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ZeZee’s Favorite Reads of 2016

Everyone’s doing these favorites posts and I want to do it too. I look forward to these posts at the end of the year because they are great sources for book recommendations. Often the books included in these end-of-year favorites lists are ones that have great staying power. They are ones that readers often reminisce on throughout the year and might even consider rereading, which, to me, means they are good reads.

I was unable to shorten my list to the usual 10, so instead I have 16 favorites of 2016! (I did not plan that.)

I’ve broken the list into the following sections: novels, which includes picture books and audio books; comics, which includes mangas; and other, which is a mish-mash of nonfiction and poetry.

Novels

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10 of the Best Books about Literature

See more books about literature here.

Interesting Literature

10 great books for literature-lovers, from surveys of English literature to treasure-troves of trivia

Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. A monumental, weighty tome that shows how all fictional narratives from folk tales to novels and films follow essentially seven basic plot forms, such as ‘overcoming the monster’ (Beowulf, Jaws). Riddled with typos, but if you can put up with them, this book is illuminating and entertaining.

Gary Dexter, Title Deeds: The Hidden Stories behind 50 Books. An engaging book full of fascinating information about some of the world’s classic books, and the stories behind how they came to be called what they’re called.

Gary Dexter, Why Not Catch-21? This is an earlier book on the same theme as Title Deeds and just as much fun.

B. Ifor Evans, A Short History of English Literature. Now sadly out of print, this delightful little Pelican paperback…

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14 Books I Want to Read but Never Remember to

Read booksThese are listed in the order I remember them.

  1. Anything by Charles Dickens
    • …because I have a strong feeling that I would enjoy reading Dickens’ tomes. I’ve often seen his name mentioned in reviews of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books and I think that she listed him as one of her literary influences. I’ve also read that, like Rowling, his characters are whimsical, which is highly appealing to me. I can’t wait to try one of his books but whenever I visit the bookstore, I always think his books “Too big to buy right now.”
  2. If on a winter’s night a traveler… by Italo Calvino
    • …because I’ve heard that it’s a book about reading a book of the same title and I find that mind-boggling. But for the life of me, I always forget Calvino’s name when I visit the bookstore and though I remember the book’s title, I always think that it’s a sentence in book and that it’s too ambiguous a clue for the bookseller to search by.
  3. Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
    • …because I want to know if I’ll love her books no matter what. I’ve read some very bad reviews on this novel and it makes me wonder if my reading experience will be similar to those I’ve read. Would I also think Rowling dropped the ball with this novel? That she’s better suited for children’s books only? Only reading will tell. I bought this book shortly after it was published but it’s sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust. You see, it’s a hardback copy and it’s quite a nuisance to haul a big-ass hardback novel everywhere you go and I tend to travel with the books I’m currently reading so for now it sits on shelf with a smattering of dust for company.
  4. Anything by Nalo Hopkinson
    • …because I’ve realized that I’ve hardly read any fantasy novels by someone of African descent much less from the Caribbean or even the country I’m from. Actually, the only fantasy/sci-fi novel I’ve read by a person of color is Kindred by Octavia Butler…and I didn’t like it :/. Well, I read it in college and I really, really hated the cover of the book. (It’s the one of the girl in white on the cover. I thought it was eerie. Yea, I know that makes no sense but it’s how I felt). Also, I tend to dislike stories that incorporate time travel. (Yes, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as well. It’s one of my least liked books in the series.) Anyways, somehow I discovered Hopkinson and after learning that she’s from the Jamaica and that her fantasy novels tend to include Caribbean culture, I immediately wanted to read her books. But I always forget this want when I visit the bookstore and so forget to search for her. I guess I’ll have to place the purchase online.
  5. The Odyssey by Homer
    • …because Homer is the dude! Everyone has heard or read some sort of reference to The Odyssey and numerous authors refer to the text in their writing so I believe I must experience it for myself. Plus, I enjoy reading anything that references Greek mythology. I did read bits of The Odyssey in high school and in college but now I’d like to read the entire text. I always consider purchasing it when I visit the bookstore but somehow I always walk out without it. I probably had the same thought as when I see Dickens’ tomes: “Too big to buy right now.”
  6. I forgot both the title and the author’s name but it’s an account of Roman emperors’ lives. The book is quite scandalous.
    • …because I’m nosy. Whenever this book is mentioned, I’m always curious to read it to find out more. But, as you can tell, I can’t remember the title or the author’s name so I have yet to purchase it. If somehow you know what book I’m talking about, please share the title and author’s name.
  7. One Thousand and One Nights and The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
    • …because they are all classic texts from cultures other than Western Europe and if I read The Odyssey, I must read these too. I always visit their shelves whenever I go to a bookstore but they seem quite big so in the store they remain for now.
  8. Paradise Lost by John Milton
    • …because I am curious to know what it’s about. I’ve heard that it’s on Satan’s fall from Heaven and I would like to see how Milton details that. I guess I’ll have to read my Bible before I start on this so it’s easier for me to note how closely or how far he strays from the Bible’s recount of the event (it’s highly likely I won’t do this but thinking I will makes me feel great). I did attempt to read this back in college…probably freshman year. I gave up after a few sentences. I do have the book (since freshman year) and I have yet to crack it open again. To be revisited.
  9. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
    • …because I read Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor. Linden Hills is one of my favorite novels and the neighborhood that serves as the setting of the story symbolizes the different levels of hell Dante describes. Another reason why I want to read The Divine Comedy is because it’s often referenced in other texts and I like knowing where the references are from otherwise I feel left out (as if the author is sharing an inside joke). I have the book on my bookshelf. I tried reading it once but didn’t have the patience (that was in college as well). To be revisited.
  10. Donald Writes No More by Eddie Stone
    • …because I’ve read Donald Goines’ books and I know that the stories are a bit autobiographical. I always wanted to learn a bit more about Goines. His stories display the harsh reality of life on the streets. He doesn’t soften the blow of that reality but presents it as it is. I’ve searched in stores but have never found this book. I guess I’ll have to order it from Amazon.
  11. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
    • …because I must. I wanted to read this book before I even knew what it was about just because I liked its cover. It was years later that I discovered what it was about and that heightened my want to read it. Usually, whenever I visit the bookstore I’d go over to the sci-fi/fantasy section and gaze at the cover wondering what the lady on it is up to with that big-ass sword but now I have a copy that I bought second-hand at Second Story Books in Dupont Circle at one of its sidewalk sales. To be started.
  12. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
    • …because it’s intriguing. I forgot where it was that I first heard of this book maybe it was the title that caught me. But since discovering it, I’ve always wanted to read it but have never gotten around to purchasing it. I pick it up every time I visit the bookstore and leaf through its pages but when it’s time to decide what stays and what goes, The Psychopath Test always goes. I tell myself, “Next time I’ll get it.”
  13. Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch
    • …because it’s on mythology. I like to think of myself as a mythology enthusiast so of course I want to read this one too. This is another book I visit every time I go to a bookstore and I never buy it. I always tell myself “It’s not time yet.”
  14. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    • …because it’s always recommended to me and it has received great reviews. Plus, I’ve read that Coelho’s parents tried to turn him from becoming a writer by committing him to a mental institution three times. That made me want to know more about him and his work. Like The Psychopath Test, I pick it up every time I visit the bookstore but always leave it behind. “Next time I’ll get it.”

More Lists from Zezee:

Books on writing

Books on books or reading

Reading Challenge: 60 Classics in 5 Years

Quick Find: All books discussed on this blog

5 Fun Ways to Say Boring

Expanding my vocabulary.

Just English

Ennui

[ahn-wee, ahn-wee]

ennuiNot all boredom is created equal: some of it is fleeting and circumstantial, and some of it teeters on existential crisis. Ennui tends toward the latter–or at least it used to. Derived from the French verb enuier meaning “to annoy,” its peak usage was in Victorian and Romantic literature to express a profound sense of weariness, even a spiritual emptiness or alienation from one’s surroundings and time. Nowadays it’s used at both ends of the boredom spectrum, but its deep literary history lends even the most shallow disinterest a grandiose air.

Bromidic

[broh-mid-ik]

bromidicBromide is a chemical compound that was commonly used in sedatives in the 1800 and 1900s. It took on a figurative sense to mean a trite saying or verbal sedative, or a person who is platitudinous and boring, in the early 1900s with help of the U.S. humorist Frank…

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Bookish Pet Peeves

So I’m sitting in my room lost in a daydream when I see an insect scamper across the wall. Shocked, I immediately jump out of bed and hunt him down. I had never seen an insect like that before and it prompted me to run a Google search. The more I discovered, the more pissed I became which led me to do this post on my bookish pet peeves.

  1. Bending the pages
    • I HATE when people do this to my books. I can hardly tolerate it when they do it to their own or to library books. Treat the books with some respect! Though, there is something charming about a well-worn book that is all bended, folded, scraped, and torn. A book that has been held in many hands and read in myriad places.from frabz
  2. Asking to borrow my books
    • Yes, I am one of those snobbish bibliophiles who hate to loan a book. I’ll even go so far as to purchase the book for you so you’ll leave mine alone (family members and close friends only). It’s selfish and silly but loaning books lead to bended covers, torn pages, and possible loss of the book since borrowers never seem to remember to RETURN what they borrow….speaking from experience on that last one. I refrain from borrowing books. I have a library card. I hardly use it. I’m one of those people who usually have an unnecessarily high library debt. Why? Because I forget. I can’t help it. It’s not intentional, I just do.
  3. Silverfish….and other book-eating bugs
    • The reason for this post. Unfortunately in this world there are insects who love to eat books and even more unfortunate is that my house is plagued with them. Where are they coming from? I don’t know. We recently moved and I guess they were here awaiting our arrival. I’ve seen them a few times at night, lurking in corners, crawling on walls, waiting for me to turn off the lights and go to sleep so they can attack my precious. These bugs are quick, little scampers. They are silvery-grey and have too many legs. They like warm, humid climes and love to feed on starch. They do not bite or spread any diseases and it seems that one could live peaceably with them if one does not mind many-legged insects crawling about the house but I’m not such a person. The mere sight of them is enough to rile me and have me running for the insect spray. So I’ve declared war on them. Prepare to be eliminated little fuckers!
  4. Soggy books
    • I had the misfortune of being caught in a deluge the other day. I was returning from a trip to New York and the sky was bright and sunny. No need to worry about a thunderstorm, I thought. A few minutes walking down the road proved me wrong. The sky quickly grayed and it suddenly began to rain as if the clouds were unable to hold their water once they appeared. Luckily, I had an umbrella but it was of little use! I was soaked within minutes. My suitcase was as well. I was dragging it behind me and it was filled with paperbacks given to me by my aunt. Once I got home and started to unpack, I saw that my books were all crinkled and soggy, the pages sticking together. I almost cried. They were new books. I just hate it when my books are ruined before I’ve had the chance to read them.book overload
  5. Unnecessary tomes
    • I’m thinking of Robert Jordan’s 13-book series (which I am nowhere near finishing). It’s too damn long for no good reason. I am on book five of the Wheel of Time series and I wonder if I will ever finish the books in this lifetime. I am not daunted by large books or long series. What turns me off is when a book is large because the author is stalling, or when chapters are filled with pointless internal dialogue or an overkill on landscape descriptions (all of which Jordan does). I am sure the books could have been condensed to a series that is half of its current amount.

Well, that’s it for my tirade. What are your bookish pet peeves?

Note on the featured image because it’s so cool. It’s a photograph taken by Cara Barer, a photographer based in Houston, Tex. She transforms damaged books into art and also does book-sculpting. I’m in love with her work. I guess it’s the only way I can tolerate a damaged book.

45 Great American Indie Bookstores to Support This Holiday Season

I also love Second Story Books and Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe, both in Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.

Flavorwire

No matter how bleak the news about publishing gets, independently owned bookstores are surviving, and in some cases thriving, in an Amazon-ruled, post-bookstore chain environment that shouldn’t necessarily be hospitable to shops that handsell books to locals. Enough has been written about why you should support your local indie that you shouldn’t need us to tell you about that. So as we approach the season when you’ll be spending money on gifts, as well as looking for engrossing reads to get you through the cold winter, we’re instead supplying you with a list of 45 great American indie bookstores (in no particular order) that sell new or used novels, art books, zines, coffee, that biography you really need to read, and/or delicious vegan treats — all of which are as important to their community as any business you can think of, and deserve your support.

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10 of the best Latino artists in the U.S.

Repeating Islands

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This article by Veronique de Miguel appeared in Voxxi.com.

Art is definitely one of my passions, particularly the artistic expression of contemporary Latin artists. In fact, I dedicate part of my time to them. I admire greatly recognized geniuses like Fernando Botero, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

All of them are Latino and world-famous, of course, but there are many other Latin-blooded artists who are making history today. These artists are building an artistic career in the U.S., especially in the multi-cultural hotspot of Miami.

Let’s take a look at some of the greatest Latin artists in America today.

Top 10 Latino artists in U.S.

1. Frank Romero

Frank Romero is an American muralist of Mexican origin, born in Los Angeles, Calif. For more than 40 years, his murals, publications and exhibitions have promoted the ideals of RACE — a non-profit group that works to improve opportunities for Hispanics. He has painted more…

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