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.
Things started to take a turn for the better in August after a stressful July. I won a copy of Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò in an IG giveaway that I was happy for and that set my month on a positive tone. I went to my first baseball game this month and was super excited about it though I didn’t understand shit about what was happening. The only thing I know is home run and that didn’t happen until after I left the game 😦 . But I’m glad to have participated in this quintessential American experience of attending a ball game and eating a hotdog there.
I also attended the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., but it wasn’t as great as I expected. I was glad to see Roxane Gay speak, though I haven’t read any of her books yet; and I really enjoyed Leigh Bardugo’s session. She was very funny and made me want to immediately start reading her books (I’ve only read Shadow & Bone so far). I wanted to stick around to see Celeste Ng, but I was hungry and disappointed with the festival, so I left.
Reading-wise, it was a good month. I read six books, which I think shows how stressed I still was from July. I didn’t want to deal with the world, so I dunked my head in books to avoid it. I didn’t read as many articles as I wanted to though, but I’m slowly getting back into them. It’s been a weird summer overall and I hope that my year will get better and end on a positive note. So, reading is good but life is…unpredictable as always.
A Duke by Default is the first novel by Alyssa Cole that I’ve read. It’s the second novel in the Reluctant Royals series, but I didn’t know this when I started reading and it doesn’t affect your reading experience if you read the books out of order. A Duke by Default is a romance novel about a young socialite who travels to Scotland for an apprenticeship in swordmaking. It was a quick, fun read that got me interested in trying more of Cole’s work.
I next completed Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight, the first in her Dragonriders of Pern classic fantasy series. Fantasy fans often talk about her books, so I was eager to buddy-read it with Sarah from Dragons & Zombies. Unfortunately, neither of us liked it much. Dragonflight is set on a planet called Pern that’s threatened every couple years by Threads, offshoots from a planet that sprouts destructive formations when it orbits too close to Pern. Dragons are used to combat the Threads. When the story begins, the people of Pern have become complacent and have forgotten about the dangers of the Threads and importance of the dragonriders. The two main characters — F’lar and Lessa — seek to raise people’s awareness of the imminent danger of the Threads and protect Pern.
I then picked up The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, which I unexpectedly enjoyed. The book contains the daily recollections of Scottish bookshop owner Shaun Bythell over a year. The book is surprisingly humorous and sometimes insightful, and gives us the day-to-day operations of a small bookstore and responsibilities of the owner, such as visiting people’s houses to assess their book collections and lifting many heavy boxes.
I was in the mood for zombies so I grabbed Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix from my shelves only to learn at its end that there aren’t any zombies in it. Why did I think this book contained zombies? I don’t know what gave me that idea, but it’s one of many reasons why I was excited to read it. The second is because it’s a horror story set in Ikea, or rather, a furniture that closely copies the building layout and furniture designs of Ikea. I enjoyed the story, though I got a little scared at times and wasn’t crazy about how it wraps up, and part of the reason why I love is because my copy of the book is designed to look like an Ikea catalog! Lol!
Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells has been calling to me for some time. So after seeing it on yet another list of book recommendations, I decided to read it and am glad I did because now I consider it a favorite. Garden Spells is a magical realism novel about the Waverley sisters who are reunited after 10 years apart. Sydney, the younger sister, returns home with a child after running off 10 years ago. Meanwhile, Claire remained at home tending the family’s mysterious garden that’s said to bloom plants with special powers including an apple tree that bears prophetic fruit. I loved this story and was immediately hooked on the prose. I’d love to try more of Allen’s work.
I was in a bit of a daze after Garden Spells and wanted something light to overcome it, so I read The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan, the fourth novel in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians novels, which are middle-grade novels set in the present world about kids who are the offspring of gods. In The Battle of the Labyrinth, Percy and his friends must go on a quest to find Daedalus, the brilliant Greek inventor, to convince him to help them prevent an invasion of their summer camp. It was a fun read and exactly what I needed. I think it’s with this novel that story begins to branch into YA (so it seems to me).
Other things consumed in August:
All of these articles are good reading, but I’m going to place a star (★) next to the ones that stuck with me.
Social issues & current affairs
★ ‘BlacKkKlansman’ Shows How White Supremacists Make Language into a Weapon (electricliterature.com)
A look at the commentary Spike Lee’s new film BlacKkKlansman makes about the use of language by hate groups.
“Lee shows how language rooted in racist fear can become a verbal panic button that, once uttered, activates white supremacist violence.”
“In addition to encoding racial connotation into words, white nationalists also win when they get away with misusing language, shifting the definitions of words to suit their needs.”
★ The New Reading Environment (nplusonemag.com)
A scathing critique of how people read and write today and how impatience and a short attention span has led to increased misreading and miscommunication which in turn affects how articles are written to curb it. The article also looks at the increasing popularity of the op-ed.
★ When Black Characters Wear White Masks (electricliterature.com)
The article talks about the use of whiteface in literature and the commentary it makes about our society. It uses examples from Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett, Passing by Nella Larsen, Black No More by George S. Schuyler, Have You Met Nora? by Nicole Blades.
“To pass or transform through whiteface is not as simple as a performance, nor is it caricature. Blackface aims to mock and, at its heart, demean; meanwhile, the leap to whiteness, whether enthusiastic or strategic, leaves characters in constant danger. In literature, whiteface is an analysis of how this choice becomes a way of life—and how, once the leap is made, this new life doesn’t necessarily leave characters content.”
“The appeal of whiteface in literature, as fantasy and as satire, doesn’t always mean that a character repudiates Blackness, but that they understand the profound effects of privilege.”
The article discusses why representation matters and why more diversity should be included in the casting of superheroes on screen.
“Creating different versions of Spider-Man who are not white does not prove, cannot prove, that Spider-Man doesn’t have to be white—but casting an actor of color absolutely would.”
An excerpt from The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity by Kwame Anthony Appiah. The excerpt is about Amo Afer who was taken from the African Gold Coast as a boy in 1707 and brought to Anton Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, to whom Amo was offered as a gift. The excerpt discusses what became of Amo and presents questions on identity that Amo’s experiences raise in light of historical and current events.
Tomb of Doom: The Mysterious Past of the ‘Cursed’ Memphis Pyramid (theportalist.com)
A bit of history about the Memphis Pyramid (which I didn’t know was a real building) and some of the mysticism surrounding it.
Author Stephen Graham Jones presents a brief history of horror comics and shares some recommendations.
Art, writing, creating
★ Ode to Gray (theparisreview.org)
About the writer’s love for the color gray. (I like the rhythm of her prose.)
“Only 1 percent of people surveyed named gray as their favorite color.”
“I dress my bed in sheets and duvets like a day with all the blue drained out of it.”
“Gray is the endless and.”
“…but I want a break from all the rainbow violence in the world.”
Ray Bradbury’s Greatest Writing Advice (lithub.com)
A list of several writing advice Bradbury has given. (I’d like to try his exercise on word association.)
“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling.”
‘Should I Quit My Day Job to Write a Book?’ (thecut.com)
An inspiring article about doing what is meaningful to you.
The Lost Art of Sentence Diagramming, Plus a Few Examples (signature-reads.com)
An article that discusses sentences diagramming and gives examples. (I had to do these for a college class. I hated them so much!)
“Sentence diagramming is a means by which a sentence is parsed and represented by a structure of lines that establish the relationship among the words in the sentence.”
Is Social Media Influencing Book Cover Design? (theguardian.com)
On how the rise of #Bookstagram has influenced book cover design
Meet the YouTube Stars Turning Viewers Into Readers (nytimes.com)
A short article about the influence of booktube
Fantasy author V.E. Schwab, who wrote A Darker Shade of Magic, delivered the sixth annual J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature at Pembroke College at Oxford earlier this year and it’s worth a listen — both the lecture and the Q&A session that follows it. You can also read the lecture here.
Announcing the 2018 Hugo Award Winners (tor.com)
Highlights – women ruled, for the most part: N.K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky won best novel; All Systems Red by Martha Wells won best novella; Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood by Marjorie Liu, illus. by Sana Takeda, won best graphic story; and best dramatic presentation went to Wonder Woman.
‘Monstress’ Writer Marjorie Liu Becomes First Woman to Win Top Comic Book Award (huffingtonpost.com)
Marjorie Liu, author of Monstress comic book series, is the first woman to win the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Writer. The award has been around for 30 years.
Fireside and Fiyah Bringing Visibility to Black Writers in Speculative Fiction (blacknerdproblems.com)
Fireside Magazine and Fiyah Literary Magazine teamed up to produce the 2017 #BlackSpecFic Report, which shows data that proves that Black writers of speculative fiction are underrepresented in the industry.
Parneros Sues B&N for Defamation of Character (publishersweekly.com)
Former Barnes & Noble CEO Demos Parneros filed a lawsuit against his former employer on August 28 for breach of contract and defamation of character. “Parneros was abruptly fired from B&N on July 3, for unspecified violations of company policy. He was let go without severance. In his suit, Parneros claims that the nature of his firing, coupled with the current employment environment, left the public to assume he was guilty of sexual harassment. He denies, however, that this was the case.”
SPX, CBLDF Create $20K Legal Fund for 11 Cartoonists in Defamation Suit (publishersweekly.com)
Small Press Expo (SPX), a nonprofit that hosts an annual festival for small press and self-published comic art, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund have collaborated to contribute $20,000 to support the legal expenses of 11 defendants in a defamation lawsuit. SPX will also fundraise additional funds to support the defendants.
The suit: “Cody Pickcrodt, a small press comics artist and publisher, filed suit against the cartoonists claiming he has been falsely accused of rape, sexual assault, making anti-semitic remarks, and not paying artist royalties.”
Librarians Question Tor’s E-book Embargo (publishersweekly.com)
Last month, publisher Macmillan imposed a four-month embargo on e-book editions of new Tor books in libraries as part of a test. The publisher claimed that “library e-book lending is having a ‘direct and adverse’ impact” on Tor’s e-book sales. Librarians are questioning these claims and have found data that prove them not to be true.
“Comicsgate is, roughly speaking, Gamergate for comics. Like that infamous mass movement of angry gamers — which, it’s been convincingly argued, was a key component in the stunning rise of the alt-right and the election of Donald Trump — Comicsgate is a loose confederation of tweeters and YouTubers who make it their business to yell about how much they hate the ‘social justice warriors’ who are, in their eyes, ruining their favorite medium with leftist politics.”
V.S. Naipaul, Nobel Laureate and Chronicler of Postcolonialism, Dies at 85 (publishersweekly.com)
Trinidadian author and Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul died on August 11 in London. He was 85. Naipaul won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature and is known for his books that chronicle “the results of colonialism in the modern era.”
The New York Public Library Is Bringing Real Stories to Your Instagram Stories (electricliterature.com)
The New York Public Library is uploading classic books, stories, and novellas in its Instagram stories. They will be presented alongside artwork by “Instagram-popular designers.” Stories that will be uploaded soon include: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
Walmart’s eBookstore Is Launching Today (the-digital-reader.com)
Walmart will start selling e-books with the help of Kobo.
Malorie Blackman, author of the YA dystopian series Noughts & Crosses series, is the first Black screenwriter to work on the Doctor Who TV show. (This is good news, but it’s also sad that their first Black screenwriter is appointed in 2018 when the show has been around since 1963! Smh.)
It’s Official, a Full Season of Watchmen Is Coming to HBO in 2019 (io9.gizmodo.com)
The Watchmen comic book will be adapted for a TV series by HBO and aired in 2019.
Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series will be adapted by Apple in a “10 episode straight-to-series” run.
TV: The Miniaturist (shelf-awareness.com)
Jessie Burton’s novel The Miniaturist has been adapted for a three-part series that will premiere on PBS Masterpiece on September 9.
Nickelodeon has partnered with Abrams Children’s Books to publish a series of YA novels set in the universe of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The two books included in the deal will focus on Avatar Kyoshi, the longest-living human avatar in history at over 230 years old, whom fans know little about.
The books will be authored by F.C. Yee, author of The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, and will be written in consultation with Michael Dante DiMartino, a co-creator and executive producer of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Final Posthumous Book Is Published (smithsonianmag.com)
The Fall of Gondolin was published on August 30. “While this story may be the last Tolkien book to be published, it is actually an early tale and foundational to the author’s entire concept of Middle-earth. It was first written in 1917 while Tolkien was recuperating in a hospital from trench fever after the Battle of the Somme.”
Another video break
This was such fun to watch — people trying to dance to Jamaican dancehall music. Lol! 😀
** Vybz Kartel’s “Fever” is one of my favorite songs!! ❤
Other awesome ‘ish
Superhero Zodiac Signs (greenonionblog.com)
Ever wonder what Hulk’s zodiac sign is? How about Deadpool or Wonder Woman? Check out Green Onion’s post to see which superhero shares your zodiac sign.
NPR’s recommendation of 100 horror stories based on a reader’s survey they conducted earlier in the year. Last year, they compiled a list of reader recommended comics and graphic novels.
Focus on the Frightful: What is Horror? Horror Genres, Pt. 2 (scifiandscary.com)
A look at sub-genres within horror
How They Fought Writer’s Block in the Roaring Twenties (publishersweekly.com)
Author John Emmerling stumbled upon how writers fought writer’s block in the 1920s and decided to recreate the helmet. Yes, a helmet! (I keep wondering if it’s true.)
Happy 20th Anniversary, Harry Potter (nytimes.com)
A look at memoriabilia of the fandom, like the first Harry Potter tattoo.
9 Science Fiction and Fantasy Webcomics to Binge Now (bookriot.com)
A list of recommended SFF webcomics
So You Want to Read the ’80s: Here’s Where to Start (unboundworlds.com)
Recommendations for fantasy novels published in the 1980s
The History and Future of the Western in 10 Books (publishersweekly.com)
Author John Larison talks about the Western genre and shares some recommendations from it.
Cotton, Cashmere & Chemicals: A Guide to Clothing Labels (niafaraway.com)
A blog post that gives brief descriptions of clothing materials and how and where they are made.
Pants & Progress: Women that Made an Impact (blog.modcloth.com)
The post features 3 influential women who were known for wearing pants when doing so was unconventional for women.
Worth a listen
Grim Tidings Podcast
A podcast that focuses on all things grimdark fantasy
The host speaks with Anna Stephens, Deborah A. Wolf, Anna Smith-Spark, and Sarah Chorn to discuss grimdark fantasy as well as fantasy in general, the need for better representation of women in fantasy, writing and creating, supporting women who write fantasy, and many other topics. I highly recommend you listen to it.
Author Stories Podcast with Hank Garner
A podcast that features author interviews
Hank Garner interviews Mary Robinette Kowal, SFF author of Shades of Milk and Honey. I’m familiar with Kowal from the Writing Excuses Podcast, where she shares writing advice alongside other SFF authors. In Hank Garner’s podcast, she talks about how she got into writing, her books, and also gives some advice. I like what she had to say about writing novels vs. short stories.
A podcast about the publishing industry, books, reading, writing and creating. One of the hosts, JJ, is S. Jae-Jones, author of the YA fantasy novel Wintersong.
The hosts talk about the different types of reviews (trade vs. consumer), where reviews are published, the uses for reviews, and the intended audience for them (never the author).
Writer’s Digest Podcast
This podcast is fairly new; they just started this year and it’s basically about writing (advice and such) and the publishing industry.
About the benefits of short form writing
Shows I’m hooked on
I’m still hooked on rewatching old episodes of this, though after reading Garden Spells my obsession has started to peter out. Now I want to read more of Sarah Addison Allen’s books instead.
I actually watched this a month or so ago but am just now remembering it. It was so good! It was funny and I liked it for that, but I felt bad for Tonya and Nancy.
Romeo & Juliet!!
I came back, several hours after publishing this post, to include that I attended a live performance of Romeo & Juliet so that I have this memory recorded somewhere. It was my first time attending a live performance of a Shakespeare play. It was fun, but I hardly understood a thing. My language faculties turn off when people start using thee and thou and shalt and stuff like that in their speech, so I tuned out the words and watched the acting instead.
That’s it for my August. How was yours?
Hoping for a better September.