Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Reading Challenge.

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Beth and I have done a lot of talking about the kinds of things that reading can do for a person. It really is a magical thing. It can transport you to different worlds. It can imagine new history. It can see potential futures. Studies have even shown that reading literary fiction can help you relate better to other people. So, with this in mind, we’ve put together our first reading challenge. Inspired by #weneedmorediversebooks, we’ve come up with a challenge to make us think about who we are reading and what we are reading about. Our challenge has three sub-challenges: one related to characters, one related to authors, and one related to books themselves. Each sub-challenge is only ten books long, so you can do any of the sub-challenges without changing how you read for the whole year. As a reader, you can tackle the whole challenge or one or more of the sub-challenges.

I will be maintaining a page here on this blog full of possible books to fulfill the challenge that I find in my reading travels. Of course, any suggestions will be helpfully added to the list. Part of what makes diversifying your reading difficult is that you don’t always know something is diverse going in. We are going to endeavor to make that easy by keeping a separate page of suggestions.

Since this challenge is only 30 books, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of diversity in literature and in life, but we hope that this list and the books that are read because of it will create interesting and thoughtful discussions. We hope that you will consider taking the challenge and reading along with us in 2016!

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Book Challenge Blues

Beth completed her Book Challenge in mid November. One of the things that is fun about challenges like a book challenge is to stretch yourself. Last year I challenge myself to forty books but I read fifty-three. This year I decided to go for fifty.

I am currently four books behind.

And, now I’m wondering if it’s cheating to pick short books or easy books. I think it might be cheating. But, I’ve got the new Rick Riordan and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell in my queue. I am so excited to read them both (even though I’m not their target audience and are below my reading level)! Of course, if I finished the books on my “currently reading” shelf, I’d be caught up. (One of them is a audiobook and it’s only 4 hours long. That’s 4 sessions at the gym, so I should be able to knock that one out quick…if I make it back to the gym.)

Are you doing a reading challenge this year? How close are you to finishing? How do you catch up when you fall behind?

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens part 3

The Ghost of Christmas Past arrives! In Tuesday’s installment Scrooge journeys to the past to be reminded of Christmases long forgotten.

If you missed this installment, you can find it here.

And, you can catch tonight’s installment, the last of the Ghost of Christmas past here or on the periscope app!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Part 1

For the holiday season Beth and I decided we’d try something a little new and special. I will be reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens on Periscope. We started yesterday evening and will continue on Saturday.

Things we know so far: Marley is dead. He is so, so dead. And, Scrooge is a jerk. He is a total, utter jerk.

If you missed the first installment, you can check it out here.

Discussion Posts: Re-reading series before the new installment comes out

This month has seen the announcement of the next book in the Raven Cycle series’ cover announced and the next book in the Cinder series released. Both of these things prompted much excitement here at SxLx because we’re into these series. Beth struggled with the decision to re-read the whole series before diving into Winter. I took the new cover art as a signal to re-read the Raven Cycle. In my case, the decision was easy because I haven’t finished Dream Thieves and at this point I’ve probably forgotten more than I remember. But, I know that not everyone feels this pull to revisit the older installments before getting to the new one. So, the comments section is open! What are your thoughts on re-reading a series before the new book comes out? Are you for it? Against it? Do you do it?

Are you a re-reader?

Review: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Beth has already done a short review on this book so here I am to give a longer, spoilerier review. This is a dystopian novel set in a future post-nuclear-holocaust Sudan. It follows the life of Oyesonwu, a woman born of rape and blessed with magic powers that she will use to change the world. This novel did not shy away from presenting the horror of rape, weaponized rape, genocide and female genital mutilation. Okorafor has a powerful voice and I am really glad to have read this book. I am also looking forward to reading more by this author. After the cut, though, I am going to discuss some problematic things in this novel.

Continue reading

This Month in Reality: Sit Still Already 

I’ve been thinking about starting a meditation practice for awhile now and last month’s Relovution reminded me of that. So, I’ve started one. I’ve been using Stop, Breathe and Think. And, it hasn’t been too bad! 

So, for this month I’m going to talk about two books that are of a the Buddhist/meditation perspective. (One that I just listened to and one that I admittedly read awhile ago).


Awhile back I read When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. I was having a rough time because it was winter and I had sinus infections that I couldn’t shake and I was pretty bummed out. And, the title just caught me. It seemed pretty apt for my situation (because I’m overly dramatic so, of course, my life was falling apart because I never saw the sun and I was on antibiotics). Two things from the book stuck with me: the idea that even terrible situations have something to offer us (other than their terribleness) and that we should practice loving-kindness. Loving-kindness has a particular meaning here and refers to a practice of gentleness, compassion, flexibility and forgiveness. Mostly I remember that this idea of loving-kindness (maitri is the word Chödrön used for it) means being gentle and as someone who can be sharp tongued, being reminded of the importance of gentleness is always something I need. Chödrön talked for a long while about starting this practice with yourself. Yes, you mess up sometimes. Yes, you are uncomfortable. Yes, things hurt and you can’t always fix them or make them better. But, you can be gentle with yourself. You can be gentle with others. You might not be able to make something better, but you can, at the very least, not make it worse by being hard and inflexible. This book is full of discussions of Buddhist practice and how practice is important in difficult times.

The second book for this month isn’t actually a book. Mindful Living is a series of audio recordings of lectures given by Thich Nhat Hahn at a retreat that have been compiled for our listening pleasure. This audio recording is a nice example of what the audio format can do that you don’t see in books. It is really neat to be able to hear the monk’s words in his own voice. I enjoyed the lectures. My favorite of the lectures talked about thinking about what your face was like before you were born. We, none of us, came from nothing so it is an interesting exercise to ponder where we came from and how we have been influenced by things. I liked all of the little reminders of how to be mindful and how to make reminders to be present and to enjoy the experience of being you.
This is was interesting audiobook and I recommend it if you know a little about mindfulness and you are interested in expanding your understanding of it.

So, there you have it. One book and one lecture series both of which are worth a look! Yay!

What I’m Reading Now: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Beth and I are in the same book club. I’m a little behind everyone else this month. I’m a little embarrassed by that because I recommended this book!

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I am halfway through my Pop Culture Homework Assignment!

This book repeatedly punched me in the stomach.

Eleanor and Park meet when Eleanor gets on the bus for her first day at the new school.  Eleanor immediately gets on the wrong side of the cool kids on the bus by almost sitting in someone else’s spot.  Park growls at her to just sit down next to him.  Everything after that awkward and totally real meeting is beautiful and painful and awkward and wonderful.  Eleanor and Park are so fucking cute together I actually just swore at you in a review of a YA novel.  This was a beautiful, painful and real novel about teen romance. It was also a novel about negotiating identity (when you’re not really sure how to be what people think you are.  Are you that thing?  Are you not?  Does it matter?), being there for your loved ones, and dealing with crappy things in your life.
This book was great also great because of the main characters.  Eleanor is a chubby red head and Park is half Korean.  Others have talked about the need for diverse characters in teen novels and I think this is a good example.
Spoiler alert and trigger alert:  This book deals with domestic violence in a very honest and very real way.
More spoilers ahead.
Eleanor and Park’s relationship grows slowly over a few months.  At first, they are just sharing a seat on the bus.  Then, they are sharing comic books.  Then, they were sharing comic books and music.  (I’m actually making a mix tape inspired by the music mentioned in the book.)  It just snowballs from there.  Eleanor loves her time on the bus because she hates being at home with her Mother’s husband, who is an alcoholic and a wife beater.  The story builds until it becomes obvious that the creepiest of the awful things that have been happening to Eleanor aren’t being done by the awful girls in Eleanor’s gym class but are being done by Eleanor’s step dad.
I cried and cried and cried throughout this book.  The relationship between Eleanor and Park was wonderful.  Eleanor’s relationship with DeNice and Beebi was great.  Park’s parents were A+ and their attempts to interact with their son’s first real girlfriend were awkward and beautiful and also very real.  Sabrina, Eleanor’s mom, was heartbreaking.  (At one point she tells Eleanor she’s so lucky and good for staying away from boys and then implies that there are two types of women in the world:  women who are with a man and brave women who aren’t.  I think my heart is still breaking from that interaction between mother and daughter.)  Eleanor’s brothers and sisters were also heartbreaking.
God, this book.  It was so good.  It was so good, I’m still crying over it.