The Intimidating TBR Tag

And now it’s time for the walk of shame. The beautiful and brilliant Renay has tagged me to talk about my TBR list, and I hang my head woefully and confess my TBR sins.

1. What book have you been unable to finish?

Future Crimes, by Mark Goodman. I started it a while back, and it wasn’t that I wasn’t into it, but you know how if you kept getting lice as a kid because that one girl in your class had a crunchy granola mother who I guess didn’t believe in Nix Shampoo and wouldn’t do anything about her daughter having lice so everyone in fifth grade kept getting it over and over again, you know how to this day if you talk about lice your head starts itching even though you know it’s psychosomatic and everything’s fine?

No? That’s just me? (My head itches right now y’all.)

Well, anyway, reading Future Crimes got too stressful for me. It made my brain itch. I’ll go back to it sometime! Swearsies!

2. Which book haven’t you read yet because you haven’t had the time?

All of them? Can I answer “all of them” to this question? I’m giving the very specific answer right now of The Madwoman Upstairs, which I checked out with a regular (okay, largeish) bunch of library books and then a ton of electronic holds on new books arrived at once. With a shiny new Crooked Kingdom, Three Dark Crowns, Tessa Dare romance novel, and this sports romance novel by an author called Ruby Lang I only just heard about, the library books that are currently on their last renewal are falling by the wayside. Sorry, The Madwoman Upstairs! I’ll come back to you someday!

3. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s a sequel?

Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. I got it at a book sale thinking “well I won’t like Wolf Hall for sure but maybe I’ll like this,” and then I tried reading Wolf Hall and really loved it. (Go fig.) So now I have this nice hardback of Bring Up the Bodies, and I haven’t read it yet because Anne Boleyn dies! And even though Mantel’s version of Anne Boleyn isn’t the world’s most ever sympathetic, still I do not want her to get beheaded.

Bring Up the Bodies

4. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s brand new?

All the Real Indians Died Off: And 20 Other Myths about Native Americans, by Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker. I read Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous People’s History of the United States a few years back and thought it was terrific. I’m also trying to be more aware of indigenous American history and lives generally, and I’m hoping to read more from Indian authors in the upcoming year.

5. Which book haven’t you read yet because you read a book by the same author and didn’t enjoy it?

White Teeth and On Beauty, by Zadie Smith. I quite liked her essay collection, Changing My Mind, but wasn’t wild about her latest-but-one novel, NW. I am hoping that I’ll love her latest latest, Swing Time, and then that will ease the way for me to get back to reading these two earlier novels, which have been on my list for like a decade now.

6. Which book haven’t you read yet because you’re just not in the mood for it?

Happy Families, by Tanita Davis. Let me revise that: I am in the mood for it. I will always be in the mood for it. I loved her latest book Peas and Carrots, and I am confident that Happy Families will be similarly thoughtful, emotional, and great. But I have been saving Happy Families for some kind of feelings emergency, and even though 2016 has been terrible, there hasn’t been anything so cataclysmic as to merit digging into my emergency reserve of books that feel like hugs.

7. Which book haven’t you read yet because it’s humongous?

Don Quixote, okay, I admit it. I asked for it for Christmas probably over ten years ago, received it from one of my beloved aunts, and to this day I still haven’t read it. There’s a part of me that’s hoping Alice at Reading Rambo will host a readalong one time, but honestly it doesn’t seem like the kind of book she’d be excited to read along with other bloggers.

(But Jenny, couldn’t you just host the readalong? I hear you ask. Okay, yes, probably I could do that. Alice is just so much betterrrrrr at it and she’ll definitely keep dooooooooing it and I’m so laaaaaaaaaaazy and I’m just like not a leader I am really more of a facilitator slash sheep. So.)

8. Which book haven’t you read yet because because it was a cover buy that turned out to have poor reviews?

Wow this is really specific. I don’t buy books based on the covers almost ever, because I want my library to be (I’m sorry to use this word but) curated. So I’ll do something closeish: I was very excited to read The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, because on paper it sounded perfect for me, all sciencey and accessible. But then I read a thing where apparently a bunch of scientists who study this stuff as their jobs do not think Mukherjee has a good handle on it at all. DILEMMAS.

9. What is the most intimidating book in your TBR pile?

My Uncle Napoleon, by Iraj Pezeshkzad, which is so intimidating it is now officially the oldest book on my TBR list. Not only is the book 500+ pages long, it’s also in translation, which is very intimidating to me. My track record with translated novels is not the greatest track record. Anyway, the good news is that in compiling this post, I discovered a super beautiful cover for the book that made me feel like three degrees less intimidated.

My Uncle Napoleon

10. Who do you tag?

Look, this tag made me dig deep into my TBR shame, and I don’t want to pressure anyone else to do that who doesn’t want to. Do the Intimidating TBR Tag if you wish! Maybe it’ll remind you that you should get off your butt and read My Uncle Napoleon already or else take it off your TBR list and admit it’s never going to happen.

Disney Song Book Tag

Y’all. This tag. The Disney Song Book Tag was created by Aria’s Books, and I picked it up from Rachel at Life of a Female Bibliophile.

1. “A Whole New World” – Pick a book that made you see the world differently.

A Whole New World

This may not count, because I barely saw the world at all prior to reading these books. However, I’m still choosing the Chronicles of Narnia. My mother read these books to me and my sister starting when I was three, so there’s not much in my life that didn’t get put through the Chronicles of Narnia goggles. I still experience quite the frisson when I see a lamp-post. Esp in the snow.

2. “Cruella De Vil” – Pick your favorite villain.

Gotta be the other mother from Coraline. In case she’s been missing from your nightmares lately, permit me to refresh your memory: SHE HAS BUTTONS FOR EYES.

Coraline

3. “I Won’t Say I’m in Love – Pick a book you didn’t want to admit you loved.

Honestly, as I get older and older, I am less and less closety about reading non-prestigious things. I’m going to say P. C. Wren’s Beau Geste and its sequels. They are those Edwardian-era adventure novels that are ideologically troubling on, like, a lot of levels? My fave is problematic.

4. “Gaston” – Pick a character that you couldn’t stand.

The thing is that I love Gaston. Instead of picking a character I couldn’t stand, I shall pick a character who I would hate in real life, but because they’re fictional, I get a huge kick out of spending time with them. And I choose Henry Winter from The Secret History. That dude is creepy? Yet so plausible that he’s capable of convincing people to commit legit murder.

5. “Part of Your World” – Pick a book set in a universe you wish you could live in.

actual footage of me reading Harry Potter

OBVIOUSLY HARRY POTTER.

6. “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” – Describe what the book of your dreams would be like.

Gosh. What would it be like. It would probably have a boarding school. Maybe there would be a dystopian situation? Like a boarding school in a dystopian universe? Plus with lady characters forming bonds and showing up for each other?

7. “Someday My Prince Will Come” – What book character would you marry if you could.

This gif does not match this song. I don’t care. Snow White sucks and Ariel is amazing.

Sherry from Greensleeves. Greensleeves is an amazing book by Eloise Jarvis McGraw that people do not appreciate enough even though it is now available for purchase through your favorite online retailer. Sherry from Greensleeves is curious about everything, reads constantly, and pays attention to other people. Best.

8. “I See the Light” – Pick a book that changed your life.

Oo tough one! Let’s say, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. They at least changed my reading life. Prior to reading Sandman, I was not a comics gal. If you’re not a comics gal, I do not recommend making Sandman your gateway drug. It has kind of a challenging panel structure. However, if you do make it through ten volumes of Sandman, you will come out the other end a legit comics gal. So it was with me.

9. “When You Wish upon a Star” – Pick a book you wish you could reread for the first time.

Jane Eyre. Of course, Jane Eyre. No, it’s not my favorite book of all time, but it’s not not my favorite book of all time, and reading it for the first time was, and would always be, an incredible experience.

10. “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” – Pick a book with some kind of monarchy in it.

How about Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall? I read this last year and was surprised to find that it’s wonderful! Mantel is brilliant at bringing historical figures to life, even ones who are larger than life in the first place like Henry VIII. WHY MUST ANNE BOLEYN DIE IN THE SECOND BOOK WHY OH GOD.

11. “Colors of the Wind” – Pick a book with a beautiful colorful cover.

Maggie Stiefvater’s Blue Lily Lily Blue. All of the books in this series actually! But Blue Lily Lily Blue has to be the most beautifulest one of all!

Blue Lily Lily Blue

GLORIOUS. DISNEY SONGS.

It’s the End of 2015 (as we know it)

So here we are at the end of 2015. I had this idea that maybe in 2016 I’ll get really good about writing down all the super-excellent things that happen to me that year, and that way I won’t be struggling to think of them when the end of the year rolls around.

My best thing of 2015 (brace yourself for a shock) was the musical Hamilton. Not a full week after I whined to my friends that I feared there would never be another musical that made me feel the way Wicked and Rent made me feel, and maybe my feelings about those musicals (and the others I love) were just a function of youthful emoness, lo there came Hamilton into my life. If you haven’t listened to the cast recording yet, find a way to do it. Then come back and tell me how much you loved it. Please and thank you.

In books, I’ve picked out a few faves for the year. Some of these I’ve talked about ad nauseam already, so bear with me.

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson, was the first webcomic I read for my “Read More Webcomics” resolution of 2015 (which went brilliantly for me, if you are wondering). Also probably my most-recommended book of 2015.

How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon, has been inexplicably overlooked, and I cannot understand why. In addition to being painfully topical, it’s also a beautifully written, thoughtful look at some of the issues that arise when a black child is suddenly dead and nobody can understand why. I can’t say enough about this book and this author. Check it out.

And now for a total change of pace, I loved Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl, when I didn’t remotely expect to. It’s witty and tender, and full of characters you just want to see succeed.

Congo, by David van Reybrouck, laid out the history of a huge, messy country in a way that was perpetually readable and relied as much as possible on the testimony and memories of the Congolese people themselves. If historians like David van Reybrouck could write histories of all the African nations, I’d be done with my Africa reading project in just a few years.

Touch, by Claire North, kept me up late trying to guess what was going to happen next. At least one book a year reminds me why I love reading so much, and Touch was that book for me this year.

Predictably, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, has arrived on my best-of this year. I didn’t review it in this space because it was hard to feel that I had anything to add about this book, after so many glowing reviews have emerged of it. I’ve admired Coates’s writing for years for its measured insights and unwillingness to rely on easy answers. Between the World and Me is a tragic, beautiful, necessary book.

The Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow, did absolutely none of the things I expected it to do. It was a perpetual surprise, and it’s made me excited to see what Erin Bow will do next with this world.

As with the Coates book, I don’t feel I have anything super valuable to add about Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which has basked in plenty of accolades already and doesn’t need my additional input. However, I will say that I had no expectation of liking this book and only read it so I could get to Bring Up the Bodies, which I also didn’t especially expect to like. But there you go. Life is full of surprises.

Finally, a shout-out to 1796 Broadway, a monster of an epistolary fanfic which, like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in its time, kept me up late on several occasions where I kept saying “oh I’ll just do one more and then I’ll go to bed.” Ha, ha, Jenny. You know that’s not what’s really going to happen.

In statistics, female authors were far more heavily represented in my reading than male, and I continue to be fine with that.

I read 18% of my books because I was familiar with the authors from previous books I’d read of theirs, while another 45% of my book recommendations came from you lovely people! If that number seems low, please note that many of the books in the “author fondness” category became favorites of mine due to your unfailing advocacy. So actually I got closer to 53% of my books from bloggers. Another 15% I picked up based on professional reviews; 6% were books I spotted in publishers’ catalogs or that publishers pitched to me; and a small sliver, 3%, were books I picked up randomly at the library.

84% of everything I read came from the library. Lovely, lovely library, please never change. I cherish you so much. I borrowed two books from friends, owned eight, read seven online (from apps like Marvel Now and Comixology), and read fifteen in ARC format (either ebooks or physical). About a fourth (27%) of my reads were ebooks, and the rest were physical books. That is how I roll when subways and purse heavinesses are not a consideration.

I read less SFF this year than I think is typical for me, only 26%, whereas fiction-not-otherwise-classified accounted for 30% of my reading. Actually, that seems okay. Maybe I’d like to read slightly more SFF than ungenre fiction, but those percentages seem fine. 10% of my reading was comics, which I’d like to see go up a bit in the new year, and 14% was nonfiction, which rocks. I read more books in translation this year, seventeen, than I’ve probably ever read in a year before.

My goal for 2015 was to read no more than 65% white authors, and no more than 60% American authors. These stats are probably a little off, because I couldn’t always find interviews where the author self-identifies as one ethnicity or nationality over another, but anyway, employing US census categories, I ended up with 44% authors of color, and 50% authors hailing from countries other than America. I read books by authors from 38 different countries, and it was glorious.

How was your reading year? Did you meet your goals? Did you read anything of exceptional wonderfulness?

Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel

I started out liking this book a lot, and then I liked it progressively less and less.  Fie to Philip Pullman who thinks it is so wonderful – this is just the sort of book you would think he would like.  Bah.  I agree with GeraniumCat that it’s a really interesting and genuine depiction of the dead, but I didn’t like the book taken altogether.  I got tired and depressed reading it, which I don’t think is the effect books are meant to have.  Plus, although Tarot cards didn’t feature prominently, I often didn’t like the interpretations of the cards that the author gave.  Fortunately I read Beyond Black in between volumes of Fables, and those cheered me up enormously.