Tag Archives: reading

My Reading Wheelhouse: the books that give me the vapors

 

Cat leaping toward books in a bookshop
My spirit animal in action

 

Being such an avid reader, I have grown to understand those types of books which make me weak in the knees, give me the vapors, and generally have me leaping in the air to grab any book that fits my specific loves.

In no particular order, I love the following categories.  I included some examples of how I describe them.  These books may not have all been 5 stars but they fit this concept, in my mind at least.

 

What I want to attempt to read more of in the future:

  • Short stories– What I tend to find is that many short stories pack a punch with strange twists or awkward interactions at the center.  I don’t generally enjoy those as they leave me a bit sad and cold.  I like more emotive than plot based short stories. I read The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpha Lahiri and it was a bullseye for everything I was looking for in a short story collection.  It was evocative, thoughtful, poignant and very beautifully written.  I fell in love with the cover of the Clarice Lispector work of Complete Stories and so when I read some fantastic reviews of it, I went out and bought a copy. I anticipate that the hunt for more lovely short stories collections will be something that I continue in 2016.
  • Non-fiction tales about death and dying– Not really the party pleaser of topics, but recently I have been drawn to a more nuanced understanding of death, dying, grief, and all the things that go with it.  Not for any specific reason, but I think reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara last year opened this door on the nature of suffering and questions of the inevitability of death.  I have a few books waiting in the wings for when I feel able to devote the mental and emotional space to reading them.  They are: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and an ARC of the  newly released When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
    • Science Fiction– I am late to this party.  There have been a few scifi books that made indelible impressions upon me (I’m talking about you, Dune !) but it isn’t a genre that I felt confident in exploring.  But last year’s Read Harder Challenge had a science fiction book as one of the tasks and in researching it, I found a treasure trove of material.  I was swept away by Moxyland by Lauren Beukes.  It was fun, sporadic, modern and filled with action.  I also read The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell which blew my mind with the plot complexity, the rich characters and the depths of the themes explored.  This year I have ventured a little deeper into the genre with N.K. Jemisin’s The Killing Moon.  That book came from a discussion of The Sparrow I had at a party and it was suggested that I look into her work.  What a revelation!  It hit so many of my most loved categories- lush writing, a swashbuckling tale, with political intrigue thrown in. I am looking forward to the second book in that series.  And then I just read an amazing book, which is probably no surprise to anyone else in the reading world… Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. What a stunning read!  And in all fairness, it isn’t a straight genre read or a straight literary fiction book, but something in between.  But that in between was magical.

Any suggestions along the themes I listed above?

If only they would stop publishing so I could catch up…

I had my first moment of being afraid of getting old last year.  It was a true, deep, emotional panic about time slipping through my hands.  And it wasn’t so much about aging, but the realization that I will never be able to read all the books I want to, especially given the pace of publishing.  That thought gave me the vapors.

Once I had cleared my head and accepted this truth, I had to figure out how to adapt.  My plan became simple-

  1. Don’t finish crappy books in hopes that it will get better.
  2. Do not finish books that you just aren’t liking because you hope that you will “get it” by hanging in there.
  3. Don’t feel pressured by people to read their favorite book if it isn’t in your wheelhouse, or you straight-up know that you have differing tastes.
  4. Don’t feel pressured to read something just because it was deemed a classic. (I’m talking to you, Moby Dick.)
  5. Do spend time seeking out books that sounds exciting, challenging, interesting among what’s being published now and throughout the year so you can get ahead of the game.

To that end, I started listening more regularly to bookish podcasts, to get both recommendations on what book lovers liked, and to hear about upcoming releases that I may want to put on my list. This, of all my other techniques, was the most successful at alleviating the fears that I was missing out and gave me something (many things) to look forward to from the publishing world.

Here are my favorites (in no particular order of preference):

Simon Savidge’s gentle snark makes me laugh. And I like the interplay between him and Thomas Otto, who have different tastes in books, but clearly have a fun tension at play in the podcasts.

Ann Kingman raved so passionately about a book, that I immediately preordered it, and I am thrilled that I did because it means that I was able to read A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara the week it was released.  (Being perfectly honest, I inhaled every devastating moment of that tome in 2 days.)   And Michael Kindness also delivered this year with a beautiful recommendation for one of his favorite books, Any Human Heart by William Boyd.

Seriously- can we talk a moment about Angela Ledgerwood’s buttery voice for just a moment? I could listen to her read the phone book. It’s so beautiful!  She is a great interviewer and some of the most memorable author interviews I heard last year have been on her show.

I really like the ensemble feel they have with this podcast.  There is always something to think about or a book to add to my TBR (To Be Read) pile after listening to their episodes. And I especially like that they have varied tastes and come at the topics and suggestions from all sorts of angles.  Plus they aren’t book snobby, so they get an A+ from me on that point.

You really can’t go wrong with any of these options.  The Book Riot team have a number of podcasts, and I listen to their offerings most regularly.  Their engagement, passion and drive to make reading fun, diverse, and free from judgement is what keeps me coming back.

Are there others that you love that I have missed?  Please leave a comment below and let me know!

2016- And we are off to the races!

They say that you should start the New Year off in a purposeful way, because what you do on that day will set the course for the rest of the year.  I certainly hope that is the case, because I spent Jan.1, 2016 lounging by a pool, reading a book that was an absolute delight, and finishing it at a clipped pace.

Last year was a fantastic year of reading for me.  I participated in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, which propelled me into more thoughtful and challenging reading than I had ever before, in all my years of reading.  I have always been good about updating my reading on Goodreads, but I also wanted to see if I would get a different result if I tried to set a goal number.  So I set a random goal of 40 books for 2015 and blew that out of the water.

I listened to a lot of literary podcasts last year, and it made me more aware of what was being published and  getting editorial buzz.  I do think that helped me to maintain a crazy pace of reading, because everything I read was more likely a good pick, as opposed to years before when I would just pull books from the library shelves and check them out based on cover/ back blurb.  And I was excited to finish one fantastic read, knowing that my TBR (To Be Read) pile was filled with other exciting curated reads.  So I feel that the time spent to seek out and follow the buzz, and then find the material that matched my interests, was time well spent.

That also made pushing myself to do other things, like taking on the challenge, a bit easier.  I really struggled with some of the categories, and I will save that for another post.  But suffice it to say, I enjoyed the treasure hunt aspect of trying to find a book I would like in the designated categories, and not being afraid to walk away from it if it wasn’t working for me.


 

So what’s on deck for 2016?

  • Well, definitely the 2016 Read Harder Challenge.
  • I have also raised my Goodreads goal for this year to be 50 books, which will be more of a forcing function to make sure that I update each book as I go.
  • I am toying with the idea of starting a booktube channel.  We will see how that goes.  I am most worried about the time needed for the editing process. (Any ideas or suggestions for me, please leave me a comment below.)
  • I want to read more books in translation, and not just from European countries.  I would like to read more from South American, African and South East Asian authors this year.  To that end, I already have the following lined up

Please let me know if you have any South American or South East Asian writers that you love, or other works in translation that you are looking forward to reading.

Here’s wishing all readers a bounty of amazing literary adventures in 2016!