Libraries’ Transformative Powers

As a student of international development with a boundless love of libraries, I delighted in reading this article from Slate about “The Library’s Global Future.” My involvement in the education sector stemmed from my conviction that education, and libraries by extension, are vital to improving political and economic climates, preventing human rights abuses, and encouraging strong civil societies in developing (and developed!) countries.

As sad as I am to see that a future full of libraries with diminished catalogs of physical books, at least libraries will likely remain in some form as useful spaces for public discourse and inter-connectivity, both in person and via access to the Internet. I would love for the libraries of the future to continue pushing their purview further by providing an increasing array of public services, such as therapy groups and skills trainings. While I applaud the work that the Gates Foundation and others have sponsored, far more can be done in that arena, one in which government, non-profit, or corporate funding could have tremendous impact.

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Happy 1st Birthday!

Image result for dancing animalCraziness – it’s this blog’s first birthday already. I’m really proud of what I’ve done this year. Defying the name, there hasn’t been many tomes read – but this is my 150th blog post! And while it’s not a review (not much of anything really except an expression of my skipping sheep-like joy at getting this far), I hope that I will continue on for another year and that y’all will continue to follow it. Thank you so much for reading! 🙂

In the News: Wolf Hall on Masterpiece

Avid historical fiction/television buffs probably know that a BBC miniseries adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall debuted on Masterpiece. As I mentioned in my post about The Assassination of Margaret ThatcherI’m no fan of Mantel’s. However, this piece in The Washington Post got me contemplating (as the title says) “How ‘Wolf Hall’ will entertain millions – and threaten to distort history in the process.”

The author Gregory Wolfe (and what an ironic name!) suggests that writers of historical fiction have some responsibility to expose real history to their readers, and barring that are culpable for basically propaganda. While Wolfe seems to be among the anti-Thomas Cromwell congregation, he does have a point that Mantel is pushing an anti-Catholic agenda that may heavily conflict with historical facts. If I hadn’t read this article, however much I did or didn’t like the book, I wouldn’t have necessarily thought it to be untruthful just over-dramatized. And maybe it is true, in which case I congratulate her on voicing another marginalized perspective on a controversial figure. No human is entirely bad or good, so Cromwell can both be a self-serving bully and a pragmatic modernizer.

I certainly don’t want to curtail a novelist’s agency or imagination, but this is part of the reason I try to read a variety of fiction and non-fiction on topics I’m interested in, to avoid an author’s inherent bias towards the subject. So while I hope that people enjoy the newest entry in period dramas, I also want them to be aware of potential inaccuracy and take what they’re seeing with a grain of salt. One man’s martyr is another’s villain.

Harper Lee’s New Book!

Long-time followers of this blog (which excitingly just reached 100 posts!) may remember my excitement upon reading the first excerpt of The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee. Now sadly, I still haven’t had the opportunity to read that biography, but it has been eclipsed by this news – Harper Lee is publishing a new book!

According to Huffington Post, it was written in the 1950s as a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird and features an adult Scout. For some reason, Lee never published it until now. Go Set a Watchman will be released in July 2014 and I can’t wait! I promise a prompt review will follow 🙂

In the News: Diversity in YA

When I first read this article in Bustle, complaining that ‘Time’s “100 Best Young Adult Books” of All Time Is Very White…and Not Very YA,’ I had mixed reactions.

On one hand, as a non-white reader, it does occasionally bother me that most of the popular books feature white protagonists and growing up, I read maybe two books that related to the Indian-American experience. On the other hand, I want my best lists to be colorblind, for authors and their books not to be on there to fulfill a racial quota but because they really are the best. And with white authors dominating the market for the last few hundred years, it’s not exactly surprising that some of those classics show up on the list (i.e. A Catcher in the Rye, Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, etc).

It’s a popularity contest and the aforementioned classics have proven themselves by lasting. The most important thing to me is that now you can find diversity on the shelves where you couldn’t before, even when you’re not particularly looking for it. As these books are promoted and popularized, they’ll take over these lists, regardless of who creates them.

More concerning for this list’s authority is that it lacks definition behind “young adult.” Some of these titles seemed middle grade, others what I would consider young adult (high school and early twenties), and a few more I would think of as adult, such as Lord of the Rings. I can think of great authors of color in all three categories, but it’s harder to distinguish them when the field is blurred across age groups.

However, and most concerning of all, how the heck is the mindless drivel that is Twilight on the same level as To Kill A Mockingbird?! After discovering that, all points are moot because I’m not even taking this list seriously.

Best Books of 2014

Howdy, y’all! I’m feeling warm and happy after migrating down South for the holidays, and much looking forward to the new year 🙂

Goodreads kindly sent me an email summary of the books I’ve read in 2014 – I hit 94! Don’t tell, but I’m going to cheat and round to 100, which sounds more impressive. And I’m nearly at 100 posts too, despite only writing this blog for the latter half of the year. So exciting!

In honor of 2014, here are my favorite reads in each genre with links to my reviews:

Contemporary: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa

Fantasy: The Curse of Chalion (close runners-up: The Emperor’s Blades and The City of Stairs)

Historical Fiction: The Visitors

Horror: Dracula

Mystery: Big Little Lies

Nonfiction: War of the Whales (close runner-up: Dream Team)

YA Contemporary: Great (close runner-up: Love Letters to the Dead)

YA Fantasy: tie between Deep Blue and The Paper Magician

If you haven’t gotten around to these in 2014, I highly recommend all of them for 2015. With fingers crossed for another year of great new books, Happy New Year!!!

Weekend Update: Liebster Award Nomination

Howdy! I guess I’ve been hiding under a rock in the Interwebs because I’d never heard of this meme (?) until now. My thanks to both Kelly of dancingthroughthepages and The Bodacious Book Babe/Addicted to Ink for nominating me!

Since I was nominated twice and I’m feeling lazy, I’m going to pick and choose between the questions these gals asked me 🙂

For the uninitiated, The Rules:

  1. Link and thank the blogger that nominated you
  2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator gives you
  3. Tag 11 other bloggers who have 200 or less followers
  4. Ask the 11 nominated bloggers 11 questions and tell them you’ve nominated them

Onto The Questions:

1. What is a really underrated book that you would love to see on the big screen? Why?

I don’t think this book/series is necessarily underrated, since I know tons of women who love it, but I’m surprised and dismayed that Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet (or any of her other books) haven’t made it to the big screen. It’s YA, which is popular these days, and has a strong female lead and an exciting plot – everything a movie audience could love!

2. What is something in a book that has to be well-done for you to like it? (For me, it’s characterization.) Is it plot, setting, characters, etc?

Definitely characters that I enjoy reading about. They have to be realistic and, to some degree, understandable, even if they’re actually horrible people.

3. Is there a book that you’ve tried to read innumerable times but have never been able to finish? What is it?

I pride myself on almost never not finishing a book, but Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals has me beat. The parts I’ve read have been amazing, and I loved the movie Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis. Plus I have a huge girl-crush on her as a person. But I keep checking it out of my library and getting through a few chapters before it’s due (it’s so long!) and then I can’t renew it because EVERYONE else wants it. I should probably just buy it at this point.

4. If you estimate, what is most books you’ve ever checked out from your library?

At once or in my life? I can’t even guess the latter, but I’ve probably had 30 (the maximum) checked out at once. It gets embarrassing because I put them on hold and now my local librarians know me as that girl and give me shit about “am I really going to finish all of them?” Well, duh.

5. What is your favorite book setting? (Stuff like this -> Fantasy AU, Boarding School, Hollywood, New York, Foreign Countries, etc.)

While I do love fantasy settings, mostly because I want to live in them (still waiting for my Hogwarts letter!), I also love boarding school settings. I assume this is a lingering childhood fantasy based off of Enid Blyton novels and exacerbated by Harry Potter.

6. What book or series do you hate the most? Why?

Twilight. It’s poor quality of writing, flat characters, and dumb plot are all irritating, but worst of all is that it’s blatantly anti-feminist. Not only is Edward a creepy stalker who should’ve been given a restraining order, Bella’s entire persona is sculpted around her devotion to a man.

7. Hard copies or ebooks? Why?

Definitely hard copies. I’ll bring my Kindle for long trips because I read so fast that I’d otherwise need to lug around multiple physical books, but I still love the smell and heft of paper.

8. What’s one book you would read to make you feel better if you were having a bad day?

Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses. I love how reflective it is of millennial life – it makes me laugh and gives me hope that even the terrible, awkward things will pass.

9. How many books (estimate) do you currently own? How many have you actually read?

In my tiny, cramped apartment – probably 40. Overall? Well, my parents recently moved and my mom complained that she packed 9 boxes full of my books so probably at least a few hundred. There’s probably about 10 total out of those that I haven’t read.

10. What are your top three favorite genres?

Fantasy, historical fiction, and biography/memoir.

11. Who is your favorite author and why?

Probably Agatha Christie because I love her characters and plot twists. I can reread them endlessly and still enjoy them. Close runners-up are George R.R. Martin, A.J. Jacobs, P.G. Wodehouse, William Faulkner, and Tamora Pierce.

 

Now, I don’t know if I know 11 bloggers, but my questions for those I choose are as follows:

1. If you could only bring 3 books with you to a deserted island, what would they be?

2. If you could be any character, who would it be?

3. How many books do you think you’ve read in your life?

4. What was the most memorable book you’ve read and why?

5. What was your favorite childhood book?

6. What book were you forced to read (i.e. in high school/college, for a book club, etc.) that you surprisingly loved?

7. Have there been any super-popular books that you’ve hated? Ex. Harry Potter, Gone Girl, etc.

8. What is your favorite book to screen (either TV or movie) adaptation?

9. On average, how fast do you read?

10. What book do you recommend most often to your friends, family, the Internet?

11. What do you love most about book blogging?

 

Blogs I’m tagging (thanks in advance for playing along!):

Blogs of a bookaholic

chitownbooks

lulusrantsandreads

fromatozbooks

yabookaddicts

If you aren’t listed but want to join in on the fun, shoot me a comment and I can add a link to your site!