The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

Thoughts from a Future YA Librarian

Kansas City Public Library

“The library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They are mean, conniving & rude and extremely well read…” -Leslie Knope

So, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it much (or ever, for that matter) here on the ole’ blog, but one of my top Castle-in-the-Clouds dreams in life is to be a lead children’s and young adult librarian in a public librarian setting. I mean, it’s books, and it’s serving the public, and it’s search strategies and information discovery and all kinds of things that I love to picture myself doing one day (including looking like Rachel Weiss in The Mummy, where she legit played a librarian). Which is why, when I’m not chatting it up with all you lovely blog folks, or reading the books and writing the stories, I’m usually studying for one of my Master’s in Library and Information Sciences degree: on the plate this semester? Introduction to Management (blergh) and Resources for Children and Young Readers (a RESOUNDING yay!), which is the class that is basically responsible for this entire post.

The very first chapter of our textbook for my Resources class discusses and makes a very important distinction between a reader who is engaged and a disengaged reader. A reader who is disengaged doesn’t absorb material, reflect on the activity, or gain the same ground that an engaged reader would given the same time and material. And one of the primary ways to enable someone to disengage from the material at hand? To assign it to them, or to provide them with some kind of external catalyst. The same kind of results can be seen when we enable disengaging by making reading too technical, from turning a story into a vehicle for a ‘theme’ or ‘simile’ or ‘voice’ or one of the thousands of other qualities that we ask students to parse their reading material for. So, I read all that and my thoughts went like this:

1.) Duh. Assigned reading blows. Any book that’s assigned is immediately one I don’t want to read. Until it’s not assigned. Then it’s amazing.

2.) Oh. My. God. Maybe this explains why I serially DNF – I parse, I disengage, and then I toss the book and say ‘peace’, blaming the book.

And then it all made sense.

grumpy catGrumpy Cat hates assigned books, too.

SO SO SO many times I seem to not be able to stop my brain from reading in ‘student’ mode, from looking for things like extended metaphors and Tragic Flaws and foreshadowing and then I highlight and I make a note and…that’s it. It’s one the books I don’t do those things to that I love, the ones that I read and think “where would I start highlighting that? It’s all too beautiful to pick a start and stop point” that end up making their way here, in to my reading journal, and in to the long term memory I’m creating of my ‘reading experience’. So I’m going to labor to stop doing this, but then I wondered: how could I have stopped from becoming this way?

Maybe others had a different school experience? If so, I invite you guys to leave a comment telling me how it was for you! But for me, I was the kid that did my homework, so I read the books and did the dialectical journals and invented the ‘discussion questions’ I didn’t care to discuss – and then spent my hours at Borders with friends, discussing books that had nothing to do with class. So I don’t have an answer as to how we do stop this from happening, but I can’t help thinking that, in our efforts to educate our children, we’re turning them in to adults who can’t necessarily see the big picture, who can’t see the story for the trees. Is there a way to still teach a child about metaphor and Tragic Flaws without making them forget that what they hold in their hands are stories – are magic? Are the possibility to do and see and be and experience differently? I’m hoping to do find a way to do that one day, and I hope I’m not the only one, but still: I worry a bit. Have we taken the story out of our stories? Thoughts?

PS: That library in the top picture? The Kansas City Public Library – my home library. Sometimes, I really do like where I live.

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[17] “A Fable for the Living”

kevin brockmeier

What a BEAUTIFUL story, and in only seven pages!

The general plot outline of “A Fable for the Living” by Kevin Brockmeier (who’s BOMB ASS picture can be seen above – I WANT THAT TYPEWRITER! also that wooded hollow) is one of a world where, after the dead die, it is possible to communicate with them through letters that are absorbed into the ground. A recent widow writes letters to her husband for a year until she wonders – is he even really there? So she asks him, and when she gets an answer back, the entire world around her changes. The idea of writing to the dead, complete with functional delivery system, is not only endearing – it’s wonderfully hopeful!

There is something so creepy about the idea of letting the Earth just swallow you into itself (when the widow decides to join her husband in the land beneath the soil, she delivers herself as she would a letter – settling herself into a fissure in the ground until she is just kind of…absorbed), but I can’t say I wouldn’t necessarily let myself be taken if it meant being back with all those people I really love in life. I REALLY wish we’d gotten to hear more about the land of the dead beneath the Earth, but what we got of our world was so sweetly rendered. I will say that, looking back over the reading of this story, the whole thing seems to exist under a kind of grey haze, a feeling of fond detachment that made me picture the whole thing in my mind as if it were being done in some kind of charcoal sketch – black, white, fuzzy around the edges.

However, I think this is a story worth returning to later because of the way that Brockmeier was able to create and write the kind of meaningful details of love and relationships that I find myself trying to write in my own stories. Only when I do it, it doesn’t work – it seems cliche and corny. So I need to figure out if he’s really doing something different (which I imagine he is, in which the question then becomes WHAT, DAMN IT!) or if I just have a problem looking objectively at my own writing – which is probably also true. I think that this if one of the most fun results so far in my short-story reading journey: the ability to seem some truly great masters working out issues in their writing that I have in my own (it seems to be easier to see this in short fiction rather than novels, for some reason).

One thing is for sure, though – I need to look into more of Brockmeier’s stories in the future!

Rating: OMFGZ

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[16] Start Here: Read Your Way into 25 Amazing Authors

Start Here

I first saw this book advertised earlier this week on the bottom of Bookriot’s RSS feed, and I basically immediately went to Amazon and, clicky-clicky, had the book in my possession minutes later. And, yet again, I’m SO THANKFUL for that “Buy it Now!” button, because foe $2.99 I’ve got 25 succinct but loving introductions for 25 authors – some of whom I’ve never heard of, and some of whom I’ve been looking forward to breaking in to very soon (probably even sooner now, if we’re being honest). Some of my favorite Book Riot contributors/bloggers contributed chapters (a million cheers for Amanda Nelson and Kit Steinkellner!) and the whole thing is edited by Jeff O’Neal and Rebecca Joines Schinsky, the genius minds behind Book Riot. The whole things was just really lovely, because it was kind of like looking in to 25 different windows while all these contributors happen to be having loving conversations about some of their favorite authors.

The book covers a really nice range of genres, styles, and time periods (as well as ‘classical’ and ‘commercial’ authors, if that’s a distinction you make a lot in your mind – don’t worry, I won’t judge you for it) and I marked titles by Italo Calvino, Philip K. Dick. E.M. Forster, John Irving, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Herman Melville, Arthur Miller, Alice Munro, Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Russo, and Zadie Smith – and that’s not even half of the chapters that are available to pluck titles from! This may not be the kind of book that other people will sit down and read cover to cover, but I get kind of a huge literary crush on books about books, and it’s especially thrilling to see the voices of people you “know” (which, as we all know, really means “have read for years via the internet”) in print telling you to go read great books. And, regardless of how many sessions you read it in, it’s a great book to have on hand, especially for when you have a vague idea of where you’d like to start, reading-wise, and just need a bit more help jumping in to a definitive work!

If there is one thing that I wish the book had done a bit more of, it would be that I wish they had expanded the number of titles recommended for each author – most stuck to a three to four book range, with the occasional extra title thrown in for good measure. For some authors, I totally get this, but for others – especially like Dickens or Stephen King, who JUST WROTE ALL THE BOOKS OH MY GOD ITS SICKENING – I felt like I just would have liked a bit more of a selection, or a bit of a more extended discussion of the diversity of the titles and which might be better for some situations than others (because of length, genre, tone, etc.). But, then again, that’s not really what this book was about, so it’s really just me being kind of a bitch and stomping my feet and yelling

I want it nowBUT I WANT IT NOW!!!!!!

I really did enjoy seeing so many titles and authors I’d read, as well as the dozens I haven’t, and like so many of my Kindle books, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to get a hard copy of this one as soon as I can!

Rating: Hell yeah!

PS: GO BUY THIS BOOK. YOU WILL NOT REGRET. There. I have unashamedly plugged this book, which no one has asked me to do but which I will do because I think this book was the cats pajamas!

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[15] “The Years of my Birth”

Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich writes absolutely AMAZING yet amazingly simple to understand short stories, usually concerning Native American family and culture. “Years” tells the story of a woman who, crushed in the womb by her twin, is cast off as a cripple, given up by her white family. Adopted by her Native American nurse and raised alongside others on the reservation, the most touching aspect of the entire story is how our narrator builds for herself an entirely new family after being so cruelly rejected by her biological one.

The color imagery of the color and confusion that is attached to the color white (such as when she’s in the all white room of the institution after the state removes her from her adopted home, and all she can do is scream and cry because of how empty the color makes her feel). It’s especially interesting considering that our main character is a white disabled woman created from the mind of a Native American author. I’m still not quite sure what to make of this social commentary through color symbolism, but I think that’s the subtle force of the story – to have to, as readers, suss out the difference in this narrator’s life opinions because of not just her skin color, but the skin color of her family and the skin color of those she was born to.

To be honest, the ending of the story left be at a bit of a loss for words. I’m not sure what to do with the narrator’s biological brother in need of a kidney but laughing manically in her face because she suggests that he may owe her something if she donates an organ to him. What I do know, though, is that the underlying feelings of rage and indifference in the story is  visceral, a punch in the emotional gut. I’m not sure that the right question to ask is “why”. Erdrich does a delightful job with her direct diction and treatment of cultural conflict.

I got this story from America’s Best Non-Required Reading 2012, which if you don’t own you should – if for no other reason than Ray Bradbury dictated the introduction, and it was one of the last things this  genius mind ‘wrote’ before he passed away.

Story Rating: Okay

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[14] Tiny Beautiful Things

The following post is lifted straight from my reading journal, which isn’t something I regularly do, but thought was appropriate in this case.

Tiny Beautiful Things

Writing is hard for every last one of us – straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.

I finished Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed moments ago and basically couldn’t wait to write the journal entry on how much I adored this book. I can think of no better way to round out the years of this commonplace book than talking about the BEAUTIFUL words of Cheryl Strayed as Dear Sugar (Dear Sugar was an anonymous advice column published on therumpus.net, and was kept anonymous until 2012 when Cheryl came clean as the voice behind the advice).

So much of what Cheryl has to say on life and love and death and our capacities to change our own lives was truly spot-on and the kind of beautifully rendered wisdom I wish I had. And the kind I may just get tattooed on my body one day. The phrases and images she uses to describe everything from the birth of her children to the sexual abuse she experienced as a child are not only gut-punching, they’re real enough to exist in something similar you’ve gone through. I think that, if there is any book I will need to read aver the eventual passing of my mother, it will be this one. Side note – this, I already know, will be the darkest day of my entire life, and thus is also one of my biggest fears. But the way Cheryl put words to her pain – as well as leaving the all-so-vital space between the words – makes me know that one day I’m going to need to read them again. And maybe again after that – a hundred different times AT a hundred different times, because I feel like each new time there will be something else to get out of her words, some new mirror to look back at myself through.

It was mercy. That’s that the fuck it was. The fuck was mine. And the fuck is yours, too. The question ‘WTF’ does not ‘apply to everything, every day’. If it does, you’re a lazy coward. Ask better questions, sweet pea. The fuck is your life. Answer it.

Cheryl Strayed has basically given me a giant literary boner, and I’m excited to finish her nonfiction Wild and start her novel. If I had one overarching squabble over the whole thing, it would be that, reading all the columns in one (or three) sittings made some of the letters run together, and made me skim through a few of the letters in the middle that didn’t stand out quite as much. But really, it was all so beautiful that this flaw was basically of my own creation because I just DID NOT want to put the book down. I may have to buy a zillion more copies of this book so that any time sometime I know is having a family/love/work/kid/death/life problem I can hand it to them and say “here, sweet pea. This’ll help. Promise.”

Rating: OMFGZ!

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What I Spent Over a Year of My Life Doing

So, I don’t know how many of you know this, but there is this thing out there and it’s called Game of Thrones. And it’s this big, sci-fi-y deal and there is a TV show and Peter Dinklage and about a million pages in the first five (of an eventual seven) books. I started with the first volume, Game of Thrones, in January of 2012, shortly after I graduated college and before I got my first ‘real’ job – which, coincidentally, I only kept for a few months – and here I was, all fine and dandy and thinking “I love Sean Bean! I like fantasy. What could really happen here”. Little did I know that Sean Bean wouldn’t be around long, and that, like, 4908 pages (yes, that’s an exact count, given Goodreads pages numbers) later I’d be just wrapping up the series.

I’ve been working on what to say about this whole Herculean reading experience, and have drafted Song of Ice and Fire posts three or four times, but I’m never sure what to say. The plot summary is daunting. The characters are daunting. I don’t even want to think about attempting a scholarly analysis of these books (although I definitely think that these books would benefit from some scholarly conversation on women, power, loyalty, and family, to name a few), so here I am. I just finished up Dance with Dragons, the fifth, so I’m kind of out of stall time to write about what I spent a year of my life doing reading. Having exhausted my other options, I shall simply have to default to my funny GIF raving – let’s begin, shall we?

nights watch

Oh, George R.R. Martin. Let me just start with the list of thoughts that first come to mind when I try to encapsulate the awestriking literary clusterfuck that is Song of Ice and Fire: Sansa Stark is a twit. Poor Reek. WHY is there so much raping? I mean, I get it – psuedo-quasi English-esque monarchy epic in which there is a constant war happening tends to lend itself to lots of rape-age. I don’t approve of it, but I get it. But this book? If it’s not a whore, it’s a rape, and 99% of all the wives in this book end up either dead or are totally vapid! It’s a little frustrating. Moving on from that…this man knows how to craft a twist. I mean, you’ve got to be to fill this many pages with a plot that keeps them turning. There where times when I just wanted to be like DAMN IT, MAN, CAN’T YOU JUST STOP KILLING ALL THE PEOPLE!

oh-the-huge-manatee

(side note: that’s basically my favorite picture EVER, mostly because it’s applicable in all situations anywhere ever). Let’s chat a bit about the characters, now that the mind-dump portion of the post is over. With these books, all the characters fall in to either one of two camps: ermaghadILOVEYOU or ewwwwwwwwwwwwwcreepdickbastard. There are those that may be somewhat fair to middling (basically the only two people I’m thinking of here are Stannis and Melisandre, for whom I have nothing but ‘meh’ fellings), but for the most part it’s either love them (Tyrion, Daenerys, Jon Snow, Davos, Jorah Mormont, Cersei Lannister in a kind of fucked up way, Bran Stark, Varys) or hate them (the rest of the Lannisters, Arya, Sansa, Littlefinger, Samwell Tarly, the Tyrell’s, and Sandor Clegane). Of course, there are like a bajillion minor and side characters, most of whom I tend to skim over, but, for the most part, the characters that Martin has created are easy to love, enjoyable to hate, and when they surprise us, it’s not always for the better.

outside bra

As much as I mock, and although there truly is much that is mockable about this series, I do think that there is something to be said for books that are good enough to keep a reader interested, engaged, and to keep the material fresh enough that the reader is kept coming back for all five – and, when they’re out – seven books. George didn’t quite ace this every time (see the ENTIRETY of book four, A Feast for Crows, which was THE most painful reading experience I’ve, like, ever had. EVER.), but for the most part I think he did a really good job. And, it has to be said, I don’t think that the TV show is all that bad. In fact, it’s pretty much the shit.

tumblr_mb0sxsXxto1qjsk0wo6_r1_250As I said before, I love Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister the most out of all the things I’ve already said I love in this post. I mean, I think that not only is he a dashingly handsome man (my husband, as a matter of fact, agrees) but his acting chops, especially his comedic timing, has really taken the show to a new level, and kept me on the lookout for Tyrion’s chapters throughout the whole of the novel. Of course, Emilia Clarke does an AMAZING job as the hottie-with-dragons Daenerys Targaryen (did I mention how totally lady-boner-ific Emilia Clarke is?!) and the rest of the cast just fills out so well that, to be honest, its kind of more fun to watch the show than to read the books. Kind of. But just a little.

I’ve written almost 1,000 words of my own about these books, with narry a plot summary in sight. Which is fine by me. At the end of the day, these are those tomes of rather amazing fantasy, in which there is much pillaging, pirating, raping, political intrigue, spurned lovers, revenge gone wrong, revenge gone right, and all kinds of secrets hidden behind smiles and shadows on the wall and things that were dead that come back to life – and things that were alive are suddenly dead. It kept me on my toes for over a year (minus the few dark months of Feast for Crows) and in the end, so far all I have to say to Mr. Martin is:

tumblr_mcolqhO0Ua1qe58lyo1_500

Rating: Overall, hell yeah!

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[13] “The Red Wheelbarrow”

4347507565_9a2a013fee

“So much depends/upon // a red wheel/barrow // glazed with rain/water // beside the white/chickens.”

“The Red Wheelbarrow” was written by William Carlos Williams, the son of an English mother and a Basque/Puerto Rican mother. He became both a writer and a practicing physician who was, heard it told, besties with Ezra Pound. He championed the Imagist movement, which relies on sharp, concrete images written in a highly concentrated, suggestive style. The goal of the movement, and the goals of Williams, were to reveal that there are “no ideas but in things”.

The poem is a great example of just how much power the Imagist movement’s poetry could carry with it, as the poem is composed of almost entirely concrete nouns that, framed as they are, suddenly suggests a great deal of imaginative possibility. Perhaps the best part of the poem, to me, and the reason I decided to write about this poem, are those first few introductory words: “so much depends/upon”. I mean…wow. To me, that shifts the poem right from the start, and suddenly we are wondering why so much depends on these things. And does the wheel barrow matter because it’s red? Or the rain? Because it’s wet, or because it’s rain? What about the chicken? Or, somehow, is it some combination of the three?

I believe that, when we ask “why”, we open the door for new narrative possibility – and W.C.W. has done that for us from the first stanza.

SIDENOTE: I’m a happily married lady and all. But I do just have to say – William Carlos Williams wasn’t too bad of a looker, back in the day (avert your eyes now if author pictures totally throw off your whole vibe):

williams2

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January Short Story: “Paper Menagerie”

origami animals

I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring. ‘Zhe jiao zhèzhi,’ Mom said. This is called origami. I didn’t know this at the time, but Mom’s kind was special. She breathed into them so that they shared her breath, and thus moved with her life. This was her magic.

If you guys will recall, one of my goals for reading in 2013 is to read more short fiction – I’m beginning to write more and more short fiction, and I love the beauty that tends to hide in so many short treasures, so I’m looking forward to exploring more than just the short stories I read in high school. I also want to read more globally. So, imagine my UTTER DELIGHT when Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness over at Books on the Nightstand decided to declare 2013 their year of the short story as well! Part of their short story project involves featuring a different short story every month, and the story for January is “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (which, my lucky dears, can also read online here, which I of course recommend you go do IMMEDIATELY!)

“The Paper Menagerie” was originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2011 and is the first work of any length to have ever won all three major science fiction awards – the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy Award. It’s a novel about imagination and friendship, about American culture and Chinese culture, about the way kids relate to their parents and the way that, as we age, our current self relates to all our former selves. I will admit, the first time I read through the story I didn’t really pick up on the science fiction/fantasy aspects of this story (bonus, for those of you who might find the genre titles a little off-putting) and it read to me much more like Marquez, or any of the other Latin-American magical realists. But I’m not sure that it’s easy to draw the line between when ‘magical realism’ ends and ‘fantasy’ starts, and furthermore, I don’t think it’s the fantasy parts of this story that give it the take-away. I think it’s the very-much-so real and human parts that pulled me back to this story for multiple readings.

Every once in a while I would see her at the kitchen table studying the plain side of a sheet of wrapping paper. Later, a new paper animal would appear on my nightstand and try to cuddle up with me. I caught them, squeezed them until the air went out of them, and then stuffed them away in the box in the attic.

Which of us, at one time or another, hasn’t thought that our parent’s didn’t understand us, and if only the could or would see things our way, then they would finally ‘get it’ and things will be better. I find this dynamic so much more pronounced in cross-cultural or multi-generational immigrant stories, and I think that the pull of that here in Ken’s story really just pops off the page. By the time we get to the end of the story, we, along with the narrator, see what true magic Mom possessed, and what kind of story it take to bring a Chinese woman to a Connecticut suburb. The story plays really well the concept of language, and whether or not the language you can speak with your lips is a vital or as necessary as the one you speak with your heart. I walked away from the first reading of the story feeling profoundly sad, but profoundly grateful that I feel I understand my parents, and they understand me, pretty damn well. Still, I had to wonder – what don’t I know about them, and what may I not know for a very long time?

Rating: OMFGZ!

PS: Wanting more Ken Liu (I know I was after I finished!)? Try “The Illusionist”, “Memories of my Mother”, or “The Box that Eats Memories”

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[12] One for the Books

People who prefer e-books…think that books merely take up space. This is true, but so do your children and Prague and the Sistine Chapel.

Oh, Joe. Whaddaya know? Apparently, this Joe knows all about books – which ones to read, which ones to NOT read, and of course how to read and not read them. I loved this book, but I’m left at a loss as to what to say about it. It was a great, quick non-fiction read, and was a book about books. Thus, it was and is basically gold. I’d give you the Goodreads synopsis, but this time I like mine better:

Books are awesome. We should all read books, but not books that other people recommend (unless you have great friends with rare and amazing tastes) and not ebooks, which of course are not nearly as good as real books. Books are special and life is short, so read good ones and surround yourself with good ones. Read widely but personally, but not ebooks. Also, fuck ebooks.

And there you have it folks. Joe Queenan in a nutshell. I think that Joe most likely has his right to have such a crotchety opinion (“Joe Queenan is a humorist, critic and author from Philadelphia who graduated from Saint Joseph’s University. He has written for numerous publications, such as Spy Magazine, TV Guide, Movieline, The Guardian and the New York Times Book Review. He has written eight books, including Balsamic Dreams, a scathing critique of the Baby Boomers, Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, a tour of low-brow American pop culture and Imperial Caddy, a fairly scathing view of Dan Quayle and the American Vice-Presidency. Queenan’s work is noted for his caustic wit.” – and yes, that I legit picked that shit up straight from Goodreads) and this whole experience was kind of like sitting near your really well read and literate grandpa while he talks about how good things were in the ‘good ole’ days’ and how everything now is headed to hell in a hand basket. Sure, some of the time I felt like what Ole’ Joe was saying seemed a little harsh for my way of reading – I for one love giving and receiving book recommendations, as I believe it’s my job to take those recommendations and narrow down to the ones that fit for me – but he’s not exactly trying to say that his way is the only way. Maybe the best way, but not the only way. I don’t necessarily agree, as I have an e-reader (a couple, actually, with perhaps another one coming soon – ah, the technological rat race), I think this about sums up what its like to sit down and have a 250 page adventure with Grandpa Joe:

Electronic books are ideal for people who value the information contained in them, or who have vision problems, or who like to read on the subway, or who do not want other people to see how they are amusing themselves, or who have storage and clutter issues, but they are useless for people who are engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with books. Books that we can touch; books that we can smell; books that we can depend on.

Rating: Hell yeah!

EDIT:: Amanda from Dead White Guys and Book Riot didn’t come away with the same feelings I did, but she makes some really valid and HOLY SHIT HILARIOUS points in her GIF reply to One for the Books!

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Happy New Year, My Beauties

Hello, all! Hopefully your New Year dawned bright and clear and lovely, today! The Kansas City area got hit with a good deal of snow yesterday (alright, like three inches, but still) and it turned to ice overnight, making today the perfect day to stay in, stay warm, and get on the All Powerful Interwebs to chat with you fine folks about all the amazing things coming up in 2013 – hopefully!

So, I shared a post with you a bit ago about my desire to read more consciously, and I put forth a list of general categories (gratefully stolen from Maple & a Quill) that I think will help expand some of my reading boundaries in 2013. I’m one of those people that, frustratingly, loves lists in theory, but feels stifled and confined by them in reality, so I’m hoping that having some dedicated categories with otherwise free choice will be a format that works really well for me. You can check out that past post for the full list, but some of the categories I’m most excited about are essay collection, lit studies, history non-fiction, and children’s books. I mean, how to not get excited about that?!

In addition to reading the 52 books off that list, I’m hoping to do a couple other things with my reading life in 2013: I’m hoping to read more globally,wanting to read along with the Tournament of Books and I’m hoping to spend a significant chunk of time with Toni Morrison over the year. Let me explain. No, there is too much – let me sum up:

I read a lot of books by white people, about white people, set in a white, English-speaking world. I’m not proud of this fact. I often like to pretend it isn’t true, and greatly admire those people who seem tapped in to this global reading vein. In a potentially proud effort to correct this nature of my reading life, I’m planning on using this website to explore some geographical and cultural regions that, ashamed to say, I’ve never visited before (meaning that, in addition to the few places I have and enjoy reading about – Latin America, the British Isles, Nigeria and Kenya – I’m also planning on reading literature from China, Japan, Russia, Eastern Europe, the Pacific Islands, other African countries, and pretty much all of South America). I’m not necessarily sure I have overarching goals in terms of something to “get out” of this project, so much as I just want the personal satisfaction of knowing I’ve expanded my reading frontiers.

And then there is the 2013 Tournament of Books, which is an event that I first heard of last year, but came to WAY too late to the table to get involved in. So I kept an eye out for it this year and I think SO MANY of the books look awesome. I’ll most likely be coming out with another post about this before too long, but suffice to say that if you follow the link you’ll find a pretty heady list of the great books that came out in 2012.

Lastly- the Toni Morrison thing. I love Toni Morrison. By which, I mean I love Beloved and The Bluest Eye. Which are the only two I’ve read. But this year, her  book Home came out and I heard lovely things and I’ve realized that I need to do a bit better about reading deeply as well as widely, especially with authors I know I love. Which is why many authors made the list, and will eventually see the light of day with similar projects (John Steinbeck, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, etc.) but I was just in a mood when this idea came to me, and decided to go with Toni Morrison. Because she is lovely and beautiful and talented beyond words, and the idea of the project makes me quite excited.

That, my blogging darlings, is just a bit of an outline of the amazing things I hope to see happen in 2013, where my reading life is concerned. I have no 2012 summation because, to be honest, I spent pretty much 80% of the year tits-deep in Mr. George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (but I’m FINALLY on the last available volume, Dance with Dragons, and by God I WILL FINISH SOON), and that would be pretty much the answer for any question asked, good or bad. In fact, that’s the new answer for everything in life: Game. Of. Thrones.

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