Thursday, November 9, 2017

NaNoWriMo and Research Books Pic

Day 6 of NaNoWriMo (really, Day 8, for me), and I'm up to 11, 112 words. I'm writing in bits and pieces, and I don't know what's coming each day, so it's a much more nerve-wracking process than the first time around, but it's working so far.

Below is a picture of my research books, all nonfiction from my novel's time period, with the exception of The Book Thief, which I've meant to read for years, and now turned out to be the perfect moment. My favorite of the nonfiction so far is Victims and Neighbors, a study of the surviving Germans and Jews from one small town in Germany: the author's grandparents' hometown. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the subject.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ten Characters Who Would Make Great Leaders

It's Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Characters Who Would Make Great Leaders

(I tried to think mostly of characters who are/were not actually leaders...yet)

1. Jo March

2. Harriet the Spy

3. Hermione Granger

4. Felicity Merriman

5. Kestrel

6. Faramir

7. Eowyn

8. Lauren Olamina


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts hosted by Bookishly Boisterous

1. I'm planning to start NaNoWriMo this weekend since Nov. 1 is a Wednesday. However, although I did a fair amount of research (I'll add a pic of my research stack later), I'm feeling anxious because I didn't finish 50,000 words last year.

2. I'm continuing the same historical novel from last year, but also have a couple of other writing projects in mind just to stimulate word count. However, although I finished my first NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words, finished the novel in under three months, and hardly even felt blocked, maybe this model doesn't work for this kind of book for me.  It was so cool for me to be like --OMG I can just WRITE a novel--but maybe I have to realize that I won't always be able to just bang out a novel!

3. I'm reading The Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa'Thiong'o right now, and I unfortunately forgot it for lunch today, and can't wait to get back to it tonight. It's been on my TBR for several years and I'm so into it, so, yes, KonMari is wrong about not keeping books you haven't read yet.

4. I've bought waaay too many books lately, largely because I've discovered eBay, which, yes I've been aware it exists, but I didn't start looking at it until wedding stuff and then I realized there are so many rare and used books, and it's so cheap...but I've bought about 14 books in the past two months (mostly for book research, which is my excuse) and I need to stop.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Things I Want to (Want to) Write About

It's been awhile since I've written here, but I haven't stopped reading.

1. In fact, as of yesterday, I finished my Goodreads goal to read 52 books this year:

I didn't know about the nifty 'Completed' sash, but it sure feels satisfying. After my first year of Goodreads, I'm overall satisfied but not impressed. The most addictive quality of Goodreads is ticking off your self-set reading goal one-by-one, similar to NaNoWriMo's word counter, but otherwise, there's less functionality than I thought in terms of categorizing books, and I've found Goodreads' recommendations less helpful than finding books from other bloggers or browsing in the library. Still, I'll probably continue for next year at least; I'm contemplating the slightly loftier goal of 54.

2. Similarly, after my first year of The Economist, I'm satisfied, but not impressed, this time, with my own reading abilities. I had hoped The Economist would provide more worldly and economic/financial knowledge for me, and also that I would manage to read a majority of the weekly issues. Although I do think my awareness of international issues has improved (for example, I've been following outsourced private schools in Liberia, charges against Brazil's president, the rise of Macron, and so on), I've found that I tend to skip and skim the boring financial articles, and I don't feel like I understand economics much better than I did before. Finally, although I read far more issues than I did when I subscribed to The New Yorker, I still don't feel like the price (or waste) is worth the number of magazines I toss unopened or barely skimmed. Instead, I'm planning to replace my Economist subscription next year with a subscription to three or more local literary magazines (because I can do that at the same price point). That leads neatly into my next topic...

3. Poetry feels essential at this moment. I'm drowning in it happily. Besides full-length collections, of which I've read at least as many as last year (2-3, not bothering to check), I'm subscribed to the Academy of American Poets' Poem-A-Day, sent directly to my inbox, and I find myself clicking on links to poems on Facebook, Twitter, everywhere. It's a refuge and an outcry that seems to find its expression best no other way.

4. I want to write more about The Cooking Gene, and also I read Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and attended an event to hear her talk in person about dealing (or choosing not to deal) with her daughter's hair because some things are more important than looks and how some of the characters in the book would have gone to New Zealand today instead of America. Adichie is a fabulous speaker, and I highly, highly recommend you try to attend an event with her, and furthermore, I'm proud of myself for finishing her book, and also it took two days because I was so entranced. And also, the book is set in Nigeria, and the food mentioned was familiar to me--not because I've ever eaten fufu or soup made with palm oil, but because I'd recently finished The Cooking Gene--and there was nothing like his descriptions matching up with the food in a completely unrelated African novel to drive home his thesis about the African origins of American Southern food.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish!

Fall is always the big TBR when all the big doorstop bestsellers come out...but this year, I'm doing pretty well with what I wanted to read and feeling pretty laidback about the rest. Three books out this fall are from folks I know: in real life, The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty; in blogging life, Reading People by Modern Mrs. Darcy and Smitten Kitchen Everyday by Smitten Kitchen.

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

1. The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty

Been waiting to read this for at least a year, maybe more, and now I'm almost finished!

2. Reading People by Anne Bogel

Also just finished this one, which I also preordered. I wasn't sure exactly what it would be like, but it was like a group of blog posts on different personality tests, which I did find interesting. A handy guide to dip into when I want to reflect on aspects of my personality.

3. Smitten Kitchen Everyday by Deb Perelman

This one isn't out yet, but she's coming to DC, so I'm going to hear her talk!

4. The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

Sounded like an interesting collection of short stories, and I'm a fan of Jane Yolen's children's book The Devil's Arithmetic from way back.

5. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (or anything else by her)

I've read some short stories, but despite her popularity, haven't managed to read any of her books or full collections yet. Purple Hibiscus is the One Maryland, One Book for this year, and I'm planning to see her talk next week!

6. Five-Carat Soul by James McBride

I love everything I've read by James McBride, so I'm excited.

7. Future Home of the Living G-d by Louise Erdrich

I'm kind of so-so about what I've read of Erdrich's in the past, but this dystopian concept intrigues me.

8. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

It's supposed to be similar to The Handmaid's Tale, so I'm in for this. 

9. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Hugely popular this year and representative of this era of refugees.

10. Tales of Two Americas, edited by John Freemen and Nasty Women, edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding

Two short story collections about current political divides; hoping for some grace and clarity. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Reading Life Continued

Finished This Past Week:

I found this at my local Little Free Library just a couple of days before I embarked on a train journey over Labor Day Weekend. It was the perfect slim size to bring with me and to read on the train. My second book of poetry in only a couple weeks. Highly recommend Adrienne Rich, and looking forward to reading more of her collections.

Currently Reading:

I'm about halfway through reading The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty, my former Hebrew school teacher turned African American culinary historian. Twitty uses his own family to define and describe the intertwined African American cultures and food, and as I was when I learned from him, I'm impressed by his bravery in confronting the horrors visited upon his ancestors. He doesn't shy away from the rape of his foremothers nor from claiming those white male fathers as his ancestors as well. Although his food typically has a healing, collaborative message, he also includes recipes for the cornmeal mush fed to slave children in a trough and the slurry sometimes force-fed to African captives on slaver's ships. I've never read anything quite like this before, and I'm glad he wrote it.

I wanted this book as soon as I saw it in an Instagram picture, but by the time I got it, it was summer, and it sat on my shelf for a while. I tried reading it, but I just wasn't in the mood. However, last night, after I had to put down The Cooking Gene, but still wanted something to read, I picked it up again, and it's clicking better. It certainly feels like fall around here already, and though I'm a sworn summer aficionado, I'm trying to be excited.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

More Reading Life

Finished This Past Week:

It's hard for me to talk about how I feel about poetry. But I read this straight through, and even though I liked some poems better than others, I was feeling the whole spirit of this anthology.

After a run of unusual reads for me (nonfiction, short stories, poems), I got back to my roots with an Octavia Butler science fiction novel. Fledgling was her last book and it didn't disappoint. Butler turns the myth of vampires among us into a thought experiment on mutualism and group marriage sustained by chemical bonds, plus darker skin as a genetic advantage. Like a lot of her other books, it thinks about how humanity and relationships would be different with different types of chemical and biological relations. Shori, a vampire-type creature known as an Ina, which in Butler's version is a distinct species, needs to drink human blood to survive, BUT her human symbionts benefit from pleasure, longer life, and improved healing. Both Shori and her symbionts are chemically bonded to one another--and she naturally needs several in order to sustain her without harming any. Unlike other Ina, Shori is genetically engineered with darker skin so that she is able to walk in the daylight. This causes the main source of conflict in the book but there are interesting undercurrents of gender, racial, economic, and political power dynamics as well. This was supposed to be a trilogy, and I wish Butler had gotten to finish it.

So, I finally read this. It's okay as fanfiction, which is what I consider it. I'm also sure it's better seeing it performed than reading the script. but I refuse to consider this the eighth Harry Potter book. There is no such thing.

Next Up:

Pretty amazing that I actually have this! I've had it on preorder forever. Twitty was my Hebrew school teacher, one of the only ones I actually liked, so I'm happy to support him. It's also kind of cool that when I go to a tavern in Williamsburg, his recipes are on the menu. Interested to learn more about his journey as a culinary expert in African American cuisine; also looking forward to learning more about his research on his family, which I remember learning about in Hebrew school!