Tag Archives: Weekly Geeks

Weekly Geeks: Read-a-thons

This week’s WG is in honor of the upcoming 24-hour Read-a-thon – fitting, since both were started by Dewey, who is still greatly missed around the blogosphere.

I’m not much for read-a-thons, to be perfectly honest. It’s not the reading part (obviously), but anything that involves staying up extremely late is a bit of a turn-off these days. I don’t know if it’s from getting up too early for work or just part of getting older, but my weekends are about catching up on sleep, not avoiding it.

So while I have no problem with setting aside an entire day to just read, forcing myself to stay awake just to do so doesn’t interest me.

However, if I were to participate in the read-a-thon, this would be my strategy:

  1. Move around. I know if I spend too much time in my recliner I will eventually fall asleep. If I move to the kitchen table, the couch, my desk, or even a cafe, I’m more likely to stay awake.
  2. Short books: graphic novels, children’s/YA fiction, that kind of stuff.
  3. Avoid classic literature at all costs. Some of it is quite good but I find it takes a lot more concentration, and thus energy, to fully comprehend.
  4. Get prior “permission” from my husband. This is less about being “allowed” to do this than ensuring that he’ll leave me alone so I can read.

I’ll cheer on all you read-a-thoners, most likely from the comfort of my own bed, shortly before going to sleep. :)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

WG 2010-26 celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

I read this book for the first time in August 2007, and this is what I had to say then:

We did this play in high school; I was called at the last minute to be an extra in the courtroom scene. I remember being struck by the quiet power of the dialogue. Now, over a decade later, I’ve finally read the novel on which it was based and rediscovered that feeling. I’ve found there are very few books that live up to so much hype – recently a group of librarians declared this to be the best book of the 20th century – but this is one of those rare exceptions. It’s thought-provoking and complex while remaining very readable and entertaining. I definitely recommend this book.

This sort of vagueness in a review is common when I am just blown away by a book. I have trouble articulating specific aspects when the whole thing is done so well.

Harper Lee herself no longer gives interviews, but CNN was talking to one of her friends not long ago and evidently her reason for never writing another book was because she could never top TKAM.

And she’s probably right.

Weekly Geeks 2010-24: Shiny Book Syndrome

This week’s WG is about Shiny Book Syndrome, or the overwhelming urge to read the book you acquired most recently, leaving “piles of poor unread books on [the] shelves to collect dust.”

The post goes on to discuss how to alleviate the symptoms, even going so far as to suggest numerous challenges to read the books you already own.

Funny, a friend and I were just discussing this yesterday, and we felt the opposite about this. See, too often we feel that intense desire to read some specific book (usually the newest, though not always), but we put it off for whatever reason in favor of something else. And then that feeling fades, and we have trouble, months down the road, getting that same excitement to build. We agreed that it’s actually a better idea to read something while you’re champing at the bit to do so, because otherwise it may well end up being just another book collecting dust on your shelves.

Now, this isn’t to say that one should only read their newest books and ignore the older ones. Rather, if you’re feeling really eager to read something in particular, then read it. The mood may not strike again for quite a while.

WG 2010-19: Getting Graphic

This week’s WG is about graphic novels. Now, despite the fact that I’m married to a webcomic artist, my experience with comics is extremely limited. I am slowly (oh, so slowly) working my way through the Death Note manga series and have read the first few collections of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I’ve only read three self-contained graphic novels: Malice, which was kind of meh; In Odd We Trust, which was pretty decent; and Cancer Vixen, which was absolutely excellent.

My to-be-read pile has quite a few goodies, however, including The Crow, Watchmen, Preludes and Nocturnes, and Maus. I look forward to those. I have to get into a special mode to read graphic novels, though, or else I just zip from word balloon to word balloon and miss the illustrations all together.  I suspect that comes from reading comic strips (which I love), since often the dialogue is all that really matters.  Not so in graphic novels.

I am also, ostensibly, writing my own graphic novel. As of this writing the story, dialogue, and storyboarding is all finished. All that’s left is the actual drawing. You know, just a minor step.

Weekly Geeks – Author Interviews

WG 2010-08 is about interest in authors. The prompt puts forth the possibility that “there are two types of readers…those who stick to the books versus those who like to know more about the author’s background, thoughts, motivations and writing process.” I am definitely in the former category. I don’t seek out author interviews and I’d have no idea what I’d ask an author were I to interview them. I don’t subscribe to author blogs in general, though from time to time I’ve been pointed to specific posts. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve visited an author’s website just to learn more about them, since Fantastic Fiction provides all the book information I need.

It all comes down to separating the work from the worker. My opinions are solely about the work. For example, JK Rowling may have invented Harry Potter, but I won’t like her books any more or less by learning where she grew up or how she gets her ideas. I don’t feel any special desire to get to know her personally. She’s a complete stranger, and reading her books doesn’t change that. Do rumors of Lewis Carroll’s pedophilia change the quality of Alice in Wonderland as a story? Of course not.

The only exception to this are authors of memoirs. Clearly my enjoyment of writers like David Sedaris and Laurie Notaro have quite a bit to do with them personally, since they write autobiographical essays. I’m still not sure I’d go out of my way to read an interview with them, but it’s possibly more likely that they’d have clever answers on the fly than, say, your average novelist.

Bloggiesta, et al.

Forget two birds; I’m killing a whole flock with one stone in this post. See, this week’s Weekly Geeks is basically “participate in Bloggiesta-type activities” so I feel perfectly justified in using this post (and, honestly, the previous one too) for both challenges. I’m even squeezing the recently restarted Write on Wednesday in here too – the prompt is “fresh start”, and that’s a lot of what Bloggiesta is about: catching up and starting anew. Check out all the stuff I’ve done over the course of Bloggiesta:

  • Added “addthis” bar to the bottom of my posts, which is pretty awesome.
  • Added genre tags to all book review posts. (mini-challenge)
  • Added copyright footer plug-in for posts and feed. (mini-challenge)
  • Some housekeeping on my other website, Sine Fine Films.

More Mini-Challenges!

Not going to participate in blogging mentor challenge. Likewise with the mind-map challenge, because my last five posts were either book reviews or a list of the books I read last year or intro posts to reading challenges. Not much to expand on there. But it’s something to think about for the future.

The dead link challenge was particularly handy for me. I ran Link Valet and it worked very well. Sure, it didn’t delve into the depths of old blog posts, but I’m not too concerned about those right now. A lot of my oldest posts referred to news articles, and I’d expect those to disappear sooner or later anyway. I did, however, discover a weird bug: some of the links to my oldest posts no longer work. I’m not sure what’s going on, since I can edit them just fine. Changing the URL for these posts seems to help, so I’m slowly going through them and fixing them as I find them.

The putting your best forward challenge interests me as well. Here are some of my favorite posts:

  • The series of posts I did during the recent Basic Drawing class I took.
  • Mr. Peep Goes to Illinois: an adventure in landmark snarfing.
  • My review of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Love it or hate it, it’s huge right now, and I happen to be rather pleased with my review of it. I know it’s the only book review I included, which implies it’s my best review evar, but I’m not so sure about that. It’s just a recent one that seemed to work really well.

There are probably others, but it’s really hard to sift through the over 900 entries I’ve posted since starting this blog back in 2003.

Bloggiesta’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve gotten a lot done, both on my blog and in other ways: I cleaned up my study, caught up on a few forums (fora?), and logged a few outstanding snarfs. Thanks for hosting, Maw Books!

Weekly Geeks 2009-44

I told you I got last week’s WG in just under the wire. And here’s the next one already. WG 2009-44 is more like a questionnaire than a single topic, so I’m going to fill it in that way.

How do you choose what to read? Is it random or planned? Based on your mood, challenges, titles, covers, topic?

There are two parts to this question. The first part is how I choose what to add to my to-be-read pile. These generally fall into three categories: (1) a classic (or currently popular) book I pick up just to see what all the fuss is about, (2) a book by an author I’ve previously enjoyed, and (3) books literally shoved into my hands by fellow BookCrossers. This last one is the most common. We can get a little aggressively generous with our literature. :) But I’ve discovered a lot of really awesome books this way, much of it stuff I never would have tried on my own.

The second part is how I choose what I read next. If I have a book with a time limit (bookring to pass along, ARC to review, book borrowed from a friend, etc.) then of course that comes first. Otherwise I usually just go to the shelf and grab whatever strikes my fancy at that particular moment. The exception to this is audiobooks, which I borrow from the library. Their catalog has only a passing acquaintance with reality, so I keep a list of audiobooks I’d like to listen to and when I start one, I put the next one on hold. That way it’s waiting for me in an easy-to-find location when I’m ready to read it.

What process do you use for reading? Do you take notes while reading? Annotate your books? Just read?

I just read. The only time I take notes is when reading a textbook or something I plan to summarize, or occasionally when I think of something I want to include in my review.

What happens when you are done reading? Do you wait to review or write immediately? Do you revisit and revise before posting?

Sometimes I jot down quick notes while reading, but in general I try to get the review written within a couple days of finishing the book. If I wait too long I start forgetting what I wanted to say.

What other tasks do you go through after reading a book? Is your blog the only place you post a review? Do you keep lists of readings? Catalog genre, page numbers, gender of authors, etc.?

Oy. The reviews are posted here on my blog, as well as GoodReads and LibraryThing. Each week I post links on Semicolon: Saturday Reviews. In addition, I keep lists of books read in a given year on my BookCrossing bookshelf, Lists of Bests, and of course here on the blog. I’ve thought about copy-pasting my reviews on Amazon as well but haven’t made the time to do it.

What happens to the book when you are done with it? Does it end up in your home library? Go back to a public library? BookMooch?

The audiobooks go back to the library. 99.9% of the rest of them end up being released through BookCrossing. It’s very rare that I reread a book, so if I don’t think I will, I don’t keep it. Shelf space is at a premium in my house.

Overall, if you had to give someone a “How To” list for your dealings with any particular book, what would it look like?

1. Get book via friends, BookCrossing, the Book Thing, a used bookstore, whatever.
2. Read book. Hopefully enjoy.
3. List book as finished in various places.
4. Review book. Post review in various places.
5. Bring book to BC in DC meet. If no one takes it, release it into the wild.
6. Repeat.

Weekly Geeks

I’m getting WG 2009-43 in just under the wire – it’s due today. This time around we’re revisiting the best books published this year. I don’t read much recent stuff, especially since I stopped signing up for ARCs quite so often, but amazingly I did manage to pick up four titles in 2009. So here are my picks, in order:

  1. Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton – Excellent. I devoured it in about a day.
  2. When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris – Probably my second favorite of his books.
  3. Silverstein and Me by Marv Gold – A touching memoir about my favorite poet.
  4. The Next Queen of Heaven by Gregory Maguire – Funny and tragic, but not all that great. If I’d read more than ten books published this year, this book would not have made the list.

So there you have it.

Weekly Geeks 2009-40

WG 2009-40 is about the tools of the trade (of book blogging, that is). What keeps me organized and inspired? To be perfectly honest, there isn’t a whole lot of organization involved in my reading life. When I finish my current book, provided I don’t have anything time sensitive on the agenda (such as an ARC to review or a bookring to pass along), I just look at the shelf and see what I feel like reading next. The finished book is either put back on the shelf (which is extremely rare), or placed in a canvas totebag for sharing at the next BC in DC meeting. If no one at the meet shows any interest, it ends up in a box in my car for wild release. That’s about it.

Oh wait, I take that back. I did recently get organized with respect to my literary listening habits. My audiobooks come (almost) exclusively from the library. Though the collection in the county-wide system is excellent, I’ve discovered that my local branch is pretty flighty when it comes to organizing their audio collection: the children’s and fiction audiobooks are shelved in their own separate sections, while the young adult and nonfiction audiobooks are shelved with the regular books. The books are routinely mis-shelved, and the catalog is the furthest from reality I’ve ever witnessed in a library. In addition, the last two books I returned were reshelved without being listed as returned in the system, meaning if I hadn’t noticed it I would have been charged late fees on books I’d already brought back.

Eventually I got sick of dealing with it and decided to abuse the hold system instead. I created a list of audiobooks I’d like to listen to and when I start a new one, I put the next one in the list on hold. No fruitless browsing, no irritation at trying to find a book that’s not there.

Inspiration is never a problem. I love to read, to the point where I feel naked if I don’t have at least one book on the go (usually two, if you count audiobooks). When I’m done, I post a review on my blog. I accept that sometimes I don’t have much to say.

As for keeping track of books I’ve read, I record them on Listography, Lists of Bests, and my BookCrossing bookshelf. My reviews, however, I keep stored at GoodReads because it’s reasonably easy to navigate. I’ve recently discovered that not all the books I’ve reviewed have ended up as blog posts, but I think that was before I discovered the joys of scheduled posting.

And that’s about it. I guess in the end I don’t really consider myself a book blogger. Book reviews just happen to comprise the vast majority of my blog posts. :)

Weekly Geeks

WG 2009-39 is about book recommendations. To be perfectly honest, most of the book recommendations I follow come in the form of books literally shoved into my hands by fellow BC in DC members. We get passionate sometimes, and more than once I’ve shown passing interest in a book, only to get a glowing “OMG you must read this”-style exclamation from whoever brought it. More often than not, I give it a try. And am rarely disappointed. I’ve come across several great authors this way, including Simon Singh, Neil Gaiman, and Catherine M. Petrini. Basically if a book looks interesting, regardless of genre, I’ll give it a shot.

Sometimes the books I read are a random find, such as the infrequent occasion when I catch a BookCrossing book in the wild, or if I happen to win it in a contest. I usually have a large number of to-be-read (TBR) books on my shelves, so it is rare indeed for me to finish my current book and have to go searching for something else to read. If I do, though, there’s always The Book Seer, Literature-Map, and Debbie’s Idea, all of which are fine tools for discovering new books and authors.

The official assignment this week involves reader participation. Since the vast majority of my readership exists solely in my head, I may have to play music to drown out the crickets, but hey, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. But anyway. The assignment is to ask for recommendations, and give my own, both within a single genre. So I’m going to choose science fiction/fantasy (SFF) as my genre. Some people may protest and tell me that’s two genres, but I beg to differ. First, several popular authors write books that are difficult to categorize as one or the other (e.g., Anne McCaffrey and Christopher Stasheff), and as Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

First off, I’d love to hear your recommendations. I don’t mean stuff that necessarily aligns with my established tastes, I mean great SFF books in general. What are some titles/authors I simply should not miss?

And now for my recommendations, again in SFF. The WG page suggests I start with something like “If you’re looking for…” which could just mean narrowing it down by genre, but I’m going to narrow it down a little further. So here goes:

If you’re looking for a rowdy yarn set in the far future… Mike Resnick is your man. Most of his books are set within the future chronology laid out in Birthright: The Book of Man, but my personal favorites are Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future and the Penelope Bailey trilogy.

If you’re looking for a beautiful fairy tale… then march right up to Neil Gaiman and Stardust. This is one of the few books I’ve kept and intend to reread. I hear Neverwhere is his best novel, but I haven’t read it yet (though I do have a copy on my shelf).

If you’re looking for a powerful tale of children in an adult world… I cannot recommend Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card highly enough.

If you’re looking for hilarious satire in the guise of SFF… then you want definitely to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

If you’re looking for time travel… The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is your best bet. There are other notables in this sub-genre, but Wells tops them all IMHO.

If you’re looking for good YA SFF… I really enjoyed the Borderlands books, especially Elsewhere and its sequel Never Never by Will Shetterly.

If you’re looking for great concept stories… Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov are all excellent choices for expanding your horizons.

And finally, if you’re looking for mythology in the modern world… you’re sure to get a kick out of Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips.

So there you have it.  I’m sure I’ll missed a bunch, but this is a good start.  What glaring omissions do you spot on this page? Have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?

Most importantly: enjoy! :)

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