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4October
2017

crystal ball

maura @ 6:47 am

Wow September, where did you go? Into the manuscript for the edited book that my research partner and I delivered to the publisher last weekend, is the real answer. But wow, everything is so much right now, and September was no different. Work is extra busy, home is extra busy, the world continues to fall apart at what feels like extra busy speed (though I realize that much of this perception of speed is the result of the instantaneous notification that comes from our pocket computers).

It’s still weird to me to finish up a big project. The sort of let-down feeling is less so now than with the last book, I think because this semester is already so much busier than this time last year. But the feeling like I’m out of words is the same. How many words do we get? I wrote or cowrote lots of things on sabbatical, are my words used up? Will they come back?

This time around I acutely felt the slowdown in reading that happened as I got closer to the book’s deadline. This feeling was also exacerbated by sabbatical: during sabbatical I had enough time to do my research work + writing and to read a bunch each day (as I blogged about on one of the sabbatical side projects I worked on with a colleague). But once I was back to work and counting down to our deadline it got harder and harder to allocate the brain space needed to read in addition to doing everything else. I left off in the middle of a couple of nonfiction books that were especially challenging, but even fun light reading before bed usually had me falling asleep over the book.

I’m looking forward to finishing those books and starting new ones. And I’m hoping that reading more will help the words come back for writing, too.

les tags: ,
31December
2016

2016 reading list

maura @ 6:54 pm

This year I read 35 books total, down a bit from 2015 and just one book shy of my 2014 total. Partly I think the decrease is a side effect of writing a book this year. My research partner and I wrote ~30K words (and I had a few other writing projects, too) which I think made reading more challenging. (Clearly it made blogging more challenging, given the relative silence around here this year.)

But 35 is nothing to sneeze at, for sure. I don’t know that there were as many standouts as last year — I admit that I carried Station Eleven through with me to this year, it was just that good. And none of the dystopian YA really got me this year, either. Though I did like The Sunlight Pilgrims, a clifi YA book about the world getting freakishly colder because the ice caps melted and ocean salinity decreased. Really it’s about a transgender teen in a small town in Scotland and the climate change stuff is actually more of a backdrop to the characters figuring out complicated family and gender and sexuality stuff. Pretty and dreamily written, too.

I also liked Homegoing and The Vegetarian, both perhaps in part because I read them while we visited Iceland last summer so they have those good vacation vibes associated with them in addition to being compelling reads. I especially enjoyed the former, which was much better than a review I’d read had led me to believe. Another trip-related read was the kids graphic novel El Deafo about a little girl who has a bout of meningitis as a 4 yr old that makes her mostly deaf, and who gets a hearing aid with a microphone for her teacher which makes her briefly famous. This also has really great descriptions of how insensitive abled people are to disabled people. I’d gotten this for one of my nibling’s birthday then forgotten to read it first, and was happy to have the chance to read it when we went for a visit during spring break.

I made an effort to read more short stories this year thinking they’d be easier on weeknights when I’m tired, bite-sized and easy to read before falling asleep mid-page. And I did, but they didn’t end up being as easy as they could be (or maybe I was just more tired this year). I have a bunch of books of stories still stacked up on my bedside table though so there’ll be more in 2017 for sure. And I definitely did not read as much nonfiction as I’d wanted to. I enjoyed The Mushroom at the End of the World, though it’s dense enough that it took me a couple of months to make my way through it. And Tracey Thorn’s book about singing was delightful. Maybe with my sabbatical on its way (37 days!) I’ll finally finish that 4AD book I started in 2014.

Anyway, here’s the list. As usual starred are ebooks, tilded are books I/we own, plussed are graphic novels, and the list is in reverse chronological order. For a second year the number of ebooks I read has gone up, especially for fiction. As I remarked last year ebooks can be easy to get from the library, for sure. And recently the checkout time increased to 3 weeks, so there’s not even the 1 week penalty for ebooks anymore.

* The Girl From Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig
~ Monstrous Affections, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
* Underground Airlines, by Ben Winters
After Atlas, by Emma Newman
~ Dead Set, by Richard Kadrey
Replica, by Lauren Oliver
Good White People: The Problem With Middle-Class White Anti-Racism, by Shannon Sullivan
* The Sunlight Pilgrims, by Jenni Fagan
~ Proxy, by Alex London
* MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood
~ Naked at the Albert Hall: The Inside Story of Singing, by Tracey Thorn
~ Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older
~ Waste, by Brian Thill
~ We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
* The Vegetarian, by Han Kang
* Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
* Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor
~ + Syllabus, by Lynda Barry
Falling in Love with Hominids, by Nalo Hopkinson
* Ways to Disappear, by Idra Novey
Mr. Splitfoot, by Samantha Hunt
~ “I Love Learning, I Hate School” An Anthropology of College, by Susan Blum
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, by Pema Chodron
~ Lock In, by John Scalzi
+ El Deafo, by Cece Bell
+ This One Summer, by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
* If Then Else, by Barbara Fister
* The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, by Kelly McGonigal
* The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon
* Lizard Radio, by Pat Schmatz
The Mushroom at the End of the World, On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
+ Supermutant Magic Academy, by Jillian Tamaki
Pressed for Time, The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism, by Judy Wajcman
* Vanishing Girls, by Lauren Oliver
* Rooms, by Lauren Oliver

les tags: ,
10October
2016

with a beard and a pipe

maura @ 5:09 pm

The thing about writing is that it can be hard to read a lot when you’re writing a lot. Or at least it has been for me this year. It’s a curious thing, even my go-to genre for leisure reading, dystopian YA fiction, has been harder for me to read this year. With the book finished I’m climbing back on the reading horse (and the sleeping, exercising, TV-watching, and other horses), but I admit it’s been slow going of late. There’s a pile of books on the shelf and another next to my bed and a third in my office, all of them books I want to read (or maybe that I want to want to read?). And I’ve stopped reading a few books midstream this year too, two almost right away, one after trying (and failing, despite repeated library renewals) for months. I’m not sure what, exactly, I’m looking for in a book right now. Though maybe this is to be expected, a natural consequence of being completely immersed in a big writing project for so many months? Whatever it is, it’s an odd feeling.

les tags:
31December
2015

2015 reading list

maura @ 5:42 pm

Sometimes I wait until the new year to do this, and sometimes I don’t. But I’m not going to finish any books in the rest of today and I have some down time right now and I’ve been jonesing to get my list out there since reading Alycia’s, Jenna’s, and Meredith’s lists, so here goes.

Just like last year I made a conscious effort to read more this year, and I managed to read 39 books in 2015 (up by 3!). I feel pretty good about this number, though; I read an actual book most days this year, which is truly my main goal. I didn’t have many explicit content goals for reading this year. I still have a few reading projects I’m planning on — including more on feminism and racism — plus some author goals: reading the stuff I haven’t read yet by Nnedi Okorafor, reading the Ursula LeGuin books I haven’t read, and rereading all of Octavia Butler’s books. But these feel like projects I can chip away at over time (or maybe I’ll go all in next summer like that one summer years ago when I read everything by Willa Cather). I didn’t make an official We Need Diverse Books pledge this year but I did continue to try to read mostly books written by people of color and women. Like last year this was an easy win — all of my favorites this year were written by people of color or women.

Not to be all negative but I did finish a few books I didn’t like this year (which is sort of unusual because recently I’ve tended to abandon books that I don’t like rather than force myself to finish). I wanted to like VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy and there were aspects of it that I did — the biological stuff was cool and X-Files-y and the character study of the biologist and director were great. But I ultimately found the lack of answers unsatisfying. I also barely finished the Very Short Intro to critical theory, which I picked up feeling like I needed a bit more theoretical grounding for my interest in critical pedagogy/librarianship, but which was just too dull for me to get into (though I did take notes, go me).

It took me a while to read Station Eleven because the hype was so very hypey, but I finally did and it was hands down my favorite book this year. I’m generally a fan of the postapocalyptic story and this one was realistic and melancholy in its plot and description of what things would actually be like, and not overly depressing or scary (though occasionally so, but not awfully). Really great, I just devoured it staying up too late on school nights. Other faves for fiction this year were Planetfall, Get in Trouble, and Everything I Never Told You. I also loved My Real Children — alternate universes/timelines have always interested me, but with my mother-in-law and a close friend of ours both dying suddenly late last year I think I was especially primed to be grabbed by this book.

For nonfiction my favorite book was Between the World and Me, 100% worth all the accolades and attention. Devastating.

As in past years this list is in reverse chrono order (because that’s how I keep my reading journal), ebooks are starred, tilded are books we own (vs. library books). I read more ebooks this year than last year, which is interesting — I’m not sure why that is, other than that it’s easy to request them from the library as soon as I learn about them and then just wait for them to come in (though I still hate that they’re only able to be checked out for 2 weeks rather than 3).

~ The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, by Anna North
* Planetfall, by Emma Newman
~ Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction, by Maria Accardi
Alive in the Writing: Crafting Ethnography in the Company of Chekhov, by Kirin Narayan
Horrorstor, by Grady Hendrix
* In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume
Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction, by Stephen Eric Bronner
* Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby
The Bone People, by Keri Hulme
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
* My Real Children, by Jo Watson
~ Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
~ Critical Journeys, edited by Robert Schroeder
~ Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link
The Librarian Stereotype: Deconstructing Perceptions and Presentations of Information Work, edited by Nicole Pagowsky & Miriam Rigby
* Find Me, by Laura van den Berg
Digital Technology and the Contemporary University, by Neil Selwyn
~ Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor
* Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders, by Jennifer Finney Boylan
* Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
~ Lines, A Brief History, by Tim Ingold
~ Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer
* Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brene Brown
Delicious Foods, by James Hannaham
* Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
~ Authority, by Jeff VanderMeer
* Zarah the Windseeker, by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
~ Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer
* Citizen, by Claudia Rankine
* Inheritance, by Malinda Lo
* Adaptation, by Malinda Lo
The Almost Nearly Perfect People, by Michael Booth
* Echoes of Us, by Kat Zhang
*~ Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (So originally I got this from the library but then I loved it so much and Jonathan wanted to read it so we bought it.)
~ Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson
Panic, by Lauren Oliver
* Once We Were, by Kat Zhang
* What’s Left of Me, by Kat Zhang

Started, not finished:
The Country of Ice Cream Star, by Sandra Newman — I only got about 20 pages in and realized I wouldn’t be able to deal with the slang that this book is written in.

les tags: ,
31December
2014

2014 reading list

maura @ 4:50 pm

I tried hard to read more this year and I guess I did: 36 books in total, up from 28 last year (and identical to 2012’s number). I did add work-ish books into the list this year which helped boost my overall tally. And I guess I’m mostly satisfied with this number. I had a couple of productive, fun reading jags over the summer, though sadly did not read as much at the end of the year as I’d originally planned.

Looking at last year’s post there are a couple of goals I didn’t hit. I read a bit of feminism but not much, didn’t have a chance to read some library/info science books I’d hoped to read, and didn’t get to LeGuin or Butler either. I also started but didn’t finish the 4AD book. It’s terrific though very long; I read about half of it over the summer when we were in Indiana and hope to finish it in the nearish future. It’s been challenging to read this past semester with my new job, I just don’t have a lot of spare cycles in the evenings and tend to fall asleep only a few pages in to anything I read. But I have some new books of short stories and essays that should fit the bill, and with the 4AD book’s arrangement of a chapter for each year (I think I stopped after 1985), that might work too.

On the positive side, this year I tried to read fiction only written by women and/or people of color, and I did meet that goal. It wasn’t hard at all, of course there’s lots of great stuff out there, and lots of library and literary folks have made lists of fiction, YA, sci fi, etc. written by women/poc. Faves were the two books by Nnedi Okorafor which both Gus and I read, and Americanah which was as amazing as everyone is always saying. All of those reminded me of the African Civ class I took in college and all of the fiction reading we did in one of the quarters — I’m glad I kept those books and will perhaps reread them in the coming year. I’m also looking forward to reading Nnedi Okorafor’s other books — the future Africa she writes about is super compelling. My other faves this year were: Eleanor & Park, about two high schoolers in love set against a background of family disfunction and mix tapes, and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Roz Chast’s incredible story of her parents’ decline and eventual death, told in that incredible Roz Chast way that will make you laugh and cry.

Like in previous years the list below is in reverse chronological order. Starred books are ebooks and tilded books are those we own rather than those borrowed from the library or from others. Books with a plus sign are graphic novels, all of which are Gus’s except the Walden one which was from the library (and on Gus’s summer reading list). I found several graphic novels to be a boon for me at difficult times this year — most of the ones I read this year went down easy though with enough of a narrative to be compelling, and with illustrations predominating over text they often seemed more escapist than novels, even YA novels. That said, I pooped out of the Amulet series halfway through when it turned out to be aimed more at an older elementary than YA crowd.

+ American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
The Shadow Speaker, by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
~ The Real Boy, by Anne Ursu
+ Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang
+ In Real Life, by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
~ Picture Me Gone, by Meg Rosoff
When We Wake, by Karen Healey
Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor
~ + Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, by Roz Chast
* The Word Exchange, by Alena Graedon
Four, by Veronica Roth
* The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood
+ Thoreau at Walden, by John Porcellino
Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University, by Gaye Tuchman
Humanism and Libraries: An Essay on the Philosophy of Librarianship, by Andre Cossette
Before We Were Free, by Julia Alvarez
College, by Andrew Delbanco
* The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
* Oryx & Crake, by Margaret Atwood
+ Amulet 1-3, by Kazu Kibuichi
Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, by Bich Minh Nguyen
Short Girls, by Bich Minh Nguyen
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell
After, Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
~ Feminism is for Everybody, by bell hooks
Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
* Pure, by Julianna Baggott
* Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century, by Cathy Davidson
Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, by Kathleen Fitzpatrick
Program or Be Programmed: Ten Rules for a Digital Age, by Douglas Rushkoff
Rethinking College Student Retention, by John M. Braxton et al.
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
Pain Free at Your PC, by Pete Egoscue
The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer

Started not finished:
+ Amulet 4, by Kazu Kibuichi

les tags: ,
1January
2014

2013 reading list

maura @ 10:17 am

Hmm, when I counted up the books on this list I was disappointed to see this year that I didn’t read as many books as last year, only 28 compared to last year’s 36. Starred books are ebooks and tilded books are those I own (rather than borrowed from the library), and the list below is in reverse chronological order. Again this doesn’t count books I read for academic reasons, which would bulk things up a bit. Also I think this reflects that 2013 was perhaps more disjointed than 2012. We didn’t really take any vacations that offered space for lots of reading, and the summer overall (which is when I tend to get most of my non-academic reading done) was sort of scattered. But on the plus side, only one book falls into the started not finished category, so that’s a good thing. And Debt is eNORmous, maybe it should count as several books?

I think I hit the wall with dystopian YA books this past year. I still find them enjoyable to read, but I’m also finding them more disturbing and depressing than I have in the past. I was excited to read Allegiant and wind up the series, but found it kind of meh in the end (though I’m *totally* excited for the movie — when we saw the previews there were shots of Mansueto and the Reg!).

Balancing out the dystopia were some books I really enjoyed. Every Day was fantastic — layered and thoughtful and real. As I babbled about in other posts, I loved Tracey Thorn’s book, Fangirl, and Sisterland. I did a bit of revisiting books I’d already read — Wrinkle in Time and Ender’s Game because Gus was reading them (also the latter to prep for seeing the movie), and Wizard of Earthsea (just finished yesterday!) because I’m thinking that I need to read more LeGuin in the new year and rereading the trilogy (plus the other two Earthsea books I haven’t read) seems like a good place to start.

My reading goal for 2014 is to read more, obvs. I’d like to read all of LeGuin’s work, and possibly reread Octavia Butler’s books (in prep for recommending them to Gus). I have some big holes in my knowledge of feminist theory that I’d like to plug, too. I also can’t wait to read Facing the Other Way: The 4AD Story. And Gus got 21 (!) books for his birthday and xmas some of which I’d like to read too, including a graphic novel series called Amulet and another graphic novel set — this one about the Boxer Rebellion — called Boxers and Saints. He tore through them all in less than a week so they’re uncontested.

With that said, here’s the list:

~ A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula LeGuin
~ Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh
~ Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son, by Anne Lamott with Sam Lamott
* Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
Allegiant, by Veronica Roth
Wool, by Hugh Howely
* Shards & Ashes, edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong
Debt, by David Graeber
First Light, by Rebecca Stead
Among Others, by Jo Walton
~ A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
Too Big To Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now that the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room, by David Weinberger
Peanut, by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe
~ The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancy
~ Bedsit Disco Queen, by Tracey Thorn
* Every Day, by David Levithan
A Darkling Plain, by Phillip Reeve
Legend, by Marie Lu
Requiem, by Lauren Oliver
Infernal Devices, by Phillip Reeve
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
~ Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
~ Why Do I Love These People?, by Po Bronson
The Age of Miracles, by Karen Walker Thompson
Predator’s Gold, by Phillip Reeve

Started not finished:
* Oryx & Crake, by Margaret Atwood

les tags: ,
27December
2013

keep feeling like a baby chicken

maura @ 9:26 pm

So before you’re all “OMG two posts in one day” I should probably mention that I wrote that last post last night, though wasn’t able to post it until this morning because we didn’t have internet at the neighbors’ apartment where we were staying. This year we’re having a mostly home-based holiday season — though we did travel to exchange gifts with some of my family before xmas, it was a quick trip of only 42 hours duration. Now we have family visiting and took advantage of our neighbors’ generosity to use their place as an extra sleeping space while they’re out of town. It’s nice to travel at xmas though it’s nice to be home, too, with a tree and the kitties.

I recently read two novels in a row about twins, each told from the perspective of one of the twins, which when added to the season has me thinking much more about family than usual. The books were great. First was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, about twin girls in Nebraska who write Harry Potter-esque fan fiction and the events of their first year away at college. It was a fun read: the characters were both super likable and since I spend lots of my research and scholarly time thinking about the academic culture of college students it was also interesting from an ethnographic perspective. (Is there a term for ethnographic fiction? Is all fiction ethnographic?)

I was particularly entranced by one scene in which the main character is accused of plagiarism by her English prof when she submits a fic for a creative writing assignment. I scanned those few pages from the book and plan to ask my students to read the excerpt when I next teach our library’s research and documentation course. Which is nerdily exciting — we talk a lot about plagiarism and remix culture and intellectual property, and I’ll be interested to see what the students make of the reading. Plus it’s only 4 pages which is absolutely fair use, so I can post the PDF of the scan on our course website.

Next (and completely accidentally re: the twin theme) I read Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’ve never read any of her books before — the cover of Prep, her first novel, completely turned me off and she fell off my radar after that. But reading Jenna’s review of Sisterland piqued my interest, and since it was available as an ebook and I didn’t have any other ebooks checked out it seemed like a good call (I like to have an ebook on my phone if possible, just in case I ever get stuck someplace with nothing to read). And it was! Like Jenna, I found the main characters unsympathetic, but the story was well-paced and interesting.

These twins are adult women who are both somewhat psychic, though one has suppressed her ability. The narrative of the book is framed by an event that happens early on, when the more-psychic sister predicts that an earthquake will strike St. Louis, where the book takes place. The bulk of the book (which is told by the less-psychic sister) recounts the story of what happens with the sisters and their lives and families between the time of the prediction and the date on which the earthquake is predicted to happen. There’s lots of flashbacks to the twins’ childhood and early adult years, and lots of discussion of their ESP and the circumstances under which they’ve used it. What I liked best is that even though the psychic powers lend the book a vaguely magical tone, most of the issues with which the characters grapple are pretty much just normal, everyday problems.

In both books the twin sisters are identical yet surprisingly different, with a relationship at least as complex as that between non-twin siblings. And I guess that’s what made me start thinking about my family. I love my family, though I’m often quite baffled when I think of us. While my nuclear family members — my parents and my younger sister and brother — are (of course!) related and have much in common, we are also each very different. And we all continue to change as we age, which along with partnering and childrearing adds other wrinkles (ha!). My parents are long divorced and we all mostly live far apart, and I wish we saw everyone more often. But I sometimes find myself torn: I don’t want to leave New York to live in one of the places they live, but living here makes it difficult for folks to visit us because NYC apts aren’t great for hosting sleepover visitors. And I wonder: are we all so different because we live in different places? Or do we live in different places because we are all so different?

les tags: , ,
7September
2013

other voices

maura @ 8:19 pm

The semester started over a week ago but the combination of Labor Day and Rosh Hashanah means that the public schools haven’t even started yet, not til Monday. So while things are still beginning-of-the-term nutty (enrollment is up! 3300 first year students! nearly 17K total students! CUNY’s tuition is so reasonable! 142 sections of English I! each has one session of library instruction! wheee!), the end of this week was a bit slower with no meetings, so we decided to hightail it to the Catskills for a last-couple-days-of-summer getaway.

Even though we were only going to be away for a couple of nights, we rented a small house on the recommendation of a friend (as opposed to staying in a hotel). In the summers that we’ve gone to the beach we’ve usually rented houses — with both of my sibs and all of their kids a house is by far the most practical option. Beach houses are pretty standard fare: sand-colored carpeting, VHS tapes from the 80s, dull knives in the kitchen, all manner of lighthouse/sand dollar/sailboaty knick-knacks, and leftover laundry detergent from the prior week’s renters if you’re lucky.

This house was different, and not only because it was smaller. This house most definitely seemed more lived-in. There was the usual random selection of books and board games and DVDs, but also a real kitchen with all the tools and cookware you’d expect for someone who actually cooks there. In a beach house the owners typically have one closet or a shed with their own stuff in it (often locked): the drawers are empty, and you have to bring your own sheets and towels. But in this house the owner’s stuff was right there alongside space for renters’ (our) things — two drawers in each dresser were empty, towels were on the (made) bed and extras in the wardrobe.

It was a lovely house and a nice treat to be able to actually cook dinner without having to curse our forgetting to bring some real knives. But I’ve found myself wondering how, exactly, it works with a house like that. Does the owner live there most of the time and just go somewhere else when there are renters? What if renters stay for a week? Or two weeks? And where does the owner go when she’s not in the house? To stay with friends? Does she have another house? There’s the trustworthiness issue too — how can she be sure that everything will be as she left it? There was a hefty security deposit to put down, so perhaps that’s the insurance. And we’re kind of fussy (unsurprisingly) about leaving things the way we found them so no worries there.

More than anything it seemed like this house had more stories in it than other houses we’ve rented in other places. Being surrounded by all of those belongings that clearly belonged to someone who cared about them made it impossible not to speculate about that person and her stories. I’ve also been reading Among Others by Jo Walton (intrigued by Jenna’s review), and stuff being infused with personal magic plays a big part in the book’s narrative, which I’m sure helped me think about the house in that way, too. I should have been finishing Debt; really I am almost halfway and have renewed it twice and I *do* like it, for real, but it’s just so serious and I was on vacation and wanted to read about fairies and interlibrary loan and adolescence instead. I have ’til September 26 to finish Debt, plenty of time, right?

4July
2013

when all’s well

maura @ 6:22 pm

Over last weekend while we were away I read Tracey Thorn’s book Bedsit Disco Queen. It’s a fast fun read that I found hard to put down, consuming it in huge gulps over two days. Not that I’ve read lots of them, but I’m finding that I really like reading memoirs of musicians I admire. A few years ago I read Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh and had many of the same feelings about that book. As an aside, thank you, reading journal, for reminding me that it was not last year but December 2010! Honestly I can’t believe I ever didn’t keep a reading journal.

Tracey Thorn is probably best known as 1/2 of Everything But The Girl (her partner Ben Watt the other 1/2), but she’s also famous in indiepopland for her earlier band the Marine Girls. More recently she’s been releasing solo records that are also fantastic (and not just because her lyrics sometimes speak to growing-older-lady stuff that resonates increasingly well with me). Her voice is frankly amazing, and it’s lovely that she’s back to recording again. I wasn’t cool enough to listen to Marine Girls when they were actually making records, though I came to them later during my serious indiepop phase in the early-mid-90s. Probably the first song I ever heard that featured Tracey Thorn’s singing was “The Paris Match” by Style Council. I feel like I used to own a vinyl copy of EBTG’s 2nd record “Love Not Money” — I have a vivid memory of listening to it in our living room when I was about 15, and my younger sibs giggling at the cover photo of the two little boys peeing into a puddle. But I can only find the CD in our house now.

The thing about reading a book about music (and this book sprinkles lyrics throughout, as did Kristin Hersh’s book) is that you can’t help but hear the music the whole way through. It’s a strange experience: as a fan I know the music side of the story, the discography and maybe the bare outlines of the musicians’ lives, in addition to occasional insights from the song lyrics. In some ways you’d think it would be boring to read this kind of a book because of what’s already known. But it’s fascinating, really. Context is added, details filled in (e.g. the story of “Hatfield 1980”). It’s also compelling despite the known bits: at one point last weekend Jonathan was calling me and I said “not just yet, I’m at the part when they release ‘Missing'” as if it were a cliffhanger — which, in a way, it was. Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt have 3 kids who are a little bit older than my kid, so hearing about them was naturally interesting for me, too (as with Kristin Hersh’s writing/tweeting about her kids).

Knowing those details changes the music for me, too. This week EBTG has been on fairly constant repeat — I was pleasantly surprised to find that I’d already ripped the CDs at work as well as home (go me!). The extra narrative in my head that now accompanies many of the songs is quite nice. The only down side is that all of this is making me wish I’d seen them in concert more than just the one (fabulous) time. Until about a minute ago I thought it was the “Walking Wounded” tour, but I just pawed through all of my old ticket stubs to reveal that no, it was Hammerstein Ballroom in November 1999, the “Temperamental” tour and the very last time that EBTG ever played live in the US. Hammerstein is a pleasant if somewhat-huger-than-I-prefer venue, and this concert was also one of the first that I remember feeling like I was really a grown-up: given the choice between the open dance floor below and the balcony with seats, we opted for the latter.

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1January
2013

words are for reading

maura @ 4:35 pm

I’ve written intermittent posts about reading here, though never a big year-end roundup. But I’m feeling pretty good about the number of non-work books I was able to read last year, as well as inspired by Jenna and Alycia. So here it is, the list of leisure books I read in 2012, totaling 37. Yeah, there’s lots of YA stuff there, and I know it reads faster than other books, but they still count!

(I’m not including work-related books in here mostly because I don’t keep track of them in my reading journal and I’m too lazy to corral them all together in my brain. Plus often with work books I’m reading a chapter here and there, not the whole thing).

Starred are the books I read on my phone, which was mostly new for me this year. I still prefer paper books but it’s definitely convenient to have a phone book for subway rides and other travels. Of course, the library doesn’t always have the books I want for my phone which is a drag. It’s odd, I do have an ipad but I haven’t tended to use it for leisure reading at all, rather just for academic articles (using the awesome iannotate app to take notes on the pdfs and sync with dropbox). I think it’s because the ipad is so heavy and I don’t usually bring it with me to work each day, whereas my phone is always with me.

These are in reverse order, btw, with the most recently-read first.

The Lifespan of a Fact, by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal
Diverse Energies, edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti
Lynda Barry: Girlhood Through the Looking Glass, by Susan Kirtley
Feed, by M.T. Anderson
* Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead
Mortal Engines, by Phillip Reeve
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
The Death Cure, by James Dashner
The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner
The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
This World We Live In, by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
The Dead & the Gone, by Susan Beth Pfeffer
How to Do Things with Videogames, by Ian Bogost
Pandemonium, by Lauren Oliver
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Delirium, by Lauren Oliver
Invisible Things, by Jenny Davidson
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
Extras, by Scott Westerfeld
Degrees of Inequality, by Ann Mullen
* Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
* The Messenger, by Lois Lowry
The Explosionist, by Jenny Davidson
Specials, by Scott Westerfeld
Pretties, by Scott Westerfeld
Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld
* Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry
* The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
All Clear, by Connie Willis
Blackout, by Connie Willis
The Curfew, by Jesse Ball
Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal

And, in the interest of full disclosure, here are the books I put down without finishing. I used to never ever ever do that, but the older I get the more I want to read and the less time I have, so no regrets!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente
Mr. Fox, by Helen Oyeyemi
* Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell
1Q84, by Haruki Murakami

Anyway, keep up the good reading work, me, in 2013!

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