Month: March 2014

24 Mar 2014

old books on my mind

This post had me thinking about re-reads. I have a small cadre of books that I’ve read and re-read and re-read. When I talk about re-reading, I’m usually talking about the usual bunch – Lockhart, Dessen, Green, Naylor, Thomas, McCafferty. Harry Potter, of course, and a few other favorites. I occasionally revisit other books I’ve liked – especially if I can try it out in a different format – but it doesn’t happen very often. I usually stick to the same old re-reads.

Maybe it’s time to stir things up a bit. Here are some books I’ve thought about lately that I could re-read this year…

I posted about Donna Tartt’s The Secret History a few months ago but it has not left my mind. In fact, this book is starting to taunt me. Everyone is still talking GoldfinchGoldfinchGoldfinch, but those Goldfinch conversations quickly turn to The Secret History conversations (mostly because nobody I talk books with has actually *read* The Goldfinch yet…).

Also, I feel like every time I read a book I really love, I read an author interview revealing The Secret History as a major literary influence. The universe is pointing me toward a re-read.

Speaking of books I read to death in high school but haven’t touched in a few years, last week I checked out a copy of Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters.

Historically, I’ve had trouble convincing people this is a book of merit. It creates awkward situations. I leant out my ragged paperback copy in the tenth grade, eager to share this special treasure with a friend. She returned it a few days later. “I can’t finish it,” she said, red-cheeked and low-voiced. “It’s too weird. They’re like, lesbians!”

Anywaaaaaay, I’m a lesbian-sex-freak-pervert-reader. Moving on. I used to read this book every year, usually on vacation, at my grandpa’s house in Myrtle Beach. But it’s been awhile since I’ve been down south and awhile since I’ve read this book. My interest has been renewed because A) I’ve been thinking a lot about female friendships in general and B) I read an article where Lena Dunham cited the book as a major influence on that little HBO series called Girls. Which I think is amazing and is probably why I love Girls despite all sorts of logical reasons not to.

 

 

Speaking of What Jessica Is Doing on the Internet Instead of Being Productive, I’m a little bit obsessed with the lost Malaysian flight. I mean that with all the respect in the world toward the crew and passengers and I pray-pray-pray they are safe and sound, but look guys, I watched every season of LOST. This is freaking me out. It’s the same compulsion as the “Do I Have This Rare Disease?” Google Game – it’s horrifying, it’s terrible for the nerves, but it’s very difficult to stop clicking.

I keep tabs on NPR’s book coverage for work, so of course I clicked on the article titled “Malaysia Flight 370 and the World’s Attention.” I was hoping for the announcement of a memoir or an exposé or something juicy, but what I found was… Gary Paulsen’s The Hatchet. I read The Hatchet repeatedly in my 4th and 5th grade years. I also can’t stop refreshing the Malaysian Flight page on Reddit. This astute NPR writer sees right through my strange habits for what they are: anxiety-bait.

That being said, I still want to re-read The Hatchet.

 

And speaking of books I loved as a child, The Boy reminded me yesterday that Cheaper By the Dozen is available on Overdrive. One of my favorite books of all time, which I also haven’t read in forever, and decidedly less horrifying.

Or I could just read Game of Thrones again. If I start now, I could have the first three re-read by the time season four wraps and be ready to move on A Feast For Crows!

Let’s all pretend this is a rational course of action.

17 Mar 2014

reading proclivities

I have been reading the same handful of books for too long. I feel mired in a book swamp, like I will never finish these books and will be trying, feebly, to finish them until the day I die.

Oh, the drama.

I have nothing against the books I am reading, nope. They are all fine.

Sure, none of them are yanking me away from my other obligations. But I don’t expect all the books I read to appeal to me like that. I think it’s valuable to read books specifically because they don’t yank on me, actually. Reading outside my tastes is a valuable endeavor, personally and professionally. If I only read books that I thought I would like then I would just re-read the same 10 Pink-Covers for the rest of my life. That is not the kind of reader I aspire to be.

However, feeling as swampy as I am, I think my currently reading selection is lacking a certain balance.

I do read multiple books at once. This horrifies many people, but I have been doing it for so many years I can’t really even adequately justify myself anymore. It’s like asking why I prefer a certain spoon with their cereal. It’s just the spoon I like, okay? What does it even matter? But more importantly, I can’t stop reading multiple books at once because that would require finishing EVERYTHING I’m reading until I’m just reading One Single Book and that just gives me the heebie-jeebies. Blargh.

I don’t like to read too many books, though. Instead of actually FINISHING any of the books I am currently reading, I’ve thought intently about what amalgamation of books I would prefer to be reading at once and how I might better devise my reading in the future.

You know, after these five books kill me. Beyond the grave reading planning. Yes, sir, it’s that kind of week.

1. The Audiobook

Let’s start with the most obvious: I like to have an audiobook on deck. This is a practical habit – I do a lot of my reading while commuting… but since moving across town, my commute includes more walking, more transferring trains, and more Rush Hour, Can’t Get a Seat or Hold A Book Without Whapping Someone in the Face stuff. I keep my headphones in and use that lovely little white headphone clicker to instantly apply an audiobook when needed.

(That is the Yuppie reason why I like to always have an audiobook. The real reason is that I like to fall asleep listening to a book, and I am freakishly anxious about sleeping and potential insomnia. I will actually listen to ANY audiobook at this point while I try to go to sleep, but it’s better when it’s something I’m, you know, actually into).

I am fairly picky about what I listen to on audio, but that is a much longer post for a much longer day. If I can’t find anything new to listen to, I am perfectly content to listen to books I’ve liked in the past or revisit some old audio favorites. It doesn’t matter. I just like to have a book to shove in my ears when I want to shove other stuff out.

Right now, I am listening to Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black, which is definitely a good listen, but is due back on the 21st. I should really stop [insert whatever bullshit distraction I am inventing for myself] and get on it.

2. The eBook

This is also an obvious category, but a new one for me! I have made the delightful discovery that yes, I can read an eBook on my iPhone WHILE I am running on the treadmill. And I actually prefer it over other While You Run entertainments (except, perhaps, watching Girls).

I am running 3-5 times a week right now, so I like to have something ready to read on my phone at all times. I don’t read very *quickly* on the treadmill, however, so I can’t check anything out from the library using Overdrive without it expiring on me. This leaves me with the wide, wide world of egalleys.

Another comment that could be a particularly lengthy blog post: I have to choose what egalleys I read carefully. Whether or not I am running, I typically end up reading egalleys on my phone, and I’ve had some markedly mixed results. Some books I am completely disinterested in, but if I read on my larger Kindle, I’m fine. Some books I can barely even understand… but if I check out the hard copy, I’m totally into them. I naturally read galleys with a bit of an evaluative intent, so I think it would irresponsible of me to read a book in a format or setting that would color my judgment.

I haven’t really tried to pin down which books work and which ones don’t, but I suspect it has to do with language style and sentence length. Right now I am reading Geoff Herbach’s Fat Boy vs. The Cheerleaders which I am finding definitely e-Readable.

3. The Backburner Book

The Backburner Book is the book that sits at my house rather than coming with me in my purse. It’s the book I read a bit of before bed or with my coffee in the morning. It’s the book that I return to when my other books aren’t quite suiting me. It’s the book that I’d rather savor than rush through.

A Backburner Book is often a comfort read – a little life-raft book in case you hate what you are reading but also everything else about your existence on this earth. Comforting reading, for me, is often re-reading. A re-read makes for a good Backburner because you can dip in from time to time without confusion or recaps.


Easy reading
in general can also be comforting. We all have our authors/genres/topics that give us immediate gratification – books that don’t ask too much from us. Mine tends toward nonfiction. Hippy-dippy self-help, mostly, but also books about food and writing. My current Back Burner read – Daily Rituals: How Artists Work – fits very neatly into this category. The sections are short and discrete, ideal for quick reading spells but nothing longer.

On the flipside, certain books hit the Backburner because they take so damn long to read that if I read them exclusively then I’d be reading the same book for months. Which, we have now learned, makes me feel swampy and also compelled to write really lengthy blog posts about things that aren’t terribly relevant to other humans. I’d like to tackle more long reads by throwing them on my backburner, though. I read Octavian Nothing this way once and found it quite gratifying. (Maybe I should start with Part II? Not having read the second half of Octavian’s story is becoming an area of my deepest reading shame…)

4. The Primary Read

Last but definitely not least… there’s the Primary Read. Otherwise known as “The Book You Are Reading.” If you are leaving the house, this is the book you grab. If your fun bookish friend asks you what you are reading, this is the answer you give.

If you are a single book reader, then this is the only category for you. Keep it simple! That’s a good thing!

If you are a multi-book reader, then this book could just be whatever book you are reading that doesn’t fall into any other category – whatever other categories your books fall into. It could also be a book that started as a treadmill egalley or an audiobook but then got REALLY good REALLY fast and has graduated to your Primary Read. Or you might just have a little pool of uncategorized semi-read books and your Primary Read is the one that suits you that day.

For me, the Primary Read is often:

  • The new YA book
  • The book I’m reading for book club
  • The book I’m reading for review
  • A particularly hot galley
  • Whatever else my little heart desires
  • Whichever book is due back first.

This is where I am getting stalled up. I have TWO Primary Reads. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which is both strange and beautiful. It reminds me of those lovely, lyrical family dramas you find in adult lit – a less lengthy Middlesex with a younger spirit. I am also reading Lorrie Moore’s short story collection, Bark, which is a little difficult to convince myself to get into, but once I do the prose just… carries me all the way, like I’m on a tide.

But I’ve been reading both for weeks. WEEKS. I feel like my disinterest in reading compounds when there are TWO books to choose from, especially when neither provide The Yank that inspires me into a reading frenzy.

~

In conclusion, I need to stop micromanaging my reading life and just finish a dang book already.

And then finish another one.

And then only start reading another one if I have an open slot.

And not read more than four.

Forever and ever amen.

P.S. How the heck do YOU read? You are probably normal and just… you know… read. If you do something weird, though, fess up!!

12 Mar 2014

29

Um, I turned 29 on Monday so let me share with you some wisdom about aging.

Oh, wait, I don’t have any.

I do feel as though I am getting happier as I get older. My childhood and teen years and early twenties were greatfinecoolawesome but I was kind of a high-strung basket case for most of it. I still am a high-strung basketcase, of course, but the older I get the more equipped I am to see through my own bullshit. To put my emotions in order.

Also, I am becoming so aged, occasionally I can’t actually remember some awful things from my past. Nothing super awful, but you know, the everyday awful things. Years of my life are becoming just a little blurry.

It’s good. I like it.

I mean, I’m not crazy about being so close to the big three zero, but I’m also not feeling an urge to sky dive or or quit my job or whatever other 30 things people with blogs do before they turn 30.

My body is old: I take seats on the train without compunction, dye my hair every 6 weeks, and I cannot wear shoes from Target or Payless. My body is young: I have like, 7 pimples today. Unbelievable!

On any given day I am confused and moody and hopeful and doubtful and reasonably exhausted. I’m still only half sure of what I am doing here on this planet. Obviously having time management issues. Obviously having Internet management issues. But it’s okay. I’m okay.

29, doing fine.

28 | 27 | 26 | 25 | 24

 

01 Mar 2014

library card exhibitionist

It is the end of the month and I have read basically zero of the books I’ve checked out and that means they will still be here when all those books on hold come in and now I am in hold jail. Also, it felt like negative degrees this morning so I’m considering putting myself in apartment jail, too.

And then I remember that this time last year I was languishing in a freezing cold apartment, barely ever leaving my bedroom or even my bed and never the actual house. So I’m doing okay.

But I still have a shit-ton of books checked out and need to read much faster because I might die without having read them all.

Checked Out

The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

Celeste and Jesse Forever [DVD]

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

The New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath

The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam

All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Dangerous Women ed. by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller

The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators ed. by Anita Silvey

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath before Ted by Andrew Wilson

The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle by Lou Schuler [for The Boy]

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

The Portable MFA in Creative Writing  by the New York Writers Workshop

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe

With or Without You by Domenica Ruta

On Hold

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story [DVD]

The Way of the Wizard

Afternoon Delight [DVD]

Sea of Hooks by Lindsay Bell

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

My Education by Susan Choi

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

Hild by Nicola Griffith

The Way, Way Back [DVD]

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

20 Feet from Stardom [DVD]

Philomena [DVD]

The Butler [DVD]

Dallas Buyers Club [DVD]

Game of Thrones Season Three [DVD]

Captain Phillips [DVD]

Blue Jasmine [DVD]