29 November 2014

Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge



Adam over at Roofbeam Reader hosts the yearly TBR Challenge.  Rules and more information can be found over here.  I signed up for it this year and epically failed.  I think I abandoned all hope of finishing in, like, February.  I want to try to do it again.  I think I was a bit too ambitious when I created my list.  This year I want to break it up a bit--four classics, four non-fiction, and four funner fiction books.  My two alternates will be one classic and one funner fiction.  Maybe this will give me a better chance of finishing?  Goodness knows that a lot can happen in a year, so we'll see how this goes.

Some of the books are reflective of where I feel like I am at the moment, but hopefully enough of them will be able to grow with me throughout the year that I stay engaged.

1.  Emma by Jane Austen  I have always been reluctant to read this one because Emma seems like kind of an annoying busybody, but I keep hearing a lot of good things about this novel and I think it will be good for my patience.

2.  Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray  This one has always been such a turnoff because Becky seems kind of like a bitch, but I have to admire how she makes her way in the world (not necessarily her methods, but the fact that she makes her own way).  I think this one will be a good personal challenge.

3.  Light in August by William Faulkner  Honestly, I own almost all of Faulkner's books, yet I've only read two of them.  This one is often talked about as a masterpiece, so I'm gonna go for it!

4.  Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour:  An Introduction by J.D. Salinger  It's been a while since I read Salinger.  At the point that I'm compiling this list, I'm reading Hornby's Ten Years in the Tub and he's talked about Salinger, particularly this one, so I'm convinced to read it.

5.  Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan  I chose this one because the back description spoke a lot to where I feel like I am in life--"all the opportunities in the world, but no clear idea about what to choose."

6.  The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse  This one sounds like a lot of fun and somewhat ridiculous, which makes it a good choice for the challenge.

7.  Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie  I've never read anything by Christie, so I randomly selected the title from my shelves.  But I chose Christie because I think this will be some good brain candy for the summer.

8.  Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende  This one sounded interesting.  Particularly the setting--California Gold Rush.

9.  John Adams by David McCullough  I've heard so many good things about McCullough and think it's a good time to finally pick up this meaty biography.

10.  The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Karen V. Kukil  She's my soul-sister and I need to read these journals.  I plan on spacing this one out over the course of as much time as it takes because I've tried reading this one before and it's really easy to get bogged down in someone else's thoughts.

11.  Reading Lolita in Tehran by Agar Nafisi  I really admire what these women did.  I think that the ability to read what I want when I want is something that I take for granted.

12.  Catherine the Great:  Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie  I don't know really anything about Catherine, but she pops up quite a bit in conversations about strong women.

Alternates:
1.  The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky  I've never read Dostoevsky.  This seemed like as good a place as any to start.

2.  Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett  An ex bought this for me.  We broke up.  I got rid of the novel.  I recently decided I wanted to read it.



The main challenge now is to wait until January 1 to start reading these!  Hopefully my project of reading War and Peace in December and the other novels I'm reading (if you must know, Damned by Chuck Palahnuik and I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe) will keep me busy and keep my mind off of it.

Hopefully this will be a good enough mix that I can actually finish the challenge this year.  :)

27 November 2014

Gratitude

So I know that I just wrote a post about how my life is going great whereas the things swirling around me aren't so great and that I've been super whiney on Twitter about Thanksgiving, but I really am grateful for a lot of things.  Even in the middle of the crap, I still try to find that one ray of funny or maybe even happy.  The silver lining, if you will.  Naturally, today I am feeling more gratitude than non-gratitude--it is Thanksgiving, after all!  And I really am trying to start my day off on a good foot with coffee, a blog post, some yoga, and some reading before the Parade, so that hopefully I can remain in a good mood the rest of the day.

What am I thankful for?

1.  The Parade.  I love watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade every year.  Or at least most of the Parade.  I usually miss the last while because we're en route to my grandparents' house.  I got to see the whole thing last year and I think I'll get to this year as well.  Yay!


2.  Coffee.  My relationship with coffee began when I was in the seventh grade, when I became hooked on lattes during a visit to my aunt's house in Texas.  My relationship continued and strengthened until the day I began drinking black coffee.  Honestly, I want to go back in time to the day in college when I decided to drink black coffee and give myself the biggest hug ever.  I also want to give myself big hugs on the days that I decided to purchase a French press and when I decided to use Starbucks Italian roast.  I owe coffee a lot.  It is part of who I am.

3.  Two magazines--The Yoga Journal and The New Yorker.  I don't know what I would do without them.  Flipping through their pages is the highlight of my month or week, as the case may be.  One feeds my body and the other feeds my mind.  I have a hard time recycling issues of either magazine because what if I need something from it?  What if I missed something?  Eventually, I'll need to stop being a wiener about it and just stop the hoarding.

4.  Socks.  I've recently discovered that I can't do much of anything if my feet are cold!  I'm just really, distractedly uncomfortable.  But if I throw on a pair of socks--bam!  I'm ready to write or read or sleep or whatever.  One can never have too many pairs of fuzzy socks.  I kind of feel bad for guys because they don't really get to wear fuzzy socks.



5.  Yoga Mat.  I just got a great new yoga mat for my birthday.  My older one was simply disintegrating.  I felt bad about leaving pink foam behind whenever I went to practice.  My new mat has a layer of jute on the top, which is pretty durable.  I just need to find the time to practice more!  Yoga has been a great blessing to me this year.  I started going twice a week to a lunch class before I moved and I can't even begin to tell you how fantastic it was for my mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.  I would love to get back into that kind of practice.  (OK--I'll do it!)

6.  Bubble baths.  I have gotten into quite a bubble bath phase.  It just melts away all of the bullshit that goes on!  Sylvia Plath once said "there must be quite a few things that a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them."  So true.  Even her directions about getting the water as hot as you can stand it and then slipping in are just perfect and on point.  I love reading in the bath.  I love getting warm in the bath (hello--it's gotten cold! [that is, it stays below 60 degrees] so I need to warm up somehow).  I love just slipping up to my shoulders, looking at the ceiling, and thinking.  Just perfect.

I loved this image from Google.  Just fun!

7.  Sylvia Plath.  I had to look up the bubble bath quote and came across this list of 49 Absolutely Stunning Sylvia Plath Quotes.  It's been so long since I've read anything by her that I had forgotten how much I love her.  I once started reading her journals.  I can't tell you how many times I wound up saying either aloud or to myself "You said it, sister!"  I really should pick up her journals again.  It was so nice to read about someone who had the same concerns and fears about life that I did.  I know she didn't have the best ending, but I think she's definitely someone to look up to.

8.  Music.  I've never really been super into music.  I have singers that I really like, but I've never delved deeply into it.  But I'm really starting to appreciate music.  I don't think I could write without it in the background.  It has the power to change your mood or to help you indulge in your mood.  The place I work has already started playing Christmas music every few songs and the cheeriness is kind of infectious.  Or I'll be kind of blue and flip on Lana Del Rey and burn.  Or I'll hear Katy Perry or "All About that Bass" and just feel kind of sexy and empowered.  So I'm grateful for the way that music can either deepen or change your mood, depending on what's going on.

Literally my favorite, music-wise.

9.  Books.  This goes without saying.  I don't know what I would do if I weren't a reader.  I don't know what I would talk about if I weren't a reader.  I don't know what I would spend my money on if I weren't a reader.  As always, I am thankful for the printed word, for parents who didn't monitor what I read (which gave me the chance to read books I probably wasn't ready for), and an extended family who always supported this habit.  I think my love of books was written in the stars.

10.  My family and friends.  Of course.  I couldn't make a list without including them, but I also wanted to explore some of the smaller things in my life that I am grateful for.  Be a little silly.  Not be so serious.  I have a wonderful family, even if their decisions do drive me a bit crazy sometimes.  I am so blessed for the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends now that I've moved back home.  I am so blessed to be able to keep my friends that I moved away from.  I also have a wonderful assortment of online friends who are just fantastic.



Those are some of the things I'm thankful for this year.  Most of them are small and silly, but I think that those are the best things to appreciate and acknowledge because they are so often taken for granted.  Then again so are some of the bigger things, like people.  Hm.  OK, well, I'll just say that it doesn't hurt to be grateful and to say that you're grateful.  Things can go from good to bad to worse very quickly and I think that the ability to find even that one tiny thing in the middle of the dark is an important and defining characteristic that not everyone has.  So, lastly, I am grateful that I do have the ability.  I've known people who don't have that and they easily get buried when even the tiniest bad thing happens.

I know that not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, but I'd love to know what you're grateful for!

I cannot believe that the next time I post it will be full-fledged time for Christmas music!

This is the part I basically never get to see!

Have a lovely day!

26 November 2014

What I'm Loving Right Now...

My life has taken a turn for the ridiculous lately.  To be more specific, it's not my life; it's the things going on around my life.  Me, myself, and I, in an isolated bubble, we're doing fantastically (my mom recently said that this is a year we'd all like to have back and I realized that for me this has been a fantastic year with nothing but improvements).  But around me things have gotten utterly absurd, in ways that are sometimes scary, sometimes cringeworthy, and sometimes ways that you just have to laugh to keep from crying--rarely are things just simply funny (though, thank Heavens when they are).  And that's OK.  That's life.  I've realized that life is really just a series of absurd events and situations and that part of being an adult is finding a way to cope.

My way to cope is to try to make things lighter.  Sometimes that is as simple as finding the positive spin for the situation and sometimes that's finding a joke by waving a magic wand and saying the magic words.



Crazy to say, but it's actually helped keep me sane.

I think that this is why I've gravitated so easily towards the idea of lightening up my reading, my writing, and my thinking about reading.

And I think that that's why I loved Judging a Book by Its Lover so much.  I already talked a bit about the book and how it's helped changed my thinking about books by comparing book selection to dietary choices--and I must say that that is a PERFECT way of thinking about books--but it also changed the way I want to talk about books.  Some books and authors just take themselves too seriously.  And some readers clearly take books too seriously.  Leto created a huge list of authors and succinctly summed up what your self-proclaimed favorite author it.  Some of them are really funny, but also kind of true when you think about the literature the author created and the type of person who generally goes for that kind of book.  Not to say that people don't defy classification--they totally do!  Moving on...I also loved the chapter where Leto walks you quickly through how to pretend you've read certain authors.  She gives a few facts about the author, brief summaries of their most famous 3-4 books, and talking points.  For me, these summaries created some reading pathways for authors that I'm not super familiar with.  Bottom line, this book was a blast.

I woke up this morning and realized that I wanted to reading something humorous, but that also had some heft to it, a nice satire.  Several options went through my mind--The Code of the Woosters, David Sedaris, to name a couple--and then I hit on the perfect option:

A photo posted by LLindsey217 (@llindsey217) on

The back cover described is as a "dark, hilarious, and brilliant satire."  Perfect.  It's not super long.  I think it will be humorous, but I think it also has a point other than just being a good story (I am assuming that it has a good story).

So now I ask--do you have any other suggestions for books along these lines?  Dark humor and intelligent--yay!

25 November 2014

Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR List

Oh, how I loves these seasonal lists!  They give me a lot to aspire to, though I have pretty much never really finished anything from them.  But, hey, hope springs eternal!  Right?  Anyway, here's what I'm thinking I'll be reading this winter...


Yay Google for having all the images!


1.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy--If I read one book this winter, I want this to be it.  I'd love to read this over the course of December.  We shall see how that goes.  This has been on my to read list for a long time.  Winter seems like a good time to curl up and attack this behemoth.  I really enjoyed Anna Karenina and I've heard that this is more perfect than that.

2.  The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides--This one is up next on my TBR list, so I may well finish before winter officially starts in December.  But that's OK.  Due to the cold, I pretty much call everything after my mid-November birthday "winter."  So, this book.  I've been hearing some good things about the author and about this book.  I am really intrigued by the description on the back.  So I'm going to go for it.  I actually read the first paragraph this morning and I'm excited to give it a shot.  I just hope I'll have time to read today, but I don't think I will.

3.  Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris--I think it's about to become mandatory for me to read this book every holiday season.  In recent years, they've become more excruciating.  Example?  We vow to cut down on the sides for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We decide to split up the work so that no one has to do everything.  And yet for the past two years, despite these very detailed and lengthy conversations (which occurred more than once), the same relative has hijacked the event and bought shitty stuffing.  And this is with the side of the family that I actually like!  Now, I could be angry about this, but I'd rather disappear in this snarky book and hopefully get to drink a bit of booze.  To kill the pain of living.  I'm buying a copy for one of my good friends for Christmas.  Sedaris just tells it like it is and I can totally relate.

4.  Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers, and Swells compiled by Vanity Fair--I was so excited about this book when I impulse bought it a couple of weeks ago.  It's a collection of articles from the golden age of Vanity Fair magazine.  I totally want to devour this book.  The topics are pretty wide-ranging and there are pieces by Dorothy Parker and Evelyn Waugh and a whole bunch of amazing authors that I love.

5.  American Pastoral by Phillip Roth--Hmmmm....a couple of the books already on this list have been about the cracks in the American dream, so why not continue cracking it?  I guess.  I have not read anything by Roth.  I saw somewhere (hell, it may have been the back of the book) that this one was his masterpiece.  I have no problem starting with the best.

6.  Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh--I've been reading a bit about this book lately.  It sounds nice and snarky.  I love the interwar period.  It feels like one of the high points of literature.  OK.  It's totally a high point in literature and I will fight anyone who argues.  It sounds like a fun read.  I've read Brideshead Revisited before and really enjoyed it, so I'm hoping for more good things for this book.

7.  The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James--This is another one that has been on my radar lately.  I've heard that James is totally verbose, but I've also heard a lot of good things about this novel.  I read most of it for a class in college and I want to go back and really do it justice.  I love the idea of defying conventions and expectations.  I feel like I've been doing that a bit with my own family lately, so I want to read about it.

8.  John Adams by David McCullough--I keep starting this book.  Winter seems like a really good time to curl up with this massive biography.  I've heard that it is extremely well-written.  Adams was alive in a period of American history that I am not super, super familiar with, though I did take a couple of classes over the period.  (Only period in American history I've never studied as a stand alone course? Civil War...and I'm actually quite OK with this)  I don't know a whole lot about Adams other than he disagreed with my favorite Founding Father on...what...just about everything, right?

9.  You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz--I started this book and read almost 200 pages of it in just a couple of days, then I inexplicably set it aside.  I think this was because NaNo was right around the corner and I wanted to read other things for research...which I didn't wind up reading.  I find myself really liking thrillers like this and I want to finish.  It's at the point where it's getting good!  If I actually sit down with it, I should be able to finish in just a couple of days (if that).

10.  Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno--I've been thinking about Franny and Zooey quite a bit lately and may actually reread it, but I want to read a book about Salinger.  This is the latest biography on him to come out.  I've heard good things about it.  I bought a copy.  I want to read it.  And, as I already said, winter is a good time for curling up with a good biography.




I think I've picked a pretty good mix of fun books and meaty books, and fiction and non-fiction.  Then again, I'm always excited about my list of books and feel like I chose wisely.  :)

What's on your winter TBR list?

24 November 2014

Why So Serious?

Thank you, Google!


I couldn't help it.  Every time I hear that phrase, I think of that line in the movie.

This is a question I've been asking myself fairly continually over the past day.  It all started when I happened to pick up Judging a Book by Its Lover by Lauren Leto.  The book has been on my shelves for a while.  I think because when I read the back cover, I didn't exactly understand what the book was about and the title and its subtitle didn't really clear things up for me.  For whatever reason, I decided to dive in last night.  And I read about half of the book right there.  I am so glad I did.  I haven't finished yet.  But I needed to write up some thoughts about the book.

Somewhere along the line of my reading career, I started taking it seriously.  Very seriously.  Too seriously.  My reading life became about all of these books that I "needed" to read in order to...something.  Be a good English major?  Be a well-rounded person?  Be an intelligent person?  I don't know what I was wanting.  In the end, it really doesn't matter.  Sometime after I started taking reading too seriously, it stopped being as much fun.  I mean, occasionally, I was able to lose myself in a book and have a purely blissful experience.  But there were long droughts in between where I pressured myself into picking a book because of the message it sent to whomever I thought I was sending a message to.

Then I finally started reading Leto's book.  She was a serious reader too.  Yet she found a way to have fun with her reading.  She feeds her mind a steady diet of fun books and serious books and thrives.  The way she writes about books and the book industry is just fun.  She doesn't take it too seriously.  And I love that.

We still have over a month left in the year, but I'd say that my New Year's resolution is to start having more fun with my reading and writing about reading.  I don't need to put so much pressure on myself to read this or that or think this or that way about the book.  I can sit back and have fun with it.  I should sit back and have fun with it.  And that's exactly what I am going to do.

I'm not going to become a total jerkoff with my reading.  I don't think I could just read fluff.  Like Leto points out early on--it all begins to run together at a point and your mind becomes lazy.  Still, I don't want to act as though I have sand in my readerly lady parts about it either.  There is no need to be so sensitive and uptight about something that is supposed to be fun.  Sometimes you need that weekend off from responsibility to cut loose.  No one likes being around the jerkoff and no one likes being around the way too sensitive person.  (Coincidentally, literally no one likes to be around the overly sensitive jerkoff--I know from experience)

Back to books...I still want to read the classics because I think that they are interesting studies of humanity, history, and culture.  Also I own a ton of them already and would like to actually read them.  However, there are a lot of recent releases that are worth exploring as well.  Some of them may be destined to make the literary canon and others may just sort of fall by the wayside.  Nothing wrong with reading both kinds of fiction.  That doesn't even mention all of the really good non-fiction out there.

I also want to tweak my writing about books.  I really hate writing formal reviews.  There are four books I've finished since this summer that I keep putting off reviewing because I just don't want to write a formal review.  I have no problems with the idea of writing about the books--why have a book-related blog if I did--but formal reviews feel kind of stuffy.  I'll probably do mini reviews of the four books at some point and then work out a different style for writing about books in the future.  I love talking about books.  I don't feel like I get to do that enough in my real life.  There will be tweaking in the near future--fair warning.

I am so beyond ready to not be serious about my reading.  I've had so much more fun in every aspect of my life since things stopped being so serious.  There is so much more enjoyment and appreciate in life when you're just out to have fun and not prove a point or maintain some kind of composure.