A Short Rant

The Youth Media Awards were announced this week. The book Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly won the Newbery Award. I saw one person on Facebook comment that the one review of the book mentioned that the r word is used a lot in the book. I don’t now what review that was, but I found one on Amazon with the same complaint. Is the r word used in the book? Yes, but you have to look at context. It is used multiple times by the bully against a kid who goes to the resource room for special help. I know that we would rather not see the word, but if you are writing realistic fiction you have to be realistic. I guarantee you kids are still calling other kids retarded no matter how many times we tell them the word is hurtful. It is real for the bully to use the word. Nothing about the book makes it seem this is OK.

In the fall there was a big controversy over the book The Black Witch. There was a review online that pulled several racist comments out and used them to say the book was hurtful and should never have been published. People piled on and posted negative reviews on Goodreads without ever reading the book. I read the book. What they fail to comprehend is that those racist statements in the book were said by racist characters. Some were said by the main character, but the entire point of the book was to see the growth in a character who was raised to believe her race was superior only to realize how wrong that was once she goes to school with other races. Context matters. It was a very good book.

I keep seeing over and over again how books are being pulled from schools because parents complained about language or other content without thinking that this language and content is what makes the book real. Why do you want your kids to read sugar-coated realities? Why are we judging books on a few words instead of on the entire content of the book? Why can’t we read challenging and difficult stories anymore?

Also – there was another school shooting today. We seem to be more active in removing “dangerous” books from schools than we are in keeping actual danger out. Maybe we could fix that?

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My Year in Reading 2017

This is the year I finally got lazy and stopped keeping my written list of the books I read. I might try to go back to it this year. You never know when Goodreads might disappear. All of the stats are from Goodreads. My top book are the ones I gave five stars and then the four star books I felt were the best of the rest.  I started the year with a 1000 page book and ended the year with a 700 page book.This year will be an easier start for me. So, here it is – my year in reading for 2017:

Top ten books read in no particular order

  • Strange Weather by Joe Hill
  • Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • Revolver by Duane Swierczynski
  • Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick(I might have a crush and it was audio so she read it to me)
  • The Nix by Nathan Hill
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  • Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Honorable Mention

  • Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King
  • The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor
  • IQ by Joe Ide
  • Spoiler Alert by Michael Ausiello
  • Unbelievable by Katy Tur

Book I would most recommend

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. It was close between this, Impossible Fortress and The Hate U Give

Worst Books I Finished

  • Who Is Rich by Matthew Klam
  • History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera(though a teenager implied I was too old to get it)

Book I Dustbunnied

None this year. I finished History is All You Left me because it was for work. I’m not sure why I kept reading Who is Rich. I need to be better about abandoning bad books.

Number of books read: 104

Number of pages read according to Goodreads: 30869. I did the math and that averages to 84.5 pages a day. I think I can do better.

 

We Need Diverse Books

I know that is a groundbreaking title there. Anyway, this post a personal illustration of connecting with book characters because they are like me. Before anyone else can point it out – yes, I am a white guy. yes, I am white, heterosexual male. yes, there are many books about people like me.  This post is not about me wanting more books about me. I’ve always agreed that we need more diverse books. I can’t imagine why anyone would disagree with this. Kids need to be able to read a book about a person who is like them. I always knew this intellectually. My last two books have been a good illustration of how a connection to the characters improves the reading experience.

I recently read The Serpent King by Jess Zentner. It takes place in rural Tennessee and in the authors words

“I wanted to write about young people who struggle to live lives of dignity and find beauty in a forgotten and unglamorous place. Who wonder what becomes of dreams once they cross the county line. This book is my love letter to those young people and anyone who has ever felt like them, no matter where they grew up.”

I grew up in a place that could be considered forgotten and unglamorous. A small town where many kids dream of escaping to a bigger and brighter world. A small town where some days it seems like your dreams will die. I felt completely connected to the characters and could see a little bit of myself in them. Because of this, the book meant more to me and I was more emotionally invested in the story.

I am now reading Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. I like the book, but I don’t feel the same connection to the character because I am not a Mexican-American girl living in California. A Mexican-American girl will feel that connection here, but not necessarily in The Serpent King.  It’s important for books like Gabi to exist for that girl. She does not have the plethora of books about people like her like I’ve had my entire life.

I didn’t realize how lucky I was growing up a reader and finding myself in all of the books I read(like the creepy clown in It, for example) and even though I realized it as an adult, it didn’t really sand out to me until I read these two books back to back.

I do think it is important for me to read books about people different from me, but sometimes it is really nice to read a book that feels like home. Everyone should have that opportunity.

I Have an Author “Type”

There is a study out there that says men like to read male authors and women prefer to read female authors. I have never analyzed my reading habits and author gender. I do know a lot of my favorite authors are male. I do, however, have quite a few female authors I read regularly. I like to joke that I sometimes have the reading habits of a teenage girl. I’m too lazy to do a count, but I could see my total skewing more toward the male authors. I don’t think this study says more than that people like to read what they know and that people feel more comfortable with the voice of someone with whom they relate. That’s why the push for more diverse titles is important, especially for kids. All kids need to be able to find books about someone like them.

I was thinking about this last night after I was working on a list of books for a class I will be leading at work. It is a list of good adult fiction for teens. I took many of the books of the Alex Awards list and added a bunch from my personal experience. As I was asking coworkers for some titles to add to the list, I mentioned that I needed to add some diversity, because although I didn’t know what most of the authors looked like I was pretty sure they were a little too similar. I googled the names of the authors and discovered that they were more alike than I realized. If I just looked at the author photos, I could assume that they were all related. Apparently, I don’t just have a thing for British and Irish authors, I I have thing for British, Irish and ginger authors. It was really weird. I can now add diversity to the list of my reading goals for 2015.

My Year in Reading 2014

Top ten books read in no particular order

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Winger by Andrew Smith
The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore
Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs
Revival by Stephen King
Butter by Erin Jade Lange
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larrsen
Seven for a Secret by Lindsay Faye

Honorable Mention

Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman
The Three by Sarah Lotz
Trouble by Non Pratt
The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce
Parasite by Mira Grant

Worst book I finished

Someone Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon

Book I Dustbunnied

Wolf by Lorenzo Carcaterra

Number of books read: 106

Number of pages read according to Goodreads: 37067

I have to say that this was not a banner year in reading for me. Too many mediocre books. It was hard to come up with the 15 best. I need to be more selective with my reading next year.

My 20 Favorite Books of All Time

I was asked by an inmate at the jail to put this together since I won’t be at the jail to recommend books after next week. Things to keep in mind before reading my list:

1. I put this together in a couple of minutes using reminders from my ratings on Shelfari.

2. When I say favorite I don’t necessarily mean well written, classic, etc. Just books I enjoyed and have stuck with me.

3. I cheated and put three series in a spot instead of individual books.

4. I welcome comments, but don’t really care if you didn’t like these books, They are my favorites, not yours.

So, here is my list:

Twenty Favorite Books All Time:

 

1. The Stand by Stephen KIng

2. Swan Song Robert McCammon

3. Neverwhere Neil Gaiman

4. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

5. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry Mildred Taylor

6. Practical Demonkeeping Christopher Moore

7. The Vampire Lestat Anne Rice

8. The Sicilian Mario Puzo

9. Bridge to Terabithia Katherine Paterson

10. Green River Rising Tim Willocks

11. The Shotgun Rule Charlie Huston

12. This is Where I Leave You Jonathan Tropper

13. Stranger in a Strange Land Robert Heinlein

14. Lord of the Rings series JRR Tolkien

15. Song of Ice and Fire Series George RR Martin

16. Dark Tower series Stephen King

17. A Time to Kill John Grisham

18. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

19. The Winter of Frankie Machine Don Winlsow

20. Hooligans William Diehl

My Year in Reading – 2011

Top ten books read(in no particular order)

  • The Radleys – Matt Haig
  • Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion
  • Fifth Witness – Micheal Connelly
  • Zombie Wasteland Spaceship – Patton Oswalt
  • Buried Prey – John Sandford
  • President’s Vampire – Christopher Farnsworth
  • The Five – Robert McCammon
  • Feed – Mira Grant
  • 11/22/63 – Stephen King

Honorable Mentions

  • Shit My Dad Says – Justin Halpern
  • Queen of the Dead – Stacey Kade
  • The Dead – Charlie Higson
  • Gentlemen’s Hour – Don Winslow
  • Plugged – Eoin Colfer

Book I Would Most Recommend

  • The Five – Robert McCammon

Worst Books I Read – Two tied this time

  • Such a Pretty Face – Cathy Lamb
  • XVI – Julia Karr

Books I Fed to the Dust Bunnies – both by a favorite author

  • Satori – Don Winslow
  • Quest for Anna Klein – Thomas H Cook

Total number of books read – 120

Pages read – 35,370 plus some unpaged graphic novels