Tuesday, May 21, 2013

ttt: favorite book covers

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on the Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Favorite Book Covers.

And like, well, just about everyone, I'm guilty of judging a book by its cover. If a book has a striking or interesting or just plain pretty cover, I'll inevitably pick it up. My screening process is more rigorous than just a glance at the cover (I always check the Goodreads average rating and never read books with a score below 3.5 stars), but a charming cover is still worth quite a lot. Not only does a cover make me pick up a book, it makes me want to love the book and want show it off to reader friends.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorites.

And not only are these books beautiful, they're great reads as well!

Top Ten Favorite Book Covers





What are some of your favorite book covers? Did the book inside match the beautiful cover?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

ttt: light and fun books

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on the Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Books When You Need Something Light and Fun. And you know what I learned?

I don't read light and fun books.

Well, I do, of course, or I couldn't write this list, but amongst the dozens of books I read each year, light and fun books are rare. I had to do some very careful scanning of my Goodreads bookshelf before I was able to find ten books that are even worthy of the adjectives light and fun.

It's not that I don't like light and fun books. I do (especially when they're as good as the ten listed below!). But I do prefer darker, more mysterious reads. That said, if anyone has any light and fun book recommendations, I would be thrilled to hear them. I'm clearly not an expert.

Top Ten Light and Fun Books

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (by Douglas Adams). Hilarious and very clever. It's a classic for a reason.

2. Anna and the French Kiss (by Stephanie Perkins). Despite some issues with the logistics/characters, I was completely charmed with this story of a girl in Paris.

3. Where'd You Go, Bernadette (by Maria Semple). One of my favorite books I read last year. Funny, quirky, full of charm and wit. Loved it.

4. Let's Pretend This Never Happened (by Jenny Lawson). This is the only nonfiction book on the list. It's a memoir and it's absolutely hilarious. One of my favorite books of this year.

5. How I Became a Famous Novelist (by Steve Hely). An outlandish look at the publishing industry and what makes a book good vs. what makes it popular.

6. I Capture the Castle (by Dodie Smith). There are some dramatic moments, but when I think of this book, I think mostly of the pretty sisters, their old castle of a house, their crazy (and often nude) stepmother, and their romances with the cute neighbor boys. It's not completely light, but it's definitely fun.

7. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone (by JK Rowling). Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!

8. The Princess Diaries (by Meg Cabot). Awkward teen Mia finds out she's a princess. If that doesn't qualify as light and fun, I don't know what does.

9. Submarine (by Joe Dunthorne). Very charming and funny. The story of a strange British boy trying to figure out his first relationship, his parents' relationship, and the rest of his life.

10. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (by Sherman Alexie). A combination of very sad (and heavy) and very fun (and light). It's the story of a boy trying to balance his life on an Indian rez with his new life as a student at a rich all-white school. It even includes cartoons!

What are your favorite light and fun reads?

Monday, May 6, 2013

book fair finds

Every year my hometown has a big book fair in April, but I've missed it the past four years because I was away at school. But not this year! Last week I hit up the sale (which is so big, it's held in a mall parking lot!) and walked away with an armful of great reads.

I've read (and obviously really enjoyed) half of my finds:

1. Little Children by Tom Perrotta
2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
3. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
4. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

And the other half, I've just heard really good things about (and at $1-2, couldn't pass up):

5. Kafka at the Shore by Haruki Murakami 
6. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
7. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
8. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

By the time I was through, my arms were sore! That's either an indication of (1) a successful hour of book buying, (2) weak girly arms, or (3) the need to bring a grocery bag next time. Or in my case, all three.

I'm thrilled I was able to find so many great books, and I only paid about $10 total! 

The only frustrating part about it is that when there are so many tables of books (haphazardly split into basic sections like fiction, nonfiction, cooking, travel, etc.), it's impossible to carefully consider every book. You can walk slowly through the aisles and scan your eyes across all the spines, but you never know what you might miss in a moment of distraction. For example, I was really hoping to find some books by Kate Atkinson, but I'm not very familiar with the spines/fonts/designs of her books, so even if they were there, my eyes probably skipped right past them. 

If I had my way, the books would be organized both by section and author. So I could head on over to the A section in fiction and check it more carefully to be sure I wasn't missing Atkinson. 

Anyone else get frustrated with book fairs because of the disorganization? It's kinda like vintage shopping or going to garage sales. You never know what you're missing! But at the same time, I suppose, when you do find something, it's like you've struck gold. You get that feeling of accomplishment, like you've really worked to find that book.

Have you read any of my new books?

Which should I read first?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

tiny beautiful things: advice on love and life from dear sugar

I love advice columns and am a loyal follower of Dear Prudence (on Slate.com), but Sugar is my new favorite. 

While most advice columns follow the rules of propriety and logic, Dear Sugar is about the heart. She (Sugar a.k.a. Cheryl Strayed) seems to genuinely care about each and every letter-writer. So much so that often, she writes about her own life in her responses (exposing many intimate secrets in the process). This makes her advice unique, but the other reason her column is unique (and a large part of the reason I enjoyed this book) is that both her letters and her responses are very well written. She is clearly not a psychiatrist; she is a writer with a lot of experience, love, and wisdom. And as she says in a FAQ (nestled within the letters and advice, the book features a few short sections of FAQs with Sugar), the reason the letters she publishes/answers are so well-written is that, amongst the hundreds (thousands?) of letters she receives, those that are thoughtful and written with care are the most likely to stand out and make the cut.

The questions vary widely: there is a father whose gay son has died; there is a bride-to-be wondering if we can expect our spouses to be forever faithful; there is a writer suffering from jealousy; a writer fearing that she will never publish a book; a graduate who feels stifled by his student loans; several girls who want and fear breaking up with their longtime boyfriends; an unattractive man who fears he will never find true love; etc. No, you won't identify with every writer, but I'm certain that at least one will make you sit up straight and think about your own life a little. And even when I couldn't imagine what the writer was going through (like those revolving around motherhood, death of a close loved one, or abuse), their stories were interesting and Sugar's advice expands beyond that writer's small, singular problem. 

You should also know going into this that Sugar has a very unique voice. I realize this is wrong, but sometimes I imagined her as an old drag queen. That's the kind of voice she has (in my head): sassy, maternal, calm, wise, confident. She frequently uses endearments like "sweet pea," but she also likes to curse. 

And I love that Sugar doesn't write from a place of superiority. Instead of saying "It is wrong to ___ and you need to do better than that," she says "It is wrong to ____, but it happens to all of us. It even happened to me. But you must try to do better than that." She frequently exposes her own flaws and mistakes, while at the same time maintaining that (though it's hard--sometimes it even seems impossible), it's important to try to be your best self. Step into the other person's shoes. Act from a place of empathy. Be magnanimous. Don't worry so much. Trust that things will work out. 

TITLE: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
AUTHOR: Cheryl Strayed
PUBLICATION DATE: 1 January 2012
DATE FINISHED: 30 April 2013
VERDICT: 4/5 stars. An interesting book of wonderful advice given by an experienced, sassy, loving columnist.

Here are some of my favorite bits:

"You’re going to be all right. And you’re going to be all right not because you majored in English or didn’t and not because you plan to apply to law school or don’t, but because all right is almost always where we eventually land, even if we fuck up entirely along the way."

"The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave your arms or not. These things are your becoming."

"Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work."

"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 . . . So write, Elissa Bassist. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker."
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