Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Step Right Up and Get Your New Year's Resolution Here! That, Or Tell Me What to Read.

As The Rejectionist reminded me, tis the season to get those New Year's resolutions ready! My resolutions are as follows:

1. Rock the knee-high argyle socks off my job, and rock 'em good.

2. Complete my version of the 10-10-10 reading challenge, to which I linked at the end of Amanda's awesome guest post from last week. The challenge is to read ten books from each of ten different, self-selected categories by October 10th.

100 books in ten months is an ambitious goal, but what I like even more about the challenge is its focus on diverse reading. The challenge pushes readers to tackle writing styles which challenge them, explore new categories of books with an open mind, and discover new reading interests.

I'm not sure I'll make it to ten books in each category, so I'm striving for a modest five instead. And that's where you come in! My categories are below, but I need suggestions.

feminism, gender studies and queer theory
Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

---> I could use more suggestions, particularly of a well-researched history of feminism in the U.S., definitive texts in these fields or good overviews of contemporary thinking in these areas.

graphic novels
In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe by Jonathan Scott Fuqua
From Hell by Alan Moore
The Sandman, Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
Maus by Art Spiegelman

classics I haven't read yet
The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'Connor
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

---> What else should I have read by now?

books I would normally scoff at
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

---> Okay, this is the category for anyone who wants to torture me, or force me to change my mind about a book. What do you think -- should I read the autobiography of Justin Bieber? Some crazy conspiracy theory? Lay it on me!

contemporary literary fiction
A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

---> Did I make the right choices? What books have changed you or made you think recently?

books I bought but haven't read yet
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson
Darkmans by Nicola Barker
Season of Secrets by Sally Nicholls (okay, I admit, this is a bit of a guilty pleasure, and it's not even out yet... but I worked on it as an intern, so I already know I'll buy it, and I won't be able to wait to read it!)
The Naming by Alison Croggon
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

books with people of color on their covers
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
Huntress by Malinda Lo

---> What are your favorites? I'm looking for fiction here, but that can be adult, children's, genre -- whatever!

literary journals and collections of poetry or short stories
War Dances by Sherman Alexie
Things You Should Know by A.M. Homes
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

---> I really need to add some poetry or a literary journal to this list. What are your favorites?

genre literature (sci-fi/fantasy)
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Scar by China Mieville

---> Okay, genre mavens -- what are your favorites? Bonus points for subversive themes like gender-bending and addressing issues of discrimination.

trade nonfiction
The Great Typo Hunt by Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson
The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood by Maria Tatar

Hit me up in comments with your suggestions!

Better yet, I hope some of you will join me for this challenge. Feel free to post your categories in comments. I'll be happy to send some suggestions right back at you -- and hopefully so will my other readers!


  1. Might want to reconsider Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I didn't much enjoy it, and neither did this reviewer: (the article is a great read even if you plan on reading the book anyway.)

    As far as sci-fi/fantasy, I love the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix; and if you'll include spec in there, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins. If you want some YA fiction that'll be a super fast read, when I was a kid I loved the Magic Shop Books by Bruce Coville, esp. Jennifer Murdley's Toad and Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. For YA fantasy, The Princess Tales series by Gail Carson Levine is a good time.

    My two favorite poets are Louise Gluck and Michael Brennan, and they both have books out. First Lines is an interesting lit mag.

    Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adiche has a POC on the cover and is supposed to be really good.

    All I can think of for now...take or leave my suggestions!

  2. Collections of Poetry:
    Any collection of Rainer Maria Rilke's work. Depending on your comfort level you could pick up an original German collection or an English translation. I love Stephen Mitchell's translations of the work.

    Genre Literature:
    Biting the Sun by Tanith Lee (Sidenote: Bonus points for a solid gender identity theme)
    Shade's Children by Garth Nix
    Deerskin by Robin McKinley

    Just a few suggestions. Hope they help.

  3. For YA SF - two great novels came out this year that look at discrimination and class in a SF context. BLACK HOLE SUN by David Macinnis Gil and SHIP BREAKER by Paolo Bacigalupi (was a National Book Award finalist).

    For feminism, I just added two titles to my TBR list - THE FEMINIST PROMISE by Christine Stansell looks at the feminist movement from 1792 onwards and looks at the intersection of racism and sexism. AFTER THE VOTE WAS WON by Katherine H. Adams and Michael L. Keene follows the careers of 15 suffragists following the suffrage movement. A book I HAVE actually read and can't recommend enough is WOMEN'S LETTERS edited by Lisa Grunwald, which is straight up a collection of letters written by American women from the Revolutionary War up to the present. It provides a fascinating insight into the daily lives of women both ordinary and extraordinary. There's a gruelling account of a mastectomy done before we had anesthesia. Some amazing stuff in there (and Amazon is telling me there's a paperback version now - get that if you can, because the hardcover is ridiculously heavy).

  4. Hey Rachel,
    I'm not good at recommending books, but I can't resist this one:
    Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy: Knowledge Here Begins Out There by Jason Eberl. I haven't read it, but I've read some good reviews and I think I gave it to my friend as a gift awhile back.

    Also, I liked Eats, Shoots and Leaves, but the humor is a bit out there. And if you want to borrow any books from me, feel free! I have that one, The Road (great choice!!) and The Grapes of Wrath (which I hated but a lot of folks in my lit class liked). Kudos on taking on such a great challenge!!

  5. Lily, I listened to the Abhorsen Trilogy on audiobook (narrated by Tim Curry, hurrah!) earlier this year, and enjoyed it. And Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher is one of my favorite books! I had no idea it was part of a series, so I might just check out that other one. Alas, Half of a Yellow Sun doesn't count for PoCs because the character is in silhouette, which is kind of a cop-out. But I was hoping you'd suggest a good lit mag -- I will definitely pick up a copy of First Lines.

    Robyn, I'm a little daunted by reading Rilke on a timeline, but it's on my list for eventually. And I was meaning to ask you what the sci-fi you'd recommended was -- Biting the Sun is definitely on my list now.

    Angela, I reeeeally want to read Ship Breaker! I'm not sure I'm going to fit it in next year, so maybe I can get to it this month. And I'm so glad you recommended feminist books -- I was going to drag recommendations out of you if you didn't offer them up. If you want a reading buddy for The Feminist Promise, I'll definitely be that.

    Amanda, you know my (current) weakness so well! I'm gonna bump Eats, Shoots and Leaves out in favor of the Battlestar Galactica book. Because I am such an addict. And I would love to borrow your books -- beats driving to the library!

  6. We had some serious beefs with Whipping Girl but it's still totally worth reading. Have also heard very good things about Delusions of Gender. Redemption in Indigo is awesome and is sci-fi WITH a person of color on the cover. Hooray resolutions!!! Hooray books!

  7. From your list, Farenheit 451 and Ender's Game are both excellent. And I'll back Stephen Mitchell's work, too, especially The Enlightened Mind.

    Now off to check out this Battlestar Galactica book...

  8. For poetry, you could try Kim Addonizio's What is this Thing Called Love or Gerry LaFemina's Graffiti Heart. I own Addonizio's volume; LaFemina's would probably be easy to find.

  9. For gender, She's Not the Man I Married is quite possibly one of the best books I've ever read on gender. Lots to chew on.

    Poetry-I second anything by Kim Addonizio. Marie Howe, Major Jackson, June Jordan and Saul Williams.

    Graphic novels-Marjane Satrapi. She is uh-mazing!

  10. Nonfiction: Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language. I've heard very good things (although I haven't gotten around to reading it yet).

    Gender studies: Stone Butch Blues: A Novel by Leslie Feinberg. Obviously not nonfiction, but a very compelling and educational read nonetheless. Feinberg has written nonfiction about trans/gender issues as well, but I haven't read any of it.

    Sci-Fi/Fantasy: The First Immortal or The Truth Machine, both by James Halperin. Futuristic, pseudo-utopian, thoughtful. In high fantasy, D&D inspired fashion, Homeland by R. A. Salvatore. It's the introductory book for one of his long running characters, a dark elf. Discrimination is a central theme. (There are about 15 of these books now, I've read about half so far...)

    Books to scoff at: Anything in the Anita Blake (vampires) or Merry Gentry (old world fey) lines by Laurell Hamilton. The first Anita Blake book is Guilty Pleasures. Pick this one if you want something clean. The first Merry Gentry book is A Kiss of Shadows. Pick this one if you want smut. ;)

    Please do read Fahrenheit 451 (or the absolutely beautiful graphic novel version). It's one I never get tired of. Also definitely something by Vonnegut, although the first thing I always recommend from him is Welcome to the Monkey House, a book of short stories.

    This sounds like fun! But I'd never make it....

  11. Of these that I have read, I recommend The Alchemist, Ender's Game, and The Stuff of Thought!

  12. And so many others I'd like to add to my list as well! Good choices.

  13. There are other books in the Magic Shop Books series, but Jennifer Murdley's Toad is one of the best. Also, you must have a different copy of Half of a Yellow Sun than me - the cover I know looks like this:

    Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent may fit the "gender studies" one, by a stretch (or the nonfiction category) but it's a fascinating book and a pretty fast read. I had some issues with a few of the assertions it made, but it's a good book overall.