“Book Buzz” January 2019: Upcoming New Releases

A few months ago, I began reading and reviewing advanced reader copies of books prior to their publication. In addition to library volunteering, this has been an excellent way for me to stay abreast the publishing industry. For instance, right now historical dramas set around WWII are HOT. I would have never been able to make such a connection had I not been familiar with upcoming titles, and seeing what books keep making it into the library.

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This past week, I attended my library’s “Book Buzz” event  which, as always, does not disappoint. You get to learn about 25-30 upcoming books but in addition, you get to go home with an advanced reader copy of a book! Before mentioning what I got, I want to share seven books that I found the most interesting, all from different categories. There’s. a little something for everyone (and the titles are linked to where you can learn more).

  1. FANTASY: The Priority of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (out on Feb. 12)
  2. SURREAL FANTASY: The Nighter Tiger by Yangsze Choo (out on Feb. 12)
  3. HISTORICAL FICTION: American Duchess by Karen Harper (out on Feb. 26)
  4. HEART-WRENCHING: The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib (out on Feb. 5)
  5. CHILLING: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (out on Feb. 5)
  6. THRILLER: The Lost Man by Jane Harper (out on Feb. 5)
  7. NONFICTION: Don’t Label Me by Irshad Manji (out on Feb. 26)

As for the book I got, I picked one under the Nonfiction category that came out on January 15 called The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon.

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From HarperCollins Publishers, The Enchanted Hour is  “A Wall Street Journal writer’s conversation-changing look at how reading aloud makes adults and children smarter, happier, healthier, more successful and more closely attached, even as technology pulls in the other direction.”

You have no idea how hard I am going to nerd out on this book.

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Adventures as a Library Volunteer

At the beginning of the year, I began volunteering on Saturday mornings at my local library. Since it is close to home and doesn’t require a large time commitment, I figured that some volunteering was better than no volunteering. Being in graduate school on top of full-time work, library volunteering is both convenient and therapeutic.

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A sneak peak of our “Used Book Store.”

Though library volunteering may not sound exotic, I feel like I get to step into a magical place on the weekends and to actually make a difference. My library has a “Used Book Store” that consists of books donations. My job is to re-stock, alphabetize stacks, and to create displays of books based on inventory and demand. For instance, with back-to-school approaching, I recently created a display of books that was more academic: the history of England. We had many books on this in stock and it seemed great for history lovers!

This fall was busy since there was a parade in town and we held our Annual Book Fair to coincide with that date. Hundreds came into the library to get their hands on used books (all of our inventory from storage had to be pulled for it), and I assisted people in the children’s book section.

The next day, I went back to the library but this time, solely as a buyer. I was told that on the second day, people could fill a grocery bag with books and only pay $5! I decided to fill a bag with kids books for my niece and nephew, a bag for me, and oh wait – it was later declared in the day that “all paperbacks were now free” and everyone could take home a single filled bag of them. Of course, this encouraged me to get even more. In total, I brought home three bags of loot and only paid $10 (since one one bag was free). I think I took home about 30 books! Yes, this is excessive but many will go to family and friends, and the ones that don’t may find themselves donated back to the library.

My Holiday Reading List

What a year 2018 has been! Though my blog has taken a backseat role in my life this year, it has allowed me to share the most important parts of my life. This year has been tremendous. This has been the year that I: 1) Was diagnosed with depression; 2) Felt like myself for the first time in a very long time; and 3) Re-sparked my love of books. Even with a nearly-complete Masters degree in English, my ability to read had been severely hampered by this mental illness. Since addressing my depression through medication and therapy in the summer, I have been reading a book for pleasure nearly every week!

Now that it is end of year and I have a week away from the office, I am focused on reading more books than usual and am excited to share my reading list!

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Photo courtesy of Amazon.
  1. Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen. With a forward by Audrey Hepburn’s son, Luca Dutti, this book captures the true-life historical events that shaped Audrey Hepburn’s rise as a ballerina and then one of the most famous movie stars of all time. The book is now available for pre-order and will be released on April 15, 2019. I was lucky to get my hands on a copy early and will be providing a review in the coming weeks!
  2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A timeless classic first published in 1967 and a Nobel Prize Winner, I have been wanting to read this book for a long time. This summer I had spent time in Colombia and learned all about the author and his writing process and knew that out of all the classics that I could read, this would have to be at the top of my list! Since I personally love Latin American literature, it makes sense that this is my must-read.
  3. the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace. I bought this poetry book at the famous indie bookstore, Strand, this summer in NYC. I LOVE poetry and especially ones that have an empowered female perspective. Also, I have great news if you are an Amazon Prime member with a Kindle: you can now read this for free. I could have saved myself some money…

With that said, who else is feeling inspired to read this holiday season? Do you have a 2019 reading resolution?

How to Start the Next Female Revolution, According to Elizabeth Gilbert

This week, I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women, the largest conference for women in the United States. It is not my first time attending, and probably not my last, because it always delivers exceptional content with some of the most inspiring women on the planet. Some of this years speakers were Jesmyn Ward (author of Sing, Unburied, Sing), human rights attorney Amal Clooney, and Elizabeth Gilbert. Many know Gilbert as the author of her popular autobiographical book, Eat, Pray, Love, which was adapted into a 2010 film starring Julia Roberts (who portrayed Gilbert).

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Since that smash book, Gilbert has continued to write and most recently penned 2015’s Big Magic. However, I was struck by how this woman, with so many vibrant life experiences, spoke so softly to the crowd when she covered the topic of female empowerment.

Gilbert asked the nearly 12,000-person audience, “what is the one word that best describes what a woman should aspire to be?” Gilbert then listed a number of acronyms such as fierce, loyal, and badass but said that all of these words – though perfectly acceptable – are already words she would use to describe the women in life.

According to Gilbert, to start the next female revolution, there is one word to describe how women should behave – relaxed. Yes, you read that right.

Common fears with being relaxed:

  1. We will relax and then everything will fall apart: careers, children, and a never-ending amount of obligations
  2. Being relaxed will make us lazy.
  3. Relaxing means not giving our all, when we could be focusing on important social causes or things that change the world (such as female equality).

The idea of relaxation sounds relaxing but actually being relaxed is another story. Gilbert’s solution: “I’m not sure.” However, from personal experience she was able to finally reach a relaxed state when she realized that the world is a large place and many of our problems are trivial – well, trivial in the grand scheme of life.

For instance, we have a solar system with stars continuously being made and things in motion in faraway planets that we still have no idea about. If we were to take a deep breath, pause, and remember that the world is still going to keep rolling, then we can begin to welcome more gratitude in ours lives, and fight the factors that cause anxiety on a daily basis.

Have you ever encountered a big moment in your life that put things into perspective?

Book Review of “Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics”

In exchange for an honest review, I received an advanced reader copy of the book being discussed. Thanks NetGalley!

As reported by The New York Times, the Trump Administration is seeking to eliminate the protections of Title IX for transgender individuals. As a Massachusetts resident, this news comes amid a state campaign to repeal the Commonwealth’s Transgender Anti-Discrimination Law, which was enacted in 2016. Especially due the overly-negative political climate towards transgender individuals, I felt lucky to get my hands on an advanced copy “Transgressive: A Trans Woman on Gender, Feminism, and Politics,” written by Rachel Anne Williams.

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The over of the forthcoming book from NetGalley.

Williams’ book is comprised of a series of essays sharing her personal transition to being female, feminist musings, gender and politics, as well as a deep exploration into gender identity. Even if you are familiar with transgender issues, as I was when I ventured into this book, there is still plenty to learn from. I personally did not know much about the fetishization of transgenders (largely from the porn industry), nor did I know much about the dating scene as a transgender.

The section I found particularly touching is when Williams discusses how by transitioning into a woman, she was giving up the patriarchal freedoms she had as a man. In the essay “Giving Up My Male Privilege” she writes, “I had the privilege to speak up in class and dominate class discussions. I had the privilege to go through grad school in philosophy without people assuming I wasn’t ‘cut out’ for philosophy, rational thought, or argumentation….I had the privilege of mansplaining.” The list goes on about the privileges she gave up as a male, in order to be the person that she wants to be.

In a world where we are told to “be ourselves,” our society tends to draw the line at being transgendered. It is stunning to me how people can be mistreated, and even killed, for being different. Who a person is and who they choose to love is entirely their business. That’s why I think Williams’ book is a powerful testament to those who dare to be themselves, as well as those who failed. We need more people like this author to share their stories and their beliefs because as a society, we will only be strong if we are supporting and accepting our differences.

Rachel Anne Williams’ book will be on sale beginning May 2019. The book is not yet available for pre-order, but you can read more about this author on her blog.

The Overconsumption of Cosmetics

There is one thing that I never seem to get enough of: lipstick. I love how it instantly makes me look more awake, more feminine, and is compact. Also, it doesn’t have to be costly. Lately however, I have been taking a better look at all that I own. Whether it’s lipstick or sweater, I wonder “how many times have I used this?” and “how long have I had this?” If you have read the Marie Kondo book aptly called The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up, you are likely familiar with the need to de-clutter and opt for pieces that you truly need.

Makeup is not a necessity. Yet, Leslie Camhi in October 2018’s Vogue reports that women shell out around $300,000 on makeup during their lifetime. In Camhi’s article “Apply and Demand,” she discusses how beauty follows the “fast fashion” model (much like clothing, which I discussed a few weeks ago). This calls to mind Kylie Jenner’s and Kim Kardashian’s makeup drops. Camhi also discusses how when a makeup line is advertised as “Limited Edition,” it triggers consumers to want to get the product, for fear that they will miss out on it in the future.

For female readers I wonder how often you are using those makeup palettes that you “just had to have” because it had a special feature such as smelling like chocolate, being shaped like a seashell, or having “new” sparkly colors. Personally, I find it so easy to fall into the trap of wanting the latest product and I know I am not alone.

It may seem strange to get news on the overconsumption of makeup from Vogue, which features advertisements like no other. As a loyal Vogue reader, I want to make the case that the actual writing on culture and politics is top notch. The advertisements keep the magazine running, like with the majority of other publications. Though the pages beckon you to buy, I think that our solution as consumers is to to buy smarter.

Volunteering: 2018 in Review

In the past, I have discussed my experiences with taking a Volunteer Day. I have been fortunate to work for a company that genuinely cares for the community and is best-in-class with their sustainability efforts! This is something that I am personally very passionate about, both inside and out of the office.

For about a year now, I have been volunteering on Saturday morning’s at my local library and I absolutely love it! I understand that volunteering outside of work time is isn’t feasible for many – I work and am in graduate school so I definitely feel the pressures of time management. However, if you are able to dedicate a few days a year, I highly recommend it. With more and more companies encouraging employees to take off time each quarter to volunteer, it makes it easy for any schedule.

Here are some of my achievements this year, with reflections on volunteerism:

  • I raised money for education. When volunteering at the library, I was able to sort books for their Annual Used Book sale in which all proceeds go to charities that promote education. Last week, our sale raised $4,200 (I also snagged a lot of great books in the process too!)
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  • I helped a local nonprofit using skills I already use on the job. I recently volunteered the Nordic Bites 2018 Food Festival to promote Scandinavian culture in the Boston area. My uncle is the Director of a nonprofit which promotes Scandinavian culture and he has always taught me the importance of learning about other cultures, because it promotes the acceptance of others. While at the festival, I captured content that the nonprofit can use throughout the year to promote their cultural center.

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    Classic Nordic tunes music were featured at the Nordic Food Festival.
  • I was the Team Leader for my company’s Walk for Alzheimer’s this past weekend, in honor of my grandmother. My grandmother (“Nona”) was truly special and to watch her lose her memory was heartbreaking. By having my company rally with me to raise money and to promote the cure for Alzheimer’s, it was personally touching. And think about how many lives the cure will save! My company has a general matching program which allowed me to raise close to $1,000!
  • I made connections with people who have similar interests. You truly never know who you will meet when you are volunteering but no matter what the person’s background, you are brought together for the same cause. That is so powerful!

Being able to collaborate and connect with others translates directly back into your work environments, since working together leads to success.

This year was filled with great volunteer opportunities, so my hope is that more people will feel empowered to create change in their communities.

That said, which social causes are you interested in?