Category Archives: personal

New art and a new reading challenge

I got a new stretched canvas for my office. The office is the only place in the house that I let myself put anything I choose on the walls, theme, coordination or quality be damned. If I like it, I’ll have it.

Not to suggest that this Icanvas print isn’t quality of a sort, but the rest of the house tends to run toward large, heavily framed prints. It’s not a great photo, but Mizuki by Audrey Kawasaki is what’s above the bed for example:

Though I’ve shrunk it so it doesn’t compete for attention with the canvas that is the point of this post, that frame is almost 30×30 inches (please never let it fall on us in our sleep). So, an unframed whimsical print of science fiction books is a departure from the norm. But I so loved it when I saw it that I insta-bought it, even though I didn’t really have a place for it. (In fact, I wish I’d bought the bigger size.)

After I moved Kawasaki’s Where I Rest out of place (this* one –>), I sat staring at the books and telling my husband how happy I was to see Binti and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet included among such giants as Asimov and Le Guin. But also how I was distressed that Martha Well’s All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries) isn’t included. It 100% deserves to be. In fact, once noticed, its absence sapped a little of my love of the print away. I mean, look, I even tweeted at Icanvas about it.

Hey @icanvas_art, if you’re going to include #Binti and #thelongwaytoasmallangryplanet in this stack of classic sci-fi (which I totally agree with) you gotta get #Murderbot in there too! I’d even buy a second copy. 🙂 pic.twitter.com/aaEuuR7Pzu — @rbnsnzsr

This led me to a second thought. If I was so happy to see Binti and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet included, and was desperate to get Murderbot added, why no excitement for The Martian? It was published in 2014, so it’s basically just as contemporary as the others. Part of it might have been that it’s written by a man and I’m always rooting to see women included. But Dune, by Frank Herbert, is one of my all-time favorite books (even if it by a man). So I decided it wasn’t the gender issue. It was simply that I haven’t read it!

All of the books included here are well known, familiar to me, science fiction. Suddenly I had to stop and think how many of them I love by virtue of being sci-fi cannon and how many I had actually read. Before that very moment I’d have told you of course I’ve read all the classics. But once I was really thinking about it, I realized that couldn’t be true. I hadn’t read The Martian, for example. So, off to Goodreads and my reading list I went. And shock followed.

I started Left to right:

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: a favorite, read
  • The Martian Chronicles: Ray freaking-Bradbury, NOT READ
  • Brave New World: read in high school
  • Binti: started this whole process, obviously read
  • The Martian: NOT READ
  • The Left Hand of Darkness: read it last year when Le Guin died
  • The Diamond Age: What!? owned but NOT READ
  • Solaris: also NOT READ
  • The Foundation Trilogy: thank god, read the whole series
  • The Time Machine: Wells. freaking Wells, and NOT READ
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: NOT READ
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: read
  • Hyperion: read
  • Neuromancer: read and loved
  • Dawn: by Octavia Butler! NOT READ
  • Dune: a favorite, read
  • Starship Troopers: read
  • Ender’s Game: read
  • Childhood Ends: NOT READ

Eight—almost half of the books—I discovered that I’ve not read. This is a travesty that cannot be allowed to stand. I mean, for one, If I’m going to hang the picture on my wall (even if just my office wall), I should be able to point to it and know I’ve read them all, but also I’m a sci-fi/fantasy junkie and THEY’RE SCI-FI CLASSICS. How did I let this happen? Obviously, I’m going to fix it. It’s July. I have five months until the end of the year, and by that point I will have read these eight books that I have somehow grievously neglected in my life.

I don’t think I’ll bother coming back and linking reviews here. But I am setting it as an official reading challenge for myself. I do so love to have a plan. Wish me happy reading.


*
Yes, I'm totally vain enough that I spread out those two in the back so they could be seen, and there is another on the wall above. They'd been stacked together to be re-hung. I have a new one at the framer's (and a small one waiting to be framed by me) and I'm going to make a collage wall of them. I'll add a picture when it's done. But, though you can probably guess Kawasaki is my husband and my favorite artist, she's not the point of this post. But once I'd posted one, I just ran with it. 

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019

I usually do this as two posts, but I’ll be honest, the last few months this blog hasn’t gotten a lot of attention. It’s just been a matter of life getting in the way, but the result is things like a compressed New Years Eve – New Years post. Be that as it may, let’s get on with discussing how it went in 2018 and what to expect in 2019.

I feel like there were two 2018s in my life; the first half, in which I read a ton and everything was normal, and the second half, where my family taught me to game and introduced me to the Xbox, so a chunk of my reading time became gaming time. Overall however, I read or listened to 207 books in 2018. I initially set that goal for 250, but reduced it to 200 when it became obvious I wasn’t reading as much as normal. So, I call this half-met. I reached my re-calibrated goal, but not the initial one. Plus, quite a few were short this year.

2018 Challenges

After the traditional December scramble to find a book by authors with names that start with Q, U and X, I successfully completed my Alphabet Challenge. I even got a good laugh out of the fact that when I reviewed the X author (Meg Xuemei X), I discovered that exactly one year earlier I’d read and reviewed a book by her. Last years last-minute X book.

I have several ongoing challenges on this blog, ones that I set and either let falter or just keep adding to, so they never end. The two I’m still actively working at are to read all the books I own (or borrow or buy) with characters of color on the cover and to read all the small physical books I own.

I’ve actually gone back and forwards on this first challenge. The original idea was to try and counteract the publishing dictum that books with characters of color on the cover don’t sell as well as other book. I can’t afford to buy tons of books, but I can read and review them. The hope being that each review might contribute to the decision to publish another such book. Sometimes I think the challenge is a good thing and other times I think I’m just being presumptuous, arrogant and performative, playing the ‘white hero,’ etc. This is especially true considering how long it’s taking me. I’ve come close to deleting it several times.

So far I’ve reminded myself that having a set challenge is a way to keep myself aware that it takes effort to see change and allowing myself to fall back into I don’t pay attention to who is on the cover (because I otherwise don’t) means I’m also not paying attention to who so often isn’t on covers and thereby represented. Eventually, I called it “ongoing,” but I still fear having a list makes it look like I’m seeking a cookie for “see how many I’ve read, what a good ally I am!” I’m going to keep at it, but I also might give in to the urge to delete the initial post too.

The second challenge has been an abysmal failure and continues to be. The original idea was to read all my small books to clear space on my shelves, which are lined two deep and still overflowing. I thought it would be quick. The problem became that I replaced the books as quickly as I read them* (and that several of them are niche and don’t hold overall, I’ll read it right now, appeal). So, though the stack has changed over time, there is still a stack on the corner of my desk, waiting to be read. I’ll keep chipping away at it.

Best of 2018

To close out 2018 I really should do a best of list. But man, I find these SO hard. I don’t gravitate towards ranking things I love, but rather just loving them all. But based on nothing more official than my own enjoyment and how well it’s stayed in my memory, my three favorite books of 2018 were:

I love the Murderbot series and recommend it to everyone. The books are short and punchy and funny and well worth the read, even if the series is getting a little serial-like as it goes on. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a book I only read because my bookclub chose it. I never would have picked it up otherwise. But I’m so glad I did. It was lovely. And Leviathan Wakes is one of those book I seem to see recommended by everyone, so I finally read it and saw why. Book two in the series is on my table right now, waiting to be read.

2019 Challenges

In the past I’ve set out several reading challenges for forthcoming years. But until I really come back online with my reading and blogging, I’m just going to do the general Goodreads challenge (with a goal of 200 books), this blog’s alphabet challenge (in which I read a book by an author for each letter of the alphabet), and continue my ongoing challenges (reading all my physical small books and reading more books with characters of color on the covers).

And that’s it. That’s the end of 2018 (Can you believe that year?) and what I’m aiming for in 2019. Surely it has to be better, right. I mean the world has to be less crazy, right? If not, I suppose I’ll bury myself in books and fantasy worlds instead.

Here’s to all of you. Have a wonderful 2019!

*Many of these are books I’ve won or been given. I just finished saying how I can’t afford to buy a lot of books.

I’m on hiatus

 

FYI:
I’m hitting the road again. This time packing the family into a rental van and heading to Yellowstone for a few weeks. I’m not taking a computer, so, though I’ll be reading, I won’t be able to post until I get home. Feel free to explore the site, but there won’t be anything new for a little while (and then they’ll be a whole flood of reviews).