Category Archives: First Monday Book Day

First Monday Book Post On A Tuesday – Minnesota Authors

It just so happens that I am finishing my third consecutive book by a Minnesota author. It wasn't intentional, and one of them doesn't even really count, but it gave me the idea for this topic. Still, discuss whatever you want for books... this is largely just a place holder for the content that comes in the LTEs.

Briefly, my MN Books:

The Girl Who Drank The Moon - Kelly Barnhill - Young Adult fantasy literature. Newberry medal winner. It was good. Very lyrical in its language, which was quite enjoyable. That said, Aquinas read it and put his finger squarely on the problem: there isn't really a climax. The book is all build and rising tension, and then it reaches the climax, and it just sort of happens, without taking any real time or space or challenge. That aside, I highly recommend this one, because the build and rising tension and world building and lyrical writing is all fantastic.

Sharks In The Time Of Saviors - By Kawai Strong Washburn - I found this book because Kawai and I used to be in a writer's group together back in D.C. Apparently he started working on this novel shortly after leaving that group, so I never got to see any of the first work for it, but I read a lot of his other stuff, and it was really good writing. His descriptions are excellent, and really bring a world alive. He moved to MN a few years ago, after having lived in CA, and before that D.C., and Hawaii before that. This book is really a Hawaii book, not a Minnesota book, but I'm calling him a MN author now, because I can. Anyway, check this one out. It's a bit of magical realism, heavy on the realism, and about halfway through the book switches in a way I did not see coming, and that I resented a bit at first, but, ultimately came to peace with. Which, I think, was kind of the point. A very very worthy read.

The Master Butcher's Singing Club - Louis Erdrich - I've read a few Erdrich novels over the years, though I rarely know much about them before I pick them up. The strength of her reputation is enough to convince me to give them a chance. This was one I picked up for 25 cents at a library sale or something like that, and it sat on my nightstand for maybe a year before I decided to give it a go. I'm so glad I did. It's historical fiction (naturally), set in North Dakota post-WWI, and follows the lives of a German immigrant and another woman who was from the town where this is set. What strikes me is how much reading this book has been like getting to know real people. The characters are so fully human, so well-rounded, that as I'm writing this it is just now occurring to me that they are fictitious, because they occupy a space in my brain where they seem so real. I don't know that I've had that experience in reading for a while... too many science fiction/fantasy settings that prevent that, or authors who maybe aren't quite at the level that Erdrich is? Either way... wow.

Alright, other MN authors? What are you reading? What are you looking forward to? So on and so forth. Books, go now:

On Reading (or Not) and Book Awards

Once upon a time, I read books. Mostly, I read books during my bus commute. And when I had to stop commuting, I stopped reading. Sure I read for work and I read for my kids. But I haven't yet managed to find a time in the routine for reading whatever the heck I want.

However, one bit of good news for book lovers is that a pandemic isn't enough to stop book awards from being bestowed. I talked about the Minnesota Book awards here in 2014 and 2017, so now that another three years have passed, the time has come to once again bring up our fabulous literary community. There was, of course, no in-person gathering, but I was watching the livecast as it happened, and thanks to the accompanying chat, the event was surprisingly celebratory and truly did have a feeling of community and mutual support as authors cheered one another on. I even have it on good authority that the brother of a certain WGOM citizen was even in (virtual) attendance. (I kind of loved that cocktail attire was still recommended despite the fact that we were all in our homes.)

You can check out the livecast here if you'd like. And the full list of winners is here.

And, well, there's just one other little thing. I have a rather special connection with one of this year's winning books. And seeing it win may have been a little bit exciting. This particular book meant a lot to all of us involved with it. If you're curious, you can check out the story behind the book.

So what are you reading? Or wishing you had time to read?

Keeping Track

Toward the end of last year, a colleague was asking us to vote on favorite books in different categories--e.g. favorite graphic novel, favorite poetry collection, etc. After trying to recall exactly what I'd read in those categories, I suddenly became very grateful for the partial record of books I'd read within the First Monday Book Day posts.

This year, I'm using a bullet journal for the first time (because an author recommended it!), so I've got a few pages set aside at the back for jotting down book titles (and authors and illustrators). It's no spreadsheet, but at least at the end of 2020, I will have a good accounting of what I've read.

Do you keep track of the books you read? If so, how?

First Monday Book Day: Discoverability

I love a good book review. I read far more reviews of adult books* than I read actual books, though I do occasionally request books from the library based on a particularly intriguing review. Sure, I hear about books in other ways, but I like to browse through review in the New York Times over lunch, and a review is most consistently what gets me interested in a book.

However, my final read of 2019 was a book I came across by accident. I was searching the library website for Japan travel guides, and an intriguing book called The Sakura Obsession by Naoko Abe turned up. I read the description and put it on hold, and it came in just before my end-of-year time off started.

Translated from the Japanese by the author, who is from Japan and now lives in the UK, the book explores the significance of the cherry tree (sakura) in Japan and how an eccentric British guy named Collingwood Ingram came to be a proponent of the cherry tree (and lived to the age of 100). Particularly interesting to me was information about how the cherry tree was used in WWII propaganda within Japan to link the idea of blossoms falling with the idea of dying gloriously for the emperor. For a little more detail about the book, check out a review here.

Throughout the year, I read a lot of books that I feel like I "need" to read for various reasons and that's not to say I don't generally enjoy them, but it was wonderful to read a book just because I'd stumbled across it and became curious.

So how do you find out about books to read? And what have you been reading lately?

*books for grown-ups rather than children, thank you very much

First Monday-ish Book Day – Good Intentions

I didn't feel like hassling our normal stable of Book Day authors, so here's a halfassed post:

I put this book on hold at the library after hearing an interview with the author while in traffic. Sounded interesting to me. My turn came, I picked it up, placed it on the table, racked up about $3 in late fines (and we have low per day rates), and then brought it back unread because that's just kinda what I do.

Anything you managed to crack the cover on?

Poetry & Nonfiction

I've been reading memoir in verse recently. In June I read Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson and immediately after that picked up This Is the Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy, both of which were excellent.

I don't always think poetry is a great fit for nonfiction topics--poetry is often works well to distill a topic to its essence and prompt readers to see something from a fresh perspective. I don't think poetry is typically good at conveying background information and putting events in a larger context, which is often what I want from nonfiction. But in the case of memoir, poetry can get to the heart of a story and keep things moving along--because even a really interesting life surely contains plenty of mundane details that readers won't really care about.

The latest books I have from the library are not poetry, and every time I look at them, I think about how very many words are on each page. I should probably start one of those books soon, though.

What have you been reading? Have you encountered books that you thought you wouldn't like that surprised you?

image source

First Monday Book Day: Quitters Finish More

I recently read a fascinating article by Austin Kleon called "How to Read More." This article is no mere list of tips--I was pleasantly surprised by just how insightful it is. Clearly, Mr. Kleon is a big reader.

I was particularly struck by the first tip, which is "Quit reading books you don't like." As a child, I was a compulsive finisher. If I began a book, I felt obligated to see it through to the end even if I wasn't enjoying it. Of course, I had a lot more free time to fill as a child than I do now...

Kleon says, "If you aren’t getting anything out of a book, put it down, and pick up another book. Every hour you spend inching through a boring book is an hour you could’ve spent plowing through a brilliant one. When it comes to books, quitters finish more."

It's true that I read faster when a book really grabs me and I suddenly find "extra" time to read it by using time when I'm usually doing something else. I still remember taking the peperoncino to the playground one summer afternoon so that he could play with trucks in the sand while I perched on the edge of the sandbox, unable to stop reading Sweetbitter.

Do you stop reading when a book isn't holding your attention? Do you have your own tips or tricks on finding time to read? Do tell!

Reading To Children

We've done this topic before, but it's come up recently, so it seemed workable.

What do you read to your kids? What are your goals in reading to your kids, and how does that inform your book selection? (My goal is calming my children down since they're often crazy, and so I read to them from the phone book. Not really, but I should. If only I owned a phone book... (wow the world has changed!)).

Anyway, books. We read them. Then talk about them. Let's do that here.

First Last Monday: Laborious Reads

So, it's the last Monday (and day) of the year. Perhaps a book post can give us a little momentum heading into 2019? (Also, hj prodded me to post something here today.)

I've been reading a book that I kinda like, yet am sorta bored with, since November. This book and its author are both new to me, though I know a fair bit about the author, who was the best friend of one of my favorite poets. The book's not the sole reason I won't reach my reading goal for the year, but, well, it's been laborious. I'm not entirely stalled out — I make a little progress every day — but I'm definitely not going to finish it in 2018. It's a prominent book in a certain kind of genre, and 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the author's untimely, unexpected passing. I feel a bit obligated to finish it, both because, while it's not my cup of tea, it's not that bad, and because it seems like something I should read.

When I finally finish it, I've decided to create a new tag in my tracking system — Laborious Reads. I may retroactively tag a few other books like this, too; Chernyshevsky, I'm looking at you.

What books have you laboriously read? What were your initial motivations for reading them? What was your motivation to finish them?

As always, fill us in on what you've read since last time, and what you will be reading as we turn the page to begin Chapter 2019.

Listen Up!

Do you listen much to audiobooks? I don't really, though it's not because I have something against the format.

But I do listen to audio stories (a.k.a. podcasts) with the jalapeño as he's falling asleep, and that's not all that different from an audiobook. The first podcast we tried was Little Stories for Tiny People, and I really like it--the stories are engaging and Rhea's voice is lovely and soothing. We've also listened to a lot of What If World?, and those stories tend to be wackier and not always relaxing as I'd ideally like at bedtime (though to be fair, it's not intended as a strictly bedtime podcast).

Just this weekend, we started on Circle Round, which is hosted by NPR affiliate WBUR, and...wow! There are stories from all over the world, and they're told by professional actors. So far it's keeping mother and son equally engaged, which isn't always easy.

Do you listen to audiobooks or other story-like things in audio form? Any recommendations?