Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books with Hands on the Cover

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I actually have two TBRs. I have the one that I keep on my phone through Story Graph and the stack of books I own. When I buy a book off of my digital TBR, I take it off the list. This is the easiest way I’ve found of making my TBR available for my family to browse for gifts–they don’t have to worry about buying me a book I already own. And it means that at the library or when shopping I don’t have to sort through it either.

That does mean however, that there is always wayyyyyy too much to read. So for this cover prompt I decided to see what commonalities I could find between the covers I own. The answer was not that much, but after some sorting I realized that there are a lot of covers with hands. Some are disembodied, some are suggestions (gloves for example), but these are covers that have hands featured in some way.

I wanted to write a short discussion/analysis of what’s on the covers and what they’re achieving because although you maybe shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you can still learn a lot from it!

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende – The cover photo by Marcia Lieberman features a young woman holding a garment of some kind in one hand and the control for a camera in the other. As if this is the moment before a photograph rather than a moment captured in one. She’s the subject of the reader’s gaze but clearly the reader is the subject of hers as well. It’s a creative and arresting image.

Cleopatra Dismounts by Carmen Boullosa – The stylized art deco version of an Egyptian painting really draws attention to the hands with the stiff, geometric angles. This photo was taken by E. O. Hoppé, who was a German-born British photographer starting in the early 1900s. Egyptian revival and costume were becoming more popular in the 1920s, which makes total sense if you think about how Art Deco and Egyptian painting both value a stylized geometric and decorative style. On the cover this is echoed by the golden suns. The archival photo lets the reader know that the story is likely to take place in the past, but that the subject is a living, breathing person in three dimensions.

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter – Angela Carter’s novel features what we can only assume to be an aerialist, but with no visible means of support, an almost fluid grace (that reminds me of Elastigirl from The Incredibles), and her position within a decorated frame, we seem to be looking at a circus poster rather than the performer herself. I think this cover adds to what I’m sure will be the magic of the book, and the sharp edges of the performer’s nose, feet, wings, and fingers let us know that the story will not be as light in tone as the effortless pose and fluffy cotton candy pink might suggest.

¡Caramba! by Nina Marie Martinez – In what looks like an old travel poster or postcard, a woman hold a red bird in the palm of her hand. It even matches her fingernails. Because of the way the blue splash is positioned, her hand almost looks like it’s been severed from her body. It adds a little bit of surrealism to the cover and mystery. Especially when coupled with the blue bar that’s been put across someone’s eyes in the bottom corner. From this picture I definitely get a sense that nothing is exactly as it seems.

The Medieval Kitchen: A Social History with Recipes by Hannele Klemettilä – Interestingly, although the title mentions the kitchen, the cover painting chooses to focus on an important feast, showing that medieval kitchens probably would rarely have been the focus of art or commemoration. This is a reproduction of a page from a medieval Book of Hours, produced in about 1380 for the Duc Jean de Berry. This page illustrates Jesus’s first miracle, turning water to wine at the wedding at Cana. Hands had special status in medieval art (you can learn more from this pdf from a Getty exhibit) and the hands here can be read symbolically, but I won’t go into it or we’ll be here all week. I especially like the hands that mirror each other on the left hand side of the portrait. This picture illustrates the centrality of religion and feast in a lord’s medieval kitchen.

Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Woolridge – The photo on the cover was taken by Lincoln Clarkes in 1988, and it manages to feel much older than that as if a Victorian or Edwardian woman has simply decided to take flight. It’s a not entirely carefree pose, as with one hand she reaches up to grasp her hat. Her look is less joyful and more enigmatic, but her limbs are powerfully stretched. This is a woman who has made a leap–perfect for a book on writing where you are taking a leap into your imagination and then taking another leap onto the page.

Now for the disembodied hands!

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey – This cover has a lot going on. The image of the hand echoes the title in a really beautiful way. You’ve got the disembodied hand with this interesting multicolored aura and an all seeing eye. It’s not on the palm like we might expect from a hamsa, this makes it feel more unexpected and fresh, and of course it allows the hand to be partially closed to cross the fingers in a lie. In this book we might expect an unreliable narrator, some play with genre, and a little irreverence. And we learn all that from a fairly simple but striking graphic.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – You might be wondering, if this hand is attached to a body, why did I put this hand here? It’s because of the way the photograph has been disassembled and surreally reassembled. There are actually three hands on the cover and they don’t appear where you’d expect them to be. The left gloved hand is almost in the center, and the high contrast means your eye is drawn to it right away. It shows a hint of this person’s identity but also shows that something is fractured or fracturing. It’s super intriguing to me, especially the way part of the image is flipped.

True Biz by Sara Nović – The attention to the hand on this cover makes total sense when you know that it’s about sign language in the deaf community. I really like the patterns and different colors on the fingers echoing the different colors of the letters, as the hand is really representing those different letters in the alphabet. It draws attention to the meaning of each hand position and each gesture. I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from the fact that it’s the right hand on the left side of the cover. I didn’t expect that and only discovered it when I made the same shape with my hands.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – A dark vignette reveals an empty pair of white kid gloves, photographed by Jeff Cottenden. The emptiness really suggests a kind of absence or loss, even as the gloves seem to be embracing each other. The gloves also hint that this is a historical novel as gloves haven’t been in vogue for some time. It’s a fairly simple image but it’s very evocative.

Do any of these covers catch your eye? Do you have a favorite cover that features a hand? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Bookish Items to Add to My Collection

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

So many delightful bookish things are out there…it’s really a pity I live in a studio apartment at the moment. There’s not much room for collecting things (even when they are adorable). But these are 10 items I think would be worth the space!

I have some bookish socks already because they are an excellent stocking stuffer and friends and family tend to get me them as gifts, which I love. I would definitely add these library card socks from Out of Print to my collection.

Typically I have a hard time with perfume. I tend to be allergic to a lot of things and have to be really careful with what scents I pick to not end up with an instant headache (like I just did recently after I thought the Lush perfume I bought was fine.. whoops). But I’ve never had a problem with the perfume from Black Phoenix Alchemy. I bought one perfume and two samples from them and I can wear everything without headaches!

While not all their perfumes are bookish, many are directly inspired by books or poems like their Alice in Wonderland collection. Others are inspired by dark, gothic, or magickal themes or films (be aware that some are more risque than others and may not be appropriate for under 18). There are so many fun scents and they’re reasonably priced, but they make limited batches so be aware that the scent you want may be out of stock. My favorite perfume I’ve tried so far is Bess, which is:

“Inspired by the tragic, ill-fated love of Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester. This is our modernization of a 17th-century perfume blend favored by British aristocracy: rosemary, orange flower, grape spirit, five rose variants, lemon peel, and mint.”

The biggest problem I have with this company is that their website is extremely difficult to navigate! They organize by collection rather than scent or scent profile. I would start under the “beloved favorites” section or just browse and see what rabbit holes you fall into…

Obvious State designs beautiful minimalist prints, postcards, notebooks, and more out of Portland Oregon. As someone who is…ahem…obsessed with notebooks, I’m always looking for more. These recycled beauties are small enough to fit in a purse or a pocket.

This is the Women Writers collection.

50 postcards based on commissioned book plate designs? Yes, please! I use postcards for their obvious purpose, but I also use them as cards, hang them on my walls, and generally love looking at them.

Okay so this is not a particularly minimalist selection, but when you love Jane Austen–why not dress up like Lizzie or Emma?

A lovely cotton regency dress made to order from Recollections Dresses on Etsy (note that it does have a zipper, so not historically accurate but it’s so pretty and I don’t have to sew it!)

When in doubt I don’t think you can go wrong with a From the Page literary candle. I particularly like their definition candles. How to choose between abibliophobia and bibliophagist?

The fact that I have nowhere to put this diorama when I’ve finished doesn’t make me want to complete this kit any less….

I also am a sucker for a good literary pin, like this simple bookstack from Etsy. And I’m always on the lookout for more stickers to add to my water bottle or more literary tshirts.

What are your favorite bookish items in your collection? Any of these items catch your eye? Let me know in the comments!

April Showers Bring May Roundups

A page from my sketchbook.

Eventful Events and Happening Happenings

We got our first Covid shots! And our second Covid shots! Two steps closer to quasi-normal life! I’m very excited about it (if you couldn’t tell). It took almost two weeks to get an appointment and we’d been checking every day and then all of a sudden appointments! It was really exciting, and it’s really helped relieve my anxiety.

I finished my masters degree! I am now officially an MLIS holder, which is really exciting. Now that I’m done with school I’m starting to think about what it is that I really want to do. And it’s been fun to get to take the time to read a little more!

I also started keeping a daily sketchbook at the end of March and I am so enamored with it. Who needs a journal when you can do a daily sketch? I’m actually going to enjoy looking back on this. I got to the end of my first sketchbook and was so paranoid about not having enough pages that I ended up ordering 4 sketchbooks. So now I have too many sketchbooks, but I know I’ll use them up…eventually.

Books Read

My top 3 books for each month have green outlines, so you can skip straight to the best ones!

April

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda This is a story about two mothers who never meet but share a daughter. One is forced to give her daughter up to give her a better life, one is her adopted mother who can’t have biological children. The book considers the families we choose and how our culture is invariably intertwined with those decisions.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson If you are interested in gaining insight into systemic racism in the United States, you need to read this book. Wilkerson compares the caste system in the United States to caste systems in India and in Nazi Germany in order to gain insight into the way that race works to divide us. Besides having important insights, Wilkerson is also an incredible writer and the book is a pleasure to read even though its subject matter is quite difficult.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa After being hired as a housekeeper, a woman and her young son develop a friendship with an aging math professor who is slowly losing his memory after an accident. Unable to form new memories (his memory erases after 88 minutes), the three of them form their connection through the power and magic of numbers. Recommended for anyone who needs a reminder about the power of connecting with other people.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

We Hunt the Flame and We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal This YA duology is perfect if you like a little romance with your adventure. The characters are standard YA fare (a lot of focus on a journey of self-discovery without a lot of insight), but they are all interestingly flawed. My favorite part of this series is the worldbuilding. Faizal constructs a magical, well-realized world that doesn’t rely on western tropes and is so interesting and much more dynamic than the characters themselves–I loved spending time there through these books.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende This is historical fiction at its best with a complex and intriguing heroine that won’t take no for answer. Eliza travels from her native Chile to California during the Gold Rush to follow the young man who stole her heart and finds herself along the way. I’m a huge fan of Allende’s writing and the way she weaves relationships and stories together.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu Told as a screenplay, this short experimental screenplay plays with the idea of how we all play roles, but specifically focuses on the Chinese American community and the various roles and stereotypes that are forced on and lived by Chinatown residents. I found it extremely clever.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala I’m not sure you can describe a murder mystery as “cozy,” but if you can, this chatty mystery filled with food (recipes included) and family definitely fits that description. A great read if you need something a little less serious in your life.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

May

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge A fictional story about one of the first Black female doctors in the United States, the book follows her daughter, Libertie, as she figures out what she really wants out of life and how to use her voice. The book has a really nice ebb and flow to it. If you’re looking for some historical fiction with a little botany and travel thrown in, look no further.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley This nonfiction book examines life in England’s Georgian court in the 18th century through the eyes of different individuals connected to the court, both high and low. Worsley presents a rounded and complex view of life at court, and introduces Kensington palace during its high point, before it was used by Queen Victoria or Princess Diana.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett The Vanishing Half was one of my favorite books last year, so I was eager to read The Mothers. Bennett’s writing is a little less immediate in this one (due to the framing device she uses), which took me out of the story a little. Like her newer novel, it does follow the characters over a long time span, and I really like how Bennett really lets events stew so the consequences can deepen over time. A smart young woman dealing with grief over her mother’s death gets involved with the preacher’s son, and their decisions will have consequences far into their adult lives.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré I’m probably biased in favor of books that talk about the importance of education, but I found this book to be beautiful, hopeful, and inspiring. Adunni is 14 years old and her life is filled with hardship. She is young and naïve, and without any power or education she is at the whim of the adults around her who are trying to subdue and manipulate her. But Adunni refuses to be quiet or submissive. She’s always asking questions and working towards a better life. Her courage and spirit will win you over.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez I really wanted to like this YA fantasy novel set in South America, but it fell flat by pretty much every standard. It was predictable and the protagonist was perhaps the least interesting character in the book. The writing was only okay, and to top it all off, it was a political novel with its political center totally missing. The world wasn’t rich–all in all this is one to skip in my opinion.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Little by Edward Carey What do wax sculptures and the French revolution have in common? You’ll have to read the novel and find out. Featuring a spunky, underestimated main character, Marie aka Little, is the apprentice who outdoes the master. The illustrations in the book add a lot, but it is Marie’s observant nature and voice that carry the narrative from Sweden to Paris, from Paris to Versailles and back again.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor A Black gay masters student in biology in a predominantly white East coast town, Wallace has become adept at code switching and hiding his feelings, but over the course of a single weekend a series of events breaks down the walls he’s built for himself. This book has beautiful language, but I found the subject matter to be really difficult–sort of like if The Color Purple was set in the middle of a laboratory. It made me cry.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie Some books are so of your time that you can’t imagine them being written at any other point in history, and this is one of those books. It is dense, layered, and moves through some of the biggest questions of our time debating the nature of truth, identity, and goodness. It’s kind of like a modern update of The Great Gatsby, since it follows an outsider, a young aspiring screenwriter, who inserts himself into the story of his rich, pretentious, probably criminal neighbors. It’s a novel with more questions than answers, but all the questions are fascinating.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert I’ve been more drawn to romance novels recently because I have needed a bit of a break from more serious literary fiction. And this book was the perfect remedy! This a great (and sexy) romantic comedy. I’m so glad that this is part of a series because the Brown sisters are amazing! They have so much love for each other and make each other better. Chloe has fibromyalgia and both she and her love interest exhibit so much personal growth over the course of this book. This book was like a warm hug.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Elisabeth’s Lists: A Life Between the Lines by Lulah Ellender After being given her grandmother’s book of lists compiled between the 1930s and the 1950s, Ellender follows the trail of the grandmother she never knew through her and her husband’s diplomatic postings. It’s a meditation on the nature of lists and our need to organize our lives, to get to know the people we love, and to come to terms with our grief. I ordered this book from the UK, since I haven’t seen it in bookstores here, but it’s worth picking up!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Movies Watched

In April and May I spent a lot of time either re-watching movies or catching up with shows or finishing up projects for school and thus not watching anything. I’m hoping that in June I can get back to really crossing movies off of my list!

Moxie (2021) A total feel-good movie–as radical 90s feminism gets adapted in Gen Z. Plus Amy Pohler is in it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Howards End (1992) Oh this movie was so slow. And pretty depressing. Not even Emma Thompson could save this movie for me.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Wolfwalkers (2020) I subscribed to Apple TV for a week just to watch this movie, since it was nominated for the animated Oscar this year. I wasn’t super impressed by Soul, so I wanted to see the competition, and this movie was really beautiful with a 2D animation style and a great story. But it is only streaming on Apple’s service, which is really annoying.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021) This was so cute it was hard to handle. I loved how playful and silly it was. If you don’t normally watch animated movies, and you like sci-fi, I would really recommend this movie. It’s such a great family film.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (2021) I’d read the Joy Luck Club when I was younger and loved it and the movie, but I didn’t know how closely it resembled Tan’s life. Her books seem to be drawn really closely from her life. I always think documentaries about writers and artists are interesting because they help capture how they see the world and how their work is connected to their lives.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What was the best thing you read/watched in April or May? Have your summer reading list set yet? What are you looking forward to this month? Let me know in the comments!

My Top 10 Reads of 2020

This year I read 150 books, and though it was a bit of a mixed bag with plenty of books I didn’t finish and lots of reading for classes, there were still a number of great books. In fact there were well over 30 books this year that I unreservedly loved, and narrowing it down to 10 was a bit of a challenge, but (somehow) I managed to do it because a top 30 favorite books of the year list is a little too much, even for me.

2020 was a strange year for reading. Although I read more than I have done in many years, it came in strange bursts and droughts. I found a lot of great comfort reading, in the form of romances and magical books. The great thing about fantasy and historical fiction is that it takes you somewhere else, but I think the best of these books are imbued not just with escapism but with a mindfulness that’s as full of the real issues of the world as it is with the otherworldly. For me, reading is a journey into empathy, imagination, and hope rather than an escape. My 10 favorite books differ quite a bit in terms of genre, but they all explore how we come to be where we are and who we are and they don’t hide the fact that this process is a struggle whether against society, the self, or the supernatural.

My 10 favorites, in reverse order of reading (most recent first):

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab This book has everything: deals with the devil, a feisty protagonist, twists and turns…I couldn’t stop reading it. Recommended for: Anyone who needs to be reminded to seize the day. In other words, everyone. I think this is a widely enjoyable book.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks Historical fiction at its finest–the kind that connects you to the past and shows you that the past is still with us, even when it’s hard to see. Recommended for: Anyone who likes historical fiction or books.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett More great historical fiction. This book tells the story of two sisters who make very different choices and lead very different lives. Recommended for: Anyone who’s looking for a family saga.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik I have read quite a bit of Novik’s work at this point, and really enjoy her writing. Her characters are really strong and have believable voices. Although I still prefer Uprooted, this book has even more strong female voices in it, and I love how she spins together threads from so many different fairytales and folklore. Recommended for: Anyone who’s tired of how many fantasy books are about dudes.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi Even though the title gives away the fate of the main character, this book doesn’t get less heartbreaking, poignant, or beautiful. Recommended for: Anyone who needs to be reminded of the power of community (for both good and bad).

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood I couldn’t put this short story collection down. I really like Atwood’s command over her sentences and structures and the worlds she spins. One of these stories does relate to her novel The Robber Bride, but I don’t think you need to have read that to enjoy the stories. That said, that book is well worth reading as well. Recommended for: Anyone who wants their narrative in rapid, witty bursts.

This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel Over the holiday, my brother and I had an interesting conversation about the ethical dilemma of parenting a transgender child and what that would mean, which is what this book explores in a humanizing and life-affirming way. Recommended for: Anyone intrigued by this conversation.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston Okay so this one is pure escapist fantasy. But it’s the pure escapist fantasy I needed. The gay romance is hot, romantic, and so sweet, and I love the exploration of this alternate universe. Recommended for: Anyone who needs a reminder about the joys and sorrows of first love. And some escapist romance.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow Speaking of alternate universes, what if there were doors hanging around, waiting to be discovered that could take you to other worlds? Recommended for: Anyone who would open the door.

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter A short, image-packed, coming-of-age novel that is the stuff of my dark fairy tale dreams. Recommended for: Anyone who likes their stories a little darker.

Have you read any of these or are you interested in reading any of these? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

When You Need a Good Book: Readers’ Advisory

In my reference class this semester we’ve been talking about how to find books for patrons in need of a new great read. The holidays are fast approaching and maybe you’re planning on getting a book for yourself or for someone else this holiday season. Need a good recommendation? You can drop a comment on this blog post, and I’ll give you personalized book recommendations!

Let me know:

  • Is this book for you or someone else?
  • What’s something you/your recipient has read recently and enjoyed?
  • Are you looking for something similar or a little different?

Feel free to share as much detail as you’d like. You can also let me know if you’d prefer a new release or something you’ll be able to find in paperback or used.

Here are my favorite online retailers:

  1. You’re local bookstore! Check your local bookstore’s website and see if they’re offering pick-up or if they’ll ship directly to you. Many will be happy to order a book specially for you.
  2. If you can’t get to the local bookstore, try Bookshop.org. They give 30% of book sales directly to local bookstores. You can search for your local bookstore and make sure that they are supported.
  3. For used books: thriftbooks.com. I love that I can search for exactly the books I want or need and choose their condition. Shipping tends to be quick.
  4. For pretty UK covers: Book Depository. If average book covers leave you underwhelmed, try this seller. They offer free shipping on all orders. Order by December 9th for delivery by Christmas.

Tri-Weekly Roundup August 30 – September 19

Can you spot the praying mantis?

Welcome to the weekly roundup on Ink in the Archives! Every week I will share what I’ve been up to and interested in and ask you to fill me in on your week too.

Eventful Events and Happening Happenings

My partner and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary with sushi and an evening of watching Lucifer on Netflix. Who says we don’t know how to have a good time? My wonderful partner bought me an espresso machine to celebrate and we have been having so much fun learning how to use it.

Plus we are so excited that my sister-in-law came down to visit us (which is the reason that this post didn’t go up last week like it was supposed to)! It was so lovely to have her. Of course, with COVID and the terrible air quality, we were pretty limited on what we could go and do, but it was still lovely. We went to the Full House house, got a cake from b. Patisserie, and then walked up to the edge of the Presidio. I hope next time she comes everything will be open and we can take her to the Haight, Castro, and Mission.

This weekend it’s Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year. I had a really hard time deciding whether to make challah or apple cake, but I finally settled on apple cake. I made it from an old recipe I found in a Jewish community cookbook from the late 50s. It was layered and was almost like an apple lasagna. I love adapting old recipes.

On the very sad side of things, you’ve probably hear that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday at the age of 87 after a long battle with cancer. She was my absolute hero, and I have to admit I cried while reading her NY Times obituary.

Books Read

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost One of my best friends told me this book really resonated with her and I had to read it because I would see so much of her in it. She’s not wrong, since, like the author, she’s a international affairs major who loves to jump into travel with both feet. This book is hilarious–travel writing that will make you laugh and gasp. He has some horrific experiences on a small island in the Pacific, but he also learns and grows and adapts, which is fun to read about. Recommended for: anyone who likes travel narratives, funny books, or knows an international affairs major.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell I found this book to be really refreshing. Odell talks about how doing nothing, allowing yourself time to think, process, and observe, becomes a radical act in a society that’s designed to keep you as busy, productive, and distracted as possible. She argues that this time for reflection is necessary for sustained action. She draws her conclusions from humanities sources, the arts in particular, and writes about her own experiences as well. While it doesn’t suggest certain strategies or prescribe certain actions, reading it becomes a meditative experience in itself. Recommended for: anyone who needs a break.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester I honestly feel like the title sums up this book pretty well and still manages not to give some of the juiciest bits away. A relatively short but fascinating look at 1800s life and how mental illness and scholarship are often closely related. Recommended for: anyone interested in the Victorian era, people who like dictionaries.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Movies Watched

You can probably tell by this list that I’m desperately trying to shorten my Netflix queue. I swear sometimes it takes longer to go through it than it does to watch something on it.

Carrie Pilby (2016) I don’t know why I waited so long to watch this movie. It is utterly adorable. Carrie is unbelievably bright (having graduated college at 18), but she’s also incredibly lonely and isolated. With the help of therapist Nathan Lane (who I loved in this), she overcomes a past trauma and moves on with her life. This is a book adaptation, but I’d never heard of the book. I may have to pick it up though because I really liked this film. Streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Polka King (2018) I should start off by saying that I love Jack Black and his earnest hilarity. This movie is not hilarious despite an abundance of some very fun and funny actors. It is earnest and rather sweet and an interesting look at how people who want to do good things sometimes get caught up in a mixture of enthusiasm and naivete to do some very bad things. Like run a Ponzi scheme. Streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Luka Chuppi (2019) A fun Bollywood farce where things go so, so wrong before the ultimately happy ending. Comical misunderstandings about a couple’s marital status (or lack thereof) threaten to disrupt two very traditional households in India. Streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Candy Jar (2018) The smartest kids in school hate each other? That probably means they’re perfect for each other. A relatively clever high school comedy about two star debaters with moms who hate each other that explores the pressure to achieve. Netflix original.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

No Kiss List (2015) It’s hard to say what the worst part of this film: the acting, the music, the writing, the subject matter, the cinematography, the directing…I don’t think there’s anything good about this movie. I watched it with my sister in law to have something to make fun of, but it was even worse than we could have predicted. Streaming on Netflix.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Parasite (2019) I was really hesitant to watch this movie because the title has horror movie written all over it and I do not watch horror movies. I was sure that this movie, academy award winner though it was, was going to involve bugs. Or deadly diseases. And I don’t need that in my life. However, my sister-in-law swore to me that this wasn’t the case and that we needed to watch it with her. So we did. And she was right. Though there are horrific moments in this film, the parasites are all of the human variety. This film has so many interesting things to say about wealth disparity and though its set in South Korea, it reflects United States culture as well. The movie builds really slowly and is just gorgeously put together. I am really glad she convinced me to watch it. Streaming on Hulu.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Links/Articles

Please know that I’m not paid for my opinions about anything. I just like to share things that strike me as interesting, useful, or engaging.

Chi Luu examines the linguistic elements of memes in this really interesting article on JSTOR that relates the meme to the evolution of language online.

Need a reading recommendation? Check out this list of 9 Black women authored books in translation from Words without Borders.

Did you know that Monopoly was supposed to teach people how negative capitalism can be? Eula Bliss writes about the game’s origins.

I just picked up this beautiful deck of tarot cards based on fairy tales and folklore by California based designer Yoshi Yoshitani. Also available on Amazon.

How are you doing? What are you reading/watching? Let me know in the comments!

Why Do Libraries Get Rid of Books?

This is an example of a weeded book from Awful Library Books

There is always a lot of controversy when public libraries (or really any libraries) get rid of books. In 2015, the Berkeley Public Library chief resigned due to controversy over weeding books. This was due largely to his behavior and attitude around removing thousands of books, but there are many stories about community members being upset about book removal and disposal including outrage over finding books in dumpsters or being pulped all around the country.

Weeding is the term used by libraries for removing books. I really like this term because it suggests that a library is like a garden, and you have to make room for the plants you want by removing the plants you don’t want. This is an act of cultivation, not of destruction. Some of the books removed by libraries are so old and not relevant any more that they are almost an embarrassment. Sometimes they’re really funny. If you want to see some great examples of weeded library books, check out the blog Awful Library Books.

So why, when it’s so unpopular do libraries get rid of books in the first place?

  1. Space. Libraries are trying to buy books that their patrons will want to check out, but there is only so much space in the library. Some books will have to go so the new books can be purchased.

2. Circulation numbers. Libraries will buy many copies of a bestseller when it’s gaining popularity, but five or ten years down the road there might not be a need for 10 copies of the same book. Similarly, a book that no one is checking out isn’t earning its spot on the shelf.

3. Condition. When books are damaged or look too worn they are removed and either replaced or removed entirely.

4. Merchandising. It may seem weird to think about the fact that libraries have to think about things like shelf appeal since no one is buying anything. But psychologically people enjoy browsing more when the shelves aren’t too crowded and when the titles feel relevant and not old or outdated.

How do librarians choose which books to get rid of?

One method involves evaluating books with the MUSTIE criteria. This means getting rid of books that are:

M misleading (books that aren’t giving factual information)

U ugly (no one wants books that are stained, falling apart, or unattractive)

S superseded (there’s a new, updated edition)

T trivial (there’s no merit for this book)

I irrelevant (there’s no need for this book in the community)

E elsewhere (it’s easy to get this book online, from a partner library, etc.)

What do libraries do with books they’ve gotten rid of?

I think this is the area that causes the most controversy. Choosing how to get rid of a book is really important. Many libraries sell the books they’re weeding at a Friends of the Library store or similar used bookstore. They’ll also use this as a place to sell books that are donated to the library that can’t be used in the collection. Proceeds from sales go back to the library.

Some books aren’t sold though and they are discarded in other ways. They can be used for craft projects, recycled and turned into new books, and sometimes they are thrown away. This is often what has to happen with books that are beyond saving, like books that are water damaged or moldy.

Personally, I think weeding is vital to the library process and makes collections feel more relevant and visually pleasing, but books should be disposed of responsibly because they are a community investment. I am of the opinion that a physical book, though a wonderful thing, is wonderful because it contains information whether it’s a great story or a great recipe. When the information is no longer useful, I think the book is also not useful anymore.

What are your thoughts on libraries getting rid of books? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: 5 Books I Didn’t Really Like, But I’m Still Glad I Read

IMG_2962

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by That Artsy Reader Girl.

It has been a long time since I’ve written. Since that time I’ve spent 3 weeks in Taiwan and 10 days in Paris. I’ve got travel posts coming, but I thought today I’d start with a book post.

This week’s prompt is about books that you didn’t really like but you’re still glad you read. I feel like this can be applied to lots of things I read in college, but I included only one college book to make it feel a little less like a required reading list.

So here are five books I’m glad I read even though I didn’t really like them, in no particular order:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 

My friend and I read this at about the same time, in an effort to get through some of the classics that had been on our shelves and our lists for years. I actually ended up enjoying this book (sort of), but the beginning was touch and go for me. I’m glad I stuck it out because I think it’s an interesting and influential piece of fiction that shows that being an abolitionist did not mean that a person was not prejudiced. Stowe paints a sympathetic portrait of her characters but still indulges in comments that I consider to be racist. I do, however, think that the character of Uncle Tom has been twisted throughout the ages. I don’t think he’s nearly as obsequious as he’s made out to be in references. His resistance is quiet, but it’s clearly there. Anyway, this book is worth reading just for a better understanding of that time period and parts of our cultural heritage.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

This is another book my friend and I read together. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it (and I didn’t), but I stuck it out so that I could check it off my list. It’s not that it’s a bad book. It’s actually a really interesting look at mental illness and how sometimes the systems that are supposed to make people feel better just end up contributing to the problem. But I don’t love Kesey’s writing style, and I thought the book was not nearly as good as another book that I’d been avoiding from about the same time period, Catch-22, which was far more enjoyable and interesting.

Ulysses by James Joyce

This is the college one. I picked this one over some of the other books I read in college because it’s just over the top unlikable. And over the top in many regards. But reading it (and finding ways to interact with it) felt like a huge accomplishment. It’s one of those books that I have a really early memory of–I found my grandfather’s copy of the book and thought it was like The Odyssey. Two paragraphs told me I was wrong (though not totally because this book follows The Odyssey in many ways), and I didn’t think of the book again until I took a James Joyce class in college. Yes, I am a glutton for punishment. But it didn’t seem right to graduate with an English degree without this modernist on my transcript. It would have been like not taking a Shakespeare class.

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

I’m not going to say that this book wasn’t good because it was. It’s a well-written story about Native Americans and colonization.  The characters are engaging and well-drawn. My real problem with this book is that I don’t like survival/wilderness stories. If you liked the film The Revenant or other works in that line, you’ll really like this book. Even though I wasn’t a major fan, I’m glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone. I try to read every book club book (unless I’ve already read it), whether or not it’s something I would pick out on my own.

Turn of the Screw by Henry James

I picked this book out for one of the wedding favors (post on that later), and I read it to make sure it was good before giving it away. Well….I didn’t really love it. The story itself is creepy and interesting, as James’s only ghost story, but the wordiness of it (sentences that never, ever end, kind of like this one here) was just too much and it destroyed all the suspense for me. Probably no one would have felt that way when the book came out, but Poe is much better at the creepy story. So I’m glad I read this book because I wouldn’t have wanted to give it to someone as a gift when I didn’t enjoy it. Especially as the potential recipient isn’t used to reading Victorian era novels.

 

Over to you–have you read a book that you’re glad you read even though your enjoyment of it was minimal? Have you read any of these books? Is your opinion of them different? Let me know in the comments.

 

Top Ten Tuesday

IMG_2962

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Today’s topic is all about “books you could re-read forever.” There are a lot of books I read, but there aren’t many I re-read, and even fewer that I would read multiple times. The books that make this list tend to have one thing in common, they’re witty. Except maybe for the Harry Potter books. Those are just part of who I am.

Without further ado, here are the books that I would reread over and over again:

  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • The Harry Potter Books by JK Rowling

That’s actually a pretty short list, though when I was younger it would definitely have included a few different things on it.

Is there a book that you never get sick of returning to? Let me know what it is in the comments!

A 2017 Retrospective (plus some reading goals)

IMG_5199

Happy 2018, everyone.

I hope that you had a good New Year. I spent New Year’s eve with my family, celebrating my Nana’s birthday, and then my husband and I spent New Year’s day driving back home from Portland.

The New Year is always a great time to look back on the year behind you and think about what you’ve accomplished and what your new goals are. I did something a little different this year and thought about it on the Winter Solstice too, which I really enjoyed. It was almost like I was more prepared to make goals on New Years because I’d thought about my accomplishments and what I needed to work on for the next year already. I did something unheard of for me, which is set only one Resolution–to do yoga every day. We’re only 5 days in of course, but so far I’ve met that goal, which is pretty much a first for me.

2017 was an interesting year–in blogging terms it doesn’t even feel over yet because I still have a lot to say about different things that happened throughout the year, but it was full of ups and downs and lots of work. Not to mention, I sort of dropped the ball on blogging.

I didn’t quite meet my book goal–I ended up being five books short of finishing the Popsugar reading challenge–but I did meet my Goodreads goal of 75 books and even exceeded it by a couple of books.

This year I’m not participating in any sort of formal reading challenge (besides the Goodreads one). I have a couple challenges that I’ve entered into with friends, and I will be posting about those. I’d like to do 12 of these, one for each month, so if there’s a particular book (or two) you think I should read, or a challenge you’d like me to write about, please let me know in the comments!

The first challenge is sort of a book club challenge of sorts–my friend and I are reading Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott first and then Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe by the end of January. These classics have been sitting on our shelves for a while, and we figure if we don’t read them together we’ll never be motivated enough to read them at all.

The other challenge was given to me by a different friend. She thought it would be interesting to read about the same event or period of history from two different, opposing perspectives. If anyone has a suggestion for this, please let me know. I’m thinking that the US Civil War might be the easiest historical period for me to find (though it is certainly not my favorite…).

My blogging plan for the year is to do a lot more movie/book posts. I have a lot of fun writing those. I’m also going to share some travel/DIY/recipes–whatever comes to mind.

Is there something you’d like to see on the blog? Have a reading challenge for me? Let me know in the comments.