April’s Reads – Why These Books?

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Our NSBCBC April reads, as selected by you fantastic people.

Last week I asked for some help. I wanted to bring the Not So Book Club Book Club to not only a wider audience, but also I wanted the audience I already had to help me make this club even better. I asked for suggestions on how to increase participation and I asked for suggestions on what we should read next. Man, you did not disappoint. You sent in really wonderful suggestions and in doing so, you got me all sorts of pumped up for the future of this book club.

Over the past couple of months, I have had numerous people tell me that because of the book club they want to read more. They may not be reading the NSBCBC reads within the span of the month, (Hell, they may not even be reading any of the NSBCBC reads!), but they are reading. This victory, however small it may be, shows that what we’re doing together is working. We’re starting the conversations about literature and we are motivating others to share in the stories we are diving into every month. I don’t know about you, but for me that is just the best, and it makes me want to do even more.

So with that said, I’m happy to announce that this weekend we will be recording our first Not So Book Club Podcast episode! On the podcast (which will be available free to stream on nsbcbc.podbean.com) we will be discussing an array of literature-centered topics. And fear not! You do not have to read the books in order to enjoy the podcast! Anyone who enjoys reading, pop culture, technology, ect. will be able to enjoy this. I’ll post more about the upcoming podcast later this week on our facebook page (facebook.com/nsbcbc), twitter account (@notsobookclub), and instagram hashtag (#nsbcbc).

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The Not So Book Club Podcast- Just like Delicious Dish, but with even more sexual innuendo! Impossible you say? We shall see…

 

And now, without further ado, your April reads.

 

1. “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

From what I have heard, Jenny Lawson (aka “The Bloggess”) is a pretty funny lady. Actually, I read her autobiography paragraph on her blog (http://thebloggess.com/about/) and it’s true. She is funny. And what do we desperately need as we slowly emerge out of the hell that has been this never ending winter? Some humor. Actually, I’m going to let my lovely friend Alison sell you on this book, as she did me. She happily pushed me over the edge with this comment:

“My first recommendation is the quasi-autobiographical/hilarious book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess). I cry a lot when I’m reading a great story but this one had me crying of laughter. John kicked me out of the apt for laughing too loud and the patrons of Starbucks were none too pleased by my presence.”

So there you have it. Let’s laugh inappropriately in public together, gang.

 

2. “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto” by Chuck Klosterman

My husband doesn’t read all that much, but when he does he tends to read books that have an air of cool around them—cool books that I thought I was not cool enough to get. Anyway, a few years back he read this “too cool for me” book (as did pretty much all of my male friends), and I thought they read it based on the title. Of course these fellas would be attracted to a book titled “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.” It’s like their altered lyric version to the von Trapp children’s “My Favorite Things!”

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The books I choose to read, vs. the books my husband chooses to read, as represented Steve Urkel and Stefan Urkel.

When it was suggested, I was skeptical. I didn’t think that even all these years later, I’d be cool enough for this book. But then I read the synopsis, and teeny part of a single sentence sealed the deal for me.

“Whether deconstructing Saved by the Bell episodes…”

Pause. Yes. Done deal. We’re reading it. I’m cool enough. Or it’s not that cool. Whatever. I’m in.

The rest of the sentence went like this,

“…or the artistic legacy of Billy Joel, the symbolic importance of The Empire Strikes Back or the Celtics/Lakers rivalry, Chuck will make you think, he’ll make you laugh, and he’ll drive you insane — usually all at once.”

And so, it was chosen.

 

3. “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Lawson

This was suggested by a NSBCBCer who reads a lot. She seems to have read every book that has ever been popular, ever.  I’ve gazed upon her book collection and have felt the tinge of jealousy that she has somehow over the years, despite her insane schedule, managed to read what seems to be every book to have topped the literary world. So, when she suggested this, I took it seriously.

I’ve considered putting this book on our list for a few months. It found it’s way onto many Best Of lists from 2013, and that always is a pretty good start. It takes place in Italy and everything about the cover screams “warmth!” to me. Perhaps this is so vitally important because currently I’m wearing two sweatshirts, am hiding under a down comforter with a micro fleece blanket on top of that, and when I accidentally poured scalding hot coffee on my own hands this morning, I felt more relief than pain. Have I mentioned yet that I’m over winter?

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Here is a candid picture of me from this morning, as I wrote this blog post.

Anyway, I’m not describing this story with any justice. I think my brain is frozen. Read the synopsis here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11447921-beautiful-ruins?from_search=true

I think you’ll dig it.

 

With that, this already too long post must conclude.

Happy reading book clubbers! I look forward to another great month of reading with you!

And thank you everyone who sent in suggestions! Every book felt like it would have been great, so stay tuned. You never know if your suggestion will be a part of May’s list!

 

– Nina Sclafani

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NSBCBC Founder

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Beware the Idle March

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The month of March. My true frenemy.

For most east coasters, I think it’s fair to say that we would declare January to be our least favorite month. It’s cold, it’s full of snow, there’s no green growing, and no holiday to consume our minds. And in second place would be February—the month where all that garbage continues (Except in this month, we can decorate with hearts and celebrate love!) But alas, there is one more month that may perhaps be the sleeping giant vying for the title of crummiest month. The month that gives you hope, and then takes it away. It teases warmth and progress, and then pummels you with a wind chill of 20, all in the same week. That farty month is March and she has been playing some cruel tricks on me.

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Beware the Ides of March? More like beware the entire month. Good riddance March! (Side note: Me and one of my best friends have been sending each other warning texts about the ides every March for about 10 years. That’s some real nerd business right there.)

Now, perhaps this March is a uniquely rough one, and therefore I can’t entirely blame my negative feelings on the month. The complete lack of job interviews definitely plays a part. The hope I feel every time I send out an application to a job I feel I am perfect for, only to never hear a single word from the company. I never thought I’d find myself veer so far from my career path for this amount of time. But such is life.

So why is March taking all the heat? It comes down to this. With every hopeful application I send, there is an inevitable feeling of exhaustion that follows when the hope of the job is suddenly stripped away. March for me is the natural, physical embodiment of this feeling. The sun breaks through, followed by a frigid gust of wind, and rinse, and repeat.

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But we are just getting out of Winter! Dammit, Ned! Get your shit together!

I know this is completely affecting my ability to do what I love when it comes to this book club. For months, I have been writing about setting goals, and making room for reading in your lives. I’ve been touting that incredible feeling of accomplishment when you finish a great book, and have been pushing you all to find that same feeling. And here I am in the midst of March, not listening to my own advice. So how can I break free of that?

Well for starters, I have to be honest with myself about it. So here I am, being honest. I have allowed myself to become discouraged about the things I can’t 100% control, and in doing so have closed doors to potential opportunity, may it be with prospective jobs, or with reading. In closing those doors, I allowed myself to get sucked into the void of laziness. Sure, there absolutely are times where I can’t keep my eyes open the second I pick up a book, and there are times where I would rather receive my stories via television. (Sidenote: House of Cards and True Detective. Just do it.)  I just need to be aware of it when it’s happening and push myself to snap out of it.

We all go through this at one point or another, and March seemed to be my month. And so here are my new goals:

I have to accept the time I wasted, and try to not waste anymore.

I need to grab my book, and rediscover why I love diving into these worlds.

I need to remind myself that feeling down about a situation is never helpful.

And I need to become Spring and kick March’s ass out of this place.

So excuse me. It’s time to start kicking.

Look out March. I'm comin' for ya.

Look out March. I’m comin’ for ya.

I promise next week I’ll be back on track. Thanks for understanding.

– Nina Sclafani

Calling All Readers! Your Help is Needed!

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If I could make a career out of making poorly produced images on my phone, I’d be a millionaire.

Five months ago when I started the Not So Book Club Book Club, I had quite a few goals in mind. First, I wanted to encourage people to read. I wanted people to find the time in their day to discover new stories because far too often I heard people say they were lucky if they read one book a year. Next, I wanted these books to inspire others to produce new art, or music, or poetry, and I wanted them to feel comfortable enough to share their work with others. And finally, I wanted to be able to confidently answer whenever I was asked “What was the last book you read?” and I wanted to be able to easily list off a ton of book recommendations to friends in search of new literature. (For a book lover, I had found myself far too often struggling to answer those two questions. However, since November, with almost 15 new books under my belt, I have conquered that obstacle.)

Although we have started to meet a few of these goals, there is still so much more to go.

Every week when I post on this blog, I know what I’m up against. I’m competing with busy personal and work schedules, gossip blogs, pop up ads, 24-hour news networks, Facebook statuses, television shows—you name it, I’m competing with it. Turns out, the attention of even an interested audience is hard to maintain.

So I was thinking, how can I get you all more involved?

I know there are many of you reading this. I see the stats on my wordpress account and I read all the lovely messages you send, but I’m still shy of reaching those initial goals. Now I’m turning to you for help. I want you to let me know what I could do to get you to participate more.

Should I base my book selection off of NSBCBC member recommendations? Should I post discussion questions on the Facebook page? Should I post pictures more? Should I toss up some original art? What would you like to see and what could I do to interest you in participating?

I have this vision that one day, the NSBCBC will be thriving, completely filled to the brim with discussions, quotes, original art work, or interesting internet-found pictures, all put there by fellow members. What can we do together to help realize this dream?

Share your recommendations right here on the wordpress, post on our Facebook wall (facebook.com/nsbcbc), tweet me at @notsobookclub, or Instagram your recommendations using the #nsbcbc hashtag.

I sincerely look forward to hearing from you all! Let’s make this Not So Book Club a real community experience!

Your NSBCBC founder,

Nina Sclafani

Facing Our Monsters

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One of the many beautiful and powerful images found throughout Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls. Illustrations by Jim Kay.

Call it what you will— fate, luck, or total coincidence— this week, I was met with a story that felt like it was waiting for me to read it for the past 9 years.

As you may know from reading my blog, when I choose the NSBCBC reads, I base my book selections on reviews, interesting synopsis, recommendations from friends, and the like. However, when I finally crack open these books, I am as new to the experience as you are, so I never truly know what to expect. It is this uncertainty that highlights how amazing it is when you open a book and feel like a greater power has brought that book into your life. So by serendipity or by chance, this happened to me yesterday. Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls found its way into my life, and touched parts of my heart and soul in ways I could have never expected.

In 2005, my grandfather died from lung cancer and losing him was the most prominent and painful death I have ever experienced. He was a man that was stern, and old school, and so incredibly loving despite the fact that he seemed tough as nails. But as cancer does, it stole him from our family and robbed us of the many years we planned on living together. From his diagnosis to his final weeks, time went by in light speed. Despite the medications, changes in diet, and efforts of my incredible family to help him, the disease was so aggressive, you’d blink and in that millisecond he’d appear paler and thinner. However, for the last week of his life, it was if time had decided to cruelly slow down in order to draw out all the fears and pain of our family.

Although it has been almost 10 years, our family still feels the deep sadness of losing one of the greatest men we have ever known.

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2003 – Mohonk Mountain House. Here is my handsome grandfather, Albert Molesphini (left) with his fantastic brother John Molesphini on our amazing family vacation to the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York.

Now, when I picked up A Monster Calls, I knew the general plot. A young boy, dealing with his mother’s cancer, is visited nightly by a monster whose purpose is to help the boy face his fears. However, I didn’t automatically associate it with my grandfather’s cancer. The word “cancer” has become such a part of our vernacular that I didn’t believe this story would (or could) feel tailor-made to my own experience. But as I read, I could feel the deepest parts of my heart tighten from the pain all over again, and things I tried so desperately to suppress reemerge. I found myself transformed into the protagonist and it was me who the monster was visiting—forcing me to face my fears of death and loss all over again. But as the pages flipped by, I felt the walls I’ve built up over the past 9 years slowly break down, piece by piece, and by the end I was exhausted. With my face and shirt soaked in tears, I felt like I made my way through the last week of my grandfather’s life all over again, but came out seeing a new light—a comforting light. And with this light, I could revisit the loss, remember the love, and continue to move on.

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One of my favorite family photographs, taken around 1990 (?) in our vacation home in the Poconos. Pictured with my grandfather is my equally amazing grandmother, Faye Molesphini, and on the bottom is a cake-hypnotized me, my cousin Anthony, and my older sister Kristen.

A Monster Calls felt like therapy to me. It felt deeply personal and allowed me to reach into the darkest parts of myself and emerge a better person. And it’s this experience that only solidifies my love of books even more. Books allow us to have truly human experiences, even when we don’t feel comfortable sharing those parts of ourselves with others or when we don’t think we have the strength to get through a conversation. They can give us comfort, make us laugh, and make us cry. They can guide us, or scare us, or expose us to new worlds. And sometimes, they can find their ways into our lives, may it be by fate or chance, and help us face our own monsters when we least expect it.