June’s Reads—Why These Books?

Allow me to present.... your JUNE READS! (And then explain why you should be reading these books with me).

Allow me to present…. your JUNE READS! (And then explain why you should be reading these books with me).

Well hello there NSBCBC readers!

It’s been a little while so let me catch you up on the recent news. I got writers block and didn’t know what to write about, I sorta-conquered the writers block and am finally getting my creative groove back, I organized a fun panel of guests for this month’s NSBCBC podcast (which is being recorded this Sunday, and posted on Monday!), and I picked out June’s books, which I am really excited about!

However, before I get into the June Reads, I’d like to ask for your help yet again. Like I said, we will be recording a new episode of the podcast on Sunday and I’d like to encourage all you wonderful people to send us some questions or topics you’d like to hear about. Whether it’s questions or opinions about books we’ve read, books you’d like to recommend, general book/lit topics, book-related movies/tv… or whatever, we’d love to hear from you!

This month, I’ll be introducing two new exciting guests to our panel—Michael Ragosta, singer of This Good Robot and diehard comic-fiend (@thisgoodidiot), and comic enthusiast/writer/artist, Eastin Deverna (@EastinDeverna). We will be discussing comics for beginners along with some other comic-related topics, so feel free to weigh in by tweeting us at @notsobookclub, or posting on our facebook page (facebook.com/nsbcbc).

Image

Michael Ragosta (@thisgoodidiot), and Eastin Deverna (@EastinDeverna) will be joining us for a special comic seqment of this month’s NSBCBC Podcast!

 

And now, let’s talk June Reads!

1. Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Every time I read a new book, I try to post it on Goodreads.com. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that website, let me enlighten you (and yes, you can thank me later). Goodreads is an awesome website where you can track your reading, create lists of books you want to or have already read, rate the books you’ve read, see book reviews written by fellow readers, and snoop around to see what your friends are reading. But perhaps my favorite feature of this site is that it makes personalized recommendations based on books you’ve read and reviewed. This month, Goodreads told me I may enjoy this book based on my previous reading, and who am I to argue with the Goodreads people?

Image

Find me on Goodreads.com! I’d love to connect with you all and see what else you’ve been reading!

Whistling Past the Graveyard takes place in Mississippi during summer of 1963, and follows the story of Starla (a runaway teenager) and her unlikely travel companions—Eula, a black woman, and the white baby she has with her. Together, the trio encounters the harsh realities of southern segregation, and form a companionship that defies the prejudices of those around them.

2. Night Film by Marisha Pessl

My best friend (and fellow NSBCBC podcast panelist) Kimmy works at Barnes and Noble. Day in and day out, she chats with the public and over time can figure out what the next big books are going to be. Last month, she told me that Night Film was starting to fly off the shelves and that people couldn’t stop talking about this mysterious book. Because I like to be in the loop for all things pop culture, it made its way onto our list.

Image

And for those who’d like to see what a book junkie’s goodreads account looks like, check out NSBCBC podcast panelist Kimberly Manley’s goodreads page! Also, see some of her excellent photography at Kimberlymanley.com

Night Film opens with the death of a beautiful young woman in a Manhattan warehouse. Although her death is ruled as a suicide, an investigative journalist realizes that this death may not be as clear cut as it seems. He discovers that woman’s father is in fact a notorious and legendary horror film maker, and her death feels eerily similar to another within the family. Throughout the story, the investigative journalist delves deep into the dark world of the film maker, and puts his career and life on the line in order to solve this mystery.

I love me some spooky mysteries!

3. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

For years, this is one of those books that I’ve always heard about, along with the film adaptation that that came out in 2005 starring Bilbo Baggins (aka Martin Freeman… my newest obsession due to FX’s Fargo). And despite all its praise, it never was something I was terribly curious about.

Image

This guy just can’t stop having adventures. Oh Martin…

Then came December when I tried to read An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth and I realized it wasn’t the space program I wanted to read about. I wanted to read about space. And by space, I mean the fun inventive version of space that sci-fi writers have been creating and building upon for years. So with that desire, it finally became time for me to bite the bullet and jump around the galaxy with these characters.

Now, unlike previous months, I couldn’t help myself with this one and the second I got the book in the mail, I started reading it. Now 2 days later, I’m just about done and it’s great. I can honestly say it’s as clever and fun as people have told me for years and I kinda wish I read it sooner. And the best part—it’s a quick read! (Last month’s The Forgiven took me a solid 2 weeks to get through, so this… this is like a dream come true.)

Image

Apparently having a towel in outer space is a VERY big deal. Oh, the things you learn when you read.

 

And with that, those are your June Reads!  Each of these should be fairly easy to get a hold of at the library (except maybe Night Film if Kimmy’s prediction is right). And for those of you with Amazon Prime, I was able to buy all three books this month under $20 (Heck yea free shipping!).

To wrap it up, don’t forget to tweet us @notsobookclub or post on our facebook page (facebook.com/nsbcbc) with your podcast recommendation topics! Check back in on Monday to listen to the latest podcast, and if you missed either of the first two episodes, stream them for free here! (nsbcbc.podbean.com)

 

Happy reading!

– Nina Sclafani

Founder of The Not So Book Club Book Club

Advertisements

How Working on This Project Has Felt Oddly Like the Plot of Titanic

Since we’re now a little over the 6 month mark, I decided this week to take a short reprieve and reflect on the ups and downs that have been trying to make The Not So Book Club Book Club successful. And what better way to describe this journey than to use the plot of Titanic to help me out. Dramatic you say? Sure. But kinda accurate? Let’s be fair and say it’s as accurate as the somewhat-accurate screenplay James Cameron wrote for this movie.

 

Image

 1. Nov 2013: Who could have guessed that a little Instagram picture encouraging my friends to read books with me would turn into all this? It was a long shot to see if anyone would participate, but like my Titanic counterpart Jack, I made my bet (kind of on a whim) and started the journey that would take over my life (and by life I mean free time). Obviously as seen in the picture, we were both pretty pumped about our new beginnings.

 

Image

In this version, the role of me is played by Leo and the role of my dog Max is played by Fabrizio. (Except in our version, Fabrizio doesn’t get all smushed from that falling part of the boat. He survives and learns to never eat out of the garbage again.)

2. By December 2013, I was so enthusiastic about it all. The Facebook page! The Twitter! The WordPress! It all gave me new purpose! It refocused me and stopped me from slogging through my days of unemployment, unproductive and unmotivated. It woke my brain up and make me feel like I was doing something great. I was so pumped to the point where I may have actually shouted “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD!” right into my dog’s face. My poor dog.

 

Image3. Come Christmastime, I found myself with new and interesting things to talk about with people at holiday parties. Along with the books I was recommending, I had the NSBCBC to talk about. I no longer felt the need to describe myself as “recently laid off” but rather, “starting an online book club and writing a blog.” I felt fancy and felt proud that I had something interesting to contribute to conversations.

Image

SWEET SWEET SUCCESSSSSSS!

 

4. Along with that new confidence came my first successful blog post! The one about unemployment exploded in my little world of WordPress and I felt like I had really started to build a following.

 

 

Image

Da fuq?

5. But then there were the setbacks. For all the times I thought I was heading in the right direction, I started to question if it really was the start of something great, or had I just caught lightning in a bottle? I felt like that until….

Image

BOOM! Sweet sweet success againnnnn!

 

6. SUCCESSFUL BLOG NUMBER 2! Sure, it took a little while to get back here, but I made it, which meant I was capable of doing it twice! And with that I avoided calling myself a one hit wonder. Phewww…..

 

Image

“Oh hey Nina. It’s me. Iceberg. You’re working everyday this week. And I need you to stay late. K Thanks!”

7. But eventually reality hit me and I needed to start working again. To me, the iceberg was my job and that job really screwed up the freedom I felt when The Not So Book Club Book Club was my only priority.

 

Image

 

8. Slowly, I missed NSBCBC deadlines I made for myself and felt rushed reading through three books a month. I was afraid that this little project of mine would sink…. sink like the Titanic. The casualties wouldn’t be nearly as bad (that’s an understatement if I’ve ever seen one) but it would still bum me out significantly.

Image

Um… Hi gang. So did uh….anyone else really enjoy Beautiful Ruins?

9. And with the lack of Facebook posts and participation by others I wondered “is there anyone out there?” Am I just talking to myself here?

 

Image

“Name please” “Nina Sclafani. Ms. Book Club if ya nasty”

10. But like my beloved Rose, I’m going to forge ahead and keep this thing going because I love it. It’s been great for me. And I can only hope it’s been great for you too.

 

 

Till Next Week.

– Nina

Formally Laid Off Unemployed Person, Current Proud Founder of The Not So Book Club Book Cub

 

Is This Cheating? (…Cause This Feels Like Cheating)

Image

Audiobooks Vs. Actual Books. Does it still count as reading the book if you never actually read the book?

Back when I was in high school, I worked at my town’s local library. Looking back at the job, it was probably one of the best (if not the best) jobs I’ve ever had. I say that because retrospectively, no other job allowed me to flip through interesting books all day (even though I suppose I did that on the sly). I would spend my afternoons organizing shelves, checking out what books patrons were taking out, and covering (or re-covering) books with plastic so that they always looked and felt fresh (but that’s where it ended, because no matter how many times you cover a book in new plastic, you could never cover up that old-book stink).

Of all the things I did at the library, my favorite days were the ones I’d spend in the back room, creating art for the windows. I don’t remember how I earned that job, or how often I was tasked with a new window, but I do remember spending hours in that back room—piecing together construction paper, lining my work with thick black sharpie, and blowing through glue stick after glue stick as I organized the shapes like a puzzle in order to create different scenes. And for all the time I spent alone working on these murals, the time felt like it flew by. This could have been because of amount of fun I had creating these pieces, but I also think it was what I listened to while I worked, that made it fly. Because this was a library, I had complete access to the CDs and DVDs that were in stock, and I used that unlimited access to monopolize the Harry Potter audiobooks.

Image

The only remaining picture of my brief career as an 18 year old construction paper artist.

Every shift, I would place one of the disks into the little boom box we kept in the back and get completely wrapped up in the wizarding world. In his slightly-Americanized English accent, the melodic voice of Harry Potter narrator Jim Dale would quietly guide me through the books, chapter after chapter, shift after shift.

But for all the hours I spent listening to these books over and over, I never felt as though I were reading the stories. When I talk about the series with friends (and yes, I roll with a crowd where this conversation comes up at least once a year), I never count the times I’ve listened to the stories when someone asks how many times I’ve read the books. I mean, why would I? My eyes never saw a single word of Rowling’s writing, my mind never gave voice to the words of the characters, and I never exhausted my eyes to the point where I’d fall asleep mid chapter.

But with that said, it never felt right to not include my listening sessions because so much of my listening experience was the same as my reading experience. Just as if I were reading the books myself, I experienced every word of Rowling’s writing and I watched every scene play out in my mind. Just like reading, I felt emotional during the exciting parts and nervous during the finale scenes. Essentially, I felt all the same things I would have, had I been reading the book.

So should it count as reading the book? Or am I cheating the book? 

A few years ago, this question came up when I tried to read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Trying to read that book was an epic failure. With too much time spent on only three chapters worth of progress, I turned to the audiobook—and it helped… significantly. Although I experienced her language through my earbuds instead of on the page, it was fulfilling. For a while there, I even felt influenced by her writing style, as I found myself mimicking a certain type of grace in my work emails that had not been there prior (which was… awkward, but only because I was emailing people that clearly had no time for grace or beauty in their writing. They were NYS Medicare employees and they refused to read anything over 5 sentences long). I got all the positive side effects of reading a beautiful classic book, without having to actually read it.

Image

This popped up in my Google search for “Jane Austen writing” and I can’t help but wish this were a real line from Pride and Prejudice.

This month, under the insistence of NSBCBC podcast panelist Amanda, I dipped my foot in the audiobook pool yet again, in order to “read” David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. (Side note: I tried to illegally download it because I didn’t want to wait for the library copy to arrive, and I didn’t want to pay the $20 it cost on i tunes. However, my foray into small time crime didn’t pay because I immediately downloaded a virus that took days to get out of my computer. Oy… never again.) Anyway, the experience thus far has been pretty great (aside from that virus business) and it has me thinking—perhaps this is the way some authors need to be absorbed. For example, a friend of mine tried to read this book and didn’t love it, but now that I’ve heard the audiobook, maybe she would have enjoyed it had she heard the author’s delivery of the text instead. His voice, his pauses, his pronunciation—it all adds so much to the stories that I’m not sure they’d be as rewarding without him.

Image

Here is David Sedaris, cracking up John Stewart on The Daily Show. See, John knows what I mean about David’s delivery. Amanda was so right about this.

But it this reading? Technically, no. But am I experiencing the story? Absolutely! I’m absorbing every word, learning new things, and experiencing feelings with every page that passes. And isn’t that what reading is all about? Whichever way you decide to take in a story, it is still a rewarding experience.

So the next time someone asks how many times I’ve read the Harry Potter stories, I’ll include the times I’ve listened, because really, shouldn’t the question actually be, “how many times have you experienced the story?”

– Nina Sclafani

The Top 5 Most Spectacular Settings We’ve Read About (So Far)

Over the past two days, I took a mini vacation to a little shore village in Italy. The town, which rested on the coast next to Italy’s Cinque Terre was pure perfection. Isolated from the rest of the world, this charming village swept me away from my hectic life back home. And the best part—I didn’t have to pay for air fare!

Now to be honest, I didn’t actually go there, but I went there in my book. Over the past two days, I powered through Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins and via his detailed descriptions, was completely transported to the sleepy village of Porto Vergogna (at least in my mind). It was the perfect mini vacation I needed and because I had such a lovely trip, I decided that this week I would list 5 of my favorite places we have traveled to (thus far) with The Not So Book Club Book Club.

1. Porto Vergogna, Italy from Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins

ImageUnfortunately, Porto Vergogna is a fictional place but since Walter’s chose this image as the cover of his book, I think this is probably the closest we are going to get to finding an image of this 1960’s paradise. In the novel, the tiny village only has one hotel, The Hotel Adequate View (owned by our beloved Pasquale Tursi), and features basically nothing else. However, there is one other hidden gem in this coastal town—a small cave that is beautifully adorned with paintings created by a traveling German soldier during World War 2. All I need is a time machine and a miracle to get there.

2. Kabul, Afghanistan in the 1950’s as featured in Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed

ImageIn Hosseini’s book, he describes how vibrant and exciting the pre-conflict Kabul was in the 1950’s. He painted a city that was rich in culture and richer in scenery. Resting in a valley and surrounded by incredible mountain ranges, the Kabul of today still holds much of the beauty of it’s past. I hope to one day see these gorgeous mountains in person, when Kabul finds peace yet again. In the meantime, I’ll just swoon over the pictures.

3. The International Space Station from Col. Chris Hadfield’s An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth

Image

I mean really… do I need to give a reason why this one made the list? Col. Chris Hadfield served as Chief of the International Space Station from 2006-2008, which means he got to see this view for 2 YEARS! Lucky guy. For those of you who listened to this month’s podcast  you know I’d give anything for that experience. So Universe, give me space! Give me zero gravity! Give me that view of our beautiful planet! I’ll take that over any other trip (even if it’s only for 10 minutes).

4. The Open Sea! As sailed in Eli Brown’s Cinnamon and Gunpowder 

Image

 

Apparently I want to be a pirate. I never knew this until I read this book and then quickly followed it with J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s S. (Ship of Theses). For an entire month, I was obsessed with the idea of sailing the seven seas. True, there is a lot of turmoil that accompanies the pirate life, but there are also a lot of pluses. 1. I love the motion of the ocean. I have never gotten sea sick (knock on wood), and I love the gentle rocking that comes with riding the waves. Sure, I know that as a pirate you have the potential to hit a storm, but until then, give me my sea legs! 2. What a fantastic tan you would develop on the deck of a pirate ship! I could easily transform my uber whiteness to a delicious off white! And really, who wouldn’t prefer working all day out in the sun over working all day under florescent lights? And 3. Fresh sea food! Crab legs. Tilapia. Tuna. Shrimp! No further explanation needed.

Man… I need to book a cruise.

5. The Circus Tents of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus

Image

I loved the concept of the mystical Le Cirque des Rêves tents in Morgenstern’s book. For those of you who have not read this one, each tent featured something intensely magical, may it be a heavenly maze constructed entirely of clouds, or the Ice Garden that transported circus patrons to a Narnia-esque winter paradise (where you didn’t even need a coat!) The idea that you could hop from one magical location to the next in mere minutes is too perfect for any adventure seeker or magic lover, and I like to consider myself as both.

And those, my friends, are my top 5 favorite settings we’ve read about so far! Send us your favorite settings by writing to the NSBCBC blog, posting on our facebook page, or tweeting us at @notsobookclub. And don’t forget to listen to this month’s podcast, found here!

Keep reading, NSBCBCers! Lots of Love!

– Nina Sclafani

Founder of The Not So Book Club Book Club