Backwards Bookshelves… Why??

Have you heard about the latest trend? Backwards bookshelves. It’s where you take your lovely books and turn them around so the spine doesn’t show.

Some proponents of the idea say it’s “simple” and “clean” and “beautiful.”

I say it doesn’t make sense.

I’m a practical person. I like using items for the purpose for which they were intended. I sit in chairs. I eat with forks. And I read books.

I’m not saying these items can never be used in a decorative or interesting way. But turning books backwards seems to relegate them solely to a decorative purpose. And that makes my heart sad.

The whole reason I love my bookshelves is so that my books are displayed and I can find what I want. When I’m not sure what I want to read, I browse the shelves, looking at the interesting spines with their multitude of shapes, colors, and the continuum of wear.

Turning them the other way washes out their individuality. Each book could be the same as the one beside it.

Decorator trends are best left in magazines.

I’m going to keep my books right side out.

Would you ever do this?

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My Crazy, Bookish Adventure Weekend

Some people are going to read this post and be like, “Book stuff isn’t an adventure.” If you’re one of those people, this post might not be for you.

For those of you who are like, “Books? Tell me more!” read on.

Always Raining Here

My bookish weekend started on Friday when I finally got my copies of Always Raining Here.

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It’s a webcomic that ran from 2012- 2016, a story about two teenage boys’ quest for love. (Okay, it didn’t start out as a quest for love… but they’re teenage boys!) I’ve been waiting for these books for awhile, so it was a nice surprise to finally get them.

The Texas Teen Book Festival

Saturday was the Texas Teen Book Festival with a few authors I’d heard of, and many more who were new to me. The authors sat on panels such as “You + Me = Fate” and talked about themes in their books, writing process, the importance of diversity in books, and other interesting topics.

Though I could have bought these books cheaper elsewhere, I bought a bunch at the festival for a few reasons.

  1. It’s important to support other authors. One day I hope to make a living from people buying my books.
  2. They’re signed! Signed books are always better!
  3. If I don’t buy them immediately, I put them on a list and forget that I really wanted to read them.

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(I’ve already read When Dimple Met Rishi, and it was lovely.)

The Library Sale!

I love the sale at my local library. Not only are books cheap, but I love used books. Part of it is that I just love owning things that other people owned, that have wear marks and maybe writing in them. The other part of it is that I’m conscious about waste, so when I can buy used, I feel good about my purchasing decisions.

I went for the YA/ children’s books first, and was immediately perplexed. Instead of stacking the books so the titles could be read, they looked like this:

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My apologies for the blurry picture. Please don’t tell my husband… he’d be appalled.

Why would you stack books so that you can’t see the spine?? It’s incomprehensible to me, and reminds me of that weird backwards bookshelf trend (which will be the subject of Friday’s blog… stay tuned).

From there, I moved into the main room with all the other books. I was briefly distracted by a copy of The Annotated Alice, an annotated version of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland from 1960. I actually own the exact book that was being sold, but I don’t have much willpower when it comes to Alice in Wonderland. I want to own multiple copies of every version of this book ever made.

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Yeah, I don’t understand it either. Moving on.

I acquired some great finds, including an old Stephen King anthology with “Rage,” a rare short story that King himself asked to be pulled off the shelves.

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The leather-bound book is a copy of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore. Now, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have bought this book, except that someone had put it with the religion books. I know volunteers run library sales, and someone just put it there because it looked like it belonged, but it made me laugh, so I had to buy it.

I bought Girl On A Train because it sounded better than The Girl On the Train, which I disliked, though everyone else seemed to think it was great.

There was also a book I spotted called, “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.” This raised so many questions for me. Is there also a “Manly Art of Breastfeeding”? Is the implication that someone isn’t womanly if they don’t breastfeed? What if I don’t have children? Should I breastfeed other people’s children in order to be more womanly?

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I didn’t buy that one though. I figured someone else needed tips on being womanly more than I did.

Did you have any bookish adventures this weekend?

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Five Things Friday

One

What I’m Reading

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. It’s not a book I would have picked for myself, but I’m enjoying it. It was a birthday present from a friend. I love getting books as gifts because it challenges me to read things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

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I started Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, on audiobook. It’s to fulfill the Popsugar Reading Challenge Category: A Steampunk Novel. So far, it’s okay, but I can’t say I’m loving it.

Two

What I’m Writing

In my August edition of “Five Things Friday,” I told you I was just starting the edits on Not Dead Enough. I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the paper read through. Now for the oral read through, and then I’m ready to start querying it… yay!

I’m also still working on my other book, The Cycle, and I feel like I’ve gotten into the groove of writing it. Normally I wouldn’t be working on editing one book at the same time I’m writing another, but these are so different that it’s no struggle keeping them in separate mental compartments.

Three

What I Read This Week

I finished Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (rated 4 stars on Goodreads). I can’t believe I’ve never read this before!

The new Writer’s Digest issue.

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Apparently Alan Alda is a writer… who knew?

Four

When I Wasn’t Reading

Well… I was cleaning up around the house. Let’s just say I have an older dog and leave it at that. I was also editing and writing.

Five

Favorite Picture of the Week

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These guys made me laugh with how they’re passed out, like they’re exhausted!

What have you been up to this week?

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things Released in Paperback Today!

Version 2With Banned Books Week taking place last week, it feels like perfect timing to have the paperback version of All The Ugly and Wonderful Things released today.

There aren’t many books I own in both paperback and hardback, but this is one of them.

I adore this book. It’s a book that presents a polarizing topic in a way I hadn’t thought of before. I love books that make me see reality in a new and different way. I don’t necessarily have to agree with the point of view; it just needs to be well thought out and show me something different.

As I said last week, literary fiction “analyzes the nature of reality.” I don’t always love literary fiction because it’s hard to tell an entertaining story with vibrant characters and still analyze reality.

But this book does that. It’s told in multiple points of view; I’m not even sure how many there are. But the point of the multiple points of view is to show different perspectives about what’s happening during the story.

What’s most interesting to me in this book is the things that are implied but left unsaid.

I know I’m being deliberately vague about what the book’s about, but I think that for anyone who hadn’t read it, it’s an experience best left to unfold. Because while I could tell you what the book is about, what it’s about on the surface isn’t really what the book is about.

If you’ve heard about it and have been putting off reading it, this week is a great time to start! Grab your paperback copy today!

And if you end up being a superfan like me, if you subscribe to her newsletter, Bryn Greenwood has released all the “deleted scenes” from the book. I’m hoping that one day she releases a book with all of them back in there, where they belong.

 

In Celebration of Banned Books Week

I keep a list of the most banned books hung up and highlight them as I read them.

I love Banned Books Week, a week devoted to increasing awareness of the freedom to read.

My views on this haven’t changed that much over time. I believe only in self-censorship: the ability of oneself or one’s guardian to decide what should be read. To be clear, I mean that a child’s parents should be able to decide what he or she reads, but not that a single child’s parents should be able to decide what everyone else is reading. Books should challenge us, make us think, sometimes offend us or present ideas we’re not ready for. Because that’s how growth happens.

My parents let me read anything I wanted growing up. They never told me I shouldn’t read something or worried about content. I was exposed to all kinds of interesting ideas, which I believe has made me open-minded and interested in a variety of things. And almost impossible to offend.

I remember that one time, as a teenager, I was reading some novel about a serial killer. (I’ve always been a bit obsessed with serial killers.) And in the book, murder and mayhem never bothered me. But there was a particularly graphic sex scene that grossed me out. So I abandoned that book and moved on to something else.

I’m sure there would have been other kids my age who were fine with the sex scene, but would be bothered by murder. Just because a particular topic wasn’t appropriate for me doesn’t mean that it wasn’t appropriate for someone else. And just because I read about murder with nary a nightmare, doesn’t mean every teen should read that stuff. I’ve also always hated books with any kind of cruelty to animals. (Yes, I realize it’s fiction… but I don’t even like thinking about it.)

Censorship and banning books basically mean that a particular book is appropriate for no one, which I find difficult to believe. It’s a way of imposing the beliefs of the censor on everyone. The thing I love most about people is our endless variety of thought and belief.

Interestingly, a lot of the most frequently challenged books are the ones that tend to be most meaningful. If a book is important and has something meaningful to say, someone is going to be offended by it.

Here’s a link to a list of the most banned/ challenged books of 2000- 2009.

Of the books most challenged in 2016, I’ve only read Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. (Wonderful book, BTW). In celebration of this year’s banned book week, I’m going to read Looking for Alaska, by John Green, challenged for “a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to ‘sexual experimentation.'” Because kids can’t find anything they want to know about sex on the internet, right?

Censorship and the suppression of reading materials are rarely about family values and almost always about controlabout who is
snapping the whip, who is saying no, and who is saying go…

Yet when books are run out of school classrooms and even out of school libraries as a result of this idea… I tell kids… Don’t get mad, get even. Don’t spend time waving signs or carrying petitions around the neighborhood. Instead, run, don’t walk, to the nearest nonschool library or to the local bookstore and get whatever it was that they banned. Read whatever they’re trying to keep out of your eyes and your brain, because that’s exactly what you need to know.

-Stephen King

What’s your favorite banned/ challenged book? Are you reading anything in honor of the week?

Related Posts:

Words Have Power

Don’t Ban Eleanor & Park

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Can Genre Fiction Be As Life Changing As Literary Fiction?

IMG_8384Awhile back, I read The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George. The concept is intriguing. A book apothecary recommends books to “cure” people of their ills. Of course, there’s more to the book than that, but that’s the part that’s relevant to this discussion. I looked up some of the books he recommended, and they sounded like literary fiction to me.

What is literary fiction? you ask.

Good question. According to Wikipedia (but this is essentially the answer I’ve seen everywhere):

Literary fiction comprises fictional works that hold literary merit; that is, they involve social commentary, or political criticism, or focus on the human condition. Literary fiction is deliberately written in dialogue with existing works, created with the above aims in mind and is focused more on themes than on plot, and it is common for literary fiction to be taught and discussed in schools and universities.

Literary fiction is usually contrasted with popular, commercial, or genre fiction. Some have described the difference between them in terms of analyzing reality (literary) rather than escaping reality (popular). The contrast between these two subsets of fiction is controversial among critics and scholars. Source: Wikipedia

So, in a nutshell, it’s about analysis vs. escape. I like some literary fiction. And I like lots and lots of genre fiction. I think that, in general, the analysis vs. escape definition fits.

So it got me to thinking if genre fiction ever crosses that line into analysis, and if genre fiction can be as life changing as literary fiction.

I would argue that it can. And in fact, I think young adult fiction tends to do a lot of that.

I realize this is a bold assertion. After all, there are pages and pages dedicated to either people saying “I love YA and won’t apologize for it” and “Adults should be ashamed of reading books made for kids.” Honestly, both sides of the argument are compelling.

But I think that YA is uniquely appropriate for analyzing reality. After all, before they learn that they don’t know everything, many teens are amateur philosophers, solving all the world’s problems. I don’t miss the arrogance and self-centeredness of that time (and I was), but I miss the feeling of having all the answers. Teens are passionate about issues because they haven’t gotten to the point where they realize they don’t have time to be passionate about everything they care about. They don’t know how to pick their battles.

I’m not trying to say that all YA books analyze reality, or even reflect it in any meaningful way. But the ones that do can promote some good discussions and make me think about the nature of reality.

6 Genre Books That Explore Complex Issues

  1. This Savage Song/ Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab: Discusses the nature of responsibility for one’s actions, and that actions have consequences. (genre: dystopian YA)
  2. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes: This was a controversial book because of the way it portrayed one of the main characters, Will. Will became quadriplegic because of an accident, and is also suicidal. While I understand the concerns associated with this book, I loved it because it explores the nature of self-determination, and an individual’s right to choose. (genre: romance)
  3. And The Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich: Explores the nature of grief and loss, and how our choices can imprison us (genre: YA horror)
  4. Six Months, Three Days, by Charlie Jane Anders: Explores the nature of choice and fate. (genre: science fiction novella)
  5. All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven: The main characters struggle with suicidal ideation and depression, and this book looks at how that can manifest for different people, and that sometimes there are no good “reasons.” (genre: YA)
  6. The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis: Looks at themes of vigilante justice, self-protection, friendship, and how actions can have unexpected consequences. (genre: YA)

Have you ever had a genre book impact your life? What book would you “prescribe” to others?

 

10 Best Books for Fall

Today is the first day of fall. And let me tell you… I’m ready for it.

Fall is my favorite season. After the unrelenting heat of summer, it’s nice to go outside and not instantly be sweaty and overheated. (I’d rather be cold than hot.)

Fall is such a pretty time of year too, with the leaves turning colors and the smell of woodsmoke in the air. Plus, fall has Halloween, which is the best holiday ever.

I used to look forward to the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, but since I’ve started eating healthier, all I taste is chemicals. 😦 I’ve tried a few recipes at home, and some other coffee shops, but I haven’t found anything I like as much as I remember. (If you have an awesome recipe for PSL, please let me know… I will be forever in your debt.)

I always hear about summer beach reads. I think autumn hammock reads and autumn forest reads should be a thing. My list is largely horror, but I did throw in a couple that aren’t. Think camping, falling leaves, colder days, ghosts, vampires, and monsters.

  1. And the Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich This is a wonderfully creepy YA book. Silla and Nori flee an abusive situation and go live with their aunt. But the house their aunt lives in is haunted. And the trees get closer every day. This would be a fantastic one to sit and read in the woods. And then wonder if that whispering through the tree branches is actually them getting… a… little… closer.
  2. Dracula, by Bram Stoker Count Dracula is evil; no sparkles here. If you’ve never read it, there’s no time like the present.
  3. ‘Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King This is an underrated book of King’s, not one that gets talked about often. It’s the story of what happens when bad vampires take over a town.
  4. Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein This is a 5 book series. Of course, Mary Shelley’s original is wonderful, and everyone should read it. But this series is interesting, starting in modern day. Detectives Carson O’Connor and Michael Maddison begin investigating a series of strange murders. In the course of their investigation, they find that Victor Frankenstein didn’t learn anything the first time around, and that his monster has become more human than the man. Like most Dean Koontz books, they’ve got it all: fantasy, science fiction, horror, romance, exploration of the nature of what it means to be human.
  5. The Night Circus, by Erin Morganstern When I think of fall, I think of camping, haunted hayrides, music festivals– basically anything involving woodsmoke, apples, marshmallows, and that special crisp scent in the air. The Night Circus evokes those feelings. Bonus points if you actually read it while sitting outside by the campfire.
  6. Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake Cas Lowood kills the dead. For him, it’s not that big of a deal. But when he comes against Anna, it all gets more complicated. Because Anna’s ghost is not ready to stop killing. This is a two book YA series, with Girl of Nightmares following the first.
  7. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black Vampires are real and confined to Coldtowns so they don’t infect humans. Still, humans don’t go out at night, because vampires don’t always follow rules. When Tana wakes up one morning after a party, she finds that all her friends have been slaughtered, and her ex-boyfriend has been bitten. A delirious vampire is chained up next to him. The vampires who did it are in the basement, asleep. For reasons even Tana doesn’t understand, she takes them both out of the house, intending to drive them both to the closest Coldtown.
  8. House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski This book is long and complicated, and so worth it. It puts a spin on the idea of a haunted house. Johnny works in a tattoo parlor, and finds a book in the apartment of a dead man. It’s called “The Navidson Record,” and it details the story of a family who bought a house that grows and shrinks, with hallways going places they shouldn’t, and creatures living in the dark. Though it’s presented as fact, Johnny can’t find any evidence that the Navidson Record is real. His obsession with the record drives him crazy. The book is told in an experimental fashion, with pages you have to turn sideways (or upside down) to read, notes scrawled in the margins, sketches, different colored text, and different languages.
  9. A Long Fatal Love Chase, by Louisa May Alcott Rosamond lives with her bitter old grandfather and wants more from life. She declares, “I often feel that I’d sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.” Not long after, a mysterious man (Phillip Tempest) arrives and romances her. She agrees to go away with him, if he marries her. He does, and they have a year of happiness. But when she finds out they were never really married, she flees, and Phillip pursues her, vowing never to let her go.
  10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed Following a divorce and the death of her mother, with no real camping or hiking experience, Cheryl Strayed impulsively decided to hike 1000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail alone. She traveled from California, through Oregon, into Washington, meeting new people and learning about herself. I have no idea if the movie did it justice, but this was a fantastic memoir about one woman’s journey to self-discovery.

Are there any on my list you agree or disagree with? Any fall reads you’d add?