Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Pulitzer Prize-winning Cat Meme and Dad Joke

I was struck by the way the light felt that afternoon. I have paid a good deal of attention to light, but no one could begin to do it justice. There was the feeling of a weight of light -- pressing the damp out of the grass and pressing the smell of sour old sap out of the boards on the old porch floor and burdening even the trees a little as a late snow would do. It was the kind of light that rests on your shoulders the way a cat lies on your lap. So familiar.

One of you asks, in a naive and fluting voice, AB, CD goldfish? And the other replies in the deepest voice he can muster, a voice full of worldliness and scorn, L, MNO goldfish! And then outrageous and extravagant laughter. (It is the L, need I say, that has disturbed Mr. Schmidt.)
I told Boughton about this, and he said, "I have ong fet that etter ought to be excuded from the aphabet." Then he laughed, tickled with himself. 

from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

We went to a provincial branch of a chain bookstore that carried more school and office supplies than actual books, since those were what sold quicker, and because in this country "bookstore" is synonymous with school supplies. It was a two-floor shop, almost like a department store with stationery, Halloween costumes, UN Day props, blank trophies and medals, face towels and hand sanitizer, basically everything you'd need to survive a school year. The bookshelves were tucked away on the second floor, with two shelves of secondhand books nearest to the staircase, followed by brand-new bestsellers, classics and other required academic reading, and then children's books at the very back. After a quick tour, we sat down to talk with the owner, who'd arranged the visit and was asking for suggestions on how to sell more books to his customers. He said he wanted to improve his customers' literacy, particularly for the schoolchildren. School partnerships were mentioned, blogger partnerships, book clubs, stuff like that. And yet I felt like we were going about it all wrong.

Firstly, as I mentioned above, the books were tucked away on the second floor. Since it's like a small department store, I guess most shoppers only browse the first floor and make their way to the second floor only for specific items. A small display of interesting books on the first floor could generate a little interest. You could put spooky books (Goosebumps and the like) near the Halloween costumes, and change the display with each holiday/season. Second, the secondhand books were the bulk-purchased kind, a mix of familiar titles, more obscure overruns, and strange nonfiction.  I feel like secondhand children's books would sell more easily, or at least be a welcome addition. Third, they talked about book clubs - that there probably wouldn't be much interest in those, that it would be hard to organize those in each community. I think a flier near the cashier, or an equivalent photo on their social media page, could be enough to get one or two locals interested, and those locals could assist in getting in touch with other interested people. 

I think the bookstore already works closely with local schools near their branches, so they immediately thought of school-partnered book clubs. But I think here the perception of reading is that it's like additional schoolwork, not something you'd do for leisure. And telling people that reading is good for them, that it'd make them smarter - that wouldn't help, either. It sounds prescriptive and condescending, and just adds to the perception that reading for leisure is... not exactly elite/elitist, but people who read for leisure have a sort of exclusive club feeling. So personally, that approach doesn't work for me.

I'd love to push the "reading is fun" approach. Sell the cartoon novelizations, the books adapted as movies, with movie poster covers, sell those hard. If you feel like you didn't get enough of this, here's a book, it has more of the same, only with the character's inner thoughts. Sell character-driven book series, especially for children. Feature a different genre/theme each month, even just a tiny display. Hold storytelling sessions in whatever free space you have. And, this is my strangest suggestion yet, use cosplay. Get people to dress up as their favorite book characters, for a discount or something. Or someone dressed as a quirky book character could promote that book. I don't know. Make reading fun. They said they did arts and crafts activities for those communities; if you brought similarly-themed books to each event I bet someone would be interested in buying them. 

Most of these suggestions are for selling/pushing fiction, mostly to children. And this is just my word vomit, typed into a notepad file. I don't know. I kind of want to quit my research and just apply for a job at one of the bookshop branches. I want everyone, especially children, to love reading the way I do, to get to know the characters and worlds I love so much.    

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sept 12: Top Ten Tuesday: Throwback Freebie

September 12Throwback Freebie: Ten Books I Loved During The First Year I Started My Blog, Favorite Books Published 5 or 10 or 15 Years Ago, Ten Older Books I Forgot How Much I Loved, etc. etc. Tweak however you want!

For this week's list, I'm going with a very literal throwback: some of the oldest books I've read, based on date of publication, according to Goodreads. I didn't go with all of the actual oldest books, since most of them were classics I struggled through for school. These are old books that I enjoyed and would recommend to anyone. 

1. 1340: A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees by Kenko Yoshida 
This was an accidental philosophical read, full of nuggets of wisdom and beautiful words.

2. 1818: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I think this was the most "dated" of these books, but the terror and ethical dilemma of Frankenstein's experimentation is timeless.

3. 1835: It was snowing butterflies by Charles Darwin
This is just an excerpt from his diaries, and I'd love to get my hands on a full copy. If all naturalists and biologists wrote this beautifully, textbooks would be a breeze to read.

4. 1908: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Anne Shirley's appeal transcends time and location. For a Filipino kid growing up in the late 90's and early 2000's, she was the most relatable book character, equalled only by Lois Lowry's Anastasia Krupnik.

5. 1917: Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
This also felt pretty dated at times, but Helen's spinsterhood and "fed-up-ness" fit in with today's issues.

6. 1931: Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I don't even have anything to say about how this is universal or relatable, or feels timeless or current. It's just beautiful writing. 

7. 1949: Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien
These are medieval short stories that I think should achieve fairy tale/nursery rhyme-levels of popularity and ubiquity.

8. 1951: Fallen into the Pit by Ellis Peters
This Post-WWII mystery is what got me interested in what I call "old-timey detective stories," and introduced me to Agatha Christie.

9. 1952: Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Another childhood favorite, this was a fun read and never felt stuck in any time period.

10. 1954: Half Magic by Edward Eager
I guess this is also dated for a children's book, but the premise is so, so good (your wishes only get half-granted) that it didn't matter to me.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Struggled to Get Into

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.
September 5Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Ended Up Loving or Ten Books That Were A Chore To Get Through or Ten Books I've Most Recently Put Down (the theme is...books you had a hard time with...tweak it how ever you need)

1. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Honestly, I'm the biggest scaredy-cat I know. The mere mention of any unusual events that could be supernatural in origin had me putting this book down, taking a deep breath, and preparing myself for a fright. I don't even remember anymore what frightened me, but I remember having to take a lot of pauses before the action swept my fears away.

2.The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
There must be something about supernatural themes that make me have to brace myself. I already knew from Tumblr that I'd love the characters, but the graveyard...? setting of one of the scenes spooked me. I ended up giving this (and The Historian) five stars, so I guess I did get into them eventually.

3. One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman
This one was a four-star read, but the premise of the book was so heavy, I actually felt it weighing me down emotionally. Eventually the beautiful words won over the unease and fear of the future, and I ended up speeding through the latter half of this.

4. Pirates of the Levant by Arturo Perez-Reverte
Alatriste books are generally easy to read in spite of the bloody subject matter, but something about the way the Moors were described in this made me uneasy and conscious of how xenophobia and racism still cause so much suffering today.

5. Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern
I love epistolary novels (when they're written well), but I feel like they allow you to form ideas of different characters at different paces, if that makes sense. When a character is described, it's often in broad strokes of adjectives, maybe a fine brush for some interaction with the sender or the addressee, but the sender/narrator seems more like a negative space or silhouette. Still a fun way to read, but it slows you down a bit.

6. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This is cheating, a little: it wasn't a struggle because of the unusual format, or subject matter, it was a struggle because I wanted to copy out all the lines or poems I loved, which took me ages until I realized I'd be holding on to the book no matter what,

7. Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
The summaries and reviews I'd seen had only impressed on me that there would be a traveling bookstore. I was somehow surprised to see that there was a bit of farmstead drudgery and an awful brother before I could get to the action. Once it got rolling (heh), it was a wonderful ride (heh) to independence and love.

8. The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
The title managed to lure me into buying this without glancing at the back, where the mere mention of Zen Taoism would have scared me off. Nonfiction of any but the most straightforward kind intimidates me, but the philosophical insights in this book were sweetened by tea- or nature-related imagery that set the mood beautifully.

9. A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel
Again, nonfiction. When anyone holds forth on something dear to me (in this case, books and reading), I start off defensively, measuring their opinions against mine, begrudgingly accepting some ideas and facts. Once I set that aside, this was a lovely read (four stars).

10. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
This book was a struggle from start to finish. The words were lovely individually, and I did find myself saving a lot of sentences to copy into my notebook, but it was so emotional, so painful for me that I took breaks before difficult scenes, sometimes during them, and often walked off to get chocolate or candy to help me turn the page. (Still a four-star read.)






Wednesday, August 16, 2017

You're swamped with work, but somehow your reading slump weighs more heavily on your mind. While you're still ahead of your Goodreads reading challenge, your progress has slowed to a crawl. Piles and piles of unread books taunt you with their unpeeled price stickers and a light coat of dust. Your phone is loaded with dozens of e-books, so you shouldn't have an excuse not to read, but you still aren't reading. Nothing to add to your bookstagram, no quotes for your Twitter, no new recommendations for your friends. Countless people have probably felt this way before, but something about this reading slump makes you feel completely alone.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

WWW Wednesday 18

This meme/link-up is hosted by Taking on a World of Words

What are you currently reading?
 I'm reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle for the first time and it already feels familiar, like Anastasia Krupnik or Little Women or any of my childhood favorites. 

What did you recently finish reading?
Since my last WWW Wednesday was months ago, I've just linked the books here  
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
What Things Mean by Sophia N. Lee
Found by Isa Garcia
Sula's Voyage by Catherine Torres
Anthem for Doomed Youth (Penguin Little Black Classic) by Wilfred Owen
I Shall Not Be Moved by Maya Angelou
Blue is the Warmest Color (graphic novel) by Julie Maroh - I haven't seen the movie, but I loved the aesthetic and the story of the book
Trese: Murder on Balete Drive (graphic novel) by Budjette Tan
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner - Each installment of this series catches me off guard
The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale - I thought Becky asked herself all the right questions, and that their relationship was better and lovelier than I'd expected
Just Juliet by Charlotte Reagan
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman - an interesting combination of neuroscience, grief, creative thinking, and obscure words. Some of my favorite names for love were She For Whom All Flowers Bloom Early, Inertia Canceled, and Foundling of the Here and Beyond.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan - a detective/crime novel with a Jesuit forensic anthropologist racing to find a serial killer

What do you think you'll read next?
After A Wrinkle in Time I'm planning on reading Love Story by Erich Segal, which I stumbled upon in my local Little Free Library. I think I got the 1970 edition, which is pretty cool.

Friday, May 5, 2017

I Shall Not Be Moved by Maya Angelou

I just finished reading I Shall Not Be Moved by Maya Angelou. "Our Grandmothers" is beautiful. Another favorite of mine, "They Ask Why," is shorter so I'll put it here.

They Ask Why

A certain person wondered why
a big strong girl like me
wouldn't keep a job
which paid a normal salary.
I took my time to lead her
and to read her every page.
Even minimal people
can't survive on minimal wage.

A certain person wondered why
I wait all week for you.
I didn't have the words
to describe just what you do.
I said you had the motion
of the ocean in your walk,
and when you solve my riddles
you don't even have to talk.


I don't read much literary criticism so I don't know how to critique a poem, but this one (and most of her poetry, honestly) sound like singing to me.
© Someday this will be a book blog
Maira Gall