Popsugar Reading & Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2020

Yet again I will be trying to conquer the PopSugar Reading Challenge. See my past attempts here and here and here. I have not yet conquered it but 2020 feels like my year! 

I will also be trying the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2020. See me fail that for the first time last year here. We are doing this challenge together at my workplace so I feel pretty good about accomplishing that one this year!

I’ll be updating this post throughout the year as I complete each challenge. Titles in [ ] indicate a book I plan/hope to read for that prompt.

Take the 2020 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Basic (10/40)

1. A book that’s published in 2020
2. A book by a trans or nonbinary author Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
3. A book with a great first line
4. A book about a book club
5. A book set in a city that has hosted the Olympics – Naturally Tan by Tan France (some of it is set in Salt Lake City)
6. A bildungsroman [Juliet Takes A Breath]
7. The first book you touch on a shelf with your eyes closed
8. A book with an upside-down image on the cover
9. A book with a map The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson
10. A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club – Why You Should Be a Socialist by Nathan J. Robinson (host of Current Affairs Podcast) 
11. An anthology
12. A book that passes the Bechdel test
13. A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it
14. A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name
15. A book about or involving social media [The Hive]
16. A book that has a book on the cover
17. A medical thriller
18. A book with a made-up language
19. A book set in a country beginning with “C”
20. A book you picked because the title caught your attention [A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius]
21. A book published the month of your birthday The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Company (published September 2001)
22. A book about or by a woman in STEM
23. A book that won an award in 2019 – How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones (2019 Kirkus Prize for NonFiction)
24. A book on a subject you know nothing about
√  25. A book with only words on the cover, no images or graphics – Know My Name by Chanel Miller
26. A book with a pun in the title
27. A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins
28. A book with a robot, cyborg, or AI character
29. A book with a bird on the cover [Mostly Dead Things]
30. A fiction or nonfiction book about a world leader
31. A book with “gold,” “silver,” or “bronze” in the title
32. A book by a WOC – Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
33. A book with at least a four-star rating on Goodreads
34. A book you meant to read in 2019 – With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
35. A book with a three-word title [Light it Up]
36. A book with a pink cover We Should All Be Mirandas by Chelsea Fairless and Lauren Garroni
37. A Western
38. A book by or about a journalist [Lost Connections or One Day]
39. Read a banned book during Banned Books Week
40. Your favorite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Advanced (1/10)

1. A book written by an author in their 20s  [Deposing Nathan]
2. A book with “20” or “twenty” in the title
3. A book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement (a nod to 20/20 vision)
4. A book set in the 1920s
5. A book set in Japan, host of the 2020 Olympics
6. A book by an author who has written more than 20 books
7. A book with more than 20 letters in its title We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
8. A book published in the 20th century – The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
9. A book from a series with more than 20 books
10. A book with a main character in their 20s

The Challenge (4/24)

  1. Read a YA nonfiction book
  2. Read a retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, or myth by an author of color
  3. Read a mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman
  4. Read a graphic memoir
  5. Read a book about a natural disaster
  6. Read a play by an author of color and/or queer author The Laramie Project by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theatre Company
  7. Read a historical fiction novel not set in WWII
  8. Read an audiobook of poetry
  9. Read the LAST book in a series
  10. Read a book that takes place in a rural setting
  11. Read a debut novel by a queer author
  12. Read a memoir by someone from a religious tradition (or lack of religious tradition) that is not your ownNaturally Tan by Tan France
  13. Read a food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before
  14. Read a romance starring a single parent With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
  15. Read a book about climate change
  16. Read a doorstopper (over 500 pages) published after 1950, written by a woman [Outlander]
  17. Read a sci-fi/fantasy novella (under 120 pages)
  18. Read a picture book with a human main character from a marginalized community
  19. Read a book by or about a refugee
  20. Read a middle grade book that doesn’t take place in the U.S. or the UK
  21. Read a book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non)
  22. Read a horror book published by an indie press
  23. Read an edition of a literary magazine (digital or physical) – The New York Review of Books, January 12
  24. Read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author

Favorite Books and Podcasts 2019

It’s that time of year! I failed again in completing the Popsugar Reading Challenge (but I came very close!) and I also gave myself a new challenge to fail – The Book Riot Read Harder 2019 Challenge (also came very close despite starting this challenge in the middle of the year!). Next year, I will complete at least one of these two!

But! I did complete my Goodreads Challenge for this year by reading more than 75 books. I also listened to a lot of podcasts. A. Lot. Here are some of my favorites:

Favorite books of 2019 (not all necessarily released in 2019 and in no particular order):

  1. This is Kind of An Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender
  2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  3. Truly Devious and The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
  4. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino
  5. Wayward Son (Simon Snow #2) by Rainbow Rowell
  6. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
  7. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
  8. The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner
  9. White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  10. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
  11. Voces Sin Fronteras: Our Stories, Our Truth by Latin American Youth Center Writers
  12. The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Wang
  13. Managing to Change the World: The Non-Profit Manager’s Guide to Getting Results by Allison Green
  14. Circe by Madeline Miller
  15. Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
  16. The Truth As Told By Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
  17. Darius the Great is Not Ok by Adib Khorram
  18. Ohio by Stephen Markley
  19. The Seven 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
  20. Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes
  21. Calypso by David Sedaris

 

Favorite podcasts of 2019 (not all necessarily released only in 2019 and in no particular order):

  1. Punch Up the Jam
  2. Overdue
  3. Nancy
  4. Current Affairs
  5. Binge Mode: Harry Potter (and Game of Thrones :))
  6. Ask a Manager
  7. Broad Street Hockey Radio
  8. Dolly Parton’s America
  9. Headlong: Running From Cops
  10. Office Ladies
  11. The West Wing Weekly
  12. One Step
  13. Reply All
  14. The Dream
  15. This Might Get Weird

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

For curiosity’s sake, wanted to see how well my reading so far this year stacked up against the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. (Popsugar will still be my primary reading goal, but I’ll keep this one updated as well throughout 2019 as I read!).

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So far: 14/24

  1. An epistolary novel or collection of letters:
  2. An alternate history novel
  3. A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018
    Darius the Great is Not Ok by Adib Khorram
  4. A humor book
    The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly
  5. A book by a journalist or about journalism
    Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
  6. A book by an AOC set in or about space
    Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  7. An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America
  8. An #ownvoices book set in Oceania
  9. A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads
    Voces Sin Fronteras : Our Stories, Our Truth by Latin American Youth Center Writers
  10. A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman
  11. A book of manga
  12. A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character
  13. A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse
    The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
  14. A cozy mystery
    The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
  15. A book of mythology or folklore
    Circe by Madeline Miller
  16. An historical romance by an AOC
    You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
  17. A business book
    Managing to Change the World: The Non-Profit Manager’s Guide to Getting Results by Alison Green & Jerry Hauser
  18. A novel by a trans or nonbinary author 
    This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender
  19. A book of nonviolent true crime
  20. A book written in prison
  21. A comic by an LGBTQIA creator:
    They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
    Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
  22. A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009
    Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
  23. A self-published book
  24. A collection of poetry published since 2014
    Othered by Randi M. Romo

Favorite books and podcasts of 2018

It is the last day of 2018, and so, it is time to recount my favorite books and podcasts of the year! This year I read 65 books and listened to… a  lot of podcasts. I also completed almost all of my Popsugar Reading challenge for 2018. In no particular order here are all the books I gave 5 stars on Goodreads:

  1. The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler
  2. Ready Player One by Ernest Kline
  3. Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Sellout by Laura Jane Grace
  4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  5. Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  6. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
  7. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
  8. And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell
  9. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  10. The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story by Ann Rule
  11. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
  12. Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
  13. The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
  14. What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
  15. The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer

And my favorite podcasts (not necessarily all released in 2018 but the ones I listened to the most this year).

  1. Serial, Season 3
  2. Binge Mode: Harry Potter
  3. Punch Up the Jam
  4. Switched on Pop
  5. The West Wing Weekly
  6. Reply All
  7. Headlong: Surviving Y2K
  8. Slow Burn, Season 2
  9. Constitutional 

Looking forward to 2019!

Popsugar Reading Challenge 2019

Will be trying this again in the new year! Last year I only fell 5 short of the basic challenge and 7 short of the advanced. This year I think I can do it (the basic at least)! Will update as I go throughout the year. [[]] indicates a book I plan to read to fulfill that category.

Basic (36/40)

1. Book Becoming a Movie in 2019: Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott
2. Book That Makes You Nostalgic: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
√ 3. Book Written by a Musician (Fiction or Nonfiction): The Magic Misfits #1 by Neil Patrick Harris
√ 4. Book You Think Should be Turned Into a Movie: The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
5. Book With at Least One Million Ratings on Goodreads:
6. Book With a Plant in the Title or on the Cover: Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg
7. Reread of a Favorite Book: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven 
8. Book About a Hobby: Hockey: Then to WOW by Sports Illustrated
9. Book You Meant to Read in 2018: Becoming by Michelle Obama
10. Book With “Pop,” “Sugar,” or “Challenge” in the Title: Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman
√ 11. Book With an Item of Clothing or Accessory on the Cover: Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim
12. Inspired by Mythology, Legend or Folklore: Circe by Madeline Miller
√  13. Published Posthumously: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
14. Book You See Someone Reading on TV or in a Movie:
15. Retelling of a Classic: Pride by Ibi Zoboi
16. Book With a Question in the Title: What If I Say the Wrong Thing? by Verna Myers
17. Set on a College or University Campus: Normal People by Sally Rooney
18. About Someone With a Superpower: The Power by Naomi Alderman
19. Book Told From Multiple Character POVs: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
√ 20. Set in Space: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
21. By Two Female Authors: Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan
22. Title that Contains “Salty,” “Sweet,” “Bitter” or “Spicy”: Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas
23. Set in Scandinavia:
24. Takes Place in a Single Day: Ohio by Stephen Markley
25. Debut Novel: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
26. Book Published in 2019: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
√ 27. Featuring an Extinct or Imaginary Creature: Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
28. Recommended by a Celebrity You Admire: Florida by Lauren Groff (recommended by President Obama)
29. Book with “Love” in the Title: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally & Nick Offerman 
30. Book Featuring an Amateur Detective: Two Can Keep a Secret (If One’s Dead) by Karen M. McManus
31. Book About a Family: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
32. Written by an Author from Asia, Africa, or South America: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
33. Zodiac Sign or Astrology Term in the Title:
34. Book That Includes a Wedding: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
35. By an Author Whose First and Last Name Start with the Same Letter: The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker
36. A Ghost Story: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
√ 37. Two-Word Title: Difficult Mothers by Terri Apter
√ 38. Novel Based on A True Story: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
√ 39. Book Revolving Around a Puzzle or Game: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
√ 40. Your Favorite Prompt from a Past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge (2018 – Book mentioned in another book): And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (mentioned in The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson)

Advanced (4/10):

1. Cli-Fi (climate fiction) Book: The Overstory by Richard Powers
2. Choose Your Own Adventure Book:
3. An #OwnVoices Book: Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith
√ 4. Read a Book During the Season it is Set In: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
5. A Lit RPG Book:
6. Book with No Chapters/Unusual Chapter Headings/Unconventionally Numbered Chapters:  Motherhood by Sheila Heti
7. Two Books That Share the Same Title (1):
8. Two Books That Share the Same Title (2):
9. Book that has inspired a Common Phrase or Idiom (e.g., Big Brother from 1984):
10. Book set in an Abbey, Cloister, Monastery, Vicarage or Convent:

Dispatches from PLA 2018

I had the wonderful opportunity to return home to Philadelphia last week to attend the Public Library Association Conference. Despite a vicious nor’easter keeping me home in Annapolis a bit later than I planned, I was able to get myself out the door early in the morning on Thursday and still catch a good chunk of the conference on Thursday and Friday and catch up with two of my iSchool classmates and my former, wonderful, supervisor!

 

Here are some highlights from some of the sessions I attended:

Making Justice:

I loved this session hosted by the Madison (WI) Public Libraries about their makerspace/justice project, one facet of which involved bringing artist educators in to work with young people in the justice system. I loved the way the artist they brought to lead a demo session tied cultural lessons with the teens’ lives and brought all that into the art they would then create together. One of the key takeaways I got from this session was the importance of listening to those whom the program is for – as one presenter put it, not “com[ing] in with all your adult goals.” I also learned about how slowly building relationships with perhaps reluctant partners in the community, such as the local juvenile detention center in this example, can lead to really fruitful partnerships as trust builds.

More about this project here.

Applying an Equity Lens:

This program was all about Seattle Public Library’s recent initiative to apply an equity lens to all they do, they two presented examples being their bookmobile placement and their One Seattle, One Book (not sure if that’s the official name) celebration. A key takeaway here was within the four elements of consideration that made up applying an equity lens to a program, namely:

  • Participation: Did we engage people of color in the program, both in attendance and in creation?
  • Content: Was the content about, relevant to, and developed by people of color?
  • Budget: Who benefits financially from this program? Is the money going back into the communities it is developed for and by?
  • Community Involvement: Were members of the community and local leaders consulted in the development of the program?

I also appreciated something the speaker addressed when discussing their bookmobile site reallocation, which was that they went through an entire, data driven process of re-allocating the bookmobiles to more adequately serve communities in need who would not be able to get to the library, and it wasn’t until the very end that they realized they never asked if Bookmobiles were what people wanted. Much like in the Making Justice program, the takeaway was that community feedback is a crucial step in the process.

VR/AR:

I loved this session, not the least because it was led by two Maryland librarians and featured several references to the library where i got my start – Prince George’s County! Aside from that, I was impressed by the many different particularly outreach and advocacy ideas they had including: bringing the equipment into local schools, having local politicians test drive the equipment, collaborating with local manufacturers for job skill training and connecting with local VR/AR developers to pilot new ideas and learn about trends in the field.

I also appreciated the focus on content development. While I think many libraries who have VR systems have comfortably forayed into the world of exploring games and tools that have already been developed and are available for purchase, creating VR content on the back-end is much more challenging but perhaps more useful in the long-term as we look toward a future where VR and AR become more and more predominant parts of daily life. Teaching people now how to create their own VR content and demystifying what happens behind the screen can set people up for greater success later when VR becomes perhaps as omnipresent as a laptop is today.  

Creating a Common Culture with Athens-Clarke GA

So many wonderful tips emerged from this session with regards to getting a community history project off the ground and making sure you are reaching who you need to reach. I loved that the ACPL archivist focused on creating a dialogue with patrons – she would share her story before asking them to share theirs – with no pressure to do so if they were uncomfortable or unsure. There was also an emphasis on making sure that this program is promoted as something that benefits the community – even if there is history collected as a result, it should be presented to the community as something that is for them to help them document their own history. I loved that the archivist said she would ask those who didn’t participate: “why is my message not reaching you?” or “what makes you think your story isn’t valuable to share?” so that she should continually improve the messaging and reach of the program.


That’s just a brief summary of some of the many things I learned this weekend! I had a wonderful time and can’t wait until the next PLA.

 

PopSugar Reading Challenge 2018

Like last year, I’ve committed to completing the PopSugar reading challenge. Last year I fell about 8 books short of the regular challenge and only one book short of the advanced challenge! This year I will hopefully complete it all!

I’ll be updating it as the year goes on.

popsugar 2018

 

The Challenge (36/40)

1. A book made into a movie you’ve already seen
2. True Crime – Bloodsworth by Tim Junkin
3. The next book in a series you started Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
4. A book involving a heist Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
5. Nordic noir The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl
6. A novel based on a real person The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
7. A book set in a country that fascinates you The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
8. A book with a time of day in the title The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguru
9. A book about a villain or antihero The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher
10. A book about death or grief This is Really Happening by Erin Chack
11. A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym
12. A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist Tranny by Laura Jane Grace
13. A book that is also a stage play or musical – The Color Purple by Alice Walker
14. A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
15. A book about feminism All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister
16. A book about mental health Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
17. A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift 
18. A book by two authors What If it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
19. A book about or involving a sport Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
20. A book by a local author The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
21. A book with your favorite color in the title 
22. A book with alliteration in the title A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
23. A book about time travel
24. A book with a weather element in the title The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely 
25. A book set at sea Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
26. A book with an animal in the title Oh My Dog: How to Choose, Train, Groom, Nurture, Feed, and Care for Your New Best Friend by Beth O. Stern
27. A book set on a different planet Shade: The Changing Girl by Cecil Castelluci
28. A book with song lyrics in the title She Loves You (Yeah Yeah Yeah) by Ann Hood
29. A book about or set on Halloween The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler
30. A book with characters who are twins The Secret History by Donna Tartt
31. A book mentioned in another book 
32. A book from a celebrity book club Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay (from Emma Watson’s book club)
33. A childhood classic you’ve never read A Wrinkle in Time (graphic novel) by Madeline L’Engle and Hope Larson
34. A book that’s published in 2018 And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell
35. A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner I’ll Be Gone In the Dark by Michelle McNamara
36. A book set in the decade you were born After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
37. A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to What Happened by Hillary Clinton
38. A book with an ugly cover The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
39. A book that involves a bookstore or library Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
40. Your favorite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges The Awakening by Kate Chopin (from 2017, a book about an interesting woman)

Advanced (4/10)

1. A bestseller from the year you graduated high school
2. A cyberpunk book
3. A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place
4. A book tied to your ancestry Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson
5. A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title
6. An allegory
7. A book by an author with the same first or last name as you I‘ll Be There For You: The One about Friends by Kelsey Miller
8. A microhistory Meet Me In the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman
9. A book about a problem facing society today Bible Nation by Candida Moss
10. A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 

July book round-up

Here’s what I read this month:

How to Survive a Plague by David France

This was a really amazing work about the AIDS crisis which was improved by the author’s insider perspective as someone who lived as a gay journalist and documented the activist movement during the time of the crisis. This is the first hefty non-fiction text I’ve gotten through in quite a while due to the author’s easy and compelling writing style. I did have a bit of a hard time keeping track of the many key players and organizations, and there were a few times I had trouble focusing and understanding the science especially, but overall I really enjoyed reading this book and think it’s valuable for all who don’t know about the AIDS crisis, the activists whose actions saved so many lives, and the ways the government failed America’s gay community during that time.

Genuine Fraud (ARC) by E. Lockhart

I was sadly disappointed with this one, after being so impressed with Lockhart’s previous pseudo-mystery We Were Liars. This story, told in reverse chronological order so that it starts with a mysterious girl with a stolen identity on the run, just lacked the mystery that the aforementioned novel had, and it felt like many pieces were picked up along the way but not quite tied together well at the end.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

What a beautiful novel about a young girl during the 1930s who goes from living a privileged life as the daughter of a ranch-owner in Mexico to becoming a poor American immigrant, working on a dust bowl-era farm and experiencing prejudice and bias for the first time. The characterization of Esperanza as a spoiled rich girl felt slightly overly simplistic, especially in the beginning, but I really warmed to her and her story by the end as she started to become more empathetic to others. Overall, a wonderful, unique, and historically informative read.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (ARC) by Erika L. Sanchez

I had mixed feelings about this novel, which was billed to me at ALA as appealing for fans of Jane the Virgin. While this novel lacked the quirkiness I was hoping for, I was very impressed by the representation in this book, which tackles issues of illegal/undocumented immigration, poverty, life in inner cities and race/class divides, LGBT issues, mental health, and learning to appreciate one’s own culture. While there was something about the writing style that didn’t appeal to me directly, I would recommend this novel and was glad to have read it.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Wow. I actually started this book as an audiobook (full cast recording, unabridged) and made it halfway through before the book was automatically returned to the library. However, this month I got it back and was finally able to finish it! I think I missed something because of the gap and also because I have a harder time paying attention to finer details in audiobook format, which this book absolutely required. Still, I found the concept (people immigrating to America brought their culture and their Gods with them, but the old gods are dying out as people are believing in them less and less) and the many layers of symbolism and exploration of American culture fascinating. Everything didn’t really click for me until the end, so I could see myself returning to this novel one day (though probably the abridged version) to rediscover the things I missed the first time around.

A Midsummer’s Update

Can’t believe summer feels like it’s almost over. Thought I’d give an update on what I’ve been up to this summer.

Interning at the Library of Congress:

I’ve been *so* fortunate this summer to spend the past 8 weeks interning at THE Library. Of Congress!!! I’ve been working with the Educational Outreach team, which does some really amazing and wonderful work creating primary source analysis and engagement resources for teachers, as well as providing plenty of professional development opportunities for educators across the country. See what they do here.

It’s been wonderful working at the Library. As a junior fellow, I’ve had the opportunity to go on amazing tours of the different reading rooms and research centers and other divisions of the library. I’ve learned a ton in a short amount of time, not only about history but about the amazing work Library staff does that I was not even remotely conscious of. My tour of the preservation division today was particularly eye opening.

My particular work has been focused around creating a resource for children visiting the library, as well as providing assistance during our five, week-long, summer teacher conferences. Hopefully I will be able to post more on those things in the future. I am sad that I only have two weeks left working at this amazing place!

My first trip to ALA:

19400459_10156385416968289_5587231809153127264_o.jpg

Yes, this summer I had my first trip to the amazing city of Chicago as well as my first visit to the American Library Association Conference. It was incredibly overwhelming, but wonderful and I am so glad I went. Some highlights:

  • Dr. Carla Hayden’s fabulous conversation with the leaders of 3 major public library systems, which gave me some insights into the ways public librarians should be thinking about their market, their opportunities, and their challenges. Particularly of interest was their discussion around innovative partnerships and collaborations – I think these are vital for success in the public library and it was good to hear that the leaders are thinking about them in new and interesting ways to ensure effectiveness.
  • Ron Chernow’s speech after the ALA awards. I unfortunately did not get to stay for the whole speech, but I was wowed to hear him talk about using the Library of Congress’s resources (there’s clearly a theme to this post) to prove that Grant hand-wrote the draft of his own biography. It was a fascinating story and really demonstrated the value of our archival institutions, as well as the continued relevance of physical materials and physical presence in the library, despite arguments to the contrary.
  • YALSA’s new members orientation. It was a lot of information to take in, but has given me a lot of confidence to proceed with more involvement in ALA and YALSA.
  • Being able to meet new professionals from around the country as well as run into and reconnect with those I already know. As a soon-to-be-grad, networking is vital, but more than that, it’s wonderful to feel that sense of camaraderie and belonging to community of my people.
  • THE FREE BOOKS. I don’t think I need to say more about that.
  • Unexpectedly seeing one of my teen idols, Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, speak about a really cool new comics project that is giving voice to lesser heard audiences and stories – as he describes it, embracing the “weird.” I’m slowly getting into comics now, a lot thanks to the wonderful Gene Luen Yang’s work as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and I am very excited to get my hands on some of the comics in the Young Animal imprint.
  • The city of Chicago. What a magical city – I can’t wait to go back.

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Spring semester book round-up!

Whew… this semester flew by and I really neglected this blog. But, I have been reading a lot this semester! So I thought I’d do a round-up of the best books I’ve read these past three months.

I’ve also been keeping track of the books I’ve been reading as part of my PopSugar Reading Challenge here and on my Goodreads Reading Challenge here!

April:

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds

I actually listened to this one as an audiobook, which was excellent because two different voice actors read the two different main characters’ chapters. It is the story of a young African-American teen who gets beat up by a police officer and becomes a news story and the white teen boy from his high school who sees the fight and must come to terms with his privilege and worldview. This topic is so pressing right now and this title is an excellent introduction for teens into the concept of privilege and race in America because it is very explicit and informative about these concepts, to the point that it was a bit overly didactic for me since I am already aware of these issues. Overall though, I really enjoyed this novel.

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

I’ve been watching Jane the Virgin lately and I’m a fan of Orange is the New Black so when I saw Guerrero’s face on the cover and found out that it was a book about another currently relevant and vital to discuss topic – undocumented immigration and deportation – I had to read it. I very much appreciated Diane’s story and the honest way she covered life with undocumented parents, her parents’ deportation and the severe depression that followed for her. The writing was not great, but I was willing to look past that because of how much I enjoyed the story.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl is another one I listened to as an audiobook, and while I didn’t enjoy the main narrator’s voice all that much, I loved that a British author was hired to read the Simon Snow portions – Simon Snow being what appeared to be an intentional Harry Potter rip-off/ode except with vampires. It took me a while to get into and appreciate the main character, Cath, but I came to really enjoy this book, and I am planning on reading this book’s pseudo-sequel: Carry On, a novel devoted entirely to the Simon Snow story.

March:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Ok I listened to this one as an audiobook too and it was READ BY LIN MANUEL MIRANDA and it was the best thing ever. His narration was authentic and even just talking about it puts his voice back in my head. I loved this story of Aristotle and Dante, two unlikely friends in New Mexico who have a lot about themselves to uncover. It is beautifully written and both Ari and Dante are fully formed, wonderfully inquisitive and introspective teens. Maybe one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

This one scared the crap out of me. It is the story of a dystopian future in which San Francisco is hit by a terrorist attack and the United States, and specifically the state of California, which at the beginning of the novel is already pushing the boundaries of spying on and tracking its citizens especially through the school system, turns into a police state, with one teen its main target. Especially under our current administration this book really spooked me and gave me a lot to think about. It also helped me remember that even people I’ve seen as “good guys” have used similar logic of safety over privacy and how quickly that thinking can spin out of control. A must read for the 21st century American.

Burn, Baby Burn by Meg Medina

This novel reminded me how much I love historical fiction and that I don’t read nearly enough of it. The main character in this novel is a Latina girl living in Queens in the 1970s during the time of the Son of Sam murders. The turmoil in New York at this time matches the turmoil in her house and in her mind as her family situation becomes tense and she tries to envision her life beyond high school. I thought the incorporation of the Son of Sam murders as a historical element as well as Medina’s own recollections from growing up in Queens during that time added an authentic and unnerving quality to this novel that made it incredibly enjoyable.

February:

Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings

I was very surprised that I enjoyed this one, because I totally judged it by its cover and its cover screamed to me “200 pages on a topic you’re not really interested in (water sports) with an overly moralistic 90’s arc.” However, I enjoyed this one for two reasons: first, it presented a serious moral conflict and I really empathized with the main character, and two, it was set right by my house in Annapolis and I loved getting to understand a place that is so close to me yet so different from where I live. The main character’s area is much more rural and people in the neighborhood generally seemed poorer than the wealthy yacht-owners I usually see by the docks in Annapolis. It also mentioned the train station my S.O. grew up next to in Frostburg, Maryland, so overall it just gave me this feeling of comfort and familiarity and discussed settings that are not typical in YA literature.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This novel follows a Chinese-American family in the wake of the discovery that their daughter is found drowned at the bottom of their local lake. Part mystery, part character study, Ng follows the family through their present grief as they try to make sense of their daughters death, while skipping back to different moments in the family’s history to understand how the family unraveled and reveal the secrets each family member keeps from the others. Eventually, the family realizes they knew much less about their ostensibly perfect daughter and sister than they thought. Ng writes beautifully and carefully, weaving together issues of race, sexism, family roles and societal pressures to explore how one family can hide so much just beneath the surface.