I Need Diverse Books

If you’ve spent any time on the bookternet this year, you’ve probably heard about We Need Diverse Books, a campaign not just to get more diverse authors writing more diverse books but to get the big fancy publishers to put their diverse readers’ dollars behind publishing and advertising and making these books a success. This is an awesome campaign and a really really good idea because, let’s face it, I read a lot of books by white people.

That’s not because I don’t want to read diverse books. It’s because I’m lazy and reluctant to try new things. I look through catalogs of upcoming books and I pick out the books that already sound awesome to me. Maybe they have time travel or unreliable narrators or a split narrative where one part starts at the end and the other at the beginning. SOLD. And maybe they’re written by diverse authors? I don’t know, because I stopped at “post-apocalyptic super flu story with strong female lead and no damn romance subplot”.

Which would be fine, as it goes, because then I’m reading stories that I like and sometimes they’re written by Colson Whitehead or Liu Zhenyun or Roxane Gay and then I’m supporting diverse authors.

But I don’t do it on purpose, and sometimes I don’t do it on purpose, as when I thought Salvage the Bones sounded really interesting and then I found out it was destined for the “African American” section of the library, which is primarily where “urban” romances live, and I was like, well, maybe I won’t read that. Or like when I see posts on sites like Book Riot listing a million diverse books and I’m like, oh god there are too many books let me just read what’s already in my pile and maybe someday later one of them will magically show up?

Sometimes that works, like when my book clubs picked Salvage the Bones or And the Mountains Echoed or The Good Lord Bird, the latter two of which I would never have read without my book club’s prodding. But mostly that’s a losing proposition.

A few years back I did a couple rounds of the Orbis Terrarum challenge, which required me to read outside of my own country. It was surprisingly difficult in terms of my regular pile of books and ended up with a lot of Anglophone countries filling in the gaps. But I would have had to give up entirely without the help of you guys and your recommendations, so, hey, spirit of Christmas and all that, let’s do it again?

If you know of any great works by great authors who can fill in my completely metaphorical Diverse Authors bingo card and with luck lead to me reading even more diverse authors, leave them in the comments so that I can have a manageable list of good books to read that I have faith will be awesome, because you guys are awesome.

In return, I promise I will read at least one of these books every month during 2015 so that you, too, can get a little more diversity in your reading life. Let’s go!

RIP Update

Hello lovely RIPers and spectators! The weather around here has been hinting at fall, but it hasn’t quite taken hold yet. My sweaters are quivering in the dresser!

The StandBut it’s definitely been a spooky couple of weeks around here. As I mentioned on Friday, I’ve been reading The Stand for my book club, which so far has been mostly re-reading; I read half of the book two years ago on vacation and then never got around to reading the rest of it. I’m glad I re-read the first half, as I had forgotten all but the broadest strokes of the story, but the fact that it took me two weeks to get through that first half again is a bit disheartening. After the first harrowing bit where everyone’s dying of government-made flu (which is even more harrowing with the start of regular flu season and the recent ebola worries), there’s been a lot of nothing going on, although it’s clear that King’s building up to a big fight between Good and Evil. I’m intrigued to see where it goes, but I’m not really in any hurry to get there.

HannibalIn TV, Scott and I finished up Hannibal season one, which definitely got better and creepier after those first two episodes, largely because it becomes more obvious that Hannibal is not only a bad guy, but the bad guy. He’s very very good at being the bad guy, too, which led to me being angry at fictional characters at the end of the season when Hannibal has them completely outsmarted. I had to look up the storyline for the second season to make sure that I wouldn’t want to kill Hannibal myself whenever that season gets around to being on demand for me. Come soon!

What are you all consuming in the spirit of the season?

RIP IX

RIP IXGuys, I just can’t even. RIP IX?? IX?? It is amazing to me that Carl has stuck with this challenge for nine years, let alone that I’ve stuck with it and with this blog for six. I am sooo old, guys. One foot in the grave (see what I did there?).

If you haven’t been around this blog for six years, or one year, or whatever, you can get more info on the event at Carl’s site, but for those who hate clicking links, here’s the deal with RIP: It stands for Readers Imbibing Peril, it takes place in September and October, ish, and it involves reading any story that you feel puts you in a sufficiently mysterious or Gothic or fantastical mood. It’s basically the greatest event ever, is what I’m saying.

Carl offers different “Perils”, or levels of participation, so that everyone can have fun in their own special way, and while in the past I have been perhaps a bit dismissive of Carl’s participation trophies, I am happy for them this year, because the way I read and blog has changed quite a bit since the last RIP.

I will definitely be participating in Peril the First (read four books on the theme), Peril of the Short Story (read short stories on the theme), and Peril on the Screen (watch TV and movies on the theme), because of course I will. But since I don’t know when I’ll get around to reviewing any of these things, my plan is to pop in here on Sundays and let you know what I’ve been up to RIP-wise, with brief thoughts and links to reviews and whatnot.

For instance, this week I reviewed The Secret Place, by Tana French, which you should go read immediately because it is a perfectly suspenseful and creepy and Gothic read and then you should go read her other four books, too, and then you are super done with Peril the First! I also reviewed The Last Child, by John Hart, which I didn’t like as much but would be an appropriate read for RIP if you’re into that sort of thing.

In current reads, I finished The Silkworm, by J.K. Galbraith (Robert Rowling?), which was just as awesome as The Cuckoo’s Calling and which you should see a review of soon.

In current listens, I am still enjoying Welcome to Night Vale, which is just as weird and creepy as ever and which you should totally be listening to, right now.

In current watches, I’ve been mainlining the second and third seasons of Grimm over the last few weeks, and it’s been… an adventure. The first season finale left me kind of angry, which is why it took me so long to get around to the second season, and although the second season is pretty good monster-wise I was pretty ready to kill the writers and Nick over the whole Juliette thing, which dragged on approximately fifteen episodes too long. Luckily things went the way I wanted them to, and this third season has been really entertaining. I’m getting a bit concerned again, this time that the show is starting to veer off into Dresden Files territory with Royals and Councils and whatnot, but it’s hanging on to my interest for now.

What are you all reading/watching/listening to for RIP this year?

How to survive that book-to-movie matinee

Every time a big book becomes a big movie (see recently: Divergent, Catching Fire, and The Hobbit), my library’s holds list becomes full of people who want to read the book, and my library becomes full of people upset that we don’t have the book because they have to read it before they can go see the movie. But I have a secret that I share with them, and now with you, that helps make them happier in the short- and long-term:

You should watch the movie first.

I know, I know, it seems like blasphemy, especially coming from a librarian, but I have seen a lot of movies based on books, and 95 percent of the time? The book is better. (The other 5 percent? Movies like the amazing Stardust.) Why rush to read a book so good they made a movie out of it just to get to the theater and be disappointed? Watch the movie, be entertained, and then grab the book later, after the library’s holds list is shorter and you’ve probably forgotten most of the movie, and enjoy it at your own pace.

“But I have to read the book first because I won’t know what’s going on!” Movies are, generally speaking, made to appeal to the widest possible audience. Movie studios know that there are going to be people in the theater who have read the book seventeen times since breakfast and are dressed up in custom-made costumes, and also people who got to the theater at 7:45 and this was the only movie playing and they said, eh, okay, why not? You are probably somewhere in between these extremes, and so you should be fine. There are notable exceptions (e.g. all of the Harry Potter movies except Prisoner of Azkaban), but even those are going to at least be fun to watch, and hey, you’ll pick up the rest of the story when you read the book later!

“But I know they’re going to change a lot to make this 800-page book into a three-hour movie and I want to know the right story going in!” Do you? Do you really? The movie studio is going to cut out or change or add characters and plotlines and change people’s eye colors or skin colors and you’re going to know each and every time what they’ve done “wrong”. Would you rather come out of the movie thinking, “Man, that would have been great if only they hadn’t CUT OUT MY FAVORITE TERTIARY CHARACTER, those jerks”, or finish the book thinking, “Man, that tertiary character was really awesome, I hope she comes back in the sequel!”?

“But what about that crazy twist? You’ll ruin the crazy twist if you see the movie first!” Well, sure, but you’ll ruin it for the movie if you read the book first, so. There’s no getting away from the book-to-movie with the crazy twist. But personally, when I read a book with a crazy twist, I have a hankering to go back and read the book again later to see if the twist was really crazy, or if I should have seen it coming the whole time. If you already know that the twist is coming, you can save yourself that second set of reading hours for another book!

“But I already read the book when it came out five years ago! I can’t unread it now!” An unfortunate truth. You can’t go around not reading books because they might someday be made into movies or you’re just never going to read any books. But you also don’t want to be the girl watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in the theater and staring baffledly at your best friend who is loving the movie while you’re thinking, “Wait, did that even happen in the book? I don’t remember that happening. And why are we leaving this scene, we can’t be done yet, I don’t understand what’s going on!” (Not that I speak from experience.) You’re going to have to exercise judgment, here — if you think it’s going to be one of those blockbuster movies that hits the high points at the expense of explaining what’s going on, it might be best to re-read it before going (see: HBP) and just remember that the movie is not going to be as good. Otherwise, I recommend attempting to forget the story entirely so that you can watch the movie as a movie, whether by hypnosis or by waiting for the movie to show up on Netflix in a few months.

If you find yourself consistently disappointed with film adaptations after you’ve gone to all the trouble of reading the book, try the Watch It First technique for a few movies and see how quickly your movie-going life changes!

Sounds and Moving Pictures

So it’s been two weeks since my last post here, which seems like eight billion years in internet time. It’s not that I don’t have books and stories that I want to talk your faces off about, but instead that I have yet again embarked on the terrible journey that is called Having a New Job.

Having a New Job is always a bit exhausting, what with all the learning that has to get done, but this one’s a bit rougher on account of doing my training literally within sight of Georgia in a gorgeous historic town, which doesn’t sound too rough until you consider that I live on the complete other side of the next county over, so I’ve got two hours a day of just sitting in my car to contend with.

Although, actually, this can be nice because it means I can still listen to some of my beloved podcasts, if not all. Here are the best ones that made the cut:

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
I basically consider a week unstarted if I haven’t heard Carl Kasell’s voice reading ridiculous limericks, and also this show is helpful for keeping up with the news in Florida.

Pop Culture Happy Hour
My other NPR bookend, this show comes out on Fridays and includes lively discussion about TV, movies, books, comics, and German art song, which is basically all I need in life.

Literary Disco
This is a new podcast whose backlist I am currently working through — I picked it up because Rider Strong but I’ve stuck with it because he and his co-hosts have really awesome thoughts and opinions on books and stories.

ABC Book Review
I of course have to give some love to my awesome friends Beth and Cari up in Ohio, who delight me on a semi-regular basis with what always starts as book talk but often veers off into entirely different territory by podcast’s end.

Bookrageous
Another book podcast of awesomeness, with three hosts whose tastes more or less line up with mine, except when one of them really likes Castle (it’s been four years and I am still not over it).

Books on the Nightstand
Because I don’t get enough talk of books in other podcasts or at work at the library. I love the way Ann and Michael interact with each other and with their audience, and how they provide a publishing perspective that I otherwise would not hear.

When I’m not working or driving slash listening to podcasts, I’m often trying to read but instead zoning out in front of my phone playing Candy Crush (sad but true) or in front of my giant television, which has been bringing me a couple of quality shows as of late!

Luther
Holy crap, Luther. I knew basically nothing about this show going in except that it was supposed to be fantastic. I have one episode left to go in season two and while I would say that whoever said “fantastic” was technically correct, I think the better term would be “absolutely batshit bonkers.” It all started off so normal, and now I am just like WTF basically every other scene. Every scene? Somewhere between those two. It’s a crime show about a detective (Luther) with Issues, and the first episode features Luther attempting to solve a surprisingly perfect murder. If intriguing murder mysteries are your thing (they are very much mine), I would recommend giving this a go.

Under the Dome
At one time in my past I was a devoted follower of the Church of Read it First, but then I realized that if the book is better, you should probably read it second so that you can like the movie or the TV show or whatever on its own merits. Also, sometimes I am too lazy for a Stephen King doorstop, or at least more than one in a twelve-month period. So when I found out that this show existed, I gave it a shot, and now I am kind of obsessed. I’ve heard other talking about how awesome the book is and how they’ve changed quite a bit between it and the series, so of course now I’m going to have to go read the book later, but I think the show is doing a fantastic job of killing me with tension. It’s also doing a good job of subverting my expectations with regards to several plot points, so it’s definitely a DVR keeper.

Someday I’ll get back to reading, but until then, do y’all have any suggestions for other things I can fill my commute and/or my brain-dead evenings with?

Alive and Well and Reading at the Beach

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I was totally going to post things for you this week, but when I’m not working my life looks a little like this, because it’s 4th of July week at the in-laws’ beach house! My favorite sister-in-law is also in town (I have two, but she’s the one who’s here, so she wins!), and so there have also been board games and card games and general mayhem. I will see you guys next week!

Happy New Year!

It’s that time again, the time when I look back on my year of reading and think, “I could have done better.” Not that my year of reading was bad; actually, I’ve read a ton of awesome books this year, including some potential faves forever. But, you know, I could have not read that one terrible book or I could have read more books in translation or I could have listened to more audiobooks or whatever. It happens.

I’m also looking back on my year of blogging and thinking, “Goodness, it’s like I haven’t been here at all!” I was all sorts of energetic last January, even reserving the right to become more ambitious with the blog! Oh, how I laugh at my one-year-younger self. She’s so precious.

Obviously I’m terrible at resolutions, so I’m just going to say that this year I plan to keep on reading and keep on letting you guys know what I think about the things I read, and if inspiration strikes I may write other things from time to time. I think I can handle that. 🙂

Well, I’d better get started on writing about all the books I read while on winter break, so for now I will leave you with this list of five books that I read in 2012 that you should absolutely go read right now if you haven’t already.

The List
1. Gone Girl. All your friends have read it, so even if you hate it (which I hear is possible), at least you’ll be able to hate it loudly with other people?
2. The Fault in Our Stars. Because you need to have read a John Green book in your life, and this one’s probably the most universal.
3. A Confederacy of Dunces. The inanity of the book will break your brain, but it will make you feel much better about your own life.
4. The Man from Primrose Lane. This book will also break your brain, but in a completely different way.
5. The Phantom Tollbooth. I read the annotated version this year, but you can skip that and go straight to the unadulterated original, which is far and away my favorite book ever.