A year ago, I surveyed my media habits after six months of pandemic living. I looked at bookish blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts. My podcast consumption had suffered the most, since I didn’t drive anywhere. I was also feeling too burned out and disconnected to keep up – imagine, we weren’t even in the second wave yet! Now, from deep in the fourth wave, it’s time to take stock.
Lately I find myself drawn to podcasts. They lend themselves to projects, conversation, and retrospectives, rather than roundups and book hauls, and the tone tends to be more soothing than your average YouTube video. My only frustration with podcasts is that, unlike blogs and YouTube, there’s no comment section.
But that’s the whole point of a blog, right? Spouting off unqualified opinions? Who needs a comment section!
A new bookish podcast launched this month, and it seems tailor made for me. Mr. Difficult is a podcast devoted to Jonathan Franzen, both his works and his public persona. The “project” is reading and discussing Franzen’s novels in order of publication, culminating in Crossroads.
The hosts, writers Erin Somers and Alex Shephard, plus producer Eric Jett, are not fully fledged Franzen stans. In the first episode, they acknowledge that he is difficult to love, and easy to dunk on. Alex says he’s “attracted and repelled” by him, and Erin says she’s somewhere between a lover and hater. Personally, I find his dunkability endearing, but that’s just me…Continue reading
August is Women in Translation month, or #WITmonth. Created and hosted by the tireless Meytal of Biblibio since 2014, and this year debuting a shiny new website, #WITmonth is just what it sounds like: a month celebrating women, transgender, and nonbinary authors who write in other languages. It’s also just a great way to discover books that are off the beaten path.
Due to unforeseen circumstances (my own poor planning), I will not be reading any women in translation this August. Deciding to read from the 1,001 Books list this summer was my first mistake. If you think the canon is bad for including women, wait until you see how many women writing in other languages there are! I’m not counting, but not many! So I will take this opportunity to hype the three qualifying books I read earlier this year.
- Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell: I’ve read all three of Schweblin’s books in English translation, and this may be an unpopular opinion, but I like Little Eyes the best. Fever Dream was a bit too vague for me, and Mouthful of Birds, like most story collections, suffered from unevenness. They were both a bit too showy with the magical realism as well. I’ve read a lot of Gabriel Garcia Márquez, so my expectations are pretty high on that front! But Little Eyes is the perfect blend of dystopia, speculative fiction, and character study. It’s also halfway between a novel and a story collection in a way that I found captivating. The premise, that a Furby-like toy could allow an anonymous person to watch your every move, lends itself to questions (would you try it? Would you be a keeper, who is watched, or a dweller, who watches?) and unexpected fallout for the keepers and dwellers we get to watch. This is as good as Margaret Atwood at her speculative best (and Schweblin doesn’t bristle *quite as much* at the genre label, though she doesn’t quite embrace it either).
- The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison: It’s been several months since I finished this International Booker Prize winner, and I don’t think I’ve processed it, so there’s not a lot I can say, except that it’s one of the most powerful and bleak books I’ve ever read. Though I am seeing several parallels to my current read, Independent People by Halldór Laxness. Both are centered on isolated farming families who are barely hanging on financially, and are then struck by losses both animal and human. Laxness’ story is from the perspective of the patriarch (thus far) while Rijneveld gives us a child narrator. Coming of age, and father-daughter relationships, are also central to both. I’ll think about this more once I finish Independent People, but in the meantime, I can’t recommend The Discomfort of Evening enough, though I do suggest you brace yourself.
- The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen, translation from the Danish by Tiina Nunnally and Michael Favala Goldman: I know these are memoirs, but they read like a more direct and subversive version of Neopolitan Novels. Less flowery and lyrical than I expected from a celebrated poet, but full of perfect images and sentences, I flew through this book and desperately wanted more. Ditlevsen was a prolific writer, but there’s not a lot more out there in English. Hopefully, the success of this trilogy will spur publishers and translators to give us more.
I have mixed feelings about tags, but I love that this one is straightforward and book focused (none of that “name a book that has an orange tea cup on the cover” or whatever), and I was tagged by the lovely Naty, so here we are!
The rules, as set out by original poster Ally:
- Tag Ally @ Ally Writes Things so I can see your recommendations!
- Give at least one recommendation for each of the prompts below
- If you don’t have a recommendation, talk about a book you want to read
- Tag your friends
I will additionally challenge myself to mention recently read books, or at least, ones I haven’t talked about much.
A book about friendship
Days by Moonlight by André Alexis is a roadtrip novel about unlikely friends. A troubled young man accompanies an older friend of his deceased parents on a quest to find a reclusive poet, and their travels through Ontario take them to some weird places. I was about to call it a fever dream of a novel, when I remembered their destination ends up being a town called Feversham. Alexis is the type of author who can pull this off.Continue reading
This month marks ten years since I started Reading in Bed, with the less-than-SMART goal of reading the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Assigning no numerical goal or timeline, it was neither Specific nor Timely, but the blog was conceived as a way to Measure my progress. How Achievable or Realistic it was I will leave for you to judge.
I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what a “book blog” was. I didn’t know what an ARC was. I didn’t know about tags, or Top Ten Tuesday, or what “YA” meant. I was a reader without a community or a culture.
Forays into Bookstagram, Booktube, podcasting, and formal book reviewing were fun, but not my thing. I kept coming back to the blog. And so did some of you. Thank you so much. I’m not a stats person, but it’s nice to know someone’s reading.
If you’re new here, or just want to accompany me down memory lane, here’s a Reading in Bed starter pack, with your favs and mine.
Reading in Bed’s greatest hits
- Stoner by John Williams (review): Probably students looking to plagarize their essays
- Booktube: I have seen the future, and it has great hair: I wasn’t the only one curious about Booktube in 2014
- The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice (review): Probably people looking to illegally download this erotic classic
- The Fault in Our Stars: Use Your (Literary) Allusion (review): Definitely students looking to plagarize their essays
- What’s the Deal with Infinite Jest?: the eternal question
My favourite posts
- On Manifestos: I was angry in this one!
- Franzen Blaming: If you’re coming for JFranz, you better have receipts
- Michael Ondaatje Wins Macewan Book of the Year, Remains Sexy While Doing So: self-explanatory?
- Jonathan Frazen and Jennifer Weiner: The Shocking Truth Behind Their Bitter Feud: the closest I’ve come to a conspiracy theory
- Book-loving hedonists and alienated intellectuals: why readers need to settle down about reading: This still pretty much describes my perspective on literary and “bookish” culture
- Good Morning, Shopaholic: or, in defence of Sophie Kinsella
- War and Peace: Did you Get the Memo? or, Office Space as modern W&P adaptation
- Reading Dostoyevsky to own the libs: thought I better include something recent, and this was… something
No life lessons on this anniversary, but my thoughts from five years ago still stand.
Let me begin by apologizing for using “much” where I should have used “many,” but it’s a play on Michael Pollan’s “Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.” thing, so I’m letting it go.
And yes, Pollan’s advice would probably make a better 2021 goal for me, but alas, this isn’t a food blog.
Here are my plans for 2021, a little more than 10% of the way through.Continue reading
Remember last year when I whined about “only” reading 64 books?
Speaking of 2019: the first book I read was The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai, about a new and mysterious virus, and the last one was Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. And yet I wasn’t prepared for 2020, not for a pandemic, and not to take it stoically. Which just confirms my stance on reading, that it does not make one a better person nor prepare one for life’s challenges. It’s just entertainment And That’s Okay.
My reading in 2020 was even less prolific (whether or not it’s as portentous remains to be seen). I read 44 books, a low point in my blogging career, not counting years in which I gave birth. Covid is a simiarly life-altering event, I suppose. I’m relatively unscathed, but not much reading was happening in spring and summer. I still managed to read a few gooders though, and I am hopeful for next year. I even have some plans in mind. Planning ahead: what a concept!Continue reading
The biggest hit to my media consumption, bigger than blogs or ‘tube, has to be podcasts. I never had a long commute, only about 45 minutes or so in the car most weekdays, but I also used to drive to yoga classes, offsite meetings, and other archaic activites. Now? Well, I filled my tank (in a panic) on March 13 and didn’t get anywhere near empty till August…Continue reading
My Booktube consumption took a bigger hit than my book blog reading when the pandemic hit. Not only were my usual contexts for watching gone (putting makeup on in the morning being the main one), but there was something about it, as a medium, that felt more frivolous than blogs. It certainly didn’t fit in with my new daily YouTube schedule, consisting of Justin’s morning chat at 9:00 am, and the Chief Medical Officer’s daily scolding at 3:30 pm.
For the first few months, I would mostly just peek at random channels, to see who was keeping up with the grind of wrap ups and TBRs despite it all, and who was adjusting their content. Now, I’m slowly getting back into watching, but the urge to create is pretty much gone. Never say never, but… it might be a never. There are plenty of reasons for that, most of which have nothing to do with the pandemic. Here are some of the channels that I’m still watching:Continue reading
This post by The Paperback Princess has me thinking about how my reading has changed, six months into the pandemic.
I don’t think my *book* reading has changed much at all, except in quantity. That was already on a downward trend. In 2019, I read 64 books, far from my usual 90+. The reasons for that are here. This year I’m trending towards forty books. The reason for that, briefly, is that…
Embarking on a quantity-based reading challenge in the midst of a pandemic-induced reading slump? What could go wrong?
Fortunately, Cathy, our fearless 20 Books of Summer leader, is very flexible. This challenge will be less about quantity for me, and more about making time for some books I’ve been meaning to get to, and hopefully, posting reviews here. I had so much fun in 2019, writing about disgusting teen boys, Puritans, cannibals, and yes, Jonathan Franzen (and he’s back this year!)
Here’s the stack, and a quick note about each book’s providence:
- The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang – purchased at Glass Bookshop‘s Valentine’s Day sale
- Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Coles, bought “for my husband”, no he hasn’t read it
- Give War and Peace a Chance by Andrew D. Kaufman – Garage sale, I think?
- Green Darkness by Anya Seton – not a clue, had this for many years
- Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy – Garge sale
- Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner – Chapters
- River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay – Coles
- This Marlowe by Michelle Butler Hallett – from the publisher, years ago (sorry)
- The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell – Wee Book Inn
- The Known World by Edward P. Jones – borrowed from my mom
- In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje – a long-ago library sale
- The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrente – an emergency same-day delivery from Glass Bookshop
- Three Women by Lisa Taddeo – borrowed from a coworker
- Milkman by Anna Burns – Wee Book Inn
- Quartet by Jean Rhys – antique mall
- Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos – Blackwell’s
- Real Life by Brandon Taylor – Glass Bookshop
- The End of the End of the Earth – Coles
- Nerve by Eva Holland – Glass Bookshop
- Weather by Jenny Offill – Glass Bookshop
Given that I haven’t even read 20 books this year, the chances of me reading, let alone reviewing, this whole list is slim. Expect DNFs, random order, round up reviews – you know, the usual.
Are you ready? Let’s see those stacks!