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The Top 10 Books from The Millions Book Preview

The Millions listed the best upcoming books for the first half of 2018 and I have distilled that FURTHER through the filter of “very specific fiction but also nonfiction.”

The full list is here! So here we go:

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins.
It's an essay collection! They remain so hot right now! She covers “Rachel Dolezal; the stigma of therapy; her complex relationship with her own physical body; the pain of dating when men say they don’t ‘see color’; being a black visitor in Russia; the specter of ‘the fast-tailed girl’ and the paradox of black female sexuality; or disabled black women in the context of the ‘Black Girl Magic’ movement.”

She's doing an event with Women and Children First in Chicago in February. This looks real good. Let's all read it and discuss.

The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith.
This is getting compared to Blade Runner, which I haven't seen, but I HAVE seen Fifth Element, which seems inspired by Blade Runner, unless it isn't…
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2018: Plotting the Year Ahead, Which Will Inevitably Fail But Here We Are

It's 2018! I don't know how I feel about things!

Things feel...vaguely...better than 2017. But that's mostly because of our lovely tradition of "it's a new year!" which is preeeetty arbitrary in the grand scheme of things, but also since a lot of cultures have calendars, also probably not. This new year MEANS something. And what it means is there is like a 20% chance of this year being better than the shitshow that was last year. 20% because you don't wanna tempt fate, man.

I have plans for this year! Big plans! Mostly regarding books, because obvs.

Last year, counting comic volumes, I read 105 books. Mostly because I was freelancing for much of the summer. This year, I'm starting a project that'll necessitate reading even more nonfiction, which I'm very excited about, and I'd like to finish Martin Chuzzlewit and my book proposal. Ideally both by July, but I'm not married to the Chuzzlewit idea.

My personal library is slowly getting whittl…

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg: Magic! Also It's Pretty Fun!

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (a lady!) caught my eye a while back because of its cover.

It also has a lady in a late 1800s dress AND she's holding an umbrella, which usually specifies whimsy of some kind? I don't know. Also paper in what way! Is SHE paper? I have questions.

So it turns out magic in this 1890s/1900s world seems pretty accepted? And there's a school, and Ceony Twill, the whimsically named heroine (ah, that's why that umbrella's there) has just graduated from said school and she has to bond to a material because that is how magic works here, do not question it. 

But she gets assigned to paper because no one chooses paper because it is stupid. Why would you choose paper when you could work with metal (she wants to work with metal). But there she is, so she goes to the home of her new instructor guy whose apprentice she'll be. And the guy (Magician or "Mg." Thane) turns out to be like 30 and okay looking, at which point I went &q…

The Women's March 2018: Be Seen, Be Heard, Stay Angry

On January 20th, 2018, Chicago will host a second Women’s March. Those who attended the first remember the astounding numbers, miraculously warm weather, and surge of energy across the nation as America’s women stood up and said “we are here and we are angry.” 

So we did it. Our elected leader who bragged about sexual assault and who has made countless denigrating remarks about women is still in charge. Why are we marching again? 

 There is a tendency in any movement for things to lag. People become complacent, they accept their new reality, and think they can make no change. It makes sense that after the draining year that 2017 turned out to be — a year where one could constantly feel buffeted on all sides by waves of racism, misogyny, cruelty, and disregard for the planet — after that exhausting year, why should people come out in January weather to stand in the streets once again and say “We are still here and we are still angry”? 

 The answer is because without that voice, and withou…

Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy: Readalong Signup

You know what was the third bestseller of its time after Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ben-Hur? THAT IS CORRECT, Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. 

No one talks about this book anymore, but it was a sci-fi utopian novel about a young man waking up in the year 2000, which is a socialist utopia. Looking Backward spawned over 150 "Bellamy Clubs" that got together and discussed political issues, and it looks like a damn fascinating book.

It is also available FOR FREE online. Here's the Project Gutenberg link. So read this not too long book with me in February and get familiar with a bestseller of the 19th century!

2017 Books in Review

2017 was one of the hardest years of my life. I was cobbling together employment for six months, my mom got cancer, and I had a mouse living full time in my bedroom and ended up couch surfing for weeks. BUT ON THE PLUS SIDE, I read more books than I have any other year. Because of the cobbling together employment thing. Which, when it didn't go well, involved me sitting by the lake in June, reading. So it could have been worse. MAYBE.

So! Books this year. A whole lot were comics. Because when you are dealing with depression, you want to have some minor victories. And my minor victories were almost entirely in the form of finishing a ton of comic volumes. 48 of them, anyway. SO SOME QUICK REVIEWS:

COMICSSilk Volumes 0-1. Hot DAMN, I love Silk. This took me by surprise because I don't really care about Spider-Man as a character or comic series, and Spider-Gwen is ughhhhhhh but SILK. She was in a bunker for years! Kind of like Kimmy Schmidt. But Silk is super awesome and is kind of

Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Book 5

Here we are once again at the Aurora Leigh readalong, hosted by me, Alice, and this week I read only Book 5, but it was yet again really gay and a mix of genius and wtf, so lots to talk about here.

We left off in Book 4, with Aurora and Romney parting ways again after he has been dumped by Marian Erle. Romney talked about Aurora "break[ing] the mythic turf where danced the nymphs," and in my epic poetry I love that, but if he said that to me in real life I would be like

Elizabeth Barrett Browning makes her case in Book 5 for people writing about the world right now. She makes some great points, but also it is a lot and maybe write an essay. MAYBE WRITE AN ESSAY, ELIZABETH. But she doesn't want to, and this is her book, so fine.

There is a consistent feeling through Aurora Leigh of Browning peeling back the curtain of Being Literary in the Victorian Age and just talking about life as we all know it. It's weirdly juxtaposed with verbal flights of fancy that soar to epic l…

Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Books 3 & 4

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "You know how ladies are like windmills?"

Aurora Leigh! EBB's novel in verse. This week we read Books 3 & 4, which involve Aurora making her name as a poet, talking about how great London is to inspire one, and also some gay stuff and Aurora's cousin Romney Leigh almost marries Marian Erle, A Poor Person, but then she says never mind.

If we're going to pick a gay person in this book, I pick Marian. SURE, you can say "But she seems too into Romney." I also really wanted to marry a dude who I could help with his Great Life's Work. But guess what? I then turned out to be super gay.
Marian says
“I’d rather far be trodden by his foot,

Than lie in a great queen’s bosom.”

And it's like, um, no one MENTIONED a great queen's bosom, Marian. That was all you. But sure, now that we're on the topic of ladies and their bosoms etc, what's up with—
Marian: I'M NOT GAY ladies just kiss me all the time I don't even ask…

Something Sunday: Good Things That Have Happened

I am all for listing things that are good in what is so increasingly becoming The Darkest Timeline that we should all have goatees by now.

Fortunately, Jenny at Reading the End has started "Something Sundays" where we can list happy/good/whatever things that are keeping us going. Lots of lovely things happened today, and here they are:

1. My girlfriend made breakfast before she got on a plane to Canada. Breakfast was extremely good, and now I can say I have a girlfriend in Canada.

2. The Frances Willard House began its renewed "Views" series with a talk by Joan Marie Johnson on her book Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women's Movement, 1870-1967 (published by UNC Press), and the talk not only sold out -- there was a WAITING list. I smiled muchly.

3. In keeping with the women's history theme, I have become increasingly delighted that my books are becoming more and more collectiony. By which I mean the books I own have never been very "…

Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Books 1 & 2

So. Aurora Leigh by English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, written in 1856 (Dickens had just written Hard Times) is a novel in verse about an English-Italian girl and her journey to becoming a poet.
It is...a little challenging. Here is a live action shot of me reading yesterday:

So, BOOK 1:
Aurora Leigh is born "[t]o make my father sadder, and myself/Not overjoyous truly."
Which kind of just sets the tone, huh. I want this entire review read with an understanding that along with extreme perplexity and frustration for certain parts, I also acknowledge this book is the work of an incredible genius and I'm glad I am reading it. Yes, I shouted parts in anger while my girlfriend tried to get work done last night, but I also was like "WAIT THIS PART IS REALLY GOOD LISTEN."
I've never been a huge fan of poetry, but I do think it fills a very necessary place in humanity's expression of itself, and those who use it well should be lauded. Or their words should be.

The Witches by Stacy Schiff: Just a Buncha Assholes

In 2015, my delightful friend who was then at Little, Brown sent me their upcoming book The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff. It was an excellent book to brag about having. Did I read it? Of course not. I was busy making binders for my upcoming Cahokia Mounds trip and also sitting around a lot.

But every October! I have looked over at the giant tome that is The Witches and thought 'Maybe this year?' But I have invariably become distracted and left it alone, of course losing interest in November because witches are for October. And also other times if you're interested in them/are one/like Roald Dahl books or Practical Magic. Or just really like the Monty Python take on it.

I'm about 70 pages into the 400+ page nonfiction breakdown of the 1692 events in Salem, Massachusetts, and can I say — well done. I mean, hot damn, Stacy Schiff. I'm not sure how you got over 400 pages out of something we don't really have great records of, but you also wrote a biography of…

Aurora Leigh in November!

You know how you're walking along, minding your own business, and suddenly you just stop and go "SHIT, I haven't read Aurora Leigh yet"? PROBLEM. SOLVED. TODAY. Well, in November.

Yes! This November, a scant two weeks away, we will be reading Elizabeth Barrett Brown's masterpiece (?) Aurora Leigh, which is either a novel in verse or an epic poem or an epic novel/poem, the internet cannot seem to agree.

"What's it about?" you ask. No idea! A lady poet? It looks like? But don't worry, the ever-fantastic Jenny of Reading the End will be divvying up the chapters for us so the readings are somewhat cohesive/not wildly scattered or ending at odd points.

I AM EXCITED because this is a semi-deep cut of Victorian lit, and if you've read it, you can scoff at the superficially Victorianist Jane Eyre and Great Expectations readers and say YES BUT WHAT DID YOU THINK OF AURORA LEIGH oh you haven't read it I see (not that you would ever do that; you'r…