Books can inspire you to do a lot of things: learn a new topic, go somewhere, or eat something you’ve never heard of before. Or they can just make you wish that something existed so you could actually do it.
For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, here are a few of the things books have made me want to do.
A Ring of Endless Light by Madleine L’Engle made me want to go to school for English. This is all because one person that the main character, Vicky, meets tells her that if she’s serious about her writing, she shouldn’t major in creative writing in college, but she should major in English so she can study stories. I may have been the only person I knew in middle school who knew what she was going to college for.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George made me want to live in the woods. If I could get my own peregrine falcon, even better.
Amelia’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss inspired me to fill my childhood journal with awesome doodles.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis gave my a lifelong desire to try Turkish Delight. (It didn’t work out so well.)
And, of course, Harry Potterby J.K. Rowling made me hope, hope, hope that I would be a witch. Still waiting on that owl…
Check out The Broke and the Bookish for more lists! What have books made you want to do? There are still so many other foods books made me want to try…
I keep trying to listen to audiobooks, and I’ve been listening to more music, but when walking the dog and doing the dishes, podcasts are still my favorite way to pass the time.
My Favorite Murder
My newest favorite podcast is My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. This is a true crime murder podcast where two ladies from LA describe their favorite murder (or murder attempt survival) stories that I found after the hosts had a guest appearance on the Cracked podcast. It’s a bit morbid, I know, but murder stories are fascinating (it’s why I have a hard time changing the channel when I come across a Law and Order marathon) and Kilgariff and Hardstark are having so much fun talking about everything that I get almost as much enjoyment out of just listening to them talk. Some of it gets really brutal (like Episode Seventeen, oh my god) so be prepared for that if you go to listen to this.
I’ll also just add that listening to a story about a pregnant lady fighting off a would-be murderer/baby snatcher is really good motivation while you’re running on the treadmill.
American Icons: The Disney Parks
Studio 360 recently replayed their episode on Disney and the Disney Parks on NPR, so I downloaded the whole thing for a car trip with my husband. Because if you didn’t know, we really like Disney Parks, and my husband particularly loves learning about the history of WDW and the like. If you have any interest at all in Disney, it’s a great listen. There are sound bites from people who love and hate Disney (Carl Hiaasen refusing to take his grandchildren to Disney World is kind of great), a story from a woman who played Snow White for years, and a gay love story involving a Disney dancer and a Prince Charming.
What podcasts are you listening to? I’m trying find some book podcasts, but I have trouble finding anything that I’m able to get really into, so any recommendations on that end would be fantastic.
Other podcasts that I loved can be found here, and here.
This post is inspired by a comic by Debbie Tung. Check out her Tumblr, she’s really amazing!
“You’re bringing a book on a date?”
I looked up, startled. It was senior year of college, and I was in the common area shared with my three roommates, getting on my coat and packing up my purse before going out for dinner with my boyfriend. My last step — taking the paperback I’d been reading, and nestling it in beside my wallet in my old beat-up purse.
It’s never been unusual for me to have a book crammed into my bag whenever I leave the house. Dinner with the in-laws, party with friends, a half-day at work that doesn’t include a lunch break — there’s a mass market, or a full hardcover, or now a Nook or even something downloaded on my phone, ready for me to read at the first sign of five free minutes.
I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, back to Animorphs books in my backpack, back to Dr. Seuss on car trips. That paper brick right within reach is a comfort, a security blanket, ready to help me out at a moment’s notice, to pull me free from boredom, keep me company if loneliness surrounds me, to cheer me up or calm me down if depression or anxiety worm themselves into my brain.
While I don’t know too many people who insist on this practice (I was the one in my family curled up in the back corner of the minivan on road trips with nothing but a too-loud Disc-man and an R.A. Salvatore novel) but I’d never been made to feel weird about it. Until that day, in my dorm, with my friend. Though loads of my friends love to read, this friend was pretty close to last on the list of people I would have expected to question me. My fellow bookworm, the one who ALSO made time for pleasure reading during finals week, who rambled on about stories and characters with an enthusiasm so bright it blocked out the glazed expressions of everyone who was forced to listen. I looked at this person, expecting her to realize the logic behind carrying a book you would never crack open, just because you wanted it there.
And she looked back at me, confused, like I was an indecipherable nerd, like all the passages in my brain were turned around and broken.
“Uh, yeah,” I answered lamely. “Just in case.”
All my good reasons, rooted in emotion and vague-but-real feelings of comfort, became suddenly inexplicable, particularly in the face of a person who should have understood. It all seemed weird, and silly, and maybe a little bit messed up.
I’ve left home without a book before, because I was distracted or rushed, and managed to forget. But for the first time that I could think of, I consciously, purposely, removed the book from my bag, placed it on the table, and left without it.
I didn’t need the book that night. Really, it’s rarely necessary all those other times. But I’ve always liked having that backup plan, that comfort. “Because it feels like I’ve got a good friend by my side,” Debbie Tung writes in her comic. That’s exactly right, and it’s why I’ve never left a book behind since, if I can help it (it’s hard to fit a paperback in those tiny purses I use at weddings). I always keep a book in my bag, even if I wind up with a twenty-pound purse, even if someone gives me a weird look because they don’t understand.
It’s worth it, to feel secure, and to know my friends are close.
I’ve been reading a bunch of comics and graphic novels lately! Mostly stuff aimed at teenagers and children, because that’s who I am. Let’s take a look!
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Noelle Stevenson is known for writing Lumberjanes, and apparently for writing on Wander Over Yonder (is this why I like the second season so much?) but before that she wrote a webcomic, Nimona, which last year was collected in a nice hardbound book. Nimona, a girl who can shapeshift into basically anything, decides to become the sidekick for Lord Blackheart, an evil scientist, whether he likes it or not. She helps him fight against the Institution, a group of knights Blackheart once trained to be a part of, including Ambrosius Goldenloin, his ex-best friend (maybe more?) and current arch nemesis. When I finally checked this book out of the library, I figured this would be a fun, light-hearted comic, and it is — at first, at least. Then the story gets kind of dark. The characters turned out much more complicated than I expected from a single-volume webcomic collection, with secret, twisted pasts, complex relationships, and moral codes that aren’t black and white but make total sense. I give it all the stars, and all the recommendations, and will probably buy my own copy.
Zodiac Starforce #2 and #3 by Kevin Panetta and Paulina Ganucheau. I still don’t have #1 of this! But oh boy, am I going to find a back issue of it. This story is good. A magical girl story, but, you know, in America. The four members of the Zodiac Starforce have apparently been broken up for a couple of years (that’s what I’m getting at least, I’m sure it’s explained better in the first issue) but are now working to fight off monsters again. Emma is a little bit too much of a self-sacrificing leader, but then, the leader was never my favorite character in these things, and Panetta and Ganucheau give me sensitive Savanna and hot-headed Molly to love. I’ve only read this little bit of it, but the four main characters are distinct and fun. The colors are soft and bright, definitely leaning towards the pink spectrum, and just adds to an overall gorgeous design. Plus, everyone’s got absolutely bombing hair. Just look at Emma as Gemini!
This is the kind of story I would have gobbled up in a quick minute as a kid, but it didn’t exist so I found the manga version of it instead. Now I’ll gobble it up as an adult!
Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams. Patsy Walker, also known as the super heroine Hellcat, gets fired from her investigative day job with She Hulk (yup) and now is trying to start a temp agency for super-powered humans who want normal jobs. Also, her frenemy is reprinting the embarrassing comics her mother wrote about her teenage years, so she’s going to try and sue the pants off of her. PLUS, an evil Asgardian magic woman (“She’s basically Enchantress.”) is gathering minions, and Hellcat needs to stop her. I’d put this story in the same vein as The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl–funny superhero story written for girls. And it’s great. I love all the characters, including her new roommate with telekinesis, Ian (“Telekinian!”) and, obviously, Patsy, with her fun-loving, but still not-taking-crap-from-anyone nature. The cameos are great, too, like when Howard the Duck stops by the tattoo shop she’s working at, or when she calls everyone from Squirrel Girl to Lady Thor to get hamburgers with her since she’s having a bad day. I had a blast reading this, and it may be what gets me back to the comic store every month. (My wallet isn’t happy about that.)
Well, now that I’m through that part of my comic stack, I’ve got another pile from the library and bookstore to work through!
What comics have you been reading? Anything else I should pick up at the comic store?
I spend a lot of time on Twitter, so, I follow a lot of people. People that I think are great. Particularly, I love following my curated feed of comic people. Not only are they hardworking and talented at their actual profession, but they’re funny, passionate, and seem to just have a drive to find and create good art.
Some of these people I’ve been following for a while, some are artists I’ve found because of the other artists that I follow. If you’re on Twitter, and you love comics, I think all of these people are worth your time.
I’m still working my slow, deliberate way through Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed. I still think it’s a good novel, but it gets so dense, and there are such long parts of the novel without breaks, that I have a hard time reading it for long stretches. Plus, I keep falling asleep on the couch while I’m reading the book…
I also started reading Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton. I bought the mass market at Barnes and Noble after reading the back and realizing it was a futuristic science fiction story, AND a detective murder mystery story. I really love it so far. Hamilton’s writing is accessible, and the super technological bits don’t make me go cross-eyed. I did almost roll my eyes right out of my head when he spent an entire paragraph describing how hot the main character’s wife is: “slimmer than anyone who’d had two children should reasonably expect”; “she was enticingly fit”; “the dark hair…still as lush”. Blarg. But I powered through it! And I still like the book.
A trip to the comic store got me…some comics! I picked up the first four issues of Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat by Kate Leth, because I love Kate Leth and I’ve heard good things about it. I’ve read the first issue so far, and it’s super, super cute. I do wish that super hero comics had looked like this when I was a kid.
On top of that I grabbed some issues of Zodiac Starforce, which is colored like Steven Universeand sounds like Sailor Moon. So, really, probably for me, I figured! I read issue #2 (they didn’t have #1 at the store), and it turns out yes, I was right, this comic is my kind of deal. I’ll have to find the missing issues next time I’m in a comic shop.
What are you all reading? Anything nerdy? Anything smart?
Also, I think I’m going to frequent my comic shop more often (it is right next to the grocery store, after all). Any suggestions of what I should get?
My bus had the absolute longest route in high school. I say this without exaggeration: the beast snaked over every back corner of town, tumbling down long dead-end streets and then crashing back out again. The routes then cut across the rest of town, into the next, passing thick forests and cow pastures until the bust finally rumbled up the hill to the regional high school. We were always late. They never decided to change the route.
I was the first stop in the morning, then the last stop when we finally got out, so I knew the length of the trip better than anyone, over an hour one way. Even my brother didn’t catch the full weight of it — the seventh and eighth grades split into middle schools before he got there, and then he was wise enough to spend his money on his own car his senior year for transportation. For me, I spent every school day from seventh grade until senior year finals week, when I borrowed my parents truck so I could duck out early, scrunched up in those seats for hours.
The downsides to this bus route are obvious. If the driver wasn’t right on time (she was never on time) we arrived at school with only minutes spent in the lunch room, the only time of day guaranteed to group my friends together. If the driver was really late (she was often really, really late) this meant going as a group to get late passes at the office, or else explaining to the unpleasant Spanish teacher that you hadn’t been loitering–you’d been shoving the contents of your locker into your back pack in a deranged panic. For someone riddled with anxiety, consumed with constant (unfounded) fear that she would get in awful trouble and disappoint everyone, this was not the ideal way to start the day.
But it wasn’t all bad.
I’ve discovered that, with a lot of the people I know, finding themselves stuck someplace with nothing to do but wait, they become bored, anxious. They desperately want that time to be over.
Those are the moments I cherish.
I arrive at doctor’s offices early, and hope they don’t call my name right away.
I sit in the back corner seat in the mini van, where I can’t see anyone’s face.
On airplanes, I settle up against the window, drop my tray as soon as is allowed, and close myself down into a tight metal-and-plastic box.
This is not where I get bored.
This is where I do things.
I bring my supplies of course. A paperback novel crammed in a purse; a notebook and a half dozen pens, since I kept forgetting if I forgot one; headphones so I can plug into my podcasts, my music, my books. For that time, I focus on the things I love, without any of the niggling thoughts that I should be doing something else.
The whole thing wasn’t too much different in high school. I had a Discman and a collection of CDs with bad rock music (I was a big fan of Creed) and pirated anime songs (also a big fan of Yu Yu Hakusho) instead of a smartphone, but methods and preferences were all the same. I’d hunch up with my book in the morning, or blast Kurama’s character song in my ears. In the afternoon I completed my homework, so when I got home there was nothing in the way of playing Dreamcast or watching the new episode of Dragonball.
For two hours a day, five days a week, there was no where else for me to go, nothing else for me to do. No chores, no responsibilities. Even the other kids didn’t bother me, usually, preferring to leave alone the quiet girl who sat close to the bus driver. More than any other time in my life, that was my time, a time to do what I wanted with no one to question it. It was worth bouncing down all those old streets, waking up earlier than I’ve ever had to do on a regular basis since.
It might have been nice to get dropped off the late bell more than occasionally–but who knows how many fantasy novels I would have gotten through, or how many Japanese songs I would have memorized otherwise.
“[Drawing] was a form of transportation. I did it because it helped me to stay by giving me somewhere else to go.” — Lynda Barry, What It Is
In high school my notebooks and paper bag-covered textbooks were a mess of my graffiti. I spent every non note- or test-taking moment drawing my personal doodles of frogs and bees, and creating never-ending, constantly dividing tendrils, using my collection of gel ens to draw them and then fill them with the vibrant, shiny color.
Focusing his never been my strong point; I have a mind that tends towards wandering. If I don’t want to lose track of where I am, something needs to anchor me. Writing I can focus on, but only that. For something like Biology class, I needed something to take up the part of my brain that tried to slip away. Drawing—sketching—doodling—that was perfect.
Sometimes, my reasonings for this were not understood, and I was called out on it. Once, in Math, I set to drawing an Orca on the front cover while some classmates spoke at the front of the room. My mistake was shading; the teacher heard the scuff of my pencil, and chastised me for being so rude and not paying attention. I put my pencil away, and had to focus on my classmates without looking at paper or moving my hands. She never did confirm whether I’d really been not listening.
Then, other times, it didn’t bother the teacher at all. I doodled on my folder while the Health teacher explained alcohol poisoning. Suddenly he turned to me and asked if I was listening. “Yes,” I said, without looking up, and repeated what he’d told us. “All right!” he responded, and continued on.
Recently I read Lynda Barry’s What It Is, part graphic novel, part collage, part memoir, part writing guide. The above quote gut-punched me as so weirdly but completely true. Drawing gives you somewhere to go—letting my mind wander, as it will—and helping me stay, letting me pay attention to everything going on around me. I was taken right back to high school, when I did the most drawing, now having words to describe something I always knew was true. I drew then to keep myself in that fantastic in-between place. I want to draw more now, so that I can find it again.
I add books to my To-Read list faster than I can actually read books. I know at least half of what I want to read will go unread forever — but here are some that I’ve recently become interested in that I really, really hope I can get to someday.
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. I don’t know too much about this book, except it’s about humans colonizing Mars. Recently I’ve wanted to read more science fiction, and I’ve heard good things about this series from multiple sources. Plus, there’s apparently going to be a TV series of it in a couple of years, because everything is a TV series now (thanks, Game of Thrones, you started a trend!) so I better leap on that bandwagon before it gets too overloaded.
Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein. I just read the first book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and I thought it was a fun book with good characters and really fun puzzles. (Probably helped that the puzzles made me think of Gravity Falls…sigh.) I want to stay on top of what’s pretty popular for kids books, too, and this is a quick read, so I hope to get through this one soon.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. A kid’s graphic novel about a girl who joins roller derby to get over losing touch with her best friend. This has been out for MONTHS, I have no excuse, I should have read this long ago.
The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork. This is a contemporary young adult novel about a girl who survives trying to commit suicide. I’ve read Stork’s other young adult book, Marcelo in the Real World, and I was floored by his complex characterization of Marcelo and the way that character grows by the end of the book. I’m so positive I’ll love this book, I’ll probably fall into a fit of rage if I don’t.
Will I get to these books? Probably, maybe, someday, we’ll see!
I’ve been doing a better job of not buying so many books, knowing that I can get a lot of what I need from the library, which I work at. But, I’m still me, and sometimes I just have to buy stuff.
Stitch ‘N Bitch by Debbie Stoller is the knitting guide (suggested to me by a coworker) that I used to basically teach myself how to knit. It has a lot of basic patterns, and some more complicated stuff. I think I checked out and renewed this book from the library about 12 or so times, so it seems right that I would just buy my own danged copy.
Giant Days by John Allison is another library read that I decided to just buy. This collection of the first four issues of the comic was one of the best things I read last year, and buying a copy of it only cost $10, minus my B&N discount.
The next two books I bought on whims, particularly The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. I don’t really know much about this book, except that it’s science fiction, but the spine was so handsome, and the cover pulled on me.
Finally, on my last bookstore trip, I picked up Robin Hobb’s Dragon Keeper. I have never read a book by Robin Hobb before, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read a thick fantasy mass market about dragons, so I thought this would be a good one to snag. I’m actually about a third of the way through it now, and, well…I thought I would like this more. There are some aspects of it that have become cliche in stories now, like one of the main characters describing her appearance as she looks in a mirror and judging herself to be oh-so-plain. And as much as I love character development, I feel like I’ve read a lot of book for such a small amount of plot to have happened so far. Maybe I’ll like it more as I go? But really, I’m starting to think this is something I’d have been better off snapping up at the library.
That’s all I bought last month. But hey, I’m going to Harvard Square with a friend this weekend, so chances are I’ll have quite a few more books to talk about at the end of February.
Any thoughts on these purchases? What have you bought for your bookshelves, and do you have any regrets?