Read 26 Indy Reading Challenge for 2014

Early in January of 2014, Indy Star Reporter Michael Anthony Adams issued a challenge to Indiana residents for the new year:

New Year’s resolutions are rarely acted on. I’m guilty of it, and you’re guilty of it. The trick is to have support, which is exactly what #Read26Indy is. But instead of having a few friends hold you accountable for your vows, you have an entire city.

The pledge: I’m calling on every Hoosier to read 26 books in 2014. Think of it as your informal education, a collective challenge. One book every two weeks. That’s 20 pages a day (if you figure that the average novel is 280-300 pages long). When you start a book, let everyone know about it on Twitter by using the hashtag #Read26Indy. Feel like telling us what you’re drinking while you’re reading? Have at it, but use #Read26Indy. Can’t stand a character? Want to rant about it? #Read26Indy is your pedestal. The point is to read. Like Faulkner said, “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad.”

Can’t decide what to read? Tweet it out. #Read26Indy has already gathered a large following, and people are eager to tell you about their favorite books. I’ll also be keeping this page up-to-date with what I’m reading and I urge you to join our Goodreads group, #Read26Indy, to discuss your picks with other readers.

Part way through January, they mentioned that comic books count! I could finish in a couple weeks if I include them. For my personal challenge, I’ll note comic books but not count them against my official total. I’m going to pin this post to my main page and update as I add titles throughout the year.

So far my finished titles are:

This Is How You Lose Her
Author: Junot Diaz
Rated: 4 stars. Very well written with strong characters. I just had a hard time identifying with the protagonist, because all of his problems came through his own self-absorption.

The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Rated: 5 stars. Everything I love about reading – being so caught up that I forget the rest of the world exists, wanting to highlight whole passages and re-read whole sections, frantically looking up quotes and references to get at additional layers of meaning – all come together here. The book I set down after the I finished the last page is a completely different one than I thought I was reading after the first chapter, and winding up in a different place than I expected and yet feeling like it all made sense and could be true is, I think, a hallmark of a truly skilled author.

Hawkeye: Little Hits, Vol. 2
Author: Matt Fraction
Rated: 4 stars. Smart and sardonic, the story of a hapless hero who seems to swing and miss an awful lot. Beautifully drawn work.
The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender
Author: Sam Killermann
2022 update: – I’ve since come to understand that Sam Killerman is a cisgender man who co-opted the work of many transgender people to put together this guide, and unfortunately he makes money on it at the expense of the people who originally wrote the work. Rated: 4 stars. Available as a free ebook, so no reason not to pick up a copy. Worth reading for the discussion of the fallacies of The Golden Rule alone – Killermann suggest replacing “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” with the more thoughtful “do unto others as they would have you do to them” and his logic is impeccable; he challenged (and improved!) one of the basic principles I’ve always followed.

But the book really shines when it leads you through understanding of gender and especially how people who don’t conform to the male/female gender binary see themselves in the world. It’s eye-opening and will change your perspective in a healthy way for yourself and the people around you.

Veronica Mars: An Original Mystery by Rob Thomas: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Vintage)
Author: Rob Thomas
Rated: 3 stars. Iffy. It didn’t advance the story threads that were left open in the movie at all.
Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man
Author: Chaz Bono.
Rated: 3 stars. I understood Chaz’ story a lot better, and had a lot of sympathy for what he dealt with in coming to terms with his gender identity. I had trouble relating to some of the ways he spoke about transitioning, because he rejected completely and didn’t identify with any female experience from his life. I think in contemplating my own gender identity I feel an ownership of both feminine and masculine experiences and identities, so the way Chaz wrote about things seemed foreign to me. After reading this I watched the documentary “Becoming Chaz” and related a lot more to what Chaz was saying as he transitioned on screen. In some cases that seems hard to put into words, but when Chaz speaks with his own voice it’s easier to understand.
The Actor’s Guide To Murder
Author: Rick Copp
Rated: 1 star. This is a terrible book and I’m not going to link to a sales page for it. It’s incredibly transphobic – in fact it’s worth spoiling the “mystery” – the killer is a trans woman who commits murder to pay for her transitions. Because of course those crazy trans folks will go nuts and murder people in order to transition. Just a piece of crap writing all around.
The Golem and the Jinni: A Novel (P.S.)
Author: Helene Wecker
Rated: 5 stars. A delightful read by a first-time author. Very impressive.
The Woman Upstairs
Author: Claire Messud
Rated: 4 stars. I have a friend who disliked the ending, but I loved it. I was afraid it was going to be a tragic book throughout, but was happy to find that was not the case.
Tony’s Treasure Hunt
Author: Holly Peterson
Cute children’s book that I happened to buy a single framed page of several years ago. Tony finds a series of clues and follows them to find a treasure.
Seating Arrangements
Author: Maggie Shipstead
Rated: 4 stars.
Funny, exasperating, self-absorbed white people who behave outrageously while convinced they’re proper and upstanding. It seemed very realistic to me. Not sure why there are so many angry reviews about this book on goodreads. Certainly the characters were idiots, but they were engaging idiots.
Mrs Queen Takes the Train: A Novel
Author: William Kuhn
Rated: 3 stars.
An upcoming book club selection, so I’m bound by the first and second rules of book club – “Don’t discuss the book before book club” I’ll circle back and write a review after.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel
Author: Robin Sloan
Rated: 3 stars
Another fun light read. It prioritizes using technology and computers over doing the work yourself, and seems to promote the idea that reading is done strictly for data gathering purposes. A very google-like approach to books that entirely misses the point. As does Google, in general.
The Secret History
Author: Donna Tart
Rated: 4 stars. I enjoyed the storyline but didn’t really care for any of the characters, even the protagonist. A bunch of jackasses, all of them. It’s well-written and smart but I feel some impatience at stories where there are literally no sympathetic characters in sight. I supposed there are groups of utter jerks out there, but why bother with them? Do we need to hear their stories?
Miss Buncle’s Book
Author: D.E. Smith
Rated: 4 stars.
When I picked up this funny little book to read the back cover, I was dismayed to find that it was very like a story I was writing myself about a woman who writes about her neighbors in a smash hit book and then has to weather the storm of their consternation. I was a bit put out, actually, until I realized the story was originally published in 1936 and reprinted recently with a very charming cover. I suppose I can’t be too upset that someone had the same funny idea I did 32 years before I was born. And my story only starts there and then gets pretty racy, where this book remains charming and sweet throughout. The characters are sharply drawn and the controversies are small, the conceit of a book within a book is nicely recursed with yet another book being written by the characters of the book inside the book inside this one, and there is a rather outrageous denouement with a kidnapping that it’s fairly easy to forgive given that they satirize it themselves. They only think the didn’t tie up was whether the Mrs. Goldsmith’s dilemma with the bakery buns solved itself; they leave you to return to the beginning and work it out yourself.
Continue ReadingRead 26 Indy Reading Challenge for 2014

Nancy Drew “Girl Detective” T-shirt

I’ve loved Nancy Drew since I was a kid, and I had a cool shirt with Pamela Sue Martin’s face on in when I was in elementary school. I always wished I had one with the silhouette on it, so I made one for myself. And you, if you want to buy one. They’re for sale on

Nancy Drew T-shirt

Nancy Drew T-shirt

I also put the design on a iPad case, if you’d like to carry your Girl Detective around that way instead.

Nancy Drew iPad Cover

Nancy Drew iPad Cover

Continue ReadingNancy Drew “Girl Detective” T-shirt

Me and my shallow brain

Howdy? How have you all been. It’s been so long since we talked. I’ve been cheating on you with Facebook, I admit it. But Facebook is giving me tennis elbow, (damned Farmville!) so I need to lay off the junk for awhile.

Also, according to Nicholas Carr in his rather alarming book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains – Facebook is making me stupid. Actually, the whole internet is. It’s probably your fault.

Seriously, though – the book set off some alarm bells for me. The central idea is this – the way we read on the internet is fundamentally different than how we read books and longer works of literature, and that difference in the way we read is re-writing our neural pathways and fundamentally changing the way we think as well. People who have been reading and writing on the internet, because it makes us prone to skimming, focusing in short bursts, and jumping from one thought to the next, have lost the ability to concentrate on reading a single lengthy work. We’ve lost the ability to focus on tasks for long periods of time. We’re addicted to feeding our brains with short bursts of knowledge, and we keep going back to that like lab mice to the food.

I heard Carr speak at SXSW, and I immediately could recognize on a personal level what he was talking about – it’s partly the concept I was struggling to express in my “Goodbye Twitter” blog post:

2) Micro-thinking
When you have to parse every statement down to 140 characters, you throw out complexities, paraphrase, and, inevitably, make your meaning less clear. You start to think in simpler thoughts. After tweeting for so long, I find it to be a struggle to think things out and examine ideas in a more complex form. Hence the lack of longer writing on this blog. That is a trend I desperately need to reverse.

I can sit down and read light reading, but if I have to sustain attention for any length of time, I’m screwed. I’ve been trying to pick up and read Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” for three years. It’s only 7 volumes. I read more than that in a year. I should be able to read and comprehend it. But I can’t stay focused for anything more than the first 30 pages. That’s ridiculous.
And other books have given me problems, too. The Diane Arbus biography was a struggle. Non-fiction leaves me stranded mid-chapter. To tell you the truth, even this book “The Shallows” is giving me fits. And I whole-heartedly want to read it.

So how do I “fix” it? That is indeed my question, and one that I tried to ask him at SXSW in vain, because I couldn’t get his attention. So I snapped up the book as soon as it was published in hopes that he provides an answer. I haven’t finished the book yet (see above problem) so I don’t know the solution.
Carr dives pretty deeply into how the brain works – especially the insight science has gathered over the last 30 years. Turns out that our brain makes new neural pathways throughout our lives – our development isn’t stuck in one place after adolescence. We can re-write and re-map our brain’s functionality throughout our lives, simply by doing different things, training our brain to act differently. And the internet is training us to think differently than we have in the past — that may or may not be a good thing.

I’m going to finish this book – I swear I will. And at that time I’m going to revisit this subject and answer some of the outstanding questions in my head. We’ll see if I get there.

UPDATE 2012: I never finished this book. So…
2022-03-12 Update: I went back to Twitter eventually, but not under my own name, and I mostly do political posting.
Continue ReadingMe and my shallow brain

links for 2010-01-21

Continue Readinglinks for 2010-01-21

Stimulating Reading

My feed reader is often a bloodbath; I add to and purge my regular web reading ruthlessly, and yet it’s always overstuffed and I’m perpetually behind. There are some mainstays; ego surfing my own feeds and some friends to whom I would feel embarrassed conversing In Real Life if I hadn’t kept up with their online presence. I have obligatory web design and development reading, but I often mark them all read and just search if there’s a solution I need, because if I spend much time thinking about work after hours my head would probably asplode.

My regular topic areas have shifted drastically as of late; I have now only follow two sites that deal with political issues in any form (that used to be my primary reading) and there are a large number of photography sites in my list. And lately I’ve been purging lots of high volume sites and sites that don’t write original content. Gone are the link aggregators (I know that’s ironic since many of my blog posts are that lately) in favorite of longer, in depth reading that I have to spend more time thinking about. I’m still having trouble keeping up with the reading, but it is at least more satisfying.

Here are a few of my favorites (most new and some old):
The Urbanophile
Politically, I disagree with him quite a bit, but he does know his urban development, which is something I know very little about but find quite interesting. I think if I were to win the lottery, I’d get a masters in urban planning. And then run for mayor.

3 Quarks Daily
Ben and Alice
Roger Ebert’s Journal
Tomorrow Museum
Neil Gaiman’s Journal
Scouting NY
and of course Shakesville.

More and more I’m considering wholesale purging my feed reader of all but these select few, in hopes of actually staying on top of all my reading. Maybe someday soon.

Continue ReadingStimulating Reading

Books I Read in 2008

It’s my 12th Annual end of the year reading recap. Grand total: 30 books. I don’t think that’s my lowest total, but it’s no 98 titles like in 1997. And boy, oh boy did I hit the genre fiction this year. It did help to have lots of fun light reading while all the wedding planning and such was going on — too much to think about during all that to be reading weighty tomes.

Maybe I’ll finally get that “year of reading Proust” started in 2009. Ha! Who am I kidding? I started Swann’s Way more than once and kept falling asleep. I should go back to it just to cure my insomnia. I have lots of other good books on my shelves, so I need to range further afield in the coming year, though.

  1. The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
  2. The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman
  3. Locked Rooms (Mary Russell Novels) by Laurie R. King
  4. The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King
  5. Standard Hero Behavior by John David Anderson
  6. The Best of MAKE (Make) by Mark Frauenfelder and Gareth Branwyn
  7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Volume 1: The Long Way Home by Joss Whedon, Andy Owens, Georges Jeanty, and Jo Chen
  8. Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert
  9. The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman
  10. Jane and His Lordship’s Legacy (Jane Austen Mysteries, book 8) by Stephanie Barron
  11. Justice Hall (Mary Russell Novels) by Laurie R. King
  12. The Game (Mary Russell Novels) by Laurie R. King
  13. The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes
  14. The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay
  15. The Archivist: A Novel by Martha Cooley
  16. The Egyptologist: A Novel by Arthur Phillips
  17. Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck
  18. Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon
  19. The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte
  20. Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis
  21. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  22. The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby
  23. Night Work (Kate Martinelli Mysteries) by Laurie R. King
  24. A Grave Talent (Kate Martinelli Mysteries) by Laurie R. King
  25. To Play The Fool (Kate Martinelli Mysteries) by Laurie R. King
  26. With Child (Kate Martinelli Mysteries) by Laurie R. King
  27. The Spice Box by Lou Jane Temple
  28. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
  29. Snobs by Julian Fellowes
  30. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Continue ReadingBooks I Read in 2008

Books I’ve Read – November and December 2008

A Grave Talent (Kate Martinelli Mysteries)
by Laurie R. King
To Play The Fool (Kate Martinelli Mysteries)
by Laurie R. King
With Child (Kate Martinelli Mysteries)
by Laurie R. King
Earlier this year, I read the fourth and fifth books in the Kate Martinelli Series. This time I circled back around and read the first three to get caught up. These aren’t terrible, but I don’t enjoy them as much as I liked King’s other series – The Mary Russell mysteries, set in Sherlock Holmes’ era. The Martinelli mysteries seem much darker and grimmer. But still interesting reading; I obviously read them all the way through and picked up others. 🙂
I actually also started but couldn’t finish another Laurie R. King novel — A Darker Place. Set in a cult – it started out too creepy for me so I couldn’t finish. Maybe I’ll pick it back up in the summertime.
The Spice Box
by Lou Jane Temple
A nicely-written mystery. I’ll look forward to reading more from this series. — “The first of a new food-themed historical series, Temple’s charming tale of New York City in the Civil War era introduces Bridget Heaney, a clever, streetwise Irish immigrant. The day Bridget starts as an assistant cook in the Manhattan household of wealthy merchant Isaac Gold, she makes a terrible discovery: the body of the family’s youngest son, Seth, who’d been missing, crammed inside a dough box.”
by Emma Donoghue
“Donoghue takes scraps of the intriguing true story of Mary Saunders, a servant girl who murdered her mistress in 1763, and fashions from them an intelligent and mesmerizing historical novel.” — I just thought it was grim and upsetting. I read it on recommendation from several people who loved it. I did not feel the same.
by Julian Fellowes
Fellowes also wrote the script for Gosford Park. Snobs is an entertaining comedic look at the snobbery of British upper class, set in the 1990s.
Bel Canto
by Ann Patchett
Invoking the first and second rules of book club.

Continue ReadingBooks I’ve Read – November and December 2008