the internet book community. Diversity in general is something that is championed in my field, and I fall right on board with the ideas of these two communities. The increase in books, specifically for young adults, regarding mental illness and disease have been welcome and praised for the last several years. Authors, actors, and other celebrities have been actively working to reduce the stigma of mental illness, especially those as common as depression and anxiety.

Although I often engaged in conversations about mental illness, race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender fluidity, ableism still seems to be a term that stumps many. Hell, google chrome doesn’t even recognize it as a word! Nussbaum was paralyzed in her twenties, confined to a wheelchair for almost 40 years now. A notable playwright and activist in Chicago’s disability rights movement, Nussbaum had a lot of personal experience to pull from while crafting the world of Good Kings Bad Kings.

The first thing you’ll notice about the book is that each character has their own voice. I mean that quite literally. Some of the characters don’t speak English fluently. They all possess a different level of mastery regarding the English language. Some of them sound formal, while others use “street” language. If you’re someone who has a hard time understanding non-standard English, then you’ll have a hard time with this book. I think that you should get over that and give it a try anyway. Besides focuses on the rights of the disabled and the stories of children confined to a wheelchair, Nussbaum explores how intersectionality is very relevant and important.

Intersectionality, for those of you who do not know, focuses on the intersections of our identity. For example – I am a woman, but I am also Black, American, heterosexual, cis-gendered, and college-educated. All of these factors play into how I present myself to the world, even if I am most concerned about being a woman. Nussbaum creates characters who are disabled, but also have extremely varied socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, ethnicities, and education levels. I believe that this focus on those intersections, helps Nussbaum create real, dynamic characters that make the story more enjoyable.

Good Kings Bad Kings is a fairly quick read at 320 pages. The vignettes of each character, composed as chapters, are often funny and insightful. There’s a mini-love story and a cause that the students champion as they learn that they are worthy and do have a voice. I think that this book sheds a lot of light on things we often forget – underfunded state facilities, the move to privatize state systems, activism, and life with a disability. If you’re looking to diversify your reading, this is a pretty book to start.

Until Next Time World…

January Wrap Up

It’s been a little while since I last updated. Things have been kind of intense the past two weeks in my life, and I need to be more disciplined about writing (and pre-scheduling) my post updates. However, I have still been reading! I read a total of 21* books in January; which makes me feel pretty darn proud considering it’s a training month. I’ll have more reviews to post about some of these books, but I wanted to give a general update. The ones in red were my top 5 for the month.

  1. First & Then by Emma Mills
  2. 19Q4 by Haruki Murakami
  3. Reality Boy by A.S. King
  4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  5. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  6. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
  7. Sisters in Sanity by Gayle Forman
  8. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  9. Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  10. Paper Towns by John Green
  11. A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins
  12. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  13. You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney
  14. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  15. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  16. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
  17. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  18. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  19. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
  20. Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
  21. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn* (Technically I finished this the morning of the 1st, but I DID read the vast majority in January.)

I really liked a lot of these books. Be on the lookout for reviews for some of them in the upcoming weeks, but there are still some that I need to finish from December!

 

Until Next Time World…