Tuesday, November 26, 2019

TTT: Nonfiction November

 TTT is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl .  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check it out!

The topic this week is: Thankfulness Freebie.

But I'm going to be a curmudgeon and contrarian, and instead give you a list of ten wonderful nonfiction books. I wasn't focused enough on blogging to participate in Nonfiction November, but I've loved reading Deb's posts on ReaderBuzz, so here's a list of nonfiction books that have made me happy. (Truncated) summaries are from Goodreads.

1. Lab Girl Wonderfully weird and endlessly interesting.
Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.

Lab Girl

2. Born a Crime Well worth listening to the audiobook, narrated by Mr. Noah himself.
The compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime New York Times bestseller about one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

3. The 57 Bus: Respectful, surprising, and engaging.

One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives

4. The Year of Living Biblically Funny and irreverent without being judgmental.

From the bestselling author of "The Know-It-All" comes a fascinating and timely exploration of religion and the Bible.Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible

5. Traveling Mercies You don't have to be a believer to love "St. Anne's" storytelling and searching.

Despite--or because of--her irreverence, faith is a natural subject for Anne Lamott. The people in Anne Lamott's real life are like beloved characters in a favorite series for her readers: Her friend Pammy; her son, Sam; and the many funny and wise folks who attend her church are all familiar. And Traveling Mercies is a welcome return to those lives, as well as an introduction to new companions Lamott treats with the same candor, insight, and tenderness.

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

6. Dancing at the Edge of the World Ursula K. Le Guin is the best. That is all.

“I have decided that the trouble with print is, it never changes its mind,” writes Ursula Le Guin in her introduction to Dancing at the Edge of the World. But she has, and here is the record of that change in the decade since the publication of her last nonfiction collection, The Language of the Night. And what a mind — strong, supple, disciplined, playful, ranging over the whole field of its concerns, from modern literature to menopause, from utopian thought to rodeos, with an eloquence, wit, and precision that makes for exhilarating reading.

Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places

7. Grand Theft Horse This true story graphic novel is unlike anything I've read before.

Gail Ruffu was a rookie trainer known for her unconventional methods and ability to handle dangerous horses. When she became part owner of an untamed thoroughbred named Urgent Envoy, everything changed. After Urgent Envoy showed real promise, her co-owners forced Gail to speed up training and race him too early, causing the horse to develop a hairline fracture. Refusing to drug the horse to keep it running, Gail lost Urgent Envoy to her partners, who pushed the horse even harder. One more race would kill him. When nobody heeded her warnings, Gail had to act.

Grand Theft Horse

8. Linguistics and Poetics of Latvian Folk-Songs A bit niche, I'll admit, but I found it surprisingly interesting. The author went on to become a much-loved president of Latvia too.

Created in honour of the sesquicentennial of the birth of Kristian Barons, the original compiler, classifier, and publisher of close to 182,000 Latvian folk song texts, Linguistics and Poetics of Latvian Folksongs provides an overview of recent research on the dainas and will be of interest to students of comparative literature and semioticians, as well as to specialists in oral literature.

Linguistics and Poetics of Latvian Folksongs

9. King of the Mild Frontier Chris Crutcher is funny and blunt, and so is his memoir.

Do you know:

A good reason to be phobic about oysters and olives?

How shutting your mouth can help you avoid brain surgery?

How to survive in the winter wilderness with only a fishing pole and a sausage?

King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography

10. The Library Book Multi faceted book about a great American library

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

The Library Book

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sunday Post #41/Sunday Salon #15

Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz expanded Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read
Wintersong, The Astonishing Color of After, and Tosh Hearts Tolstoy. These have all been nominated to be on the 9-12th grade list for our state battle of the books next year. My favorite was Tash Hearts Tolstoy.

Wintersong (Wintersong, #1) The Astonishing Color of After Tash Hearts Tolstoy

What I'm Reading/What's Next
I've started reading Frogkisser! which is on this year's 6-8th grade OBOB list. I'm also looking forward to diving into Leigh Bardugo's first adult novel, Ninth House, and then another bunch of potential future OBOB books.

Three Things

  • I've started knitting again, and am working on a pair of fingerless gloves for myself and a scarf for my sister.
  • Saturday I hosted my second "read-in" at school, and it was so fun. I didn't get very many kids, but it's the first day of a week off, so I know some families were leaving town, etc. They read and did crafts and giggled and listened to music. I was especially pleased because I've been frustrated that my OBOB club is 100% white, but this gathering was 100% Latinx. Our school is nearly 50/50, with slightly more Latinx, so I want to see better representation at things I organize.
  • Last Monday was Latvian Independence Day, so I told my classes stories about Latvia, which made me happy. 

Have a good week, and enjoy the turkey if that's your thing!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Discussion: I'm Going to Stop Rating Books on GR

I've been on Goodreads for a solid decade now, and I have added pretty much every single book I've read during that time, and a great number of books I read before then. When I first joined, I saw it entirely as something to organize and remember what I've read and what I want to read. I didn't use it as a social connector, and while I enjoyed reading reviews of books I'd just read, I didn't take star averages very seriously, and didn't expect others to be looking at mine. I was recording personal responses for my own reflection, not writing objective analyses--that's what professional reviews were for.

And maybe that was fine back in 2009, but as I've seen more and more about authors getting upset with 3 star reviews, and people dismissing the possibility of reading books with a less than 4 star average, I've become uncomfortable with putting ratings on a public forum. Then there is the pushback against reviews that start, "I don't usually like [x genre or format] but..." or "I guess the target audience would like it, but I didn't," both of which are comments I have certainly made. Because again, I am writing these FOR MYSELF. If a romance knocks my socks off, that's unusual FOR ME, which does not mean there's anything wrong with other people adoring romance novels. If a middle grade novel's ending is too pat FOR ME, it doesn't mean I think the author wrote the book wrong.

I started blogging in 2015, and around then is when I started tracking my reading on my own Google forms/spreadsheets. At first it was just a matter of adding more categories than I could track on Goodreads, like if I was reading OwnVoices books and where I was finding my books. Lately, however, I've realized I'm actually entering different ratings on my own sheet than I do on GR--rounding down for my private records, and rounding up for the public site. Since that's pretty ridiculous, I've realized that there's no need for me to track star ratings on Goodreads at all.

I thought about rephrasing how I rate books, like Nicole did on Feed Your Fiction Addiction. A 3 star book for me is one I enjoyed as I read, but don't expect to remember. 4 stars is one that impressed me in some way, and 5 stars means I loved it whole-heartedly. In my mind, writing and publishing a decent book instead of a book I love is like being an NBA player nobody's really heard of--you are still goddamn amazing compared to most of us. I'd be happy in a world in which all books were in that 3-5 star range, but I can see why an author might feel insulted by a 3 star rating. But again, I'm not rating books because I'm trying to influence sales or even opinions. I just want to track my own reading life.

I'll still use Goodreads--I have found so many books by seeing what pops up when I'm logging books, I enjoy the visual aspect of the site, and I like seeing what my friends are reading. I've never been big on reviewing in any format, blog or Goodreads, so there's no big change there. But as of now, I'm done rating books on Goodreads.

Have you changed anything about how you rate books or how you use Goodreads? Is there a role for blogs that are about books but not about reviews? Tell me your thoughts!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Someone Else's Top 30 List

Hello! I've been off-blog for too long, and am going to attempt to get back into posting here semi regularly.

All the end-of-year and end-of-decade posts floating around right now are certainly inspiring. I enjoyed several of the "best of" posts on Paste, and wanted to respond to their YA picks. Maybe later I'll put together my own list, but since I'm just easing back into this, I'll take the easy route first.

Their list, which was put together by agent, author, and twitter guy Eric Smith "and Paste staff," whatever that means, is as follows:

  1. Code Name Verity
  2. Shipbreaker
  3. The Hate U Give
  4. Pointe
  5. Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
  6. Diviners
  7. Seraphina
  8. More Happy than Not
  9. The Sky is Everywhere
  10. Shadowshaper
  11. All American Boys
  12. An Ember in the Ashes
  13. The Rest of Us Just Live Here
  14. To All the Boys I've Loved Before
  15. Last Seen Leaving
  16. This is Where It Ends
  17. Dread Nation
  18. Six of Crows
  19. Want
  20. Love, Hate, and Other Filters
  21. Legend
  22. Scorpio Races
  23. Salt to the Sea
  24. The Walls Around Us
  25. The Serpent King
  26. The Poet X
  27. Timekeeper
  28. Everything, Everything
  29. Starfish
  30. Hot Dog Girl
Green = I've read it
Lavender = I really want to read it. I mean, I would be happy to read any of them, since they did end up on this list, but I SPECIFICALLY want to read those books.

So I've read 21/30, which seems like a decent amount. I think about six would be on my own personal "best of" list, but I'm not going to tell you which ones, so you'll have to come back when I write my own list. There are also two or three that did NOT do it for me at all, but to each their own, right?

I've only read five of their "best fantasy of the 2010s" list, and I noticed that four of the fantasy winners are also on this list, which is--interesting? I mean, if it's the best, it's the best, but given that you're choosing a total of 60 books from thousands and thousands, it seems like they could highlight different titles. 

And this is off topic, but their list of the best memes of the decade is pretty dang fun. Now I know the origin of all the authors on Twitter sharing pictures of their cats and calling them "my large adult son."