Nonfiction November Week 4 – Additions to my TBR

cork w booksI apologize for being a little behind on my Nonfiction November post this week! I’ve been prepping for my Thanksgiving trip and finishing up at work, plus obsessing over a few exciting things that are coming up in the next few weeks. November is always such a busy month, especially this last week!

If you’re in the US, I hope you have safe travels this week for Thanksgiving and that you enjoy your holidays. If you’re not in the US, enjoy this last week in November before the holiday rush!

Nonfiction November was such an amazing experience this time around. Everyone has been so enthusiastic, it’s hard not to let your TBR grow and grow and grow. This week, we’re asking participants to list the books that they’ve added to their TBR, along with a link to the blogger who recommended it. This week’s host is Katie at Doing Dewey, so make sure you head over to her blog with your link.

Good Soldiers and Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel – Recommended by Elisabeth at The Dirigible Plum – From Elisabeth’s blog: “I continue to recommend David Finkel’s Thank You For Your Service, one of my favorite books in 2013. Finkel follows the soldiers he profiled in Good Soldiers (also an excellent nonfiction read) after they return home to the U.S. The aftermath of war is no lovelier than war itself, and this is not an easy book to read. But Finkel makes you care passionately for these soldiers and their families. I finished this book and felt changed by the experience of reading it.”

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan  - Recommended by Jennifer at The Relentless Reader – From Jennifer’s blog: “I thought I knew quite a bit about the Dust Bowl. I was wrong. The author combined history with personal narratives to craft an exceptional book that was heartbreaking and incredibly informative.”

The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr – Recommended by Travis at Head Subhead – From Travis’s blog: “The book I’ve recommended most to folks is Nicholas Carr’s The Glass Cage. It was fascinating. My guess is if you are reading this post then you need to read The Glass Cage. It’s not too long and not hard to understand. But you will look at your computer, phone, car, TV and airplanes in a whole new light after reading this book. So much of our lives and work is automated these days. This shift happened so fast. What are the implications? Does anyone know? Just think about this – the same impulse/feeling you get when you misspell a word, because you know auto-correct will get it, is due to the same mental lull that has been attributed to airline crashes. You need to read this book.”

Black Berry, Sweet Juice by Lawrence Hill - Recommended by Ana at Things Mean A Lot – From Ana’s blog: “I recently finished Lawrence Hill’s Blood: A Biography of the Stuff of Life, which I really enjoyed and hope to review at some point. I especially liked the book’s exploration of racial identity and of the biological myths that still surround our understanding of race, so it only makes sense to go on to read the book Lawrence devoted entirely to the topic.”

Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley – Recommended by Sophie at Paper Breathers –  From Sophie’s blog: “I love Heminsley’s narrative because I think it speaks to many of us who laze around and can’t really muster up the willpower to go running. And even if we do, it’s only that one day a yearmonth when we feel like we’re on top of the world, and then reality hits and we realize that running is painful and difficult and SO FREAKIN’ TIRING. Heminsley had the same problems and complaints, but she also found good things along the way that balanced out the bad – for example, making friends with strangers on the run, or running by the sea, or running with a friend who really needs it emotionally. We’re privy to the painful, joyous, tragic, and triumphant moments of her life as she slowly falls in and out of love with running.”

Nonfiction November Readalong – The Restless Sleep

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Today, for the Nonfiction November readalong, Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) and I will be talking about The Restless Sleep, while Becca (I’m Lost in Books) and Katie (Doing Dewey) will be talking about Cleopatra.

The Restless Sleep is about New York City’s cold case squad and the struggles they face daily to solve long unsolved murders in New York. Horn structures the book by interweaving stories of how the Cold Case Squad came to be and the stories of four long-cold cases and the cops who try to solve them. Horn states early in the book that she is determined to give voices to the people whose lives ended too soon, who didn’t have a chance to leave their mark on the world. She looks at the case of a young couple murdered with possible drug connections, a series of murders associated with the mob, the murder of a young woman from Georgia, recently divorced, and the murder of a young girl in Queens.

This book is essentially a snap shot of what the Cold Case Squad looked like in 2003-2004, just a few short years after 9/11, which was still affecting the day-to-day life of all cops. I’m sure a lot has changed in the years since the book was published and that was hard to ignore. The police politics and the parts of the book that discussed how the Cold Case Squad operated were much less interesting than the parts of the book that covered actual cases and how they’re solved. It was hard to keep each cop straight in the narrative and I found the narrative structure to be jarring. It was difficult to focus on any one part of the story when it would jump from an individual case to talking about police politics to talking about another case.

I struggled with Horn’s tone throughout the book, which starts out as very informal, almost as if she’s mimicking the hard language and tone that she thinks cops have. This eventually fades, or I got used to it as the story went on, but it still stood out to me as I was reading.

The cases Horn picks to illustrate the work the Cold Case Squad were poignant. She approaches the victims with compassion, when other people might not. Many of the cold cases in New York are people who the world has deemed expendable. Many of them are criminals themselves. Horn wants someone to remember them and I think she does a good job painting fair pictures of the victims and their murderers, if they’re known. At the end of the book, two of the cases are solved and two remain cold. It was frustrating not to have that closure on those two cases, but it was a great way to illustrate the real work the Cold Case Squad is doing.

If it weren’t for this readalong, I’m not sure I would have finished The Restless Sleep. The subject is interesting, but I just found the structure of the book and Horn’s tone to be distracting.

So, I have to know, what did you think?? Am I totally wrong here? Or did you run into some of the same issues with The Restless Sleep?

Nonfiction November Week 3 – Diversity in Nonfiction

cork w booksHappy week three of Nonfiction November! This week we are exploring diversity in nonfiction, hosted by Becca at I’m Lost in Books. Be sure to head over to Becca’s blog to add your links for this week’s post. Also, just a reminder that we’ll be posting about our readalong titles tomorrow!

The great thing about reading is that it gives us the opportunity to read about other experiences rather than just what’s familiar, but those books don’t just fall into our laps. We have to actively seek them out and make them a priority.

When it comes to reading diverse nonfiction, one thing that I have noticed is that I’ll pick up a book about a different culture or race or ethnicity and see that the author is white and, often, from the US. Those books, of course, still have value as being an opportunity to learn more about a country or culture, but at the same time, it’s also important to seek out nonfiction written by authors of color.

If diversity is important to you, you can’t just say it. You have to make a point to choose the books that reflect that. You have to pay attention, whether you want to focus on reading more nonfiction books by authors of a different race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender (or all of the above!). I wanted my reading for the second half of Nonfiction November to reflect that priority, so I put together a list of what I’ll be reading over the next two weeks:

 

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Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl – I’m a little bit more than halfway through Unnatural Selection, which focuses on sex selection in Asian countries starting with the cause of the problem (hint: the US had a lot to do with it), current ramifications that we’re already seeing in many of these countries that have had a skewed sex ratio since the 70s, and what it will mean for Asia and the rest of the world going forward. What I love about Unnatural Selection is Hvistendahl’s determined approach to debunking the idea that sex selection is solely based on cultural preference for boys and for calling out organizations for not taking a stand on sex selection because it is a complicated situation tied up in abortion rights. It is a complicated situation, but one that is going to cause more disparity, more unrest, and more problems over the next 20-40 years. Hvistendahl has lived in China for many years and interviews many women and family’s for this book, making it a strong choice if you’re interested in learning more about a complicated problem affecting China, India and other Asian countries.

 

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Capital by Rana Dasgupta – Okay, I’ll admit. I was drawn to  Capital on the library shelves because it has such a stunning cover. Then I was hooked when I saw Rana Dasgupta’s name. I read his novel Solo in 2011 and it still stands out to me as one of the more beautifully written novels I’ve read over the past few years. I’m looking forward to see what Dasgupta does with nonfiction. This book focuses on the history of Delhi and the new elite in India, people who made it rich after the opening of India’s economy. Dasgupta accomplishes this by interviewing a range of people in Delhi and combining the history of Delhi with their narratives and his own personal journey. It’s a book that’s garnered amazing reviews and I think it will be next for me to read!

 

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No Land’s Man by Aasif Mandvi - Aasif Madvi has been making the NPR rounds these past few weeks and I was immediately drawn to the way he talks about his experiences and about representation. When he was starting out as an actor, he was often asked to read for parts like the snake charmer or the voice of a terrorist. In fact, he wasn’t even interested in auditioning for The Daily Show because he assumed it was a role like those he had been offered in the past. Instead, it was for the role of Muslim Correspondent and Mandvi nailed the audition. No Land’s Man was described by the interviewer on NPR today as at turns hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking. It sounds like an honest, fascinating memoir from a person I’d really like to know more about. I received a free copy of the audiobook and I can’t wait to listen on my drives this week and next.

Do you have any diverse nonfiction titles you’re hoping to read in the second half of Nonfiction November?

Nonfiction November Week 2 Roundup!

cork w booksWell, Be/Become/Ask the Expert week has come to a close and I’m of course in awe of how widely read and curious all of you are. We had such a wide range of topics this week! Everything from nonfiction on becoming a parent to fairy tales to several takes on food! This was my favorite week last year and this year did not disappoint. Thank you so much for participating, tweeting, sharing, commenting, and chatting about nonfiction this month.

I’ve tried to link to everyone who shared links with us, but I apologize in advance if I missed anyone! If you don’t see your link here or you didn’t get a chance to add it to the linky before today, leave it in the comments or add it to the linky on my previous post.

Before we get into the links:

  • Just a reminder that next week’s topic is all about diversity and nonfiction and will be hosted by the lovely Becca at I’m Lost in Books. Be sure to head over to her blog on Monday to check it out.
  • We’ll also be posting about our readalong this week on 11/19. If you’ve been reading along with either Cleopatra or The Restless Sleep, be sure to check to post next Wednesday.
  • If you’re on Twitter, join us in discussing nonfiction all month using the hashtag #nonficnov!

Expert Lists: Be sure to check out these amazing expert lists to keep your TBR pile growing exponentially!

Lori is the expert in “unconventional biographies” at The Emerald City Book Review.

bookmammal is an expert in oral histories and an expert in books about the Kennedys at Musings from a Bookmammal.

Christina is an expert on food politics and shares eight great books you should read at Ardent Reader.

Julie put together a list of books all about the Tudors at JulzReads.

Sarah also posted about the Kennedys at Sarah’s Bookshelves.

Jay recommended three books by historian Daniel Boorstin and also asked us to recommend great author autobiographies or biographies at Bibliophilopolis.

Heather posted a list of science and medicine books at Based on A True Story.

Trisha of eclectic/eccentric posted a list of books about freak shows and a list about fairy tales.

Trish has an amazing list of nonfiction recommendations for nonfiction beginners at Love, Laughter, & a Touch of Insanity.

Caro, as a PhD student herself, posted a list of books about science at A Girl that Likes Books.

Katherine posted a truly fascinating list of books about exposing fraudulent mediums at A Writerly Reader. I’ve researched the Spiritualist movement for a novel, too, and all of these books are going on my list!

Andi at Estella’s Revenge shared a list of books about the Victorian era.

Sherry at Semicolon asked us to recommend books about the US Presidents and books about Africa for two of her ongoing reading projects. Any suggestions?

Sophie shared a list of books about animals at Paper Breathers.

TJ posted a list of books that make you glad to be where you are at My Book Strings.

Travis at Head Subhead listed three books about book covers. Such a cool list!

Melissa posted a list of books about abortion at Feminist Texican Reads.

Jancee shared books about geeky nonfiction reads, including books about gaming and fandom at Jancee Reads.

Monika at A Lovely Bookshelf posted all about language learning. There were definitely a few I wanted to add to my TBR!

Shannon posted an amazing list of books about making the choice to become a parent or not at River City Reading.

Holly and Amanda shared books about 20th Century American History at A Gun in Act One.

Leila shared a list of memoirs by Iranian women at Reader’s Oasis.

April put is an expert on books about buddhism and wants to become an expert on historical events and people at Bookishly Speaking.

Bex shared her favorite books about food and self-sufficiency at An Armchair by the Sea.

Olduvai also posted a list about food at Oludvai Reads. This is a popular topic, but each blog has had such different picks!

Ann was inspired by Veterans Day and posted a list of books about WWI at her blog Books on the Table.

Jess posted a list of books about the Salem Witch Trials at A Book Hoarder. So fascinating!

Guiltless Reading has a list all about food and puts the call out for recommendations from readers.

Kelly asked for recommendations on American Politics, a topic I’m really interested in, too! Check out all the recommendations and recommend your own favorites at A Well-Read Redhead.

Jennifer shared a list of books about lost places at The Leaning Stack of Books and it’s absolutely fascinating. I definitely want to read all of these books!

Kristin posted a list of books about 20th and 21st century war at my little heart melodies.

Florinda shared a list of nonfiction about television, which I’m definitely going to be reading closely! Check it out at The Three Rs Blog.

Ellie is the expert on modern technology and wants to become the expert on whales and dolphins (me too!) at Book Addicted Blonde.

Carrie shared a list of WWII books she has read and is planning on reading at Other Women’s Stories.

CJ posted a list of books about Shakespeare at ebookclassics.

Brona shared her Year in Nonfiction survey and her list of books about the Holocaust at Brona’s Books.

Elisabeth posted books about creativity at The Dirigible Plum.

Amelia shared a list of books about Jane Austen and her fans at Little Thoughts About Books.

Sarah at The Everyday Reader requested recommendations for nonfiction about WWI. There are a few lists you will definitely want to check out, Sarah!

Caroline posted a list of books about the Berlin Wall and life in the GDR at More Thoughts, Vicar?

Co-host Becca shared a difficult, but important topic: human trafficking. Read more at her blog I’m Lost in Books.

Co-host Kim posted a list of football books at Sophisticated Dorkiness. Even though I have no interest in football, some of these books sound great!

Reviews!

The Lost Book of Mormon by Avi Steinberg (Reader’s Oasis)
Lost in Tibet by Richard Starks and Miriam Marcutt (JulzReads)
The Republic of Imagination by Azar Nafisi and Our Declaration by Danielle Allen (River City Reading)
Does Santa Exist? by Eric Kaplan (Jancee Reads)
Magic & Mystery (The Writerly Reader)
Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley (Paper Breathers)
The Story of Ain’t by David Skinner (Melissa F)
The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (Readers’ Oasis)
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E Frankl (James Reads Books)
As You Wish by Cary Elwes (Based On A True Story…)
Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson (Reading the End)
Sarah shared her all-time favorite nonfiction reads (Sarah’s Bookshelves)
Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim (Sarah’s Bookshelves)
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon (Olduvai Reads)

Thanks again for making this week so great! I hope you get a chance to visit a few (or all!) of the blog post and leave a quick comment. I know that’s what I’ll be doing this weekend!

Nonfiction November Week 2: Become the Expert

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Wow! Week one of Nonfiction November just amazed me. You are the best! Seriously. It was so exciting to see how many people were posting about their year in nonfiction and reviews. At the end of the first week we had 62 posts linked up. That’s so wonderful! Thank you for making this such a great start to Nonfiction November. I’m so excited to read your posts this week! Is anyone else’s TBR going crazy? I created a tag on GoodReads specifically for books I’ve discovered during Nonfiction November.

This week’s topic is Be/Become/Ask the Expert. Share a list of titles that you have read on a particular topic, create a wish list of titles that you’d like to read about a particular topic, or ask your fellow Nonfiction November participants for suggestions on a particular topic. Last year, I blogged about my favorite nonfiction books about gardening and farming and I also blogged a list of books I’d like to read to become even more of an “expert” on this topic. If you’d like some more examples of this, check out last year’s amazing posts! This was one of my favorite weeks last year and I can’t wait to read your book lists.

This year, I’d like to become the expert in language and linguistics. I was a Spanish major in college and I took a lot of linguistics classes in both English and Spanish. I miss learning about language and the science of language. Most recently, I read Trip of the Tongue by Elizabeth Little. It was a great exploration of all the different languages in the United States, which are often forgotten about and in danger of disappearing. I need more books like this!

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Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: The Amazing Adventure of Translation by David Bellos – I first heard of this book through Nonfiction November participant Wendy. Before I ended up leaving academia, I thought I’d like to become a translator. I’m fascinated by the way words work differently in each language and how translations can be effective. Is That A Fish in Your Ear? explores the world through the lens of translation and tries to answer the questions that a world full of translations creates.

Reading in the BrainThe New Science of How We Read by Stanislas Dehaene - We are all here because we are readers, but we probably don’t often think about the mechanics of it. Reading and the written word are amazing things and Reading in the Brain sounds like a fascinating exploration of everything from the science of how we read to the origins of written language and our understanding of it.

In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Orkrent - There are a lot more invented languages than Esperanto and Klingon. Apparently! This book is going to tell me all about them. There are nearly 900 invented languages and I hope this book not only goes into why they were created, but also how.

Talking Hands by Margalit Fox - There is a bedouin community within Israel with a high frequency of deafness and there, in this isolated place, a native sign language has developed over the years, virtually uninfluenced by other spoken, written or signed languages. It’s an amazing opportunity to study the way a language develops. Sign languages are so interesting and this book, recommended by Nonfiction November participant Hillary of A Horse and A Carrot, sounds like one I would just devour.

The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language by Christine Kenneally - Controversial! Compelling! Those are the words used to describe Christine Kenneally’s primary focus of her book The First Word. Essentially, most linguists decided it was a waste of time to study the evolution of language. Christine Kenneally thinks most linguists are wrong. I love a good debate, but this also sounds like a good introduction to the world of linguistics and behavioral studies.

Have you read any of these books? Do you have a favorite book about language? Let me know in the comments!

Now share your lists! Place your link to your Be/Become/Ask the Expert book list in the linky below. If you post any nonfiction reviews or other nonfiction related posts this week, please also include those here. I’ll be adding as much as possible in my round up of this week’s posts on Friday, so be sure to check back then. I can’t wait to read your lists!

 

Nonfiction November Week 1 – My Year in Nonfiction

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Nonfiction November is here! While I’m sad to see October go, with its mild weather and spooky reads and beautiful leaves, Nonfiction November makes the approaching cold a little bit more bearable. I can’t wait to read all your posts this month!

One of the main reasons that I wanted to start Nonfiction November last year was because I don’t really feel like I spend enough time reading nonfiction, even though I typically enjoy it. I don’t seek it out. So, in my standard fashion, my year in nonfiction has been pretty slim.

So far, this year, I’ve read:

  • Things I Learned from Dying by David R. Dow
  • A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown
  • Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges
  • Marbles by Ellen Forney
  • Busted by Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Wild Ones by Jim Mooallen

Okay, typing that out, it’s actually a lot more than I thought! Graphic Novel February is also great for my nonfiction reading, since three of these (A Matter of Life, Calling Dr. Laura, and Marbles) are all graphic memoirs. Now, to answer some questions!

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

It’s so hard to choose! I really liked Wild Ones and I think Marbles is such an amazing account of Forney’s struggle with bipolar disorder, but the winner this year so far is Things I’ve Learned from Dying by David R. Dow. I think Dow is an underrated writer and more people should be reading his books. Dow is a death row lawyer who does not believe in the morality of the death penalty. He spends most of his time trying in vain to get his clients off death row, whether they are innocent of their crimes or not, rarely succeeding. Things I’ve Learned from Dying is a meditation on life and death that is beautiful and poignant and while it was often heartbreaking or difficult to read, I can’t recommend it enough.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

Probably Parasite Rex. I read it with Aarti last year and every time anyone mentions anything to do with parasites, I bring this book up. I loved it.

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?

History!!! I read a lot of memoirs and some science nonfiction books, but I definitely want to read more books about history. I don’t know as much as I’d like and I want to know more! About all kinds of history.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I’m really looking forward to reading a lot of good nonfiction and getting great recommendations from other bloggers. Y’all know all the good books, after all.

I can’t wait to read your posts! Remember, this month’s linky will be hosted by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, so please head over to her blog to share our post this week before Friday! Also be sure to check out my other cohosts and their posts this week at I’m Lost in Books and Doing Dewey!

Nonfiction November Readalong Announcement

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The new addition to this year’s Nonfiction November celebration is a readalong, in an effort to encourage non-bloggers to participate in a discussion in addition to bloggers. Last week we asked you to vote on what that readalong title would be. We each picked a book we were interested in reading and in the end, you decided! There were two winners throughout the week that were pretty close in votes: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff and The Restless Sleep by Stacy Horn.

Since everyone has such varied nonfiction tastes, we thought we’d give you an option to read one or both of these books along with us. Kim and I will be reading The Restless Sleep and Rebecca and Katie will be reading Cleopatra.

We will be wrapping up the readalong on November 19th, before the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, with discussion posts on our blogs and a link-up. You’re welcome to include your links to posts where you talked about the books or to join in the discussion of the book in the comments section. We’ll also be chatting about the books on Twitter, using the hashtag #nonficnov.

I’m looking forward to reading The Restless Sleep with everyone!

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

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I first downloaded The Raven Boys on audio because I thought it was a different book. It was an excellent mistake.

I first fell in love with The Raven Boys because of the narrator, Will Patton. The particular lilt of his voice is beautiful, the cadence like poetry or song. It calms me. I always keep an audiobook from The Raven Cycle downloaded on my phone so I can pick a point in the middle of the story and listen if I’m feeling nervous. I especially like to listen to it on airplanes.

It was more than just the narration of The Raven Boys that made it great, of course. I do think that Will Patton could read me the phone book and I would be happy, but Stiefvater’s prose is like magic, effortless and intricate and lovely and surprising. Sentences that shouldn’t work do. Things that should sound cheesy instead just sound right and like there is simply no other way to describe it.

It’s everything else that keeps me coming back for more. The characters are complex. Good and bad. No one is wholly evil and no one is wholly good. The characters surprise and charm  Now that I’m back in Virginia, I’ve been enjoying the setting even more. I’m originally from Virginia and I’ve been spending a lot of time in the area where Henrietta is supposed to be. It’s just fun to read about places and landscapes you recognize, people you could know.  I’m looking forward to more explanation of the magic, but oh how I love the combination of folklore and psychic powers and traditions.

When I first got The Dream Thieves, I read it much too quickly. I didn’t want to make that same mistake with Blue Lily, so I savored it and it is everything you have come to expect from this series. It is much less like a series than one continuous novel that has just been broken up into chunks, which is not a complaint. I’m looking forward to reading them all cover to cover one day.

We spent The Raven Boys getting to know our characters. The Dream Thieves was all about the magic of Cabeswater and two different dreamers. Blue Lily, Lily Blue is much more about moving the plot along to some kind of conclusion, though not without character development (so much Noah!) and more exploration of the magic that lives on the ley line. I loved that we got to know the women of Fox Way a little bit more in this installment.

It’s just nice to find a story to get lost in again.

I received a promotional copy of Blue Lily, Lily Blue from the publisher.

What I’ve Been Up To

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My new job is near the mountains. This was where we had our annual party celebrating the founding of our company. I can’t get over how beautiful the mountains are.

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I’ve long wanted my own kayak, but I wasn’t sure if it was just something I was holding onto, so I thought I’d take a kayak tour of the Potomac. It ended up being a rainy day and everyone else canceled, so it was a private kayaking adventure with just me and the guide. It was the best, and yes, I do still want a kayak. Time to start saving up. (And figuring out where to keep it…)

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IMG_20141004_141241We went to a bbq festival in Richmond a few weekends ago and it was a perfectly beautiful, warm, lovely blue day. The neighborhood we walked through had some amazing flowers and front porches. Plus this adorable fairy garden.

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Finally, this weekend we went to the Farm Festival at Sky Meadows Park. It was a gray, cold day, but perfectly lovely for taking tours of old houses and learning about beekeeping and staring at the beautiful colors on the trees.

Introducing Nonfiction November!

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I’m so excited to announce that Nonfiction November is returning for 2014! The idea for Nonfiction November came because I had had such a great year of themed reading and I had (and have) way too many nonfiction books languishing unread on my shelves, plus alliteration is a wonderful thing, so Nonfiction November was born. Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, nonfiction blogging hero and all around wonderful person, co-hosted with me and it ended up being one of my favorite blogging months ever! This year I’m happy to say we have two new bloggers who have joined us – Rebecca from I’m Lost in Books and Katie from Doing Dewey will be co-hosting with us this year!

Like last year, this is an event that can be as low-key or as involved as you want it to be! There are three main ways you can participate and, of course, we hope you’ll be able to do all three! I’m most excited about our new readalong this year, but we need your help to pick out the book we’ll be reading. See below!

Option One

Read and post about one nonfiction book during the month of November and include it in one of our linky posts!

Option Two

Participate in our weekly discussions about nonfiction! Each week there will be a different topic, hosted by a different co-host. On Monday, we’ll post about that week’s topic and on Friday we’ll do a round up of that week’s participants. You can put your post up on anytime during the week, just be sure to add your link to the linky before Friday so we can include you in the round up post! Here are this year’s topics, so you can plan ahead:

Week 1 (Nov 3-7), Hosted by Kim – Your Year in Nonfiction

Take a look back at your year in nonfiction and answer the following questions:

  • What was your favorite nonfiction read of 2014?
  • What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
  • What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?
  • What do you hope to get out of Nonfiction November?

Week 2 (Nov 10-14), Hosted by Leslie (me!) – Be the Expert/Become the Expert/Ask the Expert

This was one of my favorite topics last year. Everyone loves a list, after all! If you decide to Be the Expert, post a list of books about a certain topic that you’ve read and can recommend. If you’d like to Become the Expert, do a little research and create a list of books on a certain topic that you’d like to read. Finally, if you’d just like suggestions from other participants on which books to read about a certain topic, you can Ask the Expert. Here are a few examples from last year.

Week Three (Nov 17-21), Hosted by Rebecca – Diversity in Nonfiction

What does diversity in nonfiction mean to you? Is it about the topic or theme of the book? Or is it the race or ethnicity of the author? Do you have any recommendations for diverse nonfiction books? Are there any topics that you’d like to see written about and/or read more widely?

Week Four (Nov 24-28), Hosted by Katie – New to My TBR

It’s been a week full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Option Three

POLL COLLAGE_2Finally, the third way you can participate is new this year: our Nonfiction November Readalong! This year we’re adding a readalong component and we’d like you to help us pick which book we’ll be reading. Please go to this link to vote on which of the following four books you’d like to read for the readalong: Cleopatra by Stacy SchiffThe Sports Gene by David Epstein, The Restless Sleep by Stacy Hornor Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem. 

PHEW. That was a lot to say in one post, but I hope you’re as excited about participating in Nonfiction November as we are about reading your posts! I can’t wait!

The Sparrow Readalong: Final Thoughts

sparrow-Readalong

I never blogged about the first time I read The Sparrow, but I wish I had. It left me feeling so conflicted the first time I read it. The ending left me feeling completely miserable, affected me so profoundly, but I found much of the first three quarters of the book to be difficult to connect with. But after I finished reading The Sparrow, it stuck with me. I just kept thinking about it. When that meme went around on Facebook a few weeks ago, where you listed your most influential books, The Sparrow made my list. It’s a book I haven’t really stopped thinking about since I read it: the tragedy of it, yes, but also the characters, the science fiction element, and,  the questions of fate and faith and what we do when we’re faced with the impossible.

When I found out Trish was reading The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell in September, I knew I wanted to join in for a reread. Would I feel less conflicted this time around? Would it be less powerful?

It took me a long time to reread The Sparrow, as long as it took me to read it the first time. I still found the beginning to be very slow, but I find nonlinear narratives difficult to get into in general. They are often very rewarding, though, and The Sparrow is proof of that. As sudden and abrupt as the ending felt, the novel prepares you for it and it felt real. What I appreciated much more this time around was the reality of The Sparrow. If there was a discovery of another planet, if we had the technology to get there, and if we did get there – I believed it could happen in this way.

The story really brightens and comes alive for me when Anne is introduced to the story. I understand and appreciate Emilio more through her eyes. The rest of the characters do feel somewhat less solid in comparison to Emilio and Anne, but Jimmy, DW, George, and Sofia all have their place in my heart. I think this is the novel’s strength and why the structure made it somewhat difficult to connect with the rest of the novel: I just wanted to spend all my time in 2019 with Emilio, his friends, and the discovery. I loved the joy of the scientific discovery, the pleasure the crew took in discovering something new about Rakhat. Emilio’s questioning of fate and faith, which propelled him on the journey that eventually lead him to tragedy, felt raw and honest.

These are the things that stuck with me after I read The Sparrow for the first time, and I imagine they are the things I will remember after this reread. It’s a beautifully written novel and I am glad I reread it, if only to sort out all the feelings I had about it. While I don’t expect it’s a novel I’ll reread again in the near future, it’s one I want to share with people, encourage them to read. It makes you think. It makes you wonder what you would have done in Anne’s position, in Emilio’s. And that, I think, is this novel’s greatest strength and its staying power.

The Most Useful Gift

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity. – Eleanor Roosevelt

I noticed something a while back – I stopped asking why.

I accepted things. I almost just didn’t even notice unusual things or things I didn’t understand. They were just swept aside, categorized as unknown and left at that. I think I have a fear of not knowing, of being ridiculed for what I don’t understand. I don’t know what eventually made me stop and wonder what I was missing, but I started to notice. I woke up. How many interesting things in the world had I missed because I didn’t ask why? Because I didn’t try to learn something new?

I almost felt like I’d been robbed. It’s so easy to get stuck – you take the same way to work every day, you go to the same stores, you walk the same paths. It’s routine, and there are some lovely things about routine, but it’s also so easy to forget to pursue something else. Time seems to pass so quickly when you have a routine. Your days run together and you can’t pick out one from the other. There were times in the last year or so that felt scary fast, like time was slipping away too quickly and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

But there is something I can do to slow it down. As this New York Times article says, “the velocity of time is a big fat cognitive illusion” and you slow it down by asking questions, learning new things, pursuing interests. “Become a student again,” learn. Be curious. Ask.

I started a new job a few weeks ago and it truly does feel like the past few months have crawled. In fact, it hasn’t even been two months. It’s barely been a month and a week! I’ve learned so many new things. It’s a completely new industry and a completely new job. I’m on my toes constantly, trying to observe and learn as much as possible. Last week I gave my first training and I think I did a great job. It was amazing to feel that satisfaction again.

I’m the kind of person who easily gets frustrated when I can’t master something quickly and I just need to get over that. I have been pining to learn to knit for years, but give up because I’m already good at crocheting and I’ll just go crochet something. I forget that it took me a lot of time and a lot of scarves that were shaped like triangles to learn how to crochet well. Knitting isn’t something I can’t do. It’s something I haven’t been willing to devote the time to practicing.

I saw a quote from Bob Ross on tumblr recently and it was a good reminder: “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you’re willing to practice you can do.” If I want to knit, all I have to do is practice. I want to do a lot of things. I am interested in learning how to build furniture. We need three bookshelves and I don’t want to just buy them, I’d love to be able to build them myself. I found a four week woodworking class at a local community center on building for less than $200. Then I found all their other classes. There are SO MANY things I can learn and try. Botanical drawing. Stargazing. Sewing. Calligraphy. I can’t wait to sign up for my first class.

This is a thought that has really been spinning in my head since we moved. I don’t want to be a person who doesn’t use the greatest gift of curiosity. I don’t want to be a person who doesn’t learn, doesn’t ask why. I don’t want to be a person who is too lazy and discouraged to try and master something. So I’m trying. I’m reminding myself. I’m telling myself. Learn. Be curious. Ask. It’s my new mantra. It’s a perfect gift to myself.