Reading List

As promised yesterday, here is my accountability post for my reading list. If you would like to join me in this reading challenge, more information can be found here.

Below, you can see how I’m color coding, and what sorts of diversity I’m looking at. Under that are books I’ve read so far this year, and how they stack up.

Here are my reading lists. On the left are books just by Black authors. On the right I have a list of books by Black, Hispanic, Native American, Middle Eastern, Indian, and other identities of color.

I’ve already gotten a start on these lists. I was partially inspired by BookRoast’s Welcome to Hogsmead reading challenge on Youtube. She posted on June 1, and the challenge is meant to run the 22nd-28th, but several people in the comments mentioned they wanted to make it a month long readathon. I thought this sounded like a good idea (also, I don’t think I can finish even half the challenges in a week), so I made myself another list:

Items in pencil are titles I am not sure I’ll get to, or haven’t started yet. The little diamond pattern means I’ve already finished that book (I was already reading The Inventor’s Secret and The Diary of Mary Berg when the announcement was made). Out of all the books on this list, only The Inventor’s Secret doesn’t qualify for my color code. Secrets of Learning a Foreign Language technically doesn’t either, but I am still nudging it toward the more diverse books because I believe strongly that everyone should learn a foreign language, as it helps us communicate with those who are different from us, and increases our understanding and empathy for others in the world, but that’s a subject for a different blog.

If you’re joining me on this journey, please feel free to comment below, or tag me on Instagram or Twitter (@Knotmagick both places).

A Challenge

I know, things have been quiet around here lately. Don’t worry, I have a backlog of reviews I’ll be posting next week.

But first, I wanted to invite you to join me in a challenge I set for myself.

I want to do a readalong for white people.

Before you start screaming “racist!”, hear me out:

I am white. I am aware that I have a certain amount of privilege. I am also aware that I am not doing enough to broaden my horizons and learn about the experiences of others. Until I moved to Seattle, I didn’t live in a diverse area. Diversity was a theoretical thing I saw on the internet.

So I want to invite other white people to join me in educating myself about Black and POC experiences, rather than putting the onus on individuals to educate us.

This challenge is meant to introduce baby steps to make me (us) more aware of what and how I (we) read, and to introduce a broader range of voices.

If you would like to join (be you white or otherwise, all are welcome), then here is how:

  1. Start a reading journal. I say journal, because you’re going to need some space for this. It could be digital or on paper. If you already have a reading journal, great! Skip to step 3.
  2. In that journal, write down every book you read or listen to. All book formats count.
  3. Create a color coding system, or other signifiers to show the kinds of diverse books you read. There should at least be notations for #Ownvoices Black and #Ownvoices POC books, but other flavors of diversity you might like to track: positive or #Ownvoices mental health rep, first generation [insert your country of origin here], Native voices (American, 1st Nations, Aboriginal, Ainu, or other), positive or #Ownvoices disability rep, and LGBT+ rep.
  4. Highlight books according to these labels, using up to two colors for each one. A book only counts if the label applies to the author, main character, or the main supporting character (love interest, best friend, sibling, etc).
  5. Create a reading list for yourself through the end of the year. You can read other books, but the challenge here is to try to finish this list or as much of it as possible by the end of the year. It should be challenging, but doable. Don’t make a list so long it’s going to overwhelm you. I recommend between 25-50 books.
    1. At least half this list should be #Ownvoices Black experience. The other half can be any POC representation, but must be #Ownvoices. Try to find as many intersectional represenations as possible (i.e. a disabled Hispanic main character, a trans Asian main character, etc.) *
    2. Include at least three books that are not recent releases, like books from the Harlem Renaissance, older biographies, etc. Adding nonfiction is a definite bonus.**

6. Post pictures of the three lists on social media to help keep yourself accountable (Mine are up on Instagram–@Knotmagick–and I’ll be showing them here in my next post.

I don’t have a catchy hashtag or title for this reading challenge, but feel free to tag me in your posts (same username on Twitter, too).

If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments below and I will answer. My next few posts (after my lists) will be catching up on my backlog of reviews, but I am taking more detailed notes on the books I’ve earmarked for this challenge, and I’ve already started one of them.

I know this is a small effort, and that is intentional. I want us to be more aware of ourselves and the people around us, and that is not something that happens at the drop of a hat. It means re-training your brain and your senses. Just this morning I saw a Twitter thread (by a black woman) about preventing burnout, as most white people are not trained to think about race every second of every day the way people of color are. This of this as a Couch to 5K for increasing your racial awareness. I’m also sure there are or will be similar reading challenges in the near future. If this one doesn’t appeal to you, maybe take part in one of those?

I hope you’ll join me in making small steps for change.


*I have this split into two lists for a few reasons, but I thought I would mention the most practical one up front: a lot of books by Black authors are hard to get a hold of at the moment if you are a person who relies on libraries like me. So feel free to start with other marginalizations and circle back to the Black authors as they become available. I think I went through 15 books on my list before I found one my library had available, and the King County Library System is not small. Readers in more rural areas may have more difficulty and I want this to be as accessible and as educational as possible.

**Try to make these books that you actually want to read, not just stuff you’re forcing yourself to read for the sake of education. I relate most to YA, so I’ve put a lot of that on my list. Don’t know where to start? Here are some lists I pulled from to help me find my titles:
Goodreads: Books by Black Authors
Goodreads: Multicultural Children’s Lit
Goodreads: Black Speculative Fiction
Goodreads: Masterlist of Black YA Writers
Oprah: 43 Books by Black Authors to Read in Your Lifetime
Penguin Random House: 25 Books by Contemporary Black Authors

Update

Ug. I feel so bad for ignoring this blog for so long. I swear, it is not intentional.

The fact of the matter is, I don’t have time to manage 2 blogs and my Patreon since I started my new job. Two of the three drive sales for my books and add to my income; I have to focus on them out of survival.

I’ve also been in a reading slump since January. I’m starting to get over it, and have finished a couple of audiobooks recently, but I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to write the reviews.

I haven’t forgotten about the Library, and I do want to get back to it. But it’s going to be on a much more sporadic schedule than I’d like.

In the mean time, let me leave you with the books on my TBR I’m most looking forward to reading this year. Yes, I am behind:

A Curious History of Sex by Kate Lister

The Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

A Tyranny of Petticoats by Jessica Spotswood

The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman

What are you looking forward to? Have you already gotten your hands on your most anticipated book of the year?

 

Books I DNFed

As I wrap up my first ever reading journal, I thought it might be interesting to go through the books I set out to read and then didn’t finish.

Twenties Girl

As much as I loved Finding Audrey, I couldn’t stand this book. I hated the main character,  hated her friends, hated the ghost of her grandmother, found the 2nd hand embarrassment so intense I kept having to put it down, and finally drew the line when Lara started lying to the cops. I stopped listening to the audiobook about 25% of the way in.

Falling Kingdoms

I could not keep track of this story. It jumps between so many different characters and places so fast that I couldn’t keep up or get any of the straight. I might have done a little better with a physical book (provided the book included a map), but when a huge political infodump happened I was just so lost I put it down. I also really disliked the narrator for the audiobook. The story seemed to be set in a pseudo-historical version of Italy, but he gave everyone fake English accents. I didn’t like any of the characters. There was a chapter where literally NOTHING happened. And then we get to the boy who is in love with his sister. But it’s okay! She’s not really his sister! Except he doesn’t know that!

Nope. Hard pass.

90 Church

This one I actually did a review for before I decided to stop reviewing DNFs.

War and Peace

To be fair, I do plan on going back to this one. I’m listening to Anna Karenina right now and really enjoying it, I just wasn’t in the right headspace for this one at the time.

The Bluest Eye

I stopped listening after 10 minutes. The first chapter is obnoxious, written like a Dick & Jane book. And in the 2nd chapter we find out that the main character, a little girl of (I think) about 10, is a psychopath who wants to dismember and mutilate little white girls.

Nope. No thank you. I don’t think I’ve ever put down a book that fast.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business

I was hoping this would be helpful in my writing business, but it turns out it’s too outdated. The book was published in 1997 and was just far too basic. Check publication dates on your nonfiction, kids.

What makes you stop reading a book?

Taking a break

Hey, guys. If you’re followers of my regular blog then you know that I’m prepping for a cross country move. I haven’t had the time or energy for a lot of reading the last couple of weeks, so I’m going to take a little time away from blogging and reviewing, just until I get my feet under me again. I had hoped to keep things going here in the mean time, but I need to accept that isn’t going to happen. At the very least, this will give me time to create a backlog of posts to prepare for my return.

While I’m away, could you do me a favor? Leave me a comment below with things you like, what you want to see more of, and what you think should change around here.

What are your most anticipated books? Anything I should look up?

Also, if you’ve been to Seattle, what’s your favorite indie book store?

Bookshop Review: Powell’s

Last month I flew out to Portland to visit some relatives, and I have a confession to make: I didn’t know what Powell’s was until a friend dropped us off on the sidewalk in front of the store.

If you don’t know, Powell’s is a 3 story haven for book lovers, nestled in the heart of downtown Portland, OR. Stocking everything from board books to rare books and manuscripts, it is the largest new and used bookstore in the country.

I can’t even begin to describe it. I wish I’d taken pictures of the glory that Powell’s, if only to remember it by. It was an overwhelming experience–I didn’t even explore half the departments just because my brain fizzled out and could no longer process the concept of “there are more books in the next room.”

Over the course of two days, we made no less than 5 trips to the store. Yes, five. No, I did not purchase something every time, though I did walk away with a tidy haul.

The store itself is large enough to require a map, which can be found at the many information/customer service desks, as well as in the large elevators. The map is also a poster, so at least I had one free-of-charge souvenir of my visit.

Each room is identified by a color to make navigation easier, and there are many signs to help tourists find their way.

Most of my time was spent wandering through young adult and reading in the cafe. They had a massive selection of young adult novels and graphic novels, and I saw so many books I’d never even heard of. Considering how much time I spend on booktube and chatting with indie authors on Twitter, this is a pretty solid achievement. I did make time to explore the adult fiction, nonfiction, romance, mystery, fantasy, and periodical departments.

If you are a romance reader, you are probably one of the few people who will be disappointed. Powell’s dedicated only a single aisle to the genre (there were 2.5 for YA, which brings in a lot less in terms of sales than romance novels). I suspect this is because romance books dominate most other bookstores, and Powell’s seems dedicated to the hard-to-find.

However, if you are shopping for a reader under 18, then you will certainly have plenty to choose from. I have never seen so many kid’s books in my life. I saw everything from new releases I didn’t realize were out yet to picture books my dad grew up with.

The mystery and horror sections were equally tempting, but I had to walk away as I’d already spent my budget on YA and chai lattes.

Speaking of, while I thought the quality of the cafe drinks was good, the prices were high for the amount served–but that seems pretty typical for Portland. We did not try any of their food. I will say that on Saturday we met a friend and brought Voodoo donuts with us. No one said boo about the outside food and drink. Maybe because we’d spent so much time there the day before, or possibly because we also did buy warm drinks once we sat down (it was about 50 degrees that day, much colder than initially predicted).

The only drawback to Powell’s is that because it is a tourist destination, it is often loud and very crowded, especially on Saturday afternoons. If you plan a trip, I advise going during the week. This isn’t the type of bookstore where you can really camp out with a latte and work or read for a long period of time, just because there are so many people. Also, the cafe chairs are not super comfortable, and while there are nice big benches scattered liberally through the store, they aren’t upholstered or really the type of place that invites you to sit down and read the 1500 page epic you just purchased.

While the lines were long, there were lots of employees all over the store, willing to help with anything, and the checkout did move quickly. My only complaint is that there’s only one bathroom in the entire building, so there was always a line outside the ladies’ (I can’t speak for the men’s).

If you’re planning a trip to the west coast, you should definitely add Powell’s to your itinerary.

Library Review: CML Dublin

 

I am spoiled for libraries. I currently live smack dab in the middle of 2 different library systems, which means there’s 1 library I can walk to, 4 different locations within a 10-15 minute drive, and about a dozen others within 30 minutes.

For the last year and a half, “my” local library (the one I visit the most) has been under construction. Well, reconstruction. A limited selection of inventory was moved to a strip mall, the old building was torn down, and a new building with a parking garage was built.

Monday was my first time visiting the new Dublin Library. I’ve been looking forward to this for the past year, watching as the construction progressed on my daily commute.

I’ve already shared my haul over on my Instagram (@knotmagick), but I thought I’ve give you my thoughts on the new library itself.

Now, the old library was perfectly adequate in most respects, but it was somewhat dark, and needed more in the way of work spaces and power outlets. The YA department was negligible, and parking was very limited, with only about 50-100 spaces, which were also shared with the general community and an adjoining park. This parking lot had a weird layout and was entirely one-way, making it hard to find a space or get around someone if they were doing something stupid.

It was crowded as the community has expanded a lot in the past few years, and more housing was being build immediately adjacent to the library both in the year prior to the reconstruction and during the process. It continues now, as well, with more apartments and condos going in.

And therein is what I feel was the main impetus for the change–the neighborhood has become more affluent, and the library didn’t keep up visually. Which annoys me–they could have saved a lot of money by creating an addition to the existing building (they had the space). I feel like this would have been the more responsible action to take, but I also didn’t work in the building and I know the “behind the scenes” spaces were somewhat limited.

Anyway. The new building is very modern. Not my style, but whatever. The 4 story parking garage was much needed–I was able to find a parking space quickly and easily. But the signage for getting to the library wasn’t great. There was a foot path to a locked door, which meant walking around to the front of the building. Which is fine, but I was expecting a covered walkway or a more obvious connection between the garage and the library–a skywalk or something. Maybe it’s just because of the part of the garage I parked in (I was in the back corner), but still.

 

The lack of signage continued into the building itself. The basement/”main floor” (entered at street level, which is downhill) has a cafe (not open yet) and meeting rooms.

20190611_152615
I admit, I do love these reading nooks. Can we get some in adult sizes, please?

The first floor is mostly dedicated to patrons 12 and under. I identified the children’s area by the aquarium, tunnel-like lounge seating, and dozens of screaming children climbing all over. It invited play more than study or reading time, there there were areas with work spaces and arm chairs for reading or working. I’m not sure how anyone could work with all that noise, though. The high ceilings and industrial feel of the building compounded the effect, and even the adult areas were very loud. Headphones or the use of a quiet study room (of which there are now many on the second floor) would be a must.

A long flight of stairs led up to the second floor. While the patrons that donated to the library’s construction were clearly marked, the departments were not. I had to ask for a map just to figure out where I was.

20190611_152739_hdr
A view of the 2nd floor, showing some of the couches and workstations. About halfway down on the left, you can see how low the catalog computers are.

The library increased the space for workstations, quiet study, and computer usage by about 3 fold, if not more. The adult fiction section is about double the size, YA increased by 50%, and nonfiction appears to be about 50% bigger as well, but it was hard to tell because rather than the tall shelves they had before, all of the shelves in the adult and nonfiction departments were only 4′ tall.

In fact, only in the YA room did anything exceed a height of 4′. Even the catalog computers were placed exceptionally low. I’m 5’4″, and though I was wearing heels (about 1.5″) I had to crouch to reach the keyboard. This was awkward and uncomfortable, especially combined with the fact that the screen, while larger than at the old branch, was mounted at chest height for me and could not be raised or even tilted to get a better angle. While this set up is great for kids, people in wheelchairs, or those that are just plain short, it would be difficult or impossible for anyone taller (even just 5’7″), using crutches, with a bad back or a vision problem to use. I kept having to crouch to see titles or screens, or even just to figure out what nonfiction department I was in. I feel like a better compromise could have been reached. With the height and industrial look of the ceilings (lots of exposed pipes and supports) it would be easy to hang movable signage, such as what is used in retail stores. Even just placing a table-top marker on top of the short shelves would have been  helpful.

The focus of this library is clearly on computer usage, as noted by the increased number of work stations. Comfortable seating for reading or working (i.e. sofas, etc) is a  bit harder to come by, especially during busy times. The work station chairs are mostly plastic and modern looking, but surprisingly comfortable from what I’ve tried. They are a significant improvement over the hard, straight backed wood chairs still in use at the Whetstone location.

My last and biggest pet peeve after the lack of signage is that they reduced the number of DVDs and Blu Ray movies they stock, and cut CDs completely. I love going to the library to browse music–I’ve found so many new artists that way, and so much international music I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Now I’ll have to go to a different branch when I want to do that–that that was the number 1 thing I was looking forward to when this one reopened. CDs can still be reserved and delivered to this location, but you have to know what you’re looking for in order to do that.

Overall, it felt like the redesign put form over function. While the space is much brighter and more open, it just feels like more could have been done with it, or it could have been utilized better.


Is there a book-related location in the state of Ohio you’d like me to review? Let me know! I’ll also be in Charleston, SC at the end of this month!

6 Book Vloggers You Should Watch

Books with Chloe

This Aussie booktuber is an absolute delight, and probably the reason I started this blog in the first place. I stumbled on her channel a few weeks ago and dove head first into her reading vlogs. She’s been gently prodding (ahem. Coercing) her sister and boyfriend to read by picking TBRs for them. I also love her random dance parties.

This Story Ain’t Over

Every time I watch one of Jananie’s videos I add at least 2-3 books to my TBR. She reads a lot of very diverse stories that I never see talked about in other parts of Booktube, so if you’re looking for something different, definitely check her out.

Read by Zoe

Zoe has been a mainstay in my youtube subscriptions for years. She’s so silly, cute, and enthusiastic–but also honest about her struggles with mental health. I especially love her readathon blogs.

Brittany the Bibiophile

Brittany is a relatively new addition to my youtube, but I’ve been enjoying her vlogs quite a bit. A psych major, she examines her books a little differently than most of the other readers I’ve seen.

A Book Utopia

Ah, Sasha. Sasha Alsberg is somewhat infamous in the booktube community since she started publishing. I confess, I like her a lot better as a reader than a writer. But I do enjoy her vlogs and her booktube videos. I probably won’t be taking any of her writing advice, though….

Katytastic

Kat is the reason I got into Booktube in the first place. Goofy, awkward in the best way, and funny she reads primarily YA and sparked my interest in a lot of new books I’d never heard of when I first started watching. She’s also a writer (as yet unpublished), and while we have vastly different methods of working, I still enjoy listening to her talk about her work. Her non-book related content is also very, very funny.