October Wrap-Up 🎀 2018

I’m back, from my months-long hiatus that I never actually announced, with another monthly wrap-up as though nothing ever happened!! Happy Halloween and Blessed Samhain! After I quit my job and came back from vacation, I had a lot of free time on my hands. The reading slump became a reading boom, and here I am with seven books. I read three poetry books too, but I’m not going over them here just because I don’t have the analytical skillz to mull over poetry collections after I’ve just reviewed them. Maybe some day I’ll be capable of looking back on delicately worded abstractions and tell you what I think about them twice over.

I don’t even know why I do wrap-ups of books. I have to be up front and say that this wrap-up is going to be shorter than previous months’. Originally I had a summary and wrap-up section for each book. Those quickly disappeared, and now these wrap-ups are getting shorter and shorter. The main reason is I put most of my thoughts and impressions of a book into the GoodReads review. I apologize for the laziness of this entry, but I don’t feel like doing wrap-ups is really necessary or even much fun to write anymore.

Why do I have to review things twice?? I’ve been wondering if I should try my hand at wrapping other kinds of things up. I could start watching TV shows like a normal person, and then I could review the episodes I’ve seen here. Or I could wrap up video games as I play them, or music that I’ve been listening to, or stuff that I’ve bought and find useful. I could wrap up all of those things and showcase it here as one big monthly present. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet (clearly), so we’ll have to wait until November for these questions to be answered.

October Wrap-Up 2018

#1: All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

You instinctively know there are just some genres that are never going to interest you. In your well-meaning efforts to “broaden your horizons,” you will inevitably look up some of the genre’s defining authors and grab a book by one of said authors from the library when you have a chance on what you think is a free-spirited bookish whim. Soon, you’re fifty pages in and your interest is lagging because you can see where this is headed. You’re already disappointed, but you’re not even surprised. That’s what I thought would be my experience with this book. My experience turned out to be even worse.

My flirtation with the New Adult genre wasn’t even a flirtation. It was an ill-omened Tinder date gone wrong, and I hope I never see it again. I thought I could handle some cheesy moments, or a lot of corny romance. I was wrong to underestimate how infuriated I would become when I picked up this innocuous contemporary romance. I didn’t understand the characters and I couldn’t stand the main one, the conflict was contrived, and the writing was bad. This was not romantic. This was maddening. ★☆☆☆☆

#2: Anninilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I’ve never been so creeped out by nature in my life. Annihilation has that unsettling subtlety that is hard to come by. A worthy modern addition to the weird fiction tradition. This is only the first of the Southern Reach series, but I’ve heard the next two books don’t compare to the first, so even if I did want to learn anything that would help to connect any loose threads, I might not be inclined to pick those up. ★★★★☆

#3: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

I usually shy away from Japanese writers because I haven’t any luck with Japanese literature, but this book reminded me so much of the Zen-like joy I got from when I was working in a café that I couldn’t resist. I found the convenience store woman in question, Keiko, and I had some things in common. I don’t know what the normie reaction would be to Convenience Store Woman, but I’m guessing it would waver between amusement at its strangeness and sympathy for the loner convenience store worker. I just thought it was so… cute. Keiko is constantly told she’s strange and should be ashamed of who she is and how she lives her life on a ridiculously (exaggeratedly) frequent basis. She doesn’t understand. After all, the convenience store provides her with a salary, a routine, and purity of purpose. A simple, wholesome story. ★★★☆☆

#4: The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

Wanna know something horrid about me? While I was reading this, I kept thinking the Harry Potter series as a young adult knock-off of The Lord of the Rings at its core.  And that’s how I knew why LOTR is considered the basis of all modern fantasy worlds. There’s a quality to it that makes Lord of the Rings so definitive, so… paradoxically groundbreaking in its classicality. I rarely find myself rushing to complete series, but I immediately started to read The Two Towers after this. ★★★★★

#5: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I’ve seen some articles and lists tagging this book as a feminist book, but I didn’t think so. It was the honest experience of one woman, certainly with some observations particular to women, but I didn’t detect any feminist lens in Plath’s semi-autobiography. I read her collection of poems, Ariel, shortly after reading The Bell Jar and it possessed the same frank, melancholy honesty. ★★★★☆

#6: The Sea-Wolf by Jack London

None of the selected stories included with The Sea-Wolf really begged me to read them, but I was enraptured by the novel for a good portion of the book, a naval adventure on the worst hellship with a villain for a captain — until a woman showed up. I could have done with the two main characters, the ship, and the sailormen only, but London wanted to take his story in a different direction, and he messed up. It was fun while it lasted, anyway. ★★★★☆

#7: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Written in, yes, interview style, that backwards-looking confessional point of view (still am not a fan), but a highly entertaining story nevertheless. Anne Rice’s imagination takes us to ever greater heights in our collective perception of the dark world of vampires. She directly alludes to the incomprehensible and illogical allure of these undead who are dangerous and amoral, symbols of seduction and temptation. Someday, I might pick up the next book in the series, because it’s titled after Lestat, and I kind of need to know what happens to him. ★★★☆☆

Yay! We’re done unwrapping; now it’s time for a lil’ reading check-in. As of now, I’m 12 reviews away from hitting my goal of having written over a hundred GoodReads reviews by the end of this year. My 2018 Reading Challenge is unfortunately littered with children’s books I turned to in my desperation when I was still slumping (I shouldn’t phrase it that way, but that’s how I feel when I look back on it…), so I will gladly keep chugging along.

I’m also going to challenge myself to read the five books I voted on the list, “Books I Have No Intention of Reading,” which will happen next year if I don’t start this year. I’ve also compiled around ten books as a starting point for next year’s TBR, which I’ve shelved as my 2019 hitlist. This way, I can avoid any more wicked slumpsies at the start of the new year by knowing exactly what I should read and limiting myself to only choosing books from the nice list I made for myself.

See you next month, maybe! And if not, please don’t worry. I’m probably still alive. For several more decades, hopefully.


May Wrap-Up 🎀 2018

This month has just been witness to my conversion of being a Whartonite, and I don’t mean a graduate of the Wharton (a different Wharton clan) School of business at the University of Pennsylvania. I don’t think qualify as an Austenite because I tried to read Sense & Sensibility and I didn’t like it, and I can count the number of Jane Austen screen adaptations I’ve seen on one hand. I have nothing but respect but for my president Jane Austen and her Regency-ball-attending devotees, but I’m going to have to stay within the natural progression of the more Whartonite inclinations, the kind that make me wish I were the heiress of a railroad tycoon in search of a husband who can supplement my massive inheritance for my more-than-seasonal trips to the dressmaker’s and the milliner’s instead of the daughter of a reasonably well-off country gentleman in search of true love. I tried to read other things so I could predetermine a diversity of books read I wanted to end up talking about, but my focus couldn’t be extended beyond this author. This post will just be me extolling her literary virtues for several paragraphs.

May Wrap-Up 2018

#1: The Custom the Country by Edith Wharton

The House of Mirth is more likely the better novel qualitatively speaking, but this is a delightful story that is pure entertainment… for me, anyway. A wicked book with a crooked antiheroine, Undine Spragg is a simple Midwesterner who doesn’t get any more sophisticated or empathetic during her rapid rise to social prominence, but she succeeds in looking and acting as though she is a normal human being with natural attachments to people and interests in things that aren’t flagrantly luxurious and expensive, and she just barely manages to get away with it all unscathed, leaving a trail of ruined men behind her. I had fun from start to finish. ★★★★★

#2: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

A radical departure from her usual sumptuous settings, Wharton plants us in the geographical and social sticks of Massachusetts where it’s bitterly cold three-fourths of the year and a farmer like Ethan can barely eke out a meager existence from the barren soil. Ethan Frome is a deeply sympathetic treatment of a simple and honest man trapped in an unhappy marriage with a sullen hypochondriac of a wife (I’m sure she was happy and lively once). There is nothing (overtly) lustful in The Affair. The man just wants Love!!! ★★★★☆

#3: Roman Fever and Other Stories by Edith Wharton

The first story in this collection just made me go, “Damn, Edith…!!!” This is a solid collection of Wharton’s short stories that range from lighthearted scenes to downright Drama in a box. Honestly, besides the first story, nothing is noticeably different about any of the other stories than the stuff in her books. Of course I like her short stories; they’re her novels in miniature. ★★★★☆

April Wrap-Up 🎀 2018

I didn’t want this to be another sad, sorry excuse for a monthly wrap-up, but it kind of is anyway, and I had to include two books I started in April but really finished in early May so I could avert the shame of only talking about ONE book.

I keep going back through the previous four weeks and wondering where it all went wrong. I could start with detailing how I started to prioritize exercising every single day, or how I took on more extra shifts than usual, or how I caught feelings (the worst thing to ever happen when you’re trying to concentrate on reading), or how I wasn’t compelled to read anything in particular all April. I can’t help it if I work, try to not be a couch potato, fall in love at the drop of a hat, and want to get enough sleep!!! Leave me alone!

April Wrap-Up

#1: You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren

Expect to see more books of this type as I become more Health-Conscious. If this jock talk is boring to you… sorry. 😬

You Are Your Own Gym basically knocks the “I don’t have access to a gym so I can’t exercise” excuse into space. Resistance training by using your own bodyweight is something I’m always going to be interested in, because I don’t have time to pay money to go to the stupid gym at this very early stage where I can usually only exercise for ten minutes a day, half an hour at most. Right now I’m too much of a weak nerd to really follow Lauren’s recommended Beginners program and would prefer to dick around with my exercises, but there were several fitness routine concepts I’d never heard of before and will definitely look into when the need arises. This is a great book to peruse for exercise ideas and their accompanying modifications even when you’re feeling restless from being inside the house for the whole day, as long as no one has to take a whiz while you’re using the bathroom door to do pull ups. ★★★★☆

#2: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King

I know next to nothing about Stephen King and can summarize my knowledge of him in one sentence: Everything he writes gets made into a movie, he lives in Maine (?), and he had beef with Stephanie Meyer. Now that I’ve read one of his books, I can tack on another Stephen King factoid: He talks about himself a lot. Like, a lot. When I mentioned this to an acquaintance, he told me to wait until I get to the part in the Dark Tower series where the characters meet Stephen King himself.

But I’m not here to talk about his self-importance, I’m here to talk about what I thought of the book I read. I’ll start by saying King is actually a better writer than I expected, and while he could have used a more critical editor (Alice is the gunslinger’s meat curtain, We Get It), there are punchy well-crafted sentences, bleakly atmospheric landscapes, and scenes that swing from tense and hostile, to strangely beguiling, to gory and emotional that build a solid entry to a series that looks intriguing and unique.

The most sluggish parts are the ones where we are subjected to flashbacks of the gunslinger’s aristocratic past. These could have been left out, because they don’t really add to the immediate story itself; they are glimpses of a world the reader isn’t yet committed to knowing more about, and we don’t even need to know anything about the gunslinger this early. Nobody is dying to learn more about this guy, or his childhood friends, or his family, or his girlfriend. He’s an outcast! He’s done morally ambiguous things! He’s after that tower! That’s his whole shtick!

Of course now I want to find out what’s in that tower and how the gunslinger is going to get to it, so I have to pick up the second book. ★★★☆☆

#3: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

I’ve deliberated on writing about what exactly this book is about. It’s the story of a Indian guy with a weird name and how his grappling with coming to terms with a name like Gogol mirrors that of growing up in a cultural tug-of-war, feeling stifled by his Indian parents’ expectations and yearning to break free of them as a young man but eventually coming around to the reality that you can never escape from your roots and from the people who really love you, yeaaaaaaah.

It’s about the Indian immigrant experience. It’s about the generational and cultural gap of Indian immigrants and their second-generation immigrant children. It’s about the status anxiety that is a byproduct of such an experience. It’s about names, and what a name means to us and to everyone else. It’s about infidelity. It’s about introversion and introspection. It’s about loneliness and isolation, and how we seek to hide from them in relationships. It’s about how the things gone unsaid are just as consequential as the things we hear. And it’s all about the details. Details of the life of Gogol’s mother and father, Bengali immigrants to America, were so beautiful in their simplicity, I felt myself drawn towards their experiences more than I did to Gogol’s, which looks bratty and entitled in comparison.

Gogol, I understand now, can’t help himself if he is nobody special, a mere passive observer of his own life, your typical every day lost soul. He can learn from the courage his parents demonstrated in their lives and the sacrifices they made for his sake, but he doesn’t yet know if he can perform any of these feats of courage in turn. ★★★★☆

March Wrap-Up 🎀 2018

I’m going to be writing about three books this month, because I started the last one in March, and while I finished it in April, I’m including it because otherwise I would only have 2 books read for this month, and that would be really sad. You see, let me present my excuses. On top of working a lot and experiencing a spike in social engagements, I bought a new computer (a humble but gorgeous HP Omen whom I love so very much) during the latter part of the month and have been choosing to play video games over reading. I’m shameless.

March Wrap-Up 2018

#1: Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Summary: An all-American blonde MacKayla (down-to-earthly also-known-as “Mac”) becomes tangled in the dangerous trade of faerie artifacts after she travels to Dublin to avenge her sister’s violent death and meets Jericho Barrons, the disturbingly sexy faerie artifact dealer who introduces her to the paranormal underbelly of the world and the only person who can really help her. Mac and Jericho form an uneasy symbiotic partnership. Then blonde MacKayla dyes her hair black, and if it can be interpreted as a gesture of mourning, it isn’t in mourning for her sister.

Wrap-up: I just really wanted to read about faeries that wasn’t a YA book, okay. “Faeries” spelled just like that, and not fairies, and if a book happened to have “dark eroticism,” whatever, and if its sexuality were graphic, so much the better. Interestingly enough, if some subject matter was unsuitable for YA, Darkfever does read like a young adult book, and I suppose it could be slotted into New Adult. I have to say it was a great experience reading about faeries in Ireland, their place of origin, instead of reading about them with no resonance to fairies like Ass Town, USA. The fae are even more formally known as the Tuatha de Danann in Irish mythology and not just as “fairies,” like the childish impression of little people with sparkly wings wearing dresses made of flowers that most Americans have. It was fun imagining murderous black masses stalking the streets of an abandoned industrial district and monstrous fae stalking the streets under their glamours on the cobbled, foggy streets of Dublin. It’s cheesy, and somewhat Buffy the Vampire Slayer even if I’ve never watched a single Buffy episode, and I kind of want to know what happens next. ★★★☆☆

#2: Maphead by Ken Jennings

Summary: Ken Jennings has picked up a lot of geography knowledge not just from his trivia pursuits, but also from his childhood, when he was obsessed with maps. He still likes maps as an adult, of course, but there’s something about the passion of childhood obsessions that is hard to recreate in later years. In an effort to rekindle his map love, Jennings has written a short survey of everything map-related, from the sociological role maps play in our sense of identity, to the phenomenon of geography knowledge being the benchmark of judgmental finger-pointing at those who can’t point to where Arkansas is on a map in front of a camera, to the excitement and competitive cultures of the National Geographic Bee and geocaching, to the map trade as it exists today.

Wrap-up: I wasn’t aware that guy from Jeopardy! wrote books, and because I’m so geographically illiterate, I thought, who better to get schooled on the world of geography by none other than this Jeopardy! contestant dude? I enjoyed the pace of this meandering, leisurely stroll through the map world from the perspective of someone who grew up loving maps and recognizes the benefits of knowing where one is, is going to be, or has never been. This book was really successful in making these benefits clear to me and motivating me to play a lot of those games where you have to click on the correct outline of each state or country. Maybe this is the foundational brick to the house of geography knowledge that will be completed once I graduate to learning about geopolitics and being able to point to Arkansas in front of a camera. Not that I’ve found any remotely interesting caches nearby yet, but I even have the Geocaching app on my phone now. It’s a start. ★★★★☆

#3: The Financial Diet by Chelsea Fagan

Summary: Chelsea Fagan is the founder of the The Financial Diet blog and YouTube channel, and she expands her personal finance advice empire with the publication of The Financial Diet book in much the same style and writing voice of TFD articles and videos. It provides a starting point for learning more about budgeting, investing, career, and general life advice for young professional women who may or may not know most of what she is doing.

Wrap-up:  The target audience is just about all I can recommend this book to. While anyone could benefit from the sound financial advice, it is absolutely geared towards Millennial women who aspire to work in white collar fields, or just young women who are abysmal at managing their money. Of course a fifty-year-old plumber who is just starting to think about retirement could read this, but I think he would benefit more from other personal finance books. Because I already read and watch so much TFD already, I was familiar with a lot of the points, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it all again in the same easy, familiar TFD style! If you are a woman at that tender stage in life where you still need some help with Adulting™ and discussions of investing and retirement planning have you feeling dazed and confused, I urge you to start demystifying the money world with this friendly primer. ★★★★☆


February Wrap-Up 🎀 2018

I wasn’t going to do my February Wrap-Up until after this weekend, what I thought was the end of February, and then I realized It Was The End Of February. Exceeding expectations of my own punctuality, I have it ready for today, a total of five books.

The real number of books I read this month was bigger, but most of those unmentionable entries were Harry Potter books, because I want to save my innermost thoughts beginning with Harry Pothead and the Sorcerer Stoned for another post, and another one was a YA book, and we don’t talk about YA here, except when we do.

Insecure reminder that these wrap-ups aren’t how I really review books and my full-length reviews are on Goodreads!


#1: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Summary: Rachel had a drinking problem even when she was married, but after she was dumped by her husband for another woman, she earns her grade-A alcoholic status by faking employment and taking her usual train in the morning so her roommate won’t kick her out and fantasizing about the attractive young couple she sees every day from her seat on the train who live a few houses down from the house she once shared with her ex-husband. Idle make-believe becomes her reality once she sees Mrs. Perfect Wife embracing another man in the yard and catches her face on the news report of her sudden disappearance soon after.

Wrap-up: Aside from my fondness for trains I had nothing other than a desire for variety in my reading when I chose to read this, but I’m glad I did. Even with my limited knowledge of the thriller genre I don’t think this book is the most thrillingest thriller to have ever thrilled, but I was entertained from beginning to end with this tale of crazy husbands and ex-husbands told with the unreliable narration of a drunken mess and the desperation of a woman wronged. There was no moralizing even while the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side mentality was getting so cruelly stomped on. ★★★★☆

#2: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Summary: In three long letters from a father to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores a subject that is rarely discussed: the vulnerability of the black body, and the state of constant fear that surrounds black men when they live in their lives in public.

Wrap-up: An irreligious man where so many African Americans take comfort in Christianity, he doesn’t see how the spiritual will protect black bodies in the physical realm. A secular and sobering reality check. ★★★★☆

#3: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Summary: It’s not about a school shooting. It does involve a school massacre.

Wrap-up:  Saying We Need to Talk About Kevin accurately addresses a woman’s fear about motherhood is like saying Rosemary’s Baby is a realistic portrayal of motherhood. The fear and horror are there in reality, but not to the same degree as in fiction. This book takes the horror to more… mythic proportions. A gory retelling of the story of Oedipus Rex from the view of the mother who rejected him. ★★★★☆

#4: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Summary: Wuthering Heights is approximately one-third about Cathy and Healthcliff, unlike what filmmakers and Kate Bush would have led you to think. One-third focuses on the offspring of Cathy and Healthcliff, and the remaining third focuses on the wild, rough misty moors, wild and untamed wilderness, lots of windy wind wuthering about, Wet n Wild cosmetics sold at a Sephora or Ulta near you.

Wrap-up:  What made the events drag on had everything to do with Emily Brontë’s insistence on telling the story entirely through a servant’s flashbacks she relates to an outsider intrigued by Heathcliff’s one big unhappy family; flashbacks where everyone recalls conversations in full that took place years ago. Why tho, Em? You couldn’t even have used the epistolary format if you disliked third person omniscient that much? Some people won’t find any characters who will be your next precious cinnamon rolls, but I liked Healthcliff, or Brontë’s characterization of him at least, the crazy bastard. In my review I likened the plot to the premise of Full House, except everybody hates each other and wants each other dead, and the only happy domesticity is to be provided by incest. ★★★☆☆

#5: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Summary: Phillip Ashley is determined to hate the woman who he’s certain is responsible for his cousin Ambrose’s death, or he was before he became obsessed with her and wanted to give her all the property and money and family jewels he owned.

Wrap-up: This is good recommendation to someone who wants literary historical fiction that takes place in old timey times that wasn’t actually written in old timey times. The time period remains ambiguous but is certainly the mid-1800s. Rachel is a maddeningly nuanced character. At one point she seems so transparent and I can’t believe Phillip would be so stupid to fall for such eyelash-batting, at another I was convinced of her innocence and shook my head at Phillip for his dangerous jealousy. du Maurier has much to say about the suspicions an independent woman can breed in a man whose only hope of understanding her is to buy her. ★★★★☆



Judge, jury, and executioner

One day, browsing the profiles of strangers on Goodreads with the intention on zeroing in on someone with lots to say on books to follow and inject some interesting opinions into my timeline, I came across one user who had only logged a small number of books in their read shelf, but had upwards of 1,000 books in their to-be-read, and was continuously adding to their tbr. This person, I thought, must be aware of what they were doing? They don’t seriously intend to read all of these books in their lifetime and must be having a bit of fun with their gargantuan tbr as a kind of defeatist, bookish anti-memento mori, saying to themselves, “Hey man, look at all these books you definitely won’t be reading and won’t feel bad about not reading anyway,” as they kept clicking that green “Want to Read” button book after unread book.

The shock at encountering a reader with such a cavalier attitude towards comparing their tbr with their own mortality was a reaction to how foreign I was to such an approach. In contrast, my own tbr list is currently at 14, and even 14 is a few books too many, I privately concede, to be lying undisturbed in a tbr. I think back to when I first joined Goodreads and my tbr was a much larger, only to delete the whole list a few years later in need of a fresh start when my stale tbr provoked feelings of insecurity and unfulfillment.

Still inspired by my first blog post, I’ll extend the minimalist approach to the book world with the aim of culling my to-read picks. I’ll be crafting a defense for each book on the list right now and deciding whether the appeal in favor of remaining on my tbr is strong enough.



#1: The Nightmare Factory by Thomas Ligotti

The defense: Prior to adding this one, I was impressed by my first encounter with Thomas Ligotti with another collection of weird short stories, Teatro Grottesco. I absolutely was eager for more, but The Nightmare Factory is the collection more difficult to track down, and as my weird fiction craving waned, I forgot all about it.

The verdict: It’s been several years since I logged Teatro Grottesco as read, and that was back when I didn’t write reviews at all. My memory is in need of refreshing and a reread is in order. Until I reread that collection and determine whether Ligotti’s stories are as good as I remember them, I shouldn’t concern myself with flagging down a copy of The Nightmare Factory. It leaves.

#2: Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen

The defense: An unusual choice, but I’d just finished and enjoyed the first book of The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce and was in the mood for more women warriors and medieval fantasy settings. And it looked so very unapologetically women-centered, so of course I was interested.

The verdict: Sister Light, Sister Dark is the only YA book on the list because it looked promising as a standout, but YA remains one of my least favorite genres, and at this point I’m not tripping over myself to overcome the book’s obscurity and get my hands on a copy. Maybe I’ll meet it again when I’m interested in feminism’s influence on YA… if the interest is ever sparked. It leaves.

#3: Dear Dead Women by Edna W. Underwood

The defense: Look at the cover.

The verdict: From the glimpses the handful of people who have had the privilege of reading this mysterious collection of weird stories provided me of Edna Underwood’s prose, her writing is as beautiful as that cover. The promise of beauty between the pages has ceased haunting me. It leaves.

#4: The City & The City by China Miéville

The defense: Miéville is an author whose imagination I’m still unacquainted with and would be interested in getting to know, and The City & The City was going to be my introduction to him. I’m fond of stories that feature extensive adventuring in fantastical cities.

The verdict: The plot seems to revolve around a murder mystery, and murder mysteries aren’t the most interesting things to me in the world. I’m in no hurry to pick this up. It leaves.

#5: Among Others by Jo Walton

The defense: Key words: “boarding school,” “magic, “like-minded friends.” Of course I would be interested.

The verdict: My library has a copy of Among Others right now, and I don’t see why I should pass up an opportunity to read a semi-autobiographical fantasy account of one young woman’s struggle for independence, belonging, and self-discovery. It stays!

#6: Tales of Hoffman by E.T.A. Hoffman

The defense: Here we have yet another collection of weird short stories. How unexpected. Hoffman’s tales sounded enticingly strange to me when I added them, and they appeared foundational essential reads all because they were penned much earlier than were Edgar Allen Poe’s tales.

The verdict: This author now occupies a low position on the list of weird fiction writers I’d like to read. It leaves.

#7: Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories by Algernon Blackwood

The defense: Algernon Blackwood has H.P. Lovecraft’s stamp of approval, so you know this guy’s stuff is going to be weird. The boring cover for the Penguin Classics edition of a big ol’ black cat doesn’t dissuade me.

The verdict: He was a major influence on one of my favorite authors, and he is often recommended to Lovecraft fans as Blackwood’s stories are thematically and tonally similar. It stays!

#8: The Dark Eidolon and Other Stories by Clark Ashton Smith

The defense: I’ve only heard great things about Clark Ashton Smith, and he’s usually lumped in with Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard.

The verdict: Thumbing through his stories, I was unsure of his style and hesitant to begin reading any of them. His reputation for being similar to those two aforementioned authors condemns him to my list as a must-read. It stays!

#9: In the Land of Time: And Other Fantasy Tales by Lord Dunsany

The defense: More of an imperative read if you’re interested in fantasy than in weird stories, but I wanted to “expand my horizons.”

The verdict: I’ve heard mixed reviews of Dunsany, although his name in the is almost mythic. He seems to be the love-him-or-hate-him sort. I’ll think of getting back to him once I’ve sampled a little more fantasy and feel more like playing at the Lovecraftian scholar. It leaves.

#10: Revolt Against the Modern World by Julius Evola

The defense: Some unsavory fellows would memepost this book and I got interested in spite of myself.

The verdict: Evola sounds like a strange dude with skewed values. I would read this not because I would actually expect to learn something about politics, civilization, and morality; I tend to read about weird worldviews for enjoyment’s sake. It stays!

#11: Imajica by Clive Barker

The defense: The Birthday Massacre, probably my favorite band of all time, was originally named Imagica after this book, no doubt a book musical mastermind Rainbow and lead vocalist Chibi would recommend.

The verdict: I have to read any book that could have possibly inspired my cherished bard and songstress to think of such gorgeous lyrics evoking purple flights of fancy. It stays!

#12: The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives

The defense: I bought a copy of this lauded biography of the most infamous of Henry VIII’s queens (and my personal favorite of them all) during the height of my Anne Boleyn phase.

The verdict: My fascination with Anne Boleyn hasn’t waned, but I haven’t prioritized reading an in-depth account of her life. I know I’ll read this eventually; it doesn’t make sense to remove it from the list. It stays!

#13: The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough

The defense: Colleen McCullough is one of the more recognizable writers of historical fiction, and I wanted to read about ancient Rome.

The verdict: I bought this book with three other books set in ancient Rome, and this one is the best of the lot. I actually read a small portion of this brick of a mass-market paperback and thoroughly enjoyed myself, so much that I prematurely determined it was the highest quality historical fiction I’d ever read! It stays!

#14: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The defense: This book is hailed by Goodreads reviewers (or maybe it was elsewhere on the Internet, I don’t remember) as being the best fantasy book they’ve ever read.

The verdict: It was probably added in the same spirit as when I added Lord Dunsany’s tales. Again, the fantasy genre will have to wait a little longer for me to turn my attention to it more closely. It leaves.

My tbr is now at a satisfyingly low 7. I rejected seven books, and I kept seven books. There was a beautiful symmetry to this conclusion, which I appreciate. If I don’t read any of these 7, I can say I’ve successfully taken responsibility for my tbr list and will never feel crestfallen at the fact that I’ve only not-read 7 books instead of focusing on the thousands of books that I would also potentially would’ve liked to read. It’s a psychological safeguard I’ve taken for myself and I would recommend it to any reader.


Not love of opulence, but an opulence of love

Minimalism, the ascetic aesthetic and lifestyle trend that has dominated the living spaces of young creative and spiritual types the world over, recurring in the thumbnails of twenty-something style vloggers and organization articles owing their content entirely to Marie Kondo tagged under “personal development,” has a point, though I didn’t always think so. The austere, lackluster rooms I would see touted as the next thing everyone should be impressed by stirred no desire to replicate what I saw as a dreary fad in my own life.

It was impossible imagine myself waking up day after day to four white empty walls populated by only a low-slung teak bed with fairy lights on the headboard, a white IKEA dresser solely consisting of UNIQLO basics folded mechanically and organized impeccably, and a scraggly plant hunched in the corner, and feeling happy about it. The enforced sterility of the examples Google Images confidently provides me of minimalist rooms all look like what the house of a well-to-do family with very good connections to the government would look like if their society were an Orwellian dystopia in which access to material objects was tightly regulated and controlled (“SCARCITY IS LUXURY”).

Even so, looking around at my modest-enough bedroom (painted a bright burgundy in reality), I had to ask myself one question: How does one person accumulate so much shit?

As a child, I was never deprived, but I wasn’t particularly spoiled either, so I harbor no hoarding tendencies born of hard financial times or massive collections of juvenile memorabilia. My parents would buy me things and then give them away when as I grew older, or I would give them away myself at times when I felt a surge of spring cleaning spirit. I didn’t have a job until I was well over 19, and prior to my many jobless years before that, I rarely asked my parents to buy me something that wasn’t food or books. My life as a teenage recluse rarely involved going somewhere that wasn’t the grocery store or the library. I didn’t take up any hobbies that required lots of things to have fun with.

Yet here I was, having existed for a little over 23 years and contemplating how I managed to stuff so much shit into my little bedroom. That wasn’t even the whole of it: I had some shit in the attic, a good deal more shit in the basement, and s’more shit lying around other parts of the house.

Predictably, a lot of the shit is books I’ve never read, indiscriminately snatched up many years ago from the book sales I’d once attended annually.  Some shit is journals and notebooks I’ve only used to write down a couple of entries or scribble two pages’ worth of notes and doodles. Most shit is typical domestic miscellany, the noisy clutters serving as design static in the background of my life: rogue hair ties, a tube of hand cream I bought in 2016, shop catalogs showcasing fancy things that are out of my price range I thumbed through once when I was feeling bored and envious, mysterious cables to lost devices, plastic bags, stationary leaflets, shirts I should have donated, earrings I don’t think are cute anymore.

It’s not that my room is messy or strewn with trash. I don’t own so many possessions that I feel overwhelmed or lost in them. My problem is that the majority of my possessions don’t hold much significance to me. All this shit, I wager, is either taking up space from the things that I truly want to own, or has the potential to weigh me down with the weight of its own worthlessness on the day I move out of my parents’ house.

The guiding principles of the minimalism I once thought to be so odious have helped me to evaluate what exactly is important to me in terms of the things I’ve chosen to surround myself with. No longer can I brush off this pressing organizational issue as an unintentional wave after inevitable wave of docking more shit in my harbor.

There’s what other people would see as shit, but are my own personal treasures. I’m keeping my dolls, my Bratz and my porcelain certified genuines. I’m keeping my ratty century-old postcards and faded photos of dead strangers. I’ll be holding on to my childhood and young adult journals, the pieces of me that have come and gone with age but are eternally, embarrassingly preserved in ink and paper.

One interpretation of minimalism could be decluttering as much as possible so as to get back to basics and down to business in the American tradition of contemplative productivity à la Henry David Thoreau. Another is minimalism by financial constraints and necessary resorts to selling off some very nice things to pay the bills or facilitate a move. Still another interpretation is in pursuit of the calm, neat atmosphere some seem to crave from the bare rooms I described so unpleasantly. Minimalism’s significance to me is in its careful considerate philosophy, a dogged practicality paired with a searching, serious value system that has won me over to the point where I am no longer unwilling to pass judgement over each and every one of my things. Whether you buy less shit because you don’t want to or because you can’t afford to, I think the extent of minimalism’s benefits in the context of the larger global consumerist, thing-and-shit-centered mantra are yet to be discovered.

So I’ve resolved to rid myself of the shit, little by little. I’ll be donating my unread and never-to-be-read books to allow myself to build a library of reference books I regularly consult and favorite books I will never tire of rereading. I will be giving the shit away or tossing it when it makes sense so I can look around at my inner sanctum and feel proud that everything within was chosen by yours truly, with love and intention.