Thursday, January 26, 2017

Women's March: MILCK and the unofficial anthem, 'Quiet'

Written by MILCK and AG
Produced by AG

put on your face

know your place
shut up and smile
don’t spread your legs
I could do that

But no one knows me no one ever will
if I don’t say something, if I just lie still
Would I be that monster, scare them all away
If I let the-em hear what I have to say

I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

I can’t keep quiet
For anyone

Cuz no one knows me no one ever will
if I don’t say something, take that dry blue pill
they may see that monster, they may run away
But I have to do this, do it anyway
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh I can’t keep quiet

Let it out Let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands 
Let it out Let it out
Let it out now
Must be someone who’ll understand 
Let it out Let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands
Let it out Let it out
Let it out now

I can’t keep quiet

The song has a story. Read it here, and visit the website #ICANTKEEPQUIET.

Listen to women from around the nation who sang this song together for the first time at the Women's March in Washington, DC. 

And here they were on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

What can't you keep quiet about? Be the voice of that, proudly. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Fast: Is it Possible? (Well, for Me, Anyway!)

I love books. I adore cheap books. Free books make me giddy.

This summarizes my 2016 buying frenzy. With more than a little help from online vendors, I found dozens of inexpensive e-books and low-cost audiobooks to load on my Kindle.

And that's just my electronics. We won't go into detail about the treasure trove of print books that is Goodwill and other second-hand bookstores, and various new-book bookstores.

I subscribe to three different email services advertising cheap e-books. (Maybe four. Possibly five.) Book Bub and I are close friends. I haunt Amazon's Kindle e-book Web pages. Goodreads and I correspond regularly. Riffle? Book Riot, with and without Liberty Hardy? Electric Literature? I am so hardcore, I've started following Pinterest and Instagram accounts of various book resources.

To top it all off, I just discovered a website that calls its service the "Rotten Tomatoes of books." (Book Marks, I shall hold you to your word.)

My Kindle is so full, I don't know where to begin. (I'd tell you how many books are on there, but I don't want to count that high, then subtract expired library books. Lazy? Nah, man: survival.)

So, without further ado, let me say: Hi, my name is Chris and I am a book, ahem, collector.

Don't get me wrong: I am thrilled, for the most part, by the e-books I have purchased. Some of them duplicate print books in my library. A few free ones may not be my exact cuppa, but don't mind a (cheap or free) gamble: how else would I have discovered my surprising attraction of murder mysteries? I also have lots of books to share with friends, as Kindle permits.

However, I have a literal library (a 10 x12 bookshelf-lined room of print books), and now my Kindle is equally loaded. Some days, the weight of these unread books is too heavy to carry.

So I have made a decision: I am stemming the flow of purchased books into the house for the next three months.

I have done this before with great success. After a book purchase fast, I have emerged reinvigorated and focused on choosing the right book, rather than a book.

I have been testing the waters for the past month, reserving at my library the books I want to read. I can spend hours "shopping" Overdrive's e-book and audiobook inventory. Oh, I also can "shop" my brick and mortar library, and even stop by various nearby branches for additional options. Books purchased for a buck or two at a "friends of the library" sale are easy to hand over to the next reader, stranger or friend.

Earlier this week, before I clicked "purchase" on a writing "prompt" book, I paused. I reviewed the table of contents and didn't get as excited as I thought I would — so I made a decision: rather than pay to play, I opened my public library's catalogue. There it was, the exact same book, this time in print. I promptly reserved the book and closed the Amazon browser tab.

Oh, Amazon has nothing to worry about: I also signed up for Kindle Daily Deals email. One would think that might be dangerous, but I assure you: receiving the list of sale books allows me to consider purchasing a finite number of books, rather than tempting me with suggestions, recommendations, and access to my wish list. I did this with Audible, and my impulse purchases have decreased to a trickle.

I will continue to use Amazon, Audible, Goodreads, Book Riot, Book Bub, Lit Hub, and other resources to discover what's on the shelves, and to find out what my fellow readers are consuming. Fewer choices can make me a better consumer.

How do you control your purchases? More importantly, does it work?

Coda: I have not been purchase-free since making this pledge. In my defense, the library would not have had The Hillbilly Elegy in time for my book club discussion, and it was on sale at the bookstore. Plus, I had to go get a weekly calendar booklet anyway. 

How's that for rationalization?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Poetry Wednesday: Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

By Billie Holiday and Abel Meeropol 


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

7 Favorite Books of 2016: The Year in Review

2016 was a great year for reading. I consumed 80 books in three different formats, a personal best this century. 

To be fair, a handful were children's books, but Goodreads assures me the average length of books on my "read" shelf in 2016 was 298 pages, so I rest easy with my total (thanks, Joe Hill!).  

My Exceptional Reading Year included an inordinate (for me) number of re-reads: six books. For the most part, I credit this to catching up on original or first books before launching any sequel or companion books. However, Good Omens was re-read via Audible just for fun — and it remains one of the funniest books I have read.

Audiobooks changed my reading habits: one-fifth of the books I read this year were audiobooks, and three of those were re-reads. This format gives me an opportunity to read while I run or work out in the gym. I listened to Caitlin Moran read her immensely funny memoir, and I discovered Juliet Stevenson reading Sense and Sensibility. Audiobooks are not always the best format; I kept getting lost during The God of Small Things, and David Sedaris' essays waxed a bit too long for a listen. 

Additionally, I was surprised to discover that nearly one quarter of the books I read were on my Kindle. I own most of those in print, but I found the Kindle version more convenient; my bedside lighting is not stellar, and I have limited nightstand space. 

(Full disclosure: I recently purchased new furniture in part due to the nightstand size; however, my cats aren't keen on sharing their nightstand space with each other, let alone books that can be oh so fun to rearrange. As a result, I read my books on Kindle — and occasionally on audio — for the convenience of my cats. Do not judge my indulgences, and I shall afford you the same courtesy.)

Here are seven of my favorite books I read this year, in no particular order.
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe — I began this book because of the narrator and finished it because it was a beautiful read. I have never been in the mind of a teenage boy, and Benjamin Alire SΓ‘enz was a wonderful guide. There is no Big Reveal at the end of the book, but the truth still feels large, and it was gorgeously wrought.
  • The Year of Yes — Shonda Rimes is an amazing person, and very wise. She hit her stride after the commencement speech and never slowed down. Would I call it a memoir, a self-help book, a feminist book, a humor read? Yes.
  • The Cure for Dreaming — Cat Winters writes good books, so I recommend them all. However, this one I read in late October, and its examination of early 20th century suffrage was revolutionary.  
  • The Underground Railroad — Imagine... no, don't imagine the world Colson Whitehead brought to life in his novel. Read it. It will change your perception of antebellum America. 
  • Life After Life and A God in Ruins — Must be read in this order. I reviewed the first book a few years ago. Together, they command readers to re-think what life is, their own and others.
  • The Invisible Library — I am a sucker for library and librarian stories, and this is a good one. I recently reviewed this book, which is the first of a trilogy. I can't wait to start the second volume. (The third book will be released in the U.S. on January 20.) Find out more about this trilogy on the author's website.

What books did I read in 2016 I would I not recommend?

  • The Museum of Extraordinary Things — Weird, disappointing, and hard to follow.
  • The Bookseller — The premise was intriguing, but the resolution was unsatisfying. Read my review here.
  • Everything We Keep — The story stretched out so long before the second act that the resolution was singularly unsatisfying. The story coda, which attempted to bring the story full-circle, was awful.
  • Big Magic — A self-help book that did not provide any new or interesting information. (Full disclosure: I avoided reading the author's chart-topping memoir, and I really disliked the movie.)

Thankfully, most of the less-than-stellar books were library loans.

Here is the complete list of books read in 2016. Most of them are good reads, so I hope you find a few to add to your nightstand (or e-reader, or listening device). I have indicated the format of each book (e-book πŸ“² , print book πŸ“– , or audio 🎧 ) and whether they were borrowed from the library (via nerd face πŸ€“ ).

  1. Passage πŸ“² πŸ€“
  2. Bear Counts πŸ“²
  3. Ish πŸ“²
  4. The Roll-Away Pumpkin πŸ“²
  5. The Deep and Snowy Wood πŸ“²
  6. Plum Spooky πŸ“– πŸ€“
  7. Octopuppy πŸ“²
  8. Between the Plums πŸ“² πŸ€“
  9. 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People πŸ“² πŸ€“
  10. The Year of Yes 🎧 πŸ€“
  11. Thirteen Chairs πŸ“²
  12. Commonwealth πŸ“–
  13. The Invisible Library πŸ“²
  14. Good Omens 🎧
  15. Thin Mint Memories πŸ“²
  16. The Forgetting Time (½) πŸ“² πŸ€“
  17. Lamb 🎧
  18. The Cure for Dreaming πŸ“– πŸ€“
  19. A Mew to a Kill πŸ“²
  20. Sense and Sensibility 🎧 πŸ€“
  21. Fates and Furies πŸ“² πŸ€“
  22. Summer House With Pool πŸ“²
  23. Between the World and Me 🎧 πŸ€“
  24. Ghostly Echoes πŸ“²
  25. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls 🎧 πŸ€“
  26. The Underground Railroad πŸ“–
  27. The Uninvited πŸ“²
  28. Who Goes There? (The Thing) πŸ“²
  29. Big Magic πŸ“– πŸ€“
  30. Dorothy Parker Drank Here πŸ“–
  31. A Spirited Tail πŸ“²
  32. The Goodbyes πŸ“–
  33. Secondhand Souls 🎧 πŸ€“
  34. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe 🎧 πŸ€“
  35. Everything We Keep πŸ“²
  36. If Books Could Kill πŸ“– πŸ€“
  37. The Bookseller πŸ“²
  38. Unlikely Friendships πŸ“² πŸ€“
  39. Homicide in Hardcover πŸ“– πŸ€“
  40. Ghostly Paws πŸ“²
  41. The Sleeper and the Spindle πŸ“– πŸ€“
  42. The Body Reader πŸ“²
  43. Blackout πŸ“– πŸ€“
  44. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl πŸ“² πŸ€“
  45. Vacations From Hell πŸ“– πŸ€“
  46. 168 Hours πŸ“–
  47. Farewell, Dorothy Parker πŸ“–
  48. When Breath Becomes Air πŸ“–
  49. In the Heights πŸ“–
  50. Crenshaw πŸ“²
  51. How Do You Sleep πŸ“²
  52. In the Shadow of Blackbirds πŸ“² πŸ€“
  53. NOS4A2 🎧 πŸ€“
  54. The Humans (play) πŸ“–
  55. Random Harvest πŸ“²
  56. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? πŸ“²
  57. Vader’s Little Princess πŸ“²
  58. Darth Vader and Son πŸ“²
  59. Darth Vader and Friends πŸ“²
  60. Good Night, Darth Vader πŸ“²
  61. Americanah πŸ“² πŸ€“
  62. Winter of the World  πŸŽ§ πŸ€“
  63. A God in Ruins πŸ“² πŸ€“
  64. Rip Van Winkle 🎧 πŸ€“
  65. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 🎧 πŸ€“
  66. The Fall of Giants 🎧 πŸ€“
  67. Life After Life πŸ“² πŸ€“
  68. How to be a Woman 🎧
  69. Twenty Yawns πŸ“²
  70. True Grit 🎧 πŸ€“
  71. It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs πŸ“² πŸ€“
  72. The Museum of Extraordinary Things  πŸ“² πŸ€“
  73. The Luckiest Girl Alive πŸ“–
  74. Grandma Drove the Snowplow πŸ“²
  75. The Map πŸ“²
  76. Beastly Bones πŸ“²
  77. Impossible Things πŸ“–
  78. Girl Waits With Gun πŸ“²
  79. Library of Souls πŸ“–
  80. Emerald Green πŸ“²

What did you read in 2016? Anything you can recommend? Do tell!