other

Is There a Wrong Way to Read?

So the other day my friend was gracious enough to lend me Eleanor and Park and as she was leaving, she told me that her policy on her books she lent out was nonexistent. As in, I could dog ear it, I could do whatever to it, etc.

Years ago, I had borrowed a friend’s copy of Wicked by Gregory Maguire and ended up pretty much destroying the front cover because I had been dragging it around with me to Washington D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. She was less than thrilled (I was in middle school okay) but she was not pissed. I managed to tape up the tear and color it back in with a sharpie so that the tear wasn’t too noticeable except to the two of us.

Now I normally do not dog-ear pages in a book, especially if they are not my own. I also typically do not write in books unless I am studying them for school and it’s just easier to annotate that way rather than stick in a million post-it notes. I like to keep my books as pristine as possible, but there are times that they get eaten up by the horror that is my backpack.

For my AP Language and Composition class in high school, we had to read an essay titled Never Do That to a Book by Anne Dilliard. Dillard describes two kinds of reading: “carnal” reading and the kind of reading that I do. It is a humorous essay, and if you can get your hands on it, I would definitely recommend reading it. Carnal readers are those who dog-ear the pages, who write all over the pages, and who expose their books to the elements. Those other kinds of readers are those who refuse to let dust get on their books, and make sure that book covers remain uncracked and brand-new.

Basically, what I got from this essay is that there is no one way to love a book and to take care of them. Even though some readers may seem like they disregard the care of their books, it is really how they express their love for reading.

So I want to know…how do you read? Do you think you could read any other way and enjoy it in the same way?

 

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book review, reading recommendations, short story sunday

Short Story Sunday: A Good Man is Hard to Find

For those of you who find it hard to set time aside to read, but still love the pull of a good novel, I introduce to you Short Story Sundays! Basically, I will review a short story or even an essay that I loved each Sunday (most of them will be recommendations) instead of a full length novel or play that you can easily pick up, read, and digest in the span of an hour.

This week’s story comes from the brilliant writer who is a masterful commentator on American life: Flannery O’Connor.

SUMMARY: The narrator of this story comes in the form of a Southern grandmother who would rather vacation in Tennessee, rather than in Florida, where her daughter and her grandson are dragging her along to. This is the kind of woman who is stuck in the past, and stuck in the idea that she was part of a Southern aristocracy, and stuck in an idealized American past that no longer exists in a modern world. She points out an article concerning “The Misfit”, or a serial killer who is out on the road. She finds herself at odds with her family, and she has antiquated values, but this story is still a thriller and the plot twist at the end may have revealed that this grandmother was right about something that she may or may not live to regret.

REVIEW: I was introduced to this chilling story in school, and I am eternally grateful for this introduction because it prompted me to pick up Flannery O’Connor’s collection Everything that Rises Must Converge which I absolutely adored.

O’Connor is great at capturing the feelings of those who are stuck in a different kind of American South, where the wealthy, white plantation owners reigned supreme and in which all of society catered to them. This story proves no exception, and O’Connor manages to concurrently validate those stuck-in-the-past feelings as well as satirizing them.

I also loved the plot and the twist it has at the end, and how it was treated. Yes, it is not the happiest of endings, but that’s O’Connor for you- her stories will leave you somewhat terrified and somewhat in awe. The characterization in this story is particularly some of O’Connor’s best as well; even though you do not know a lot about these characters, they are easily identifiable to any reader. Even the one character in the restaurant that is only briefly mentioned is fleshed out enough for the reader to have an idea of who he is. Additionally, the diction and symbolism is simply enthralling.

If you like a story with excitement, suspension, and an ending that will leave you feeling queasy, (as well with some colorful insights into American generation gaps and American psyches), this story is for you.

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

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Uncategorized

BOOK UNHAULING


So my bookshelves are overflowing…and lately I have been purchasing books at a quicker pace than I have been donating them. So I decided to unhaul a bunch of books and try my luck with them at Half Price Books; the rest will go to my local library or my local thrift shop.

**Just a note, just because I am unhauling these books, it is not necessarily because they were bad and I am definitely not saying that you should not read them. Space is just a premium for me right now and as a college student, I would love the extra cash.

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I received this book as a prize for a summer reading challenge from the library. I picked this title up because none of the other ones interested me. I believe this book probably has a young target audience, since the library was willing to give it away to middle schoolers. I just don’t have any interest in reading it.

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This was initially my mother’s book. I am not really into mystery books (I was never the Nancy Drew kind of girl) and as a kid this was just not up my alley. Years later, it still is not.

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I had to purchase this book for a class, and while the speeches of Cicero’s that I was assigned to read were interesting enough, it is not enough of a motivator for me to study the rest of his speeches willingly.

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Again, I had to read this for a class. I was not super interested in the plot, however, so I don’t anticipate me ever finishing the book. Ancient Roman humor and Roman cultural values just do not overlap with my own sense of humor and values.

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This is a book that is part of the Gallagher Girls series. It was a series that I loved as a middle schooler, but I have a sinking feeling that this series would not appeal to me at the age that I am right now.

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I liked this book, but I don’t think I will complete this series, never mind reread it, so it’s time to let this one go.

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This a simplified retelling of the events of the Trojan War. I read this in elementary school when I told my mother I wanted to read Odyssey (I was a crazy child, no?) so she bought me this instead.

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I’ve wanted to read The Alchemist forever but ended up buying a Spanish version online. Whoops.

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I love this series, but I don’t think it’s worth keeping this copy since I do not have the rest of the series. I’m also probably not going to reread this particular installment of the story, since I thought the two preceding it were superior.

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I really enjoyed this book, but I can’t see myself rereading it. I felt as though I am past the age where I can really and truly sympathize with the protagonist of this book, who is a girl on the cusp of puberty.

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Again, I liked this series. However, I do not own the series so I don’t see any reason to keep it. It wouldn’t be worth it to just reread this installment and this installment only.

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This is a great middle grade read, which is around the age that I read this book. However, now I’d rather just read actual Shakespeare.

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I am definitely not going to reread this book. I’m gonna stick To Kill A Mockingbird and be satisfied, thanks.

 

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to be read

TBR jar / TBR masterpost

So, I’d seen the idea of a TBR jar floating around on another book blog…so I decided, why not? I barely have any room for the books that I have and my separate TBR lists are amazingly long, so I decided to compile the lists into one masterlist.

Well, that might have been a mistake. I counted all of the tiles that I have written down…and there are 127 titles. 127 you guys! Because I am interested in so many genres and try to read diversely…well…let’s just say I will be committing to this TBR jar for a while.

The way the TBR jar will work is that I have written each title on my TBR list and the names of the books that I own that are unread on separate slips of paper. I will fold them up, mix them in a Mason jar, and pick out a couple to read each month.

So as of now- I am hereby banning myself from buying any more books/adding to this TBR list until I can get it to a more manageable size. (It’s obvious to pretty much everyone except me that I have a huge problem).

I’m gonna keep track of what I’m reading and when, and I will do so on this post:

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
  2. Alex and Eliza
  3. Alexander Hamilton
  4. America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction

  5. Angel
  6. Angels in America (#1)
  7. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
  8. Anton Chekhov: The Complete Short Novels
  9. Anton Chekhov: Stories
  10. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  11. As I Descended
  12. The Awakening
  13. A Bad Feminist
  14. The Bell Jar
  15. Between Shades of Gray
  16. The Bluest Eye
  17. The Boy in Striped Pajamas
  18. Boy Meets Boy
  19. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  20. Catch-22
  21. Casual Vacancy
  22. A Circle of Quiet
  23. City of Bones
  24. The Collected Stories- Pushkin
  25. Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol
  26. The Color Purple
  27. The Complete Plays: Christopher Marlowe
  28. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
  29. Crazy Rich Asians
  30. Difficult Women
  31. Dreamology
  32. Dreams from My Father (Finished September 2017)
  33. Elbow Room
  34. Eleanor and Park
  35. Eligible
  36. Every Heart a Doorway
  37. Extras
  38. The Eyre Affair
  39. Fangirl  (Finished August 2017)
  40. The Fault in Our Stars
  41. Fire
  42. Flame in the Mist
  43. From the Silence of the Tao House
  44. The Fountainhead
  45. Fun Home
  46. The Geek Feminist Revolution
  47. Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
  48. Girl, Interrupted
  49. The Girl on the Train
  50. The Girls of Atomic City
  51. Give us the Ballot
  52. The Glass Castle
  53. The Goldfinch
  54. Gone Girl
  55. Good Wives (Little Women #2)
  56. The Handmaid’s Tale
  57. The Hate You Give
  58. The Help
  59. History is All You Left Me
  60. The Hobbit
  61. How to Make a Wish
  62. The Iceman Cometh
  63. If I was Your Girl (Finished September 2017)
  64. I’ll Give You the Sun
  65. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Finished September 2017)
  66. It Takes a Village
  67. The Jane Austen Book Club
  68. The Jungle
  69. Larger than Life
  70. The Life of Pi
  71. Lowlands
  72. The Luster of Lost Things
  73. Mark of Athena
  74. Memoirs of a Geisha
  75. The Melody of You and Me
  76. Mom & Me & Mom
  77. More Happy than Not
  78. Mourning Becomes Electra
  79. My Antonia
  80. My Sister’s Keeper
  81. Nevermore
  82. The Nightingale
  83. Not Otherwise Specified
  84. Notorious RBG
  85. Of Fire and Stars
  86. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  87. The Opposite of Loneliness
  88. The Outsiders
  89. Paper Towns
  90. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  91. Persepolis 2
  92. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  93. The Price
  94. The Princess Bride
  95. Queens of Geek
  96. Ramona Blue
  97. Red Fire
  98. Room
  99. Sara Bareilles: Sounds Like Me (finished August 2017)
  100. The Secret Life of Bees
  101. Seven Ways We Lie
  102. The Shell Collection
  103. Shiver
  104. A Short History of Nearly Everything
  105. Sightseeing
  106. Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda
  107. Story of the Trapp Family Singers
  108. A Streetcar Named Desire
  109. The Sun is Also A Star
  110. Tales from Watership Down
  111. Tash Hearts Tolstoy
  112. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
  113. Tender is the Night
  114. A Thousand Splendid Suns
  115. To All the Boys I Loved Before
  116. Two Boys Kissing (Finished August 2017)
  117. The Virgin Suicides
  118. Walden
  119. We are Okay
  120. When Breath Becomes Air
  121. When We Collided
  122. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  123. Wild
  124. Wild Swans
  125. Wuthering Heights
  126. The Year of the Runaways
  127. The Zoo Story

This started out as a cute idea, but now it has turned into something that I’ve probably needed to do for a looong time.

Progress: Read- 6/127

Bolded Books are those in my possession.

 

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book review, nonfiction, reading recommendations

Review: Hidden Figures

Their dark skin, their gender, their economic status–none of those were acceptable excuses for not giving the fullest rein to their imaginations and ambitions.

Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly

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Click on the image above to purchase on Amazon.

So as soon as I saw that this audiobook was available to loan with no wait from my local library, I immediately borrowed it because I loved the movie!

AUTHOR: Margot Lee Shetterly

GENRE: Nonfiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Hidden Figures follows the journey of mostly black women (some white women and black men and their struggles are also touched on) that worked as those who specialized in math and/or science for NASA or NACA, as it was named before the space race. The women in this book include Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Mary Jackson, among other amazing black, female minds that are also mentioned. The story does discuss the racial or gender based barriers that the women face when trying to advance themselves and their careers at Langley Institute on the Virginian Peninsula, but more importantly, it details the achievements of these women that would otherwise have been lost to history, and how these women tie into and contributed to American history, as well as the American narrative.

THOUGHTS: I gave this book the highest rating possible because I cannot honestly think of something I would change about it. The writing was clear and precise, and the author did a good job of navigating the material- she neither underplayed nor overplayed the role of racism or discrimination in the story, but she also did not idolize the women described nor did she downplay their characteristics or achievements. Instead, she did what a good nonfiction writer does- stick to the facts, but also adding humanizing elements to the story because it is a story with a uniquely humanistic value.

The story of success against all odds, of how hard work and dedication and ingenuity can lead to achievement otherwise impossible for black females to even dream about, is a story that I’m sure all Americans with a belief in the ideals of this country and the American Dream can enjoy and sympathize with. However, the recognition that the racial discrimination of the 1950s and the 1960s is only in the near past and the acknowledgement that black women still have a gigantic hill to climb are important aspects of this story to, and more importantly, Shetterly knows this keenly and tells her readers as well.

I am sure some people will be disappointed that this is not the same story that was eloquently fictionalized in the film, but I believe that the film took the necessary creative license to dramatize the work and to embody the same message and sentiment as the book. However, if you are not the kind that enjoys nonfiction persay, but would prefer a clear-cut story, then this book is probably not for you. (Go watch the movie instead! It’s still amazing and inspiring and Shetterly was very involved in its production.)

Ultimately, I am grateful that this book exists to enrich the minds of both Americans and international readers- the achievements of Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Christine Darden are a reminder of what is possible in America, despite someone’s gender or despite someone’s skin tone, as well as a reminder of how far we still need to go as an American society. The bits about how black men fared at Langely Institute are also important and of the also-forgotten white, female mathematicians that worked at Langely reveal that black women were not the only “hidden figures” in this story. (Quick note: the subplots of white and black female friendships are SUBLIME). Therefore, this story is not just one about race, or about gender…it’s about the fact that only those of a certain, preferred demographic are sometimes the only ones that get noticed and how all of us could best help everyone reach their full potential, so that there are no more hidden figures.

 

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book review, nonfiction, reading recommendations

Review: Freakonomics

The conventional wisdom is often wrong.

Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

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Click the image above to purchase this book on Amazon.

This book was once recommended to me by a college admissions officer for the University of Chicago, and let me tell you, I would definitely take an economics class from Steven D. Levitt, although it is outside my major.

AUTHORS: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

GENRE: Nonfiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: book sale

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

BACKGROUND: It may sound odd, but there is a striking similarity between sumo wrestlers and school teachers in Chicago. Have you ever gotten the feeling that your real estate agent is trying to cheat you? Is a gun more dangerous to your child than a swimming pool? How did the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade affect trends of violent crime? Will your name affect your future success? What are the economics at play in the Ku Klux Klan? Questions and observations like these are addressed in this book; there is no unifying theme, as admitted by the authors, except that an economist and a writer look at everyday, and unusual, situations and use data and numbers to try and challenge our own conventional wisdom and apply economics to the strangest of situations.

THOUGHTS: I am sure that, unless you are a super-nerd like me, reading a book about economics sounds like the last thing you’d want to do with your free time. However, the way that Levitt and Dubner (who is not an economist but rather a journalist) approach these topics is accessible to us laymen who have maybe left the basic properties of supply and demand back in high school. There is data and numbers involved, but it is done so sparingly, so that less economics-inclined readers can easily skip over them and read the conclusions only and so that those who like numbers can pore over them and have them supplement the conclusions drawn. Freakonomics is for everyone.

And it is far from vanilla as other economics books might be- it addresses data surrounding abortion, drug dealing, and the black-white gap. Of course, there are more whimsical chapters as well that deal with sumo wrestling and real estate agents. The point is, that it brings real-life situations under the microscope and challenges the reader to analytically examine the conclusions before them and compare it with the information that they thought was a given. If anything, this book encourages us as rational creatures to question every piece of information given to us, and to not take what the media says for granted. And in an era filled with fake news, we could all afford to be a little more skeptical of what we’re being told.

If you enjoy a read that will challenge you to step out of your comfort zone a little bit, that will engage your mind, and that will leave you rethinking some aspects of your life, then this book is for you.

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book review, fiction, reading recommendations

Review: Me Before You

You can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.

– Me Before You, Jojo Moyes


So I have to admit, I was reluctant to read this novel. Reluctant, I say, because I was sure that it would not live up to the hype and I had heard mixed reactions to the movie. But, I am pleased to say that the novel is NOT the movie and is actually much better, but who can say that they were surprised? And anyways, romance is not my genre but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this novel.

AUTHOR: Jojo Moyes

GENRE: Romance, Realistic Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 3.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Louisa, or Lou, is a small-town, twenty six year old, English girl with no big plans. She lives a comfortable life with her sister, her nephew, her parents, her grandfather, and her boyfriend. Her family’s financial situation is tight and depends on her wages, so she does not have the ability to move away nor can she pursue an education. Personal reasons and secrets also lead Lou to lead a life within a small radius, leaving her with no desire to see the world and no aspirations. Lou is a bubbly, awkward personality with a wardrobe louder than most. One fateful day, she loses her job at the cafe and instead is assigned to be the caretaker and companion Will Traynor, a quadriplegic, ex-CEO, rich man in his thirties. At first the pair does not get along, but as time proceeds, they learn to rely on each other and of course, fall for each other. However, Lou has to reconcile with a deep, dark secret of Will’s that could possibly threaten their intimacy as well as their relationship.

THOUGHTS: I think the issue with my primary reluctance with reading this novel is that it was marketed as a romance when it really is not that at all. This story is all Lou’s, the protagonist, and how a relationship she has affects the course of her life and her personal worldview. I think the main proof of this is the fact that there is a sequel to this book even though (SPOILER ALERT) the relationship comes to an end in the course of this first novel. Additionally, there was no romanticization of Will’s paralysis, and yet at the same time, a real understanding that this romance only could have occurred if Will was paralyzed, and would ever occur in some made-up, fantasy land where he fully had control of his body.

There is something to be said about the fact that I finished this book in the span of less than twenty four hours; the storyline is riveting and the dialogue is witty and refreshing. Moyes’ writing is accessible and easy to digest; however, I found it to be lacking in that it did not have a unique, identifiable style. There are bursts of brilliance, but overall, the diction was not too impressive, which is why I could not give it a higher rating.

That being said, there was no need for fancy figurative language most of the time; the storyline and exposition managed to carry itself quite well without it. Moyes’ style, while not a standout feature of the novel, suits the mood and purpose of the work well.

The management of sensitive topics in the book, such as assisted suicide, is handled with grace. I know that the way that Moyes treats these subjects may have provoked controversy, and I believe that it only makes the work that much better, because in my opinion, the purpose of the novel is not to paint moral issues in simple shades of black and white, nor is it to preach. It is simply a honest reflection of the complexities of life.

The characterization is sublime and I found both Lou and Will to be highly sympathetic characters, and Lou served as a reliable narrator. I loved the imagery associated with Lou’s personality and her wardrobe, I loved the complicated relationships she often found herself, and I loved how she managed to look at all of her character flaws and mostly take them in stride. Will was also very well-written; he was both appropriately dark and yet generous beyond belief at the same time yet very believable.

The background motifs also played nicely into the tapestry that is this novel; of course, there is the classic class struggles between two peoples who have affections for each other, the examination of what a healthy functioning relationship actually looks like, and family disfunction. They do not distract from the main plot and instead, at most times, enhance the novel.

If you are a fan of watching a beautifully arced character grow and if you are a fan of subtle complexities, this is the book for you.

 

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