Thursday, January 26, 2017

January New Books in the House, Blogoversary Mention

Happy Blogoversary to Me

My seven year blogoversary came and went on January 19th. I'd been hemming and hawing about what to write for it. I started several angry posts about bigotry, civility in politics, the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million, how the Russians may have helped elect a corrupt businessman/unqualified billionaire who's afraid to release his tax returns, and how the Electoral College failed to protect against demagoguery and foreign interference, but I deleted all of those drafts. People who are way more knowledgeable and eloquent have already written about these things.

Instead, I've decided what I really want to do is recommit to my book blog. I have two major areas on which I'd like to focus in 2017:

1) To be more involved in the larger scheme of things, I'll write more about the issues that come up in my reading regarding diversity and equality. This can be anything from highlighting an author's background to highlighting pros/cons/complexities in a book regarding issues that interest me, particularly around depictions of gender, sexuality, race, and age. 
2) I'll do more to document my bookish life--the books I read as well as the literary things I do, such as post more about the libraries I visit and other literary adventures. Maybe I'll even blog my own starts and stops at writing fiction.

New Books in the House

The last book that I purchased in 2016 was Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist, which I'm currently reading. Today I'm going to share all the new books that have come into my house thus far in 2017. This is something I'll aim to do on a monthly basis this year mainly for the purposes of self-documentation, but also to see if you have opinions on the books that have found their way into my life.

Let me know what you think! 👍  or 👎  or 🤷‍♀️.

Girl at War by Sara Novic (
Book mail!
My friend Russell, who blogs at Ink and Paper Blog, sent me this copy of Girl at War by Sara Novic. He saw my request for recommendations on Goodreads for books about women at war. Thanks, Russell! This one is patiently waiting near the top of my TBR.

January library haul! March, Queer, Something in the Blood (
Library haul! Was amazed to find all three volumes of March on display. 
I typically work at my local library several times a week and this year I'm going to resist the temptation to check out books during each time I'm there. I have dozens of books at home that I want to get to and will have a much better chance at actually reading them if I'm not hoarding library books. Exercising book discipline is hard.

Pictured above are:
  • March Trilogy by Andrew Aydin, John Lewis, and Nate Powell
  • Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele 
  • Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker by David J. Skal

January bookstore haul from the Book Barn (
Book Barn Haul -- Love their new pride bumper sticker. 

On Saturday I went to The Book Barn in Niantic, CT with my friend Jennifer. My intention was to buy one book, James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room, but they didn't have it (at least not at the two locations we went to. They have four locations in town. I know, it's crazy book over-load and fucking awesome!). 

Books pictured above:
  • That Summer in Paris: Memories of Tangled Friendships with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Some Others by Morley Callaghan. A smelly old paperback that caught my eye. Callaghan was friends with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and "some others." This is his memoir about the summer of 1929 when all the boys got together after writing (or instead of writing) to drink and box. I'm tired of Hemingway and have never really been into Fitzgerald, but apparently I can't step away from the bookshelf when I see a book about them.
  • Jonah's Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston. I love Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. I've been thinking about re-reading that novel for the 3 or 4th time and instead decided to try another novel by her. But you know how it is when you love a book and so also love the author and don't want to risk reading another book by her that you might not like and that could potentially sour your earlier love? That. Gonna risk it.
  • I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde. Never heard of the author or this book, but it caught my eye and the first page drew me in. The back cover calls it a blend of fictional with the factual. Tituba was the only black victim of the Salem witch trials.
  • The Vampire of Venice Beach by Jennifer Colt. Looks fun, plus it has a Borders sticker on the back. Also, while I was looking at it Jennifer snuck up behind my like some kind of book recommending vampire and said, "Colt is a fun writer," so I am opening my home to yet another vampire.
  • Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid. It's been a while since I read some Val. The first page made me want to read more.
  • Darktown by Thomas Mullen. I've heard such great things about this one and couldn't pass it up. Crime novel set in 1948 Atlanta that revolves around the first black police officers hired by the city.
  • Writers in Residence by Glynne Robinson Betts. This one was miss-shelved in the US Presidents section so it jumped out at me. Black and white photographs of author homes, offices, etc., and not the usual suspects.

The Hidden Life of Trees and Hidden Figures from RJ Julia (
Short stack from R.J. Julia Booksellers
On the way home from The Book Barn we stopped at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison to pickup a copy of Giovanni's Room, but they didn't have it either. However, I didn't leave empty handed. These two came home with me:
  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben. I love trees and this book has been recommended by a couple friends whose opinion I value.
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. Purchased this for my wife, Laura, who loved the movie. I haven't seen it yet. Laura recently found out that an old friend's father worked with Katherine Goble Johnson, one of the women featured in the book/film. They're still friends and he went to the premier with her.
  • I didn't realize the hidden theme until typing this.
What's going on for you book-wise in January? Are you on a buying spree...doing some retail therapy? Are you on a book-buying freeze this year? Exclusively using the library?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2017 Reading Goals

Happy New Year Everyone!

Masters of Literature Calendar - readalong prompt (
From Masters of Literature Calendar. Illustrations by Elisabeth Stoinich

Here I am, outlining a new year of reading goals/intentions/challenges. In no particular order, these are my main reading plans for 2017:

1. My numeric reading goal is always 52 books. I like the idea of a book a week. When life gets busy I don't have the added stress of hitting a high reading goal, nor do I shy away from big or challenging books.

2. I've already posted about participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge (#AWW2017), which you can read here. I'll read at least four books for this challenge. Last night I started Emily Bitto's The Strays, so off to a good start.

3. The Classics Club. I have six books in mind for this ongoing challenge:
  • Carmilla, LeFanu, 1872
  • So Big, Ferber, 1924
  • The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck, 1939
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Smith, 1943
  • From Here to Eternity, Jones, 1951
  • Giovanni's Room, Baldwin, 1956
4. I'm doing a year-long read-along with my friend John Valeri based on the Masters of Literature calendar that I got him for Christmas from the New York Public Library gift shop (and of course I got one for myself, too). Within minutes (probably seconds) of opening the calendar, we decided to read and discuss a book by the featured writer each month:
Willa Cather hiking ( Source: Cather Archive
Cather out hiking (source)
  • January: Shakespeare - kicking things off with MacBeth
  • February: Austen
  • March: Baudelaire
  • April: Dickinson
  • May: Wilde
  • June: Woolf
  • July: Dostoyevsky
  • August: Proust
  • September: Shelley
  • October: Poe
  • November: Kafka
  • December: The Brontes
5. As regular readers of this blog know, Willa Cather is my favorite writer. I am intimately acquainted with her novels, but have only read her more widely anthologized stories like "Paul's Case" or "The Bohemian Girl," so this year I plan to systematically read all of her short stories.

6. I have a short list of books that I've been meaning to get to. The top two are:
  1. The Swarm by Frank Schatzing. It's an 881page long thriller about mutant creatures in the ocean. It has never been the right time to read this one--I need to get to it before spring/summer because I don't want to freak myself out while I'm swimming around in the ocean.
  2. Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. I became interested in this one after reading A. Scott Berg's Max Perkins: Editor of Genius.
7. I already own many of the books listed here, so they'll qualify for Andi's #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge, which is often on my mind, because I have so many (potentially) fabulous unread books sitting on my shelves. In 2016, just under 20% of the books I read where books I already owned. I'd like to double that number in 2017.

Michael Ondaatje The English Patient Book Cougars readalong (
Okay, so there's my 2017 reading intentions, all of which I talk about on Episode 4 of the Book Cougars. Which reminds me: Emily and I are doing a read-along of The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje in February. If you'd like to join us, please check out Episode 4.

What are some of your reading goals for 2017 or are you free reading this year?

Happy Reading!
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