Books

Reading Diaries: It’s Really Radical!

Angel: I seriously have no idea how it’s already September! I thought I had An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes Randy Ribay Merit Press 2015plenty of time to read all the books coming out this month, but it looks like I’ll just be enjoying them throughout the next 30 days. I’m currently making my way through Randy Ribay’s An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes, and it’s more than I could have expected. It’s not going to be the kind of story that everyone likes. The characters are engaging but they are also less optimistic about the world, and less easy to dismiss as just teens being teens. They’re prickly and I LOVE it.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon is up next, and I’m really excited to read it, having heard lots of great things from other readers and friends that I trust. After that, I’m absolutely pumped to be starting The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.

22928730KM: I FINALLY FINISHED OUTLANDER. No, not the series, just the first book. I know, not exactly a grand accomplishment, but with everything else going on I’m just glad I made it through. It’s not that it’s a bad book, it just wasn’t quite my thing. I felt more relieved to be finished than anything by the time I reached the end.

But the good news is that now I have been tearing through some shorter novels. Yesterday, I started Aida Zilelian’s The Legacy of Lost Things (which I’ll probably finish tonight), and today on campus I started Lucy Knisley’s graphic travelogue An Age of License. Both are excellent, and full of energy. It’s quite refreshing after trudging through a novel that I wasn’t fully dedicated to, but felt pressured to enjoy.

I’ve tentatively started The Professor and the Madman, about the creation of the Oxford Dictionary, on my phone. It has the potential to be either very dry or very exciting. We’ll see how it goes.

A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf, Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1957Robin: Oh boy, I have been stuck in the middle of a few books for a while—A Room of One’s Own, for one, and How to Suppress Women’s Writing for another. They complement each other in really interesting ways, as they’re both talking about women writers and how much their work has been typically maligned or ignored. One of the things Joanna Russ talks about in How to Suppress Women’s Writing is the way that Virginia Woolf’s writing is typically treated by modern scholars: people call her dated, people say that she has nothing to say to modern feminism. But if you go back and look at what she’s saying—it’s really radical! She’s arguing for a universal wage for writers, especially women writers! How many people today are arguing for something like that? The criticisms of her work don’t stand up, they’re just strawmen arguments by insecure aging professors trying to keep women writers out of their curricula.

And, uh, this one’s a little embarrassing, but I’ve started reading the little n+1 book What Was the Hipster?: A Sociological Investigation. I know, I know, what’s more hip than 1. stating that hipsterism is over, and 2. doing a sociological investigation of it? But it’s really interesting. I think there’s this growing concern/realization that, being the majority subculture that sprung up from the Bush years, hipsterism is largely a subculture that’s totally devoid of culture. It’s a predominantly white subculture (using the term ‘subculture’ here loosely, as there’s nothing subversive about hipsters) that steps in to play the role of culture for these 6th generation Irish and German and English and whatever Anglo immigrants who have no connection with their own heritage. They don’t have the traditions and rites that their ancestors did, so they reach back to, like, white rural and suburban cultural symbols (I’m thinking trucker caps and plaid button-ups here) as some kind of sad substitute. Anyway, it’s a very good book, especially if you like examining contemporary history.

Graceling, Kristen Cashore, Harcourt, 2008
Anna: Last month I caught up with some YA books that I’ve been meaning to read for a while like Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Yes, I hadn’t read it before and I really enjoyed it! I was expecting a faster paced read but really enjoyed the character development of the novel. I expect I’ll soon read the companion books.

I also finished Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, which in the manner of booksellers comparing books to other books can be described as Hunger Games meets Divergent meets Graceling meets Game of Thrones. The allusions to the Roman Empire and the setting of an alternate United States make it seem fairly derivative of those lady-driven YA dystopias of recent years, but I did end up getting really into the story. The plotting is excellent, so I really wanted to find out what was going to happen next!

This month I’m looking forward to finishing another book that has gotten some buzz in the past: The Bees by Laline Paull (Yes, I made that buzz pun on purpose). My boyfriend and I recently stayed at an Airbnb owned by beekeepers so I’m having a minor bee moment. They are fascinating! While The Bees, the story of worker bee Flora-717 and her intriguing life, is obviously The Bees, Laline Paull, Ecco, 2014fictional I’m happy to be reading about such important little creatures. I’m also hoping to finish The End of Men by Hannah Rosin. I started it at the beginning of the summer, but I took a break to read other things.

Al Rosenberg: I am also in the middle of A Room of One’s Own. It’s not my favorite of her works (I prefer Three Guineas) but it is still Woolf, and I’m a huge fan. Otherwise, I just finished all of Helen Oyeyemi’s works. Still digesting it all, I want to write something about her style that is worthy of her style. She’s so incredibly talented. If you’ve never picked up a book by her, do it now.

School has just started, and though I’m not in (formal) classes I’m attempting to amp up the self-learning. So I picked up Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future by Jason Epstein. I’m hoping it helps direct my self-learning about the publishing industry and points me in the direction of similar resources. I’m working on launching my own zine in the coming months, and feel a tiny bit out to sea.

The Copper Gauntlet, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, Scholastic, 2015Oh oh! I also got The Copper Gauntlet the day it came out, and finished it in a couple hours. I’m a pretty big Holly Black fan, and though I’m not a huge fan of this particular series it was a fun read.

Technically I’m in the middle of NINE BOOKS (thanks, Goodreads) and that seems right, but also like a problem. Finally picked up Valencia by Michelle Tea, so far: GREAT. Bought The Girl in the Spider’s Web and preparing to be very disappointed. Making my way slowly through Myles’ The Importance of Being Iceland. And though I’m reading as fast as I ever am, I’m still many books behind my Goodreads goal. Must go read now. (And I think I’m going to pick up Graceling next.)

Romona: This month I did a lot of light reading. I didn’t have as much focus as I normally have, but I did slog my way through four titles.

On the disappointing end, I read Ernest Cline’s Armada. I found the entire premise unexciting, like a souped up version of Terry Pratchett’s Only You Can Save Mankind, which I also found boring as hell. No disrespect to the late Pratchett, but we can all agree that particular book wasn’t good, right?

The second worst book of August was the 23rd volume of the Walking Dead Volume 23: Whispers Into Screams. I find everything about the zombie impersonating clan impractical. It just doesn’t make sense. How would the people ever separate from the herd of zombies to collect food and water? And being around zombies for long periods of time would get you sick, regardless of being bitten or not. Can you imagine the insects and bacteria on the zombies? And you’d be getting bit by flies, mosquitoes, and the like that had also fed on the zombies. Wouldn’t the zombies notice when the people went to sleep? Also, everything about the “rape is no longer a crime with my people” bit is disgusting. Yes, it is supposed to be disgusting, but What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami, Knopf, 2008everything about how it was handled made me sick to my stomach.

On the plus side, the second best book I read was What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. His experiences running sounded so positive and meditative that I almost half considered taking up running myself. But then I didn’t, because I hear running screws up your knees.

The best book of the past month was Yes Please by Amy Poehler which I finally got around to reading, and it was funny. Not hilarious, not shocking, not thought-provoking, but funny.

Christa: This past month has involved a lot of traveling for me. A little for fun but mostly for work. Which means I’ve spent more than my fair share of time on trains and planes catching up on my reading.

Earlier this year I read and fell in love with Jo Walton’s The Just City. A philosophical, not quite fantasy, not quite alternate history novel about the goddess Athene gathering up people from different cultures and time periods to try and create Plato’s Just City. This month I dove into the sequel, The Philosopher Kings, Jo Walton, Tor, 2015The Philosopher Kings. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much. It had a very different tone and some different characters who didn’t resonate in quite the same way. That being said it was still a brilliant novel and I can’t wait for the next installment.

Beyond that I read a number of interesting books, such as Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes by Jules Moulin, The Girl Without a Name by Sandra Block and The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle. None of them were bad books, but there was nothing particularly gripping about any of them either. Good for passing time on an airplane, but not books I’m going to start shoving into everyone’s hands.

Comics, however, have been a different story. I picked up The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver and devoured all 500 pages. Twice. I have a digital copy and the entire series is available online, but that still didn’t stop me from bookmarking the page where the print edition will soon be on sale. Then I read the latest from Kelly Thompson, Heart in a Box, a story about a young girl travelling across America to try and put her heart back together again—literally.  Go read both of these titles as fast as possible.