On Award Winning Books

I’ve read several award winning books this year. Going as high as the Pulitzer and National Book Awards, but also more regional prizes. I’ve never read a book simply because of its praise, but when seeing “winner of the Pulitzer Prize” on the cover it does raise my expectations just a tad for the book.

Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t found these books to be consistently great. Some have been downright bad. Now that I’m writing this it is starting to make sense. I wouldn’t enjoy every best picture nominee/winner. I wouldn’t enjoy every album nominated for album of the year. I guess I’m biased because books are the medium I enjoy the most. So if a book is said to be good, it better be?

Am I losing it or what? πŸ˜‚

I Need More Goodreads Friends

I’ve always tracked all of my reading. I’ve had Word docs and spreadsheets set up to document just about everything you can think of. That was before I embraced Goodreads. But now I’m using it more than ever. I only have 17 friends and most of them don’t actually post any updates.

At this point the app (or website) is the easiest way of holding yourself accountable. It’s so easy to use and you get to keep up with what your friends are reading and posting. I’ve seen people with thousands of Friends and think to myself, “Is this Facebook?”. Not really looking for that, but racing everyone (unknown to them) to reach our reading goal for the year is kind of fun.

I think you can add me here.

Do you use Goodreads at all?

Reading During a Pandemic

I will first acknowledge I’ve been one of the lucky ones during these last few months. I never faced the prospect of a furlough or layoff and still don’t. My employer did what many others were forced to do this Spring and sent just about everyone to work from home. Six months in and it’s impossible to know when things may go back to “normal”.

With that said, I’ve been reading quite a bit more these last few months. My eight hour shift is eight hours. No 20 minute drive. No waking up an hour before my shift. That extra time has translated into more pages read and more sleep, if I’m being honest.

Once I finish two more books 2020 will be my second best year of reading and after 15 more would be my best. I’ve settled into a routine recently. Every night after the end of my shift I try to devote 30-60 minutes to reading. Some nights I do it. Some I don’t. But I’ve come up with a two-part plan going forward. I try to read one book during the week and finish another each weekend. I’m about to finish my 5th book this month, so it appears to be working.

Now could I have done this same thing without a pandemic changing daily life? Yes. But I know myself. It wouldn’t have happened.

What have you done differently this year? More reading? Less? DIY projects around the house? Tell me, tell me.

Bestsellers and Me: Brave New World

In returning to the blog (posted all five days I planned to last week!) it also means a return to my channel. With my first video back I’m starting a new series. Clearly, it’s called Bestsellers and Me. The idea is to follow up with a video whenever I read a bestseller. I can see the gears of your brain turning, “But what qualifies as a bestseller?”. Glad you asked. For my purposes I’m going to consider a book a bestseller if it has more than 100k ratings on Goodreads. Easy enough.

First in the series is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It would be cool if you watch, but no hard feelings if you don’t. You can also just tell me what you thought of the book.

2020 in Books: The Girls

This is the fourth and final entry (for now) in my series discussing the books I’ve been reading lately. Today we’re taking about Emma Cline’s The Girls.

The book takes us into the lives of the Manson family, one member in particular. It leads up to their most notorious crime. It’s a fictionalized version, of course. On the surface you might be intrigued when hearing that, but don’t be.

When I go to the bookstore (only Half Price Books) I always check online first to see if my store has what I’m looking for. Buying this book was one of those rare occurrences I happened to see it on the shelf and though I knew nothing about the story itself, I remembered when it was first published it had been quite the bestseller. So I bought it.

The book alternates between the 60s and the present when our protagonist (if you can even call her that) is middle aged. I hate repeating myself from an earlier post in this series, but nothing happened. The book doesn’t go into the actual crimes committed. It gives a perspective from within the family before they’re committed and talks about the aftermath. But again, nothing happens and chapters stretch on and on of nothing. It couldn’t be more exhausting.

Upon completion my first thought was that I’d have been better off reading a true crime account of the family and their crimes. Maybe I will at some point. I’m sure you can see where this is going. I’ve rated three books this year as one star. This is one of them.

2020 in Books: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This is the third in my series to talk about some of the books I’ve been reading this year. Next up is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

The book takes you on a long journey through generations of Oscar’s family. From Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR) to NJ and back again several times over. Though the book gives insight into some of their experiences under Trujillo’s dictatorship, most of the story follows Oscar and his love for writing, science fiction, and his never-ending attempt to find what he thinks is love.

This was a very recent read for me (as in last week). One thing that gave me pause at the start is the narrator uses the n-word quite a bit. It was almost a turn off, but the use drops way down after the first chapter or two.

With the book following several members of Oscar’s family, it becomes clear early on that they’re dark-skinned. It also becomes clear that the DR is no different from the US and other western countries in that dark-skinned people are treated as lesser than their lighter skinned counterparts. This was interesting because so often we’re made to think of Latin countries as third world or developing. Yet the US isn’t always more advanced, even as we constantly say otherwise.

What I found most relatable about this is how indicative it is of the Hispanic experience in 20th century DR and the US. Either Oscar, his mother, or his sister go back to the DR several times throughout the story. This is something that happens all the time. And sure people of other nationalities do the same, but the US has become much more Hispanic in recent decades. As a Mexican-American I hadn’t read previously such an Hispanic story. That’s more on me than anything.

I didn’t grow up in a Spanish-speaking household. I wish I had, but the concept of Spanglish is something even I’m familiar with. Intertwining both languages effortlessly happens in so many households every single day that it’s impossible to put a number on it. That’s how this book is written and it makes it all the more genuine. Don’t ask me if I bought a lifetime subscription to Rosetta Stone afterward because I won’t tell you. Yesterday I said I couldn’t understand how that book won the Pulitzer. Not the case with this one.

This is an unabashedly Hispanic/Latin story and it could not have been better written. Every so often you read a book you know you won’t soon forget. This is one of those few. The best book I’ve read this year and #6 ever for me. An incredible work. 5 stars.

This is one of Amazon’s 100 books everyone should read.

2020 in Books: The Road

This is the second in my series to discuss some of the books I’ve been reading lately. Some good and some not. Today’s book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

We follow a father and son along a road in post apocalyptic North America. As I sit here trying to give just a little bit more of a plot description I realize there’s nothing else to say about it. We follow them as they try to stay alive along this road, but that’s it.

I have serious problems with just about every aspect of this book. There are no names for the characters. The father is the father and the son is the son. I might be mistaken (I read this a few months ago), but I don’t think the book has chapters and the punctuation is not proper. I never could figure the point for writing this way. My only guess is because it’s in this post apocalyptic world that the author felt it best to show that grammatical norms don’t matter when everyone and everything has been destroyed.

I’d love to write about the action or the climax of the story to give more insight, but there’s neither. Nothing happens in the story. This book won the Pulitzer and was adapted into a movie. I haven’t seen the movie and likely won’t, but there should be a White House Commission to investigate who was bribed to award this book the Pulitzer. If you couldn’t tell, I rated this 1 star. It’s also worth noting that this book is partially responsible for a nearly two month gap in my reading this year after I started and stopped because there was not a thing to keep me interested. Thoughts?

This is one of Amazon’s 100 books everyone should read.

2020 in Books: Slaughterhouse Five

I said in yesterday’s post I wanted to write about some of the books I’ve read so far in 2020, and look at me actually doing it. I’m starting with one I know some of you have read. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Billy Pilgrim takes us through his life as he time travels through different periods, most notably to when he’s captured by Germans just before the Allied bombing of Dresden at the end of WWII.

What bothered me most about the book is the time travel. It happens from one sentence to the next with no warning and keeps you as the reader jumping around in your head trying to figure out where he’s gone back (or forward) to now. But that may not be the worst part. During the course of his life Billy is taken to an alien planet and put on display in what amounts to a zoo. Just writing it takes me back to the absurdity of it.

It would have been perfectly okay to write the same story minus the alien planet and time travel. The Allies bombed an unguarded city at the end of the war, killing tens of thousands. The story could begin just prior to the bombing and tell of the destruction and death that follows. But it doesn’t.

I rated it between 1-2 stars, erring on the slightly higher end. Thoughts?

This is one of Amazon’s 100 Books Everyone Should Read.

Welp. I Should Have Been Blogging This Year

I hate those “I’m back!” posts everyone always feels inclined to write when they’ve been away from their blog for an extended period. Now I’m proceeding to write another.

I checked. I haven’t posted since last April. You know what else happened last April? Of course you don’t, how could you? I made the decision to buy my first house. 🏑

Last May I made an offer for the third time, but unlike the previous two this one was accepted! *happy dance* πŸ•ΊπŸ»We went through everything and I got the key to my home June 28th.

In the almost 16 months since, I’ve found myself learning and doing more than I expected. I do all of my own yard work. I’ve cut down and removed three trees from the yard. I’ve replaced every light fixture in the house. I replaced all of the door knobs. I re-seeded my backyard. But none of that is the fun part.

Last September (2019) I was lying on my sofa scrolling through vehicles for sale online. I had no intention of acting on my searches until I found this guy! Fully electric and FANCY.

I previously had two bookshelves from Walmart. No more!

Bought, built, and painted by me! I’ve since added quite a few to the read shelves (first two on the left), so I’m getting close to building more. These are my babies. After these I added a smaller one I use as my TBR shelf.

Once I had these in place I moved on to a sofa table. I had way too much room in my living room.

Hehe. This came out nicely. Most recently at the start of the pandemic I finally set up my home office.

Only about a week after my job sent everyone to work from home I added to the family. πŸ•

And it’s been Fabio and I ever since. Like so many people I’m still working from home. No idea when or if I’ll go back into the office at some point. The beauty of being home ALL THE TIME is I’ve been taking advantage of the additional time to actually read. Maybe you know, probably you don’t, but my goal every year is to read 50 books. 8(!) years ago as a junior in college I came close with 44. The previous two years I read 31 twice. In the years since I’ve disappointed myself over and over again. But I’ve finally found my groove. Right before opening the app to write this post I finished my 28th book of the year. Hearing that with no context you’ll probably think to yourself that we have no time left to get to 50. Meh. I’ve read 11 since the final week of August. This. Is. The. Year.

I know 2020 has been rough for so many among us. All we can do is take things a day at a time.

What I plan on doing as I get back into the swing of things on here is telling you about the best and worst of my 2020 reads so far. I’ve got plenty of thoughts, as always.