Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Inspiration: less than 100 pages

Right away when we published the list of prompts, this one started generating questions. For this prompt, I want you to read something short: so short, in fact, that it has fewer than 100 pages. But something that's a stand-alone piece of writing, published on its own. Not part of a collection or anthology. Just a book that's not very long.

I went to the "new books" section of my library, pulled off books that were super skinny and checked the last page number. Then, if it was 100 or fewer, I read the description to see if I might enjoy it. That's how I found Fox 8 by George Saunders.

Something I noticed: lots of self-help or inspirational nonfiction are this short! Have you read any of Austin Kleon's books? All the heart eyes for his creative and art inspiration, and they fit this length.

Another approach is to look at juvenile literature. Read a picture book. Read a chapter book. Read a kids novel that's less than 100 pages. The options are ENDLESS in the kid's department!

  • I think everyone should read the pre-TV series Olivia books by Ian Falconer
  • I sometimes read the Peter H. Reynolds Creatrilogy books aloud to my adult art students
  • Dip a toe into juvenile nonfiction to learn the basics about something new without going overboard (philosophy, religion, crafts, an animal of choice)

And a few list links:

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

It's a simple mantra: Today will be different. But it's much harder to implement in real life, as the day goes on and shit just keeps happening. Life - it's never just easy, is it?

Eleanor has the best intentions, but once the school calls to say her son is sick, once she realizes she's forgotten a lunch appointment, once she catches her husband in a lie ... today may be different-like-unique, but probably not different-like-better.

That's not all, though. She's got some extended-family issues that seem to have popped up from nowhere, and it's emotional baggage she's having trouble lugging.

Overall, Eleanor is delightfully inept in a harried, scattered way (many of us relate). She's bumbling and blustering through adulthood, just trying to measure up to the other moms, to her career potential, and to her expectations for marriage.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

When the headmistress collapses dead, the students at Saint Etheldreda's School decide to keep the news under wraps so they aren't returned to their families.

This is a precocious murder-mystery book for preteens, with very little gore and a lot of innocently made bad judgment calls. It's the kind of story where a church basement strawberry social is the very epitome of the town's social scene.

But it's also a cracking good mystery full of fun characters: these seven Victorian-era British school girls cover the gamut of personality types, from the goth girl to the flirt to the science geek to the actress. You'll find from the 1890's era to modern days there isn't much difference when you gather a group of girls - you'll get sisterhood and teasing, both affection and a few tears.

How long with the crime go unnoticed? And above all, whodunnit? There are quite a few twists and turns to the plot, because it turns out the girls don't know quite as much about things as they'd thought. The gradual drama is fun, and the big reveal is a surprise in many ways.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Inspiration: Asian

Reading books about other places, cultures, and experiences is a great way to expand your horizons, even when you're stuck at home. For this prompt, we're looking at books about by Asian authors and about the cultures, people, and immigrants of Asian countries.

I went looking for an official list of countries in Asia, and my world view has been expanded to understand Russia and most of the Middle East are included in Asia. I don't know what I thought they were ...

Here are a few I've read:
A few authors and books I haven't read but would recommend anyway:
  • Crazy Rich Asians series by Kevin Kwan
  • Nicola Yoon (YA)
  • Mindy Kaling (nonfiction)
  • Gene Luen Yang (graphic novels)
  • Arcady's Goal by Eugene Yelchin
And a list of lists:
My list seems heavy on Japan and China, with some India. Can you help diversify the list with some additional recommendations?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Inspiration: politics

This could be a really heavy topic, but it doesn't have to be!

You can choose nonfiction or fiction, local or international, history, current affairs or even speculative dystopian fantasy.

Pick a smaller topic than POLITICS: Choose economics, or narrow it down to a biography. Drill down to a current social topic.

Can you recommend something?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

It's the typical rock and roll story arc: youngsters form a band, tour and party, find fame, then eventually self-destruct. Always captivating, and somehow I never get tired of reading it!

This time it's fictional, but that's sooo easy to forget while reading this one. The book's written in the typical music bio style of quotes drawn from interviews with those involved. The players don't agree about what happened exactly, and we get multiple perspectives on the drama.

The Six is a 1970s group led by Billy Dunne. He recruits his brother, another pair of brothers, and a couple other musicians (including a female keyboard player), and they eventually get some notice as a straight-forward rock band. They get along, they fight, somebody has a crush on the girl.

Daisy Jones is a wild child with a killer voice and the face of an angel. She wants to be a star, but she doesn't want to sing somebody else's words. Plus, she's got major rock star "habits," even before the fame. Eventually, somebody decides The Six and Daisy should work together.

You think you know what will happen, but you can't be sure - no Wikipedia to check the stories, and there's no YouTube clips to watch because THIS IS FICTION! (Continually, I wanted to actually hear these songs!) And there are surprises along the way.

I loved this one a whole lot. It's like "A Star Is Born" mixed with the juiciest rock bios. Love, ego, drugs, and flashes of genius. Divine.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Inspiration: celebrity endorsed

The easiest way to find a good book is to ask: "Hey, what are you reading?" People love to tell you about the books they're enjoying (or hating) and celebrities are no exception.

Sometimes they're hawking their own books or promoting a friend (or sponsor), and sometimes it's legitimately because they're inspired or in love with a book and want to share. Understand the difference, and you'll be happier!

Celebrity book clubs:

Learn about what inspires your heroes: Locate the online presence for someone you idolize, and see if they discuss what they're reading and what inspires them. Or follow an author you've enjoyed reading to see what they're reading.

So what are you reading this week that was endorsed by a celebrity?