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you take a breath

maura @ 10:56 am

I should be writing. I don’t want to be writing. I want to read. I want to snuggle with the cat. I want to walk in the woods (though here in Brooklyn where my woods=park it’s really too hot and humid for that today). I want to sit quietly.

It has been so long since I’ve had a regular writing practice, here and elsewhere, and I can’t quite figure out why. I’m sure there are lots of reasons, there usually are. I’ve gotten much, much better at life/work balance over the past few years, since the pandemic lockdowns ended though especially since changing jobs (now 2 years ago!). Writing and research are optional for me, the kinds of work that while I enjoy and do believe they strengthen my knowledge and practice in ways that benefit the other parts of my job, as an administrator they’re no longer strictly required in the way they are for faculty (which is simultaneously a relief and a disappointment).

Even my analog journal writing has slowed way down, not to mention this old blag. Just after new years I kind of barely started my usual annual blag about what I’d read in 2023, but then suddenly it was mid-January, then late January, and then it just felt too late. But Everything for Everyone was so excellent, and the first 2 books in the Monk & Robot series I also loved, all the hearteyes for post-scarcity more equity speculative futures, always.

I think the requirements, plus having projects in process, also helped me find the time and space to write, even if I was tired or felt like I couldn’t fit it in. But the projects I’d been working on have wrapped up and I’ve not yet started anything new. As I’ve moved definitively into the lateish part of my career I’m less inclined to find that writing time in my days. My commute to Manhattan makes the weekdays a bit longer, I’m less able to get in early enough to grab some writing time before the meetings begin, less willing to push through tiredness in the evenings, more inclined to sit on the sofa with the cat and TV or games.

Today is a summer Friday and I’ve taken the day off, even though at my current workplace the Library remains open on Fridays so we’re all allowed to ignore the summer Fridays if we’d like to. But I have vacation days to use or lose, so I’m taking the Fridays. I’m trapped in the apartment today, not just by the heat but also waiting for a delivery. It’s not the best for my neck but I can sit on the sofa with my laptop, next to the cat. And just start typing, see what comes out. Now I’ve got almost 500 words, a start at a restart, push Publish.

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2022 reading list

maura @ 10:30 am

Hello readers, and wow I was a bigger reader this year, too. Blame the new job: while my commute was about the same length for the old job, it’s now a subway commute which means at least an hour of reading each weekday, which definitely makes a difference. In 2022 I read 42 books, only one shy of 2017 (when I had a 6 month sabbatical) and thus the second-highest total since 2012 (when I started blagging about my reading list).

If there’s a theme for me for fiction in 2022 it was multiverses. I listened to an interview with Emily St. John Mandel where she talked about her new novel Sea of Tranquility and the urge since the pandemic to “run the counterfactuals,” and that stuck with me as I read all year. I loved her new book: the ways it referred to other things she’s written, the happy ending, and of course the author in a city in a pandemic is so real. I reread My Real Children by Jo Walton, which I’d loved when I first read it in 2015 and was a great revisit as well. But my favorite book this year, hands down, was The Space Between Worlds by Miciah Johnson, about a multiverse in which a scientist has discovered how to travel between the 400 Earths. The catch is you can only go to another version of Earth where you’re already dead, BIPOC folx are thus the ones who are most able to traverse. And it’s twisty and complicated and hopeful and lovely and I took forever to read the last few pages and cried a bit when it was over. So good.

Other fiction I loved this year includes Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, a book about two friends who meet as middle schoolers and later become game designers together which I read super fast. All the reviews are right: it’s just a terrific book about friendship, which is so rare. And as a game person I found the game stuff to be realistic and engaging, too. My last fiction book of the year was The Ministry of the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, the first book of his I’ve read. Set in the very near future and beginning with a terrifying heat wave in India that kills 20 million people, the book follows the activity of the titular body set up by the UN in order to try and hold nations accountable for dealing with climate change. Robinson is apparently a huge climate nerd and some of these chapters literally sound like strategies that could be tried here and now (or soon), and while it’s not utopian the book ends with CO2ppm beginning to decrease, a hopeful way for me to end 2022.

I read much less nonfiction this year, which I also think is due to the new job. I prefer reading nonfiction on paper and since it’s easier to read ebooks on my phone I tend to gravitate toward fiction on the commute. But I did read some great nonfiction this year. Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong was amazing, these essays gave me lots to think about on US imperialism and violence against Asian-American folx. Plus I’d never even heard about Theresa Cha, an artist raped and killed in the Puck Building in 1982 (we lived a few blocks from there when we first moved to NYC). My CUNY friend and colleague Jessie Daniels published the terrific Nice White Ladies this year, an approachable book about the specific role that white women play in upholding racism and how we might resist it. Jessie weaves autobiography into the book in an especially engaging way, and I’ve been consistently recommending this since I read it. My last nonfiction read of the year was a lovely short YA biography of Octavia Butler called Star Child, by Ibi Zoboi, a Haitian-American writer. I’ve read all of Butler’s books and knew some of her life story already, though other info was a complete surprise — she started submitting stories to magazines at age 13! What a legend, gone too soon.

Here’s the full list, as always in reverse-chronological order, because that’s how I keep my reading journal. Key: asterisk = ebook, tilde = books we own. And here’s to more reading in 2023!

*Star Child, by Ibi Zoboi (December 2022)
*The Ministry of the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson (December 2022)
*Sea Monsters, by Chloe Aridjis (December, 2022)
*The House of Rust, by Khadija Abdalla Bajaber (December, 2022)
*Our Missing Hearts, by Celeste Ng (December, 2022)
*This Time Tomorrow, by Emma Straub (November, 2022)
*The Wall, by Marlen Haushofer (November, 2022)
*The Old Drift, by Namwali Serpell (November, 2022)
*A Children’s Bible, by Lydia Millet (October and November, 2022)
*The Measure, by Nikki Erlick (October 2022)
~*Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson (October 2022) (we own it in print, but I read it as an ebook because subway commute)
*Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin (October 2022)
*Bitter, by Akwaeke Emezi (September 2022)
*Begin the World Over, by Kung Li Sun (September 2022)
~Build Your House Around My Body, by Violet Kupersmith (August and September 2022)
*The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers (August and September 2022)
~Unmanageable: Leadership Lessons from an Impossible Year, by Johnathan Nightingale and Melissa Nightingale (August 2022)
*Hurricane Girl, by Marcy Dermansky (August 2022)
*Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol, by Holly Whitaker (July and August 2022)
*The Lola Quartet, by Emily St. John Mandel (July and August 2022)
*Tell Me an Ending, by Jo Harkin (July 2022)
*The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (June and July 2022)
*The Impossible Us, by Sarah Lotz (June 2022)
*My Real Children, by Jo Walton (June 2022)
*The World Gives Way, by Marissa Levien (May and June 2022)
~Minor Feelings, by Cathy Park Hong (May and June 2022)
*Blackfish City, by Sam J. Miller (May 2022)
*The Kaiju Preservation Society, by John Scalzi (May 2022)
~We Do This Til We Free Us, by Mariame Kaba (April and May 2022)
*The Future of Another Timeline, by Analee Newitz (April and May 2022)
*The Seep, by Chana Porter (April 2022)
~Nice White Ladies: The Truth about White Supremacy, Our Role in It, and How We Can Help, by Jessie Daniels (April 2022)
Decolonizing Academia: Poverty, Oppression, and Pain, by Clelia O. Rodriguez (April 2022)
~Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel (April 2022)
*Appleseed, by Matt Bell (March and April 2022)
~Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Opportunities for Colleges and Universities (February, March, and April 2022)
*Sorrowland, by Rivers Solomon (February and March 2022)
*The Space Between Worlds, by Micaiah Johnson (February 2022)
*I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, by Claire Vaye Watkins (January 2022)
*Noor, by Nnedi Okorafor (January 2022)
*The Sentence, by Louise Erdrich (December 2021 and January 2022)
*The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism, by Jen Gunter (December 2021 and January 2022)

Blast from the past: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

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2021 reading list

maura @ 3:02 pm

I came into writing this post feeling mopey and down because I didn’t think I’d read that much in 2020. But I was surprised after counting these up to find that I’ve read 39 books this (last [since I’m writing this on January 2]) year, more than I would have guessed. I’m trying to resist the urge to type “but several of them were graphic novels/comix” (guess I couldn’t resist after all, sigh). Definitely I had high reading and low reading times — summer obviously a high time, but also early spring, even though the semester was in full effect. And this fall was a low low time, probably lower than is usual during the fall semester, which is traditionally our busiest at work. We’d just gone back to a more onsite schedule at work, and even with the kid finally back at his own college (which made my work from home days easier) I was tired which made reading harder. Blame pandemic season 2 — wow it’s just so much more tiring than season 1. I also taught a graduate class in the fall so I had that reading to do, too.

Looking back at my fiction reading I feel like there was a bunch of meh in there, books that I kind of don’t remember much now, which makes me both glad that I keep a reading journal and a little bit wistful that I spent the reading time on meh when it could have been spent on awesome. Only one book was so meh that I ditched it halfway through: Homeland, by Cory Doctorow, which I started reading when my co-teacher and I thought we might assign it to our students and ditched when we decided not to. I also read Feed for that same reason, though I finished that one — zombies aren’t really my jam but this YA book was fun enough, extra bonus points for a pandemic causing the zombification.

Thankfully the meh fiction was in the minority compared to the awesome fiction. I reread Station Eleven when I was feeling especially glum and like I needed to read about a worse pandemic than this pandemic, and it hit the spot — such a terrific book, and with the story fresh in my mind I’m ready to watch the TV show (bonus!). Early in the year the library was still closed to patrons (though I worked in my office once/week or so) and I kept walking by The Need on a book truck, admiring the cover, until finally I picked it up only to see that the author is a Brooklyn College prof. Read in a gulp and it was intense: about parenting and archaeology and time, all my jam. I borrowed some more challenging books from work too; both An Untamed State and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous were heartbreaking and incredible. Early in the year I was delighted to learn that Emma Newman had written additional books in the Planetfall universe (I loved that book, why did I forget to check for sequels for so long?), and I tore through Before Mars and After Atlas. I also tore through Disappearing Earth, which was compelling and dreamy and had me looking at maps of the Kamchatka Peninsula repeatedly. And The Vanishing Half absolutely bowled me over with its gorgeous writing and gripping story, just amazing. I am so grateful for all of these authors during this hard hard year.

During the quieter times when I could find daytime hours to read I got through some academic books that I’d been meaning to read for ages. Finally finished Living a Feminist Life, begun in 2017 (!), which was terrific of course, and my last book of the year was Gamer Trouble, a fun read in a discipline (game studies) that I’m always feeling under-read in, so go me. In other nonfiction reads The Sum of Us and Mediocre were also both terrific and necessary — the former in particular is super comprehensive and approachable and I think will be a book about racism that I share with folx when they ask for reading suggestions. I ended up buying and rereading Burnout because pandemic season 2. But the real standout was Laziness Does Not Exist, reading this was so useful and comforting to me, thinking I might buy it, too. And my ever-present climate change anxiety was soothed somewhat by reading All We Can Save, picked up after hearing Tressie McMillan Cottom and Roxane Gay interview the editor on their podcast Hear to Slay. It’s a huge book that took me two rounds of library borrowing to read, punctuated by a couple of months’ break when I had to wait for it to be available again after it expired from my phone. Realistic but hopeful, which is the energy I need to take me into 2022.

My list below, as per usual in reverse chrono order and with these indicators: asterisk = ebook, tilde = books we own (which I seemingly forgot to indicate last year).

~Gamer Trouble: Feminist Confrontations in Digital Culture, by Amanda Phillips
*Remote Control, by Nnedi Okorafor
*Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Secret to Superhuman Strength, by Alison Bechdel
~Menopause, A Comic Treatment, by MK Czerwiec
*No One Is Talking About This, by Patricia Lockwood
*All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Keeble Wilkinson
*We Have Always Been Here, by Lena Nguyen
*There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job, by Kikuko Tsumura
*Feed, by Mira Grant
*Yolk, by Mary H. K. Choi
~Living a Feminist Life, by Sara Ahmed
*Follow Me to Ground, by Sue Rainsford
*Pew, by Catherine Lacey
*You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience, by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown
Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado
*Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, by Ijeoma Oluo
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
~Comics For a Strange World, by Reza Farazmand
*The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee
*The Memory Theater, by Karin Tidbeck
An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
~Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
The Need, by Helen Phillips
~Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
~Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke
*Laziness Does Not Exist, By Devon Price
*Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
~Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, By Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
*Disappearing Earth, by Julia Phillips
*Luster, by Raven Leilani
*After Atlas, by Emma Newman
*Double Bind: Women on Ambition, by Robin Romm
*The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education, by Christopher Emdin
*Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam
*Before Mars, by Emma Newman
*The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa
~New York Drawings, by Adrian Tomine

Here’s the past, to help me keep track: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

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2020 reading list

maura @ 9:07 pm

Wow, reading was hard this year. So hard that I have piles of books hanging out around the house, each with a bookmark about 20-odd pages in, and digital piles too, hanging out in my ebook reader when I didn’t finish them before they returned themselves to the library. I mean, lots of things were hard this year, are still hard. It’s still a pandemic, we’re all still staying home and working from home and trying to keep it all together during a pandemic. Understandably there are also some weird gaps in my reading this year, more books than usual that I started in February or March but didn’t finish until July or August.

Nonfiction reading in particular was a challenge for me in 2020. My problems staying focused and awake while reading contributed to the nonfiction difficulties, though they are for sure not unique to me (nor new to this year). Nonbook reading also suffered a bit, magazines piled up, and my rss reader filled up too. Maybe lay some of the blame for that on the large volume of pandemic, protest, and political news I consumed this year? I also confess to falling into doomscrolling more often than I’d like, though I’ve been more successful recently in putting down the phone and picking up a book instead.

Today on the last day of this hard year I’m feeling pretty good about finishing my 4th book in 8 days; unsurprisingly, today’s my 8th day of staycation. It’s been much much easier to read in the middle of the day with a cat curled on my lap as opposed to nighttimes zoomed out after a full day of work, also unsurprisingly.

Fiction definitely predominated for me this year, though the nonfiction books I did manage to read were all terrific. I started the year with a giant academic book about menopause, as one does, which pulls together biological and historical sources from around the world. Her conclusion is that menopause is neither a medical condition nor is it an aberrant stage, and that the move of a significant proportion of a population to postreproductive status before they die enables women to help ensure reproductive success for younger women and children, and contributes enormously to our success as a species. Super interesting, even if it’s a huge bummer that the one physical complaint of menopause that does seem to be crossculturally distributed is hot flashes.

I am not the biggest fan of poetry, but I was blown away by Eve Ewing’s 1919: Poems. I love Chicago, and was ashamed to discover that I did not even know about the race riots in Chicago in 1919. Ewing juxtaposes each of her poems with passages from a report about the 1919 riots that had been researched and written by a panel of 3 white and 3 black men in the early 1920s. Powerful and a gut punch — I checked this out from the public library, but I’ve been thinking that I need to buy it, too.

In fiction, well, I read a lot of pandemic or otherwise (post)apocalyptic fiction this year. They went down easy in March and April, as sirens filled the empty streets in NYC, and in the summer, as I protested, met friends for socially distanced chats and picnics, and went for endless park walks. I also read a couple of books by First Nations authors that were especially terrific, Moon of the Crusted Snow and Empire of the Wild, the latter by Cherie Demaline whose YA book The Marrow Thieves I read 2 years ago and loved. Other fiction standouts for me were The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel and Weather by Jenny Offill.

And definitely among the best books I read this year was N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became. Awesome, just so so so good, I cannot wait for the sequels. The first of a trilogy about embodied multidimensional cities, NYC is being born in this book but the boroughs are each embodied too, and have to help birth the primary avatar. Lots of fun stuff about NYC that locals will know and love — the big baddie ensnares Staten Island and turns her against the others (so real!). I read this during the summer as the city was protesting, Brooklyn spots like the Barclays Center and Grand Army Plaza were being used as public squares, and it helped remind me that even in this hard year this is my home and I love it.

This year’s book count is 28, lower than many previous years but still above an average of 1 book every 2 weeks, which I think I’ve decided is my minimum annual goal. Starred books are ebooks (that number surely increased), and the list below is in reverse chronological order, as in previous years.

Here’s to better days — for reading and pretty much everything else, too — in 2021.

*Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi
*Long Division, by Kiese Laymon
Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University, by Kathleen Fitzpatrick
The Mercies, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
*New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl
*The Down Days, by Ilze Hugo
Earthlings, by Sayaka Murata
*The New Wilderness, by Diane Cook
The Deep, by Rivers Solomon
*Moon of the Crusted Snow, by Waubgeshig Rice
*Empire of Wild, by Cherie Demaline
*Me and White Supremacy, by Layla Saad
How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, by Jenny Odell
The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin
Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science, edited by Gina Schlesselman-Tarango
*The Factory, by Hiroko Oyamada
The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel
*Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, By Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
*Severance, by Ling Ma
*Weather, by Jenny Offill
*Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli
*The Undying: Pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer, and care, by Anne Boyer
*This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
*The Tiger Flu, by Larissa Lai
Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi
1919: Poems, by Eve L. Ewing
Children of Virtue and Vengeance, by Tomi Adeyemi
The Slow Moon Climbs: The Science, History, and Meaning of Menopause, by Susan P. Mattern

Prior year end reading roundups (mostly collected here so I can find them easily): 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

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2019 reading list

maura @ 12:06 pm

Oh 2019, let’s cut to the chase: you were a hard year in so many ways, and my lower reading count isn’t the worst of it, for sure. Still (and similar to the prior year), making time to read was challenging for me last year. I managed to read 28 books total — not awful, I suppose, especially since some were quite long. But I also had some bare spots in the year, times when I read very little or not at all. Unsurprisingly the low-reading times were also typically-busy times in the semester, especially May and October through early December.

I’m continuing to struggle to stay awake while reading in the evenings, which I think has more to do with the state of my sleep in general (aging, sigh, not for wimps!) than it does with what I’m reading. Though it’s frustrating to have to go back through a few pages each time I pick up a book when I realize that I dozed off the last time I read it. I did find more success with short stories last month, and I have several books of stories in my to-read pile, so maybe that should for real be my strategy for the busy times of year? (I think I’ve suggested that to myself before.) And over the past week or so during the holiday break I’ve read at my old usual brisk pace, the result of lovely long stretches of time to devote to reading (and cat snuggles).

If you’d asked me before starting to write this post whether I found the fiction or nonfiction that I read last year more compelling, I’d probably have said the nonfiction, though looking through my list now it seems like the books that made the strongest impression on me are all fiction. But I did read some standout nonfiction this year, especially Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Thick and Other Essays, a National Book Award Finalist. I’m as ever in awe of the brilliant way that she writes theoretically-informed popular essays (with endnotes!). I read part of this on a plane with the kid reading over my shoulder, it’s that good. Also terrific (and highly recommended) were All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir, by Nicole Chung, and two other books of essays: What If This Were Enough?, by Heather Havrilesky, and Call Them By Their True Names, by Rebecca Solnit.

Two books that I read all in a rush and that made me kind of queasy were The Last Cruise, by Kate Christensen, and The Power, by Naomi Alderman. The former was recommended by my pal Jenna, and I think I read it because I am scared of/grossed out by cruises and I wanted to indulge that. But wow, it was weird — started slow, building the characters for the first third of the book, then things start to go wrong and keep going wrong, and at the most wrong part it just ends, like that! I saw The Power on the shelf at a volunteer shift at Books through Bars and remembered that I’d wanted to read it so grabbed it from the library. In this speculative future girls and women develop a muscle that lets them shoot electricity out of their hands, making them physically stronger than men. And then the stuff you’d think would happen, happens: power is abused. Oof, I found both of these books disturbing and unputdownable, so recommended, I guess?

Some of my summer reading was kind of intense, in part because the summer was kind of intense: I turned 50 (and dyed my hair purple!), the kid graduated high school and went off to college in Minnesota. Definitely one of the best books I read this year was Family of Origin, by CJ Hauser. She’d written an essay called The Crane Wife that made the Twitter rounds, and her writing was so lovely that I put this book (her most recent) on hold at the library immediately. It did not disappoint: a beautifully written story about the ways that messed up childhoods can mess you up and you can bring that mess with you into adulthood until you finally let that mess go. On a whim I picked up Future Home of the Living God, by Lousie Erdrich while walking by the new books shelf at the library, remembering that I’d heard good things about it. And whoa, also: intense, a dystopian future story about a Native American woman with white adoptive parents from Minneapolis who gets pregnant right at the start of a weird reversal in evolution that leads to political collapse, but also really about her relationships with her birth and adoptive families. Summer family feelings, it was me.

Quite unintentionally I seem to have ended the year on a hopeful fiction note. In early December I read Exhalation, the most recent book of short stories by Ted Chiang, which Jonathan had gotten for his birthday. I felt a bit guilty because there were so many other books in the queue ahead of it, but it was so lovely, and he’s such a thoughtful and smart writer. The final book I read last year was Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie, finally completing the trilogy that I started reading two (!) years ago. I’d sometimes struggled to dig into the first two books — they are plot-heavy and complex, and my tendency to fall asleep while reading made it particularly difficult to stay focused on them. But I’m so glad that I kept going, the finish was so satisfying. Both books have lots to say about time and humanity and the future and the past, and have me thinking about how we can continue to care about and take care of each other as our world hurtles into an uncertain future.

I didn’t make the reading goals I’ve (somewhat offhandedly) set for myself for the past couple of years: to read what we have in the house, and to read more older books that I’ve not yet read. So those are still goals, I guess. But maybe here in the first year of a new decade (and the first year of my new decade) I should instead be a little less prescriptive, a little more accommodating of the unpredictabilities of sleep schedules and work variations and life events?

This year’s goal: read a book most days. That’s it.

Here’s my 2019 list, most recent reads at the top. As usual, the * means ebook and the ~ means we own it (as opposed to borrowed from the library or someone else). I coded The Training Commission as an ebook even though it was really a serial novella delivered via email. It looks like I was proportionally light on ebooks during the second half of the year, compared to prior years. There were for sure books that I’d wanted to borrow from the library as ebooks that weren’t available, which is a drag (yes, I’m glaring at you, restrictive publisher licenses).

~ Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie
~ Exhalation, by Ted Chiang
Our Bodies, Our Selves Menopause, by The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective
The Ship Beyond Time, by Heidi Helig
* Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata
~ On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden
* What If This Were Enough?, by Heather Havrilesky
Family of Origin, by CJ Hauser
Weapons of Math Destruction, by Cathy O’Neil
The Casket of Time, by Andri Snær Magnason
Future Home of the Living God, by Lousie Erdrich
Becoming, by Michelle Obama
The Power, by Naomi Alderman
Improving Survey Questions: Design and Evaluation, by Floyd J. Fowler
~ How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin
* The Training Commission, by Ingrid Burrington and Brendan Byrne
Infinite Detail, by Tim Maughan
~ Thick and Other Essays, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
* Eloquent Rage, by Brittney Cooper
* Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
* The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
There There, by Tommy Orange
* The Last Cruise, by Kate Christensen
* An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon
~ Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir, by Nicole Chung
*~ Call Them By Their True Names, by Rebecca Solnit
~ Binti The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor

Prior year end reading roundups (mostly collected here so I can find them easily): 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

les tags: ,

2018 reading list

maura @ 9:55 pm

I’ve been dragging my feet a bit writing my annual reading roundup this year. Some of my hesitation stems from pure envy (owning it!): a pal read 100+ books (!) in 2018 and while they have a different sort of commute than I do, I still fall into that grass is greener mentality easily when it comes to reading. Librarian stereotype, it me: I really love to read, and I really wish I could read more without having less time for the other things I need + want to do.

I also feel kinda bummed that I wasn’t able to get through all of the books I own and have been meaning to read. Some of this is for sure the fault of being led astray by other books (oh books, you’re so pretty!), some from the library and some not. And I’ve actually tried to stop myself from reading new book reviews until I’ve gotten the piles* of unread books under control. But also I was busy last year, and for sure 2017’s count was inflated just by virtue of my 6 months on sabbatical.

*metaphorical piles — mostly these are on a shelf next to my desk

Admittedly I have had a really hard time reading recently. I’m not sure exactly why — I pick up a book that seems interesting and I get a few pages in and then I just slow down. I only started + dumped 1 book this year, but it’s just taken me ages to get through many reads. It has been a superbusy year: hired 5 folks at work + did the college application (!) thing + wrote up my sabbatical research. So perhaps unsurprising that I fall asleep many nights after only reading a page or two.

Having thoroughly moped out in this post so far (whoa, sorry for the downer), I will say that there’s some amazing stuff on my list from last year. Both So You Want to Talk about Race and White Fragility were transformative; the former was so good that I bought it after borrowing it from the library, and the latter was so good that I blagged about it over at the academic librarianship place where I’m a blogger. I was delighted that the kid read So You Want to Talk about Race too, initially over my shoulder when we were on an airplane and later finishing the whole thing after I did.

I also feel good about having read a few classics that I’d never read before, especially Frankenstein and The Fire This Time, which were both amazing. I think for next year, in addition to getting through the piles, I’m also going to try and get to other classics that I’ve somehow missed to this point, especially those written by women and BIPOC.

I made a big push to read more of the library or otherwise work-related books in my pile this year and it definitely shows. Algorithms of Oppression is the standout — disturbing and necessary, and I’m still chuffed from getting to introduce Safiya Noble at the CUNY IT Conference in December 2017. :) The Self as Subject was a somewhat indulgent delight — being a part of this book project is one of the best academic experiences I’ve ever had, and I was delighted to read everything that we were all able to write for this volume. Emergent Strategy was also terrific and, while perhaps not exactly work-related, is definitely a book I’ll return to as I keep learning and thinking about how libraries can help us get to a just future for everyone.

Looking at it now I realize that this list is a bit light on fiction, likely a factor in the total number of books I read as fiction tends to move faster for me than nonfiction. Highlights were finishing N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, which was so so so good, and The Marrow Thieves, a dystopian future story by an indigenous author from Canada, inventive and immersive. I’d avoided reading Red Clocks for a while because the anti-abortion future it describes is so very unsettlingly possible, but I finally did because Kelly Link blurbed it and I loved it: atmospheric and angering and thoughtful and sad. I ended 2018 and am starting 2019 in the midst of Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti novellas; as I have often found with her books it’s a complex, fascinating story about humans and aliens and technology and nature and the universe. <3

I present to you 2018 in mauraweb reading. 32 books total: not 100, but not 0 either. Ebooks = * and owned (as opposed to libraryed) = ~, same as it ever was:

~Binti Home, by Nnedi Okorafor
~*Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit
~Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
~Where Are All the Librarians of Color? edited by Rebecca Hankins and Miguel Júarez
*Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas
~Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
*The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline
~Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, by Rebecca Traister
A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
*Menopause Confidential: A Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Thriving Through Midlife, by Tara Allmen
*The Parking Lot Attendant, by Nafkote Tamirat
~White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, by Robin DiAngelo
*The Just City, by Jo Walton
~Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
~Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, by adrienne maree brown
~Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
~The Self as Subject: Autoethnographic Research into Identity, Culture, and Academic Librarianship
Librarianship, the Erosion of a Women’s Profession, by Roma M. Harris
~Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula Le Guin
~Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, by Safiya Umoja Noble
Written, Unwritten: Diversity and the Hidden Truths of Tenure, edited by Patricia A. Matthew
Off the Rag: Lesbians Writing on Menopause, edited by Lee Lynch and Akia Woods
*All These Things I’ve Done, by Gabrielle Zevin
~So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
~The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin
~A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
*Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz
Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani
The First Rule of Punk, by Celia Perez
~The Obelisk Gate, by N.K. Jemisin
*Another Day, by David Levithan

Started not finished: The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg — I liked her first book but this one just didn’t grab me.

Prior year end reading roundups (mostly collected here so I can find them easily): 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

les tags: ,

2017 reading list

maura @ 11:21 am

Wow, 2017 was a big reading year for me: 43 books total, handily surpassing the past 5 years and up 8 from 2016. Since I was on sabbatical for 6 months of 2017 that’s not too much of a surprise — in some ways I kind of expected to have read more. There was lots of good stuff in there and lots of challenging nonfiction, which was faster to read while on sabbatical (as I blagged about over at Librarian Sabbatical). Having the time and space (physical and mental) to simultaneously read a work-ish book, a fiction book, and a non-work nonfiction book during sabbatical was lovely, a gift. I think the count shows it: 24 fiction and 19 nonfiction. I read no graphic novels this year, though Citizen 13660 is a book written by an illustrator about her family’s experiences in a Japanese internment camp during WWII, and is sort of like a graphic novel though not exactly. That was inspired by a student I interviewed for my sabbatical project, who was assigned to read that plus The Handmaid’s Tale during the semester I spoke with her. Heavy.

As I expect is true for many folks in the U.S. especially, this was kind of a a heavy reading year, though I did read some amazing fiction that was serious but not (too) heavy. The Sun is Also a Star started out the year and was such a gorgeous NYC teenage story. Lunch in Koreatown, sigh. I could not read this fast enough. The Changeling was also super compelling and a fast read, partly because I wanted to finish it before we took a trip but also because it was such an incredible description of new parenthood and so, so, so scary, truly frightening. And The Fifth Season, finally. I feel a bit guilty that it’s taken me so long to read anything by N.K. Jemisin but I am fired up to remedy that, I got the other two books in the trilogy for xmas and am excited to start them. I love the geologically amazing world she’s created, which is aligning well with plans we’re making for a geologically amazing trip this spring.

Super heavy fiction I read and loved though wow heavy included The Underground Railroad, The Hate U Give, The Leavers, and my reread of Octavia Butler’s Parable books (which I reviewed for our newsletter at work). Also American War which was absolutely gripping and terrifying — I gulped it down though it’s left me shaken and thinking back to it at various ridiculous and scary political points during this year.

I maybe should not count Malafrena as a finished book, since I didn’t finish it, but I did finish Orsinian Tales which was included in the Library of America version that I checked out from the public library, and since Orsinian Tales is also a standalone book I counted it. Malafrena just dragged for me, though I love Ursula Le Guin and her work. But this is just not the time for me to read fiction with such a historical, European, white focus.

My nonfiction reads this year were a mix of worky and non-worky, mostly serious but not entirely so. White Rage was so amazing and devastating which is exactly what I said about Between the World and Me (as I wrote in my reading journal). Hunger I read all in one day, sort of luxuriating in the availability of time when on sabbatical, but also I think sort of afraid that if I put it down I might not be able to pick it up again because it was so hard, so heartbreaking. It was beyond terrific. An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States took me many months to read, I renewed it enough times from the (work) library that I had to physically go in to renew it again. Dense and scholarly and necessary. I finished up my nonfiction reading this year with Feminists Among Us just this past week while at home on a few days off, wearing multiple layers and trying to keep warm in this polar vortex we’re having. I have a chapter in this book and the other chapters were so incredible that I’m still sort of pinching myself that my writing is in there, too.

This year I’m not sure I have specific reading goals, though I’m going to try and keep up with my antiracism/social justice reading and keep working on strategies for reading hard stuff during busy times, which I continue to find challenging. I think one goal may be to try and read the stuff I already have, the books piled up on my to read shelf next to my desk, some of the others on other shelves in our house. I have a tendency to add a pile of books to my library holds as I read reviews that sound interesting, then they all come in at times that aren’t always convenient, and my book pile at home doesn’t get any smaller. Going to see if I can remedy that this year, at least somewhat.

Here’s 2017, in reverse-chronological order, starred are ebooks and tilded are books we own.

* Signal to Noise, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
~ Feminists Among Us: Resistance and Advocacy in Library Leadership. edited by Shirley Lew and Baharak Yousefi
* An Excess Male, by Maggie Shen King
The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor
~ The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin
* No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, by Naomi Klein
The Leavers, by Lisa Ko
* The Book of Joan, by Lidia Yuknavitch
~ Information Literacy and Social Justice, edited by Lua Gregory and Shana Higgins
* The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez
No One Is Coming to Save Us, by Stephanie Powell Watts
~ The Real World of Technology, by Ursula M. Franklin
~ Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang
~ The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder
~ All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
The Changeling, by Victor LaValle
~ Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Hunger, A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay
Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo
* The Small Backs of Children, by Lidia Yuknavitch
~ Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, by bell hooks
~ Parable of the Talents, by Octavia Butler
Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement, by Angela Y. Davis
~ You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day
Waking Up White (And Finding Myself in the Story of Race), by Debby Irving
Malafrena (partially) and Orsinian Tales, by Ursula Le Guin
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
American War, by Omar El Akkad
~ Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett
* ~ Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit
~ Video Games and Learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age, by Kurt Squire
* Kabu Kabu, by Nnedi Okorafor
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
~ Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay
* The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, by Carol Anderson
* Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

Prior year end reading roundups (mostly collected here so I can find them easily): 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

les tags: ,

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: ,

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: ,

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: