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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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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?