Classics Club Spin #24: The Number Is…

The drawing has been done!

Your Lucky Spin Number is 18

Number 18 on my list for this Spin is Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy.

It is the year 2000-and full employment, material abundance and social harmony can be found everywhere. This is the America to which Julian West, a young Bostonian, awakens after more than a century of sleep. West’s initial sense of wonder, his gradual acceptance of the new order and a new love, and Bellamy’s wonderful prophetic inventions – electric lighting, shopping malls, credit cards, electronic broadcasting – ensured the mass popularity of this 1888 novel. But however rich in fantasy and romance, Looking Backward is a passionate attack on the social ills of nineteenth-century industrialism and a plea for social reform and moral renewal.

I may have read this book in college, when it was still the 1990s, but the year 2000 was coming up fast. I took a class on Utopian Literature, and I’m pretty sure this was on the syllabus. We read some interesting work for that class, and I wish I still had the reading list, but since there’ve been 25 years and a 2,000-mile move between then and now, it’s not surprising that I don’t have it anymore.

If we did read it, I don’t think I remember anything about it. It’s always possible, though, that one of the “I know I read that somewhere” fragments in my brain will be found inside.

This is a much shorter book than my last lucky spin selection, so I might even make it by the end of September.

Classics Club Spin #24

The Classics Club have issued their latest challenge for another Classics Club Spin! Did I complete my challenge for the last spin? No, I did not. Am I going to try again? Yes, I am. Am I using the same list as last time except for the book that I was supposed to read for June? Again, yes, I am.

The idea is for members to select 20 books from their list of 50 classics which they have challenged themselves to read within five years, then read the selected book before 30 September 2020.

My Spin list:

  1. Iliad by Homer, translated by Caroline Alexander
  2. Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson
  3. Aenid by Virgil, translated by Sarah Ruden
  4. Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney
  5. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, translated by Dorothy Sayers
  6. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
  7. Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb
  8. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johnn D. Wyss
  9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  10. Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey
  11. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  12. Devil’s Pool by George Sand
  13. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
  14. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  15. Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  16. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  17. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  18. Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
  19. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard
  20. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in August 2020

A floral-patterned teacup on a saucer sits on a stack of thick books with yellowed pages.
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Time again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month. Publication dates are as listed in July 2020 and are subject to change.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis (August 4)

Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she’s wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library. But the job quickly becomes a nightmare when rare manuscripts, notes, and books for the exhibit Sadie’s running begin disappearing from the library’s famous Berg Collection. Determined to save both the exhibit and her career, the typically risk-adverse Sadie teams up with a private security expert to uncover the culprit. However, things unexpectedly become personal when the investigation leads Sadie to some unwelcome truths about her own family heritage–truths that shed new light on the biggest tragedy in the library’s history.

The Secret of You and Me by Melissa Lenhardt (August 4)

Sophie seems to have everything—a wonderful daughter, a successful husband and a rewarding career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. She still yearns for Nora—her best friend and first love—despite all the years between them. Keeping her true self hidden hasn’t been easy, but it’s been necessary. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it.

But they both find that first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites and old feelings resurface. As the forces of family and intolerance that once tore them apart begin to reemerge, they realize some things may never change—unless they demand it. 

The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Vanishing Explorers by Emily M. Levesque (August 4)

Humans from the earliest civilizations were spellbound by the night sky-craning their necks each night, they used the stars to orient themselves in the large, strange world around them. Stargazing is a pursuit that continues to fascinate us: from Copernicus to Carl Sagan, astronomers throughout history have spent their lives trying to answer the biggest questions in the universe. Now, award-winning astronomer Emily Levesque shares the stories of modern-day stargazers, the people willing to adventure across high mountaintops and to some of the most remote corners of the planet, all in the name of science.

From the lonely quiet of midnight stargazing to tall tales of wild bears loose in the observatory, The Last Stargazers is a love letter to astronomy and an affirmation of the crucial role that humans can and must play in the future of scientific discovery.

Looking for Miss America: A Pageant’s 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood by Margot Mifflin (August 4)

From its start in 1921 as an Atlantic City tourist draw to its current incarnation as a scholarship competition, the pageant has indexed women’s status during periods of social change―the post-suffrage 1920s, the Eisenhower 1950s, the #MeToo era. This ever-changing institution has been shaped by war, evangelism, the rise of television and reality TV, and, significantly, by contestants who confounded expectations.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (August 4)

Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi & Laura Shovan (August 11)

Sixth-graders Sara and Elizabeth could not be more different. Sara is at a new school that is huge and completely unlike the small Islamic school she used to attend. Elizabeth has her own problems: her British mum has been struggling with depression. The girls meet in an after-school South Asian cooking class, which Elizabeth takes because her mom has stopped cooking, and which Sara, who hates to cook, is forced to attend because her mother is the teacher. The girls form a shaky alliance that gradually deepens, and they make plans to create the most amazing, mouth-watering cross-cultural dish together and win a spot on a local food show. They make good cooking partners … but can they learn to trust each other enough to become true friends?

Booked for Death (Booklovers B&B Mysteries #1) by Victoria Gilbert (August 11)

Nestled in the historic waterfront town of Beaufort, North Carolina, Chapters Bed-and-Breakfast is a reader’s paradise. Built in 1770, the newly renovated inn hosts a roster of special events celebrating books, genres, and authors. It’s the perfect literary retreat–until a rare book dealer turns up dead in the carriage house during a celebration of Golden Age mystery author Josephine Tey.

The victim’s daughter points the finger at forty-two-year-old widow and former schoolteacher Charlotte Reed, who inherited the B&B from her great-aunt Isabella. Charlotte is shocked to discover that the book dealer suspected Isabella of being a thief who founded Chapters on her ill-gotten gains. Charlotte has successfully learned the B&B business in a year, but nothing has prepared her to handle a death on the premises.

The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South by Chip Jones (August 18)

In 1968, Bruce Tucker, a black man, went into Virginia’s top research hospital with a head injury, only to have his heart taken out of his body and put into the chest of a white businessman. Now, in The Organ Thieves, Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Chip Jones exposes the horrifying inequality surrounding Tucker’s death and how he was used as a human guinea pig without his family’s permission or knowledge. The circumstances surrounding his death reflect the long legacy of mistreating African Americans that began more than a century before with cadaver harvesting and worse. It culminated in efforts to win the heart transplant race in the late 1960s. 

Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor (August 18)

Nnamdi’s father was a good chief of police, perhaps the best Kalaria had ever had. He was determined to root out the criminals that had invaded the town. But then he was murdered, and most people believed the Chief of Chiefs, most powerful of the criminals, was responsible. Nnamdi has vowed to avenge his father, but he wonders what a twelve-year-old boy can do. Until a mysterious nighttime meeting, the gift of a magical object that enables super powers, and a charge to use those powers for good changes his life forever. How can he fulfill his mission? How will he learn to control his newfound powers?

The Sprawl: Reconsidering the Weird American Suburbs by Jason Diamond (August 25)

For decades the suburbs have been where art happens despite: despite the conformity, the emptiness, the sameness. Time and again, the story is one of gems formed under pressure and that resentment of the suburbs is the key ingredient for creative transcendence. But what if, contrary to that, the suburb has actually been an incubator for distinctly American art, as positively and as surely as in any other cultural hothouse? Mixing personal experience, cultural reportage, and history while rejecting clichés and pieties and these essays stretch across the country in an effort to show that this uniquely American milieu deserves another look.

The Deep by Alma Katsu

The Deep by Alma Katsu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Annie has come to understand the erratic ways of the insane — the crying fits, incoherent babblings, violent flinging of hands and feet. There is, after days and weeks and years, a kind of comforting rhythm to them. But no, she is not one of them. Of that she is certain.

Chapter One

In 1916, Annie Hebbley leaves Morninggate Asylum to join her friend Violet as a nurse on HMHS Britannic. She is uncertain of herself, her memories of her life before the asylum hazy. One thing she does know is that four years earlier, she and Violet worked together on another ship, the RMS Titanic. As the Britannic begins its voyage, Annie begins to remember exactly what happened aboard its doomed sister ship. There was something very wrong, something haunting the Titanic from the moment it set sail.

The Deep is a dual narrative, alternating between 1916 and 1912. It primarily follows Annie, but the perspective shifts among a few other characters as events unfold. Those events are mysterious and creepy, with a constant sensation of something lurking just out of sight, something terrible. The reader already knows what is about to happen to the ship, adding to the pressure while the time ticks away to April 14th.

Katsu fits her characters among some of the famous figures aboard the ship: Annie’s friend Violet is real-life survivor of both the Titanic and the Britannic disasters Violet Jessop. Period details melded with supernatural aspects create a gripping, atmospheric read.

I’ve seen this tagged as a horror novel, but it feels more like a historical mystery. A paranormal mystery centered on one of the most famous shipwrecks in the world.

Source: Started reading as an e-ARC from NetGalley, then checked the finished book out of the library.

Challenges: Read Harder 2020 (#7: A historical fiction novel not set in WWII)

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Tour de Fleece 2020

Lola during TdF 2019

I first joined in the fun that is the Tour de Fleece in 2014, spinning on a couple of drop spindles I had acquired. I’ve participated at least a little bit every year since, mostly as part of Team Sherlocked.

In 2018, I started taking a handspinning class through the Recreation & Parks Department, and I was able to borrow a wheel from my teacher. At the end of that year, I got my Kromski Sonata, and it was off to the races.

So to speak.

Gray yarn on spinning wheel bobbin in foreground, television screen showing a bike race in the background
“Cobble” merino and cobblestones

I’ve really enjoyed watching the Tour de France each summer. Last year, I sprang for the Cycling Pass, and I watched a few other races as well. The pass auto-renewed, but the 2020 Tour is another thing postponed due to COVID-19.

Yet, the Tour de Fleece goes on. A whole bunch of folks are spinning away on the original TdF 2020 schedule: June 27 to July 19. And NBC is airing memorable stages from past Tours for the Cycling Pass. Stage 12 from 2016 – probably the stage that stands out in my memory – is slated for Thursday, July 9.

This is the first year that I’ve been spinning as an official member of Team GLASG, since I finally joined the guild a couple of months ago. Between Saturday work shifts and The Kid’s piano lessons, I wasn’t able to attend the meetings before. I have to say, my yarn-oriented life has gotten a lot more social since we all settled in “Safer at Home”.

My main project for the first week of the Tour has been two braids of extrafine merino in “Cobble”, a gorgeous gray, from Stranded Dyeworks.

My goal was to spin it for a 2-ply fingering or lighter weight. It looks good; we’ll see how it turns out after a nice soak.

Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in July 2020

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is literature-3091212_1920-300x200.jpg
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Time again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month. Publication dates are as listed in June 2020 and are subject to change.

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang (July 1)

New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it?

A ravenous reader and researcher, Tillie has something of an addiction to truth, and she won’t rest until she unravels the mystery of her sister’s death. Unfortunately, Tillie’s addicted to more than just truth; to ease the pain from a recent injury, she’s taking more and more laudanum…and some in her immediate circle are happy to keep her well supplied.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (July 7)

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Little Bookshop of Murder (Beach Reads Mystery #1) by Maggie Blackburn (July 7)

Clearly, something is rotten on Brigid’s Island. What method is behind the madness? Was Hildy murdered? The police insist there’s not enough evidence to launch a murder investigation. Instead, Summer and her Aunt Agatha screw their courage to the sticking place and start sleuthing, with the help of Hildy’s beloved book club. But there are more suspects on Brigid’s Island than are dreamt of in the Bard’s darkest philosophizing.

Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team by Elise Hooper (July 7)

In the 1928 Olympics, Chicago’s Betty Robinson competes as a member of the first-ever women’s delegation in track and field. Destined for further glory, she returns home feted as America’s Golden Girl until a nearly-fatal airplane crash threatens to end everything.

Outside of Boston, Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her town, sees competing as an opportunity to overcome the limitations placed on her. Eager to prove that she has what it takes to be a champion, she risks everything to join the Olympic team.

From Missouri, Helen Stephens, awkward, tomboyish, and poor, is considered an outcast by her schoolmates, but she dreams of escaping the hardships of her farm life through athletic success. Her aspirations appear impossible until a chance encounter changes her life.

The Nesting Dolls by Alina Adams (July 14)

Odessa, 1931. Marrying the handsome, wealthy Edward Gordon, Daria—born Dvora Kaganovitch—has fulfilled her mother’s dreams. But a woman’s plans are no match for the crushing power of Stalin’s repressive Soviet state. To survive, Daria is forced to rely on the kindness of a man who takes pride in his own coarseness.

Odessa, 1970. Brilliant young Natasha Crystal is determined to study mathematics. But the Soviets do not allow Jewish students—even those as brilliant as Natasha—to attend an institute as prestigious as Odessa University. With her hopes for the future dashed, Natasha must find a new purpose—one that leads her into the path of a dangerous young man.

Brighton Beach, 2019. Zoe Venakovsky, known to her family as Zoya, has worked hard to leave the suffocating streets and small minds of Brighton Beach behind her—only to find that what she’s tried to outrun might just hold her true happiness.

Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-Up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House by Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz (July 14)

The year was 1973, and the vice president in question was Spiro T. Agnew, Richard Nixon’s second-in-command. Long on firebrand rhetoric and short on political experience, Agnew had carried out a bribery and extortion ring in office for years, when–at the height of Watergate–three young federal prosecutors discovered his crimes and launched a mission to take him down before it was too late. Before Nixon’s downfall made way for Agnew to ascend to the presidency himself. Agnew did everything he could to bury their investigation: dismissing it as a “witch hunt,” riling up his partisan base, making the press the enemy, and, with a crumbling circle of loyalists, scheming to obstruct justice.

Spindle City by Jotham Burrello (July 21)

On June 23, 1911-a summer day so magnificent it seems as if God himself has smiled on the town-Fall River, Massachusetts, is reveling in its success. The Cotton Centennial is in full swing as Joseph Bartlett takes his place among the local elite in the parade grandstand. The meticulously planned carnival has brought the thriving textile town to an unprecedented halt; rich and poor alike crowd the streets, welcoming President Taft to America’s “Spindle City.”

Yet as he perches in the grandstand nursing a nagging toothache, Joseph Bartlett straddles the divide between Yankee mill owners and the union bosses who fight them. Bartlett, a renegade owner, fears the town cannot long survive against the union-free South. He frets over the ever-present threat of strikes and factory fires, knowing his own fortune was changed by the drop of a kerosene lantern. When the Cleveland Mill burned, good men died, and immigrant’s son Joseph Bartlett gained a life of privilege he never wanted.

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (July 21)

In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders—Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.

In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson (July 21)

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch, illustrated by Victoria Ying (July 28)

Hyper-gifted artist Rhodes has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts despite a secret bout of creator’s block, while transfer student Iliana tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce.

They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a graphic novel. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other…a lot. When the truth comes out, will they destroy each other’s future?

Con Quest! by Sam Maggs

Con Quest! by Sam Maggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cat is determined that this is the year she and her twin brother – Team DoubleTrouble – are going to win the Quest, giving her talented artist brother a shot at a mentorship, and giving her a whole week spending time with her favorite celebrity doing charity work. The Quest is the world’s biggest scavenger hunt. Its list of nearly impossible tasks is posted just before GeekiCon, which most definitely does not endorse the event. All they have to do is complete the most tasks without getting stopped by their parents (who are late to the panel on their own famous comic series), their older sister Fiona (who would rather be just about anywhere else), or Con staff (who take a dim view of this whole scavenger hunt business). Easy, right?

Alex would like the opportunity to be mentored by a professional artist, but the GeekiCon scene is overwhelming. He is much more interested in playing a video game to calm his anxiety about being in such a huge crowd. He’s generally let Cat lead the way, but he’s starting to feel like maybe he should stand up for himself a little more. Cat seems ready to do anything to win this year, but is victory worth the cost?

Fiona is going to watch her twin siblings all day while her parents are busy doing professional stuff at GeekiCon, in hopes that she will prove herself responsible enough for them to allow her to go on a camping trip with other teens. Spending the day cooped up inside a convention center full of obsessive fans is the opposite of her idea of a good time; she’d much rather be outdoors, playing soccer or spending time with Ethan and “the rest of the cool people in tenth grade”. When the twins give her the slip, she joins forces with an unlikely ally to track them down, and she might even have some fun.

Con Quest! is a love-letter to fandom. It is easy to identify the real world media franchises playfully presented as Star Worlds, Paranormal, and Adventure of Zenia. (My personal favorite is Whom, M.D.) Chapter narration rotates from Cat to Alex to Fiona, giving their individual takes on the action around them and each other. They all have their own flaws and strengths, as well as lessons to learn.

This is a fun romp with a big heart. Love and family are central themes, in all the glorious variety of ways human beings form families and show love. Be drawn into the story by the action, but don’t be surprised if you fall a little bit in love along the way.

Source: e-ARC courtesy of NetGalley.

Challenges: None

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Down the TBR Hole #23

One of these weeks, I’ll post something other than Down the TBR Hole. This is not that week.

Down the TBR Hole was originally created over at Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway by Doug Most
Published: February 4, 2014
On TBR Since: January 11, 2014

Still interested in this slice of history

Stay or Go: Stay

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
Published: January 28, 2014
On TBR Since: January 11, 2014

I should probably read Middlemarch first, and that’s not likely to happen for a while.

Stay or Go: Go

Adventures in Yarn Farming: Four Seasons on a New England Fiber Farm by Barbara Parry
Published: November 12, 2013
On TBR Since: November 24, 2013

Did someone say yarn?

Stay or Go: Stay

The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki
Published: February 11, 2014
On TBR Since: December 20, 2013

Meh.

Stay or Go: Go

The Case of the Baker Street Irregular by Robert Newman
Published: 1978
On TBR Since: January 6, 2014

Sherlock Holmes for kids. I’ll get my hands on a copy eventually.

Stay or Go: Stay

Muppet Sherlock Holmes by Patrick Storck, Amy Mebberson
Published: March 1, 2011
On TBR Since: January 6, 2014

Wait a second. I read this! But I never marked it as read. And I want to read it again, anyway.

Stay or Go: Stay

The Inheritor’s Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science by Sandra Hempel
Published: October 15, 2013
On TBR Since: January 8, 2014

There’s definitely a theme this week.

Stay or Go: Stay

Fan Phenomena: Sherlock Holmes edited by Tom Ue, Jonathan L. Cranfield
Published: July 15, 2014
On TBR Since: January 23, 2014

And continuing the theme….

Stay or Go: Stay

Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street: The Life of the World’s First Consulting Detective by William S. Baring-Gould
Published: 1962
On TBR Since: January 26, 2014

I actually started reading this last year, but set it aside so long that I just bumped it back to TBR.

Stay or Go: Stay

Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart M. Brown Jr., Christopher Vaughan
Published: March 5, 2009
On TBR Since: May 3, 2014

There are a couple more recent books that look more at how this ties to children’s librarianship.

Stay or Go: Go

Seven staying, three going. And one of those staying will be a re-read.

Down the TBR Hole #22

Posting two weeks in a row! Go me.

Down the TBR Hole was originally created over at Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year by Kjerstin Gruys
Published: May 2, 2013
On TBR Since: May 29, 2013

As much as I enjoy a “Do A Thing For A Year” memoir, I’m not feeling this one anymore.

Stay or Go: Go

The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” by Alan Light
Published: December 4, 2012
On TBR Since: July 23, 2013

“Hallelujah” is one of two songs I’ve learned a fingerpicking pattern for on ukulele. And I still want to read this.

Stay or Go: Stay

The Case For Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World by Susan Linn
Published: April 1, 2008
On TBR Since: August 14, 2013

This was under Professional Reading, but there are other, newer, more library-focused titles.

Stay or Go: Go

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman
Published: October 8, 2013
On TBR Since: August 21, 2013

I want to want to read it, but I just don’t.

Stay or Go: Go

Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnoisis, Hormones, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging by Lauren Kessler
Published: June 4, 2013
On TBR Since: August 21, 2013

This one still looks like fun.

Stay or Go: Stay

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
Published: January 28, 2014
On TBR Since: October 28, 2013

Speaking of “fun”. And still interesting

Stay or Go: Stay

Chasing Shackleton: Re-creating the World’s Greatest Journey of Survival by Tim Jarvis
Published: January 7, 2014
On TBR Since: October 28, 2013

This is not even up for questioning. Next.

Stay or Go: Stay

A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America by Evan Mandery
Published: August 19, 2013
On TBR Since: October 28, 2013

I have feelings about capital punishment. I would like to have better-informed feelings.

Stay or Go: Stay

Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate by Rose George
Published: August 6, 2013
On TBR Since: October 28, 2013

The reviews suggest this is more “stunt memoir” than “investigative journalism”, and I’m good with that.

Stay or Go: Stay

One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
Published: August 1, 2013
On TBR Since: October 29, 2013

I generally enjoy Bryson’s writing, but I can’t quite get excited about this one.

Stay or Go: Go

Six staying, four going. Again. I wonder what was happening in June of 2013 – I seem to have abandoned GoodReads that month.

Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in May 2020

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Time again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month.

1. Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History by Jaipreet Virdi (May 1)

Through lyrical history and personal memoir, Hearing Happiness raises pivotal questions about deafness in American society and the endless quest for a cure. Taking us from the 1860s up to the present, Virdi combs archives and museums in order to understand the long history of curious cures: hearing trumpets, violet-ray apparatuses, pneumomassages, electrotherapy machines, airplane diving, bloodletting, skull hammering, and many more. Hundreds of procedures and products have promised grand miracles but always failed to deliver—a legacy that is still present in contemporary biomedicine.

2. Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change, and Courage by Tori Amos (May 5)

Since the release of her first, career-defining solo album Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos has been one of the music industry’s most enduring and ingenious artists. From her unnerving depiction of sexual assault in “Me and a Gun” to her post-9/11 album Scarlet’s Walk to her latest album Native Invader, her work has never shied away from intermingling the personal with the political.

3. Death by Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts by Kathryn Harkup (May 5)

Shakespeare found 74 different ways to kill off his characters, and audiences today still enjoy the same reactions–shock, sadness, fear–that they did over 400 years ago when these plays were first performed. But how realistic are these deaths, and did Shakespeare have the science to back them up?

4. Tasting Qualities: The Past and Future of Tea by Sarah Besky (May 12)

What is the role of quality in contemporary capitalism? How is a product as ordinary as a bag of tea judged for its quality? In her innovative study, Sarah Besky addresses these questions by going inside an Indian auction house where experts taste and appraise mass-market black tea, one of the world’s most recognized commodities. Pairing rich historical data with ethnographic research among agronomists, professional tea tasters and traders, and tea plantation workers, Besky shows how the meaning of quality has been subjected to nearly constant experimentation and debate throughout the history of the tea industry.

5. The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch by Miles Harvey (May 12)

In the summer of 1843, James Strang, a charismatic young lawyer and avowed atheist, vanished from a rural town in New York. Months later he reappeared on the Midwestern frontier and converted to a burgeoning religious movement known as Mormonism. In the wake of the murder of the sect’s leader, Joseph Smith, Strang unveiled a letter purportedly from the prophet naming him successor, and persuaded hundreds of fellow converts to follow him to an island in Lake Michigan, where he declared himself a divine king.

6. Sunny Days: Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, and the Children’s Television Revolution by David Kamp (May 12)

In 1970, on a soundstage on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a group of men, women, and Muppets of various ages and colors worked doggedly to finish the first season of a children’s TV program that was not yet assured a second season: Sesame Street. They were conducting an experiment to see if television could be used to better prepare disadvantaged preschoolers for kindergarten. What they didn’t know then was that they were starting a cultural revolution that would affect all American kids.

7. We Had No Rules by Corrine Manning (May 12)

A young teenager runs from her family’s conservative home to her sister’s NY apartment to learn a very different set of rules. A woman grieves the loss of a sister, a “gay divorce,” and the pain of unacknowledged abuse with the help of a lone wallaby on a farm in Washington State. A professor of women’s and gender studies revels in academic and sexual power but risks losing custody of the family dog.

8. Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake (May 12)

Fungi throw our concepts of individuality and even intelligence into question. They are metabolic masters, earth makers, and key players in most of life’s processes. They can change our minds, heal our bodies, and even help us remediate environmental disaster. By examining fungi on their own terms, Sheldrake reveals how these extraordinary organisms–and our relationships with them–are changing our understanding of how life works.

9. The Language of Butterflies: How Thieves, Hoarders, Scientists, and Other Obsessives Unlocked the Secrets of the World’s Favorite Insect by Wendy Williams (May 12)

Monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles each year from Canada to Mexico. Other species have learned how to fool ants into taking care of them. Butterflies’ scales are inspiring researchers to create new life-saving medical technology. Williams takes readers to butterfly habitats across the globe and introduces us to not only various species, but to the scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying them.

10. The Equivalents: The Untold Story of the Five Friends Who Started a Personal, Political, and Artistic Revolution by Maggie Doherty (May 19)

In 1960, at the height of an era that expected women to focus solely on raising families, Radcliffe College announced the founding of an Institute for Independent Study, offering fellowships to women with a Ph.D. or “the equivalent” in artistic success. Acclaimed writer and Harvard lecturer Maggie Doherty introduces us to five brilliant friends–poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, painter Barbara Swan, sculptor Marianna Pineda, and writer Tillie Olsen–who came together at the Institute and would go on to make history. Drawing from their notebooks, letters, lecture recordings, journals, and finished works, Doherty weaves from these women’s own voices a moving narrative of friendship, ambition, activism, and art.