Then Now Next Thursday (June 4, 2015)

Heart and the BottleTHEN

I finished reading The Last Unicorn. It was just as lovely as I remembered.

I also read two picture books: Owl Babies, an old childhood favorite, and The Heart and the Bottle, a new childlike favorite.

NOW

I’m currently in the middle of several things: Naomi Novik’s Uprooted on my phone, Mossflower on my home and work computers via Open Library, and Sabriel on audiobook through my local library! CLAMS kindly set me up with an online library card, even though I live abroad! (I’m still legally a resident of S. Yarmouth, Massachusetts.) I’m like a kid in a candy store now that I have my library card, but I have to remind myself to be reasonable and only borrow as much as I can read. Free access to so many (English) books is such a relief. Why didn’t I ask for a library card sooner?

MossflowerI also listened to some of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stoneduring a dentist’s appointment. I only made it into the second chapter and I don’t listen enough to justify two audiobooks out from the library at the same time, but it was soothing. I mean, it’s not like I don’t know how the series ends.

NEXT

Well, first I have to finish all this. After that? It’s anyone’s guess, honestly.

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Then Now Next Thursday (May 21, 2015)

The Last UnicornTHEN

I haven’t finished anything since How to be a Heroine, whoops. I got most of the way through Shelf Discovery, and I may still finish reading it, but I got distracted.

NOW

The Last Unicorn Tour came to my hometown. I don’t live there, but my mother went to the show and met Peter S. Beagle. So of course I had to pick up The Last Unicorn again. I don’t think I “got” it the first time I read it, or the time after that. It’s one of those books that changes meaning for me every time I read it, but each time, it becomes more and more beautiful as I understand it more deeply, or differently. So I’m taking my time.

NEXT

While looking for the image to use with this post, I discovered Two Hearts,the coda to The Last Unicorn, which is available for free on the author’s website. I will certainly read that when I’m finished The Last Unicorn, and after that… I’m not sure. We’re doing a big order for books at the library, so I’m sure I’ll want to read some of those, and then it’s summer. Everything is up in the air, to be honest.

Then Now Next Thursday (May 7, 2015)

How to Be a HeroineTHEN

blew through How to Be a Heroine over the week, although I seriously wondered if Samatha Ellis only ever read classics growing up. Review to come later. I had a busy offline week.

NOW

On a reading memoir kick from How to Be a Heroine, I picked up Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. It’s … okay. I don’t find it as witty or as well researched as Heroine, but I also haven’t put it down yet. It’s easy to read, a series of small (aptly named…) “book reports” on a theme, like kids in danger or supernatural powers. I was hoping for a little more research and self reflection, but you can’t win ’em all.

NEXT

This week blew by me pretty quickly because it was a vacation, so I still have to start my #SecondChanceChallenge books, Pantomine and The Twistrose Key. Plus, I have a library meeting coming up tomorrow where we all get together and debate books until we can agree on a list of twenty(ish) picture, chapter, middle, and high school books for the upcoming school year reading program, and I always end up with a lot on my TBR shelf after that, even if not everything makes the shortlist.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Will (Probably) Never Read

Top Ten TuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme at The Broke & the Bookish is “Top Ten Books I Will (Probably) Never Read.” While you should never say never, I also think it’s important to make honest assessments of ourselves as readers and admit we will never read anything, because it is just not possible.

So, that said: my Top Ten Books I Will (Probably) Never Read. Fair warning, this is more like #unpopularopinion: the blog post.

  • Pride & PrejudiceThe Bible, Anonymous  I’m not Christian. I was raised with a kind of bland, default Christianity: I was baptized, we celebrated Easter and Christmas with candy and presents, but there was no belief, just tradition. I have no particular reason to read the Bible. For one thing, it’s impossible to live in America and not at least get the gist of the Bible stories: Eden, burning bushes, golden calfs, Bethlehem, forty days in the desert, the Last Supper, crucifixion, and so on. For another, it doesn’t have any interest to me as a person of (no) faith. I know it’s a hugely important work of literature in Western history, but… I just don’t care, and there are only so many hours in a day.
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen Oops? My aunt bought me a copy of this in high school and I just didn’t care. I still don’t, really. I’m not sure there’s anything less interesting than the heterosexual romance of a couple of well-to-do people and, as far as I can tell, not a whole lot else happens. As I told my mother when I first tried to read this, “There aren’t enough sword fights.” Sorry, but this sounds like a snoozefest.
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy This sounds like another old time-y straight romance, and that just doesn’t sound interesting to me at all. I think it’s a tragedy. I don’t really care to find out. I remember a high school friend of me was bribed to read this. I don’t remember if she ever finished it, or if she liked it. I do remember that my mother didn’t like the idea of bribing me to read anything, no matter how edifying.
  • Lord of the FliesDiary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney My students love this series, but I picked it up, skimmed it, and decided it was not for me. Unlike The Lightning Thief, I’m not even sure I would have cared for this one at all if I were still in the target age range. The illustrated novel format alone isn’t enough to make it appeal to me, and the story was mostly boring and the kid was a jerk. (No, I have not shared this opinion with my students.)
  • Lord of the Files, William Golding Oh, boy! A whole book about a bunch of boys being horrible to each other with some really horrific violence against animals and woman-hating in a book notable for the fact that there are, as far as I know, no women. This is the only book I was ever assigned but did not read. I still got to hear all about them murdering the sow in English class. I wanted to barf.
  • Ulysses, James Joyce Is this book actually about anything? I don’t even know. It’s always sounded long and boring and generally if people list it as one of their favorites, I take that as a sign to start backing away slowly. I’m sure plenty of wonderful people have loved this book. I just haven’t met them.
  • UlyssesLolita, Vladimir Nabokov You know what I would rather do than read 300+ pages about a slimy pedophile blaming his victim? I would rather get shampoo in my eyes, and if there is one thing that always ruins my morning, it is shampoo in my eyes. I hate that awful burning, stinging sensation, and I would rather get shampoo in my eyes every day for the amount of time it would take me to read this than actually read it, even if Humbert Humbert is supposed to be the bad guy and it’s technically very well written.
  • 50 Shades of Grey, E.L. James I don’t only hate on classics! I’m an equal opportunity hater. I picked this up because I thought it would be so bad it’s good, ready for some dramatic readalouds, like with that Harry Potter fanfic, “My Immortal.” Instead, it was just horrible and boring and I put it down after about two pages because the prose was awful.
  • Deathless, Cathrynne Valente Nope, nope. I just don’t want to read this and you can’t make me. There’s a lot in it that I think I might like, but there’s a lot in it I know I won’t like, and it has really negative associations that have nothing to do with the book itself and everything to do with the people who first recommended I read it. Now every time I hear about it, I cringe. Unlike the other books on this list, it’s not even the book’s fault. So I feel a little bad, but I’m still never going to read it.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire, G.R.R. Martin Is there any book I am less interested in reading than Deathless? Yes, and it is A Game of Thrones. Even though it has sword fights, I was never really interested in political intrigue, and this just sounds rapey and violent and full of terrible people being terrible to each other. There’s enough of that in the real world, thanks.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Multimedia

Pokémon The First MovieEvery week at Reading is Fun Again, Pamela posts a discussion topic. This week, she asks:

Assuming that you are late to the party with a book series (and the entire series is completed) and you want to read every piece of text within a series’ universe that you can get your hands on, in what order to you read the books, short stories, and novellas within the universe?

I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever jumped into a story that takes place across this many formats before! The only one I can think of is Pokémon, way back in the day; I collected the cards, watched the anime, then played the video game. I don’t think that “counts,” though, because the video games and the anime have different continuities entirely.

When I read Dark Tower, I started (and ended) with the books. I know there are graphic novel expansions and adaptations, but I’ve never read either; the art isn’t my style, and they’re so expensive. I think the books are the “main canon,” anyway; the other stuff is mostly extra. I would suggest someone reading it the first time skip The Wind in the Keyhole, because it wasn’t part of the original series, and save it for last.

Dark TowerI think, were I to start in a series with this many diverse media, I would figure out what was intended to be the main story. Is it a book series with a graphic novel spinoff? Then I would read the book series – in chronological order, of course – and the the graphic novels, or short stories. If it was a graphic novel series with some books on the side, then I would start with the graphic novels, and so on.

I always took great delight in reading things in the proper order. So much that I read all of Redwall in publication order to date (up to Taggerung) and then again, in in-universe chronological order, just to be perfectly sure. It was very satisfying.

Honestly, though, sometimes when I see that there’s so much for me to read, it scares me off a little bit. This is why I’ll probably never read/play/watch Homestuck. It’s like the thing that never ends! Talk about  archive panic, right? Which is too bad, because hypertext fiction, meta, and multiple media are all things that really interest me, but then when it’s time to sit down and actually read all of that, I start worrying about all of the other things I could be reading.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten All Time Favorite Authors

Top Ten Tuesday I’m very particular about who I decide is a “favorite author,” and my criteria have changed over time. I’d much rather tell you my favorite books, but that’s not the prompt – although there is considerable overlap, of course. I just don’t necessarily think I’ll like every single thing an author writes, and that’s OK. Or, like, what if they’re a good writer, and I like their book(s), but they’re a terrible person? (I enjoyed Ender’s Game, but even so, I wouldn’t put Orson Scott Card anywhere on my “Top Ten Favorite” anything.)

So it took me awhile to come up with this list, and I’m still not entirely satisfied with it. I mean, what about Stephen King? I loved Dark Tower, but not only have I not read anything else by him, I never will! So I went with authors who wrote formative books for me as a reader, or my favorite books, or whose books I usually like – it’s not all the same, you know?

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneJ.K. Rowling OK, OK. I’m really only talking about her Harry Potter stuff here, because I’ve never read (and don’t plan to read) The Cuckoo’s Calling or The Casual Vacancy, but, you know, I really really love Harry Potter and it was such a huge part of my childhood and my development as a reader (and as a person) that I can’t leave J.K. Rowling off of this list.
  • Philip Pullman See? I told you there would be overlap with my favorite books. Of course I put him on this list because of His Dark Materials -and the related books, especially Once Upon a Time in the North. Unlike J.K. Rowling, I’ve read some of his other stuff, like Clockwork, which is great, and The Tin Princess, although that’s odd for me because it’s the fourth Sally Lockhart book, but I haven’t read the others. (I never start in the middle of a series!)
  • Holly Black I haven’t read every single thing she’s written, and while some of it doesn’t interest me (Curse Workers?) and some of it didn’t do it for me (Valiant, oops), I loved Tithe when I was a teenager and I loved Doll Bones as an adult, and I can’t wait to read The Darkest Part of the Forest. I credit Holly Black with introducing me to urban fantasy, which was, like, totally mind blowing to me at the time.
  • Heaven EyesNeil Gaiman Again, I haven’t read everything, but what I’ve read, I’ve really liked, for the most part. (I did not particularly care for American Gods.) Good Omens? I loved it, and I’ve read it a bunch of times. Fortunately, The Milk? I read this no less than ten times out loud to my students (five grades, two classes per grade, once for myself, twice for book club) and it never got any less funny. Anansi Boys? I haven’t read it in ages, but I remember that I really liked it.
  • David Almond I remember there was a time when I read any David Almond books that I could get my hands on. There weren’t many then; my local library had Skellig,Kit’s Wildnerness, and my favorite, Heaven Eyes. Something about them, especially Heaven Eyes, really spoke to me. I remember reading about Erin and January drinking “pilfered sherry,” and knowing, somehow, that this book was going to matter to me.
  • Jacqueline Wilson Unlike the other authors on this list, I didn’t discover Jacqueline Wilson until adulthood, although she writes books for children. I picked up her The Lottie Project after making a display of the original, ugly old cover and the new and improved cover to make a point about not judging books by their covers. Then I read Hetty Feather because I liked the cover of Sapphire Battersea (never read out of order!) and omg it was so good. I went on to tear through a whole bunch of her stuff – Lily AloneMidnightSecrets, and a few others – and I was just as excited as my students when we got our library copy of Opal Plumstead.
  • Tsubasa: Reservoir ChronicleCLAMP Hey, mangaka are still authors! CLAMP wrote the first ever manga I read, Wish, and my favorite ever manga, TSUBASA: RESERvoir CHRoNiCLE, and many, many other manga that I’ve loved and made part of my personal mythology: CardCaptor SakuraTokyo BabylonX. They’re also probably responsible for my weird thing about characters who have something wrong with their eyes. (“It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye, and then it’s a pairing!”)
  • Kazuya Minekura Another mangaka for this list. I’m not as familiar with her work, and I haven’t read everything like I have with CLAMP, but not only do I really love Saiyuki, I have a special place for it in my heart because I have so many fond memories of fangirling about it with so many of my friends. Her Wild Adapter was something else, too, and the full color Stigma that I found for ¥105 remains one of my best Book•Off finds ever.
  • Brian Jacques Except for maybe American Girl or Goosebumps, Brian Jacques’s Redwallwas the first series that I read everything – and I mean everything. I read the whole series in publication order, and then again in chronological order. My bff Mousey became “Mousey” (and eventually, “Mousey”) because of this series. I made all of my first online friends through Redwallforums. I tried to read Castaways of the Flying Duchman, but I just couldn’t do it for some reason. Still, I owe Brian Jacques so much for my reading life that he deserves a spot on this list.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien I guess you probably saw this coming? I did mention a lot of overlap with my favorite books. I’ve been reading Tolkien for over ten years, and you know what? it never gets less good. Sometimes, I reread certain things and cringe, but no. The Lord of the Rings is still a masterpiece, and I recently (last year) read The Silmarillion for the first time and guess what? it was great, too! Tolkien was a formative reading experience for me, and a community touchstone for nerds.

Top Ten Tuesday: FREEBIE: Top Ten Favorite Books to Reread

Top Ten TuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is a freebie and it’s too much responsibility!

I decided to write about my “Top Ten Favorite Books to Reread.” Some books stand up well to rereading and revisiting at every stage of life, but others fall flat when you’re older and wiser.

… and, since I’m still pretty new to this book blogging game, I thought it would be a good “getting to know you” list.

  • More More MoreMore, More, More! Said the Baby, Vera B. Williams I haven’t read this book in years – maybe literally even a decade, at least – but it was my absolute favorite book when I was just a baby and toddler. I asked my mom to read it to me so many times that she eventually got sick of it and hid it on top of the fridge, forgotten until I grew tall enough to reach up there for the chips I wanted for an after school snack.
    I always loved books, no doubt thanks to my mother’s patience in reading this book to me over and over and over again, until I can still – twenty years later – recite some of it from memory. (I probably would have hidden it from me, too.) Maybe I didn’t just learn to love reading from my parents, but to love rereading, too.
  • The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry My fourth grade teacher read this one out loud to us, and I remember the dreamy feeling of knowing I had just experienced something important but not quite knowing what. I knew that I didn’t understand it, not really, and I understood that understanding would come in time and there was no need to rush it. I was basically Hermione when I was in school – know-it-all, frizzy hair and everything (see below, about Harry Potter) – so it really was incredible, knowing that I didn’t know and that knowing would come in time. Now it’s my honor to read this aloud to my fourth and fifth grade students and hope it touches one of them the way it touched me.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneThe Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien I finished reading Fellowship of the Ring in the theater, frantically turning the last few pages as the lights went down on the Saturday matinee. (Spoiler: Boromir dies at the beginning of The Two Towers. Imagine my surprise.) My dad took me to see it. I was so excited. It was hard – I fought harder to read The Lord of the Rings than I have ever struggled to read a book in my life – but it was so worth it. I return to this one periodically when I need a reminder of my dad, or of who I am – as a person, as a reader. Every time I reread it, I feel like I understand it differently; I used to identify most with Merry and Pippin, or Éowyn, but last time I read it, Boromir really… I finally got Boromir.
  • Harry Potter (series), J.K. Rowling I loved books before I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (USian), but I haven’t loved something so completely before or since. I doubt I ever will. Growing up with Harry was a thing, and nothing quite like it will ever happen again, I think. I dressed up for the book release parties of Book 4, Book 5 and Book 6. (I was in China when Book 7 was released.) Whenever I feel sad, or nostalgic, or homesick – or, let’s be honest, just whenever – I like to pick this up and reread it, revisit Hogwarts. Every time I read it, I identify more or less with other characters. I’ve always been very much like Hermione – she’s probably what made me adore the series so much – and as I’ve grown up, I’ve understood or identified with Tonks, and McGonagall and Remus.
    I read Sorcerer’s Stone thirty two times before I stopped counting (and I stopped counting in seventh grade/2002).
  • The Golden CompassHis Dark Materials (series), Philip Pullman The only books that mean more to me than Harry Potter are His Dark Materials. While Harry Potter was a lot more fun, His Dark Materials moved me, when I was a tween, in a way I didn’t really understand. I only knew for certain that I had experienced something monumental, something huge and life-changing, and I didn’t know why. I couldn’t even say what had happened; I still remember sitting in the library parking lot trying to explain to my dad. Every time I reread this, I understand it a little bit better, and I feel like Lyra (re)learning how to read her alethiometer.
    I never really identified with Lyra – never in my life have I been half as wild or wily as her – but I admired her, and I still do. I wanted her as my friend, even as I was a little frightened of her; now I want to protect her, and I want Mary Malone as my friend.
  • TSUBASA: RESERVoiR CHRoNiCLE, CLAMP I’ve only read this series front-to-back, first-to-last twice, because it’s long, and because my entire collection is, inconveniently, located on the other side of the planet. But I would be lying not to include it, because I would read and reread volumes over and over (… and over and over) waiting for the next release when it was in English-language serialization and I just love it soo much. I can acknowledge that the plot is … unstable, what with all of those plot holes, but gosh, I just love the characters and I swear, this silly manga series got me through college with at least a little sanity left over, even if it is completely ridiculous.
  • TSUBASAThe Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice Unlike the other books on this list, The Vampire Lestat has no particular deeper meaning to me. I don’t have, like, a deep attachment to it, or anything. It’s just fun. It’s some funny brain fluff and Lestat is a really great narrator. I’ve reread some of the other Vampire Chronicles books, but this one is my favorite, no doubt. Maybe it’s because I like Nicki? Or because Lestat is my favorite member of the Coven of the Articulate?
  • The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands (Dark Tower series), Stephen King I can’t honestly include the whole series here, because I usually skip The Gunslinger and lose interest again somewhere in Song of Susannah and I always skip the middle flashback bit of Wizard and Glass, but man, some of the scenes in The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands (and even Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla) are so cool. Like, I just know it will be soo satisfying to watch Eddie Dean destroy Blaine. I’ve already read that part a million times but I always cheer anyway, even though I know what’s going to happen.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Suess I’ve mentioned before that I reread this book every year around Christmastime. It’s true. My mom used to read it to me every Christmas Eve, and now I read it to my students during their last library visit before winter vacation. I love the rhyme and rhythm of the story, and I love the memory of my mother reading it to me, and I love that, once again, I have it nearly memorized. Most pages I can say without even looking, and the rest need only a glance before I’m off.
    I have to like the books I read aloud, as I usually read them between six and fourteen times a week, depending on my lesson plans, but this one is always my absolute favorite.

What about you? What are your favorite books to reread? What did you choose for your Top Ten Tuesday list this week?