Tag Archives: books

What I’m reading

26 Mar

As this winter drags on forever, I’ve started to dig further and further into my bookshelf and Google Reader, and have found some pretty cool things to read.  Here’s what I’ve been picking at lately – what about you?

  • Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg – I just started this and it’s already making me seriously think about the kind of world us women are setting up for ourselves.  Is calling something “work-life balance” and putting those two words at odds with each other any different than calling one movement “pro-choice” and the other “pro-life”?  Did I judge my classmates too harshly for decisions I would have applauded had they been male, even in our women-dominated college?  Am I really sitting at the table?  I’m definitely going to keep thinking about this – let me know what you think of her ideas.
  • This article about how Downton Abbey is just a retelling of Fiddler on the Roof.  OR, is Fiddler just the best way to tell the story of modernization, cultural understanding, and the inevitability of pissing off your parents?
  • The New York Times section that features MY SISTER, Kat (see the Judge John Hodgman piece on the far right).  This page is kind of a mish-mash of weirdness, but the important thing is that a) Kat got into the NYTimes magazine (beating me even though it’s part of my five year plan!) and b) that she won her argument with her friend.
  • This article that simplifies just how crucial the Supreme Court’s ruling on Prop 8 could be.  I still can’t believe that decades after we had the same exact argument about interracial marriage, people still have to fight to be with the people they love and have that relationship recognized by the government.  So ready for us to grow up as a nation and start treating people as we say we do – “with liberty and justice for all.”  Follow the case on HRC’s website for up-to-date information.

What I’m reading

6 Mar

I don’t really have words for the insanity for the last month, so let’s pretend that we already discussed it and are now ready to dive into March, however untrue that may be.

Thanks to a jam-packed bookstore in DC, I’ve had a few good books to read in the last week, but now I’m craving more.  Here’s what’s on my shelf (and my Google reader) right now – what about yours?

  • Jurassic Park – After reading this, I am NEVER going to watch the movie.  I’ll stick with the MAD magazine parody instead.
  • Get Real – I love me some Donald Westlake, and combining his mysteries with reality shows is a slam dunk.
  • Dreams of My Father – Since I actually finished the first two already, this is what’s currently in my purse.  That Obama dude – he sure knows how to write.  I wonder if he’ll go anywhere… (and honestly, given how raw he is about some things in this book, I am a little shocked that he has!)
  • Double Decker Days – This gal in Australia is renovating an old double-decker bus to LIVE in.  I’ve been following her forever, but the work is almost done now, so check it out asap!
  • Pigtail Pals – If you’ve heard me rant about pink legos or be upset about people thinking my cousin’s baby was a boy because we bought her a fish themed beach ball, this is the source of my anger.  Feel free to join in the outrage against sexism, as perfectly described by the gang at Pigtail Pals.
  • Fooducate – For all the things you never knew you needed to know about your food and the food industry.  This blog is fascinating and just reading it (while I eat Girl Scout cookies) makes me feel healthier.

Et tu?

Boston Book Festival!

15 Oct

It’s today!  Free author events and other happenings at the central library (Copley) all day.  Go go go!

I hope to be checking out the sessions on food, on memoirs, on the power of reading without using technology, and whatever else I can cram into my day.  Text me if you’re there, too!

Summer fun for penny-pinchers

8 Jun

It’s going to hit 90-degrees today.  I ate ice cream for lunch yesterday.  Yep, summer has definitely arrived.

My summer plans involve sun (and sunscreen!), good food and drinks, and as much free fun (and air conditioning) I can manage.  Here are my top recommendations for free fun in Beantown:

  • Scooper Bowl – Happening right now at Boston’s City Hall, the Scooper Bowl is a chance to support the Jimmy Fund and cancer patients while trying a bajillion kinds of ice cream, just $8 for all you can eat.  If you go, try the key lime sorbet – it’s ridiculously good.  (Ends tomorrow, don’t miss it!)
  • Free Fun Fridays – all around the state, museums, gardens, and zoos are opening their doors for free admission on Fridays.  Check out the full schedule here – highlights for me include the Museum of Science and the JFK Library and Museum.
  • Author readings at Porter Square books – cool authors, a neat local bookstore, and free A/C.  The Fonz was there this past weekend – proof that the owners have good taste.
  • Classic movies at the Somerville Theater – this is two inches from my house, and I am excited about all these films (though I probably need someone to hold my hand during “JAWS”).  If you go for a daytime matinée to beat the heat, it’s only set you back $7.
  • Shakespeare on the Common – This year’s play is “All’s Well that Ends Well” and if last year is any indication, it should be spectacular.  (My Yelp! review of last year’s production was just highlighted in the latest Yelp! newsletter – check it out!)
  • Book sales at the Boston Public Library – I love these things, and haven’t missed one yet this year.  More on this month’s treasures soon…
  • Concerts at the Hatch Shell – the Landmark Orchestra, KC and the Sunshine Band, and more, all for free and within walking distance of the T. (Thanks, Jess, for telling me about this!)
  • Free evenings at the ICA – Check out the latest contemporary art exhibits for free from 5-9 every Thursday night.
Did I leave off any Boston summer treasures?  What awesome things are you doing this summer?

Reading List

16 Jan

Books du jour:

  1. Appetizer: The Amazing Journey of American Women by Gail Collins, which I pick up randomly to see how us gals will get further in life.  This book was a little hard to get into, but now it’s really rolling.  The section on how washing machines changed the role of women forever and the part about the role of women (and the roles women were denied) in the Civil Rights movement literally made me gasp out loud.  I bet the people on the train with me would have been shocked to know I was making such faces about history rather than over a racy love story.
  2. Main course: Thursday Next and the Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde.  I’ve read this series before years ago, but now that I’ve picked it up again, I can’t put it down.  It’s literary dorkiness at its finest: a kind but more sour than sweet detective protecting books from terrorists and inadvertently changing the course of history.  It stars the Cheshire Cat, Ms. Havisham, Captain Nemo, and is ripe with political drama as well as literary puns (at one meeting, everyone is waiting in vain for Godot).  I have “accidentally” stayed up until 2 or 3 am reading this series.
  3. After dinner: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.  I’m usually too “full” to pick this one back up, especially because it’s so heavy.  But it’s fascinating, and incredibly well written.  Diamond goes into great detail about why the history of the world unfolded the way it did, and answers questions I never even thought to ask.
  4. Dessert: we finish with a sweep dollop of the latest Cosmo and Glamour, updating me on the latest news on women’s health, the best dress deals, and how to do anything better.

And a new book related obsession: GoodReads.

Kat introduced me to this website where you keep track of the books you’ve read and what you thought of them, make a list of the ones you want to read next, and offer reviews to help readers like you find their next indulgence.  It’s really interesting to see what other people thought of books you loved and hated, and how you compare with your friends.  Anju noticed that “we started out as the same person with the exact same taste in books, and then somewhere around middle school, something went very very wrong.”  Now, we only overlap on the classics, while my bookshelves are riddled with romances, memoirs, and crime dramas, and hers are filled with sci-fi and post-colonial novels.

If you’re on Goodreads, find me!

[Shout-out to Jen whose latest post reminded me that I had bookish things to share.]

Can a book save your life?

5 Jan

The right book can make you laugh, make you cry, make you scared of every shadow or inspire you to try something new.

But can a book save your life?

It works for Thursday Next in The Eyre Affair, which I was reading just last night.  She’s left for dead but saved by a copy of Jane Eyre placed in her breast pocket that catches the bullet and leaves her with only bruised ribs.  It’s the perfect literary moment oft-repeated in books and film – but how realistic is it, really?

That’s what the guys at Electric Literature wondered.  So they put the latest and thickest books to the test to see how they would fare against a handgun.  Watch and see if you still want to put your faith in paperbacks and hardcovers.

As much as I hate to see books destroyed, I love this.  I just want to throw a few more solid classics in there to see the results.  And maybe my college Con Law book, while we’re at it.  I feel like the quality of the cardboard and the density of the paper must factor in there somewhere, and I don’t want to give up on the power of books just yet.  Sequel, please?

Books, glorious books!

5 Dec

As the sunlit hours grow shorter, the appeal of curling up on the couch under a quilt with a good book and the a (dvd) fire roaring grows.  This weekend, an overdue book led me on an adventure that satisfied all my bookworm needs.

I headed downtown for the first time in weeks to return Homer and Langley (a great book about humanity, hoarding, and brotherhood, based on a true story) to the Boston Public Library.  The BPL is host to some great free events and interesting exhibits, so I dropped off my book and wandered around.  And that’s when I saw it; a sign bearing two of the greatest words in the English language:

Book Sale!

Eureka!  I found my way to the basement of the McKim building where I landed in my own sort of paradise – a room full of library cast-offs and used books, all going for a buck or two (for hardcovers).

I found thrillers, travel books, an advance copy of a novel about what would happen if Jesus ran for President, stacks of identical books that were clearly book-club fodder once upon a time, and a collection of Dickens’ books that was missing all my favorites but was sitting next to a copy of “The Little Peppers and How They Grew,” which made me happy.

I ended up with an eclectic collection for a mere $7 – a Girl Scout Handbook from 1958 (Hey Mom, I can make a yarn doll with it!), a book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, “Other Statues of Boston” (which, to be honest, I purchased because I loved the extremely strict stickers on the front which decree that it is NOT TO BE TAKEN FROM THIS ROOM, but it’s actually really interesting,) a short self-exploration/ chick-lit novel, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I’ve always intended to read.  It also falls into a class of book that I think should only be purchased used, a class that includes Atlas Shrugged (save your money…), and On the Road (this book deserves to travel before it lands on your shelf).

This amazing event happen every two months, on the first Saturday from 10-4 in the BPL Central Library’s McKim Building.  The dates for 2011 have already been posted:

  • February 5
  • April 2
  • June 4
  • August 6
  • October 1
  • December 3

Look for me there – now that I know about this event, there’s no way I’m missing another one!

PS:  If you’re a die-hard, you can even volunteer at the event by emailing CWFBPL@hotmail.com.

The Power of Paper

6 Nov

My latest edition of Glamour arrived in the mail yesterday, and I have spent most of the afternoon curled up on the couch, reading about holiday hairstyles, how to ask for a raise, and tips for stellar homemade tomato sauce.  I’ve folded down page corners, ripped out the excessive perfume ads, and skipped over the makeup tips (because really, who has time?).

I could have googled everything I wanted to know that’s within these pages or I could have read it weeks in advance on Glamour‘s website, but I didn’t because there is something special about holding that paper in your hands, something that you can’t accomplish on this glowing screen.

Having paper to hold onto – whether it’s a newspaper, letter, book, or magazine – feels so much more substantial and meaningful than anything electronic reading devices.  There are no batteries that can die, no need for internet connectivity, no corners to fold and pages to tear.  With a great book, I can pass it on to a friend immediately without worrying about file compatibility.  I can stick it in my purse, use it as a doorstop, wrap it and give it away for Christmas.  Can you do that with a complicated URL?  I don’t think so.

I also hold fast to the belief that printed articles are better researched and better written (ironic, I know, to be making this point online).  People are more accountable for their words when they are on paper instead of just online, and while I appreciate the various content of online newspapers (like the Huffington Post), it just doesn’t have the same level of credibility in my book.

Not everyone can afford these paper versions of culture, and I’m glad ideas are reaching a wider audience through advancements in technology.  But at the end of the day, I will keep buying my good old paperbacks, preferring bookmarks to power buttons and page turns to clicks.

(And for the record, I follow this rule myself and have kept a written journal for the last 19 years, so even my daily thoughts aren’t just in cyberspace.)

Bookish

20 Oct

One of the things I love about our current apartment is the small community around us.  We live right off the T and everything is within walking distance, including the local library exactly one block away.

In my “funemployment,” there are some key things I am trying to accomplish.  In addition to getting a job, I want to use my time to volunteer, exercise, and learn new songs on my guitar.  I also wanted to get a library card.

So today, I set out to do just that.

I strode up the steps, threw open the big doors, walked to the front desk, and happily announced “Hi!  I’d like to get a library card, please.”

The man at the desk stared at me.  Stared at me.  Stared at me some more.

And then he laughed.

This was even before he looked at my ridiculous last name, and before he saw that I had brought my lease with me to prove my address (I couldn’t find anything else!).

In the end, he gave me a card, but I don’t really get what was so funny about it.  I guess maybe he doesn’t see many people my age who still get excited about the prospect of a new card and all the possibilities it allows.  Can I really be the only young woman who still cares about a new number and a new collection of books to explore?

I have to admit, the last time I got a card to the local library (across the street from Mount Holyoke) I used the card more often to pry open locked doors than I did to check out books, but that was mostly because it was only open about 16 hours a week and I was in class for the majority of them.

Even as I remain mystified about his stares and laughter, I am excited to have taken one more step to be a part of this community.  Plus, more free books!  Win win win.

Dinner in Warsaw

16 Oct

Of all the things I love in the word, free events that feature books are near the top of the list.  (Right below random musical scenes acted out in public, which is pretty much the pinnacle of my possible happiness.)

My friends and family always call me out for noticing little details that others pass by.  Like the fact that they painted all the electrical boxes at Downtown Crossing one afternoon.  Or the name of the song that the bells at Macy’s peel out at 9:00 every morning.  Or the extreme joy I show when I find out that the Shaw’s down the street is FINALLY making loaves of Portuguese sweet bread.

One such thing I noticed was that the Boston Book Festival was happening today.  I attended the first BBF last year on a soggy October day with a smallish crowd that was mostly focused on the writing process.  This year, the event organizers put a lot more energy into publicizing the event and getting all sorts of authors, publishers, and people to attend.  The area was teeming with pedestrians, though I’m sure it didn’t hurt that President Obama was stumping for Deval Patrick down the street at Hynes.

Of the two sessions I attended, I was most intrigued by the one about “Home and Away,” which featured Bill Bryson and Tony Hiss, and was moderated by Robin Young.  I chose to attend this lecture because Bryson’s books always make me laugh out loud and yearn to pack up my backpack and my passport, often at the same exact time.  I feel like he sees the world the way I do, but he says it much much hilariously than I can.

Tony Hiss, however, affected me even more.  Though his slide show was an example of a “before” in a visual aid class, I was riveted by his presentation on “deep travel.” He says that we will use our brains more and get more out of life if, in every scenario, we look around and imagine that we are not in our local coffee shop, but instead in Warsaw.  If you were in another city, you would be noticing the papers people around you are reading.  The astonishing variety of sweeteners one can put in one’s coffee.  The speed of the cars passing by.  The smells!  The taste of that particular coffee, even if it’s your third one of the day.

I loved this, because it is exactly how I try to live my life.  I’ve been in Boston for almost 18 months now and I still strive to learn something new about the city every day.  I want to be the one seeing where that path ends, what new store is moving into that empty building, which flowers are in bloom this week.  I love being the first to notice that down the street, Brian has put up bright orange lights for Halloween, or that our new curtains exactly match the picture frame in our library. Right now, I’m sitting here, wondering who is getting married or why else the church bells would be ringing at this hour.

At the same time, exploring my own city makes me long for others.  I want to be back in a land of accents, of foreign money, of roads where I can’t pronounce the street names, nevermind know where they end.  I want to order “the best beer on tap,” and not always have it be a Sam Adams.  To forage for my breakfast, hop on the next train, and see what the people there have to say for themselves.

But in the meantime, I’m off to find dinner in my own personal “Warsaw.” Pożegnanie!

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