The Canada Reads 2018 Longlist is out!

I’ve been looking for more books to finish up my Read Canadian challenge, and conveniently, the Canada Reads 2018 Longlist came out today, January 8th! There are fifteen books on the list, one of which I’ve already read. (American War by Omar El Akkad)

I just put Saints and Misfits on hold at my local library. It’s about a Muslim teen struggling with being sexually assaulted. The Marrow Thieves is another dystopia, in which most of humanity has lost the ability to dream, but the bone marrow of North American Indigenous people can restore it. So it’s being taken. Forcibly. My library also stocks that one, so that’s on my list! Tomboy Survival Guide is a memoir written by someone outside the gender box – and I love reading books about minorities. My library doesn’t have it, but I did find it in the Marina state-wide network. So it should be getting shipped to my library eventually! I’d like to read Out Standing In The Field, the memoir of Canada’s first female infantry officer, but neither my library nor the Marina network has it. I’ll keep an eye on it. The Clothesline Swing is about a pair of gay Syrian refugees, and Marina has it. I’m also interested in Mark Sakamoto’s Forgiveness: A Gift From My Grandparents, about his grandparents’ lives. One was a prisoner of war in Japan in WWII, while the other was a Japanese-Canadian sent to an internment camp in Canada during the same period. It’s not available through my library, though. Who knows? By the time I finish the ones that are available through the state system, the others might be, too.

The rest of the Longlist:

Several of these sound interesting, too – Seven Fallen Feathers is about racism and First Nations peoples. Dance, Gladys, Dance is apparently a humorous book about a woman and a ghost. The Measure of a Man is about a tailor remaking his father’s suit to fit himself. Scarborough is about a poor neighborhood, Precious Cargo about a man’s experiences driving a school bus of special needs kids. Brother is another book about racism, masculinity, and inner city violence. Suzanne is a portrait of the author’s grandmother, and The Boat People is the story of a boat full of Sri Lankan refugees that lands in Canada.

I’m excited to knock out the rest of the Read Canadian Challenge. I wasn’t really sure what to read next, so the Longlist coming out was EXCELLENT timing!

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Looking Forward: 2018 Reading Goals

I’ve been browsing through various reading challenges to find one I might like to do in 2018. I’ll be finishing up the Read Canadian Challenge in July. (It’s from Canada Day to Canada Day.) I wasn’t sure whether I just wanted to beat a number, or go with a more restrictive challenge. I think a mix of both is where I’ve ended up, along with two more specific, personal goals.

So first, 100 books. I read 85 in 2017, so 100 doesn’t feel like that much of a stretch. I’ll set this as a goal on Goodreads.

ColonizethisSecond, I like the looks of the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge. There are 50 prompts total on it, so that’s only half my goal, leaving me with plenty of space to read whatever I want that doesn’t fit on the prompts. My next post will be a master list of prompts and the books I’ve chosen to fit them. As I review them, I’ll link from the master list as well.

Third, I want to read more of the books on my Civil Rights and Activism list on Goodreads. I have 152 books on it, only 5 of which I’ve read. I’ll start with Colonize This! since I found it at a used bookstore recently. (Incidentally, that qualifies for a couple of categories on the PopSugar list as well! The recommendation is one category per book, no doubling up, so I’ll have to pick which category I assign it to.)

americaFourth, I’m going to read America, a US history textbook I picked up. My history and science education were never the best, and I’ve been trying to remedy that most of my adult life. (I worked through a biology textbook a few years ago, and I have a Zoology textbook I should work through as well.) America has 36 chapters, so if I read 3 chapters a month, I’ll have read it by the end of the year. I’m going to try to come up with activities to do about my reading, because I absorb things more permanently if I actually DO something with the information. Not sure what I’ll do yet, but we do live in Maryland so there is a lot of history around us. We might try to make some trips to historic sites, or go to the American History Museum or the American Indian Museum in DC again. We also haven’t been to the African American Museum yet.

Fifth, I’m also going to try Booked 2018, the seasonal Litsy Challenge. There are six prompts per quarter, so that only adds two books a month. Should be doable, and I might be able to make books double up between this and the PopSugar Challenge.

I think these five goals will keep me pretty busy this year. I’d like to do a few more Literary Landmark posts, so I may try to do some research into local authors and literary places. I unfortunately missed 2017’s Baltimore Book Festival, on account of being incredibly sick, but I’m hoping to make 2018. I know there are more Book Festivals nearby, so I’ll look into those as well. I’d like to do more non-book review, book-related posts.

What about you? Are you doing any Reading Challenges this year, whether organized or personal?

A Lovely Book Haul on a Lovely Halloween!

IMG_20171031_143445.jpgOur roommates came home with four of Barnes & Noble’s gorgeous limited edition hardcovers recently, which of course sent me to their website to find out what else they have. We already owned two – Arabian Nights and the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft. Yesterday, my order of four more arrived! I love how beautiful these books are, and would eventually love to have enough to fill a shelf. For my husband, I bought Aesop’s Fables, and Alice in Wonderland and other stories, which includes Through the Looking Glass and other short stories by Lewis Carroll. Husband’s pretty happy with the surprise. For myself I bought Classic Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, and Dracula and other stories by Bram Stoker. I ADORE Dracula, so I’m eager to read more stories by Stoker. I’m a little disappointed that Aesop’s Fables isn’t the same size as the others, but still pretty happy overall.

I also discovered a Friends of the Library bookstore yesterday, down by the University of Maryland in College Park. We were trying to kill time between my husband’s classes and a concert we were planning to go to. (We left early – we thought “Big Band Halloween Scream” meant Big Band-style Halloween songs – not three Jazz groups playing NOT Halloween songs. Go figure.) But the bookstore before the concert was awesome! img_20171031_143407.jpgMost of their used books were $2, so I got 6 books for $12! Two of them were books I’d had my eye on for a while – Colonize This! and Battle Cry of Freedom. I also picked up a college-level general history of the US. I was homeschooled through middle school, so a lot of my science and history education is pretty shoddy, and I’ve been trying to repair it for many years. Most of my history books were full of white imperialism and white saviors and missionaries. I’m hoping these will be a little more balanced. Battle Cry of Freedom focuses on the Civil War, and is part of The Oxford History of the United States. It’s also a Pulitzer Prize Winner. And I got it for $2! I’m pretty excited about Colonize This! too. I’ve had it on my Amazon wish list for a while. The other three books were just for fun – the two Kathy Love books looked pretty funny, and neither my husband nor I had heard of the Brandon Sanderson novella. He’s one of our favorite authors, so we snagged it.

Of course, I bought books when I still have library books to read, and three more library books ready to be picked up off the Hold shelf! I finished reading Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom today, so Sunday’s review will be a joint review of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. (Spoiler: I loved them both!)

Tonight, though, I’m watching Beetlejuice (would you believe I’ve never seen it? Husband was appalled!) and passing out candy to kids. We bought two giant bags of candy from Costco, most of which will probably be eaten by us because we don’t usually get too many Trick-or-Treaters. Tomorrow I will dive back into my rapidly growing TBR pile!

Book Review: The Journal of Best Practices

journalThe Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband
by David Finch
Memoir
222 pages
Published 2012

Well. I’m still not 100% back to health, but I’m well enough to get absorbed in a book again! This book was especially interesting to me because we are pretty sure that my husband is on the autism spectrum. What would have been called Asperger’s a few years ago, before they wrapped that back into autism, because it’s all the same syndrome – it just differs in how it impacts people. (The book was obviously written before that happened, though Asperger’s still seems to be shorthand for autistic people that don’t fit what most people think of as autistic – what some people would call high-functioning, I suppose, though that’s also not as cut and dried as it seems. Rebecca Burgess described it well in her comic on Tumblr.)

I read portions of this book aloud to my husband, because they described him to a T. The very first page mentions how Finch recalls his niece’s birthday, not because he’s a good uncle, but because it’s 3/14 – Pi. My husband remembers my birthday because it’s half a stick of RAM (well it used to be, anyway!) – 5/12. Now he remembers it as 2^9. The first chapter then goes on to describe how Finch’s wife sat him down with a self-diagnostic questionnaire (he received an official diagnosis later) and he was surprised at how many questions described him. While they didn’t list all 200 or so questions in the book, the ones that were mentioned I asked my husband. He was a Yes to all but one, and looked at me afterwards with a laugh and a joking “I’m feeling a little attacked right now!” That included questions like “Do you sometimes have an urge to jump over things?” (Yes) and “Have you been fascinated by making traps?” Husband told me about a book on survival he’d been given when he was 14 or so – he doesn’t remember much of it, but he can recall almost verbatim the chapter on traps and snares.

The book was a fascinating look into the mind of an adult with autism trying (and succeeding!) to navigate a relationship. It gave us a lot to talk about, and a few new strategies to try. If you know or love anyone on the autism spectrum, I highly recommend this book. It might help you understand how they see things.

I have another book on autism to read soon – Been There, Done That, Try This! – about coping strategies for autistic adults. I’m eager to see how much of that we can use in our daily lives.

From the cover of The Journal of Best Practices:

At some point in nearly every marriage, a wife finds herself asking, What the @#!% is wrong with my husband?! In David Finch’s case, this turns out to be an apt question. Five years after he married Kristen, the love of his life, they learn that he has Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis explains David’s ever-growing list of quirks and compulsions, his lifelong propensity to quack and otherwise melt down in social exchanges, and his clinical-strength inflexibility. But it doesn’t make him any easier to live with.

Determined to change, David sets out to understand Asperger syndrome and learn to be a better husband – no easy task for a guy whose inability to express himself rivals his two-year-old daughter’s, who thinks his responsibility for laundry extends no further than throwing things in (or at) the hamper, and whose autism-spectrum condition makes seeing his wife’s point of view a near impossibility.

Nevertheless, David devotes himself to improving his marriage with an endearing yet hilarious zeal that involves excessive note-taking, performance reviews, and most of all, the Journal of Best Practices: a collection of hundreds of maxims and hard-won epiphanies that result from self-reflection both comic and painful. They include “Don’t change the radio station when she’s singing along,” “Apologies do not count when you shout them,” and “Be her friend, first and always.” Guided by the Journal of Best Practices, David transforms himself over the course of two years from the world’s most trying husband to the husband who tries the hardest, the husband he’d always meant to be.

I’m on the Mend!

I am finally on the mend. It’s a long slog back to what passes for healthy for me, though. Staying awake long enough to read anything has been a challenge, and books are coming due at the library before I’ve even been able to start them. I’m particularly sad about Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough – it’s due today, someone else has a hold on it, and I’ve only managed to read the first 20 or so pages. Enough to know I REALLY want to read the entire thing. I am trying to resist the temptation to buy my own copy.

IMG_20171011_180750.jpgI received my copy of Femme Magnifique in the mail this week! FM is a feminist graphic novel made through Kickstarter – the tagline is “A comic book anthology salute to 50 magnificent women who take names, crack ceilings and change the game in pop, politics, art & science.” There are 50 different comics, by different artists, about pioneering women. It’s a fantastic book, and I will take some pictures and put up a full review as soon as I can. My copy, unfortunately, arrived with some damage to the spine, but the group behind it had already sent out an e-mail saying their shipper had used the wrong packaging for the first wave of books, and to contact them if your book arrived damaged. So I’ve done that, and they’re figuring out how to replace copies.

I finally got around to reading Six of Crows as I was getting sick, before I got truly ill. It was fantastic, and I have the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, which I’ll be reading very soon. I’ll put up a joint review of the two books when I’m done.

I also bought a novel, because my library doesn’t have it, about a couple opening up their relationship. Next Year, For Sure is by a Canadian author, as well, so that’s another for my Read Canadian Challenge.

I’m hoping to get back to two reviews a week as soon as I finish kicking this lung/ear/throat crap to the curb. I miss blogging, and more than that, I miss reading!

Oh boy, Tonsillitis.

Might be taking a week or two hiatus from blogging as I recover from being pretty ill. I’ve mentioned in the past that I have some chronic illnesses, but I have been pretty steadily gaining new readers here and there, so I’ll update.

My main issues are migraines and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease where the immune system gets confused and attacks the thyroid gland. This eventually destroys enough of the thyroid gland that it can’t produce enough thyroid hormone, and a supplement needs to be taken. That’s where I’m at now – I have a daily thyroid pill. On occasion, usually when I’m sick with something else, my immune system will flare up and attack my thyroid again, causing it to swell up, get inflamed, and deteriorate further.

So my chronic cough, that I’ve had for a couple of years now (Bronchitis a few years ago plus my migraine maintenance med has a side effect of chronic cough) turned into Tonsillitis and an ear infection this week. Which triggered the Hashimoto’s. So after an urgent care visit Thursday night, I’m on an antibiotic, a steroid/anti-inflammatory, and some prescription cough syrup with a pain med in it. My voice is almost entirely gone (I typed up my symptoms and history to hand to all my doctors at the Urgent Care instead of having to talk so much!), I’m still coughing though not NEARLY as bad as I was Thursday, and I’m having trouble staying awake. (All three meds cause drowsiness, yay!)

All three meds also have a side effect of headache, which is not playing well with my predilection towards migraines anyway. So as you can imagine, the last several days have not been the most fun.

I did manage to finish American War by Omar El Akkad (an Egyptian-Canadian author, so it qualifies for my Read Canadian challenge), and I have a LOT to say about it. It’ll be getting a review soon, but for now I’ll just say it’s one of my favorites of 2017. I also have No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, which is on the National Book Foundation’s longlist for their Nonfiction award this year. The same author has written a few other anti-capitalism books (Shock Doctrine, No Logo, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate) so if I like her style in No is Not Enough, I might have to pick up some of her other work.

I tried reading Demon Hunting in Dixie, because I won book 6 through Goodreads, and wanted to start from the beginning of the series. I almost threw it across the room less than a hundred pages in, but that reason deserves its own post.

I have several other books from the library I’m still trying to work on – Dark Money, Hitlerland (which is really interesting, I just keep getting distracted), The Tigress of Forli, and The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes, among others.

I’m really sad because I had planned to go to the Baltimore Book Festival today – I’d been looking forward to it for months – and now I’m too sick to leave the house. Especially when it’s so hot outside, which I don’t deal with very well even when I’m not actively sick. So that’s REALLY disappointing.