Book review: The Book of Useless Information

Dear friends,

I just finished this one, which was my bedside book for a few weeks:

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This book is filled with “fun facts” about lots of different topics: food, animals, geography.  As I read it, I thought it would really appeal to fans of Jeopardy!  It’s a great book to carry in your bag, or keep in the bathroom, so you can just read a page or two to pass the time.  Here are some pages from inside the book, to give you a taste of what’s in store:

Inside book

This book would make a great gift for Father’s Day, or for anyone who likes “nerdy” information (I count myself there)!

Cheers –

Winnie and the Professor

The perils of “Booktube”

Hello friends,

I enjoy watching Youtube videos about reading and books.  Do you?

Creators of such videos refer to themselves as “booktubers,” and post videos with themes like reviews, hauls, current reads, DNFs (“did not finish”) and TBRs (“to be read”), along with various other features such as anticipated new releases, unhauls, and reading marathon vlogs.  For book lovers, these videos can be fun and informational.  I learn about a lot of new releases and popular books from watching these videos.

Some of my favorite booktubers are:  Books with Emily Fox, Lauren and the Books, Jean Bookish Thoughts, Peruse Project, and Chelsea Palmer (there are many others).  Booktube leans heavily toward the YA (“young adult”) genre, but these particular creators tend to read more widely.

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While I enjoy these videos, I find that watching too many can “mess with my head.”  Many booktubers post monthly hauls of 20 or more books, which they never seem to get around to reading (and ultimately unhaul).  Many post ambitious TBRs that are impossible to finish.  Some talk about feeling guilty about not reading more, or post stats of how many pages they read during the month.

All of these things seem to take the joy out of reading.

This is why I don’t believe in huge hauls (I plan to show a few books at a time), and why I don’t believe in TBRs (every book I own is a TBR).  When I finish a book, I consider whether it deserves a permanent place on my shelf, or if I will pass it along to someone else who would enjoy it.  I have a large “pass along pile,” which will ultimately be given to my university’s book sale when it comes around each spring.  I believe that books should have a life – either through re-reading (we are a different person each time we approach the same text), or by sharing with someone else.

I also feel like a strict and lengthy TBR list doesn’t allow for whims.  Sometimes I feel like reading something light and fluffy (usually after I’ve read something dense and difficult).  Or I learn of a brand-new release that I’m willing to buy in hardcover because I know I will love it, and I want to read it right away.  Or something comes across on Kindle Unlimited that looks like fun, so everything else gets pushed back.

Reading should bring you joy.  Booktube videos are fun to watch.  But if you ever start to feel guilty, or inadequate, or caught up in comparison with these voracious readers, it might be time to step back.

Do it for fun.  Do it for you.

Blessings,

Winnie and the Professor

Give yourself grace

Dear friends,

The other day, I was watching a Youtuber talk about books she plans to read.  She gave a brief synopsis of each, and explained why it appealed to her.  One book was about a couple who had fertility issues, an experience the Youtuber herself had gone through in the past few years.

She stated that she wasn’t sure if she was ready to read the book, although she’d heard it was good, and it might be healing for her.  So, she said, “I’ve decided to give myself grace” in approaching this subject matter – the grace to bail out at any time, the grace to decide she wasn’t ready after all, the grace to start the journey with permission to not finish.

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I was struck by her words.  We often talk about showing grace to others, but showing grace to ourselves is an important part of self-care.  We need to give ourselves permission to fail, permission to decide that we’re not ready after all, permission to back out of our choices if the time comes when they don’t seem right for us anymore.

Look, I’m all for “seeing things through.”  Perseverance – what my mom calls “stick-to-it-ive-ness” – is essential for completing many of our life journeys.  But just as we would be gentle and understanding with others, we should show ourselves the same consideration when it comes to challenges that may be – just for a moment – more than we can bear.

We talk about falling down and getting back up, but sometimes getting up takes time.  Healing and recovery take time.

Be gentle with yourself today.  Show grace to the person in the mirror.

Blessings,

Annette

Book haul # 1

Dear friends,

I’ve acquired a TON (probably literally) of books over the past months, including a few dozen at a library sale this weekend.  I thought I’d show them to you a few at a time.  As you know, I read a lot of backlist titles, as well as new releases.  While I occasionally buy a new release in hardback if it’s something I’ve really been looking forward to, I acquire most of my books in other ways:

  • Borrow from the library
  • Lent from friends
  • Purchased at sales
  • Purchased at retail, in paperback format
  • “Shop my shelves” (and storage boxes)
  • Listen on audiobook and/or read on Kindle

Let’s look at my first little haul:

  1.  Daisy Jones and the Six.  I flew through this one, and my review’s already up.  I had received an “ARC” (advance reader copy) of this one months ago, but never got around to it till now.  The story of a 1970s band similar to Fleetwood Mac – their rise to fame and fall from popularity.
  2. City of Girls.  This one just came out June 4 and I can’t WAIT to read it!  New York showgirls in the 1940s.
  3. Sawkill Girls.  Borrowed from the Library, and I need to finish it as it’s due very soon.  A Young Adult “YA” title, I don’t know much about it other than it’s a mystery about girls who go missing on Sawkill Island.
  4. Our Lady of the Prairie.  Lent to me by a coworker.  Written by a colleague at my university, who was pleased when I told her I was reading it.
  5. The Clockmaker’s Daughter.  I bought this in hardback when it first came out, and it’s just been released in paperback … need to get to it!  I understand it switches back and forth along two (or more?) timelines.

haul 1

A side note: I don’t believe in doing “TBRs” (“To be read”) lists, because I like to have the freedom to choose what appeals to me in the moment.  I believe that we have a relationship with our books, and that reading should never feel like a chore.  Also, when I finish a book, I pass it on if possible, so it will continue to have a life.  I might give it to a friend, or to charity.  Only a few take up permanent residence on my shelves, and those are the ones that have spoken to me on the deepest level.

I am also re-listening to the Harry Potter books on Audible.  I read the originals so long ago that I’ve forgotten a lot, plus the movies have muddied my memories a bit.  By revisiting them now, I can really see the books-to-movies changes.  Mind you, I’m not touchy about such changes – I understand that it’s a different task to tell a story visually than to tell it in writing.  I just find it interesting.  I’m halfway through Chamber of Secrets now, and I’m wondering about something:

How did Dobby intercept the letters from Ron and Hermione?  Considering how the owls in the first book were able to track Harry down wherever he might be, I can’t see how this would happen, and I don’t see it being addressed in the story.  Plot hole?

Happy reading everyone!

Winnie and the Professor

Book review: Daisy Jones and the Six

Dear friends,

Like so many others, I enjoyed this book immensely, though not quite as much as Reid’s previous book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

If you’ve read other reviews of this book, you know that Daisy Jones and the Six (the band) is loosely based on Fleetwood Mac, and the relationships among its members.  The story in this book takes place years after the band broke up, with each member telling the story as they remember it – and their memories sometimes contradict one another.

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Which parts did I like?  The interview format felt like a conversation, which filled the characters with life.  Each of them felt real, struggling with the desire to express themselves creatively, in the midst of complicated relationships with the rest of the band members.  Each character also had ethical dilemmas about choosing to put themselves first at times.  Do you do what’s best for your own career, or for the longevity of the band?  The romantic relationships and sexual tension between band members helped make it a page-turner.

Which parts did I dislike?  It may make me sound like a lazy reader, but … too many characters.  In addition to Daisy and the other six band members, we have various record producers, sound engineers, tour managers, etc. adding their two cents to the story, and each of these characters has a name and backstory.  Each of them have their own lines in the interview transcript.  I became confused at times about who was who.  In the end I decided it didn’t matter, and when a non-band member was “speaking,” I just classified them as a peripheral person.

Verdict?  It’s a fun, page-turning read that captures a moment in time, a rock band at the height of their popularity, along with the events that caused them to eventually fall from the charts.  A brief epilogue tells the reader what each of these characters is doing “today.”  And the song titles and lyrics felt real.

Recommended.

Blessings,

Winnie and the Professor

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Book review: Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties

Dear friends,

I recently finished this book on Kindle:

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Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties tells the story of Maggie, a woman in her fifties who finds her life in crisis.  Her husband suddenly walks out, and as she faces the world as a separated, soon-to-be divorced woman, she realizes that she has lost her sense of identity.  She has been a wife and mother for so long, she hasn’t really had a strong sense of who she is and what she wants since she was in her thirties (hence the title).  Maggie knows she must pull herself together and create a new life – but how?

As she casts about for new friends and a new vocation, she makes a lot of mistakes, but her confidence grows.  Her divorce is finalized, and she works on closing that chapter of her life by attending a support group for new divorcees and making future plans.  She befriends a man who could be a potential love interest, but is she ready?  And when her ex-husband makes contact again, will she long for her former life?

The book was just ok for me … this is not a reflection on the author or her work (the story was nicely written), but I didn’t identify with the subject matter very much.  Maggie and her husband/ex-husband were both having their own version of a mid-life identity crisis, which I haven’t dealt with.  I tried listening to the audio book first, and found that I didn’t care for the narrator – she read the story in a defensive, slightly snarky tone that I found at odds with Maggie’s uncertainty and sadness (it felt like the narrator was indignant on Maggie’s behalf).  But I thought the story was pretty good, so I read the Kindle version instead.

I would recommend this one if you identify with the subject matter.

Blessings,

Annette

The case against passion

Dear friends,

I was listening to a talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert where she made some important points about the saying “follow your passion.”  As educators, isn’t this the advice we often give to young people?

Elizabeth Gilbert Quote about Following Curiosity

How could such well-meaning advice ever be problematic?

As Gilbert has shared, she used to advise audiences to “follow your passion” – until one night, after a talk, she received a message from a woman who had been in attendance.  In a nutshell she said this: You made me feel worse about myself, not better.  I’m not passionate about anything, and your talk made me feel like I couldn’t find success until I felt like I was on fire about something – which I’m not.

This letter caused Gilbert to reflect on the “follow your passion” mantra.  She concluded that perhaps it’s more useful to say, “follow your curiosity.”

While some people are able to apply single-minded focus to one endeavor, others (like me) have a “hummingbird mind,” a mind that flits from one interest to another.  Instead of drinking deeply from any one flower, we take small sips from many.

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Our culture tells us this is wrong, while it feels completely authentic to those of us who live this way.

Gilbert also points out that “follow your curiosity” may lead to a passion – through experimenting with a variety of interests, you may find one that fascinates you, that inspires deep commitment for a long period of time.

I’ve been reflecting on this when I consider the advice we give to students who are undecided about majors, and future goals.  There’s so much pressure on young people to make these decisions early in life, but for many of us (me again), we arrive at our “calling” via a long and winding road.  We try, and discard, many roles before we land upon the right one.  And that’s ok.  No experience is wasted.

I encourage you to follow your curiosity and see where it leads.

Blessings,

Annette