books

Books I’ve read, 2019

Andrew Sean Greer & Alexander Chee at the 2019 Sydney Writers’ Festival

We’re already well into 2020, and I realize I’ve not yet posted my previous year’s reading list. My mind has been elsewhere the past couple months (we recently moved house and found out we’re expecting our first child later later this year!), hence this less-than-punctual post. But, better late than never.

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5 non-fiction books to feed your ghoulish curiousity

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Image via Unsplash

Even though I mostly avoid scary movies and TV shows, I love true crime and have a fascination with death culture. These obsessions naturally found their way onto my reading list in the form of non-fiction. Real life situations and science appeal to me much more than fiction, mostly because truth is often far stranger than fiction. (more…)

9 books I’d give my 12-year-old self

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Yesterday I came across an article on Bookriot, in which the author talks about the 12 books he’d give his 12-year-old self (assuming he had a time machine, of course). This got me thinking about myself at that age. I, like the article’s author, was a voracious reader. Most of my friends would beg their parents for video games or CDs or clothes, but I almost always asked for books. (more…)

the unbearable unfairness of Lolita

 

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

[Spoiler alert on this post. If you haven’t read Lolita, please do so. It’s a classic for a reason. ]

I read Lolita for the first time in June as part of a classics book club I’ve attended regularly since the beginning of the year. It is definitely a book I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. As much as I love stories of sordid crime, the twisted tale of Humbert Humbert and his child lover always felt too unseemly. (more…)

books i’ve read, 2014

I was very disappointed with my reading efforts this year. Five novels and a handful of single comic issues? I can do better.

But maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I actually read a lot this year.

I read news articles every day in my efforts to keep up with what’s happening in the US and to better understand Australia’s political and cultural landscape (there were many articles on international news as well). I read countless blog entries on Jezebel, Cracked, and Lifehacker (many were actually very informative and insightful). I also read two excellent long-form articles– The Overprotected Kid (via The Atlantic) and The Strange Tale of the North Pond Hermit (via GQ) that I highly recommend.

People get too hung up on what counts as reading, myself included. My husband reads the newspaper at least once a week and finishes dozens of comic books each year, and yet people don’t consider him a reader. I don’t think he even considers himself a reader. But maybe he should. Maybe it’s time for us recognize that so-called “light reading”– the kind that comes from pages other than books– is still important reading. There’s still a lot to be learned, and it often leads to reading books.

So, without further ado, here is the list of the book-reading I completed in 2014. Though it is in no way more significant than all the other items I read throughout the year.

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Free Comic Book Day issues
    • The New 52: Future’s End #0 Special Edition
    • Guardians of the Galaxy
    • Archie Digest
    • Rocket Raccoon
    • Bongo Comics Free-For-All!
    • All You Need is Kill
    • Raising a Reader!
    • 2000 A.D.
  • One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
  • Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (reread)
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Best Book:
This is a toss up between Gone Girl and Dark Places. Gillian Flynn has quickly become one of my favorite fiction writers, and I honestly can’t decide which novel I liked most. What the two have in common is that Flynn manages to make the reader care about some really unlikable protagonists. Her characters are incredibly flawed, but you can’t help rooting for them. (I also highly recommend the movie version of Gone Girl. Flynn wrote the screenplay, so it is incredibly true to the book. It also has some excellent performances.)
Worst Book:
There really wasn’t anything I read this year that I hated. The ending of 11/22/63 was a tad disappointing and the story dragged on horribly in parts, but overall I did enjoy the story. Not sure if I’ll be seeking out any other Stephen King books based on this one. I think I’ll stick with the film and television versions of his work.
I also reread To Kill a Mockingbird for a book club, and wasn’t as impressed with it as I was when I was first introduced to it in high school. It’s still a great novel, I was just expected more.
Looking forward to in 2015:
I have so much reading to do, that I purposely asked for as many non-book items as possible for Christmas so I can clear my shelves and Kindle app. Still, my husband got me Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please, which I’m excited to start. I also have two Erik Larson non-fiction books to finally get to. We’ll see how successful I am this year, given that I’ve also resolved to focus more on my design and art work, dedicate more time to this blog, and will be continuing the movie review blog.

It’s going to be a busy year!

butterfly in the sky: why i contributed to the reading rainbow kickstarter campaign

readingrainbowTo say that PBS programming was a big part of my childhood is an understatement. PBS shows were everything. I grew up on Sesame Street and Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood, transitioned to Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? and Ghostwriter as I grew up, and even developed a love for Arthur‘s off beat humor in high school. But of all the shows PBS broadcast into my living room over the years, none made an impact on me quite like Reading Rainbow.  Big Bird may have helped me learn how to read, but LeVar Burton taught me to love it.

Contributing to the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign was an easy decision. Of course there was a heavy nostalgia factor involved; this is probably a big motivator for many people my age. I haven’t watched the show in decades, but the theme song is still stuck in my head (“Butterfly in the skyyyyyy/I can go twice as hiiiiiiigh!”). My favorite part of each episode was always the book narrated by a celebrity, and I have particularly strong memories of Buddy Ebsen reading Paul Bunyan and Lorne Greene’s  rendition of Ox-Cart Man. The famous voices may have been lost on me, but the stories they read went on to become some of my favorites.

Childhood memories aside, I want to bring Reading Rainbow back in a big way for another important reason. Rainbow was created to foster a love of reading. Its magic certainly worked on me– I have a rapidly filling bookshelf and a few years worth of reading lists to prove it. I have no doubt that LeVar and his team can do the same for a new generation of children, even though they are meeting them online instead of on the television.

While there’s been some criticism that this won’t do much to improve literacy rates in the US, I would beg to differ. This may not be a perfect analogy, but math was always my least favorite school subject. My teachers’ constant refrains of “You’ll need to use this in real life!” did nothing to spark my interest. Of course I understood the practical applications of math as a kid– balancing a checkbook, measuring in cooking, making a budget– but they were all very grown up and boring.

Where I came alive in the classroom was during reading. It wasn’t phonics worksheets or spelling tests that inspired me to learn this necessary skill– it was the books I saw every day in the classroom, at home, in the library, and on Reading Rainbow. As much as I loved the illustrations, I wanted to know what the words said too. Learning to read became important to me because I recognized that the adults in my life weren’t always available to read to me, and if I couldn’t read to myself then I was missing half the story. The practical applications of literacy would become apparent to me as I grew older, but at the start I just wanted to escape into a fun story. This is what inspired me to practice and do my homework, not the knowledge that I’d one day need to understand legal contracts or read street signs.

To me, Reading Rainbow is an important tool in promoting literacy. Will it decrease illiteracy rates in the US by itself? No, but putting it in the hands of kids who are struggling to read will encourage them to keep practicing. Providing the app to children who would rather play on a tablet will show them that reading is more fun and rewarding than Angry Birds. Bringing Reading Rainbow in classrooms will inspire a new generation of students to pick up a book, where they can “go anywhere” and “be anything.” But you don’t have to take my word for it.