2016: Bookish Highlights

So, the day after Christmas. Either a day of immense satisfaction, or disappointment, or a simple relief that at least the big Christmas holiday is over.  Unless, of course, your holiday is spread out over the week to get in all the Christmas with all the loved ones.  And super of course, you even celebrate love and light in this way at all.

So the inevitable week of the year in review is on. Is it just me, or did a large proportion of celebrities pass on this year? My sister was devastated when we lost Robin Williams, my father sad about the loss of John Glenn, my Harry Potter lovers devastated with losing Alan Rickman.  David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Muhammad Ali…in the immortal words of my intelligent, kind and blue collar husband, “it’s been a truly sh—y year for that.”

And then the election does not go as anticipated.

So I am going to talk about my own bookish highlights for the year.  The loved bookery that was not in actuality sitting down with a book.  I plan to post final specs later in the week, and of course the resolutions on how I plan on spending my leisure time on my next ride around the sun.  Today though, it’s a positive reflection.

February:  A Visit to the Strand Bookstore, NYC

Probably should have taken a picture of the bookstore.

I went to the city to celebrate my best friend’s first book publication, Ancient Egyptians at Play: Board Games without Borders, with him.  Yeah, my prom date published a book before I did, but I finished my doctorate first, so…I can deal.  The Strand. I was only on the first floor because I was anxious about getting too far away from my flock, and I am told that the stacks of low priced books and adorable bookish gifts that I drooled over on the first floor was the tip of the iceberg.  And don’t judge me for keeping an eye on one of the group the whole time.  It was a cold Saturday and it was packed with people.  I bought In The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, like three weeks before it was finally put out on ebook, but that and a tote bag, also nearly impossible to select, were my souvenirs.  Just more proof that the people who know books can see through a special window into my soul. The beginning of the year is the worst time for me to go to a bookstore because I am intensely plotting my reading challenge conquests at that time and am more apt to pick up some purchases, rather than stalking them out at the library.  I probably would have bought more if I had not already been to my local independent bookstore a month earlier and spent 85 dollars picking up some new friends.

Then we went to an amazing little fondue place a few streets over from NYU campus.  We had already visited The Morbid Anatomy Museum, a Beergarden with soft pretzels the size of my head, and a creamery.  I also had a life changing smoked butterscotch latte at Starbs and spent time with people who have understood me for a very long time.

April: An evening with David Sedaris, The Egg in Albany, NY

To be fair, he spent the evening with a lot of people at The Egg all at once but I was one of those people with my friend Crystal.  I always forget that David’s voice is very unique and I had listened to a New Yorker Fiction podcast where he had read and reviewed a story by Miranda July before I went to get excited. He read his recent work about buying distressed clothes in Japan with his family, dressed at the podium in culottes, which had been in The New Yorker the previous month, as well as his adventures in roadside trash collecting and his ambivalence about marrying his long time love and partner.  What I remember most from what he said that night was how he has a compulsion to write daily and saves all the material, whether it becomes something or not.  He read excerpts from his previous lives.  I liked his compulsion to write and his notion that everything produced should be saved as a valuable part of the process.  Sometimes I get hung up on everything I write having to  have a destination, a goal other than building my skills or waiting for a later time.  I have to remind myself that there is a process where every part should be joyful and not in need of a destination (this blog included).  I didn’t join the ranks of the long line at the book signing table, although I do enjoy seeing his random autograph statements on his Facebook page.  The night with a friend doing something new in Albany made it a great night in total. Indian food, a drink at a neat pub where I was almost carded…almost! And I love to see the Capital Plaza at night.

David Sedaris and Olive Sacks are always two New Yorker contributors whose work is a go to when I see them in a new issue.  I am aware that we lost Oliver last year but he was so prolific I imagine that he will continue to emerge from the woodwork, even posthumously, more for me to keep in mind about having faith in the work and destinations I might not even get to see.

The Podcasts

Soooo many podcasts.  Podcasts play a specific role in my life: the ride home on Wednesday afternoon.  Wednesday is my longest commute, and in the morning that commute is perfect for getting some traction with an audiobook.  The ride home, not so much.  My brain can be a smoldering ember at the end of the day, more so as the week trods on. I use podcasts for this time.  I am still absorbing content and information, but if I zone out and miss a part or become focused on the road for some reason, I have not missed a critical plot point.  Sometimes I have listened to writerly ones, but I use this time to absorb shorter work as well as literary criticism.  My current favorite is Myths and Legends podcast, where I can get my fix of stories and legends in short bouts with really hilarious commentary.  He addresses myths and legends from the world over, complete with a discussion about a fabled creature at the end. I have been thinking about stories that already exist as ripe fodder for a makeover for my own work.  Because my interest in ancient culture building stories makes me as cool as Neil Gaiman, right?

Other notables:

The New Yorker Fiction, of course

Pseudopod, short horror stories, a new one every week

Literary Disco, which is really funny. I listened to one in particular about the Sweet Valley High books, which I actually have never read, and I don’t want to read them now as to not sully the incredibly entertaining podcast about them. Roxane Gay talks about the Sweet Valley High books too.  But have one on my queue whose description states, “there could be some yelling.”  O.m.g. bring it.

BookRiot and other bookery sites list out like a million more of these that won’t make it into my brainspace, limited as it is.  I love all the information that is at ones’ fingertips about anything and everything.

So, this is kinda the ‘this blogger is privileged’ post. But I already knew I was.

I am open to suggestions of other podcasts and bookstores worth targeting.  And yes, I have been to Shakespeare and Company.  Twice.

Specs and resolutions up next!  Enjoy the holiday week!


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