On reading off the shelf in 2014

In light of my decision to join ROOT (Reading our own tomes) challenge on LibraryThing (and my sudden realization that my cameras have been sorely neglected since I became a smartphone toting idiot), I present the shelves to be read!

Seriously, I have to start taking pictures with a real camera again. It’s sad how few high quality pictures are in my 2013 folder. No more of that sorry business! There will be pictures in 2014! And books! And CLASSICS! Yes, I will get around to reading those this year as well.

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And books on the overflow shelf…
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I told myself I would get through at least 30 of the books on this shelf (I haven’t actually counted them, so 30 seems like a good, general number). Maybe I can read them all? Perhaps? Hmm?

I will also find time to paint that shelf and primp it up a bit. It was a hand-me-down that needs some loving care.

New Year, Old Books

For a brief moment, I toyed with the idea of shuttering the blog… I’ve been reading just as much as always, but I’ve been blogging less and less over the years. I’m never going to be a book-a-week blogger, there are plenty of books I enjoy, but I don’t always have something to say about them. I decided against the shutdown, if only because I like the sense of community that comes with talking about books (even if it’s only via this blog). I’ll continue at my own pace and see how it goes.

In the meantime, I’ve joined the LibraryThing Read Our Own Tomes (ROOT) Challenge. My goal is 30 of my own TBR books. I’ve started with A Dance with Dragons.

Graphic Novels & Visual Literacy… in which I read frantically

It seems like ages since I’ve had something to blog about… concentrating on my writing has means that I’m reading less often, and what I am reading tends to be of the short and sweet variety, or the so well-known (ie. Game of Thrones) there’s not much I can say that hasn’t been said. I hope that makes sense.

For the most part, I’ve been reading for work. Several of us take turns organizing the semester read-along hosted by the university library, and this semester I selected Lauren Redniss’s Radioactive–which is absolutely brilliant and such a great way to introduce students to graphic novels–now, the kicker is that I am really really into the idea of teaching graphic novels at the university level, but I’m not faculty and I’m reluctant to take on a class (not because I wouldn’t enjoy, but because I don’t want to be dragged into the politics of teaching where I work), so my solution is to host a presentation on graphic novels and visual literacy. Because, not to toot my own horn, but I don’t think there’s anyone else who is really qualified to present on this topic at the university.

What I’m getting at is that I’ve been reading A LOT of graphic novels and books on teaching graphic novels, and they have been fantastic and engaging and incredibly thought-provoking, but in preparing for the presentation, I haven’t had much time to put my thoughts together into something like a cohesive blog post.

Some of the awesome graphic novels I’ve read for this project include:

Watchmen by Alan Moore – Watchmen is one of those stories that I heard so much about, I kind of felt like I’d already read it. It’s a classic and a must read for anyone interested in teaching graphic novels as a literary genre.

Epileptic by David B. – This is an English translation of a bestselling, autobiographical French graphic novel (Franco-Belgian graphic novels are the top-selling publications after American and Japanese graphic novels). This is the story of one family’s quest to understand and help a boy with a severe form of epilepsy. It’s trippy and disjointed, and very philosophical. The art and narrative styles really add to the sense of desperation felt by the writer.

Saga, vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples – The first volume in what is definitely a sweeping Sci-Fi saga, this novel is the perfect blend of sex, blood, and mystery. Trust me. If you like anything on HBO, you’ll like Saga.

Blankets by Craig Thompson – Another autobiographical graphic novel. Blankets is beautiful. It’s a story of faith and family, love and growing up, and realizing that you can be the person you want to be. There is so much subtext in the panels, Thomspson’s art and text are perfect.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol – A YA style ghost story about fitting in and one girl’s encounter with a not-so-friendly ghost. This is a great alternative to the traditional coming-of-age in high school story and a very creepy read à la Coraline.

Then there are the theory and pedagogy books… I won’t review these now, as I’m still delving into them, but here are some quotes to feed your mind and soul.

From Carter, J.B. (2007). Introduction–Carving a niche: Graphic novels in the English language arts classroom (pp.1-25). In J.B. Carter (Ed.), Building literacy connections with graphic novels: Page by page, panel by panel. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

“there is much more to these books than superheroes in leotards and capes” (p.2).

“a good education–one bound in experience and meaning making–is probably an education that has been enriched with a broad definition of art and culture” (p.3).

“artistic experiences are important in developing literacy and critical thinking skills” (p.7).

“An important benefit of graphic novels in that they present alternative views of culture, history and human life in general in accessible ways” (as cited in Carter, 2007, p. 8).

“there is one format that covers a variety of genres, addresses current and relevant issues for teens, stimulates young people’s imagination, and engages reluctant readers: graphic novels” (as cited in Carter, 2007, p.10)

From Hatfield, C. (2009). Defining comics in the classroom; or, the pros and cons of unfixability (pp. 19-27). In S.E. Tabachnik (Ed.), Teaching the graphic novel. New York, NY: Modern Language Association.

“In sequential art, the experience of reading text is combined with the experience, omnipresent today on the electronic screen, of viewing; and, in good sequential art, the lyricism of poetic word choice is combined with the lyricism of striking visual images to create a stunning, hypnotic form of poetry” (p.4).

“reading today has become a hybrid textual-visual experience” (p.4)

reader’s resolution for 2013

I’m early, I know, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while and thought it best to write it down and make it official (cause that’s how I roll). I’ve decided that 2013 is going to be a year of leisurely reading and TBR shelf sorting. I’m not going to accept any review books (except those I am professionally obliged to review), and will not be requesting any ARCs. I will be concentrating on my own writing in 2013–polishing my NaNo project, rewriting the unwieldy mass of words that is Secret Project #1, and working on some chapters for an academic publication. Reading is going to be my guilty pleasure while trying to make everything else work. I will continue to blog, but my posts will focus on those books that I really enjoy and want to share, rather than try to write about every book I read.

My bookish goals for the year are:

  • To read the rest of the Sailor Moon series
  • To read the YA selections that I didn’t get to finish this past summer
  • To only read the books I own (including Nook books)… and not acquire any new ones.
  • To read A Game of Thrones (gotta start somewhere)

in which I give in

I always told myself that I would never read Eat, Pray, Love. It appealed to me about as much as a Nicholas Sparks book–not at all (apologies to Sparks fans, but he’s just not my cuppa). Then I learned that it was selected as the campus-wide reading selection for 2011. I wasn’t on the selection committee, but given the library’s involvement in the event, I knew I would have to swallow my pride and give it a go. Then I was asked to lead the planning committee for the event and help organize a series of activities based on the book. Now, I knew I would have to really read it. I couldn’t get away with a quick skim, I would need to know this book well enough to talk about it and plan around it. So I did. And it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be.

Yes, I did find some parts terribly self-indulgent, but Gilbert’s style is light and often humorous, even when dealing with the complexities of Indian and Balinese spirituality. I am not one for reading books on spirituality, but Gilbert never came across as preachy–this is her journey and no one need prescribe to it. Overall, I’m kind of glad I gave it a chance, if only because I learned a little more about interesting places to add to my travel wishlist.

Now, to brainstorm ideas for activities…

counting down…

Am 2 books away from completing my course reading project. Along the way, I have discovered a few things about myself:

  1. Like a good wine, some books improve with time… sort of. I just finished Tanith Lee’s The Black Unicorn, about 10 years after I unsuccessfully tried to read it in high school. I found it wonderfully enchanting; just the right kind of strong girl fantasy for me.
  2. Some YA books just do not appeal to me anymore. I fell in love with some of the works (The Truth About Forever, What My Mother Doesn’t Know, Ironman), but others just did not capture my interest. I think I just lost something along the way.
  3. Going outside of my comfort zone (genre-wise) is a good thing (re: Ironman).
  4. I need to read more smart, quirky bios and other non-fiction books.
  5. I still hate reading goals. I like to read at my pace and will be happy to resume it.

a new resolution

My reading project is well under way, but it’s made me realize something about my reading selections… I read very few biographies/autobiographies, though I always enjoy the ones that I do read. Therefore, I’m resolving to add more biographical works to my leisure reading. My selection for this project is Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman, and I’ve already spied a few more that I’m interested in reading once this term is done.

I’ll gladly take recommendations. I especially love bios on female historical figures.

A new term…

A new reading list.

I’m taking the general YA lit class this term, so my bloggings mat be few and far between while I marathon read my way through my 24 selections, assigned readings, texts, and prepare reviews/possible lesson plans for use in libraries. It’ll be intense now that I’m working full time.

First up on my list: Nothing but the truth by Avi


Literary Blog Hop: What is Literary?

I was invited to join The Blue Bookcase’s first ever “Literary Blog Hop” to showcase literary fiction :).

Literary Blog Hop

This week’s prompt asks us to identify a favorite book that we consider literary…

For me, it’s Robin McKinley’s Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. Am I biased in my response? Absolutely, but I wrote a 91 page thesis on Beauty and the Beast retellings and feel I’ve earned my bias. I even created a BookDrum profile on the book.

Why do I consider it literary? Beauty retains the charm and mystery of the classic French fairy tale by Madame de Beaumont while adding depth to the relationship between Beauty and Beast, and introducing feminist elements to Beauty’s role as hero (yes, hero). Every time I read this novel, I discover something new–a detail that I missed, a bit of dialogue that suddenly takes on new meaning. It can be read as a coming-of-age story, a romance, a hero’s journey, and a fantasy. I think this is one of the elements that makes a novel literary, that it can be read in so many ways.

I don’t believe in the idea of a “Canon” of literature, but I do think there are marks that identify literary merit (though these may be entirely subjective). In my opinion, timelessness is one of those marks. If I can toss it on the donation pile without a care, I probably don’t consider it timeless. It probably means, I read it for the pleasure of momentary entertainment and didn’t find much lasting value in the work. The best literary works whether part of the so-called “Canon,” or works of popular fiction that have become literary classics, remain relevant to readers despite social change, progress, etc.

For a taste of Beauty, I give you one of my favorite passages. This part takes place when Beauty first meets Beast.

“Would it help perhaps if I told you that, had your father returned to me alone, I would have sent him on his way unharmed?”

“You would?” I said; it was half a shriek. “You mean that I came here for nothing?”

A shadowy movement like the shaking of a great shaggy head. “No. Not what you would count as nothing. He would have returned to you, and you would have been ashamed, because you had sent him, as you thought, to his death. Your shame would have grown until you came to hate the sight of your father, because he reminded you of a deed you hated, and hated yourself for. In time it would have ruined your peace and happiness, and at last your mind and heart.”

My tired brain refused to follow this. “But–I could not have let him go alone,” I said, bewildered.

“Yes,” said the Beast.

I thought about it for a minute. “Can you see the future, then?” I asked uneasily.

“Not exactly,” said the shadow. “But I can see you.”

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, HarperCollins, 1978, p. 115

Blathering on about Bleak House, Fin.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Final Thoughts & Post Index

I am sooo glad I decided to join the readalong! My experience with Dickens has been a mixed one—I enjoyed part of Great Expectations but had been unable to connect with any of the other books I had tried to read. I’m not sure if this was as a result of Dickens’ style or his characters, but I was very surprised to find myself so engrossed by Bleak House so soon after starting the book. I really thought it would be a sort of personal challenge to read it to the end—will and determination to finally read it, rather than pleasure. But it was a pleasure!

I know that some readers find Esther terribly boring, but I really enjoyed her narrative and found myself looking forward to her chapters. There were so many side stories and characters in this novel that it was hard for me to keep track of them in the beginning, but Esther’s account brought them into focus for me. She is not so strong-willed as Jane Eyre, as I have previously noted in my “Blatherings,” but she is a strong character nonetheless, and stands out as an enterprising woman in her desire to prove herself useful and worthy of her companions and good fortune.

Because I was still wondering about Esther’s illness, I did some research based on the symptoms, and it likely was smallpox that she contracted… I suspected as much based on the prevalence of the disease during the time, but I had never considered the implications of having smallpox on one’s appearance. It’s terrible what it could do to you, the images I found are horribly graphic and reveal that the pox rash often spread on the face and extremities, making it near impossible to hide the subsequent scarring. I can now understand why Esther takes so much note of her lost beauty—I just thought she looked worn after her illness.

So, enough blathering. Mission accomplished and all that.

Post Index

Part 1 – Chapters 1 – 7
Part 2 – Chapters 8 – 13
Part 3 – Chapters 14 – 19
Part 4 – Chapters 20 – 25
Part 5 – Chapters 26 – 32
Part 6 – Chapters 33 – 38
Part 7 – Chapters 39 – 46
Part 8 – Chapters 47 – 53
Part 9 – Chapters 54 – 59
Part 10 – Chapters 60 – 67

The Bleak House Read-Along was hosted by Amanda at The Zen Leaf.