Memoirs, Memoirs, and Memoirs

So far this year I’ve read a few memoirs, with at least a couple more upcoming. This is not a genre I’ve ever really gotten into. There’s no reason for it, just how things have happened.

But this year and going forward I’m thinking it’ll be a new genre to gain more exposure to. Why? Again, no specific reason except that there’s more to read than just mysteries.

So tell me if you’ve read any good memoirs recently.

Will There be Bookstores in 2021?

No, this obviously isn’t happening right now with virus cases, as expected, surging once again in most of the US and world. What happens in the next few months will give us all an idea of what to expect in 2021.

What I really want to talk about is bookstores. It was less than a decade ago that Borders closed its doors, mostly on account of e-books. Barnes and Noble and Books-A–Million (the two largest chains remaining in the US) have been struggling for years before the pandemic took customers out of stores. Half Price Books (my personal favorite) seems to be okay because if their doors are open, then they can buy books from the public.

Months ago I told my brother I thought JCPenney and Barnes and Noble would close for good. So far, I’ve been wrong. All the bookstores around me have been reopened since the spring. That doesn’t mean customers have returned or will be doing so. Though we can still buy online, there are lots of people unemployed or furloughed. Books may not be at the top of the list of needed items.

I’ve gotten this far and haven’t mentioned indies. They are probably the most likely to shut their doors during the pandemic. They can’t host author events and even when open, customers may not return.

Recently I was thinking to myself about Half Price Books not having their 20% storewide or coupon week promotions. If you’re familiar, then you know both of these promotions bring in lots of customers over several days. They’ve moved their sales to their website, which isn’t my preference. I was thinking to myself about the few dollars I could be saving if they’d had their promotions. But what’s important is that they’re able to survive (along with all the bookstores around). That won’t happen, but at least they’re still fighting, like many in the country.

To answer my own question, yes I think there will be bookstores next year. The real question is how many.

I Changed my Mind About Book Reviews

Once upon a time I wrote a post on here called Why I Don’t Write Book Reviews. I checked the date. I wrote it six years ago. You’re welcome to read it, but my view has changed! Is this what it’s like being a politician? 😂

So I thought this would be a good topic for a video. Cool if you watch, meh if you don’t.

How do you feel about writing and/or reading book reviews?

On Award Winning Books

I’ve read several award winning books this year. Going as high as the Pulitzer and National Book Awards, but also more regional prizes. I’ve never read a book simply because of its praise, but when seeing “winner of the Pulitzer Prize” on the cover it does raise my expectations just a tad for the book.

Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t found these books to be consistently great. Some have been downright bad. Now that I’m writing this it is starting to make sense. I wouldn’t enjoy every best picture nominee/winner. I wouldn’t enjoy every album nominated for album of the year. I guess I’m biased because books are the medium I enjoy the most. So if a book is said to be good, it better be?

Am I losing it or what? 😂

I Need More Goodreads Friends

I’ve always tracked all of my reading. I’ve had Word docs and spreadsheets set up to document just about everything you can think of. That was before I embraced Goodreads. But now I’m using it more than ever. I only have 17 friends and most of them don’t actually post any updates.

At this point the app (or website) is the easiest way of holding yourself accountable. It’s so easy to use and you get to keep up with what your friends are reading and posting. I’ve seen people with thousands of Friends and think to myself, “Is this Facebook?”. Not really looking for that, but racing everyone (unknown to them) to reach our reading goal for the year is kind of fun.

I think you can add me here.

Do you use Goodreads at all?

Reading During a Pandemic

I will first acknowledge I’ve been one of the lucky ones during these last few months. I never faced the prospect of a furlough or layoff and still don’t. My employer did what many others were forced to do this Spring and sent just about everyone to work from home. Six months in and it’s impossible to know when things may go back to “normal”.

With that said, I’ve been reading quite a bit more these last few months. My eight hour shift is eight hours. No 20 minute drive. No waking up an hour before my shift. That extra time has translated into more pages read and more sleep, if I’m being honest.

Once I finish two more books 2020 will be my second best year of reading and after 15 more would be my best. I’ve settled into a routine recently. Every night after the end of my shift I try to devote 30-60 minutes to reading. Some nights I do it. Some I don’t. But I’ve come up with a two-part plan going forward. I try to read one book during the week and finish another each weekend. I’m about to finish my 5th book this month, so it appears to be working.

Now could I have done this same thing without a pandemic changing daily life? Yes. But I know myself. It wouldn’t have happened.

What have you done differently this year? More reading? Less? DIY projects around the house? Tell me, tell me.

Bestsellers and Me: Brave New World

In returning to the blog (posted all five days I planned to last week!) it also means a return to my channel. With my first video back I’m starting a new series. Clearly, it’s called Bestsellers and Me. The idea is to follow up with a video whenever I read a bestseller. I can see the gears of your brain turning, “But what qualifies as a bestseller?”. Glad you asked. For my purposes I’m going to consider a book a bestseller if it has more than 100k ratings on Goodreads. Easy enough.

First in the series is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It would be cool if you watch, but no hard feelings if you don’t. You can also just tell me what you thought of the book.

2020 in Books: The Girls

This is the fourth and final entry (for now) in my series discussing the books I’ve been reading lately. Today we’re taking about Emma Cline’s The Girls.

The book takes us into the lives of the Manson family, one member in particular. It leads up to their most notorious crime. It’s a fictionalized version, of course. On the surface you might be intrigued when hearing that, but don’t be.

When I go to the bookstore (only Half Price Books) I always check online first to see if my store has what I’m looking for. Buying this book was one of those rare occurrences I happened to see it on the shelf and though I knew nothing about the story itself, I remembered when it was first published it had been quite the bestseller. So I bought it.

The book alternates between the 60s and the present when our protagonist (if you can even call her that) is middle aged. I hate repeating myself from an earlier post in this series, but nothing happened. The book doesn’t go into the actual crimes committed. It gives a perspective from within the family before they’re committed and talks about the aftermath. But again, nothing happens and chapters stretch on and on of nothing. It couldn’t be more exhausting.

Upon completion my first thought was that I’d have been better off reading a true crime account of the family and their crimes. Maybe I will at some point. I’m sure you can see where this is going. I’ve rated three books this year as one star. This is one of them.

2020 in Books: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This is the third in my series to talk about some of the books I’ve been reading this year. Next up is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

The book takes you on a long journey through generations of Oscar’s family. From Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR) to NJ and back again several times over. Though the book gives insight into some of their experiences under Trujillo’s dictatorship, most of the story follows Oscar and his love for writing, science fiction, and his never-ending attempt to find what he thinks is love.

This was a very recent read for me (as in last week). One thing that gave me pause at the start is the narrator uses the n-word quite a bit. It was almost a turn off, but the use drops way down after the first chapter or two.

With the book following several members of Oscar’s family, it becomes clear early on that they’re dark-skinned. It also becomes clear that the DR is no different from the US and other western countries in that dark-skinned people are treated as lesser than their lighter skinned counterparts. This was interesting because so often we’re made to think of Latin countries as third world or developing. Yet the US isn’t always more advanced, even as we constantly say otherwise.

What I found most relatable about this is how indicative it is of the Hispanic experience in 20th century DR and the US. Either Oscar, his mother, or his sister go back to the DR several times throughout the story. This is something that happens all the time. And sure people of other nationalities do the same, but the US has become much more Hispanic in recent decades. As a Mexican-American I hadn’t read previously such an Hispanic story. That’s more on me than anything.

I didn’t grow up in a Spanish-speaking household. I wish I had, but the concept of Spanglish is something even I’m familiar with. Intertwining both languages effortlessly happens in so many households every single day that it’s impossible to put a number on it. That’s how this book is written and it makes it all the more genuine. Don’t ask me if I bought a lifetime subscription to Rosetta Stone afterward because I won’t tell you. Yesterday I said I couldn’t understand how that book won the Pulitzer. Not the case with this one.

This is an unabashedly Hispanic/Latin story and it could not have been better written. Every so often you read a book you know you won’t soon forget. This is one of those few. The best book I’ve read this year and #6 ever for me. An incredible work. 5 stars.

This is one of Amazon’s 100 books everyone should read.

2020 in Books: The Road

This is the second in my series to discuss some of the books I’ve been reading lately. Some good and some not. Today’s book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

We follow a father and son along a road in post apocalyptic North America. As I sit here trying to give just a little bit more of a plot description I realize there’s nothing else to say about it. We follow them as they try to stay alive along this road, but that’s it.

I have serious problems with just about every aspect of this book. There are no names for the characters. The father is the father and the son is the son. I might be mistaken (I read this a few months ago), but I don’t think the book has chapters and the punctuation is not proper. I never could figure the point for writing this way. My only guess is because it’s in this post apocalyptic world that the author felt it best to show that grammatical norms don’t matter when everyone and everything has been destroyed.

I’d love to write about the action or the climax of the story to give more insight, but there’s neither. Nothing happens in the story. This book won the Pulitzer and was adapted into a movie. I haven’t seen the movie and likely won’t, but there should be a White House Commission to investigate who was bribed to award this book the Pulitzer. If you couldn’t tell, I rated this 1 star. It’s also worth noting that this book is partially responsible for a nearly two month gap in my reading this year after I started and stopped because there was not a thing to keep me interested. Thoughts?

This is one of Amazon’s 100 books everyone should read.