The Call of the Wild by Jack London

CalloftheWildI can certainly understand why this book is on the Banned Books that Shaped America list—it is quite violent, but at least it’s not completely gratuitous. Though London writes detailed scenes of human and animal brutality, Buck’s is a story of strength, dignity, loyalty, and, above all, survival. Honestly, given the tragedies that were committed and occurring in the early 1900s, I’m surprised it’s not worse.

No. 8 on my challenge.

Fun fact: this is the first audiobook that I have listened to and it took me a very long time to finish it because the narrator’s voice was so soothing that he kept lulling me to sleep.

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Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

TristesseThis short novel was the first work published by French author Françoise Sagan. She was eighteen, and this detestable story featuring a detestable teenage child was (apparently) based on her own experiences.

Seventeen-year-old Cécile is spoiled, demanding, ungrateful, careless, lazy, and self-absorbed—a true enfant terrible. I genuinely dislike her. And yet, I can whole-heartedly relate to her. Not to the way she puts her own happiness and comforts above all else and others, or how she sabotages her doting father’s relationships to suit her own motives, or the carefree summer days she spends on the beach and in the water at a gorgeous French villa, torturing a law student with her sexual awakening, mind you. To those points I certainly cannot relate. But to her teenage woe, the direness of her self-perceived situation, and the strength of her emotions (however misguided they may be)? As a woman who was once just a fledgling—I unfortunately can. I wish I couldn’t. But, having been a child herself when she wrote Cécile, François managed to perfectly capture the best and worst things about being a teenaged girl: everything is raw and urgent and absolutely critical.

So yes, I can recognize pieces of myself in the horrible Cécile. I can also recognize that this novella of only 130 pages is brilliantly and beautifully written. And, despite Cécile—and perhaps even François—I really loved it. Thank you for the recommendation, Lara.

No. 18 on my challenge.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I keep a book journal. In it, I keep track of everything I read, the dates on which I cracked it open and slammed it shut, give it a rating out of five stars, and write a few lines. It was my blog before I started my blog. I read The Hate U Give in one day last September, and though I didn’t immediately share my thoughts with you lovely people, I did write three pages worth of notes in my little red “What I Read Journal.” Here’s what I thought then, and still do now:

THUG_ThomasMaybe it’s because I’ve just read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, or because I’ve recently come to enjoy and appreciate the music of NWA, or because of everything happening in the US right now, but I feel like all of these things and more have converged so that when I did read this incredible book, I would have better context and the message might ring louder and truer. This novel deserves to be read by everyone. Forever. Thomas did a remarkable job depicting all sides of the conflict—victims, cops, white friends, black culture . . . this is not a one-sided manifesto—it is an important commentary on violence, racism, the cultural divide, community, friendship, and family and so much more. It’s shocking and engrossing and is really about how, if you want change, you have to speak up for yourself and for what you believe in; you have to fight against those who oppress you and fight even harder against your own fears. This book is frustrating, and heartbreaking, and frighteningly like real life, but it is funny, and hopeful, and a damn. good. book. 

Oh, and I gave it seven stars. For real.

No. 1 on my challenge.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X As Told to Alex Haley

MalcolmX.HaleyI have to admit, this book is the reason I stopped writing reviews last year. It’s an important book, people. It’s been lauded since 1965. Proof:

“Extraordinary . . . [a] brilliant, painful, important book.”
—Eliot Fremont-Smith, New York Times, 1965

“Will surely become one of the classics in American autobiography.” —John William Ward, historian, 1967

“A mesmerizing page-turner.” —Variety, 1992

“Required reading.” —TIME, 1998

It’s so celebrated that I didn’t know how to write anything that a) would do it any justice, and b) would not make me look like an ass. I still don’t. But what I do know is that getting to read this book was absolutely worth my process of stealing it from my hometown library, carting it half way across the country, getting snitched on by my mother, and subsequently scolded by my librarian (and one-time babysitter). It’s important for a reason. Malcolm X was a truly remarkable man and, though I don’t agree with much of what he preached for most of his career—the Nation of Islam is a whole other kettle of fish that I can’t even pretend to understand—there are some extremely powerful messages to be found in his life story and lessons to be learned from the life (or lives) that he lived. I am glad I read it. You should, too.

No. 7 on my challenge.

AuthaGraph World Map; I want it.

Have you seen this new world map? It won a prestigious design award in Japan and is now being used in text books for Japanese students.

Authagraph

Now, I have a map on my wall at home. It was a $5 purchase from the local bookstore that I threw in a cheap, ill-fitting Walmart frame and wrote “wanderlust” along the side of—et voila, decor. It’s hung behind my couch for about four years now, and just a few months ago I was alerted to the fact—by my intoxicated friend, no less—that it is severely out of date. It features the Dominion of Canada, the USSR, and Yugoslavia for crying out loud. Antarctica isn’t even on it! It’s probably actively making me dumber.

But this map is way better. It’s up to date on the world’s countries, it includes all the continents, AND it shows us just how far we’ve been mislead by every single map we’ve ever seen. I’m telling you, the AuthaGraph is friggen cool. And to prove it, I’ve stolen an entire article from all_that_is_interesting.com.

On November 3, 2016, reporter Michael Gardiner reported:

You probably don’t realize it, but virtually every world map you’ve ever seen is wrong. And while the new AuthaGraph World Map may look strange, it is in fact the most accurate map you’ve ever seen.

The world maps we’re all used to operate off of the Mercator projection, a cartographic technique developed by Flemish geographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569. This imperfect technique gave us a map that was “right side up,” orderly, and useful for ship navigation — but also one that distorted both the size of many landmasses and the distances between them.

To correct these distortions, Tokyo-based architect and artist Hajime Narukawa created the AuthaGraph map over the course of several years using a complex process that essentially amounts to taking the globe (more accurate than any Mercator map) and flattening it out:

Narukawa’s process indeed succeeded in creating a map that no longer shrinks Africa, enlarges Antarctica, or minimizes the vastness of the Pacific — and the list goes on.

In recognition of Narukawa’s success, he’s now beaten out thousands of other contestants to receive this year’s Grand Award from Japan’s Good Design Awards, and his map is featured in textbooks for Japanese schoolchildren.

“AuthaGraph faithfully represents all oceans [and] continents, including the neglected Antarctica,” according to the Good Design Awards, and shows “an advanced precise perspective of our planet.”

Furthermore, according to Narukawa, his map means a lot more than just a faithful cartographical representation of our planet. Because Earth is now facing down issues like climate change and contentious territorial sea claims, Narukawa believes that the planet needs to look at itself in a new light — a view that perceives the interests of our planet first and its countries second.

Hey there hi there how the heck are ya

Well hello there!

llama

It’s been a hot minute, friends, and I just want to start off by saying HAPPY NEW YEAR / 30th BIRTHDAY TO ME / VALENTINE’S DAY / ST PATRICK’S DAY / EASTER / SPRING! How the heck are ya? I missed you!

As you may or (more likely) may not have noticed, I failed at my 2017 book challenge. I failed hard, people. Not only did I not complete the totally doable list of 26 books, I also didn’t post (or even write) reviews for the majority of the books that I did read, AND I didn’t finish reading an embarrassing number of the books that I started to read. So yeah. Not great. But we’re well into 2018 and I’m back, Baby! What’s more: I HAVE been reading and I CAN do better . . . or at the very least I can update my blog. So, coming up:

  • The Autobiography of Malcom X as told to Alex Haley
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
  • Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Judging a Book by Its Lover by Lauren Leto
  • The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
  • The Revenant by Michael Punke
  • Girl at War by Sara Nović
  • Etta and Otto and Russel and James by Emma Hooper
  • One Day Closer by Lorinda Stewart
  • Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

And now, for my next trick paragraph, I can tell you that in 2018, instead of tackling another challenge with my dear friend Rosie, I decided to join not one but two book clubs (and—unrelated, but a super fun time nonetheless—a choir) with another dear friend, Jessica. So I’ll have to review those, too:

  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty 
  • The Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese
  • Next Year for Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson
  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Furthermore, because I’m a rebel, I think I can read whatever the heck I want to read whenever the heck I want to read it, whether it’s on a list or not. So you’ll be getting reviews for these, as well:

  • Blameless by Gail Carriger
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrille Zevin
  • I Can’t Make This Up by Kevin Hart with Neil Strauss
  • Astray by Emma Donoghue

Finally (thanks for sticking with me, folks), as you may know, I don’t review books that I’ve read for work, but I do like to list them to subtly suggest ya’ll read them, too. So if you want to know what we’ve been working on, check out this page.

Fin.