October Reading Recap


Whew. I haven’t written a recap since May! I was pretty busy this summer and slacked on tracking my reading. But I recently updated my list, so here’s an overview!

First, my goals for the year:

  • 150 books total.
  • 50,000 pages.
  • 40 non-fiction.
  • 10 classics.
  • 10 books translated into English (excluding those on my “classics” list).
  • 15 books outside my comfort zone.
  • 22 books off my TBR list.

If you look back to May, I read 30 books that month. I haven’t come anywhere close to the number again, but I’ve made good progress.  Continue reading

Oh, Greta! The Library’s Real Role on Campus


Greta’s tweet triggered instant anger & humorless laughing for me, so I’m glad someone took the time to explain why she’s wrong. I’ve been in several university libraries & none of them are vanity projects in any way.

Mr. Library Dude

This morning, media personality Greta Van Susteren tweeted out:

A vanity project? Hah! No library I’ve ever worked in could be called a “vanity project.”

The tweet was in response to a Yahoo Finance article: College is Still Getting More Expensive: What Can Stop It?

No real surprises here: College is too expensive and yes, debt is a concern for most students and families–something that most of us agree with.

The comment about smartphones? A flippant remark that reveals a real lack of understanding about academic research and how information is accessible to students.

But a vanity project? A 2012 article on InsideHigherEd.com reported that library budgets as a percentage of the total university budget had fallen from a high of 3.83% in 1974…

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Book Review: Everything, Everything


cover of book everything, everythingWhat I Knew Going In

Nothing, nothing. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon has been pretty hyped. It was promoted a lot & loads of bookish people were talking about it & it was a very popular debut novel. I somehow managed to tune out most of the hype and literally only knew the title and author’s name. It was an e-book deal for $1.99, so I grabbed it, knowing that a better deal would never come along.

What It’s About

Madeline Whittier (Maddy) has SCID, a genetic disorder that means she basically has no immune system. Because of that, she lives in a completely sterile environment with just her mother and nurse. She reads a lot, plays silly games with her mom, and studies online. It’s a pretty happy life until a family with a teenage son moves in next door.

What I Thought

I was hooked really early in this book. Because I didn’t know anything about the plot, I had a lot of fun learning about Maddy’s disease and life. From a purely intellectual standpoint, I found the premise fascinating. I don’t see many YA books about something like SCID. And Maddy is a reader! The book is full of literary references, funny charts and drawings, and philosophical musings.

I think that Everything, Everything aspires to be the next TFIOS. It’s a beautifully tragic love story about a really sick girl, full of metaphor and smart conversations and really hard stuff.

But this book is not TFIOS. Continue reading

Lyse Links: The Political Edition


At this point, I think most Americans are thoroughly sick of this election. I know I am. I’m avoiding most political news or discussions.

So I wasn’t sure this was a good choice of blog topic. But throughout the election, I’ve read some pieces that were exceptionally well-balanced or took a unique approach. And those articles were bright spots in a very dark election. So here are the most interesting election articles I’ve read.

The Heart of Trump Country — Trump supports have been almost universaly caricatured. This article offers a real look at some of the people supporting Trump. Whether you agree with their positions or not, it’s easier to see the humanity in this widely-villified group.

Hillary Clinton vs. Young Voters — a take on why Hillary doesn’t understand young voters, especially the Bernie supporters.

Sociology of Emotion — a sociologist who’s been studying in Louisiana describes the Trump supporters in her area.

How Russia Pulled Off the Biggest Election Hack in U.S. History — If you’re interested in espionage or international relations, this is a great look at the back-and-forth cyber-warfare between the US and Russia.

Hope Hicks: The Mystifying Triumph of Donald Trump’s Right-Hand Woman — Trump’s Press Secretary is a 27 year-old woman. Her position is especially interesting in light of Trump’s troubling opinions on women.

Understanding Hillary — Best for last–this is actually my favorite of the list. Several journalists have noted a gap between the Clinton that the world sees and the one that people close to her describe. This article does the best job of explaining it and identifying how she excels and struggles as a leader.

 

Discussion Post: Readers & Fitness


Ok, let’s talk about a thing that bothers me. (because what else is a blog for??)

You know this idea that readers/bookworms/writers are secluded nerds with no athletic ability or physical fitness?

[If you don’t know, it’s totally a thing. See pictures.]

Logically, this stereotype sorta makes sense. It’s not very easy to read while exercising (although the prevalence of ebooks & audiobooks has made it lots easier!). So when we grow up, we have to choose between reading or playing sports. And most people choose one and mostly ignore the other. It’s a real thing. Bookworms like their tea/coffee & blankets. Inside. Not exercising.

hermioneBut I have a lots of problems with this stereotype. Not because I don’t like blankets or coziness. (I don’t drink tea or coffee. I knooooow, it’s weird! You can stop throwing things.) Also, not because I think jocks/athletic people can’t be bookish (they definitely can be).

I’ve been very systematically observing bookworms for a few months now (maybe a year? what is time???) and I’ve reached a conclusion.

Ready?

Lots of readers and writers love moving and being outdoors. Like, really love it.

Writers talk/write/post often about how physical activity helps them sort through plotting/writing issues. They walk. They run marathons. They do yoga (or aerial yoga–looking at you, Gwenda Bond!). And I’m sure many of them are active but don’t post about it.

 

Readers are the same. I play soccer. I run. Have played sports basically my entire life. Readers carry huge stacks of books. Readers play with their dogs. Readers stand in long lines to meet authors.

But here’s the most irritating thing about this stereotype.

We–the readers, the writers, the lovers of books–perpetuate it. We embrace it. 

I’m far more likely to share a funny book meme than something about running. I’m more likely to post a picture of my book than a post-workout selfie. It’s time for that to change.

Can we make bookstagram/booktube/book blogs/etc. encompass all our interests? Can we stop pretending that we all live in book burritos all day?bookburrito

Can we ditch this idea that readers avoid outdoors and activity at all costs? We’re strong enough to imagine others complexly. (h/t to the Green brothers, obviously)

Discussion: Reading the Wrong Way


Is there a wrong way to read? 

A few weeks ago, I bristled at a conversation I saw play out on Twitter. I’m about to quote the authors (and disagree with them), but this isn’t really an issue about the exact names attached. Here’s the exchange:

twitter-convo

I am this person. 

At least, I am a person who loves suspense in a story. I seldom reread (except for select favorites) and I don’t watch a lot of movie adaptations.

I think (maybe I’m wrong) that I’m not a bad reader–a person who ignores nuance and demands my truth. But the possibility–maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m a bad reader–has lingered in my mind. So let’s explore.

How I Read

I read breathlessly, devouring books in single sittings, in ridiculous numbers. I immerse completely and at one time. I avoid summaries, excerpts, book trailers, hype (when I can, topic for another post). I’m obsessed with the experience of diving into a brand new universe with no prep. It precludes my analytical brain, my tendency to predict, to be bored. I do not skim, but I also do not take my time. I do not agonize over meaning or nuance. I turn pages rapidly, pursuing the thread of plot or character development (often as/more important than plot!) to the end. Hard stop.

Does that make me a bad reader?

Demanding truth

Do I demand my own truth from books? I am white. I’m middle class. I’m straight (am I supposed to say cisgendered too/instead? I don’t even know). My version of truth is pretty common.

Except.

I’m also from a very conservative Christian family. And my religion and values are not represented (not well) in most literature.

So I’ve read lots of books that do not speak to my truth. Some of them I like. Some of them I don’t. I don’t think I demand my truth from a story, but how would I know?

Conclusion (Not)

I think I’m a good reader. I think it’s a personal preference that I read quickly, obsessively, with a lot of emphasis on newness, on suspense.

But now I don’t know. Am I ignoring depth that I should hunt for? Should my books be dogeared, marked through the margins with notes from extended rereads? Does not doing that make me a shallow person?

I try not to use this blog for a diary (this type of self-analysis and dithering is very diary-like!), but I’m throwing this one out because I hope other readers have struggled with feeling like bad readers and can give advice! And maybe some of you are going through this with me. Let me know in the comments!

An additional comment on Shannon Hale & Mette Ivie Harrison: I’ve read several books by both of these remarkable authors. I have incredible respect for their attention to tough topics and representation in the book world. This post is in no way an attack on them, just an issue brought to the fore through their conversation. 

Writing Advice from Read Up Greenville


As a career writer and aspiring fiction author, I really enjoy the writing advice that successful authors offer at conferences. It’s equal parts discouraging reality (12 years to publish??) and encouraging normality (they’re real humans like me!).

I don’t want to recreate all of the keynotes/panels, but I jotted down a few interesting points.

Jay Asher

It takes years for the ideas to come together. Several authors have mentioned this concept–basically, the idea for a story starts many, many years before they’re finally able to write it. In some ways, that gives me hope, but Continue reading