Looking Back: The Best of July

It's been (yet another) whirlwind month over here. We were home for a little under two weeks at the beginning of the month before leaving for a wedding and then a trip to the Virgin Islands (no complaints!). As I wrote in this week's Week in Reading post, I've been surprisingly slow to pick up books this particular trip; I've sat and watched the ocean, boated around, drank (a few too many) rum drinks, and generally taken in the sights, but have only read two books in the last two weeks. So the books-read-in-July stack is woefully short, but full of powerful books that were strong enough to pull me away from the hectic worlds of work and travel...

July Books You Shouldn't Miss:

Here Comes the Sun, by Nicole Dennis-Benn: I cannot say enough good things about this book. Originally reviewed in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

The Sunlight Pilgrims, by Jenni Fagan: I never got around to Fagan's debut novel, The Panopticon, but her sophomore effort was a stunning reflection on rapid climate change and the day-to-day effort of living amidst chaotic shifts in the status quo. Reviewed in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

Run the World: My 3,500 Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the World, by Becky Wade: Wade's a runner, not a writer, by trade, but this memoir of her year-long journey through running cultures around the world is a fascinating glimpse into the ways global training methods are both the same and very, very different. Originally reviewed in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

On Trails: An Exploration, by Robert Moore: This book offers a view of the world through the history of the trails that criss-cross it--and it's fucking fabulous. On Trails scratched my narrative non-fiction itch in so many ways, and had me itching to lace up my trail shoes and go for a hike the whole time I was reading it. Reviewed in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

Run the World: Becky Wade's 3500-Mile Journey through Running Cultures

Review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

Champion marathoner Becky Wade travels to nine countries to explore running cultures.

In 2012, NCAA All-American star and Olympic hopeful Becky Wade received a Watson Fellowship to travel around the world to explore her passion: running. "Seventy-two beds, eleven pairs of running shoes, and 3,504 training miles later," Wade has since become an elite marathoner, drawing on her experience of cultures in nine countries to perfect her sport. In Run the World, she tells about her travels--and the lessons she learned along the way--in precise detail. 

Week in Reading: July 25th

It's a strange feeling. I've been traveling this week, and haven't read a whole book since I got here. Though I've finished the two books I had started before I came (Roses and Rot, Between the World and Me), I've started nothing new--and haven't been too mad about that. Instead, I've been running, hiking, boating, swimming, sitting, thinking, writing, doing, being, chilling.

#24in48: A Weekend of (Vacation and) Reading

This weekend marks one of my favorite of the year: the 24 in 48 readathon! The goal, as always, is to read for 24 hours of a 48-hour period; as per usual, I won't even come close this weekend, but I love the idea of focused reading time across a community of readers around the world.

The Reading Stack

I've got a fairly limited reading stack this time around as I'm on vacation--a fact that will likely mean even less hours of reading than might be typical for me during a readathon event. Here's what I'm looking at:

(Not pictured: Blue Lily, Lily Blue on audio.)


Day One: Introduction

Where in the world are you reading from this weekend?
The British Virgin Islands! Which makes for one hell of a backdrop for reading. Oddly enough, though, I've been here for a few days and have yet to crack a book (after finishing Roses and Rot on the plane flying down). It's strange to feel like I'm "not in the mood" to read anything at all, but I've been going with the flow... so we'll see how things shape up.

Have you done the 24in48 readathon before?Aw hells to the yes I have.

What book are you most excited about reading this weekend?
I'm really enjoying the little bit of Between the World and Me I've managed to read so far, so look forward to continuing with that one.

Tell us something about yourself.Because it's top of mind here: I'm terrified of snorkeling. I thought I was over this particular fear until the other day when I jumped off a boat and put on a mask and immediately started hyperventilating. I prefer my fish viewed from a boat, apparently.

Remind us where to find you online this weekend.
Here, Twitter, Instagram, or Litsy (username: kerry).


Day One: Wrap Up

Ok, so it's barely 6:00 here... but with dinner coming up, and the sun going down, I know I won't check in here again before tomorrow. As anticipated, I haven't read for anywhere close to 12 hours; not as anticipated, I've barely managed to sneak in a solid hour of reading. Instead, I've been for a (very steep, hilly) run; gone one several boat rides (including one in the middle of a rapid rainstorm that left us soaked to the bone and witness to some very stunning rainbows); had a few painkillers; taken a nap; and generally sat around looking at the water and taking in the breezes.

Books read: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Books completed: 0
Pages read: 47
Hours read: 1

Here's to better progress tomorrow. In the meantime, some pretty pictures of our adventures around these parts:

looking out from Saba Rock

unidentified islands, as seen from the tiny plane we took to get here

Scrub Island, seen on my morning run


Day 2: Wrap Up

As expected, today didn't include nearly as much reading time as I might have liked. I did manage to finish one book, though, and make a small dent in a second--so overall, I wouldn't call the readathon a total bust. I'm still figuring out what this not-reading-so-much-on-vacation thing feels like, and I'm not sure if it feels like something I like or something I don't. I expect to be processing that for some time. In the meantime, the final (measly) numbers for the weekend:

Books read: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates; Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
Books completed: 1
Pages read: 168
Hours read: roughly 4.5

Neil Gaiman's The View from the Cheap Seats: Fiction and Imagination in the Real World

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

Gaiman's works of nonfiction prove just as powerful as his fiction in exploring the lasting place of fiction and imagination in the real world.

Neil Gaiman is most recognized for the power of his imagination, with novels like Coraline, comics like Sandman and television credits like Doctor Who underscoring his ability to dream up impossible worlds and turn them into a reality. His nonfiction is just as compelling (and, perhaps not surprisingly, just as imaginative), as collected in The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfictions.

Social Justice Book Club: The New Jim Crow Schedule & Plans

After hearing from several participants about ideas for fostering more discussion for the Social Justice Book Club group reads, I've decided to go ahead and make a few changes for the August club read. As always, think of these as optional upgrades; life happens, things come up, and I know strict readalong schedules and posting requirements can quickly become a burden. But, in hopes of finding more ways to connect with other readers in the club, here we go...


The New Jim Crow Reading Schedule

August 1st: Start date 

(Optional intro post/check-in 8/1; I'll share discussion questions here a few days in advance)

August 1st-15th: Chapters 1-3

(Optional mid-way post/check-in 8/15; I'll share discussion questions here a few days in advance)

August 16th-31st: Chapters 4-6

August 31st: The End! Link up reviews, final thoughts, etc. etc. etc.

(Stay tuned, too, for a hoped-for Q&A post with author Michelle Alexander)


The New Jim Crow Introductory Discussion Questions

At the start, middle and end of this month's reading, I'll post discussion prompts on this blog that participants can respond to in a blog post, tweets, on Instagram or Litsy photos, or any other number of platforms you can imagine that I haven't even thought of yet. For those who like to plan out blog posts and whatnot in advance, I'll post discussion questions a few days before the end of each section.

If you're not much for blog posts and social media sharing, commenting is great too--and Disqus, the platform I use for comments here, can and will notify you of follow-up comments, so it can be a great space for discussions.


Social Justice Book Club Twitter Chat

There's been a lot of interest in a scheduled Twitter chat as an additional component of this shared reading event. If we were to host a Twitter chat, would any of the following times work for all?


What do ya'll think? Will this work, logistically? I'm always open to ideas and suggestions, so feel free to chime in in the comments or shoot me an email at ofabookworm AT gmail DOT com if you've got ideas to make this all work better! 


And it's not too late to sign up!

Week in Reading: July 18th

Another week warmer, another wedding attended (three down, three to go!). I'm gearing up for a relatively quiet week of traveling, unwinding, catching up on work, and reading (the 24in48 readathon is coming up! Aren't you joining us?).

With a strange lull in review deadlines (my next written piece is some how not due until August 20th...), I'm floundering a bit on what to read next. I'm devouring the last few available episodes of the Outlander tv series (finally) and am ramping back up on training for my fall races, so that's starting to eat into my reading time--though of course that doesn't mean I won't be reading.

Call and Response: When Women Were Birds, Navigating Life, and Finding a Voice

I've had When Women Were Birds on my shelf for at least three years, if not more. I tried to read it a year or two ago and found that I couldn't focus on it; it's a book that needs to be read on its own, perhaps, and best consumed away from the grind of daily life. And so I packed it up with me to go to Greece last month, and found myself immediately absorbed in Terry Tempest Williams' reflective, philosophical, moving words:

For far too long we have been seduced into walking a path that did not lead us to ourselves. For far too long we have said yes when we wanted to say no. And for far too long we have said no when we desperately wanted to say yes.

When I look in the mirror, I see a woman with secrets.

When we don't listen to our intuition, we abandon our souls. And we abandon our souls because we are afraid if we don't, others will abandon us. We've been raised to question what we know, to discount and discredit the authority of our gut.

Not long after finishing When Women Were Birds, I picked up Navigating Life by Margaux Bergen for a review deadline. The two books are inherently different: one is a daughter's attempts to understand her mother, the other a mother's attempts to provide life advice to her daughter. But they formed a kind of call and response in my mind, as I struggle to understand how I find--and use--my voice in this world.

Here Comes the Sun: Nicole Dennis-Benn's Stunning Debut

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission.

In her debut novel, Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn captures the lushness and devastation of Jamaica and its changing landscape. She brings both island and people to life with grace and beauty, complete with strong dichotomies: the verdant landscape and the rough edges of its poorest towns; its idyllic seas and dangerous tides; its thriving tourism and the ways that industry threatens the island way of life.

Week in Reading: July 11th

It's Monday, it's a new week, and I feel like my reading priorities have shifted approximately 10 times over the last week. I finished The Tenth of December, by George Saunders, for a book club buddy read over the weekend (adored it and all its strangeness--why did I let this wallow on my shelves for so long?), and read most of The Affair, by Colette Freedman for another book club that meets this week (let me spare you the pain: it's been a long while since I read anything so overwrought, overwritten, cliche, and generally awful without adding it immediately to the DNF pile, though I do think it will make for very interesting book club discussion). I also finished The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, following an emergency sprint to the library to secure a physical copy when I realized my library hold on the digital copy had expired 12 hours earlier than I thought it would. While I was there, I went ahead and picked up the rest of the series, because hey, why not? So Blue Lily, Lily Blue will most definitely be on my stack this week.

Checking in on Challenges

We're halfway through the year already, which seems like as good a time as any to check in on the challenges I'm actively (or, um, not so actively, as the case may be) participating in this year.

Looking Ahead: Books to Look for in July

I never got my act together for a "Books to Look for in June" post, so July will just have to suffice. Unfortunately, high summer temps tend to bring about a slowdown in books published, so this month and next are a wee bit light--but that just gives us all the time to catch up on reading before the fall books are upon us in September and October.

Here's what I'm most excited for this month (titles below all link to Indiebound.org):

Social Justice Book Club: August Book will be The New Jim Crow

It is with heavy heart that I write this post after hearing of not one but two police shootings of black men this week alone. It's heartbreaking. It's absurd. It's important. I had a lot of books floating around in my head for our possible August read, but I've decided to go with The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. It seems (unfortunately) timely for our next pick, and though I know several past club participants have read it already, I'm hopeful it will still foster some discussion among those reading it for the first time and those revisiting the subject with the group.

Social Justice Book Club August Book Selection: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Looking Back: The Best of June

We're practically a week into July already, so, fine, I'm a bit behind the eight ball getting this post up... but June has come and gone, and with it, a stay in Baltimore for the Baltimore 10-Miler, a trip to Connecticut for my sister-in-law's wedding, a rapid-fire trek down to DC for a two-day conference there, and then a week-long getaway to Greece. It was one of those months where everything was wonderful, but in the whirlwind of go-go-go, I very much lost track of my one little word for the year (savor). I'm hoping to reclaim some of that in July and beyond; onwards and upwards for the second half of the year, right?

With all of the running around, I didn't read nearly as much as I might have liked, but those books I did read are worth sharing (all titles below link to Indiebound.org):

June Releases

Marrow Island, by Alexis Smith: "In Marrow Island, Smith offers a complex story of one woman's life while quietly reflecting on the power of the environment to shape our lives." (More in my review in Shelf Awareness for Readers.)

Chronicle of a Last Summer, by Yasmin El Rashidi: "A nuanced story of one girl's coming of age set against decades of political ferment in Cairo, Egypt." (More in my review in Shelf Awareness for Readers.)

Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry: "Debut novelist Flynn Berry delivers a tightly paced and impressive story of psychological suspense." (More in my review in Shelf Awareness for Readers.)

Week in Reading: July 5th

Happy day-after-July 4th, all ya'll Americans here (and happy Tuesday to any non-Americans...). We had a very fun (if a bit rainy) long weekend, with friends and family and food and not too much reading. But I can at least say that my reading stack has changed since the last time I posted a Week in Reading post (two weeks ago!)...