What’s on Your Nightstand is a monthly meme hosted by 5 Minutes for Books on the last Tuesday of every month that summarizes what you’ve read for the month, what you’re currently reading, and what you plan to read next. For my posts, I also include articles, music, art, TV shows, and whatever else I did in the month.
I’m so late with this post. May was a busy month and some of that busyness bled over into June. I attended a variety of events, like Free Comic Book Day (see my haul post here) and an embassy open-house event held in Washington, D.C., annually (it was great!), and did a bit of traveling with family, which was more exhausting than I expected. I also found a pop-up used bookstore that I’ve fallen in love with because it had a few books in stock that I didn’t expect to see, like old editions of Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series and T.A. Barron’s Merlin series. I was tempted to get the Tamora Pierce books, but was reminded that I don’t have any space for them at home. 😦
Though the month was hectic, I managed to complete a few books, but found it hard to catch up on articles and such, and there were some really good pieces this month. But here’s what I got to:
Providence by Caroline Kepnes was the first book I completed last month and it set off the month on a good footing. I enjoyed the story. I was a bit ambivalent about it at first because it seemed like a thriller with a touch of supernatural, which it is, but I wasn’t sure how well that would work. Luckily, it worked well. It’s about a boy who was kidnapped by his substitute teacher as a teen. When he returns to his town years later, he seems to have developed special abilities that place those he’s close to at risk.
The Critiquing Chemist piqued my interest in the Wheel of Time series, so I returned to it by rereading The Fires of Heaven on audio. The series is by Robert Jordan and is narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer. I don’t mind the writing and characters much when listening to the audio, but I easily become annoyed by both when reading the physical book. It seems more tedious that way. I plan to continue with and complete the series. Listening to The Fires of Heaven made me realize that I missed the story, which is about several characters trying to protect the world from evil forces. If you’re interested in reading the Wheel of Time series, I recommend the audiobook, though I think the guy narrator, Kramer, isn’t that great. His voice drones on and on and makes exciting parts seem so boring.
Next I completed a recently published YA fantasy novel Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young, which is a Viking-inspired story about a girl who’s betrayed by her brother, captured by a rival clan, and must unite her clan and their rivals to defeat a common enemy. I was surprised that I enjoyed this as much as I did. The story began on a very high note before dropping to a moderate pace that made me think the pace had slowed to a crawl. Even so, I was engrossed in the story and liked that the romance did not consume the plot.
I wrapped up May with a short story collection, How to Love a Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs. The stories are not romance, though they sometimes touch on that topic. Instead, they mostly focus on identity, personhood, and how relationships develop and change. I liked the collection, mostly because it made me nostalgic about growing up in Jamaica.
Other things consumed in May:
Social issues & current affairs
There Is a Hidden Epidemic of Doctors Abusing Women in Labor, Doulas Say (broadly.vice.com)
On how women are abused before and during labor. This was a disturbing read. I wasn’t aware of any of this.
The Literary Roots of the Incel Movement (electricliterature.com)
An interesting piece on the horrific incel movement and how novels that are revered as classics have contributed to such hostile atmosphere toward women
On Obama doubting himself after Trump’s election and wondering what led to Trump being elected
“State wildlife agencies and the country’s wildlife conservation system are heavily dependent on sportsmen for funding. Money generated from license fees and excise taxes on guns, ammunition and angling equipment provide about 60 percent of the funding for state wildlife agencies, which manage most of the wildlife in the U.S.”
The Problem with Body Positivity (nytimes.com)
An opinion piece that discusses a problem with today’s body positivity movement
Off Beat is about to be my new favorite thing. It’s a new e-zine created by Porochista Khakpour, an Iranian-American author who recently published a memoir, Sick. Off Beat is a space for writers to write about “anything that moves them.” This month I checked out Keah Brown’s piece about developing and sustaining friendships.
Authors & writing
Poetic Justice: Camille T. Dungy on Racism, Writing, and Radical Empathy (thesunmagazine.org)
Dungy is a nature writer. The article is an interview in which she talks about several topics, such as the current political climate, social issues, racism in America, Black experiences, history, Black Lives Matter, identity and erasure, Black narrative, the environment and the use/presence of the environment in Black literature. It’s a really good read.
“The American imagination is too often limited in its ability to picture who black people can be.”
“America has a legacy of harming other human beings and justifying that harm by glorifying the wealth it brings to a few. Thankfully America also has a legacy of resisting that impulse.”
“When the focus is on the glorification of wealth rather than on an honest examination of how that wealth might have been accrued, we routinely ignore brutalities visited upon our fellow human beings.”
“Racism is a tool of classism. Wealthy elites use it to keep workers of different races from banding together to fight for better treatment. The owners tell the white workers they are better than the black workers and give them just enough power to feel they are a class above. The white workers will then fight to maintain their sense of superiority whenever it is threatened. They will do all they can to keep the black workers out of their unions and their neighborhoods. Those at the top use race and class to maintain separations that prevent the larger body of Americans from coming together and questioning divisive and exploitative policies.”
“Recognizing diversity is an antidote to erasure. Fostering true diversity — acknowledging the complex and rich experiences of others — is an antidote to the divisive and violent behaviors we simplify under umbrella terms like “racism” and racial “supremacy.”
“…writing is an act of radical empathy.”
Meet the Black Women Upending the Romance Novel Industry (buzzfeed.com)
A feature on the Black women at Kensington Publishing Corp. who’re trying to change the romance novel industry: Alyssa Cole, author of An Extraordinary Union, the first novel in the Loyal League trilogy, a historical romance trilogy set during the American Civil War that focuses on Black characters; Esi Sogah, senior editor at Kensington; and Kris Noble, art director at Kensington.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Comes to Terms with Global Fame (newyorker.com)
An insightful profile of the author. I highly recommend it if you are a fan of her and/or her books. It’s narrated, so you can listen to the article too.
A Life in… Sheila Heti (theguardian.com)
About Heti and the response to her novel Motherhood, which is about a woman who decides not to have children.
Talks about world-building in sci-fi and fantasy novels. Apparently years ago, and probably today as well, scientists and philosophers created worlds as a thought experiment to test abstract theories. And Tolkien believed that inventing worlds allows us to “refresh our perspective of reality.”
“In world-building, there isn’t any supernatural, not really—just a different order of the natural.”
7 Methods for Writing Your First Draft (lithub.com)
An excerpt from author Ross Raisin’s book Read This if You Want to Be a Great Writer that presents 7 ways to help writers get started on their first draft and overcome the blank page phase.
“Rough exploratory drafting is an antidote to the anxiety of the blank page.”
Researchers analyzed over 1,700 novels and discovered 6 story types. The article includes graphs of some popular novels, like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
I love these covers!! 😀 They were designed by illustrator Greg Ruth and I want them so bad! Ruth has designed many of the German editions of Okorafor’s books.
I Never Wanted to Be an Evil Stepmother (lithub.com)
Written by Danielle Teller, author of All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother (which I really want to read). Teller talks about her experience being a stepmother and how that led her to consider the perspective of Cinderella’s stepmom. Teller also discusses the purpose of fairytales and argues that the simplicity of fairytales fails us if, as a story, their function is to do more than entertain us.
“…the reason why we love fairytales: they tap into our desire to see things in black and white, superheroes and villains, sweet girls and evil stepmothers.”
“Fairy tales conform to our desire to categorize, but they do not create empathy, and they do not shed light on the human condition.”
“This is the power of literary fiction. Instead of telling readers how to feel, the author invites readers to join characters on a journey. This intimacy can feel uplifting or uncomfortable; it can also hijack readers’ innate sympathies and help them break through prejudices and notions of good and bad. It is hard to spend hours with a character without finding points of similarity with ourselves or others we care about. “
The Circle of Life Gets Sinister (electricliterature.com)
A short story, “Rabbit in a Hat,” by Alison Wisdom. It’s about a woman who has difficulty conceiving a child. I suggest reading the editor’s introduction after the story. To me, it had some spoilers and felt like it would color my interpretation of the story; so I stopped halfway, read the story, then went back to it.
Worth Her Weight in Gold (tor.com)
A short story from Sarah Gailey’s American Hippo omnibus, which collects her River of Teeth series stories, including the two novellas, River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow.
Reading and books
Brian Selznick and the Joy of Illustrated Reads (bookriot.com)
One of my favorite reads this month! The writer’s love and appreciation for illustrated books, especially silent ones, mirrors my own. And I totally agree that often the illustrations in books do not feel essential to the story. That’s what stood out most to me when I read Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret: The illustrations are integral to the story.
The Female Man: The Novel That Gave Birth to Feminist Science Fiction (theportalist.com)
An excerpt of the 1975 sci-fi novel The Female Man by Joanna Russ. The introduction that precedes the excerpt states that The Female Man paved the way for other feminist sci-fi novels, like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The story is interesting and I like that the main characters (4 women) are from different periods. I might return to it.
Researchers confirm what book lovers have known all along: People have greater emotional attachment to physical books.
(Also, check out the Design Matters podcast (below), which discusses a similar topic.)
About the development of NYC’s Central Park
I’m late to this, but I don’t care. It’s so funny! Especially that marriage one. It’s so true! The characters always have some long-ass conversations in their mind.
Roth, a prolific American novelist, died of congestive heart failure on May 22. He has won several awards for his work, including the National Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award, and Pulitizer Prize.
The Diversity Gap in Children’s Book Publishing, 2018 (blog.leeandlow.com)
“Black, Latino, and Native authors combined wrote only 7% of the new children’s books published in 2017.”
2017 Nebula Award Winners (nebulas.sfwa.org)
Highlights: N.K. Jemisin won the Best Novel Award with The Stone Sky and Martha Wells got the Best Novella Award with All Systems Red.
The Nobel Prize in Literature is postponed until 2019 due to sexual abuse allegations.
An interactive, immersive “Hamilton” exhibit will open in Chicago in November
“…the suit claims the lack of publicly available information regarding pre-publication review policies raises serious questions about “the authors’ First Amendment right to speak,” and “the public’s First Amendment right to receive important information about the government.”
Library of Congress Acquires Its Largest Donation of Comic Books Ever (washingtonpost.com)
The donor, Stephen A. Geppi, founded Diamond Comics Distributors, a comics distributor (whose newsletter I’m subscribed to 😀 ). He is donating over 3,000 pop-culture items. (I think that’s pretty awesome.)
The accountant of a prestigious literary agency (identified as Donadio & Olson by the New York Post) embezzled over $3-million dollars, leaving the agency almost bankrupt. See also:
How cool is this: The Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, Stacey Abrams, is a romance author under the pen name, Selena Montgomery.
Johnnie Walker to Launch Game of Thrones Scotch (wikiofthrones.com)
Usually I’d place something like this in the “Awesome ‘ish” section below, but I consider this BIG news! 😀 Gonna try to get me one.
Adaptations and such
Lord of the Rings TV Series Will Follow Young Aragorn (nerdist.com)
Meh. Kind of wish Amazon had chosen to focus on a different fantasy series. I think the LOTR movies were good enough to leave at that.
I’m excited for this: an animated movie based on GRRM’s The Ice Dragon. (Read my review of the book here.)
Hmm… I’ll have to check this out.
Hulu is adapting Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits for TV.
A docuseries based on Michelle McNamara’s true crime book about the Golden State Killer is in the works
Del Toro will adapt some of the stories in a feature film.
In the works: a feature film about British poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe
Coming soon: a series about Emily Dickinson
Another video break
Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin is a documentary that filmmaker Arwen Curry has spent 9 years working on. It “explores the award-winning science fiction and fantasy author’s life and work, through a series of interviews with literary history experts, popular contemporaries like Neil Gaiman, as well as talks with Le Guin herself.”
Other awesome ‘ish
Mahogany Books, a Black-owned bookstore in Washington, D.C., (that I’ve yet to visit but will make it there sometime this summer), was profiled in Vanity Fair. For 11 years, the bookstore operated online only. It opened its first brick-and-mortar store last year.
100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time (unboundworlds.com)
Unbound Worlds made a list of what it deems the best fantasy novels.
The Nine Stages of Creativity (nytimes.com)
A fun illustration by cartoonist Grant Snider on what to expect during the writing process
What’s Your Author Horoscope? (electricliterature.com)
Instead of an animal or other icon for your zodiac sign, we are get authors. I got Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which I’m happy with because One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favorite books.
You Can Now Airbnb the Home of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (openculture.com)
The Most Popular Books from the Decade You Were Born (earlybirdbooks.com)
Worth a listen
ID10T with Chris Hardwick
I was a huge fan of the Nerdist podcast but didn’t follow it on any social media websites so I didn’t realize that Hardwick had started a new one since he’d sold the Nerdist name (summin like that). Anyway, I found some new podcasts on PodBean (I’m just learning about PodBean and it’s gonna be my second new favorite thing), saw that one of the podcasts follow/is a fan of a weird podcast called ID10T that has Hardwick’s name on it, checked it out, and what’d yah know! It’s the Nerdist stuff I was looking for. So glad to have found it. It made my day, which I think was a Monday and I generally hate Mondays, so that was the first Monday I’ve liked in a long time.
Love Banderas and his accent. Had to listen. He talks about acting as Picasso in the National Geographic’s Genius series, gives some insight into Picasso’s life, and also talks about performing art in other languages. I didn’t know that he didn’t speak English until 1991, when he auditioned for a movie.
This is the podcast that helped me to find back the Chris Hardwick podcast. (I’m so grateful!) I’m always on the lookout for new fantasy book podcasts to listen to, so I’m trying this out. I learned of this one from —
I forgot where I learned of this, but I’m liking it so far. It features interviews of grimdark fantasy authors. I really like the episode where they interview Nicholas Eames, author of Kings of the Wyld. I love that they shout-out other podcasts and PROVIDE LINKS to them. I’m always on the look-out for more bookish podcasts to listen to.
I love Debbie Millman’s podcast, which features interviews of writers, illustrators, playwrights, and other creatives. this month, I listened to an interview of author Pamela Paul, who’s currently editor of the New York Times Book Review.
Among the things Paul discusses is Bob, her book diary where she records the books she has read. She talks about how the emotions connected to her record of books makes her better remember events that occurred at the time she read the books. Of course, a major reason why I like this episode is because it touches on the purpose of my blog, which is to maintain a record of the books I read and my thoughts about them. Paul wrote about her book diary in her book My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues.
That’s Ancient History
A podcast created by booktuber Jean that focuses on the classics. I really liked the interview of Madeline Miller though I haven’t yet read her books.
Art of Charm Podcast
I caught Uber one day and my driver was listening to one of the episodes. I had to ask about it and listen too.
About success and motivation. Duckworth is author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.
Shows I’m Hooked on
Avengers: Infinity War
My absolute favorite Avengers movie. It has kicked the first Avengers movie to second place. I loved this so much for all the emotion and action in it. Thanos is my favorite. Yea, he’s a bad dude, but I really like the character. LOVED the ending and how it ends with him. Thor is also my favorite. I love his character arc and emotional moments. I also loved the funny moments with Spiderman and Starlord dude and that the egotistical ones, Iron Man and Doctor Strange, are pitted against each other, kinda. Loved Hulk (aww) and Groot (lol). I loved it all. Now I need to rewatch and catch up on everything else. I am a little salty that we’ve yet to see a Black Widow movie because she’s a total badass and could have a really cool spy movie for her story.
Into the Badlands
My favorite TV show at the moment. Well, it’s the only one I make an effort to watch. Love it. Love the Widow. Love the fighting. Curious about the story and characters. Need to catch up. (I missed about 3 episodes.)
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Okay. I think this is a very silly show and everytime I watch it I think how stupid it is, but I can’t stop watching it!! I’m hooked. I don’t want to be, but I am.
Okay. That’s it.
June has started and I have loads to do because I still need to watch Deadpool.