64 Books in 52 Weeks

This year has been a journey, a long and difficult one. As I worked on my goal of fifty-two books, I documented them in hopes to meet and surpass my challenge. My final book count is 64 with a page count of over 12,000 according to Goodreads.

Here is my full list!

1.Cognitive Behavioral Therapy by Tao Lin

  1. Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov
  2. bone by Yrsa Daley Ward
  3. Zimbabwe by Tapiwa Mugabe
  4. Strong Looks Better Naked by Khloe Kardashian
  5. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  6. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  7. All Gone by Alex Witchel
  8. The Art of Sleeping Alone by Sophie Fontanel
  9. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  10. You Don’t Have to Like Me by Alida Nugent
  11. How to be a Bad Bitch by Amber Rose
  12. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  13. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
  14. Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums by Sonia Sanchez
  15. All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes by Maya Angelou
  16. They Can’t Take That Away From Me by Gail Mazur
  17.  Raising Confident Girls by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer
  18. Slouching Toward Nirvana by Charles Bukowski
  19. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
  20. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
  21. Poetry With Teeth by Isabella Brooks
  22. Me, My Hair, and I by Elizabeth Benedict
  23. How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel
  24. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  25. Celestial Bodies in Orbit by Eve Littlepage
  26. The Rose that Grew from Concrete by Tupac Shakur
  27. I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman
  28. Here be Monsters by Colin Cheney
  29. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray
  30. Blackish-Grey by Devyn Springer
  31. Love and the Eye by Laura Newbern
  32. Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara
  33. The Dogs I Have Kissed by Trista Mateer
  34. The Best American Essays 2015 edited by Ariel Levy
  35. Islam and the Future of Tolerance by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz
  36. Earth by Cecilia Woloch
  37. Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller
  38. Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey
  39. Small Ghost by Trista Mateer
  40. All Night it is Morning by Andy Young
  41. The Chaos of Longing by K. Y. Robinson
  42. Emotional Rescue by Ben Greenman
  43. Rhyme and Rebellion by Harry Whitewolf
  44. Blood Don’t Lie by Aaron Levy
  45. Kinky by Denise Duhamel
  46. The All-American Poem by Matthew Dickman
  47. The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
  48. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
  49. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
  50. Stygian by Sean Michael
  51. The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison
  52. Honeybee by Trista Mateer
  53. Faithful by Alice Hoffman
  54. A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry edited by Czesław Miłosz
  55. The Power of Meaning: Crafting a LIfe that Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith
  56. Fat Like the Sun by Anna Swir, translated by Grazyna Baran and Margaret Marshment
  57. She’s Not Herself by Linda Appleman Shapiro
  58. In-Between Time by Teva Harrison
  59. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
  60. Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou
  61. Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb
  62. Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction (Since 1970)
    64.Collected Poems (1912-1944) by H.D.

That’s a lot of books and in turn a lot of reading, a lot of learning, and luckily some of it was feminist in nature. I needed this reason to learn; starting off this year as a college graduate was difficult, a lot wasn’t going my way for the first few months, and this challenge gave me something to look forward to. This blog became a driving force, something to work on, and in turn became something that I’m extremely proud of.

Aside from building my reading repertoire, I’ve completed my first semester of graduate school! So far I’ve got a 4.0 GPA and I have seven poems being published sometime soon. I had hoped to write a few articles, though I haven’t given it enough conscious effort to be disappointed in myself. Perhaps that’s a goal for next year…

My post count for the year is 99,

My follower count is 29,

My reading goal for next year is 52 books,

and my happiness level is a 10/10.

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Goodreads Wins for 2016

I recall quite clearly how excited I was when I received my first email from Goodreads with the headline “Congrats – You’re a Giveaways Winner!” I had won Nadja Spiegelman’s I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This: A Memoir. Now I’ve won more giveaways than I’d considered possible, due mostly to my incessant boredom at work during lulls leading me to enter into dozens at a time. I certainly can’t say I never win anything anymore!

Here’s a list of the books I’ve won this year, linked to Goodreads:

What a list! I’ve really enjoyed some of the books that I won this year. Regardless of the reviews I’ve left, I am so grateful to have won at all, much less in such a bounty. That’s fourteen books that I may never have had my hands on if it weren’t for these giveaways. I encourage any avid readers, especially those of us who are in school or otherwise struggling financially to look into the Goodreads Giveaways tab, browse the genres, enter and try your luck. It’s beneficial to you and to the writer/publisher whose book(s) you review.

A note on integrity; My reviews were always honest, as the contests requested – the point in giveaways is to receive honest feedback, and in some cases mine was negative. Though I don’t want to seem unappreciative, I have a moral obligation to review these books as I would any other for the sake of book buyers everywhere.

Book 64: H.D. Collected Poems 1912-1944

H.D. is a bit of a badass, as I learned in poetry workshop this semester. Her writing is incredible, she was at one point involved with Ezra Pound, and she didn’t take much shit from anyone from what I can tell.

It was an ongoing read over the course of the semester, so I started it in August and have had the pleasure of working through it slowly, though I did read a great deal of it on my own time.

My favorite section of poetry in the collection was definitely Trilogy. I couldn’t get over how beautifully woven the poems were, and I’ll go into more detail in a bit about them.

H.D.’s definitely worthy of note in the feminist realm; in the introduction she discusses thinking that women should be able to do as they please, and with the years 1912-44 on the cover it’s quite clear that she wasn’t among the popular school of thought at the time.

*

I’ve decided to include one lovely poem of H.D.’s here. It’s long, so I limited myself to the one:

Fragment Thirty-Six

I know not what to do
my mind is divided. —Sappho

I know not what to do,
my mind is reft:
is song’s gift best?
is love’s gift loveliest?
I know not what to do,
now sleep has pressed
weight on your eyelids.

Shall I break your rest,
devouring, eager?
is love’s gift best?
nay, song’s the loveliest:
yet were you lost,
what rapture
could
I take from song?
what song were left?

I know not what to do:
to turn and slake
the rage that burns,
with my breath burn
and trouble your cool breath?
so shall I turn and take
snow in my arms?
(is love’s gift best?)
yet flake on flake
of snow were comfortless,
did you lie wondering,
wakened yet unawake.

Shall I turn and take
comfortless snow within my arms?
press lips to lips
that answer not,
press lips to flesh
that shudders not nor breaks?

Is love’s gift best?
shall I turn and slake
all the wild longing?
O I am eager for you!
as the Pleiads shake
white light in whiter water
so shall I take you?

My mind is quite divided,
my minds hesitate,
so perfect matched,
I know not what to do:
each strives with each
as two white wrestlers
standing for a match,
ready to turn and clutch
yet never shake muscle nor nerve nor tendon;
so my mind waits
to grapple with my mind,
yet I lie quiet,
I would seem at rest.

I know not what to do:
strain upon strain,
sound surging upon sound
makes my brain blind;
as a wave-line may wait to fall
yet (waiting for its falling)
still the wind may take
from off its crest,
white flake on flake of foam,
that rises,
seeming to dart and pulse
and rend the light,
so my mind hesitates
above the passion
quivering yet to break,
so my mind hesitates
above my mind,
listening to song’s delight.

I know not what to do:
will the sound break,
rending the night
with rift on rift of rose
and scattered light?
will the sound break at last
as the wave hesitant,
or will the whole night pass
and I lie listening awake?

*

I was assigned to read Trilogy for a week in workshop dedicated to Invocations – a form that H.D. has clearly conquered. In her section of poems about the Virgin Mary in “Tribute to the Angels,” the second section of Trilogy, she ends with a consideration of Mary as her own being, presented without the Child and therefore depicted as a human and not just a vessel. She calls upon many portraits of Mary through the section of poems and interweaves her own thoughts with biblical imagery and those depictions. H.D. writes of other goddesses in this section as well, sometimes interlacing them in her poems about Mary – drawing on strong women in myth was quite an interesting choice here, and one that I appreciated.

In the final section of Trilogy, “The Flowering of the Rod,” I fell in love with H.D.’s depiction of Mary Magdalene – there’s so much to go on in these poems, so many images and the development of such a strong female character. She followed a brief allusion to the thief crucified alongside Jesus, which was also artfully woven in here. Again H.D. ties in mythology (Siren, mermaid, etc.). There’s even a glance at Lilith!

Though I found Trilogy to be quite a coded (down to the fact that it’s broken up into three parts, alluding to the holy trinity), I felt it was all well worked and very well thought out.  All three sections were divided into 43 parts, which sent me to research the numerology/symbolism of the number – 43 didn’t draw many results that I could tie definitively to H.D.’s poems (partially because I’m not sure how prevalent numerology was in her lifetime), but it is a number associated with the archangels in modern numerology.

*

 

I think my principal complaint, which isn’t purely complaint, is the repetitive themes – Greek mythology is pretty constant in theme. Though I love mythology, I did often wish there was more poetry separate from lore.

I give this book a 7/10.

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Book 63: Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction (Since 1970)

I read a chunk of this book for my CNF workshop this year, finishing it independently due wholly to my undying love for CNF.

The collection begins with JoAnn Beard’s essay “The Fourth State of Matter,” a stunning braided essay that deals with loss in multiple ways. Other essays are briefer, less grim (ie. Annie Dillard’s “Living Like Weasels”).

I’d say my favorite essays in the collection were;

Apologies for the few I couldn’t find available online. They’re all present in memoirs from the authors, however, and would likely be nice additions to any bookshelf.

There’s little to say cumulatively about an anthology like this, other than that it is full of wonderful prose and worth reading. There were two or three essays in the volume that I didn’t feel compelled to read to completion. Considering that this volume holds fifty essays, I’d say that’s an excellent ratio.

It’s my hope to finish one or two more books before this year escapes, though I make few promises.

I give the volume a 9/10.

Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present

Happy reading and happy holidays!

Book 62: Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb

Lamb makes a reference to one of my favorite Saints on the first page, Dymphna. Naming a nun for Dymphna is interesting, and it had me wondering whether the reference implied incest or mental illness; either way, I knew that Lamb had a deeper meaning loaded in there. One does not simply name a character for a Saint with no allusion intended. Unfortunately, she’s not present for much of the novel itself.

In high school I fell in love with Wally Lamb’s fiction, starting with The Hour I First Believed, and catapulting myself on to read  I Know This Much Is True, and later She’s Come Undone. I haven’t read We Are Water yet, though it is sitting on my shelf, waiting patiently. I’ve yet to pick up any of his nonfiction for myself, though I did gift a copy of one of the essay collections to a good friend last Christmas.

I chose to go ahead and read Wishin’ and Hopin’ because it’s a novel about Christmas, and it is, indeed, Christmas time. If I’m being honest, I haven’t been able to find the spirit this year. 2016 had been a tumultuous year for most of us, one that I’m not sorry to say goodbye to, and in turn it has been one that didn’t leave me much room for celebration. I picked up Wishin’ and Hopin’ with the goal to find some joy.

Lamb’s writing is so easy to read; it’s not easy in that it’s too simple, it’s easy in that his wit and diction are complex while still reading seamlessly. Because of this writing skill, I was two thirds into the book before I realized we’d yet to get to Christmas. Aside from the everyday goings-on of a 5th grader’s life, little of note had really happened in the story itself, either.

I will say that I’m not overly fond of such a young protagonist for a novel, especially one that’s not listed solely as YA.

The story is set in 1964, so civil rights was one of the first things to come to mind from the era. Lamb doesn’t address it much, other than going back and forth between calling the one boy in the class “colored” and then correcting it later, saying “black or Afro-American.” This one student in the catholic school also has a tagline: “Wait’ll the NAACP hears about this!” a nod to Sammy Davis Jr’s comment at the 1964 Oscars.

My favorite section of the book was the Epilogue; though it’s a work of fiction, I liked hearing the brief complexities that Lamb had molded their lives into. If only I felt the same way about the book itself…

I give the book 5/10.

Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story (Hardcover)

Happy reading!

Self Improvement Roundup 2016

I know it’s a bit early, but I’ve decided to go ahead and dedicate the rest of the year to other genres, I feel content with the amount of Self-Help I’ve read this year. In an effort to avoid posting ten things on NYE, I’m getting this up now.

I wanted to round-up my Self-Help/Personal Growth genre and give a little bit of feedback on what I’ve learned this year. I’ve previously reviewed all of these books, as they were part of my 52 week challenge, so you can look for those in the archives if you’re interested. They’re listed in the order that they appeared on the blog.

  • Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov
    • What I learned: The hope for a book about dating that doesn’t rely on gender stereotypes and weird sexism is not futile, though I am 99% sure that when I do find that book, the word “Bitch” will not be in the title.
  • Strong Looks Better Naked by Khloe Kardashian
    • What I learned: Kris Jenner likes Belvedere vodka. Khloe Kardashian likes to work out.
  • How to be a Bad Bitch by Amber Rose
    • What I learned: Never listen to the people putting you down, especially when they’re slut-shamers and assholes.
  • Raising Confident Girls by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer
    • What I learned: We, as a society, owe it to girls to instill them with self-worth and self-love from an early age. It is not something that comes naturally for most of us, as a woman and a sister, I need to do my part.
  • Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
    • What I learned: To say “yes” to the scary stuff, it often benefits us more than we can comprehend.
  • The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith
    • What I learned: There’s no use in searching for a blanket of surface-level happiness – meaning will always be worth more in the long-run.

I thoroughly enjoyed trying to improve myself this year, though I can promise you, a few of these books were little help in the venture. I found several, especially Rose, Rhimes, and Smith’s books, to be quite insightful. They’re three that I may revisit in the future. If I had to list my least favorites, Argov and Kardashian are a close tie.

Expect a post on New Year’s Eve encompassing all of my reading for the year! Cheers this holiday season, I hope you’re all finding your own happiness.

Book 61: Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou

As a fan of Maya Angelou’s writing and spirit, I was surprised to find that she’d been married. I knew of her child, her childhood, even the hooking ring that she’d run as detailed in Gather Together in My Name, but I didn’t know that she’d had a husband. This memoir begins by detailing that relationship; it’s strengths and its myriad of weaknesses, and eventually it’s failure.

In a big way this memoir is about Angelou’s dealings and relations with white people in her early 20’s. From her marriage to this Greek man and it’s failure to working in a strip club and finding herself more often than not one of few women of color in the room. Though the memoir starts with Angelou’s marriage, it delves moreso into her career as a dancer and her international travels as a result.

I feel luck, as a reader, to have read so much about Angelou’s life. This is my third memoir of hers, fourth book counting her collection of essays, Letter to My Daughter. Maya Angelou has taught me many things about myself, though that sounds illogical.

Angelos was Angelou’s married name, though one of her bosses suggested that she drop the s and substitute the u to avoid sounding “too Spanish or Italian.” It was in this segment of her life that she adopted the public name Maya Angelou – Marguerite wasn’t fitting as per the same boss’s opinion, so she returned to the nickname her brother had given her, Maya.

I will admit, there’s an instance in the 25th chapter where Angelou expresses a mildly homophobic sentiment, which was disappointing to say the least.

I read this memoir electronically, my Goodreads highlights can be accessed here.

I give this memoir a 9/10.

Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas

Happy reading!