So I finished the second book of the Bible. No wonder it’s so hard to read through the Bible, Exodus is so boring! Beforehand I thought, oh, Exodus. Yeah Moses and plagues and a mass exodus out of Egypt. It’ll be fun and exciting. Not really the case. Basically the first 17 chapters are all adventurous excitement. Then in chapter 18 Moses gets a visit from his father-in-law, who’s all like, hey Moses, instead of you personally helping all the Israelites with their problems, you should get rules from God and have priests and stuff deal with all the problems and sins and stuff. Sounds like a great time saver! But then the next 22 chapters are nothing but weird random laws about living in this time period. Also a ton of laws that get repeated that give every teeny little detail on how to make their elaborate church tent and how the priests should dress and how exactly to kill and sacrifice all kinds of animals. It is tedious to say the least. I though I was finally free once I finished the final chapter, but then I started in on Leviticus and so far it seems to be a lot more of the same. It might be a couple weeks since I’ve tried to get back into it. I don’t know if I can read the whole Bible in a year. I think now I’m just going to settle on reading through the entire thing, period. Wish me luck.
I’ve been trying to alternate between reading regular old wordy novels and graphic novels. Across the board comic reading soothes my brain, and I find it really relaxing to spend time with a book that’s prettier to look at than most. So, at the Book Barn I found BOP! [More Box Office Poison] by Alex Robinson. I’d picked up Box Office Poison last summer and had really enjoyed it. BOP! is basically the “extra features” or “deleted scenes” from that book. Each chapter is a mini story featuring all of the same characters from the original graphic novel. Some of the events happen during the main story line of Box Office Poison, some happen afterwards, some before. Basically, if you like the original book you’ll also enjoy this shorter companion piece. I’m definitely really happy to have it in our graphic novel collection.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and it’s been so amazing. I think having that stack of books from our recent trip to the Book Barn sitting on our coffee table has really inspired me to start picking up a book instead of scrolling through Facebook whenever I’m taking a break from work. Plus, the warming weather has really gotten me reading outside a lot more, which is lovely.
One book I finished last month was actually a Christmas gift from Eric; a collection of short fictional stories by David Sedaris titled Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. I love David Sedaris (we’ve listened not only to his essays on This American Life, but also have his audiobook Me Talk Pretty Someday and I recently finished reading When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Those are all autobiographical essays and I had heard that Squirrel was an unusual piece of fiction, but for some reason I’d missed the fact that each chapter is a separate story with a completely different message.
All of the characters in this book are talking animals, and many reviews have compared this book to Aesop’s Fables, where the animals act with unsavory human characteristics and usually learn some moral. Squirrel is quite a bit more vulgar than Aesop, and often all of the characters take on very selfish and unlikable attitudes. However, the writing in this book does remind me very much of Sedaris’ nonfiction autobiographical writing. He’s very good at presenting a situation (either involving himself or involving a talking animal) from one point of view and begins to lead you into believing he (or his character) is the hero. But then he’ll flip things, revealing his own unsavory motivations and, ultimately, painting himself in an unattractive light. His self-awareness is striking, as in a way his writing twists itself to point directly back at the reader and how faulty it is that we’ve begun to elevate ourselves above the decisions that the characters are making. Just really brilliant writing.
Keep in mind the vulgarity of this book, not only in language, but also in clear description. There were a few times I lamented reading this book while eating breakfast.
Besides picking the Bible back up, with being home and having a lot less time in the car, I’ve started reading a lot more too. (I wish I could read in the car, but I get way too car sick). Recently we cleared out our bookshelves and took a good sized load of unwanted books over to the Book Barn in Niantic. They took what they could and we ended up with about $30 in credit (you can take your trade-ins as cash, but you get less than if you choose credit). I’d brought along a list of books that I’d been wanting to pick up, and we set to work scouring the shelves for what I had on my list. We ended up going to all three of their locations, and we weren’t able to find everything, but we were able to make a good sized dent in my list, spend the complete $30 credit, and even pick up a few spur-of-the-moment books that I hadn’t been searching for but that looked good.
I went through their entire graphic novel section, carefully reading every title and pulling out anything that looked interesting. I love graphic novels, and I’m always searching for new titles. The biggest draw for me though is the art. I just can’t read a graphic novel with unappealing art, no matter how good the story is. Well, I lucked out in numerous categories with Paul Has a Summer Job (in this review the guy calls it “the Canadian Blankets, only shorter) by Michel Rabagliati.
The artwork reminds me of comics found in the New Yorker, and while I’m typically not a fan of those, all together in this book I really enjoyed the art. It was fluid and Rabagliati is obviously comfortable in his style. Apparently, this book is one of a few of the same character and subject matter by Rabagliati, about a young man named Paul. The major selling part for me though was the fact that the entire story takes place in Quebec, my home Province. Maybe I was just feeling homesick right as I picked up the book, but it felt so safe and comforting to be able to get a little glimpse back into the old unique culture of my home.
The story follows a fictitious boy named Paul (though it could easily be a true story) as he drops out of high school in the 70s and finds a place for himself as a camp counselor for troubled kids out in the woods. The whole thing is heart-warming and sweet and nostalgic. But, just so you know, this is not a kids book; it contains adult imagery and themes. Definitely worth looking into otherwise, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for other works by Rabagliati.
Two vague “New Year’s Resolutions” I made in January were to read more and to read through the entire Bible in a year. Both got shelved (pun!) within two weeks. I guess we left for a tour, and although I kept carting books and my Bible around on these tours with good intentions. I never once picked them up to actually read them. But, the wonderful thing about chopping up our time into “tour” and “home” categories, is that every time we come home it feels like a fresh start and a time to reevaluate those resolutions.
I finally picked up the Bible again, taking up Genesis where I’d left off, and scheduling two sessions of readings into my days to make up for lost time. (I’m using a schedule I found online. Per recommendation of a good friend). I’ve actually been enjoying reading double the passages per day. Although it does take longer, it makes me feel as though I can digest bigger chunks of story and not get lost in lists of genealogy (ugh, the worst part of Bible reading!).
Anyway, I just finished up Genesis, and decided that, as an attempt to keep myself motivated, I’d write about each book of the Bible like any other book I might talk about on my blog.
One of the most interesting things I found about reading Genesis is that, although I’ve attempted to read it through in the past, this was the first time I’d read it through an “Old World” perspective. I’d always seen the creation story as “6 literal days” and had taken the entire “Adam made of dust, Eve made of a rib” thing completely as that’s how humans were created. I don’t think that way anymore, choosing now instead to believe in a Big Bang theory and evolution. I still think everything was created by God, but not exactly the way Genesis says. (Actually, I’ve been leaning towards Mars being a dead sustainable planet and a chunk of it breaking off and crashing into the Earth years ago. Why not? It could be the case.)
There are so many other creation stories in other cultures that sound similar to the Bible, but just because the Christian one has been put into this book, it’s assumed to be the only one that’s correct. Well anyway, I could go on a lot longer. The point is, I found it really fascinating to reread this book through a completely different view, but still be able to see it through my old eyes simultaneously.
Same thing with the story of Noah and the ark. Also, how amusing (disturbing?) it is that we teach so many of these stories to children, leaving out the terrifying bits. The story of Noah was a terrifying worldwide holocaust!
Final note: This book is so weird, as evidence by my first attempt to read through the entire Bible when I was 11, and the reason I decided to give up on that idea for 16 years: What the heck is up with that creepy story about Lot’s daughters? Seriously. They never tell you that stuff in Sunday School.
WHILE LOOKING UP THE LINK TO ALLIE BROSH’S BLOG I DISCOVERED A NEW POST FROM OCTOBER THAT I HAVEN’T READ YET AND I’M FIGHTING THE URGE TO BLOW OFF WRITING THIS BLOG POST AND GO READ IT JUST FOR YOU. So be appreciative.
One of my New Year’s “resolutions” (they were super vague, so I feel weird even calling them “resolutions”) was to purposely read more books. Eric & I both want to be the kind of people that have huge bookshelves everywhere in our house, but we can’t be that until we have huge book collections. So we’ve been picking up books at used book stores and we both got a handful of new books for Christmas. The only problem is, we also both still have a bunch of books that we haven’t finished or haven’t even started reading. Maybe it’s a weird motivation, but I’m using my “I want to be the kind of person that has big bookshelves in my house” to encourage myself to read more. Also, I think an extra motivation will be to continue posting here about the books that I read. That way I can share and potentially get feedback from other people who’ve read the same books and/or get recommendations for other books I might be interested in, based on what I’ve been reading.
So yes, the first book I finished in 2014 was Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half. I’d sort of been dropping huge hints in Eric’s direction that I wanted this book for Christmas. Eric told me later that I’d been more than obvious, but also that he’d actually purchased it for me way before I even started talking about it.
It’s spectacular. If you’re familiar with Brosh’s blog, also titled Hyperbole and a Half (you know, the Alot post, the “all the things!” meme, etc), it seems pointless of me to try to convince you to read this book. It’s as awesome as her blog. A few of the stories even made me laugh harder than I have with her blog. There are a bunch of “repeat” stories (some of her more popular and hilarious posts), as well as just as many brand new stories. The final stories, “Identity Part One & Two”, I found largely relatable and really hilarious. Laughing at books out loud when you’re alone is absolute proof that a book is awesome.
To anyone who hasn’t experienced Brosh’s blog, go do so now. It’s awesome. She writes these amazingly relatable stories about her life, experiences, and childhood (I find the childhood stories particularly awesome). She’s an amazing writer, and she fills her stories with these hilarious little computer drawings. It’s amazing how much character she can express with essentially a stick figure.
In the book Brosh includes her two “Depression” stories, which created massive attention for how perfectly she captures the experience of being severely depressed. From my own personal experiences, I’ve never seen anyone express the feelings of depression as clearly as she does. I’d simply recommend this book to everyone just so that they can understand and be sympathetic to those that they love who might struggle with depression.
So yes. Awesome book. Bunches of stars and all that. Quick warning: She uses strong language quite a bit. Which I think adds to the hilarity, but it has the potential to offend.
P.S. Jenny Lawson has a quote on the back of Brosh’s book, endorsing it. So if you liked Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, you’ll most likely like this book as well.
Remember Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson? Well, when I finished laughing my way through her book I still had the sniffles (who am I kidding? It hasn’t even gone away completely yet) so I immediately picked up one of the other few books I brought along to Korea: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.
I’d grabbed The Glass Castle on a whim at a library while we were on tour sometime in the past year. I think it was free actually, with a bunch of books the library was just trying to get rid of. I grabbed some big old books to do something creative and artsy with, and for no reason at all, also grabbed this one by Walls. I knew nothing about her and had never heard of the book, but I found the odd cover intriguing, and when I saw that it was a memoir I knew I had to take it with me. (I love crazy true stories about people’s lives.)
It was so incredibly odd to read The Glass Castle directly after Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, without any length of time between the two. They’re both written by extremely complex women who’ve both gone through extremely strange and almost unbelievable childhoods, and they both have/had completely off the wall and out of this world parents, and siblings that stood strong beside them during the craziness. But where Lawson approaches her past with humor, Walls’… It’s not that she’s depressing or even has a woe-is-me attitude towards her upbringing, but she displays it in a way where, as she matures and grasps the consequences of her parents’ unfathomable decisions, so does the reader. Her childhood seems exciting and full of incredible adventure, but you also see the frightening parallels to very serious child abuse by a set of incredibly immature parents.
The Glass Castle is a seriously fascinating insight to present day child poverty, and to not only dealing with family but learning to distance and then come back and accept people despite the severe pain they can cause. Another highly recommended book. So glad I picked it up. I hear Walls’ other pieces are also worth looking into.
This book was such an amazing find! At the beginning of the summer I asked on-line what book recommendations people had for me, and this one came up twice. If two people are recommending a book as one of the best things they’ve read, it’s definitely worth an investigation from me.
Soon before leaving for Korea we stopped by the Book Barn in Niantic, CT and at their downtown location I found an awesome cubby with shelves jam-packed full of humorous memoirs and essays (pretty sure multiple copies of every David Sedaris book ever was on those shelves, and I’ll definitely need to run back to pick up a few when we get home). Oh and by the way, places you need to visit sometime in your life: definitely the Book Barn. It’s a crazy fun experience, and maybe you’ll go home with a handful of awesome used books at a super good price. Eric and I seriously love going there and bringing friends there when they visit.
Anyways, I found Jenny Lawson’s book there, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. One of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. I began reading it pretty much right when we got to Korea, and with the change in environment I was kind of sickly for a week here and there, so it was perfect to have such an awesome, funny, and engaging book to keep me company. I was pretty much constantly laughing out loud and making Eric stop whatever he was doing so I could read him passages through uncontrollable giggles. Eric has promised to read LPTNH in its entirety at the Coffee Mission, the new coffee shop that our friends just opened here in Cheonan (more on that later) before we head home in a few weeks.
Ok, quick summery: LPTNH is mostly excerpts from Lawson’s (also incredibly hilarious) blog that allow you a view into her extremely creative and hilarious mind and way of thinking. She puts the book together as an autobiography, starting with her childhood in rural Texas, her seriously insane parents (her dad wakes her in the middle of the night to show off a hand puppet he made with the skin of a dead squirrel), her extreme awkwardness throughout high school, her completely opposite from her boyfriend turned fiancee turned husband, and on until now, as a young mother. Her writing, especially as a creative and socially awkward woman, really resonated with me. I seriously found the entire book gold.
Although she focuses on humor in her writings, Lawson is able to openly and emotionally discus very serious and difficult matters as well, and her honesty throughout everything makes you feel as though she is speaking from within yourself.
One caution: the book is loaded with curse words. So if that is something you’d rather not read, I definitely recommend you pass on this book. If that doesn’t bother you though and you want a hilarious laugh with someone who’ll quickly feel like your insane best friend, pick this book up immediately! Or checkout her blog (the Bloggess), both good.
Some of the best books I have ever read have been graphic novels. I seriously love graphic novels so much. Growing up we always had tons of comic books in the house, and I learned to read with my dad’s Calvin & Hobbs books (ok, I know, those are a different genre) and my older brother’s Tintin books. I cannot stress enough how helpful comics can be to someone who is struggling with learning to read. I had a lot of trouble as a kid, especially in my older brother’s shadow, but comics helped me connect the few words I could understand so that I was able to piece together stories. They helped keep me from getting frustrated and giving up on reading when it seemed too difficult. Now, I probably own more comic books than actual novels.
I wish I could go and recommend a hundred other graphic novels, but I want to stick to focusing on the feature, a graphic novel I read last month called Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson. (Note, book cover in the link is different than the version I own. It’s the same book though.)
We had picked up another book by Robinson, Tricked, last year when we found we had some extra Amazon gift card money. The art style of a graphic novel is the number one make-or-break for me when it comes to graphic novels. Even if a story is amazing, I can’t continue reading if I don’t like the art style. It needs to be pleasing as well as easy on the eyes, but with a skill and talent from the artist that I can respect. I chose Tricked based solely on Amazon “Click to look inside” feature when I saw that I could appreciate Robinson’s art style. (Typically we try to purchase most blind graphic novel buys from an actual bookshop, so we can flip through a few pages first.)
Obviously, Robinson did not disappoint with Tricked, and when Eric saw this spring that we had some more Amazon gift card money, he went ahead with the purchase of Box Office Poison. (Definitely support your local bookshop when you can. We try to. These were special cases.)
I need to stop you right now to say that although I did start out this post talking about helping youngin’s learn to read with comics is a good idea, Box Office Poison is not a book for kids. There is a lot of vulgarity of many types in this book. It’s be rated R if it were a movie. So. Keep that in mind please.
The story (stories) follow a handful of people living their lives in New York City in the 90s, most of them a couple years out of college. All their stories intertwine in neat ways and the entire thing ends up focusing on the comic industry: the struggling artists that do the creating, the old way that super hero comics were made, and the rise of indie comics. It’s really fascinating from an artistic standpoint, but also really fascinating from a sociological standpoint. Especially in that, as you follow each character, you see the black & white of good guy vs. bad guy break down. Robinson is great at giving “heroes” flaws, and “villains” likable characteristics. (I hesitate even putting the characters into such boxes.) He just has such a great way of making you connect and feel for the characters, and he makes you change your first impressions. It’s really quite amazing.
I don’t want to tell too much more, because I don’t want to give a lot away (I feel as though I already have). I do highly recommend both Box Office Poison and Tricked, as long as, like I mentioned, you don’t mind the vulgarity (there is a lot). If you end up reading either, let me know what you think. And also, please, if you have any awesome graphic novels you’d love to recommend, please do so. I’m always on the lookout for a new one.
I’m a little behind with Summer Reading Reviews, especially now that I’m still sick in bed for the third straight day and have breezed through two of the three books I brought to Korea with me, and we still have eights weeks here…
I… can seriously not recommend this book enough. Especially for those in their late-20’s/early-30’s; especially for those who grew up with Christian parents; especially for those who attended Sunday School/youth group/AWANA/church lock-ins/Christian winter retreats/organized See You At The Pole/listened to WoW compilations/wore WWJD? bracelets or snarky t-shirts that changed pop culture logos to read “Jesus Christ” instead. I recommend this book especially for those who spent time coming up with witty answers to imaginary critics challenging our faith. And I recommend this book especially to any of the people who fit all those categories who began recently to doubt all the certainties that kept you doing all those things, that began to lead to a slow crumbling of the faith you placed most of your life in.
This book was recommended recently to Eric by a good friend of our’s since Eric has been going through a complete reevaluating of the beliefs he wants to hold onto and the ones he wants to let go of. We’re both doing that. I guess Eric is just a ton more vocal about it while I have been keeping it bottled up, turning things over and over in my head to see what exactly I really believe before stating my opinion. I’ve often stayed quiet when Eric brings up religious discussions, still unsure if I can let go of some of the pieces of beliefs I grew up with, still unsure if I can continue to associate myself with the beliefs at all. I had–I have–a difficult time letting go of some of my religion but still holding on to other parts.
Then once in a while I’ll hear a sermon or a news story or I’ll talk with a beautiful new friend whose life doesn’t fit into a black or white box and the anger and confusion and overwhelming emotion will feel like it’s going to drown me and I begin sobbing and screaming and poor Eric has to see all this… And that’s when I discover what I actually really believe about God.
And Evans understands all of that. She addresses the way I was raised, high school, church, inconsistencies. She tackles evolution, feminism, homosexuality. Things that aren’t looking so black and white to my eyes anymore. And the really big one she tackled was how it’s possible to tear down a belief system that, for me, depended on every black issues being always black and every white issue being always white, and as those issues grey and morph and swirl, it’s ok, and you don’t have to give up the entire belief system just because you’re trading out a few of the pieces and reevaluating what the original motive was for those beliefs in the first place…
sigh. Seriously, as I was reading this book, I couldn’t stop taking notes, marking pages, rereading paragraphs to Eric. So much of this book was just what I needed. Not to feel like I was given answers to my theological questions, but to feel like someone else was wondering the same exact things and that she can still believe in a God that sometimes I can feel angry at. I would literally quote the entire book to you here if I could.
But I promised myself I wouldn’t. Instead, go read it. She writes things out in very easy language, and it would’ve been a breeze to get through if I didn’t have to continually set it down for a couple days at a time and evaluate the position she was coming from.
Again. Cannot recommend this book enough. Go read it.
Maybe later I’ll write a blog post that you can make disagreeing comments to and quote Bible verses at to prove that I’m going to hell, but that’ll have to wait for another time. For now, read the book. Then after that, we can argue all you want.