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Zoë's 2017 Challenge

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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Edited: Dec 27, 2017, 6:49pm Top

Well, I guess it's past time! It's been a busy year already: we drove back from Canada on the 2nd, then flew out to Atlanta for a conference the next day. The conference was more tiring than average because I was giving a talk, but we did fit in a day and a half at the end to see friends (though unfortunately not Darryl, due to weather) and do a tiny bit of sightseeing (specifically the MLK historic site). The day after we flew back, I woke up at 6:15am to drive to Oneonta for a 9am workshop (yesterday morning). So that brings us to today. I had high plans for a productive work day now that my schedule is no longer stuffed, but instead I'm just tired and have done nothing much in the three hours that I've been awake, despite sleeping 10h48m last night. So I might as well start this thread instead.

I've decided to set my yearly reading target at only 50 books this year, since I have other priorities to focus on (specifically, finishing my dissertation now that I finally have a bit of peace and quiet!).

As usual, this first message will contain a list of all the books that I read throughout the year.

Books Read in 2017

1. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
2. March, Book One by John Lewis
3. Full Package by Lauren Blakely

4. March, Book Two by John Lewis
5. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
6. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

7. A Hope More Powerful than the Sea by Melissa Fleming
8. *The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
9. The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert
10. Eva's Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott

11. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
12. Eva Sees a Ghost by Rebecca Elliott


13. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
14. My Name Is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling
15. The Education of Augie Merasty by Augie Merasty
16. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
17. Invisible North by Alexandra Shimo

18. Wenjack by Joseph Boyden
19. The Knocked Up Plan by Lauren Blakely
20. Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker
21. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

22. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
23. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
24. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

25. Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jonny Sun
26. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

27. Refugee by Alan Gratz

28. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

29. Dear World by Bana Alabed
30. Desperately Seeking Santa by Eli Easton
31. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Edited: Dec 27, 2017, 7:01pm Top

Reading Progress

Books in Progress that I Didn't Read Last Month But Mean to Finish Eventually

Started 2017
The Productivity Project (17%)
I Know How She Does It (p. 78 of 286)
Strangers in Their Own Land (p. 55 of 261)
Happiness Is: 500 things to be happy about (p. 48 of 271)
Educating Esmé (p. 75 of 263)
Doing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Mathematics (p. 7 of 206)
Requiem for the American Dream (p. 11 of 157)
The Shame of the Nation (p. 34 of 338)
Hold Fast to Dreams (p. 58 of 302)
Why We March (p. 110 of 264)
Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio (49%)
Between the World and Me (p. 82 of 152)
Island of the Blue Dolphins (65%)
Children of the Broken Treaty (p. 125 of 290)
P.S. I Still Love You (31%)
Small Teaching (p. 51 of 272)

Started 2016
Understanding Mass Incarceration (p. 63 of 234)
Organize Now! A Week-by-Week Action Plan for a Happier, Healthier Life by Jennifer Ford Berry (47% done; p. 104 of 226)
The Speech by Bernie Sanders (p. 72 of 255)
Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam (p. 32 of 277)
Cast in Secret (12%)
Humans of New York: Stories (p. 39 of 428)
North American Indians: A Very Short Introduction (p. 14 of 130)
So You've Been Publicly Shamed (p. 84 of 282)
Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (p. 114 of 395)
Throne of Jade (p. 178 of 398)
Missoula (63%)
Weapons of Math Destruction (p. 42 of 218)
The Math Myth (p. 70 of 204)
My Name is Seepeetza (p. 75 of 126)
Spark Joy (p. 206 of 282)
Hillbilly Elegy (p. 146 of 261)

Started 2015
Discussion in the College Classroom
Whistling Vivaldi (p. 121 of 219)
On Course (p. 110 of 315)
Mathematical Mindsets
Possessing the Secret of Joy (70% done, p. 207 of 316)

January in progress
Completed Spark Joy
Completed March, Book One
Completed Full Package
The Productivity Project (17%)
I Know How She Does It (p. 78 of 286)
Hillbilly Elegy (p. 182 of 261)
Allegedly (49%)
My Name is Seepeetza (p. 79 of 126)

February in progress
Completed March: Book Two
Completed Hillbilly Elegy
Completed Allegedly
The Willoughbys (p. 40 of 164)
Humans of New York: Stories (p. 49 of 428)
My Name is Seepeetza (p. 88 of 126)
A Hope More Powerful than the Sea (13%)

March in progress
Completed A Hope More Powerful than the Sea
Completed The Willoughbys
Completed The Professor's Daughter
Completed Eva's Treetop Festival
My Name is Seepeetza (p. 93 of 126)
Strangers in Their Own Land (p. 55 of 261)
Why We March (p. 97 of 264)
Lady Midnight (p. 339 of 698)

April in progress
Completed Lady Midnight
Completed Eva Sees a Ghost

May in progress
Happiness Is: 500 things to be happy about (p. 48 of 271)
Educating Esmé (p. 75 of 263)
Doing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Mathematics (p. 7 of 206)
Requiem for the American Dream (p. 11 of 157)
The Shame of the Nation (p. 34 of 338)
The Hate U Give (13%)
Hold Fast to Dreams (p. 58 of 302)

June in progress
Completed The Hate U Give
Completed My Name is Seepeetza
Completed The Education of Augie Merasty
Completed When Dimple Met Rishi
Completed Invisible North
Why We March (p. 110 of 264)
No More Heroes (p. 49 of 207)

July in progress
Completed Wenjack
Completed The Knocked Up Plan
Completed Possessing the Secret of Joy
Completed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Children of the Broken Treaty (p. 103 of 290)
No More Heroes (p. 129 of 207)
Island of the Blue Dolphins (41%)
Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio (28%)
The Upside of Unrequited (13%)

August in progress
Completed The Upside of Unrequited
Completed Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
Completed To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (11%)
Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio (49%)
Everyone's a Aliebn when Ur a Aliebn Too (in progress, no page numbers)
Between the World and Me (p. 82 of 152)
Island of the Blue Dolphins (65%)
Children of the Broken Treaty (p. 125 of 290)
P.S. I Still Love You (18%)
Hidden Figures (p. xvii of 265)

September in progress
Completed Everyone's a Aliebn when Ur a Aliebn Too
Completed We Should All Be Feminists
Hidden Figures (p. 66 of 265)
P.S. I Still Love You (31%)
Refugee (p. 118 of 352)
Small Teaching (p. 21 of 272)

October in progress
Completed Refugee
Small Teaching (p. 51 of 272)
Hidden Figures (p. 123 of 265)
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (25%)
Dear Martin (20%)
Evicted (p. 94 of 336)

November in progress
Completed Dear Martin
Evicted (p. 144 of 336)
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (29%)
The Boy on the Bridge (20%)
Hidden Figures (p. 163 of 265)
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (42%)
Achieving Quantitative Literacy (p. 10 of 115)
Dear World (p. 22 of 224)

December in progress
Completed Dear World
Completed Desperately Seeking Santa
Completed They Both Die at the End
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (70%)
Evicted (p. 154 of 336)

Edited: Nov 12, 2017, 9:46am Top

Yearly Reading Goals

Beyond my basic goal of reading 50 books, I'd like to make progress in the following categories. Books will be marked in bold when they're completed; otherwise they're just plans/ideas.

Rachel's NYT Book Group - Books to Understand Trump's Win (plus Evicted)
The Unwinding
Strangers in their Own Land
Hillbilly Elegy
Listen, Liberal
The Populist Explosion
White Trash

Goal: Complete at least four of these books, and read all of them at least partially.
1/4 complete
1 in progress

Books by or about Indigenous Canadians
The Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
My Name is Seepeetza
The Orenda

Goal: Complete all four of these books
2/4 complete
1 in progress

I'd also like to read more books in this category, and expand it to the United States as well, but I'll focus on these four to start. It's particularly important to me to finish the Truth and Reconciliation report. And it's problematic that two of the four books are by Joseph Boyden, but I already own them, and I do think it's worth reading some of his work.

Books by Black authors
Whistling Vivaldi
Possessing the Secret of Joy
The Sun is Also a Star

(And more possibilities added Nov. 11:
March vol. 3
American Street
Between the World and Me)

No specific reading plan here, but one of the goals on my 101 in 1001 list is to read 25 books by Black authors, and I'm currently at 9, with an end date of April 2018, so I need to make some more progress. The books on this list are ones that I've already started (Whistling Vivaldi and Possessing the Secret of Joy), that I already own (Kindred), or that are by authors whose work I've enjoyed recently (The Sun is Also a Star).

1. March, Book One by John Lewis
2. March, Book Two by John Lewis
3. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
5. Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker
6. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Goal: Complete 12 books in this category
6/12 complete
2 in progress

Books Started in Previous Years

I'm really terrible about starting books and not finishing them, so I'm going to set a very modest goal here; I'd be happy to exceed it. I'll post my lists of in-progress books in Message 2.

1. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
2. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
3. My Name Is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling
4. Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker

Goal: Complete six books in this category
4/6 complete

Off the Shelf

Again, not a category where I tend to have a lot of success; I'll aim for one every other month. There may be some overlap with the previous category.

1. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Goal: Complete six books in this category
1/6 complete

(Feb. 14 ETA: What is "off the shelf"? I'll count anything acquired in November 2016 or earlier, but not December 2016.)

My sister commented that I plan to read too many depressing books, and this may be true. I'll mix it up with unscheduled fluff.

Edited: Oct 2, 2017, 9:02am Top

Monthly Plans

Finish Lady Midnight
Read March Book Three
Read at least 55 pages of Strangers in Their Own Land (to p. 110)
Read at least 5 pages of My Name Is Seepeetza (ideally finish it)
Read Owl Diaries #2
Read Owl Diaries #3
Read to p. 200 of Why We March (currently p. 97)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (aim to finish)
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (aim to finish)
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (expect to finish)
Dear Ijeawele by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie (aim to finish)
Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio's Biggest Slum (continue)
Island of the Blue Dolphins (continue)
Children of the Broken Treaty (continue)
No More Heroes (continue)

Refugee - finish
American Street - start and finish
Evicted - start and try to finish
Hidden Figures - read assigned sections
Small Teaching - read assigned sections

Edited: Jul 19, 2017, 10:11am Top

I'm going to try to be better about keeping track of book purchases this year. That said, I already don't remember everything I ordered during the conference (six or seven books). I'll list them as they arrive :P


Reading Books - Purchased New
1. I Know How She Does It
2. Strangers in their Own Land
3. Wires and Nerve
4. Why We March
5. Eva's Treetop Festival
6. Eva Sees a Ghost
7. A Woodland Wedding
8. Eva and the New Owl
9. Warm Hearts Day
10. Homegoing
11. Requiem for the American Dream
12. No More Heroes
13. The Handmaid's Tale
14. Up Ghost River
15. Children of the Broken Treaty
16. Should We Change How We Vote?

Reading Books - Purchased Used

Reading Books - Purchased Super Cheap
1. Me Before You
2. The Book of Unknown Americans
3. Tooth and Claw
4. Seveneves

Reading Books - Free
Happiness Is... 500 Things to Be Happy About

E-books - Purchased
1. Full Package
2. Allegedly
3. A Hope More Powerful than the Sea
4. The Hate U Give
5. The Education of Augie Merasty
6. When Dimple Met Rishi
7. Invisible North
8. The Knocked Up Plan

E-books - Purchased for $2 or less
1. Cinderella Ate My Daughter
2. White Rage
3. Zurück in Zürich

Personal Reference Books
1. The Great Canadian Bucket List
2. Rio de Janeiro - National Geographic

Academic and Professional Books, and Related
1. Elements of Mathematics: From Euclid to Gödel
2. Teaching Probability
3. Hidden Figures
4. A Portable Cosmos
5. Egyptian Planetary Texts
6. A Mathematician's Journeys
7. Melothesia in Babylonia
8. Wissenskultur im Alten Orient
9. Before Nature: Cuneiform Knowledge and the History of Science
10. Writing Ancient Persia
11. The Cultures within Ancient Greek Culture
12. Time and Cosmos in Greco-Roman Antiquity
13. When the Greeks Ruled Egypt
14. A Fresh Start for Collegiate Mathematics
15. Ancient Egyptian Science Volume Three: Ancient Egyptian Mathematics
16. Ancient Egyptian Science Volume Two: Calendars, Clocks, and Astronomy
17. Ctesias' Persica and Its Near Eastern Context
18. Approaches to Greek Myth (second edition)
19. Approaches to Greek Myth (first edition)
20. Bodies of Knowledge in Ancient Mesopotamia
21. Air & Light & Time & Space

Edited: Jan 3, 1:10pm Top

Ooh, I have another empty message here. I think I'll use it to list 2017 releases that I want to read (and possibly go back to other years as well).

2018 releases that I want to read
Tempests and Slaughter (February)
Leah on the Offbeat (April)
Circe (April)
On the Come Up (May)
What If It's Us (October)
From Twinkle, With Love
You Know You Want This

2017 releases that I want to read
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer
Driving Miss Norma by Tim Bauerschmidt
White Working Class by Joan C. Williams
A Hope More Powerful than the Sea by Melissa Fleming
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
In Full Color by Rachel Dolezal
Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
Renegades by Marissa Meyer (Nov. 7)
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Down among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
The Knocked Up Plan by Lauren Blakely
Dear Ijeawele by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
Golden Age and Other Stories by Naomi Novik
Artemis: A Novel by Andy Weir
Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi
Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution by Bernie Sanders
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Cinderella, Necromancer by Faith Boughan
Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Hacks by Donna Brazile
Women & Power by Mary Beard

2016 releases that I want to read
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Slow Professor by Maggie Berg
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
Evicted by Matthew Desmond
Alcatraz versus the Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

2015 releases that I want to read
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

2014 releases that I want to read
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

2013 releases that I want to read
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Galatea by Madeline Miller

2012 releases that I want to read
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Jan 11, 2017, 11:47am Top

Happy New Year, Zoe! That does sound like a busy year so far indeed!! Good to see you here. I'd take today off if I were you.

Jan 11, 2017, 12:03pm Top

Yes, missy, it's past time you turned up. :)

Edited: Jan 11, 2017, 12:04pm Top

>8 ronincats: Happy New Year to you as well! Taking the day off is definitely a tempting thought. I'll still make sure to do at least 10 minutes of dissertation work—that needs to happen every day, even if it's minimal—but maybe that will be it.

I've recently become sort of obsessed with planners, but I need to get better about planning only a reasonable amount for each day and scheduling rest time as well. I should have known that I'd need some downtime after a busy week of travelling.

Today's schedule shows dissertation work all morning, then catching up on admin tasks (emails, reimbursement forms, syllabus revision) in the afternoon, followed by Girl Scouts in the evening. Oops. Most of that can wait until tomorrow.

Edited: Dec 11, 2017, 12:10pm Top

>9 drneutron: Hehe, better late than never!

ETA, October 10: And I'm stealing this message to start working on my list of 50 books I want to read next year. My rule is that no more than 10 of them can be books that were on last year's list and that I didn't make any progress on at all. As long as I made a bit of progress, it's fine to list the book. The ones where I didn't make any progress will be marked with an asterisk.

One of my focuses for this year will be finishing some of the books that I've started in previous years.

I'm also including books that I really hope and expect to finish this year, so that I can use this as a guide to my reading right now as well.

Guesses and Plans about 2018 books
1. Tempests and Slaughter
2. Leah on the Offbeat
3. What If It's Us
4. Children of the Broken Treaty
5. *Whistling Vivaldi
6. Between the World and Me
7. Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio
8. Island of the Blue Dolphins
9. Why We March
10. Hold Fast to Dreams
11. *Missoula
12. The Productivity Project
13. No More Heroes
14. *The Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
15. White Working Class
16. Tool of War
17. Evicted
18. Strangers in their Own Land
19. Hidden Figures
20. Small Teaching
21. Mathematics and Democracy
22. American Street
23. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
24. Artemis: A Novel
25. Alanna: The First Adventure
26. In the Hand of the Goddess
27. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
28. Lioness Rampant
29. *The Math Myth
30. *Weapons of Math Destruction
31. March, Volume 3
32. Wires and Nerve
33. *Throne of Jade
34. Democracy and Demagoguery
35. On Tyranny
36. Just Mercy
37. Dear World
38. Reading with Patrick
39. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
40. *The Orenda
41. White Rage
42. Circe
43. From Twinkle, with Love
44. Science Writing in Greco-Roman Antiquity
45. Ramona Blue
46. On the Come Up
47. Achieving Quantitative Literacy
48. Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic
49. The Slow Professor
50. Up Ghost River

Edited: Jan 11, 2017, 2:05pm Top

GoodReads has encouraged me to post comments on books in progress, so here's what I've said so far about I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam:

p. 31: There's a huge emphasis on the idea that if someone spends 8 hours in bed, then she's getting enough sleep. At least in my case, this isn't true at all. My Fitbit data show that it takes more like 9h in bed to get 8h of sleep, and I can definitely tell the difference when I get less.

p. 32: I looked at the American Time Use Survey that the author references. Married mothers employed full-time slept on average 8.18 h, while married mothers who weren't employed slept on average 8.77 h. This certainly seems to suggest that the first group doesn't have time to sleep as much as they'd like.

A quote from the book: "Think of a typical full-time worker, who's in the office from nine to five daily, but takes thirty minutes for lunch, leaves an hour early on Friday, and comes in an hour late on Tuesday due to a dental appointment. That puts her at 35.5 hours for the week. One errand tacked on to the end of lunch one day or a longish midmorning break will pull her under that thirty-five-hour threshold that defines "full time.” "

I find this quote sort of irritating, in a way that's representative of the book. Claiming that a 9-5 worker who has a dentist appointment one morning and takes a "longish midmorning break" on another day is no longer technically working full-time just seems misleading, and highlights the disconnect between the typical measure of a work week and the author's time-log analyses.

Basically, a nominal 40-hour work week isn't really 40 hours. And that's important because it means that an *actual* work week of 45-55 hours, the kind that the author finds among her high-achieving subjects, is actually significantly more than the standard. The author's own time log, with 56.5 working hours in the week, shows her starting work at 6am on weekday mornings and doing more after dinner as well, along with a significant chunk of time on the weekends. And she works from home with no commute. She's happy with her life, so that's great. But I think it's problematic to claim that anyone who's concerned about work/life balance is just misinformed, and that work isn't really as time-consuming as people think.

p. 47: "Indeed, working less than full-time means you're not balanced in any linguistically correct sense of the word." Really? I thought this book was supposed to be empowering, saying that women can achieve whatever they want out of life, but it often seems more like a guilt-fest aimed at making those who *aren't* super-high achievers feel somehow inferior. So many problems with the author's calculations here.

Beyond the idea that everyone needs only 8h in bed (forgetting the 10m it takes to fall asleep, or any night-time disruptions, or the basic point that some people just need more sleep than others), the author claims that any time not spent literally working is personal time. If you spend 7h/week commuting to and from work, that's personal time. Someone could have zero downtime after accounting for their commute and the basic tasks of life (eating, grocery shopping, hygiene, cleaning), and the author would say that her life is unbalanced and she should be working more.

Jan 11, 2017, 2:04pm Top

>12 _Zoe_: That's sounding like a pretty unpleasant book.

Jan 11, 2017, 2:17pm Top

>13 Morphidae: Yeah. I'm actually surprised by how annoying I'm finding it, considering that it's also interesting and readable. I do like seeing the time logs of how random people actually spend their days, because I'm nosy like that.

Jan 11, 2017, 2:27pm Top

About time.

>12 _Zoe_: she works from home with no commute
Time is easier to manage if it's under your control. And no commute gets you an additional 5-10 hours per week. Some of it may be able to do double duty as reading/listening time, but it's constrained. What are the kids up to while she's working? A log though is a generally useful way to see possibilities.

Jan 11, 2017, 2:46pm Top

>1 _Zoe_: Wow, it sounds like you've been crazily busy!

>12 _Zoe_: That sounds like a terribly unrealistic book. Since when does any mum get an undisturbed 8 hours in bed anyway? What about the night time wake-ups? escorting little ones to the toilet? chasing monsters away? or telling them to leave you alone and go back to bed because it's 4 o'clock in the f'ing morning?

Jan 11, 2017, 2:54pm Top

>16 eclecticdodo:

Since when does any mum get an undisturbed 8 hours in bed anyway? What about the night time wake-ups? escorting little ones to the toilet? chasing monsters away? or telling them to leave you alone and go back to bed because it's 4 o'clock in the f'ing morning?


And telling your kid for the fifth time to put on his pants, he cannot wear pajamas to preschool, doesn't really qualify as quality time-spent-with-kid in my book, either. But an honest time log accounting of my day would include that as a five-minute block of time most mornings.

Jan 11, 2017, 2:54pm Top

>15 qebo: She has a nanny there while she's working from home. (The book is focused on career women making more than $100,000/year, because the premise is that you really can "have it all".)

>16 eclecticdodo: Yup, definitely very busy! And yet I feel like I haven't done enough recently, because I've fallen behind on the smaller tasks—I just saw that I've accumulated $1.20 in library fines because I failed to renew my books that were due on the 7th. Oh well.

Definitely unrealistic! Even without children, I find that my sleep is often interrupted. Does no one have a partner on a different sleep schedule, who sometimes wakes them up either coming or going? A partner who snores, or a noisy garbage truck that goes by early in the morning? Does no one ever wake up to pee? Etc., etc.

Jan 11, 2017, 3:15pm Top

>18 _Zoe_: I would suspect the nanny does a significant amount of the care while she isn't working too, if she can count that as down time

Jan 11, 2017, 3:36pm Top

Hi Zoe!

Jan 11, 2017, 4:07pm Top

Huzzah! Zoe is finally here! Another member for the Canuck clique (I will still claim you even if you're kinda sorta an expat). ;)

Jan 12, 2017, 12:23pm Top


>21 MickyFine: I'm definitely still happy to be considered part of the Canuck clique. I'd like to return home eventually.

Meanwhile, from p. 78 of I Know How She Does It:

"Even during a fifteen-hour workday, you can manage your energy.... If you plan to sleep seven hours on such a day, that leaves two hours for other things. It's not much, but it can be carefully stewarded for a favorite 30-minute TV show and a brisk twenty-minute walk."

Are you feeling encouraged yet?

Jan 12, 2017, 12:25pm Top

Wow. That sounds like a joyful life she's living there.
Also, When Does She Read?

Jan 12, 2017, 12:29pm Top

>23 charl08: Looking back at the one time log of hers that I've seen so far, it looks like she read 1.5-2 hours over the course of the week, all in one evening.

Jan 12, 2017, 12:54pm Top

Does she actually spend any time with her kids, or does eating breakfast count as her quality time for the day with them? And how old are they?

Jan 12, 2017, 1:05pm Top

>25 lorax: She does get to spend some time with her kids (ages 7, 4, and 2); the 15-hour workday that she was praising wasn't actually her own.

Here are her comments on the week that she logged:

"I had some good kid interactions, too. I got to see Jasper perform with the Chinese language club at his elementary school. I practiced basketball with the boys and went swimming with them at the YMCA. I took Ruth out for sundaes while the boys and my husband worked on their pinewood derby car, and later watched Jasper place in his age group for the Cub Scouts pinewood derby.... I ate lunch with Sam and Ruth four out of five workdays."

There's a lot of emphasis on specific activities, not so much on general play.

Jan 12, 2017, 4:12pm Top

I am part of the group.
I love being part of the group.
I love the friendships bestowed upon my by dint of my membership of this wonderful fellowship.
I love that race and creed and gender and age and sexuality and nationality make absolutely no difference to our being a valued member of the group.

Thank you for also being part of the group.

Jan 12, 2017, 7:39pm Top

Glad you're back! The book you're discussing sounds interesting and maddening all at the same time. I would also find the time logs interesting, and I am trying to be more conscious of my time management. But I would have the same questions, too. I do, for example, work a 35 hour week but am actually at work for more time than because my unpaid lunch break is 30 minutes, so I'm eating and reading. Sometimes I'll get interrupted and asked a quick question, other times I'm reading a book club book, and always I'm still partially in "work mode". I also would not be leaving early on a Friday or counting a doctor's appointment as work time, so I kind of resent the implication that I'm a sub-par worker in some way for "only" 35 hours.

Jan 12, 2017, 7:50pm Top

Happy new thread! I agree, that book sounds irritating. :-)

Jan 12, 2017, 9:07pm Top

Hi Zoe, happy new year!

Jan 13, 2017, 12:00pm Top

Thank you all for stopping by!

I'm taking a short break from I Know How She Does It to read a bit from Spark Joy, which I've been in the middle of for ages and would really like to finish up this week.

p. 223: "If you can't bring yourself to get rid of your school uniform, why don't you try wearing it and lose yourself in memories of your youth? Most of my clients who do this come to their senses and discard it."

Kondo repeatedly tries to say that we can judge for ourselves what sparks joy, but constantly undermines our judgement with statements like these that suggest there's really only one right course: discard it.

Jan 13, 2017, 12:32pm Top

For what it's worth, I think Kondo is a bit ... well, I'll keep it polite. Compulsive and rigid. I read the first book, at the recommendation of my cousin. As a person who is constantly in the middle of de-cluttering, myself, I went into it with an open mind and looking for good advice. Before I was half-way through, I was yelling at her, wanting to shake her. I mean, who throws everything into the middle of the floor and then throws out what doesn't *spark joy* (that phrase came to sound, in my ears, like the worst cliché, very quickly). Whatever happened to sort, donate, recycle, etc. As just one example. And then there is her *folding* method.... don't get me started.

I suppose there is wisdom in the fact that sure, we all have too much *stuff* and can certainly do with a good purge from time to time. But honestly, I just find the *Kondo* phenomenon so over the top as to be borderline... something.

End of rant. :-)

Jan 13, 2017, 1:47pm Top

>32 jessibud2: Yeah, I largely agree about Kondo. She's actually mellowed a bit in her second book, and acknowledges that some things can be worthwhile because they make your life easier, even if they don't seem intrinsically joy-causing: at the beginning, she describes a situation where she had thrown out her screwdriver because she didn't love it, and then attempted to screw in a screw using her favourite ruler, which promptly snapped in half and almost reduced her to tears. She learned that the screwdriver was worth keeping after all.

She's still overly obsessive and judgemental, but I do find that her books motivate me to tidy, so that's helpful even when the details seem ridiculous.

Jan 13, 2017, 1:59pm Top

>32 jessibud2:, >33 _Zoe_: Actually, I love her folding method. I can look in my drawer and see exactly what my choices are and, more importantly, I can fit more into my drawer. But I don't like her discard attitude, especially re: books, at all.

Jan 13, 2017, 2:02pm Top

>34 ronincats: I haven't actually tried her folding method, so perhaps I should. I read her books more for general inspiration than for the specific advice.

Jan 13, 2017, 2:06pm Top

I actually used that folding method as inspiration to cull. If I have more than fits in the drawer, then I need to decide what goes, or find somewhere else to put it. I guess I am just too lazy. I also don't own an iron and never buy anything that might need to be ironed and rolling t-shirts to fit into a drawer just isn't a method that will ever work for me.

Jan 13, 2017, 2:57pm Top

>33 _Zoe_:

She's actually mellowed a bit in her second book, and acknowledges that some things can be worthwhile because they make your life easier, even if they don't seem intrinsically joy-causing: at the beginning, she describes a situation where she had thrown out her screwdriver because she didn't love it, and then attempted to screw in a screw using her favourite ruler, which promptly snapped in half and almost reduced her to tears. She learned that the screwdriver was worth keeping after all.

That level of short-sightedness and impracticality disqualifies her right there for offering advice in my book! That's one small step removed from throwing away your winter coat in July because you haven't worn it in months, and then complaining when you're cold in November. How does someone become an (apparently) functioning adult without learning that you need to have useful things because they're useful?

Edited: Jan 13, 2017, 3:21pm Top

>36 jessibud2: I'm exactly like you. I do have an iron but only use it once or twice a year. I live in jeans and tees. And I love being able to look at my drawerful of folded, not rolled, tees and seeing every tee I own when I am making my choice. And being able to remove it without discombobulating everything above it. I realize it isn't for everyone, but I love it.

Jan 13, 2017, 3:29pm Top

>37 lorax: The interesting thing about Kondo is that she didn't really have much time to practice being a functional adult before shooting to fame. She apparently started her consulting business at 19, and it seems like she was maybe 26 when The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up came out, so she was even younger when she actually wrote it. She talks less about adult life than about her experiences trying to tidy as a minor living at her parents' house. Life lessons include this one: "Having been banned from tidying after secretly disposing of my family's belongings, I had learned the hard way that meddling with other people's things isn't worth it in the end."

>38 ronincats: That does look convenient. I tend to just hang all my shirts, but maybe one day I'll experiment with folding.

Jan 13, 2017, 3:59pm Top

>35 _Zoe_: I'm confused now. I just looked at a sample of Spark Joy and it's full of pictures of how I assumed everyone folds stuff. Does everyone not fold stuff this way? Instead of obsessing about things being folded right and lining up properly in my drawers, could I just have been writing about it and making money. Darn it!

I'm not sure I should read these books ... I'm already annoyed with her. I'm with >37 lorax:, if you throw out your screwdriver, you have nothing useful to tell me ;-)

I could say that, based on this discussion and my further research, I have decided Kondo doesn't *spark joy* for me so I've decided to toss her out before I even accumulate her and spend the money on a frame for my old school tie :-D

Jan 13, 2017, 4:11pm Top

>39 _Zoe_: - ""Having been banned from tidying after secretly disposing of my family's belongings, I had learned the hard way that meddling with other people's things isn't worth it in the end."

Well, duh. Yep, I remember reading that. I'd have banned her from the house altogether. Who does that??! It's one thing to be anal about your own stuff. That's her choice. But to go and do that to everyone in the family? Without permission, or even asking permission? Sheesh. And I also seem to remember something about her obsessing about her mother's magazines or something like that, from a very early age.

I think I read somewhere that she has since married and had a baby. I sure hope she has loosened and lightened up a bit, for baby's sake. Does baby have any playthings? More than one at a time? I wonder...

>37 lorax: - "That's one small step removed from throwing away your winter coat in July because you haven't worn it in months, and then complaining when you're cold in November". Bingo. Exactly.

Jan 13, 2017, 5:08pm Top

>41 jessibud2: What happens if the baby stops giving her joy for just a moment??=-O

Jan 13, 2017, 5:16pm Top

>42 norabelle414:

You win the internet for today. (I'm still awaiting delivery from when I won it earlier this week; I can forward it on to you when I get mine.)

Jan 13, 2017, 5:27pm Top

Jan 13, 2017, 5:48pm Top

>39 _Zoe_: my dad is a hoarder, thanks in large part to my Nan's habit of throwing away anything she didn't think was important. He spent his childhood and adolescence losing everything that was important to him, no wonder he keeps every last item now. On the other hand, I don't have that excuse, so there's probably something hereditary too....

Jan 13, 2017, 6:15pm Top

>42 norabelle414: *snort* Priceless!

Jan 14, 2017, 3:46pm Top

>42 norabelle414: Hahahahahahahahaha

Jan 17, 2017, 12:33pm Top

1. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

Yay, I actually finished a book! I have vague aspirations of writing a review eventually, but for now I feel like I've posted enough about it.

I started this book in August last year, so I'm happy to be done with it at last. It's intended as an "encyclopedia" of tidying, meaning it's not really supposed to be read straight through, but I'm someone who reads books straight through anyway. So it some ways it's my fault that I found it slow-going; I wasn't reading it as intended. It did serve its purpose in motivating me to discard a bit before moving, and more recently to do some unpacking.

Jan 17, 2017, 1:16pm Top

>48 _Zoe_: - I say, if it is no longer sparking joy in you, ditch it!! ;-)

Jan 18, 2017, 9:23am Top

>48 _Zoe_: If you're looking for a similar book that is more realistic I highly recommend My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha by Jolie Kerr. It's more cleaning-focused than tidying, but the writing is great and she has good things to say about the value of maintenance tidying and developing habits. And she lives in an apartment in Manhattan so her tips are much more relevant to my life than someone who lives in a big suburban house.

Jan 18, 2017, 10:26am Top

>50 norabelle414: Thanks, I've added it to the wishlist. My cleaning skills could definitely use some improvement, but I always hope to have someone come to clean for me one of these days.

Jan 18, 2017, 1:31pm Top

>51 _Zoe_: Jolie Kerr is very cleaning-insipiring. And she's excellent at solving specific cleaning problems in her various columns across the internet. If you google "Jolie Kerr {literally any cleaning problem}" you'll find a great answer. You might like her column for Racked best, because it's more organization-focused than the others: http://www.racked.com/authors/jolie-kerr

Jan 18, 2017, 7:53pm Top

>52 norabelle414: Thanks for that recommendation! I think whether I need cleaning or organizing advice basically depends on which apartment I'm in. The one where we just moved this summer still has lots of organizing (and basic unpacking) to be done, while the one where I only live part-time during the school year doesn't have nearly as much stuff in it to begin with.

Meanwhile, I just got around to tallying up the types and sources of books that I read last year. I only read 43 books in total (the lowest since the first year when I did a reading challenge on LT), and they break down as follows:

23 Ebooks
18 borrowed from library
2 free
3 purchased in 2016

20 Paper Books
10 acquired in 2016
5 borrowed from library
3 off the shelf (acquired in previous years and not yet read)
1 borrowed from someone else
1 reread from my shelf

The conclusions are that library ebooks are really convenient, and that I'm very unlikely to read a book that I've bought if I don't get to it that first year.

Jan 18, 2017, 9:37pm Top

Interesting stats, Zoe. I'm also most likely to read a book in the first year I own it.

Jan 19, 2017, 8:52am Top

Wow, those conclusions hit pretty close to the mark for me too. :)

Jan 19, 2017, 12:02pm Top

I really need to get caught up with entering my books in my database so I can do statistics like that. I don't even want to say how far behind I am.

Jan 19, 2017, 5:12pm Top

I suspect that I am also more likely to read a book within a year of bringing it home, though I've never tracked that stat to see.

Edited: Jan 23, 2017, 10:47pm Top

2. March, Book One by John Lewis

Instead of procrastinating in the hope of writing a proper review one day, I'll just copy my disconnected status updates from GR:

p. 45: I wasn't expecting this book to begin on the day of Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009, so that added some extra resonance. Lewis is telling the story of his life to some children who've come for the inauguration, and it's really interesting so far. It made me think about how rarely the most interesting and important books coincide, but I think this wins on both counts. And I'm not generally a fan of graphic novels!

p. 84: It was just announced that March, Volume Three won both the Printz award and the Coretta Scott King award today. Why didn't I check out all three volumes at once?

This volume continues to be a compelling read; it's basically a whirlwind tour of the whole Civil Rights movement from the perspective of one individual who played an active role.

p. 99: Reading about basic events from a first-person perspective somehow makes them more real, even when I knew the facts before. The treatment of black people in the Jim Crow south is almost incomprehensible to me. It just makes no sense—I can't understand the mindset that was required to treat people that way.

It also makes me appreciate how much progress has been made, even as so much more remains to be done.

p. 111: I haven't forgotten Lewis' jab at Sanders at a key point in the primaries last year, so it's interesting to see his comments on the generational divide here: the older generation wanted to accept an offer for "partial integration", and the young Lewis realized that he was fighting "as much against the traditional black leadership structure as... against segregation and discrimination."

Final thoughts: I should really read more graphic memoirs/non-fiction; I definitely felt like every minute spent reading this was worth the time.

ETA: I should add my motivation for reading this right now. I had used my one free morning in Atlanta earlier this month to visit the MLK historical site, so I was thinking about Civil Rights issues and meaning to do more reading on the topic, and then Lewis was in the news recently thanks to Trump's baseless attack on him, and I saw other people talking about this book, either here or on GoodReads.

Jan 23, 2017, 10:48pm Top

>58 _Zoe_: You beat me! I started on Friday but didn't get very far due to other distractions.

Jan 23, 2017, 10:49pm Top

>59 norabelle414: I was strangely exhausted today, so I spent more time reading than being productive. Oops ;)

Jan 24, 2017, 7:14am Top

>58 _Zoe_: - Thanks for those thoughts, Zoe. I am on a wait list for all 3 volumes, from the library. Apparently, there were more than 40 ahead of me so it could be weeks before I get a call but I am really looking forward to them. I have heard nothing but high praise for these books.

Edited: Jan 24, 2017, 3:16pm Top

>58 _Zoe_: Interest in that one is likely to spike hugely as the third volume won at least one award at the ALA Youth Media Awards this week.

Jan 24, 2017, 3:27pm Top

I really need to get around to Vol. 3!

I think we're going to leave these around for my kid to "discover" when he's old enough. Which isn't going to be for a while - they're pretty grim.

Jan 24, 2017, 3:58pm Top

>62 MickyFine: It won an unprecedented four awards at the YMAs -- Printz, Coretta Scott King, Sibert, and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction. It's also the first time a graphic novel has won some of those, and the first time the latter two have overlapped, despite both being awards for nonfiction. When you add in the National Book Award, that's quite a decorated title!

Jan 24, 2017, 4:46pm Top

>64 foggidawn: I knew you'd be on top of that, Foggi. I only quickly browsed the winners list as I don't do ordering for that end of things. :)

Jan 25, 2017, 11:23am Top

>61 jessibud2: Somehow some of my local libraries still had Volume 3 sitting on the shelf when I last checked, but I suspect that won't last long.

>63 lorax: The classification of books by age is an interesting thing. I found March on the YA shelf in the library, and I wonder whether all graphic novels are just automatically considered YA. I think it would be fine for actual teens to read, but I know I read plenty of YA stuff when I was more like 10, and I'm not sure I would have been ready for this.

Though on the other hand, in some ways I think I was more able to handle unpleasant stuff as a child—I remember enjoying horror movies that I would definitely not want to watch now.

How old is your son now?

>64 foggidawn: Four! I thought I'd looked at the list, but apparently I skipped some of the awards (Silbert and Excellence in Non-Fiction—I guess I pay more attention to awards for fiction).

Jan 25, 2017, 11:27am Top

>66 _Zoe_:

He turns four next week. I'm thinking middle-school age to let him 'find' this. I also think that there's a difference in depicting the same events in words vs. pictures, as far as age-appropriateness goes; images are much more visceral and, somewhat counter-intuitively, probably push the material to older ages. Probably middle-school age for something like this.

Jan 25, 2017, 11:30am Top

I heard of another cleaning/tidying book yesterday that sounds good: Unf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman. It's based on a blog that I've run across a few times, and the reviews are good.

Jan 25, 2017, 11:44am Top

3. Full Package by Lauren Blakely

In further evidence of how GoodReads is changing my reading habits, I've read yet another romance—it was #17 on the list of most popular books published in January, and had high ratings.

I can see why this book is popular, because the writing is compelling and the characters are likeable. I stayed up too late reading it, and I appreciate the fact that it's written from a male point of view. But the plot is a bit thin—it has pretty much zero conflict.

Chase has just returned to Manhattan from a stint with Doctors without Borders in Africa, and he's desperately trying to find an apartment to rent (unnecessarily, since it's revealed later that his brother was willing to let him stay at his place as long as necessary—but that would have been an unacceptable 30 minute commute to work). So he ends up rooming with his closest female friend, who also happens to be his best friend's little sister. And of course he ends up falling for her.

I had no problems with the first half(?) of the book, where he's interested in her but doesn't want to act on it because he cares more about preserving their friendship. But eventually that friendship moves on to friendship-with-benefits (the middle of the book is sort of like one extended sex scene), and at that point the idea that they can't pursue an actual relationship because they need to go back to being friends afterwards becomes somewhat less convincing. The book could have been half as long if they'd just had a conversation about what they were feeling. Still, the writing was strangely compelling and I kept turning the pages.

I kept comparing this to the three roommate romances that I read at the end of last year: The Roommate Situation, His Roommate's Pleasure, and Blame It on the Mistletoe. All of those were m/m, and they had the additional element of at least one character not initially identifying as gay, so there was some actual conflict in terms of rethinking their identities and coming out to other people in their lives. Plus two of them were novellas, so they didn't need to do so much. Full Package was a full 280 pages, and the idea of "this is the person I want to spent my life with but I'd better not say anything" wasn't quite enough to carry a book of that length. But I enjoyed it anyway.

Jan 25, 2017, 11:51am Top

>67 lorax: I think you're right about images; I was trying to figure out why March made the time period seem so much more real to me even when I already knew about many of the events, and at first I thought it was the first-person perspective, but maybe it's actually the pictures. The book somehow felt more shocking than the basic facts.

I guess it's the difference between knowing that black people weren't allowed to eat at department store lunch counters (wrong but abstract), and actually seeing a depiction of all the abuse they suffered when they went there.

>68 norabelle414: Added to the wishlist! I did more unpacking this weekend, though I didn't quite manage to get everything done. Now I should really move on to cleaning.

Edited: Jan 27, 2017, 12:10pm Top

>66 _Zoe_: In my library, we initially put the March books in the adult graphic novels, thinking that the audience might be there. We're adding additional copies in teen now. In the libraries of my experience, there are different graphic novel sections for children vs. teens vs. adults. A lot of that is driven by content (adult GNs might have nudity, for instance, and juvenile ones tend to be the most innocuous), but we also try to keep in mind who would be most interested in the book's topic.

Edited: Feb 1, 2017, 3:03pm Top

Time for my January summary! This wasn't the most productive reading month, but considering that I spent 11 nights away from home—not even including the fact that "home" is actually two different locations—I'm pretty satisfied with it.

January Summary

Books Finished:

Books Continued:

Books Started, To Be Continued:

Sources of Finished Books:
2 library paper books
1 ebook purchased this year

Total progress on books read partially in January:
The Productivity Project (17%)
I Know How She Does It (p. 78 of 286)
Hillbilly Elegy (p. 182 of 261)
Allegedly (49%)
My Name is Seepeetza (p. 79 of 126)

Feb 1, 2017, 4:24pm Top

I'be just ordered March because I was intrigued!

Feb 2, 2017, 6:54pm Top

>73 klarusu: I hope you enjoy it!

Meanwhile, I'm grumpy because a coworker today told me that I didn't need to worry about Trump's coming H1B reforms—they couldn't possibly affect me because he's only targeting illegal immigrants. Somehow the obvious point that visa holders are almost by definition not illegal seems to have escaped her notice, along with all of the events of this past weekend.

Feb 2, 2017, 7:48pm Top

>74 _Zoe_: Hmmmmm, it seems that reminds me of a poem or something ;-)
First they came for the illegal immigrants and I did not speak up because I am a legal immigrant.

I have a coworker who is an immigrant and he looooves the current turmoil because he thinks that there are way too many immigrants in the U.S. ....

Feb 2, 2017, 8:37pm Top

>74 _Zoe_: didn't need to worry about Trump's...
Well he's not targeting you but I wouldn't be 100% reassured that you won't get caught in the crossfire. OTOH, is there anything you can do preventively?

>75 norabelle414: way too many immigrants
Is he volunteering to reduce the number by one?

Feb 2, 2017, 9:35pm Top

>77 _Zoe_: Yeah, he's not exactly known for minimizing collateral damage. And after all, I am a foreigner holding a job that conceivably could have gone to an American.

There's been almost zero information about whether his H1B changes will impact cap-exempt visas, meaning those for higher education and non-profits. But I could easily imagine him eliminating the exemptions just for the sake of it. If he wants high-tech firms to pay their H1B visas $130,000 (which is actually reasonable in Silicon Valley), he might just arbitrarily extend that requirement to academia as well (which is not reasonable).

I can apply for a green card instead of this visa, and I don't think that would be particularly problematic, beyond the high cost and general hassle. The university will pay for my visa renewal processing fees, including the lawyer fees that mean I basically don't have to do any paperwork at all. If I wanted to apply for a green card, I would be on my own. I think the mandatory fees would be about $1500, plus another $2000-$5000 of lawyer fees if I didn't want to risk making any mistakes in such a critical process. Needless to say, that hasn't been the most tempting option.

The main problem is how long that would be a viable backup plan. Hopefully any new H1B policies will be announced relatively soon, which would still leave me time to apply for a green card before September if necessary (the application itself wouldn't be processed that quickly, but the more critical work authorization is supposed to come in about a month after the application is processed).

Also, I'm supposed to go to an out-of-country conference in July, which could be a problem if I had a green card application underway. It takes 2-3 months for advance travel authorization to be approved. So if I had to cancel that trip at the last minute, I could lose additional thousands of dollars—I think the university would expect me to refund any conference expenses out-of-pocket if I wasn't able to attend.

Basically, I don't think my life will be ruined, but there's an unpleasant degree of uncertainty, the possibility of a lot of annoying paperwork, and a decent likelihood that I'll end up needing to pay somewhere in the $6,500-$10,000 range over the next six months.

Feb 2, 2017, 9:42pm Top

> Zoe, would you consider returning/relocating to Canada? Is that an option? On the news tonight (I can't find a link to it, unfortunately), there was a piece about a woman, born in Iran but a permanent resident here, who has a law degree from a Canadian university and is currently enrolled in a joint Canada/US program at 2 institutions in Detroit and Windsor. She is now afraid to go to her classes in Detroit because even though she holds valid permanent residency here, she does not have a Cdn passport and is afraid that she won't be allowed in (or back). When she phoned Border Services, she was told they could guarantee nothing.

Every day, the situation seems to be getting worse.

Edited: Feb 3, 2017, 3:33pm Top

>78 jessibud2: Yes, I'd certainly like to return to Canada eventually. But academic jobs aren't exactly easy to come by, so in some ways it's easier said than done. If it does reach the point where I decide to return without having a new job lined up, I'd at least like to maximize the amount of experience I obtain before that.

Feb 3, 2017, 3:01pm Top

I am lost for words at Trump's actions. You have my sympathies

Feb 7, 2017, 12:42pm Top

The H1B changes are, for a change of pace, not actually Trump's doing - they are in a bill currently before the House Judiciary Committee, HR 670. This has not even passed committee yet so it is far from a sure thing. Committee membership can be seen at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/committees/HSJU and you don't have to be a citizen to contact Congress; I know several non-citizens who do, identifying themselves properly as "constituents" rather than "voters" or "citizens". My representative sits on the committee, and I did contact him to tell him I think the changes are too much too soon, and that to avoid major disruption they should grandfather in existing visa-holders and implement any changes over the period of several years. (The existing levels had not changed since the 1980s, and I do think an increase is reasonable, but not that much all at once.)

(Apparently there's also a leaked memo from Trump about visas, but he hasn't signed anything yet.)

Feb 7, 2017, 3:26pm Top

So sorry our political mess is causing you so much trouble, Zoe. Hopefully it will sort itself out without needing a major financial investment on your part.

Feb 7, 2017, 5:04pm Top

>81 lorax: Thanks for that link! That's extremely helpful. Do you have any approximation for how long it could take to pass (if it passes at all)?

I think the key passage for me is this one:

the term "exempt H-1B nonimmigrant" means an H-1B nonimmigrant who receives wages (including cash bonuses and similar compensation) at an annual rate equal to at least $60,000; or has attained a master's or higher degree (or its equivalent) in a specialty related to the intended employment

Which they want to replace with this one:

the term exempt H–1B nonimmigrant means an H–1B nonimmigrant who receives wages (including cash bonuses) at an annual rate equal to at least the greater of $100,000 or the applicable adjusted amount under clause (iii)

Which seems like it could be pretty destructive to academia, since my school certainly doesn't pay that much and the credential substitution would be eliminated.

So it's sort of a race against the clock; my visa needs to be renewed for September, but the renewal process can't start until 6 months in advance, and may take a few months to be completed.

I do agree that the stated wage is too low for tech, but I hope they don't focus so narrowly on the tech sector that they ruin it for everyone else.

>82 ronincats: Fingers crossed! I guess I should probably start looking at the green card paperwork just in case.

Feb 8, 2017, 10:11am Top

Ooh, my sister dug up some more information about those proposed H1B changes that makes it sound like it wouldn't actually apply to me: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-masters-degree-exception-being-referenced-in-the-new-H1B-bill

But there's still the possibility of some executive order, so I'll definitely feel better when my extension has been processed.

Feb 8, 2017, 10:34am Top

The amount of time for a bill to become law is completely open-ended; if it got fast-tracked it could be a week or so, but many bills languish in committee forever and never even get a hearing. I'd start the renewal process as soon as you can, to be on the safe side. This site will get updated when things get scheduled.

Feb 8, 2017, 11:21am Top

Zoe, I'm so sorry that certain parts of our government are being right bastards. You don't deserve this.

Feb 8, 2017, 3:41pm Top

Jobs in academia are rough to begin with. Sorry you're getting extra drama, Zoe. Keeping your eye on job postings/post-docs on this side of the border at all?

Feb 9, 2017, 3:03pm Top

>85 lorax: Thanks for that info. I'm definitely trying to move the renewal along as quickly as reasonable, without pestering HR excessively (e.g., they said it couldn't be submitted until the second week of March, when by my calculations six months in advance would be the first week of March, but I'm not going to question them on that point.)

>86 Morphidae: Thanks, Morphy!

>87 MickyFine: I haven't really been looking at other job options yet, since I've committed to being here for two more years, but we'll see what happens over the next six months.

Meanwhile, I just noticed an LT discussion that may be of interest to people in this group: how should thread continuations work? Should continuations retain ignores and stars?

Feb 9, 2017, 3:15pm Top

>88 _Zoe_: Thanks for the heads up on the discussion about starring and ignoring

Feb 9, 2017, 3:32pm Top

>88 _Zoe_: how should thread continuations work?
Sigh. AFAIK, they had been working just as you describe. Thread continuation was your idea to begin with, and it was a really nice solution.

Feb 9, 2017, 5:08pm Top

>88 _Zoe_: Got my comment in.

Feb 9, 2017, 5:15pm Top

>89 eclecticdodo: You're welcome!

>90 qebo: I try not to get too invested in any of it. I sometimes feel like the more strongly I argue a point, the more likely Tim is to dig in his heels and do the opposite just out of stubbornness.

But at least in this case, I think doing nothing will prove to be the easiest course of action anyway.

Meanwhile, back to the immigration issues.... The whole issue is particularly annoying because I should actually be considered a US citizen by birth anyway. My father is a citizen and meets the requirements for the time I was born (10 years living in the US, including some number after a certain age). When I first started school here, we made a brief effort to look into it, but they weren't satisfied with the documentation: his birth certificate, his high school records, and his college records, which added up to a total of 8 or 9 years. His elementary school had closed, so he didn't have evidence of living in the US throughout his childhood. I think we could have obtained affidavits from various people instead, but it didn't seem worth pursuing at the time.

Still, if worse comes to worst, I may just try applying for a passport and see how it goes. On the one hand, I think they've become more eager to acknowledge lost citizens with the passing of FATCA; on the other hand, that would open a whole other kettle of fish....

Feb 9, 2017, 5:16pm Top

>91 Morphidae: Oops, missed your comment while writing my post. Hi!

Feb 10, 2017, 3:25pm Top

4. March, Book Two by John Lewis

I somehow didn't like this book as much as the first one, for various reasons. Before going into them, I should note that it's still very much worth reading. But it felt more disjointed and didn't seem to work quite as well qua book. It started off strong with the Freedom Rides, but that part ended pretty abruptly when Lewis got arrested, and then the Freedom Rides were just done, and I'm not quite sure why. That relates to one of the other main issues that I had here: the political details became more complex (instead of being just a student participating in lunch-counter sit-ins, Lewis became an organizer attending high-level meetings), and I felt like the graphic format didn't allow for enough depth that I really understood the issues. There were a lot of names of other organizers—sometimes too many even to keep track of—and arguments about which approaches would be most effective, and so on. I feel like I'll have to read another book about the topic to gain even a basic understanding of the nuances.

But it's worth reading the whole book just for the half dealing with the Freedom Rides. It's horrifying material, but important.

And of course I still plan to read the third book as well.

Feb 18, 2017, 12:44pm Top

5. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Finally done! I started this book in November with a lot of enthusiasm, but somehow I just lost interest as I went along and it became sort of a chore to finish. My theory is that the beginning of the book is interesting because it presents a world that's very different from my own experience, but as Vance achieves success via traditional educational channels (university and then law school), his story becomes less eye-opening and correspondingly less worth reading.

It's also worth noting that Vance ultimately doesn't have any solutions to offer to the problem of declining outcomes for people in the Rust Belt or elsewhere. His strongest policy suggestion is that social services should look beyond the nuclear family; as a child he lied in court to protect his abusive mother because he didn't want to be torn from his family and placed in a random foster home, when he would happily have seen custody go to his grandmother if that option had been on the table. A fine idea as far as it goes, but maybe not transformational. For the most part, Vance believes that people are responsible for their own bad choices; he was able to survive and ultimately prosper despite a terrible childhood, and although he acknowledges repeatedly that it was a very close call, his ultimate success does colour his views.

This book does offer a valuable new perspective, and I don't regret the time spent reading it. It just wasn't quite as amazing as I would have liked. Maybe this was a case of too-high expectations.

Feb 22, 2017, 10:46am Top

I just wanted to let you know that I finished March: Book 3 and talk about it over on my thread:


Feb 22, 2017, 12:29pm Top

>96 lorax: Thanks! I'm conflicted about whether to read your comments now or wait until I've read the third book myself (probably in the next couple of weeks). Maybe I'll do both, quickly now and in more depth later.

Feb 22, 2017, 12:48pm Top

Well, it's not like I'm going to spoil American history. (Or maybe I am. I certainly don't know any Canadian history to speak of.) But I certainly understand if you want to go in without any preconceptions.

Feb 25, 2017, 3:52pm Top

Zoe, I can't believe we forgot you'd be in town today! Actually I can believe it - insomnia and other annoyances have scrambled my brain. I hope the visit to the Strand was good - then again, how could it not be?

Mar 1, 2017, 2:33pm Top

>98 lorax: Oh, I could definitely be spoiled on American history. But I was actually more concerned about establishing general expectations that could lead to disappointment or otherwise impact my enjoyment of the book (e.g., if you said it was amazing, that would be a lot to live up to, or if you said it wasn't as good as the others, that might discourage me from reading it promptly). I just generally try to avoid reading more about a book after I've already decided that I want to read it. But in this case curiosity got the better of me anyway, and I did read your review right away. Hopefully I'll get around to the actual book in the next week or so.

>99 ffortsa: I'm sorry I didn't manage to finalize plans more promptly! It was a hectic weekend all around, but good. We had planned to buy our theatre tickets in advance, but in the end we just got rush tickets both mornings, which impacted our ability to plan ahead.

In the end we didn't even get to the Strand! I got distracted by the Fancy Animal Carnival as we wandered down Broadway, taking lots of pictures, so by the time we were done with the B&N it was already time to get lunch and head back up to the theatre. Plus we realized we didn't really have the luggage space for more books, since I had already purchased two exhibition catalogues the evening before. Fortunately we'll be back in May (the weekend of the 13th) and will hopefully have time for more bookstores then. That will be right after exams, so I should have a week's break beforehand that I can use to coordinate meetups more effectively.

Edited: Mar 1, 2017, 2:48pm Top

6. Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

I have *extremely* mixed feelings about this book. On the other hand, it has a compelling premise that makes for an absorbing read: Mary is a teenager who was convicted of killing a baby when she was nine years old.

On the other hand, I didn't really buy the premise at all. Mary's mother was babysitting at the time of the death, and I never really understood how the blame went to the nine-year-old daughter while the woman in charge of the child got off scot-free—especially when said woman had a history of mental illness. So that was a pretty gaping plot hole. Especially because once Mary started saying that she was innocent, everyone basically believed her right away. Why did that reasoning not apply at the time of the original trial?

Also, the book was extremely unpleasant to read. Mary is living in a group home, and everyone there is absolutely awful, both the other residents and the adults in charge. They all treat each other terribly, including both physical violence and general suppression of opportunities (for example, Mary excels academically and wants to go to college, but is forced to spend her days in vocational training to become a hairdresser). I suppose this is an important glimpse at a problematic social structure, but it certainly isn't enjoyable.

And I didn't like the ending at all, for multiple reasons.

First, I have to admit that I would have liked a happier ending for Mary, where she was exonerated and achieved a great score on the SATs and turned her life around. But failing that, I would have been satisfied with where the book seemed to be heading, where she decided that she had to protect her mother after all. I was not satisfied at all with the idea that Mary was actually guilty all along, because it basically ruined the whole message of the book. Instead of sending a message that the criminal justice system is horribly flawed, the message is that the people caught up in the system actually deserve it? I don't know how that fits at all with the author's afterword, where she tells everyone not to give up. It seems like the author ultimately decided that a cheap twist was more important than anything else, and I just wasn't impressed with that decision.

So, it's an interesting read, and I don't regret that I read it, and I keep thinking about it almost a week later. But I'm not sure I'd go so far as to *recommend* it. Hmm.

Edited: Mar 6, 2017, 1:14pm Top

February Summary

Books Finished:

Books Continued:

Books Started, To Be Continued:

Sources of Finished Books:
1 library paper book
1 paper book purchased last year (i.e., off the shelf)
1 ebook purchased this year

Total progress on books read partially in February:
The Willoughbys (p. 40 of 164)
Humans of New York: Stories (p. 49 of 428)
My Name is Seepeetza (p. 88 of 126)
A Hope More Powerful than the Sea (13%)

Mar 2, 2017, 3:24pm Top

>102 _Zoe_: All very serious reads. Impressive. :)

Mar 2, 2017, 5:04pm Top

>103 MickyFine: Thanks :). I just wish I could find some serious reads that were a bit more uplifting....

Mar 2, 2017, 6:49pm Top

>104 _Zoe_: Maybe some stuff on feminism? :)

Mar 2, 2017, 6:52pm Top

>105 MickyFine: Any particular suggestions?

Mar 2, 2017, 7:02pm Top

>106 _Zoe_: I'll PM you the list of books on feminism I made for work late last year (it's got my IRL name on it so I won't post publicly). You should find a few that are serious but don't want to make you weep over the state of the world every few chapters. :)

Mar 2, 2017, 11:05pm Top

>107 MickyFine: I already responded to your PM at the time, but I feel like I need to say thank you here as well, so it doesn't look like I was ignoring you :)

Meanwhile, I just need to grumble a bit about LT. I feel like the site has been on the decline lately; Talk activity seems to be way down, and the Alexa graph for the past few months is not looking promising.

And I was reminded today of one reason why the site never seems to get anywhere: the automatic objection by members to any sort of development, even the most trivial. Because even basic *spam protection* would be an unwelcome addition to the site; we wouldn't want to prevent brand-new accounts from immediately creating 10+ threads within ten minutes....

Mar 2, 2017, 11:15pm Top

>108 _Zoe_: Hope you a find a good read or two from the list. :)

Mar 3, 2017, 1:13pm Top

>108 _Zoe_:

I've actually been feeling a bit more optimistic the past month or so - there's actually been development work again. It's felt to me like Talks been down for longer than that, so I'm hoping that getting some new features will bring some activity back. For me the cataloging aspects are primary, rather than the social ones, though, so as long as things like LTFL and TinyCat keep the servers running, I'm not overly concerned about decreased activity. I mostly watch the site-related groups anyway, which will be more sensitive to stagnation in development. What about this group, overall? I only watch about three threads here, is it down from past years?

Agreed about the reflexive objection to any development. Especially when it turns out that in this case the objector agrees with you, and was just arguing for the fun of it.

Mar 3, 2017, 1:47pm Top

>110 lorax: Possibly my goals for the site were just never quite in line with what it's intended to be; I suppose I should be happy that I can catalogue all my books in reasonable detail and keep my lists in this group.

I have a vague sense that this group isn't as active as it used to be, but I never recorded specific numbers. I thought there used to be multiple groups with more than a thousand weekly posts, though.

I also wonder whether the noticeable decline in Talk is reflective of a broader trend for the site. Are the numbers of people cataloguing their books (and providing the crucial data that supports everything else) still holding steady? I have no idea.

Mar 3, 2017, 2:17pm Top

>111 _Zoe_:

I don't know about numbers of people, but the rate of books being cataloged seems to be reasonably constant.

That's a plot of entry date vs. book ID for my catalog; book ID directly tracks the total number of books on LT, so what you're seeing is a snapshot of how many total books there were on LT at each point when I entered a book. I've been here since September 2005 and most recently entered a book on Tuesday, so the temporal coverage is decent.

It looks fairly linear by eye, suggesting a constant growth rate; I haven't tried to fit a regression or anything like that. Maybe a slight slowdown between 2013 and 2015, but nothing dramatic.

Mar 3, 2017, 2:17pm Top

Not reading, but probably of interest to at least some of you:

I enjoyed the book The Day the World Came to Town when I read it in 2011, so as soon as I heard that there would be a musical about the same events I knew it would be a must-see. This is the story of Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11, when 38 planes carrying about 7,000 people suddenly landed in this small town of ~9,000. So there's a dark context, but it's primarily an uplifting story of nice Canadians welcoming people in need. I'd definitely recommend it.

We got $38 rush tickets for the Saturday matinee, showing up at the box office half an hour or more after it opened.

Edited: Mar 3, 2017, 2:18pm Top

>112 lorax: Thank you for that! That's very encouraging to see.

Mar 3, 2017, 2:26pm Top

And we saw this one on Sunday, with $40 seats via the digital lottery, which was a huge time-saver (and apparently not exactly hotly contested, since Mark and I both won).

I wanted to see Cats because it's so famous and successful, but I didn't realize going in just how little plot there was. For the first half I kept feeling like I was missing something. But once I re-aligned my expectations, it was easier to enjoy the second half, and at least the music was memorable. It was interesting to look up the story behind the show afterwards and see that they had been restricted to using only the lines from T.S. Eliot's poems, with no additional script, so that explained a lot.

Mar 3, 2017, 2:41pm Top

>114 _Zoe_:

Hey, data's what I do. I had to stop myself from actually doing a fit (and throwing out data prior to about 2007, which is much noisier). But I have actual work to do....

Mar 3, 2017, 3:08pm Top

>113 _Zoe_: Interesting choice of topic for a musical (but I suppose everyone said the same thing about Hamilton :P). What style of music did they use? I'm imagining something Great Big Sea-esque but only because they're the biggest band to come from the Rock.

Mar 3, 2017, 3:11pm Top

>117 MickyFine: You can listen here!

Mar 3, 2017, 3:14pm Top

>116 lorax: Someday when I have more time (ha) I'll have to learn about doing more with data. So many possibilities....

Mar 3, 2017, 3:46pm Top

>118 _Zoe_: Thanks for the link!

Edited: Mar 3, 2017, 4:53pm Top

>111 _Zoe_: Paul Cranswick keeps stats on the 75 Book group, and what I gather from his thread is that there was a downward trend in 2014-2016, but this year so far has seen something of an uptick. I don't have references to hard numbers to back that up, but you could ask him, if you wanted. I have noticed that some of the people whose threads I read regularly seem quieter than I remember, so maybe it's just shifting, somehow?

Mar 3, 2017, 5:56pm Top

>113 _Zoe_: - I am so jealous that the tickets you got were such a reasonable price. I probably don't need to tell you how expensive they are/were here in Toronto at the Princess of Wales theatre, downtown. I really would have loved to see this one but didn't

Mar 3, 2017, 8:14pm Top

>121 foggidawn: We grew quite a bit in the 2012-2013 timeframe, to the point that some got frustrated with the volume and left for other groups. That's the 2014-2016 dip. I do think he's right about this year, at least so far.

Mar 5, 2017, 12:37pm Top

>121 foggidawn: Good idea! I'll have to check with him.

>122 jessibud2: Maybe there will be more reasonable tickets when it goes back to Toronto next year for an open run? But I know Mirvish is generally pretty terrible about discounts of any sort. I really appreciated the brief time when Dancap was in the city and actually offered rush tickets.

>123 drneutron: Thanks for that summary. I have to say that for this group in particular, I actually find the current volume preferable to the extreme volume of the peak years; at least I have some hope of catching up on threads. But I would have expected to see the departures from this group spreading out and creating more activity elsewhere, which doesn't really seem to have happened. This remains the most active group on the site by far.

Mar 5, 2017, 8:36pm Top

>125 jessibud2: I saw that! I'm glad that the show seems to be succeeding.

Mar 7, 2017, 10:45am Top

7. A Hope More Powerful than the Sea by Melissa Fleming

Definitely a worthwhile and timely read, about a Syrian refugee who risked the Mediterranean crossing and watched hundreds of her fellow passengers drown around her.

I'll just copy the start of the book description here:

Adrift in a frigid sea, no land in sight—just debris from the ship's wreckage and floating corpses all around—nineteen-year-old Doaa Al Zamel floats with a small inflatable water ring around her waist and clutches two children, barely toddlers, to her body. The children had been thrust into Doaa's arms by their drowning relatives, all refugees who boarded a dangerously overcrowded ship bound for Sweden and a new life. For days, Doaa floats, prays, and sings to the babies in her arms. She must stay alive for these children. She must not lose hope.

I definitely learned a lot about Syria and the refugee experience. The first third of the book (roughly) deals with Doaa's life at home, the second deals with her time as a refugee in Egypt, and the third deals with her experience attempting to cross the Mediterranean. There's minimal detail about her life afterwards, since this book was written very soon after the key events took place; hopefully I'll remember to check back on her story in a few years.

Mar 7, 2017, 11:02am Top

Oh, this sounds good!

Mar 7, 2017, 11:13am Top

>128 jessibud2: You should read it! I even considered giving it 4.5 stars on the basis of the story. (The writing shows some signs of hastiness, but I think it's worth the trade-off to have the book available now.)

Mar 7, 2017, 6:27pm Top

Theater tickets start at $60 - $100 for the cheap seats and go up from there. It's certainly something you have to save for and be selective about.

I got my packages yesterday! I've already opened up the notebooks for use and the books will be nice, easy reads when I feel up to them. Thanks so much!

Mar 7, 2017, 7:45pm Top

>130 Morphidae: It's strange to think that Broadway shows can actually be seen more cheaply than shows in some other cities.

One of the things I like about living near a college is that I have the opportunity of seeing student performances for a fraction of what a regular show would cost. I need to remember to that more often.

And I'm glad everything arrived! I placed the order before you mentioned that you weren't reading a lot right now, so I was relieved that I'd included something other than the books.

I wasn't sure whether the facility would actually allow you to string an extension cord across the floor, but let me know if that would be allowed and if so, how long it would need to be.

Mar 7, 2017, 8:02pm Top

Hello, Zoe!

Mar 8, 2017, 8:28am Top

>132 alcottacre: Hello, Stasia! It's great to see you here!

Mar 8, 2017, 8:31am Top

>133 _Zoe_: It is great to finally be around again!

Mar 8, 2017, 10:32am Top

>131 _Zoe_: My husband actually brought an extension cord in for something else I'm not using. Keep in mind that I need to lock up things that are valuable every time I leave the room and then get them out again. Between that and me being here just two more weeks (most likely), it might be best not to send me anything electronic (as much as I might appreciate it!)

Mar 10, 2017, 11:26am Top

>135 Morphidae: I'm glad you have an extension cord now! I hated to think of you stuck wanting to watch movies but not able to plug in your device. I hope everything is going well.

Edited: Mar 12, 2017, 12:14pm Top

8. The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

This reread of an "old-fashioned" children's story was my bedtime book for nights when I was too tired to do any serious thinking. I loved it the first time I read it, in 2010, but this time I'd say I only liked it; the initial premise about uncaring families (parents who have no interest in their children, and children who hope their parents will disappear) was a bit too bleak for my current mood. But of course the story picks up as it goes along, and everything works out for the best, so I did enjoy it in the end. It made me think that I might want to revisit The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place next.

Also, a random note about the physical book: I think I had initially read a (library?) hardcover, and purchased this paperback only after my first read. The paperback was new, and I was discouraged to see noticeable yellowing of the pages after only 6 or 7 years. Also, the inner margin was a bit too narrow for my liking. I usually prefer paperbacks just for ease of holding, but maybe hardcovers are actually better for short children's books.

Edited: Mar 13, 2017, 9:53am Top

9. The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar

Do you ever pick up a book with only the vaguest idea of the topic, and immediately realize that you've missed a major part of the premise? Seeing that the protagonist was a nineteenth-century Egyptologist's daughter was enough for me to pick up this graphic novel, and I didn't even read the first line of the description enough to realize that this is a love story between her and a mummy. So it's weird.

Also, the characters' actions often make no sense. And there's no character development at all, just a random sequence of events. On the bright side, the events are so ridiculous that they often made me laugh.

The term "love story" might be misleading, because the characters are already in love when the story starts. But then she finds out that she looks very similar to his long-dead Egyptian wife, so she reasonably concludes that he's not actually in love with her as a person after all. So that could be an interesting story arc, but it doesn't really go anywhere; towards the end of the book, while they're sitting in jail together (because that happens), she just turns to him and says that he's the love of her life, so it's all good. That sequence is pretty representative of the rest of the storyline.

I can't exactly recommend this book, but it passed the time and it's very short. In the past I wouldn't even have counted such a tiny book (an 80-page graphic novel), but I've become more flexible as I go along.

Mar 17, 2017, 9:39am Top

Zoe, is your visa in danger? I just read about specialty nurses turned away at the border in Michigan.

Mar 17, 2017, 9:59am Top

>139 ffortsa: It sounds like those nurses have TN visas, which isn't the kind I have. So it's not so much that my visa is in any particular danger, but pretty much all visas are in danger because the rules are subject to change at the drop of a hat as part of the general crackdown on foreigners.

Mar 21, 2017, 10:14pm Top

What a nervous way to live. It's unforgivable.

Mar 22, 2017, 9:00am Top

>127 _Zoe_: Oh I saw that book before and was very tempted. Looks like I should go back and get it

Mar 31, 2017, 11:11am Top

>141 Morphidae: I feel like this is just life in the US overall. If it's not visa uncertainty, it's something else like random heath care costs. I just take reassurance from the fact that I have somewhere else to go if it all goes badly. And for now my job here makes the other issues worth dealing with.

>142 eclecticdodo: You should definitely read it! I had also been eyeing it at the bookstore for a while before taking the plunge, and I'm glad I went ahead and bought it.

Edited: Mar 31, 2017, 11:45am Top

10. Eva's Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott

My Brownie group decided to do make-your-own badges, and two of them chose to create a reading badge (why this is not already an option in the Brownie program, I don't know). Needless to say, I was very happy with this choice—I didn't influence it at all, really!—and now they've been bringing in their books to show to the group every week for the past month or so :D

When they brought in some Owl Diaries books, I found them particularly striking because of the art:

It looks like each image is made out of paper, and it's super cute. And so I decided to read one of the books, and I was happy that I did. The story isn't particularly noteworthy, but I love the images, so I plan to read more of these.

In the past I wouldn't have counted tiny children's books as part of this challenge, but meh. I do plenty of serious scholarly reading that doesn't count because it's just part of a book, so I figure it all balances out in the end.

Also, I know nothing about children's books, but this format was new to me: they're intended to bridge the gap between picture books and chapter books, so they're shaped more like chapter books, and they have chapters, but there are pictures on every page—individual pictures mostly, not full pictures with backgrounds. Also, conversation takes place in speech bubbles like a graphic novel. It's an interesting mix.

Mar 31, 2017, 12:34pm Top

>144 _Zoe_: That owl is super adorable.

Mar 31, 2017, 12:57pm Top

March Summary

Books Finished:

Books Continued:

Books Started, To Be Continued:

Sources of Finished Books:
1 ebook purchased this year
1 paper book reread from my collection
1 paper book from the library
1 paper book purchased this year

Total progress on books read partially in March:
My Name is Seepeetza (p. 93 of 126)
Strangers in Their Own Land (p. 55 of 261)
Why We March (p. 97 of 264)
Lady Midnight (p. 312 of 698)

Well, the month started off strong (spring break plus snow days!), but then I got busy again and some of my books turned out to be slower-going than expected. Still, I think it was a decent month overall.

Mar 31, 2017, 1:25pm Top

>146 _Zoe_: I bought the last Mortal Instruments book when it came out and still haven't read it. I'll be interested to see your thoughts on Clare's new(ish) series.

Mar 31, 2017, 1:38pm Top

>147 MickyFine: I decided to skip the last two Mortal Instruments, because I wasn't super impressed with the fourth one and I decided that I never really appreciate it when an author takes what was intended as a trilogy and tacks on extra books with the same characters.

So far, my reaction to Lady Midnight is mixed:

*I like the characters, and I like the fact that it's a best friend romance rather than an OMG-I-saw-a-hot-stranger romance.
*The basic storyline is interesting.
*It's generally an easy read.
*There's been only one instance of really idiotic protagonist behaviour so far.
*It's started to drag a bit in the middle, and I think it's suffering from J.K. Rowling syndrome: Clare has become too popular for her editors and they're not willing to cut aggressively enough. I noted recently that the first Mortal Instruments book and the first Infernal Devices book were each about 550 pages long, while this one is more like 700. And I don't think the storyline is really much more complex, the writing is just more bloated, with more detail devoted to side characters and their backstories. But maybe I'm just at a particularly slow point right now; other parts have certainly been plenty compelling.

Mar 31, 2017, 2:11pm Top

>148 _Zoe_: Good to know. :)

Apr 2, 2017, 12:33pm Top

I should note that Lady Midnight did seem to pick up again over the next section. I'm now just over halfway through.

Also, the fact that it's going so slowly has actually made me consider buying the next book when it's released; I don't trust that I'd read it within the three-week loan period, and it will probably be a year or so before the hold list vanishes and allows for renewals.

At the same time, I also found myself wishing that Lady Midnight had been written by Brandon Sanderson. There's an interesting plotline about why it's forbidden to be in love with your parabatai (my guess is that it will turn out to be a super-powerful combination of magics), and I'd like to see the background lore explored in greater detail.

Apr 2, 2017, 5:18pm Top

Quarterly Update: Purchases and Goals

I haven't completed many books so far this year, but I'm actually pretty happy with how other aspects of my reading life are going: I'm not buying too many books, and I'm making decent progress on the goals that I set out at the start of the year.

I've purchased (paper) 17 books that I classify as academic or otherwise work-related, which means they barely count.

I've only purchased 5 paper books for leisure reading, of which I've finished one and read three others in part.

And I've purchased 3 ebooks: three that I bought at regular price, all of which I've completed, and three that I bought for $2 apiece, which I haven't yet read.

The moral of the story is that ebook purchases are working well for me; since I can get the book exactly when I want to read it, and try a sample in advance, I'm likely to purchase only ebooks that I actually want to read right away. (The $2 ebooks are different, but I can't really be concerned about the space that they take up or the $6 that I've spent.)

In terms of my goals for the year:

I've completed one of the seven books for Rachel's book group, and made progress on another, so that's basically on target: my goal is to try them all and finish at least four.

I'm behind on my goal to read four specific books about Indigenous Canadians, largely because My Name Is Seepeetza is dragging a lot, but at least I've made a small amount of progress every month.

I'm on pace with 3 of 12 books by black authors completed.

I'm on pace with 2 of 6 books started in previous years completed.

And I'm slightly behind pace with only 1 of 6 off-the-shelf books completed, but in theory I should just be aiming to read the second one sometime in March or April.

So even though I'm behind in my total count for the year (even with my lower target of 50 books, I'm two books behind pace), I'm pretty satisfied overall.

Apr 3, 2017, 12:10pm Top

>151 _Zoe_: *shakes pom-poms encouragingly* :D

Edited: Apr 5, 2017, 11:44am Top

>152 MickyFine: Thank you! Both for the encouragement and for being the one person who consistently posts and reassures me that I'm not just talking to myself :D.

Meanwhile, some good news yesterday: my visa extension was approved, much faster than I'd expected. I'm surprisingly reassured by this, because it seems much less likely that an existing visa would be terminated in the middle than that it would just fail to be renewed.

Apr 5, 2017, 11:38am Top

I'm listening! I just forget to post and/or can't think of anything to say. Congrats on your visa!

Apr 5, 2017, 11:44am Top

What Nora said! Hi Zoe :)

Apr 5, 2017, 11:45am Top

Apr 5, 2017, 11:45am Top

Apr 5, 2017, 11:50am Top

Now I feel bad I haven't been posting lately! I just haven't had anything to say about your recent reads. Congrats on the visa extension - how long is it for?

Apr 5, 2017, 12:23pm Top

>158 lorax: Oh, don't feel bad! I didn't mean to sound ungrateful for all my non-Micky visitors. I know I should just finish some meatier books if I want more discussion. (And besides, I'm probably the worst of anyone when it comes to not posting in threads.)

The visa extension is for two more years (until the end of August 2019), which means I don't have to think about it for another year or so. At that point hopefully I'll have a better idea of long-term plans—will I be staying in the US or returning to Canada?—and can take action accordingly.

Apr 5, 2017, 1:50pm Top

Hurrah on the visa extension, Zoe!! And for the progress on your goals, good work.

Apr 5, 2017, 7:14pm Top

Hurrah indeed. Nice to be able to put that in the back of the list for now.

Apr 5, 2017, 8:02pm Top

>153 _Zoe_: - Yay for the visa!! :-)

Apr 6, 2017, 10:30am Top

I'm also bad about not posting on other people's threads, and then wondering why so few people post on mine. :-)

Apr 6, 2017, 10:36am Top

>163 foggidawn: Yup, me too.

Apr 6, 2017, 10:36pm Top

Congrats on the visa renewal! That's great news. :D

Apr 25, 2017, 12:43pm Top

Hey Zoe! I know you've been trying to include more reading on Indigenous populations/issues this year. Just thought I'd point you towards the Indigenous Canada MOOC that's being offered by the University of Alberta. I'm contemplating taking it myself. :)

May 7, 2017, 4:37am Top

Wishing you a splendid weekend, Zoe.

May 7, 2017, 9:23am Top

>166 MickyFine: Ooh, that looks great! I don't think I can do the session that starts on May 15, but hopefully they'll offer it again in the fall. Thank you for telling me about it!

>167 PaulCranswick: Wishing you an excellent weekend as well, Paul.

I'm almost at the end of the semester; the craziest week has just finished. The university decided to make up for one of the snow days by eliminating the study day and adding an extra teaching day instead. So I taught my classes on Tuesday as usual (they're scheduled for Tuesday-Thursday), then again on Wednesday as the make-up day, then gave my first final exam on Thursday. And grades are supposed to be submitted within 48h of the final, so I had to grade frantically after that. It's a bit frustrating because there's really no reason they needed those grades on Saturday rather than Sunday or Monday, so it's like they want to push people to the edge of burnout just for fun. And I feel bad for the students, who didn't have any time at all to study after the end of the semester. But at least one class is done, and it was a good semester overall.

I haven't been doing much reading lately, but I do have a couple of books that I finished last month and still need to post.

May 8, 2017, 6:42am Top

Having said that I don't have time for the Indigenous Canada course this summer, I'm really tempted to try it anyway. But do courses with a specific start date have to be completed on their specific schedule, or is it possible to work through them more slowly if necessary?

May 8, 2017, 4:01pm Top

>169 _Zoe_: I did end up signing up for it. It's done through Coursera so it looks like you have to finish by the end date (Aug. 13). We'll see if I actually manage to stick with it through the whole thing. I'll let you know how I like it if/when I finish it.

May 20, 2017, 8:53pm Top

>168 _Zoe_: Oh wow, that sounds like a pretty intense week for you and the students! Glad the semester went well overall though.

Jun 8, 2017, 10:19am Top

Um. Books. Not much progress to report lately, though I think I've gotten back on track this past week or so. Immediately after the crazy end-of-semester (before I'd even finished submitting all my grades), I went down to the NYC/New Jersey area for about a week, where I attended a one-day conference, celebrated a friend's marriage, met with one of my supervisors, met up with Darryl and Judy, spent an afternoon at the Brazilian consulate to obtain a visa for a trip next month (Darryl was particularly patient and supportive in accompanying me on various pre-visa errands), saw a Broadway show, and just generally kept busy. Since returning, I've also attended another local conference (three full days) and a two-day training on racial equity. And then proceeded to develop a horrible cold that's just starting to dissipate now. I think my body may be trying to send a message that I need rest....

>170 MickyFine: How is the course going? I managed to refrain from signing up this time, but I definitely want to do it in the future.

>171 bell7: Yup, definitely intense. I'm glad it's over!

Edited: Jun 8, 2017, 10:43am Top

April Summary

Books Finished:

I don't seem to have kept any records about books that I read partially in April, so I'll just note these two that I finished, which I didn't even get around to posting about at all.

Sources of finished books:
1 library paper book
1 paper book purchased this year

11. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

This book had a lot of good elements, but it just felt like it dragged on too long—basically I didn't feel like it was worthwhile enough to justify the time spent to read its approximately 700 pages. Partially this may be due to the fact that I'd borrowed it from the library, which meant I had to read it faster than I would have liked (paradoxically, I may actually buy the next one even though I didn't love this one). But partially it's just because the pacing was way off. I remember staying up late into the night to read through the climax, because the book was unputdownable for a good 100-150 pages. But then there were still another 100 or so pages to read after the climax, and I was ready to be done at that point.

12. Eva Sees a Ghost by Rebecca Elliott

More cute owls, basically an indication of my mental energy at this point in the semester. But where I loved the artwork in the first book, I felt like this one was a bit of a disappointment. Basically, the plot just didn't lend itself to beautiful visuals: as the title suggests, Eva thinks she's seen a ghost, and the book is basically about mysterious glimpses and other people's disbelief. It's about words rather than images, which really doesn't make the most of this medium.

Jun 8, 2017, 10:42am Top

May Summary

I didn't finish any books at all in May. Then by the second half of the month there was so much I wanted to read that I kept starting new books. Hopefully I'll finish some of them eventually.

Books started*, to be continued:

*Due to lack of April tracking, I'm not 100% sure that all of these books were started in May, but I think they were.

Total progress on books read partially in May:
Happiness Is: 500 things to be happy about (p. 48 of 271)
Educating Esmé (p. 75 of 263)
Doing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Mathematics (p. 7 of 206)
Requiem for the American Dream (p. 11 of 157)
The Shame of the Nation (p. 34 of 338)
The Hate U Give (13%)
Hold Fast to Dreams (p. 28 of 302)

Jun 8, 2017, 10:48am Top

13. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

There's a reason this YA novel has such high ratings—it's definitely worth a read. This is a powerful book about police killing of unarmed black youth.

Jun 8, 2017, 10:53am Top

I'm reading The Hate U Give too. It's very good but so long. I feel like I've read a whole book already but I'm exactly halfway through. However, it doesn't seem to be dragging in the middle the way some very long books do.

Jun 8, 2017, 11:19am Top

>176 norabelle414: I think it helped that the last real book I'd read was Lady Midnight, which is 50% longer (and not nearly as worthwhile), so by comparison The Hate U Give seemed completely reasonable to me.

Jun 8, 2017, 2:11pm Top

>172 _Zoe_: So I took the first week and the content was great. And then I didn't go back because I got sucked into real life things and didn't want to do coursework in my suddenly decreased solo time when I could do lazy things like rewatch Buffy and Angel. So you know, take that as you will.

The end of term plague. I remember those days. Take it easy for a bit.

How long are you going to be in Brazil? Actual vacation or are you conferencing?

Jun 8, 2017, 2:17pm Top

>178 MickyFine: That sounds pretty similar to my experiences with Coursera. So many exciting possibilities but never enough time to follow through.

I'm going to a conference, but I added a couple of extra days at the beginning to adjust to the time difference, so I should at least get to go on a tour of the city (Rio).

Jun 8, 2017, 2:24pm Top

14. My Name Is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling

How can a book about such an important topic be so utterly boring? This novel is presented as the diary of a twelve-year-old Indigenous girl at a residential school in 1958/9. Because it's a diary, there is literally no plot. It's a sequence of disconnected events. I picked this up as a supplement to my reading of the Truth and Reconciliation report, thinking that the story of an individual would bring the events to life, but it basically had the opposite effect; the government report is far more compelling. At only 126 pages, My Name is Seepeetza is short enough that I refused to abandon it, but getting through it was a struggle that took almost a year.

Jun 8, 2017, 2:30pm Top

>179 _Zoe_: That'll be exciting! My brother's in-laws went to Rio last year as their nephew was a competitor in the special Olympics. They had a pretty good time. Just remember the sunscreen. :D

>180 _Zoe_: If you want a short residential school memoir, The Education of Augie Merasty might suit you better. It's under 100 pages and I've heard nothing but good things. Of course, because I do lists of these things all the time for work there are a few other residential school memoirs I can recommend as well that are on the chunkier side.

Jun 8, 2017, 2:51pm Top

>181 MickyFine: Thank you for that suggestion! It sounds like exactly what I was looking for. I was planning to read Wenjack next, because I already own it, but it turns out it's not on my shelf where I thought it was. Boo. So I've downloaded the Kindle sample of The Education of Augie Merasty instead, and any other recommendations would also be very welcome.

Jun 8, 2017, 3:17pm Top

Here's a few others that I've put on a list for work in the past: They Called Me Number One, Broken Circle, and Up Ghost River.

Jun 10, 2017, 12:05pm Top

>183 MickyFine: I've added all of those to the wishlist, thanks! I find it somewhat encouraging to look at their relatively recent publication dates and think that these stories are gradually starting to become more accessible.

15. The Education of Augie Merasty by Augie Merasty

Thank you to Micky for recommending this one; it was exactly what I was looking for—a powerful and important residential school memoir. I suspect I'll reread it in the future.

I was glad that Merasty got to see his book published before he died, and I just wish the editor had been as determined to track him down and hear his story over the decade that they corresponded as he was to track him down and get the final contract signed.

Merasty's obituary is also worth the read.

Jun 10, 2017, 4:19pm Top

>184 _Zoe_: Glad to see the recommendation worked for you.

Jun 11, 2017, 8:48pm Top

>184 _Zoe_: That looks like one I should track down, Zoe.

Jun 12, 2017, 10:35am Top

>186 PaulCranswick: I'd definitely recommend it, though I don't know if it will have the same significance if you're not Canadian.

Edited: Jun 13, 2017, 11:38am Top

16. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

I have very mixed feelings about this one. I loved the first third or so, which was cute and funny and exactly what I wanted in a light summer read. Dimple Shah has just finished high school and is eager to escape from her overbearing parents. She dreams of a career in web design, so she's thrilled when her parents agree to let her attend a six-week summer program that may offer a chance to meet her woman-in-tech hero. But she soon finds out that the only reason they sent her there was because they were hoping to arrange a marriage between her and the son of some of their friends....

So, Dimple's initial interactions with Rishi were hilarious, and I appreciated the fact that she was a career-driven woman in tech who didn't care about things like makeup and clothes.

That was before the whole Insomnia Con program turned out to be a big letdown that wasn't actually about learning. It includes a talent show that gets far more attention than the actual coding aspect; the talent show is important because the winners get a $1000 prize that they can use to hire developers to work on their app, increasing their chances of winning the overall design competition, which would allow them to meet and possibly collaborate with the famous Jenny Lindt. The ultimate goal is not to build skills and actually create your own app, but to use money and connections to make it happen for you. If you're not named the winner of the overall event, the whole experience is useless: you won't even get feedback on the project that you've worked on for six weeks, and of course there's no chance of completing it yourself; without a big name behind you, you might as well give up. So instead of being someone with the drive and determination to achieve success for herself, Dimple was reduced to a helpless fangirl. That was a big disappointment.

The takeaway was that even if a woman cares more about her intellectual abilities than her physical appearance, what really matters is her natural dancing ability. (Which incidentally also manages to undermine women who put time into physical training—obviously a week's worth of practice is all it takes to dance like a professional.)

I should note that I have no problem with the basic premise that a woman who's focused on her career can also have time for love; obviously that was an expected element of this story, and I wasn't hoping or expecting that Dimple would end up successful but single. It's the more insidious messages that bothered me.

Also, a lot of the time Dimple is just mean.

Jun 13, 2017, 12:20pm Top

>188 _Zoe_: Sorry to hear the premise fell flat. Crossing my fingers your next light summer read actually delivers.

Jun 13, 2017, 12:47pm Top

>188 _Zoe_: Wow! This book had been on my radar but all of the recommendations I read focused on the romance and not Dimple's work. That sounds like it would bother me too so I think I'll skip it.

Jun 13, 2017, 7:50pm Top

>189 MickyFine: Well, at least it was quick and readable, so it didn't fail on all counts.

>190 norabelle414: Yeah, that's basically the problem: the Insomnia Con setting is there to provide a backdrop for the romance, but it's not logically developed in itself. It reminds me a bit of Divergent in that respect, though of course a poorly-considered six-week summer program isn't nearly as disastrous as a poorly-considered dystopian world.

On the other hand, I seem to be pretty much the only person who was bothered by this, so I don't know if you should dismiss the book entirely just based on my comments.

Edited: Jun 21, 2017, 5:10pm Top

>188 _Zoe_: Jenny Lindt was also the name of a famous Swedish soprano brought over to America with great fanfare by P. T. Barnum back in the day.

Jun 20, 2017, 10:18pm Top

Edited: Jul 5, 2017, 11:40am Top

17. Invisible North: The Search for Answers on a Troubled Reserve by Alexandra Shimo

One of the most eye-opening books I've ever read.

This book is part of my "Truth and Reconciliation" reading, and I picked it up one evening because I figured a memoir would be relatively easy bedtime reading, in terms of language if not content. That assessment turned out to be correct: it's a short book written in a very readable style, blending an account of Shimo's months on a northern Ontario reserve with background about the history of the reserves and the treatment of Indigenous people by the Canadian government. The copyediting sometimes leaves something to be desired, but I can forgive that because the content is so powerful.

I was constantly shocked by some new revelation about how the government's actions. There's just so much disturbing policy that led to the terrible living conditions of Indigenous Canadians on reserves. Until the very recent past, people living on reserves weren't even allowed to visit other reserves without permission from the government of Canada? They weren't (aren't?) allowed to trade with each other? They're forced to buy from one government store that can use its monopoly to charge obscene prices? Etc.

Then there's the Sixties Scoop: a government policy of kidnapping Indigenous children from their families and giving them up for adoption to non-Indigenous families. They would claim that they were taking the child to see a doctor, and the child just wouldn't come back. The policy was supposed to be for neglected/abused children, but they assumed all children on reserves were neglected/abused.

And there were "the anti-trade sections of the Indian Act, which banned Aboriginals from doing business with each other unless the transaction was approved by the Ministry, laws that were only revoked in December 2014." In general, the reserve isn't allowed to do anything without permission from the government, and the government pretty much always says no.

The account as a whole is chillingly dystopian. All money is controlled by the Ministry, which gives (or more often, doesn't give) funding according to its whims, with no explanation or accountability. The result is that people are afraid even to talk to a journalist about their terrible living conditions, because angering the Ministry could result in the withholding of money that they need to survive.

I don't know what's more shocking: the horrible laws that forced Indigenous people into poverty, or the fact that I had literally no idea. I grew up reading multiple Canadian newspapers daily, and I had no idea.

Shimo has an explanation for that too: "The main theory used to explain these conditions is that they are the unfortunate remnant of policies that we now acknowledge as a historic mistake. As a national myth, so oft-repeated it has gained the familiarity of a nursery rhyme, it has the advantage that any wrongdoing is embedded firmly in the past." This definitely rings true to me. I remember being taught very briefly about the residential school system, and coming away with the impression that it was just one of those unenlightened things that nineteenth-century people did; I don't think I learned until a couple of years ago that it had continued into the 1990s.

Anyway, I could quote more and more passages, but I'll limit myself to one final extended quote about how the reserves came to be where they are today:

"And it was easy to continue moving First Nations persons around, as if they were unwanted bedroom furniture, long past the era of Herbert Spencer's Survival of the Fittest and nineteenth-century colonial expansion. This is where Canadian history differs from that of other developed countries, such as the United States and New Zealand, which also committed mass displacement of their indigenous people, but mostly stopped after the nineteenth century....

"In 1956, the Ministry decided that the Sayisi Dene were not getting enough to eat and therefore needed to be moved. (In fact, they were, but the department had miscounted the number of caribou in the herds.) The spot chosen, just outside of Churchill, Manitoba, named 'Camp 10,' was a rocky, windy outcrop measuring three hundred by six hundred feet, devoid of any trees, sanitation, or fresh water, and accessible only by foot.... Children found food by scavenging in the local dump. Dumpster diving was seen as necessary but highly dangerous, as Camp 10 was located in the polar bear migration path. Within five years, an estimated one-third of the original Sayisi Dene population had died from disease and malnutrition....

"Or there's the Mushuau Innu.... Without consultation, they were loaded onto boats and transported two hundred kilometres to a location lacking trees and hunting.... It too was located on a rocky outcrop without running water.... It was believed that the Innu would simply shift from hunting caribou to becoming full-time fishermen, not because they had any desire or proclivities for their new profession, but because the new site 'was not too far from fishing grounds.' The rock was considered too expensive to dig, so houses were built without sewage systems. Waste and garbage began to accumulate."

And it just goes on. I'd say this is essential reading for any Canadian, because it manages to convey a powerful and important message wrapped up in a short and easy-to-read memoir. Shimo's original purpose was to investigate a water crisis that was possibly exaggerated for media attention, but the book goes so far beyond that that the main goal sometimes seems like a distraction from the real story. Whenever I started to think that that was enough about the machinations surrounding the water crisis, Shimo would move on to something more important like the children's suicide crisis.

Anyway, it's not a perfect book, but it's extremely eye-opening and highly recommended.

Jul 2, 2017, 4:57pm Top

18. Wenjack by Joseph Boyden

This book is ostensibly about the bad treatment of Indigenous children by the Canadian government. The protagonist, Chanie ("Charlie") Wenjack, is running away from residential school, and at risk of spoilers, I'll say that the book doesn't have a happy ending. The horrors of the residential schools are well-documented and worth reading about, whether in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or in survivor memoirs like The Education of Augie Merasty. This is an important topic for Canadians to read about, and Boyden's short novella offers a well-written fictionalized account that includes the interesting perspectives of the manitous, spirits whose viewpoints alternate in chapters with Chanie's own.

And yet. I couldn't help being turned off by Boyden's portrayal of the other Indigenous people in this story, and that's a pretty serious problem. The villain in this story should be the Canadian government, and the white settlers represented by that government. There is one brief and horrifying scene of sexual abuse by one of the adults in charge of the residential school, but the book somehow manages to present the only Indigenous male as almost equally culpable in Chanie's death: when Chanie and his two friends escape from the residential school and make it to the home of the friends' uncle, said uncle soon turns Chanie away. It's only after reaching the presumed safety of an Indigenous home that Chanie perishes, because they just don't have room for him.

Now, this book is based on a true story. Boyden doesn't mention in his afterword which aspects are real and which are fictionalized, so as soon as I finished reading I looked up the 1967 Maclean's article that first brought Chanie's death to public attention. I wanted to know the details of Chanie's encounter with his friends' uncle differed in the two accounts.

In Boyden's (fictionalized) account, the three boys arrive at the house, where they receive food (while the uncle himself goes hungry) and promptly go to sleep. In the morning, the uncle takes his nephews to his trapline, and says that there isn't enough room for Chanie in the canoe. During the night, he's told his wife to get rid of Chanie: "Your job is to send the stranger away. Someone broke something in him. We don't have tools to fix it." But Chanie independently decides to go on foot to the cabin by the trapline, and reaches it before they do. When the others arrive, the uncle doesn't even let him inside; he immediately tells him to go on his way to the school. "If you travel quick, you will beat most of the weather."

In the Maclean's (non-fiction) account, the boys stayed for several days at the uncle's house before he took his nephews up to the trapline (the comment about lack of space in the canoe is based on the factual account). When Chanie arrived on foot at the trapping cabin, he ate inside with the others; even though there was barely any food, it was shared with him. Everyone left in the morning. Chanie was told that he would have to walk back because there was no room in the canoe, but he said that was going to go home to his father.

For me, one of the key passages in the Maclean's article is this one: "No one told Charlie to go. Nobody told him to stay either. But as the days passed Charlie got the message." This is a pretty sharp contrast to Boyden's account, where Chanie was forced to leave the day after he arrived.

And while I was reading this, I was thinking of Alexandra Shimo's Invisible North, a contemporary account of life on a Northern Ontario reserve. Indigenous people there are still living in horrible conditions, imposed upon them by the Canadian government: insufficient food, lack of sanitation, etc. And yet Shimo observed in her time there that even when they were living 18 to a house, with children sleeping in shifts on the floor because space was so tight, nobody went homeless. People took care of each other as much as their limited resources allowed. Again, it's a pretty sharp contrast to Boyden's fictionalized account.

And of course, I'm reading all this in the context of the recent controversy surrounding Boyden's Indigenous ancestry. He describes himself as "a white kid from Willowdale with native roots", and he achieved fame as an Indigenous author writing about Indigenous topics. The fact that he grew up in white suburban privilege might have been enough of a problem in terms of receiving awards intended for Indigenous authors, but it was compounded by the fact that investigations into his genealogy failed to uncover any Indigenous ancestors. He once said he was Métis, a claim that he later retracted, and that was apparently born out of the misconception that "Métis" meant "anyone with mixed European/Indigenous heritage". I'm not particularly bothered by the details of this discussion—I imagine he has some distant Indigenous ancestors somewhere—but it has made me more aware and skeptical of his role as the voice of Indigenous culture. The key point for me is that regardless of who his great-grandparents were, the majority of his ancestors were European and he had a typical Toronto upbringing.

So there's the nagging question of, Is this the person who should be telling me about Indigenous life? And when he takes a non-fiction story and fictionalizes it in a way that makes some of the Indigenous characters look worse than the facts would suggest, that grows from a niggling concern to a potentially serious problem that prevented me from fully appreciating the book. It's a short, well-written story about an important topic, but I personally wasn't able to overcome my concerns about its authenticity.

Jul 3, 2017, 1:46pm Top

June Summary

Books Finished:

Books Continued:

Books Started, To Be Continued:

Sources of Finished Books:
4 ebooks purchased this year
1 library paper book that I kept for so long that I had to pay for it

So, ebook purchases are definitely changing my buying habits. I'm much more likely to finish a book when I can read the sample first, and then acquire the whole book immediately if I want to continue.

But I made sure to buy lots of physical Canadian books in Canadian bookstores this weekend, because I think it's important that both books and bookstores exist.

Jul 3, 2017, 7:05pm Top

>195 _Zoe_: The only Boyden I've read was Three Day Road back in 2007ish and I loved it. I'm a little afraid to revisit it now in light of the recent controversy for fear that my knowledge of Boyden controversy would colour a re-read.

Happy belated Canada Day!

Jul 5, 2017, 10:31am Top

>197 MickyFine: I still plan to read at least one of Boyden's longer works. I did like his writing, and I had no problem with the first half of Wenjack; I was only reminded of the controversy when I encountered a problematic plot point. Plus I already own The Orenda.

Happy belated Canada Day to you too!

Jul 5, 2017, 11:39am Top

In lieu of a real review, I've decided to mash together my Goodreads in-progress comments about Invisible North, with minimal modifications. I'll post the review in the reserved spot a few messages up, but I'm also putting it here so it won't be necessary to scroll back up.

This book is part of my "Truth and Reconciliation" reading, and I picked it up one evening because I figured a memoir would be relatively easy bedtime reading, in terms of language if not content. That assessment turned out to be correct: it's a short book written in a very readable style, blending an account of Shimo's months on a northern Ontario reserve with background about the history of the reserves and the treatment of Indigenous people by the Canadian government. The copyediting sometimes leaves something to be desired, but I can forgive that because the content is so powerful.

I was constantly shocked by some new revelation about how the government's actions. There's just so much disturbing policy that led to the terrible living conditions of Indigenous Canadians on reserves. Until the very recent past, people living on reserves weren't even allowed to visit other reserves without permission from the government of Canada? They weren't (aren't?) allowed to trade with each other? They're forced to buy from one government store that can use its monopoly to charge obscene prices? Etc.

Then there's the Sixties Scoop: a government policy of kidnapping Indigenous children from their families and giving them up for adoption to non-Indigenous families. They would claim that they were taking the child to see a doctor, and the child just wouldn't come back. The policy was supposed to be for neglected/abused children, but they assumed all children on reserves were neglected/abused.

And there were "the anti-trade sections of the Indian Act, which banned Aboriginals from doing business with each other unless the transaction was approved by the Ministry, laws that were only revoked in December 2014." In general, the reserve isn't allowed to do anything without permission from the government, and the government pretty much always says no.

The account as a whole is chillingly dystopian. All money is controlled by the Ministry, which gives (or more often, doesn't give) funding according to its whims, with no explanation or accountability. The result is that people are afraid even to talk to a journalist about their terrible living conditions, because angering the Ministry could result in the withholding of money that they need to survive.

I don't know what's more shocking: the horrible laws that forced Indigenous people into poverty, or the fact that I had literally no idea. I grew up reading multiple Canadian newspapers daily, and I had no idea.

Shimo has an explanation for that too: "The main theory used to explain these conditions is that they are the unfortunate remnant of policies that we now acknowledge as a historic mistake. As a national myth, so oft-repeated it has gained the familiarity of a nursery rhyme, it has the advantage that any wrongdoing is embedded firmly in the past." This definitely rings true to me. I remember being taught very briefly about the residential school system, and coming away with the impression that it was just one of those unenlightened things that nineteenth-century people did; I don't think I learned until a couple of years ago that it had continued into the 1990s.

Anyway, I could quote more and more passages, but I'll limit myself to one final extended quote about how the reserves came to be where they are today:

"And it was easy to continue moving First Nations persons around, as if they were unwanted bedroom furniture, long past the era of Herbert Spencer's Survival of the Fittest and nineteenth-century colonial expansion. This is where Canadian history differs from that of other developed countries, such as the United States and New Zealand, which also committed mass displacement of their indigenous people, but mostly stopped after the nineteenth century....

"In 1956, the Ministry decided that the Sayisi Dene were not getting enough to eat and therefore needed to be moved. (In fact, they were, but the department had miscounted the number of caribou in the herds.) The spot chosen, just outside of Churchill, Manitoba, named 'Camp 10,' was a rocky, windy outcrop measuring three hundred by six hundred feet, devoid of any trees, sanitation, or fresh water, and accessible only by foot.... Children found food by scavenging in the local dump. Dumpster diving was seen as necessary but highly dangerous, as Camp 10 was located in the polar bear migration path. Within five years, an estimated one-third of the original Sayisi Dene population had died from disease and malnutrition....

"Or there's the Mushuau Innu.... Without consultation, they were loaded onto boats and transported two hundred kilometres to a location lacking trees and hunting.... It too was located on a rocky outcrop without running water.... It was believed that the Innu would simply shift from hunting caribou to becoming full-time fishermen, not because they had any desire or proclivities for their new profession, but because the new site 'was not too far from fishing grounds.' The rock was considered too expensive to dig, so houses were built without sewage systems. Waste and garbage began to accumulate."

And it just goes on. I'd say this is essential reading for any Canadian, because it manages to convey a powerful and important message wrapped up in a short and easy-to-read memoir. Shimo's original purpose was to investigate a water crisis that was possibly exaggerated for media attention, but the book goes so far beyond that that the main goal sometimes seems like a distraction from the real story. Whenever I started to think that that was enough about the machinations surrounding the water crisis, Shimo would move on to something more important like the children's suicide crisis.

Anyway, it's not a perfect book, but it's extremely eye-opening and highly recommended.

Jul 5, 2017, 12:33pm Top

>198 _Zoe_: Did you watch any of the CBC Canadian history series they did for the sesquicentennial? You can tell that it was recorded pre-Boyden controversy as they occasionally have him as the talking head for indigenous stories they're highlighting which now feels weird. I recently watched the WWI episode and Boyden was talking about a First Nations sniper - it makes sense given the research he would have done for Three Day Road but it still feels weird.

Jul 7, 2017, 12:39pm Top

>200 MickyFine: No, I basically never watch anything, though I really should. The mention of WWI reminds me of why I hadn't been eager to pick up Boyden's books before: I just have no particular interest in war stories.

I was trying to find reviews of Wenjack written by Indigenous people, and I was unsuccessful. Do you happen to know of any Indigenous review blogs or anything?

Jul 7, 2017, 1:09pm Top

>201 _Zoe_: The only one I know of deals specifically in children's literature ( https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/ ), so I didn't find any mention of Wenjack there. However, you might email Debbie Reese, who blogs there, and see if she knows of any similar blogs covering adult literature.

Jul 7, 2017, 1:20pm Top

>201 _Zoe_: Not a review blog specifically. Chelsea Vowel, author of Indigenous Writes does blog but I'm not sure how much reviewing she does.

Jul 7, 2017, 3:28pm Top

>202 foggidawn:, >203 MickyFine: Thank you both for those links!

I read the discussion of Boyden linked from Vowel's blog, and there's one troubling paragraph that I don't entirely understand:

Boyden’s books reek of reconciliation, a concept Canadians have consumed to the point of euphoria. Canadians love stories that allow them to relegate their shit to an unfortunate past – anything that makes them think about the present and themselves as somehow oppressive will garner an immediate backlash. Hence why we should continuously remain critical of those who are so well loved by Canadian audiences.

Somehow I had been thinking of reconciliation as a positive word, but apparently it's not. Is there some other word that includes an acknowledgement of present injustices as well?

Jul 9, 2017, 10:54am Top

>204 _Zoe_: I think that might be one individual's specific problem with the term. From what I've seen a larger number of FNMI advocates are for both the term and concept behind reconciliation.

Jul 9, 2017, 12:59pm Top

>204 _Zoe_: I think the writer means that reconciliation is only possible if there is acknowledgment, understanding and change of what went wrong before.

Edited: Jul 16, 2017, 12:02pm Top

>205 MickyFine: I'm glad to hear that some people do like the term.

>206 FAMeulstee: That makes sense. On the other hand, I don't even know what it would mean to talk about reconciliation without that. I think there's a reason the common phrase is "truth and reconciliation", with truth necessarily coming first.

Meanwhile, I've been buying so many books that it became a daunting task to post about them here, and so I put it off. But now I'll try to comment on the physical, non-academic books that I've bought in the past few weeks.

First, during my trip to Canada, I wanted to make sure to support Canadian bookstores and Canadian content. So I bought a bunch of new books at Chapters/Indigo/Coles (yes, I shopped at three different stores over my short trip on a holiday weekend). I bought:

The Great Canadian Bucket List
Up Ghost River: A Chief's Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History
The Handmaid's Tale
Children of the Broken Treaty
Should We Change How We Vote? Evaluating Canada's Electoral System
National Geographic Traveler: Rio de Janeiro (obviously not Canadian, but I'm leaving for Rio on Thursday!)
Where the Pavement Ends: Canada's Aboriginal Recovery Movement and the Urgent Need for Reconciliation

Then my local library in New York had its annual book sale, and I was super restrained. For $1 each, I bought:

The Book of Unknown Americans
Me Before You
Tooth and Claw

Then in the ongoing book sale room in another local library, for 20 cents each, I bought:


I was so restrained that I didn't even buy Scarlet, because the copy wasn't in pristine condition and that's my least favourite (I already owned Winter).

Then it was back to the library book sale for bag day, where I was less restrained, and put the following in the $5 bag (not including Mark's five books that went in also):

White Like Me
The Information-Literate Historian
Writing History
The It Girl
The Thrall's Tale
Go and Come Back
Pope Joan
The Christmas Box
City of the Beasts
The Porcupine Year
Pharaoh's Daughter
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
The Global Achievement Gap
Land of Marvels
Son of the Shadows
The Princess of Dhagabad
The Joy of π
The Missionary Position
The Gnostic Gospels
The Burning by Tim Madigan
The Year of Living Biblically
What Really Happens in School

I almost certainly won't read them all, but I think I'll get my money's worth.

Edited: Jul 16, 2017, 11:56am Top

>207 _Zoe_:

I'll try to join you on some of your Canadian reads. A friend of mine just gave me a copy of The Handmaid's Tale, but I need a little break from dystopian books for a little while. You know why.

I felt so free and unoppressed in Canada, if only due to being away from newspapers, radio, and TV during my trip. What a relief that was!

It was so much fun to see you in your native stomping grounds. I hope you'll be down here sometime this year again (maybe after your trip to Richmond for Thanksgiving?). I'll try hard to see you if you do come...and you always have a place to stay here if you need it.

Have a great rest of the summer.

Me Before You is not the kind of book I usually read, but I read it because it was a book group choice. It did make me cry.

I have Tooth and claw and love T.C. Boyle's short stories (even better than his novels). I haven't read it yet, but I'm sure it's great.

Jul 16, 2017, 12:01pm Top

>208 SqueakyChu: I also haven't felt like reading a lot of dystopian fiction (my non-fiction reading is bad enough!), but I've been meaning to read The Handmaid's Tale for ages, and it seems like this is the time for it. We'll see when I actually get to it.

I'm so glad that you enjoyed your time in Canada. I wonder if there's a way for you to move there permanently?

I'll definitely be down in the Richmond area for Thanksgiving, and I'll make an effort to plan better this time so that I can actually see you! Last time felt so last-minute. I'll try to make actual plans in September this time, so that I'm not caught up in the craziness of the semester. I really appreciate knowing that I can always stay with you :). And of course you're welcome here if you ever have any reason to be in upstate NY.

Me Before You isn't the sort of book I usually read either, but it's been on my list because it's so highly rated.

And oops, I was lazy with touchtones—the Tooth and Claw that I bought is actually by Jo Walton, not T.C. Boyle. Sorry for the confusion!

Jul 16, 2017, 6:17pm Top

Lots of good books in that haul! I loved Walton's Tooth and Claw when I read it a few years ago.

Jul 18, 2017, 10:56am Top

19. The Knocked Up Plan by Lauren Blakely

I'm always annoyed by books where people fall in love based only on physical appearance, so paradoxically, part of the solution is books like this one where the sex comes first. Nicole is 30, single, and ready to move on with her life, so she decides to go ahead and have baby on her own. But the donor descriptions at the sperm banks are unsatisfactory, so she decides to ask her friend and coworker for a donation. And they decide to do it the natural way. Then the romance develops from there.

I wavered between 3.5 and 4 stars for this one. It does have some flaws: so much sex that at one point it was actually boring, and occasional jarring inconsistencies: a geocaching date that presented a completely misleading picture of urban geocaching (no, there are not hundreds of caches within Grand Central Station), and at one point while jogging around the (completely flat) Central Park reservoir, looking at the ducks in the water, they come across a steep hill from one sentence to the next. But I had to think of the purpose of this book: I wanted an absorbing light read that could keep my attention for hours even when I was tired, and it succeeded at that. Plus I was happy with the conclusion, and final impressions ultimately end up being weighed more heavily than any minor problems in the middle.

So, four stars, but keep in mind that context matters and don't expect great literature here.

Jul 18, 2017, 12:29pm Top

>211 _Zoe_: I haven't read a fluffy romance in a little while so I was happy when one came up in my latest shuffle of The List to determine what to put on hold next. Glad that one did what you wanted it to do for you. :)

Jul 19, 2017, 11:08am Top

>212 MickyFine: Somehow I think I'm not familiar with your book selection method. How does the shuffling work?

I think I may have to revise all my ratings, because I realized I really need another rating in between 3.5 and 4. So basically everything from 3.5 on down should be shifted half a star lower. But that seems like way too much work for now, so I'll just keep that in mind going forward.

20. Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker

I picked up this book in 2015 because I liked Tashi's character in The Color Purple and wanted to read more about her. Unfortunately she's barely recognizable here, and the two books almost seem like they were written by different authors. For starters, the style is extremely different; The Color Purple has a fairly straightforward narrative structure, while Possessing the Secret of Joy is a fragmented jumble of viewpoints and chronology. And of course, the prevailing theme of Possessing the Secret of Joy is the extremely unpleasant female genital mutilation; while I appreciate the importance of the topic, that doesn't mean I want to read about the process in detail.

Here's a relatively mild example: Tashi is convinced that the little girls who are dying, and the women too, are infected by the unwashed, unsterilized sharp stones, tin tops, bits of glass, rusty razors and grungy knives used by the tsunga. Who might mutilate twenty children without cleaning her instrument. There is also the fact that almost every act of intercourse involves tearing and bleeding, especially in a woman's early years. The opening that is made will never enlarge on its own, but must always be forced. Because of this, infections and open sores are commonplace.

And this is a general description; the detailed portrayal of Tashi's own situation is much worse. Because of this trauma, Tashi spends most of the book being miserable. There's so much misery here. I did appreciate certain aspects of the conclusion, including the ultimate revelation of the titular secret of joy, but they didn't entirely make up for the rest of the book.

There's also an unfortunate section towards the end where the polio vaccine is blamed for the initial spread of HIV from chimpanzees to humans. I can't blame Walker for including this in a book that she wrote in the early 90s, but that theory has since been refuted, and in light of the more recent anti-vaccination movement it's just sad to see any support for the idea that vaccines may do more harm than good.

I do feel a lot of satisfaction for having picked this book up again and finished it eventually. I had left it at 70%, so it seemed like a good target to cross off the list when I wanted to increase my lagging book completion numbers for the year so far. This may motivate me to get back to some of my other books in progress as well.

Jul 19, 2017, 11:17am Top

>213 _Zoe_: I recently moved The List to Goodreads, which very helpfully numbers everything. I stick the number range of The List into random.org and whichever number comes up is my next read. Saves me from dealing with choice paralysis. :P

Sorry to hear that your latest read was a dud but glad to see it's motivated more reading regardless.

Jul 19, 2017, 11:21am Top

>214 MickyFine: I admire your efficiency; I don't think I could ever manage to read the book that I was "supposed" to read, even if I imposed it on myself. Do you use GoodReads for anything other than the to-read list?

Jul 19, 2017, 11:42am Top

>215 _Zoe_: I track my reading over there as well although I don't typically post reviews unless it's a book I really loved and want to share with everyone and post over on FB. Mostly I use it to share what I'm reading with my IRL friends (largely librarians) who are on there.

I'm not great at doing "supposed to" reads either but what helps is The List is all books I want to read so I'm usually happy with whatever comes up next. And if I'm not feeling the selection I can always run it again to get something more in line with what I want. :)

Jul 19, 2017, 1:06pm Top

>216 MickyFine: - I sometimes use the Folly feature here on LT in a similar way. It will select a random book from one's library, so when I can't decide what to read next, I'll do that and see what pops up. If I don't like the selection or it's one I've already read, I just try again...

I've also used random.org on occasion. I bring up my "To Read" collection here on LT, see how many are in there, and then enter the range in random.org and see what's selected.

Both are just fun things to do, too, when one is avoiding work :) Or so I've heard....

Jul 19, 2017, 2:01pm Top

>217 katiekrug: None of us ever avoid work by picking something to read. Especially those of us who work in libraries and spend all day looking at books. ;)

Edited: Aug 1, 2017, 10:48am Top

21. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

This book made me really happy--thank you, Nora, for recommending it at the perfect time! I honestly can't remember the last book I read that was so purely enjoyable; besides being largely unputdownable once it got going, I was happy just thinking about the characters when I wasn't reading, because they're so adorable.

The basic premise is that Simon is a closeted gay teenager communicating via email with another closeted gay teenager at his school. They don't know each other's identities, but eventually they start falling for each other anyway, and they're super cute. Meanwhile Simon is also being blackmailed by another classmate, who threatens to out him if he doesn't meet his demands.

I realized that the email element completely eliminates the problem that I have with many insta-love YA romances that are based on appearance rather than personality, so that was excellent. Simon and Blue communicate for months before the plot really gets going.

I bought the author's next book as soon as I finished reading this, and I wish she would write more about these characters. (Actually, she is writing more from the POV of at least one side character, but I want these exact protagonists again. Her Goodreads Q&A says that she won't do that because she doesn't want to have to break them up even temporarily, but argh, can't she write a novel that's not a romance? They're still gay teens in Georgia, so there's plenty of room for conflict while they're still together. Also she barely even started to explore the issue of race.) Anyway, I read a library ebook of this book, but I want to buy my own paper copy for future rereading.

Jul 29, 2017, 5:13pm Top

I'm glad you enjoyed it! Did you see that Becky Albertalli and Angie Thomas have declared that Bram and Starr are cousins?

Jul 29, 2017, 5:28pm Top

>220 norabelle414: I hadn't seen that, but I like it! Even though I'm not entirely sure it makes sense to me.

I kept thinking of The Hate U Give as an example of a recent, popular YA book that is not a romance, in connection with my wish for a sequel. There are so many other sources of conflict coming from society as a whole. Why does Albertalli have to write only romances? Boo.

Jul 29, 2017, 7:25pm Top

>221 _Zoe_: I think the idea came from "YA book fan twitter" which is a very strange place. A twitter account pretending to be Starr tweeted that she was hanging out with her cousin, {twitter account pretending to be Bram} and then someone asked Becky Albertalli if the tweet was canon and she said she was fine with it and asked Angie Thomas and she said it's canon now.

It's hard to find things that feel important or emotional for a teenager that are neither fantasy nor romance, but having a friend die is certainly one of them. Albertalli has only written two books so maybe she'll write a non-romance in the future.

Have you read Cherie Priest's I Am Princess X? That's a good non-romance YA book.

Aug 1, 2017, 10:37am Top

>222 norabelle414: Ah, that makes sense. Somehow I wasn't familiar with YA book fan twitter at all. But after your comment I went to Becky Albertalli's feed and ended up following links to read a bunch of Simon/Blue fan fiction. I don't think I've ever read fan fiction before, and least not in any significant quantity. So many unknown worlds out there on the internet....

Also on her twitter feed I noticed that she's just finished a draft of a surprise fourth book. I actually wish it would turn out to be a retelling of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda from Blue's point of view, even though that seems more fanfic-y than something the actual author would write. Apparently this is what comes of reading fan fiction on the internet.

Anyway, my conclusion was that I should really increase my rating for the book from 4.5 stars to 5. I generally reserve 5 stars for books that have actually lived up to re-reading (i.e., it's very rare, because I don't tend to re-read very much), but I did end up skimming through parts of Simon again when I wasn't yet ready to move on to a new story, so that's close enough.

I haven't read I Am Princess X, but I'll keep an eye out for it. I've never actually read anything by Cherie Priest at all.

Edited: Aug 1, 2017, 10:59am Top

July Summary

Books Finished:

Books continued:

Books started, to be continued:

Sources of finished books:
1 library paper book loan of a book that I actually own but can't find
1 ebook purchased this year
2 library ebook loans

Total progress on books read partially in July:
Children of the Broken Treaty (p. 103 of 290)
No More Heroes (p. 129 of 207)
Island of the Blue Dolphins (41%)
Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio (28%)
The Upside of Unrequited (13%)

So, not the best month in terms of actually finishing books (although not bad by the standards of this year), but I'm still happy with my reading overall. Completing one book that was long in-progress gives me hope that some of these other books will get finished as well, even though I continue to start too many new ones.

Aug 1, 2017, 11:26am Top

>224 _Zoe_: I found The Upside of Unrequited adorable. I hope you enjoy it!

Aug 1, 2017, 11:54am Top

>223 _Zoe_: that seems more fanfic-y than something the actual author would write
Well, Rainbow Rowell wrote Carry On which is basically fanfic of fanfic of fanfic so anything is possible :-)

I Am Princess X is very different from Cherie Priest's other books, but she's one of those authors who can write really well across several genres. It's kind of a mystery/adventure about two teen girls who are friends and draw/write about a character named Princess X who is an idealized hero that they draw strength from. Later one of the girls goes missing and the other one follows clues to find her.

Aug 1, 2017, 2:09pm Top

>225 MickyFine: I'm glad to hear that you liked it! I'm a bit worried that nothing can live up to her first book, so that's reassuring.

>226 norabelle414: That's a good point about Rainbow Rowell. Which reminds me that I've never read any of her books, and I really should.

Ahhh, so many books and so little time. I need to read faster.

Aug 1, 2017, 2:20pm Top

>227 _Zoe_: I haven't read her first book so I can't speak to how they compare.

I hear you on the need to read faster. I made sloth-like reading progress last month.

Aug 1, 2017, 2:32pm Top

>228 MickyFine: Ahh, you should read it! So good. I somehow always assume that the librarians will have read all the books before me. Although I did actually check through the Simon mentions after finishing the book, and was surprised by how few people had listed it; I just didn't remember who exactly those people were.

Aug 1, 2017, 2:32pm Top

>228 MickyFine: I've read more books so far this year than I did all of last year *preens*

Because I only read 26 books last year...

Aug 1, 2017, 2:41pm Top

>230 norabelle414: Still, that's good news about your reading being way up! I seem to be continuing my year-over-year decline.

Edited: Aug 1, 2017, 3:02pm Top

>231 _Zoe_: It's mostly graphic novels! But I'm okay with that. Most of the reason my "number of books read" dropped last year was because I started listening to podcasts and stopped listening to audiobooks. So it's complicated to actually compare the past few years.

Aug 1, 2017, 3:21pm Top

>229 _Zoe_: My YA reading has seriously declined in the past couple years so I'm not as on top of new titles as I used to be. Probably in part because I order adult non-fiction for work and that has caused a serious uptick in my non-fiction reading.

>230 norabelle414: Look at you! I'm probably about on par with where I was last year but considering I was finishing 12 books a month earlier this year. *wistful sigh*

Aug 1, 2017, 3:42pm Top

>232 norabelle414: Nothing wrong with graphic novels! I have no similar podcast complications, so my own reading numbers are just flat-out down. Oh well. At least I feel better about it since I started tracking books in progress too.

>233 MickyFine: That makes sense. I love non-fiction too; my only complaint is that it tends to go a bit more slowly than fiction, so that my lists of books completed don't really reflect the time I've devoted to non-fiction vs. fiction. Even though I know that shouldn't matter at all.

My one cause for optimism compared to last year is that my June and July numbers are actually better in 2017 than 2016, when I got off to a strong start in January/February and then slowed down significantly. So maybe it will even out in the end.

Aug 1, 2017, 4:27pm Top

>234 _Zoe_: Go Zoe! You can read all the things this year! :)

Aug 1, 2017, 6:02pm Top

>235 MickyFine: Thank you!

So I was just reading The Upside of Unrequited and came to a scene with reference to Simon, Nick, and Abby. But just those three. And I suddenly wondered whether Albertalli has made an effort to avoid the major spoiler for her first book in this one. Hopefully not, because it would be nice to see at least a glimpse of their ongoing lives.

Aug 1, 2017, 7:16pm Top

In defense of my poor book numbers this year, I've watched more movies than in perhaps the decade prior. My mental capacity is two-hour chunks.

Aug 2, 2017, 1:35pm Top

Oooh, I see Island of the Blue Dolphins up there - that was one of my very favorites as a kid!

Aug 3, 2017, 3:39pm Top

>237 qebo: I've been meaning to watch more movies, but that never seems to happen.

>238 scaifea: I'm glad to hear that! I was finding it a bit slow-going, so I appreciate the encouragement to continue.

Edited: Aug 3, 2017, 5:45pm Top

22. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

I read this book pretty quickly for me, and there was a point in the middle where I found it pretty unputdownable, so I can't help thinking that I might have given it 4 stars rather than 3.5 if I hadn't read it immediately after Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. The Upside of Unrequited certainly has some good points; I particularly appreciated the natural-seeming writing and found Molly very relatable.

But finishing the book just didn't leave me with the happy feeling that I got from Simon, partially because I somehow wasn't that invested in the romance. Not only did they not seem to have that much in common, but there were several times when Molly's thoughts actually bothered me. She repeatedly looks down on Reid's Tolkein shirts, and she seems to think the idea of a medieval dinner event is pretty ridiculous. She says that she likes Reid's weirdness, but I'd rather see him with someone who appreciated his interests rather than thinking they were so weird. Especially when they're not particularly weird at all—I thought fantasy fandom and the like were pretty mainstream these days.

(ETA: I went back and looked up the exact wording of the first time Molly saw Reid. It goes beyond lack of similar interests to just rude and judgemental: "Sorry, but this guy is literally choosing to advertise Lord of the Rings on his body. I don't think there's going to be a whole lot of common ground.")

Also, I'm a bit grumpy that we got cameos from all sorts of irrelevant Simon characters—including Carter Addison, which seemed like a bit of a stretch—but Blue was completely absent. I like Abby well enough (except—Simon spoiler—for the fact that she's carelessly destructive of other people's relationships, not seeming particularly troubled when she accidentally reveals that Simon came out to her before Nick and Leah), but of all the characters to revisit, she certainly wouldn't have been my top choice.

So, obviously my experience with this book was affected by external factors, though I don't think it would have been a favourite in any case. But I still really like Albertalli's writing style, and I'll certainly continue reading her work, especially since her next book is actually a real sequel. If you like YA contemporaries in general, this one is probably worth the read.

ETA: I've been going through reading other reviews (on GoodReads), and one thing that surprised me a bit was all the complaints about the general theme of an overweight high school girl not being confident and happy without a boyfriend. People complain about the fact that the thin twin sister had no problem hooking up with people, while the overweight girl was the one who was alone. Etc. And it made me think about the boundary between realistic and empowering. I suspect that a survey conducted among high school girls would find a noticeable correlation between weight and confidence and dating history, and Molly's experiences struck me as very realistic, and I'm not convinced that denying the influence of conventional beauty standards on how girls feel and relate to the world is necessary or even desirable. Molly thinks that because of her weight, she's not attractive and will never have a boyfriend. Unsurprising spoiler: And the way she realizes she was wrong is by actually getting a boyfriend. And yes, it might be more enlightened for her to have an epiphany and realize that she's beautiful on her own and doesn't need a boyfriend to be happy—but I also think that would be considerably less realistic. So I don't know. I wasn't exactly fat growing up, but I was certainly nowhere near thin either, and I didn't have a problem with the premise of this book.

ETA again: I don't want to bother people on GoodReads by complaining about their reviews, so I'll comment on one of them here: someone complains about "the way Molly was treated because she was fat.. like seriously its the 21st century don't we live in a world where beautiful comes in all shapes and sizes?" Briefly, no. Just because you wish everyone would be treated well doesn't mean they actually are, and denying their negative experiences doesn't make them go away. So that's basically my problem with complaints along those lines. It's like how claiming to be colour-blind actually just perpetuates racism by pretending it doesn't exist.

Aug 3, 2017, 6:59pm Top

Zoe, here is the link to the thread I started about getting a group together on Sept. 9 - just in case you'll be in the city (or, you know, want to make a special trip!):


Aug 3, 2017, 6:59pm Top

>241 katiekrug: I was just posting in that thread! I don't think I'll be able to make it, but I'll be keeping an eye on the plans anyway because you never know.

Aug 4, 2017, 12:39am Top

>240 _Zoe_: Delurking to say: on the nose about reality vs. empowerment. I teach high school, and tho' all the kids know that "beauty comes in all shapes and sizes," they don't walk the talk. And, for the most part, they are suspicious of books that don't acknowledge the harsher realities of the lives they live.

Aug 4, 2017, 8:10am Top

>243 majleavy: Thank you for stopping by to say that! I really appreciate it. What subjects do you teach?

Aug 4, 2017, 12:37pm Top

This year it'll be AP English Lit, American Lit/Contemporary Composition (11th grade), and World Lit/Advanced Comp (12th). Now and again I've taught Academic Decathlon, AP Art History, and Film.

Aug 5, 2017, 11:20am Top

>245 majleavy: Sounds like a good assortment!

23. Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I admired Adichie's writing, but unfortunately I didn't really get a lot out of reading this short book. I think the topic that she's addressing is important, and for the most part I agreed with her individual points, but there wasn't a lot that was new here. The references to Nigerian culture were probably the most interesting to me, because they provided glimpses of unfamiliar perspectives. But the book is primarily about feminism, and in particular how to raise a daughter as a feminist. So, yes:

Tell her that her body belongs to her and her alone, that she should never feel the need to say yes to something she does not want, to something she feels pressured to do.

On the one hand, an important point; on the other hand, something that's been said many times before. The familiarity of many of the points made the book surprisingly unmemorable; I couldn't really tell you what I learned here.

One issue that does deserve further mention is Adichie's attitude toward jargon: she doesn't like it.

Try not to use words like 'misogyny' and 'patriarchy' too often with Chizalum. We feminists can sometimes be too jargony, and jargon can sometimes feel too abstract. Don't just label something misogynistic; tell her why it is, and tell her what would make it not be.

I had thought that the avoidance of jargon was a fairly non-controversial aspect of clear communication, and probably wouldn't have thought twice about this passage, except for the fact that Adichie has recently gotten into a lot of trouble with other people on the left for her use of language. Specifically, the word "cis" is one of those jargony words that she avoids, and people have been up in arms about her comments concerning trans women. Actually, I found her defense of her position (and a newspaper article describing the controversy more generally) far more interesting than this book, because there she's arguing for a position that's not already accepted. And my ultimate conclusion about this book is that no matter how important the topic, no matter how good the writing, it's just not that interesting to read about something that's already very familiar and widely accepted by both myself and those around me.

Aug 5, 2017, 11:37am Top

In other book thoughts: I have an ongoing challenge to read books by Black authors, and I capitalized the B in an attempt to be progressive and politically correct, but eventually I realized that I don't actually know what the word means. Specifically, is Black with a capital B basically equivalent to African-American, or is it universal? A New York Times op-ed says that it refers to "people of the African diaspora". So I don't know whether a book by Adichie, who is Nigerian and lives at least some of the time in Nigeria, actually counts for this challenge.

In the book that I just read, Adichie writes "black" with a small b; it's possible that this was an editorial decision, but I'd imagine she has enough authorial influence to make her own choice about something like this.

Aug 5, 2017, 10:02pm Top

>246 _Zoe_: Thanks for including the link about the Adichie furor. Very interesting, and I sympathize with her - I've begun using "cis" in my classroom to support my trans and questioning students, but the current social dialogue on transgender issues makes me uncomfortable in some ways, as it does Adichie, since it implies gender is congruent with anatomy, and I'm of the generation of feminism that insists that "man" and "woman" are ideas, not objective realities. So while I totally support protecting the rights of everyone to full participation in society without having to conform to the prejudices/expectations of others, it also feels like a backwards step when people who have been oppressed by norms re-conform to them by saying, "I am really a man/woman."

>247 _Zoe_: The several Black authors I know have the same question(s) as you have. They keep their definition flexible, to suit the context. That could be the answer here: what's the point of the challenge? To slip outside of white viewpoints or slip outside of Euro-American viewpoints?

Aug 6, 2017, 11:08am Top

>246 _Zoe_: I think there's something to be said for covering the basics of feminism in a book targeted at parents. Parenting guides are full of lots of advice, but covering the basic tenets of feminism isn't often highlighted.

Edited: Aug 7, 2017, 8:27am Top

>248 majleavy: I sympathize with Adichie too, not so much in relation to the specific topic but as a general principle: I think it's really problematic when people are too eager to go on the attack and shut down the whole dialogue if someone doesn't say exactly the perfect thing in exactly the perfect language. That doesn't leave a lot of room for learning and growing, and it doesn't help convince anyone that your position is the correct one. If anything it does the opposite, because people automatically go on the defensive when they get attacked.

Thanks for your comments about the definition. They definitely help clarify my situation, if not necessarily with the outcome that I'd hoped for. I initially started this challenge after reading about some other diversity challenges; in particular, one person set out to read exclusively books by non-white authors for a year. She read 25 books that year. And I remember thinking that it was a worthwhile goal, but that I wouldn't really get a deep understanding of other viewpoints if I read in such a scattered way: a few books by East Asian authors, a few books by Indian authors, etc. It seemed better as a start to choose one group to read about in depth. This was shortly after the founding of the Black Lives Matter movement, and as a Canadian who had moved to the United States, I felt like I was particularly uninformed about some of the racial tensions in this country. All this is to say that I guess I was specifically intending to read about Black Americans, or at least about the experience of people living outside of Africa, so the Adichie book doesn't really count for that challenge. Boo.

>249 MickyFine: I agree in principle, but I don't think this particular book goes into enough detail to be very helpful as a parenting guide. Some of the suggestions aren't even parenting-specific at all, like #4, which is "Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional female equality. Please reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing, and bankrupt idea." Etc. Yes, to raise your daughter as a feminist, you need to hold the correct feminist views yourself, but that doesn't really provide concrete advice about child-raising.

Then there's something like suggestion #5, which I absolutely agree with as as a concept: "Teach Chizalum to read. Teach her to love books. The best way is by casual example." But then we get to, "If all else fails, pay her to read. Reward her." And of course, the research doesn't exactly support this approach, as per this NYT article:

"Research, though, suggests that paying children to do things they once enjoyed can backfire. Study after study shows that kids who are rewarded for activities like coloring or solving puzzles set the books or puzzles aside when the reward dries up, while those who aren’t rewarded carry on with the activities just for fun."

And this really highlights for me that Adichie isn't an expert in raising children, or even someone who has done the basic research that I'd expect when reading an advice book. There are a lot of complexities to a topic like motivating children to read, and she really doesn't touch on them at all.

Finally, from #13: "Make sure you are aware of the romance in her life. And the only way you can do that is to start very early to give her the language with which to talk to you not only about sex but also about love. I don't mean you should be her 'friend'; I mean you should be her mother, to whom she can talk about everything."

Again, I'm absolutely in favour of being the mother she can talk to about everything, versus the friend. I'm sure most mothers are. But how exactly do you establish that relationship? What distinguishes the mother relationship from the friend relationship? Is it really just a matter of providing the right language, and then your daughter will confide in you about everything? I'm just not entirely convinced. Again, I think the book needed to provide some more concrete advice about processes rather than outcomes.

Sorry for that over-long response! I think it was longer than my original review :/

Aug 7, 2017, 3:45pm Top

>250 _Zoe_: Sounds like you've got your working definition of Black, then. Plenty of books to choose from, for sure. Have fun.

Aug 7, 2017, 10:11pm Top

>250 _Zoe_: Fair points. I haven't read the book (I want to read We Should All Be Feminists first) so I can't really speak in its defense. :)

Aug 8, 2017, 10:12am Top

>251 majleavy: Yup. It's just too bad it means this short book doesn't count for my challenge! :P

>252 MickyFine: I'm still planning to read We Should All Be Feminists too; it's short enough that I don't mind investing the time even if I end up not being wowed. And I do like Adichie's writing style.

Aug 8, 2017, 10:13am Top

Ahh, I just noticed that I passed 250 messages. I'll start a new thread eventually.

Aug 22, 2017, 10:54am Top

24. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it was a quick and compelling read, which was exactly what I wanted, and I stayed up way too late reading it last night. It also gets points for surprising me a bit; I wasn't confident about how it would end up until about halfway through. I've already purchased the sequel, because I want to read more about these characters.

On the other hand, there were some things that drove me crazy, especially toward the end. I liked Lara Jean and Peter's relationship so much more when it was just pretend. The problems that they had after that were so unnecessary, and I really didn't like the way Lara Jean treated him. She doesn't even talk to him after the rumors start circulating! And she's extremely obnoxious about it. She ignores his text message asking if they can talk, and then somehow faults him for not sending more and more messages or trying to call. I just can't stand that sort of behaviour, saying/acting like you want one thing (to be left alone) while actually wanting something else entirely and faulting the person for not reading your mind. The buildup of their relationship was so nice, and the reality was such a letdown. But hopefully that will be resolved in the sequel.

Also, I hated Margot. Her reaction to hearing that *Josh* tried to kiss *Lara Jean* made no sense. I would think "tried" was the key word there, and that Josh was the one who had done something wrong. But like her sister, she doesn't bother finding out what actually happened; who needs words and understanding when you could have the silent treatment instead?

Basically I expected a romance to be a bit more uplifting, but instead it felt like everything got worse and worse as the story progressed—the last 20% or so was pretty miserable. There was hope at the end, but I would have preferred to see a more satisfying conclusion within the book itself.

I may expand this review later.

Aug 22, 2017, 12:00pm Top

>255 _Zoe_: Sorry to hear that one wasn't quite what you were hoping for. Wishing you a better next read.

Sep 2, 2017, 12:09pm Top

August Summary

Books Finished:

Books Continued:

Books Started, To Be Continued:

I continue to be better at starting books than finishing them, but I've concluded that to some extent that's okay. I'm still benefitting from whatever I read, even if it's in smaller chunks.

Sources of completed books:
2 ebooks purchased new this year
1 library ebook loan

Total progress on books read partially this month:
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (11%)
Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio (49%)
Everyone's a Aliebn when Ur a Aliebn Too (in progress, no page numbers)
Between the World and Me (p. 82 of 152)
Island of the Blue Dolphins (65%)
Children of the Broken Treaty (p. 125 of 290)
P.S. I Still Love You (18%)
Hidden Figures (p. xvii of 265)

Sep 5, 2017, 4:05pm Top

Nice mix of books on the go, Zoe. Hope you had a great long weekend!

Sep 10, 2017, 10:45am Top

>258 MickyFine: Thanks! I'm enjoying the various book club opportunities around here.

Yesterday in the library book sale room I purchased the following books, for a total of $1.95:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (which I've read before)
The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley (which I've read before)
Water Tales: Aquamarine and Indigo by Alice Hoffman
The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

All but Lair of Dreams are donations rather than library discards (and Lair of Dreams still looks pristine). A Court of Thorns and Roses is missing its dust jacket, and Water Tales has slightly yellowed pages and slightly worn corners. But as a whole they're in near-perfect condition, and I certainly can't complain about the price!

Sep 10, 2017, 10:50am Top

25. Everyone's a Aliebn when Ur a Aliebn Too by Jonny Sun

I picked this up after reading an interesting New York Times article about it; I hadn't previously been familiar with Sun's Twitter account, though of course I looked it up after reading the article. I think this style of writing generally works better on Twitter than in extended book form: there are some powerful observations, but it can be too much all at once, and the plot leaves something to be desired. Still, I appreciated the book and its various messages; it's a short read, and I suspect it will turn out to be a memorable one.

Sep 10, 2017, 1:26pm Top

Also, a conversation with the librarian (or some other member of the library staff) while I perused the children's/YA section of the book sale room:

"Oh, are you a teacher?"

"Er, I do teach, but I teach college students, and that's not why I'm looking at the YA books...."

Sep 11, 2017, 8:03am Top

>261 _Zoe_: lol You think a librarian would know that adults like YA books these days. It's not exactly uncommon!

>257 _Zoe_: I used to be able to get through that many books in a month! I miss those days. :) Good job!

Sep 11, 2017, 12:15pm Top

>261 _Zoe_: >262 The_Hibernator: Library book sales are often entirely run by volunteers. I know the book sales down at my library are organized completely by our Friends of the Library organization.

Nov 23, 2017, 4:02pm Top

This is a time of year when I as a non-American ponder over what I am thankful for.

I am thankful for this group and its ability to keep me sane during topsy-turvy times.

I am thankful that you are part of this group.

I am thankful for this opportunity to say thank you.

Nov 25, 2017, 11:27am Top

Thanks, Paul, both for the Thanksgiving greeting and for digging up this thread!

I think I was deterred from posting by the perceived obligation to start a new thread. But now it's late enough in the year that maybe I'll just abandon that plan and stick with this one until the end.

I don't have many completed books to report on anyway—I've been doing a decent amount of reading, but it's spread among too many different books. I'll catch up on my monthly updates at least.

Nov 25, 2017, 11:39am Top

September Summary

Books Finished:

Books Continued:

Books Started, To Be Continued:

Sources of completed books:
1 paper book purchased new this year
1 library ebook loan

Total progress on books read partially this month:
Hidden Figures (p. 66 of 265)
P.S. I Still Love You (31%)
Refugee (p. 118 of 352)
Small Teaching (p. 21 of 272)

Nov 25, 2017, 11:47am Top

October Summary

Books Finished:

Books Continued:

Books Started, To Be Continued:

Sources of completed books:
1 paper book purchased used this year

Total progress on books read partially this month:
Small Teaching (p. 51 of 272)
Hidden Figures (p. 123 of 265)
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (25%)
Dear Martin (20%)
Evicted (p. 94 of 336)

Nov 25, 2017, 11:49am Top

Placeholders for reviews:

26. We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

27. Refugee by Alan Gratz

Nov 25, 2017, 12:31pm Top

28. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

This book is going to be compared to The Hate U Give because of their similarity in theme: both deal with police brutality toward young black men. But I don't think you have to choose one or the other; both are worth reading.

The Hate U Give is probably the more pleasant read, even though it's twice as long; the narrative is smoother and more traditionally-structured, and despite the importance of the subject matter, the reader is almost shielded from some of the most powerful emotions for reasons that need to be hidden behind a spoiler tag for Dear Martin: In The Hate U Give, the reader doesn't know Khalil. He's killed almost before the story begins, and although we see Starr's response to that, it doesn't hit nearly as hard as the death of Manny, a character we've come to know and love throughout the book.

Dear Martin is rougher, more raw, and in many ways more powerful. In addition to the crucial element discussed in the spoiler above, we see Justyce himself subjected to more direct violence from the police. When the story begins, he's innocently helping his drunk girlfriend into her car when the police arrive and handcuff him, thinking that he's attacking rather than assisting the lighter-skinned girl. Dear Martin made me angry in a way that The Hate U Give didn't, to the point where I actually had to stop reading for a while. This isn't to say that THUG avoids the difficult issues—it certainly doesn't—but Starr's most traumatic experiences happen either at the very beginning (Khalil) or before the story has started (Natasha), so it's a bit easier for the reader to dissociate from those events.

Dear Martin is also pretty heavy-handed in its discussion of the issues. When the teenagers have a class discussion about racial issues, it seems like characterization falls by the wayside. There's the super-informed white ally who knows all the right language about racial injustice, and there's the super-ignorant racist whose questioning of affirmative action quickly reveals that he can't even conceive of a black classmate doing better than him on a standardized test. It would have been nice to see some nuance here. In addition to making the book feel overly didactic, I'm a bit concerned that leaving out the middle ground might give the impression that racism is always blatant and intentional, that you don't have to worry about your own implicit biases if you're not literally wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume for Halloween.

So, there's good and bad here, but I definitely think the good outweighs the bad. This is a powerful and important book, well worth reading. And Stone was nice enough not to use the maximum allowable page count for a YA book, so it's a pretty quick read too.

One caveat: I don't think the Kindle book provides the best reading experience, at least if you have a regular Kindle without the greatest resolution. There are some different (smaller) fonts that could be difficult to read even after I'd adjusted the text size. But it's still manageable, so if Kindle is your only option, don't let that dissuade you from reading the book!

Nov 26, 2017, 1:43pm Top

Zoe! Yay! Always happy to see you! :)

Nov 29, 2017, 12:22pm Top

Thank you, Micky! I really appreciate your posts here :)

Nov 29, 2017, 2:02pm Top

Are you coming to Canada over the holiday season?

Nov 29, 2017, 2:08pm Top

Have you seen the trailer for Love, Simon???

Dec 1, 2017, 10:12am Top

>272 MickyFine: Yes, I'll be in Canada for about two weeks! I don't suppose you're planning any trips to Toronto?

>273 norabelle414: I haven't seen the trailer, even though I'm excited about the movie. But I have read a lot about the trailer on Twitter, if that counts?

Dec 1, 2017, 10:26am Top

>274 _Zoe_: Well if you decide you want to.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykHeGtN4m94

It looks great, except for the casting for Leah *grumble grumble*

How spoiler-y do you think this trailer is? It looks spoiler-y to me but you'd have a better idea than me because I've only read the book once.

Dec 1, 2017, 10:31am Top

>275 norabelle414: Okay, I watched it! I don't think it's really spoiler-y.

Dec 1, 2017, 10:36am Top

>272 MickyFine: Not so much. All my holiday plans are pretty Edmonton-oriented. :) But I hope you have a great time while you're up here!

Dec 2, 2017, 1:39pm Top

>277 MickyFine: I hope you have a great Christmas as well!

Meanwhile I think it's time to start planning out my reading for next year. Mostly I just want to finish a lot of the half-finished books that I started this year.

Preliminary Reading Goals for 2018
1. Complete 12 books started in previous years
2. Complete 8 books by black authors
3. Complete 8 books selected for the Social Justice Book Club
4. Complete 4 books by or about Indigenous Canadians
5. Complete a total of 50 books

Dec 2, 2017, 3:58pm Top

Very respectable goals, Zoe. I wish you luck with those.

Dec 2, 2017, 5:24pm Top

Thanks! If next year is anything like this one, I'll certainly need the luck!

I'm trying to convince myself that having lots of half-finished books means I'll be able to make quick progress on finishing a bunch of them eventually ;)

Dec 2, 2017, 6:35pm Top

Heh! Not with me. When I have lots of unfinished books, I usually stop reading all of them and start back on reading one book at a time again (as what I’m doing tonight).

Dec 2, 2017, 6:58pm Top

Good luck with your reading goals! I'm toying with the idea of trying to focus on reading a lot of my own books and saving library checkouts for new books and book club reads (which will be plenty), but I haven't quite convinced myself I want to do that.

Dec 2, 2017, 9:49pm Top

I have 2 more Canadian books to finish by years' end to reach my personal goal for the year. Of course, I am choosing very slim volumes and I think I will achieve it. I also have a handful of books from this year that still have bookmarks in them. I think I will try to begin 2018 by finishing those, first.

Not a bad problem to have, when you look at the big picture....

Dec 10, 2017, 9:42am Top

>281 SqueakyChu: That sounds like a good way to get books finished! When I have lots of unfinished books, I just start more and more :/

>282 bell7: I definitely don't think I could do that. Trying to force myself to read specific books is almost guaranteed to make me lose interest in them. I've concluded that I just have to read what I want and eventually discard purchased books that I don't actually feel like reading.

>283 jessibud2: That sounds very manageable! Congratulations on the upcoming achievement of your goal.

Meanwhile, I have literally three pages left in my current book, but I don't feel like finishing it this second, so I'm going to start drafting my review instead....

Dec 10, 2017, 10:12am Top

29. Dear World by Bana Alabed

As I started this book, I was reminded of Martin Niemöller's famous quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is the non-fiction account of young girl in Aleppo during the Syrian Civil War. Bana has one key message: "I want peace." And surely no one can disagree with that.

But Bana's account is also interspersed with passages from her mother's perspective, and I had a lot less sympathy for the mother. Towards the beginning of the book, Bana's mother describes some of the events that led up to the war:

when the teenagers were arrested and brutally beaten and tortured by the regime... we were shocked and appalled, but it still felt far away. It was tragic but distant, as so many people's troubles are.... Your father and I were not political people—we were not for or against—we just wanted to work hard and provide for our family.

And I'm sorry, but if you're "not political people" when your own government is torturing teenagers (for the crime of spraying anti-government graffiti on their school), why do you expect that the world will jump to your aid as soon as you're in trouble? There was literally no acknowledgement of the hypocrisy here.

This was December's selection for my Social Justice Book Club, and it was one of the most frustrating in its lack of actionable information. Yes, we're all against war. So what should we do when a country on the other side of the world is in the middle of a civil war? There's a very brief mention at the end that everyone should welcome refugees, and I certainly agree with that. But even that isn't really applicable to Bana's situation. When her mother was pregnant with her third child, she left Syria and went to Turkey so that she could receive the medical care she needed; the Syrian government had been deliberately targeting hospitals in Aleppo.

the weeks before my due date brought a period of intense bombing.... I was haunted by a particularly ominous feeling that I would die in childbirth if I had to deliver in our apartment, which was still a better option than the hospitals, since they were barely operating and were always targets.

So she goes to Turkey and delivers her baby there, and stays for several months. That could have been the end of the war story for her and her children; the youngest child could have entirely avoided the experience of war.

But of course she went back.

And, yes, making the decision to uproot your life is difficult; Bana's father didn't even have a passport, so he had to sneak across the border to visit them in Turkey and wasn't able to work outside of Syria. And yet. This didn't seem to me so much a situation of people helpless in the face of war—Bana's family was relatively well-off and had more resources and choices than many others—as a situation where people made choices that had hugely negative impacts on their lives.

Even if I successfully advocated for North America to welcome more refugees, what difference would that make if people chose for themselves to stay in the middle of a war? What am I supposed to do about a foreign government that tortures teenagers, if their own citizens don't care as long as they aren't directly affected?

Presenting the majority of this text from a child's viewpoint avoids many of these difficult questions. Bana had no choice in the matter; it wasn't her decision whether to stay safely in Turkey or return to a war zone. So it's easy for the reader to be sympathetic, to agree that we shouldn't have war while avoiding any thought of the politics involved in preventing it. But the child's viewpoint also means that we don't learn much about the broader issues. I did learn about daily life during the battle of Aleppo, and what it was like to be in a city under siege. I just would have preferred to learn more. I can't help comparing this book to A Hope More Powerful than the Sea, another non-fiction account of a Syrian refugee. If you're only going to read one book about Syrian refugees, there's no contest: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea is by far the more informative, compelling, and powerful.

That said, it will be interesting to read up on Bana Alabed in future years and see what she manages to accomplish—she's a strong little girl with a bright future ahead of her.

Dec 11, 2017, 11:40am Top

>285 _Zoe_: Sounds like a mixed bag of a read. Hope your next one is much more solid all around. :)

Dec 19, 2017, 1:29pm Top

>278 _Zoe_: Good plans for next year. I'm planning some of my goals for next year today, as well. :) I'm planning on keeping it pretty vague this year.

Dec 21, 2017, 8:30pm Top

>284 _Zoe_: Yeah, I don't like reading rules either. Even book club books that I want to read become more of a chore just because I now have to read them. But I own 200+ books - over a year's worth of reading - that I haven't read and it's starting to annoy me. SO I'm trying to figure out a way that I can whittle them down without feeling limited at the same time.

Dec 23, 2017, 5:32pm Top

It is that time of year again, between Solstice and Christmas, just after Hanukkah, when our thoughts turn to wishing each other well in whatever language or image is meaningful to the recipient. So, whether I wish you Happy Solstice or Merry Christmas, know that what I really wish you, and for you, is this:

Dec 24, 2017, 11:08am Top

Happy holidays! I am thankful this holiday season for all the good friends I have made in this group. You are all so supportive. I don't know what I'd do without you!

Dec 24, 2017, 12:21pm Top

>286 MickyFine: Yup, definitely mixed! It was strange, because of course no one can object to the idea that children should have peace. But that doesn't necessarily make for a compelling book.

>287 The_Hibernator: Vague is good! I'd also still be interested in the rest of the planned current events group reads from this year.

>288 bell7: I've found that the one type of book club I can handle is a non-fiction book club, because then I can still show up and enjoy the discussion even if I haven't finished the book (which I almost never do, because required reading doesn't work for me). I've concluded that it's better just to get rid of long-time TBRs that I'm no longer excited about.

At the beginning of the year I made a list of 50 books that I thought I might read, and I actually finished only six of them. I'm constantly distracted by newer books, and I've concluded that that's mostly okay with me. I just wish I could read a bit faster so that I'd actually finish more books before moving on to the next ones.

>289 ronincats: >290 The_Hibernator: Thank you both for the holiday greetings! I love the images you've both chosen.

Dec 24, 2017, 12:25pm Top

30. Desperately Seeking Santa by Eli Easton

I picked up this book because I'd enjoyed another of the author's light Christmas romances last year, and I needed something fluffy that I could read during the end of the semester. It took me a while to get into the book because the initial premise wasn't super interesting to me, but it did suck me in eventually—about a quarter of the way in, it started getting to events that weren't already entirely expected from the back cover. Yay for books that accomplish what I want them to.

Edited: Dec 24, 2017, 12:30pm Top

SS: Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian

Not a book, but I wanted to write a brief review of it anyway because everyone else was talking about it.

I had initially posted this review on GoodReads, but it disappeared when the whole work was deleted because short stories aren't allowed to be catalogued there(!). Fortunately Mark was able to recover the review from Google Cache, but it was a big warning not to trust GoodReads, and to value LT's user-data-is-sacred approach (even if that policy doesn't apply to reading date bugs).

Anyway, the review:

Apparently I'm unusual among women in that I didn't find this story amazingly relatable. I didn't like Margot. I did find the writing very compelling, but I was ultimately disappointed. The ending felt a bit like a cop-out.

Margot treated Robert pretty badly throughout, and I wasn't sold on the idea that he somehow deserved this because he was awkward and inexperienced and overweight.

But he suddenly turns out to be a horrible person at the end, so I guess that's supposed to justify the way she treated him, because actually he deserved it? Or something like that. I wasn't convinced.

And also it's apparently supposed to be about how girls are socialized to be nice and agreeable, and so it's easier just to have sex when you don't want to than to say that you've changed your mind. But I would be more sympathetic if Margot had actually been interested in him when she suggested they go back to his house, rather than just feeling the thrill of power. I would be more sympathetic if she hadn't kept pushing after he repeatedly declined her advances because she'd been drinking.

But I think in large part I'm annoyed more by the reaction to this story than by the story itself. The story was interesting and very readable, even if I didn't love the ending. But I don't see Margot as a victim who represents the victimhood of all women. I don't see this as an example of #MeToo. I think women have enough agency to avoid being Margot if they don't want to be.

Dec 24, 2017, 2:14pm Top

>293 _Zoe_: Hm. My New Yorker subscription ran out just before this story was printed, and I've been hearing that I should read it all over, of course. Your comments make me less likely to hunt it down online. But I still might.

In the meantime, best wishes for a happy holiday season and a great year to come!

Dec 25, 2017, 7:40am Top

>294 ffortsa: It's short enough that I'd still say you should read it, because why not? I wanted to say "it will only take five minutes", and then I realized that I have no sense of time and can't remember whether it took five, ten, or fifteen minutes. Still, it's not long. It's available online here.

And a happy holiday season to you as well!

Dec 25, 2017, 9:50am Top

Wishing you all good things this holiday season and beyond.

Dec 25, 2017, 10:15am Top

Happy Holidays from Philadelphia, Zoë! I'm sorry that I wasn't able to see you and meet Mark in Atlanta early this year, but hopefully we can meet up in 2018.

Dec 27, 2017, 11:46am Top

>293 _Zoe_: I'm in accord with you on the short story, Zoe. It didn't take long to read and I thought it aggravating. Nothing like everyone behaving badly to mess up a moral or political point.

Jan 1, 12:20pm Top

Happy New Year! I've started a new thread here, though I still have a couple of final posts to do in the current one when I get around to it.

Thank you Paul and Darryl for the greetings!

Darryl—Yes, hopefully we can meet up in 2018. And I'm glad we did have one meetup in NYC this past year. Thank you again for keeping me company while I waited for the Brazilian consulate to open.

>298 ffortsa: Thank you! It's always such a relief to hear that I'm not the only one who didn't appreciate the newest hotness. But I'm sorry I encouraged you to read it.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

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