2013 at 10am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
It’s been a damn good run, readers, and it’s time for the next thing.
After four years of actively blogging here (The Book Lady was born on July 1, 2008), several months of blogging-around-the-edges, and a few months of utterly neglecting this site in favor of other projects, I’ve decided to make it official. The Book Lady isn’t going away–I’ll leave the site up for a while, as it continues to get solid traffic and generate a little extra income with advertising–but I won’t be writing new content here. Let’s be real, I haven’t been doing that for a while.
For the last year and half, I’ve done most of my writing about books, the reading life, and the publishing industry at Book Riot, and now that Riot New Media Group has launched Food Riot, I’m stretching my writerly muscles in a new direction and learning to write about food and the eating life too. I spend my days not just reading and writing, but wrangling an incredible group of contributors and working on the business development side of the company too. My colleagues and our Riot writers are smart, funny, and ridiculously fun, and they teach me something new every day. I am constantly challenged and almost never bored.
These are good things, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, so I’m not sad to be acknowledging that The Book Lady’s days are over. Instead, I’m thrilled beyond thrilled that the work I did here has led to a career and to relationships–both personal and professional–I could never have imagined when I first began. And I am thankful for all of you who have shared your time, your thoughts, and your lives with me here over the years. Many of you have become my friends. A few of you have become my best friends. My life is completely different than it would have been, in more ways than I can count, if I had never started this blog. I have learned and grown so much, and it has been an irreplaceable experience.
And now it’s time for the next thing. So I hope you’ll come find me at Book Riot and Food Riot, and hang around to discover some of the amazing writers I work with. Follow me on Tumblr for quotes from my reading (of the literary and interwebby varieties), bite-sized thoughts on publishing, pop culture, and feminism, and random GIFs. Listen to the Bookrageous Podcast, where I talk books with two of the best friends I’d never have met if not for this blog. Find me on Twitter, and let’s talk.
Change is good. Forward motion is good. Knowing when a chapter is over is good. And you, awesome readers, are the best.
I’ll see you around the interweb.
2012 at 1pm Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
Y’all, I have written and re-written and re-re-written this list a dozen times, and I only managed to arrive at a Top Ten when my Bookrageous cohosts Josh and Jenn basically forced me to for our 2012 Favorites show. I went in with a list of 17 contenders–this was a damn fine year in reading–and didn’t know exactly which 10 I was going to pick until it was over. Here (in alphabetical order because they’re all too awesome to rank) are my 10 favorite books of 2012.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff: The story of a boy, Bit, who comes of age on a commune during its dying days, this novel could easily have been bitter, or a bummer, or a rant about how fraught the search for utopia can be. But in Groff’s capable hands, it’s a beautifully rendered examination of family, what the heart wants, and where our future could be taking us.
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King: This is the only YA book I read this year, and I’d feel bad about only reading one YA book in a year if it weren’t so freaking awesome. I sort of feel like if I only read one YA book a year for the rest of my life, it’s cool as long as it’s by A.S. King. This, her latest, is about a teenage girl making sense of her family’s dysfunctions and her own sexual identity, and she’s doing it with the help of Socrates as her imaginary friend. King trusts her readers to understand complex issues and pick up erudite references–this novel is packed with philosophy–and her signature use of the surreal is in full effect.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain: It’s no easy feat to be funny about war, or to be critical and satirical and angry without becoming preachy and pedantic. Ben Fountain manages all of that here, delivering the first great novel of the Iraq War and holding up a mirror that forces Americans to examine how we watch, consume, and engage with war. Biting social criticism with a side of Beyonce, Billy Lynn is well-balanced and not to be missed.
Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman: The best short story collection of the year (yes, better than that one by Junot Diaz) comes from a debut writer who nails our relationships with animals and the environment and what those relationships reveal about our humanity. Bergman’s stories are connected by theme, incisive observation, and great sympathy for her characters, flawed though they are. This book is a gem, and a great gift to readers.
Breasts by Florence Williams: You knew everything came down to boobs, didn’t you? Florence Williams presents a heavily researched and immensely fun-to-read look at the social and scientific history of breasts. There’s breast implants and breast cancer, family stories and futuristic technology, humor and heartbreak. And there’s a whole lot of awesome. This is hands down my favorite single-subject narrative nonfiction of the year.
Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston: From my rave on Book Riot: I read a lot of great fiction this year, and a lot of whoa-how-did-she-pull-that-off fiction. I read some fiction that held up a mirror to my life and asked me to look at myself in a new way, and some fiction that took my breath away with its heart and emotional nakedness. I even read some really fun fiction. But I only read one work of fiction that was all those things, and it was Pam Houston’s globetrotting novel-slash-memoir-slash-sorta-kinda-connected-short-storiesContents May Have Shifted. It was one of my first reads of 2012, and it’s the only one I’ve gone back to over and over. It’s about love and friendship (Houston nails the magic of friendship between women like no one else) and travel, and how sometimes we leave home looking for things we already have. And it’s the closest thing to perfect I’ve read in a really long time.
Diving Belles by Lucy Wood: Another kick-ass debut collection of short stories, this one’s filled with atmosphere and magic and sorta-creepy-but-in-a-delicious-way unexplained phenomena. Men are kidnapped by mermaids, women turn to stone, houses fill with flora, and Wood never tells us exactly why or how. The dark but playful stories and mind-blowing sentences between these pages beg to be savored
Home by Toni Morrison: Morrison’s tenth novel may not be her best, but it is still incredible. (Anything Morrison is better than almost anything not-Morrison, after all.) A tiny, powerful volume–interesting how her novels have contracted in length after the big stories of Beloved and Paradise–Home gave me impetus to re-read all 9 of ToMo’s previous novels, and so was a defining experience of my reading year. If you’ve never read Morrison, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Quiet by Susan Cain: American culture is obsessed with extroversion, with being outgoing and friendly and using social confidence to imply intelligence and skill. This is never more evident than in our schools and business places, and it is often to the detriment of not only the introverts who make up one-third to one-half of the population, but to us all. Some people need quiet and alone-time to thrive and do their best work, and when we acknowledge this and re-shape our classrooms and offices to reflect it, we all benefit. Susan Cain lays out the science and sociology of introversion and highlights significant contributions introverts have made to society to present the case for understanding introversion and making the places we spend our lives happier and more productive. This book reshaped how I think about my personality and the way I work, and I can’t say enough good things about it.
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers: Tight, taught, and profoundly affecting, Powers’ debut novel about the Iraq War is narrated by a young man who watched his best buddy die just eight months into their tour. Private Bartle was somehow involved in his friend Murphy’s death, and he reveals exactly what happened in chapters that shift from his time on the ground to his present-day several years after the war. At 240 pages, this exploration of war–what it does to soldiers, to the families they leave behind, and to humanity–packs a massive punch. Powers doesn’t waste a single word.
With love and shout-outs to Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway and The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka, two of the most fun and unexpected reading experiences of my year–I’d have picked them if Jenn hadn’t gotten to them first!
2012 at 5am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
So, I did this last week:
It’s a selection from Fahrenheit 451, one of my all-time favorites, and the first book that really changed me.
‘Stuff your eyes with wonder,’ he said, ‘live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal.’
So, why this quote, and why now?
Well, I’m about to turn 30, and I’ve doing a lot of reflecting on what it means to be at this stage of life and what I’ve learned. I feel like I’ve figured some things out in the last couple years–the kinds of things that make a person feel like she has a little wisdom (just a little)–and one of those things is that nothing is certain, and that’s okay. In fact, it can be pretty rad.
Often, people who say things like, “there are no guarantees” do it with a hard-won cynicism, and issue it as a warning. It’s a “watch out, kid, it’s ugly out there.” This is not about that. In fact, it’s about the opposite.
This has been was the scariest, risk-taking-est year of my life in ways both personal and professional, but it has also been the most exciting and rewarding. I don’t think it’s an accident or a coincidence that things line up that way. This has been a year of leaping without a net, of consciously choosing endeavors with endpoints unknown. It has been terrifying; it has been exhilarating. And I’ve realized that you can choose to live in the fear and be miserable, or you can let the risk be its own reward. There ARE no guarantees, ever, and when you accept that as a truth of life, the unknown becomes a lot less scary because you know that no matter how much you might like to think you can control things, everything, really, is unknown.
So this tattoo, these words from the writer whose work is part of my DNA, is my celebration of lessons learned and wisdom gained, and my reminder to myself that the certainty I might be tempted to reach for sometimes doesn’t exist. It can’t be found. “There never was such an animal.” Why go looking for it when I could stuff my eyes with wonder instead?
2012 at 5am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
Over at Book Riot, we’re surveying readers about their favorite books of 2012. There are no genre restrictions, no age or audience restrictions, and no authors or publishers campaigning for your votes. It’s just about YOU, as a reader, and what rang your reading bells this year. We’ll tabulate the results and share them before the holidays, giving you plenty time to scope out what you might have missed and add it to your wishlist.
I’ve been toiling and sweating, by which I mean writing and re-writing, my top picks for the year. My writing this year has focused a lot more on what it is to be a reader than on what I’ve read, so it’s been a long, strange trip coming up with the finalists. I’m not ready to reveal the whole list just yet, but I will tell you that one of the books I shared in the survey was Breasts by Florence Williams.
Dish it, please! I’d love to know about your best reads of the year, and if you’d pop over to Book Riot for the survey, that’d be awesome. Thanks, and happy Sunday!
2012 at 5am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that drama in the bookish internet is cyclical. Much like those hideous floral-and-lace-inset denim shorts that reappeared this summer (I’m pretty sure I owned a pair in 1988), these conversations are no better the second (or third, or ninth) time around. Many of them could benefit from greater nuance, but given the (incredibly low) likelihood that that’s going to happen–the interweb, you know, is not so great for nuance sometimes–it’s time for them to die. Over at Book Riot, fellow editor Jeff and I pulled on our crankypants and identified the top 10 conversations we never want to have again. Here we go!
#10: SAVE OUR BOOKSTORE
Rebecca Joines Schinsky: I’m just gonna come out with guns blazin’. I never want to hear another variation on, “Save this bookstore! Give them your dollars!” ever again. I love indie bookstores as much as the next girl, and I’m doing my part to keep my local’s doors open. I believe in voting with your wallet to support businesses you want to see stick around. But bookstore owners need to innovate and find new business models and ways to compete, and if they can’t, it shouldn’t fall to their customers to save them.
Jeff O’Neal: I agree—with a small qualifier. If a bookstore is looking for funds that will add or alter how they make money or that will reduce costs, I am more sympathetic. It’s the “give us money so we can keep doing things the same way,” I have a tough time being interested in. This also relates to the zero-sum game of giving: wouldn’t giving that money to beleaguered public libraries be money better spent? In the grand view of keeping books and reading supported? I need the Planet Money guys to do a podcast about this.
RJS: With you on that qualifier. Good point.
#9 CELEBRITY X GOT A BOOK DEAL, PUBLISHING IS DOOOOOOOMED
JSO: I am so tired of this one I can’t even trot out a not-funny joke. For some reason, if a publisher makes a money-grab acquisition, then literature itself is threatened. It may or may not be threatened, but the final hammer-strike will not be Snooki’s book or Meghan Fox’s confessional poetry (which I would read with extreme prejudice by the way).
RJS: Or Kate Upton’s Guide to Doing the Dougie (And Looking Fly)? I’m not even a little bit ashamed to admit I’d read that.
I think this dead horse gets reanimated and beaten up for a couple reasons. It gives writers who have been rejected by publishers a convenient way to explain their failure (and, you know, rejected writers owe their adoring publics an explanation about why they’re not published yet), and it’s an easy repository for all the free-floating anxiety in the publishing industry. Scared about the future of books? Blame a Kardashian!