Tagged: Books

new year’s roundup

You’d think, since I wasn’t working on a new book, I would’ve had tons of time to read in 2010, right? Well, I kept plenty busy with a promotion at my day job, organizing two local craft show events and travelling a ton. I kept on making handmade journals and cards, and I also joined a collective and started blogging about my Pyrex addiction. I did still manage to read a respectable 41 books in 2010. Here are some highlights from the last year:

My favorite fiction of 2010*

  1. Siobhan Vivian, “Same Difference”
    I don’t usually read teen fiction, but I met Siobhan in Pittsburgh this summer, and she’s a totally lovely person. I read this book just before going to my 10-year high school reunion, and it made me so grateful for my BFFs back in school.
  2. William Gibson, “Virtual Light”
    Published in 1993, this book is the first in a series of books that includes one of my very favorite novels of Gibson’s — “Idoru.” Even though the internet barely was a blip on the cultural radar in 1993, this book is barely dated. I chalk that up to the fact that Gibson must be able to see the future.
  3. Elna Baker, “The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance”
    I read this book at the very beginning of 2010, but its charm has still stuck with me. (And I have to admit I didn’t read a ton of fiction this year.)

My favorite nonfiction of 2010*

  1. Jaron Lanier, “You Are Not A Gadget
    I just finished this book before Christmas, and I’ve been telling everyone I know about it. I don’t think I can do it justice in a three-sentence review. Please, just go get it from your local library or bookstore.
  2. Adrian Nicole Leblanc, “Random Family”
    Another book that I was telling everybody I knew about when I read it.  Read this and watch “The Wire” and you’ve got yourself an education.
  3. Ellen Ruppel Shell, “Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture”
    This book combines big-picture thinking with detailed historical examples—Walmart gets mentioned, sure, but they’re just a recent incarnation of an age-old American phenomenon. Even though it’s not about crafters per se, “Cheap” was totally relevant to discussions I’ve had about Etsy and craft pricing.

Favorite places I visited in 2010

  1. Montreal
    I’m in love with this city, and one of my goals for 2011 is to go back. I have no pictures of myself in Montreal — I only have pictures of the food I ate.
  2. Seattle
    I visited Seattle a few years ago and didn’t like it that much (too grungy, no pun intended), but this year I spent two days in Capitol Hill for the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs and LOVED it.
  3. South Bend, IN
    Weird, I know, but spending a summer evening at the Pulaski field watching Yo La Tengo and Wilco was heavenly. Also, there’s AMAZING thrifting in north central Indiana**.

I’ve started off 2011 with good friends and good food, and I started digging into my 2010 finances for tax time and installed Quickbooks on my Mac. I get so into tax time. Every year, I wait anxiously for my W2 to arrive so I can file and get my refund as early as possible. This year I’ve finally got an accountant. Wahey!

All in all, 2010 was a pretty kickass year. I have no doubt that 2011 will be equally awesome (if not moreso). We’ve already set the date for the next Crafty Supermarket—May 7!—and there are a bunch of other craft events I want to go to as well. (San Francisco, Pittsburgh and DC, I am looking at you.) I’ll turn 29 this year, and with 30 edging ever nearer***, I started creating a list of 30 things to do before I turn 30. (I don’t know that I’ll make it public; it’s more for my personal recordkeeping and gratification.)

I would like to blog more often this year—this blog will likely shift from book reviews to more craft stuff, and lord knows there will be plenty of that this year. Craft on!

* These books weren’t necessarily published in 2010 — I just read them last year.
** I spent an inordinate amount of time in Indiana in 2010.
*** Holy crap.

notable recent reads

Long time no blog, right? But I’m back with three recently read, utterly awesome books, all written by women with three names:

Adrian Nicole Leblanc, “Random Family”
Leblanc spent a decade hanging out with a random family from the Bronx, then she wrote this book. I’d read an interview with her in New New Journalism but just now read this book, which is just an amazing piece of creative nonfiction. It’s something like 500 pages, but I couldn’t put it down. I read some criticism of the book that took her nonjudgmental approach to reporting the story as her supporting the decisions the protagonists made, which weren’t always the hottest decisions. But I thought the dispassionate approach to writing the story kept it the protagonists’ story — would you let somebody judging you follow you around for 10 years? Probably not.

Ellen Ruppel Shell, “Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture”
If you have any interest in sustainability, business ethics or human rights, you have to read this book. It opened my eyes to a lot of the assumptions we make about things we buy, why we react the way we do to low prices, and why handmade is more important than ever.

Esther Pearl Watson, “Unlovable, Vol. 2”
Possibly even better than the first Unlovable comic collection!

Lotsa good books getting read in 2010… with the way I’m hitting the nonfiction so hard, I might not make it to 50, but I’ll keep trying.

Graydon Carter, George Kalogerakis and Kurt Andersen, “SPY: The Funny Years”

I found an old issue of this acerbic, New York-centric magazine for a dollar and fell in love with it. Got a good deal on this hardcover from Copacetic Comics in Pittsburgh!

Published: 2006, 304 pp.
Obtained via: Copacetic
Date started: 2.10.09
Date finished: 2.30.09

What I liked: The mid-’80s seem like such a heady time to start a magazine. The economy was good, and the technology was laughably low-tech. The founding editors, Graydon Carter and Kurt Andersen, are recognizable names now—Carter’s the editor of Vanity Fair, and Andersen is a novelist and the host of Studio 360. It seems like everybody who got in on the ground floor at SPY went on to do great things. Sounds like heaven.
I also loved the page scans of notorious articles, and the pranks the staff would pull using only a fax machine and moxie.
What I didn’t like: Once I finished reading, I remembered how dismal the current magazine industry is. Around 1993, the original staff had fled, and the last few years of the magazine were decidedly less funny, hence the title.
What I learned: Staying true to your ideals works for a while. But when the ride’s over, it doesn’t mean you stop moving.

Holy crap, my book’s almost real

Current word count: 25,035 (out of 30,000)

A little more than a month left until my manuscript deadline, and I have reached my Jan. 1 goal of 25,000 words a few days early! It’s incredible to see the progress I’ve made. The book still has some holes and placeholders, but my to-do list is manageable, and the end is in sight. Of course, after I turn in the manuscript in February, there’s still a few months of editing to come. :)

Malcolm Gladwell, “Blink”

Malcolm Gladwell is a writer for the New Yorker, and he cracks me up.

Published: 2005, 280 pp.
Obtained via: Library
Date started: 10.12.08
Date finished: 11.10.08
What I liked: The question he asks in this book is how do we know the things we know? Why are first impressions so often, and so immediately, accurate? He explores the concept of thin-slicing—picking out the details that matter from the chaff our senses generate. The examples come from everywhere—the music industry, law enforcement, psychology, art history. Totally fascinating.
What I didn’t like: No complaints!
Oh, also: Seriously, listen to this episode of This American Life.

Alan Corey, “A Million Bucks by 30”

Reminds me quite a bit of the dishwasher book and the red paperclip book in that it’s written by a dude with an amazing story who isn’t really much of a writer. See the last item for more…

Published: 2008, 224 pp.
Obtained via: Library
Date started: 11.2.08
Date finished: 11.2.08
What I liked: This guy, broke and straight out of college, decides he’s gonna make a million bucks by the time he’s 30. He’s got some good tips on being really frugal. And I read the whole thing in a day.
What I didn’t like: He went into real estate to make his money. Boring!
Oh, also: He relies really heavily on two jokes: “Jesus H. [random word]!” and “What the [celebrity’s name that starts with F]?” This gets old real fast.

Steve Martin, “Shopgirl”

I love Steve Martin.

Published: 2000, 144 pp.
Obtained via: Library
Date started: 9.29.08
Date finished: 10.3.08
What I liked: In this story of a shy glove saleswoman, her slacker friend with benefits and her older admirer, Martin acts as an omnipotent narrator, describing their lives in detail without ego or judgment.
What I didn’t like: This book was much more about description than dialogue, and although it worked, I felt like I wanted to hear the characters more. Maybe I’ll be satisfied with the movie.
What I learned: Steve Martin can really do fiction.