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50 Book Reviews80%2016 NetGalley ChallengeReviews Published2015 Challenge ParticipantProfessional Reader

Random Updates on My Growing Insanity

The current political situation is turning my reading habit into a full-blown problem. I can’t focus on one book at a time, I can’t get through the books I am reading fast enough, and I can’t stop adding more titles and more subjects to my list. This is not a new problem. Rather, it is an exponential increase in issues I already had. I also can’t seem to settle into any kind of escapist reading, no matter how badly I could use the reprieve from reality.

 

I intended to start 2017 on a strong note, returning to semi-regular blogging and writing about books. Instead I find myself pulled in 50 different directions, attempting to cover ground in my deficient political and historical education in order to wrap my head around the shit show of United States politics. I suppose one solution is to take a break from reading altogether. But I’m not willing to make that sacrifice, however badly I might need to, considering I spent a huge part of 2016 in a reading slump that only worsened as the election rolled onward. Reading for knowledge suddenly feels imperative; halting the process feels like failure.

 

I was hoping that using reading as an outlet for this nervous energy I can’t seem to shake would be a good thing. I’ve yet to totally give up on it. But it seems like further steps will be necessary if I’m going to maintain my sanity and keep from burning out. In that light, some friends and I are launching a resistance project: a website/publication where we can use our various skills and interests to talk about issues and contribute something to the conversation. I hope to do a lot of writing about books as tools for resistance, though whether I’ll finally get the project off the ground is up in the air at the moment. I’m also under no illusions that it will be anything more than a tiny drop in a sea of other voices attempting to do the same thing. But I have to do something or I’m going to lose my mind.

 

I’m not sure why I felt the need to put this here. Maybe just to unload it out of my brain, or maybe to explain why I haven’t been writing after stating earlier in the year that I was planning on being more active again. I had made a post a few months back announcing an intent to be more political on Booklikes, but I’ve been avoiding doing so. Part of it is due to the issues I already mentioned, and part of it is simply due to the fact that I’m sure everyone is being bombarded by disaster in other areas and may not want to be inundated with it here as well.

 

Anyway, thanks for listening.

Melville House Continues Sticking it to the Man

While so many publishing houses remain "neutral"--or worse, in the case of Simon & Schuster--Melville House is on a mission to stick it to the man. I love it!

A Taste of Libraries in Trump's America

 

Publishing During Wartime part IV (from Melville House)

You should read the whole series, but this is particularly relevant with the climate.

 

Wherever Roxane Gay decides to shop her new book, BUY IT and show S&S this kind of faux-concern over censorship vs. giving a nazi a book deal is appalling.

Women's March on Washington

My political involvement (and occasional despair) lately has been leaving me less and less time for substantive reading, but I can't complain when I got to participate in one of the biggest protests in American history. It was pretty amazing. I'm also super lucky to have a husband who was SO IN for this march.

 

2016: Year in Review

I've been trying to post this for days with little success.

 

Anyway, 2016 was a very weird year. Not just for reading, of course, but my reading was most certainly affected by it. I went through a pretty solid reading slump and I've yet to really pick up the pace, though I'm hoping my desire to up my political and historical reading might give me the incentive that I need.

 

10 Overlooked Books by Women in 2016 (from Literary Hub)

As we see more and more "best" and "notable" lists for the usual end-of-year blowout, here are some titles by women Lit Hub thinks could use some more love. I've added several to my list.

Review: What We Do Now

What We Do Now - Valerie Merians, Dennis Loy Johnson

How soon we forget.

 

Or, if you are like me and were too young and clueless to really understand the implications of the 2004 election, how late we learn.

 

Following the election of La Naranja, a meme started circulating (shocking, I know). It was a picture of George W. Bush with his beady-eyed smile, accompanied by big, blocky yellow text: “Miss me yet?” I laughed and may even have agreed when I first saw it, even though I’m pretty sure this originated under Obama and is, quite frankly, insulting. (Despite what a lot of people seem to want to claim about “moving on” and “just accepting” election results, you may be surprised to hear that there was a tremendous amount of backlash to the election of our first black president.) The problem, of course, is that a large quantity of people did miss Bush, Jr. then and decided to do something about it now. They missed an America of religious fanaticism, deceptive economic bubbles, and the us-vs-them mentality of the War on Terror. So we decided to re-elect him in a new, more virulent form—quite possibly with Russia’s help and certainly with media complicity.

 

What We Do Now is an essay collection published by Melville House in direct response to Bush’s reelection. The parallels to this election and current political climate it contains are unnerving. Just as an example: the introduction opens on a story of election despair-inspired suicide—and the crashing of the Canadian immigration website.

 

I was just out of high school in 2004. I remember watching the events of 9/11 in every class just a few years before, but I was politically illiterate. The majority of my family has always been conservative, in degrees varying from quietly moderate to…less quiet and much less moderate. I felt divorced from their views from an early age, though I can’t exactly say why. I’d like to think it was because I’ve always been a voracious reader with wide interests but it’s just a guess.

 

It wasn’t until college that I started really paying attention, and even then that is a relative statement. I’ve still never comfortably affiliated myself with a party. For the sake of transparency, we’ll just go with “liberal,” though I suppose at this point “progressive” is more accurate.

 

I mention this simply for the sake of objectivity, which is not something I brought to this book.

 

What We Do Now is divided into nine sections: Attitude, Plans of Attack, Voting & Election Reform, Media, The Separation of Church & State, The Environment, Economics, International Relations, and Dissent. It’s a slim volume of just barely 200 pages but contains pieces from 24 contributors of varying backgrounds from journalists and politicians to editors and professors. The pieces are connected by their opposition to a Bush presidency and many share common themes but there are also contradictions that highlight the different ideas that take root within any group, no matter how unified in overall vision.

 

This has turned out to be one of those synchronicity-kismet-fate-whatever reads, one that arrived at exactly the time it was needed and could make the greatest impact on me. Perhaps it’s a bit odd that it was intended to be a product of its time, an immediate reaction to an imminent threat twelve years in the past and now feels so astonishingly relevant. Or perhaps that is to be expected since we obviously haven’t learned anything over the last few decades. The issues laid out in many of these essays are resurfacing in our political discourse in nearly identical form: “strong leaders;” racially-biased voter suppression; rust belt rage; Islamophobia; uninspiring candidates; reactionary politics vs. logic; the list goes on. Most of these essays could be repurposed for today with a simple search-and-replace for names and dates. Some of them have proven to be sadly prophetic, predicting our failures as a democracy with painful accuracy.

 

A few examples to demonstrate that no matter how things change, they still stay the same:

 

“We do, indeed, seem to have become a country where moderates, let alone liberals, simply don't stand a blessed chance, where anything other than an angry, intolerant, persecutorial attitude is scorned and mocked by a plentitude of bar bullies gone drunk with power.”

 

“One of the first issues we need to address if we’re going to get out the vote at a level required by a truly participatory democracy is the lack of excitement many people feel for the candidates put forth by our parties.”

 

“For many people, the most pressing issue is the fate of Roe V. Wade and women’s right to choose.”

 

“…America still maintains a segregated Apartheid voting system. Black, Hispanic, and Native American voters are the immediate targets, but all Americans dispossessed by the system are victims…”

 

“More important than any single botched campaign strategy is the overarching failure of the left to understand the role the corporate media plays in shaping public opinion, public policy, and ultimately, political leadership.”

 

How many of these snippets could come directly from a New York Times article or Medium thinkpiece today?

 

And yet. We did make a turnabout for a little while, didn’t we? Obama will go down in history as a truly great president, even with some decided mistakes and all of the roadblocks the obstructionists in congress regularly threw in his path. We can perhaps credit our current situation to the inherent pendulum-swinging tendencies of the two-party system. But we might also be able to give some credit to our ability to rally in times of extremity; the writers in this collection show that Bush’s election taught us some nasty truths about our nation and its divisions and for a time they impacted us enough to bring Obama into office for two terms (something no one would have foreseen when this book was published).

 

While much of my attention was drawn to the parallels with the politics of now, many of the contributors offer predictions and advice for the future. Some of their advice has proven to be a failure (the Democratic party should go even more centrist to capture the moderate Republicans!) and some of it has yet to be put into any kind of measurable practice even now. But I take comfort from it and I hope that this time maybe, just maybe, we might make use of it. Many of the essays offer talking points and advice that will be of great use in the trials to come, especially pieces like “Fighting Words for a Secular America” by Robin Morgan and “Our Mandate: Making Media Matter” by Danny Schecter.

 

Immediately following the current election, many commentators have thrown out the idea that “our country is more divided than ever.” I have a feeling these people make poor history students. Even disregarding, well, THE CIVIL WAR, Reconstruction, the communist witch hunts, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam war, among many other things, just looking a little over a decade into the past at the situation in 2004 shows those divisions have never significantly dissipated. We keep taping over the cracks when we would do better to actually fix them, though how is another matter. My dream would be to take inspiration from the Japanese art form kintsugi* and repair our divisions in a way that keeps them alive in memory but makes them a beautiful reminder of progress and change. The cracks should always be remembered—they just shouldn’t be allowed to break us.

 

 

*The Japanese art of repairing cracked pottery with gold, highlighting rather than concealing the flaw and making the piece one-of-a-kind as well as a reminder that beauty comes from imperfection.

Women Who Draw

A terrific directory of female and female-identifying illustrators that more people should know about.

Reading progress update: I've read 76 out of 203 pages.

What We Do Now - Valerie Merians, Dennis Loy Johnson

From the introduction:

People are not upset, they are distraught. Even people who are staying put, who are going through their days and trying to get over it, are not upset in the way they usually are when their candidate loses. Something is different this time. They are feeling a sense of loss, yes, but in the sense of something leaving, something beloved getting away from them. And to an unprecedented degree, people are not getting over it.

 

We do, indeed, seem to have become a country where moderates, let alone liberals, simply don't stand a blessed chance, where anything other than an angry, intolerant, persecutorial attitude is scorned and mocked by a plentitude of bar bullies gone drunk with power.

 

This is talking about the 2004 reelection of Bush. Sound familiar? WILL WE EVER LEARN??

The answer to most either/or questions is both; the best response to a paradox is to embrace both sides instead of cutting off one or the other for the sake of coherence.
Hope in the Dark - Rebecca Solnit

Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit

"The focus on survival demands that you notice the tiger in the tree before you pay attention to the beauty of its branches. The one person who's furious at you compels more attention than the eighty-nine who love you."

I really, really needed to hear this right now.
Hope in the Dark - Rebecca Solnit Rebecca Solnit Hope in the Dark

Top Ten Tuesday: National Nightmare Edition

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood Bitch Planet Volume 1 - Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robert Wilson IV, Valentine De Landro The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America - George Packer Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities - Rebecca Solnit On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe (Maryland Paperback Bookshelf) - H. L. Mencken White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America - Nancy Isenberg Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In - Bernie Sanders A Social History of the Third Reich - Richard Grunberger The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark - Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History - Tananarive Due, Sofia Samatar, Ken Liu, Victor LaValle, Nnedi Okorafor, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Thoraiya Dyer, Rose Fox, Daniel José Older, Julie Dillon

I've been gone for a bit.

 

I’ve decided to go political right out of the gate. I suppose this is an odd note to start on as a “revival” of my blog after months away, and yet it is quite fitting given how I am feeling these days. Books are inherently political, if only because they reflect facets of our culture back to us, so it makes sense that I should find meaning in my blogging by looking in a political direction.

 

Typically, I would grab my Top Ten Tuesday topic from its originators, The Broke and the Bookish. Considering what is on my mind lately—non-stop—I felt instead like I would share a partial list of what I have read/intend to read as I come to grips with the election and figure out exactly how I want to tackle the aftermath. I, like many people blindsided by this travesty, have resolved to become more politically active and much more aware. This requires not just action, but knowledge and perspective, and I think that is something these books can offer in a time of need. This list could easily be hundreds of titles long but we have to start somewhere and ten is as good a number as any.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This will be a re-read for me and it couldn’t be more appropriate. And before you scoff about exaggeration, just remember the percentage of the evangelical vote that brought us where we are today.

 

Bitch Planet series by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro. Needed for much the same reason as Handmaid. Also, because it will make me righteously angry and I need that right now.

 

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer. Who hurt you, America??

 

Hope in the Darkness by Rebecca Solnit. Just about anything by Solnit could fit here, but some readings by people I admire have pushed this one to the top of the list. We could all use a reminder that hope is hard but necessary and despair is not an option.

 

On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe by H.L. Mencken. While Mencken had some problematic views on women (he was writing 100 years ago), just about any of his political writings are extremely prescient. He saw this coming and we still didn’t listen.

 

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. What is it about the history of poverty and the wealth gap in the US that prompts people to vote against their own self-interest or scapegoat others? Is it just a lack of education or is it much more? And is class even the motivating factor people are claiming, or is it simply about culture? I’m hoping this book can shed some light on these questions.

 

Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders. I’m a Bernie Babe, can’t be helped.

 

A Social History of the Third Reich by Richard Grunberger. While there are any number of books on the Third Reich, I feel it is most important to begin by understanding the everyday people that contributed (purposefully or not) to its rise and normalization. And this is not just alarmism; the parallels are disturbing even from the vaguest distance.

 

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. Living in a post-truth world is going to do a number on science.

 

Any and every contemporary sci-fi short story collection I can get my hands on. I have

faith that these stories, told by diverse voices, will give me perspective beyond the headlines and history. In the right hands, speculative fiction gets to the heart of everything that troubles us as a people and gives us alternative visions of the future.

 

Just so you know

I'm hoping to become more active again in the next few weeks. I need something to help with the crippling depression that is banging on my mental door after this election.

 

But here's the thing: I will likely be reading a lot (A LOT) of politically charged things. If that is not your cup of tea, or you think you might be prompted to be less than civil in your responses, just unfollow me now and be done with it.

 

Much love to everyone.

Litsy is now on Android

http://bookriot.com/2016/05/12/litsy-if-instagram-and-goodreads-had-a-perfect-baby/

 

 

Not dead, just dead tired

I’ve been effectively MIA from Booklikes for a few weeks now. I’m assuming most people haven’t noticed (that sounds whiny- I just mean I’m not the most active of bloggers in the best circumstances). But for anyone wondering, I just wanted to drop by and say I’m alive and well, just very, very busy and pretty exhausted. I was recently promoted to copy editor at my company, which has resulted in an exponential increase in work and an equal decrease in reading and blogging time. Basically, I spend a lot of time reading and writing for money and thus can’t spend as much time as I would like doing it for free. I still pop by to lurk around and I’m hoping that I can get back to being more active when I’ve better acclimated to the new position (and cleaned up the dumpster fire left behind by my predecessor.)

 

Happy reading and have a great day!

 

Currently reading

Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In by Bernie Sanders
Progress: 28%
Waveform: Twenty-First-Century Essays by Women by Torrey Peters, Dana Tommasino, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, Chelsea Biondolillo, Jericho Parms, Kristen Radtke, Aimee Nicole Walker, Jaquira Díaz, Jocelyn Bartkevicius, Adriana Paramo, Leslie Jamison, Sonja Livingston, John Griswold, Sarah Valentine, Marcia Aldrich, Ma
Progress: 45%

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
~Geektastic~ has read 5 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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