What to Read Right Now

Well, I’m going to Italy tomorrow.

No, I’m not going for the purpose of escaping the state of the US. I’m only going for three weeks, and it’s been planned for years. It just so happens I really don’t mind getting a break from the chaos that grows with every day.

If you’re in the majority and stuck here, I suggest trying my favorite method of escape lately: books, of course. Though I’ve been in an off-and-on reading slump since November 8th, I’ve found moments of solace in books that take me away or that help me learn better how to resist. I hope you find hope in these books as well!

Since the internet has done a wonderful job of these lists, here are places to start to find relevant books right now:

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Review: The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees

The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees (Ten Speed Press, 272 pages)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Many women don’t know what their personal style is, don’t have a wardrobe that actually matches their style or life, and don’t know how to shop for a structured wardrobe of all pieces that can be worn easily and confidently. Style and minimalism blogger Anuschka Rees presents a fascinatingly strategic, prescriptive approach to identifying, refining, and expressing personal style and building the ideal wardrobe to match it, with style and shopping strategies that women can use every day. Including beautiful full-color fashion photography, infographics, and activities, The Curated Closet is a useful guide covering everything women need to know to fully realize their individual style and create their perfect functional and beautiful wardrobe.

Recommended for: fashion enthusiasts or bloggers, anyone interested in changing up their closet, shoppers, big spenders, people who are suckers for sales, minimalists.

The Curated Closet was an easy, down to earth read giving practical advice for the person who wants to find their personal style or live with fewer, but more high quality and tailored-to-you pieces of clothing in their closet.

It reads like a fashion blog carefully tailored (haha, sorry, couldn’t help myself) into a book that progresses from figuring out what you want in a wardrobe to teaching you how to select high quality clothing. Some other subjects she covers is information about capsule wardrobes, minimalist living, how to clean out your closet, how to stop impulse sale buying, how to shop mindfully, and much more. I’ll admit I learned a lot and as a baby minimalist, I’ve been trying to figure out how to live by many of the principles in this book such as only buying pieces that fit right, that I love, and that go with everything else in my wardrobe.

The cons were that I don’t have time for all the fun exercises she includes towards the beginning of the book, like taking a picture of your outfit every day for two weeks and then creating an inspiration board to figure out what you want and how to change your closet to reflect that. As other reviewers have stated, teenage me would have been all over that but adult me has to just get by on some of the more practical and less time-consuming advice in the book. Luckily there’s a lot of that! It’s a little long, but there were only small stuff here and there that I wasn’t interested in.

Unfortunately the Kindle edition was very annoying to read: it had formatting problems up the wazoo and the pictures here and there didn’t help. However, I did use my bookmark feature a lot as there’s a lot I want to revisit when I have the time or recall something I learned in this book. Another con is that the book is very female-centric (as stated in the synopsis, but still!). I would have liked to see more inclusivity towards men’s wardrobes and clothes, but I guess I can see why all her examples were from either her closet or the “typical” woman shopper since that’s the primary audience of the book (and it was long enough as is!). Some people will feel left out, though, or if you don’t struggle with sales and impulse buying, take the advice with a grain of salt. In all, pretending I read the book in print and not on the Kindle, 5 stars.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Twin Cities weekly literary round up

Fellow Twin Cities book lovers!

There’s so many new things to write about now that my motivation is coming back (seriously, I was wondering if I could even consider myself a blogger anymore), so I think I’m going to try to compile the latest and greatest for you to peruse. Here’s just a few recently awesome local literary news on my radar:

loft_facebook1. Get reading recommendations and a writing prompt from Kao Kalia Yang: 

Even if you don’t live in the Twin Cities, this still applies to you! If you support the Loft Literary Center by becoming a member—with a contribution of any amountby November 9you will receive an exclusive writing prompt and reading recommendations from our very own local author Kao Kalia Yang! Contribute here at loft.org/support.

kao-kalia-yang(If you don’t know who she is, get on that! Kao Kalia Yang is the author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (Coffee House Press, 2008) and more recently The Song Poet (Metropolitan Books, 2016) and a speaker and teacher.)

I can’t get over how incredible this opportunity is! the-latehomecomerReally a win-win for everyone! For more information, visit the Loft’s website or their Facebook page with this announcement for more information.

 

mn-state-arts-grants

 

2. The winners of the Minnesota State Arts Board Grants were announced yesterday!
No one is better at reporting local literary book news than Laurie Hertzel, so head on over to the Star Trib to learn about who won Minnesota State Arts Board Grants. Among the winners are 10 poets and 32 prose writers including familiar names such as Sun Yung Shin, Kao Kalia Yang, and Ed Bok Lee. Congratulations to everyone!

3. NaNoWriMo 2016 (National Novel Writing Month) has begun!
I’m sure most writers are going to busy typing furiously at their keyboards this month. I am honestly jealous of all of you! I participated in years past and “won” a few times, but those novels were always trash and I never ever wanted to see them again. This year I get to watch my husband participate while I sit back nanoand partake in NaNoREADMo, so I’m fairly pleased. There’s even a website over on Tumblr so like, it’s pretty official guys. Haven’t made any goals yet, but I’ll get back to you if I do. And heck, I may decide to just try writing personal essays or something this month anyway.
Happy writing!

books & the literary community as healing

Alright, friends. Here I am after QUITE the absence, and for that I am sorry. It’s totally not that there haven’t been July events to keep you aware of or awesome June events to talk about (because there have been! I have so much to catch up on), but that I think it’s not secret July has been a total shitstorm in our country.

The day after Philando Castile was shot and killed, I decided to take a break from speaking my own voice out into the social media depths and simply share those voices which haven’t been feeling heard. I received some backlash, I solidified some viewpoints, I worked up the courage to share controversial content for what I believe in, and I got to know myself a bit better.

My desire is not for this blog to cover that content. Not because I don’t believe in speaking up, but simply because I don’t want to alienate anyone who loves books or calls Minnesota home, and also because I don’t think my voice, as a white woman, is so very different. I’m learning that the best thing I can do right now is support, learn, and assist those who’s voices need to be heard right now.

I AM going to plug what I’ve been reading and plan to read, of course, and coincidentally that covers the turmoil the nation has been experiencing. I think readers have a big responsibility right now to read and, at least for those of us who don’t experience racism good timeday to day, educate themselves and open up their minds to the voices and experiences of their neighbors, friends, coworkers, and fellow citizens.

MPR last week published a GREAT piece about how books about racial studies or by people of color are flying off the shelves of our local Minneapolis/St. Paul bookstores. I can testify that I’ve sold at least one copy a day of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and I watched A Good Time for the Truth (by local, Minnesotan authors, which is what I’m reading now!) sell out before the weekend of July 9-10. I believe strongly in the power of that book:

The impact of “A Good Time for the Truth” is different, though, Zumberge said, because it’s local.

The book “is the experiences of people of color who live in this state. You cannot say ‘Oh, it’s not us,'” Zumberge said.

“I’m glad that people are turning to bookstores,” [Martin of Common Good Books] said. “Because it’s what bookstores are really good at: Helping understand the world around us.” (Read the whole piece here).

I echo that statement, which is why I see the literary community as a place for healing.

I had the privilege of experiencing that directly last Monday evening at Subtext Books. I heard word that there’d be a discussion of A Good Time for the Truth with editor Sun Yung Shin, and so my partner and I went even though I had only read the first two chapters at that point. We were a big taken aback that it wasn’t a regular event but rather an intimate book club of around 25 people, but we stayed and listened to a wonderful discussion about the influence of the book and the courage of the writers who have shared pieces inside.

Sun Yung Shin spoke about how the anthology came about, how she wanted an anthology including many different viewpoints and representations of different races, and that it was important for it to be a creative piece. Those of us there agreed–the stories really are so well written you feel as if you are friends with the writer and listening face to face. In that way, the stories are that much more real and influential. They cannot be ignored. 

I have more notes from that discussion that I’d love to share some other time, but it’s important that I say we all agreed that reading matters. Our discussion leader asked the question: is reading enough?

The unanimous conclusion was yes. Reading is important, and it does make a difference. If just one person’s mind is changed and they tell their friends, that’s a difference. If one of those people becomes an activist or has influence where some laws could be changed, that’s definitely a difference. And so on.

If you’re a reader who wants to make a difference but perhaps doesn’t know how, or doesn’t know where to start, or wants to know which books could be deemed most important right now, here’s a list of books Writers of Color Say We Should All Read Now. This list is so, so good because I don’t think any one person could have come up with all these important works. I’m a bookseller and I didn’t even know about most of them (partly because our sections on racial, gender, women’s, and LGBTQIA+ studies are always going fast! An awesome problem to have). blues vision

I would also like to spotlight Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota from the list, another anthology on race also published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press last year. I’ve sold books for well-attended readings from this anthology at the Loft and always been sad I couldn’t listen in from my book table. If there are more events like this, you can bet I’ll do my best to be there.

Don’t minimize the influence you could have. Read these books. Share them with people, and start seeing the literary community as a place of discussion, healing, and beauty.

Do you agree that books and the literary community can be a place of healing? Where have you see this for yourself? Do you have books you would recommend strongly at this period in time? I’d love to start a discussion on this! 

 

 

 

all the reasons

Okay so this post is my attempt to deviate from the books and events a little and be a real human being who writes things. I’ve been writing some reflections on things in life and I’d love to start posting them. Most have to do with literature in some way simply because my life revolves so closely around it. And I’m always, always reading, so there’s that. But anyway, it’s not a blog if there’s no personality, so, hello!

June has been busy, and I’ve been absent.

Reasons for not blogging:

  1. Every time I get home, I pull on comfy clothes, grab a drink and my book, and attempt to plop down on the reading chair ASAP. Almost immediately, my male cat starts meowing and scratching at walls, the closet doors, the tapestry, the furniture… He knows it drives me nuts. So instead of peacefully reading before starting to make dinner, I chase the cat around with a squirt bottle for sometimes 3 hours because I’ve already played with him for 30 minutes and he’s not letting up. My husband usually comes home to me fuming in anger while the cat has magically decided he’s had enough of torturing me. #truestory
  2. Summer means the I’m-not-outside-enjoying-this-nice-MN-weather guilt meter is on full blast. If it’s anywhere between 60-90 degrees, I feel like I should be outside on my patio. Laptops and patios don’t mix.
  3. Ermergerd, ervernts!! So many in June. Not that I’ve been able to go to all of them, but still.
  4. And summer stuff like visiting family, beach days, road trips…
  5. Adulting means there are always things to do! And when you’ve had enough and need a break, there’s always a book or Netflix. Or the Game of Thrones finale, or Orange is the New Black Season 4. I’m not a binge watcher anymore, but sometimes blogging requires too much thinking for my ideal downtime.
  6. Lots of work and a new season in life! My last day as a barista was today, and I’m starting an internship this week! I’ll still be working 40-something hours a week, so bear with me as I go through another transition!

Reasons to blog:

  1. Things to say. Great books to blog about, and great thoughts about life to share.
  2. My readership. I’m only hoping to grow from here, but I’m realized I need more realistic goals, and ones that fit with my schedule! So no guests posts yet, sorry readers!
  3. So many books to review!

There you have it. What have you been busy doing this summer? What’s been keeping you from your writing?