Archive for the ‘Shelfies’ Category

Words, books, and mugs. And bats (because Halloween).

My desk at work is typically sparse and no-nonsense. This is likely a residual effect from working for so long in shared spaces where I didn’t have any personal space that was just my own. But this month, I’ve actually decorated the space, and it makes a big difference in its coziness. It’s still not a great location, but at least I am surrounded by things I love.

My home office is one of my favorite spaces in my apartment. Even when it’s impossibly messy (as it is now, which is why there’s no picture), it’s still cozy. It sparks creativity and excitement about whatever project I happen to be working on. I occasionally take my laptop into the living room because I think it will be more comfortable, but I almost always end up back in the office before my task is complete. I write faster and better in the office.

I think one of the reasons for this is that I have purposefully designed my home office to represent the life I want to eventually have. Once I’m retired from UNT and have more time to write and create (and perhaps actually make a dent in reading my gargantuan collection), I imagine doing so in a place that looks just like this room. So when I step through the door, I can almost pretend I’m already there.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the perfect bookshelf. I lean toward the tall and simple, but I have to admit that I’m mesmerized by the more asymmetrical pieces. I really love the look of them. Maybe I’ll have more of them in my home if I ever move into a larger space. One of my bookshelves is sort of like that. It folds into the corner, and it’s not as tall as the rest, so the top shelf is more decorative with a cute bookend and a large cup and saucer planter.

Imagine an elephant holding up the books on the left. So cute!

I have old coffee cups and mason jars scattered throughout the room, holding everything from pens and pencils to binder clips or bookmarks. My current knitting project sits at my feet by the desk so that I have something to do with my hands during meetings.

And of course, I’m surrounded by books. That alone would make it a hard space to beat.

In seeking ways to create a lush life, it’s been amazing to discover that just tweaking the physical environment is enough to put me in a more extravagant and abundant headspace.

Do you have a particular space that fuels your creativity? What’s it like?

I’m writing about the lush life all month.

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March TBR

I finally finished bingeing (is it really a binge, though, if it takes you the better part of a year?) Once Upon a Time last month. The final season had a mostly different cast, and I was not a fan of one of the new actors in particular, so it took me a little more time to get through it. But I kept coming back because Alice (in Wonderland but she’s “been to lots of places”) was one of the key characters in the last season. I loved her part in the storyline as well as Rose Reynolds’s portrayal of the character.

So this month, in addition to tracking down the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland spinoff, I’m prolonging the Alice magic by re-reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. As I love all manner of tweaks and retellings, I may also read one or several of these:

I’m open to other Alice/Mad Hatter/Queen of Hearts/Wonderland retellings, of course. Fortunately, there are so many. Hit me with your faves. 

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

Most of the books I’ve read so far this year have completed prompts on my challenges. A proper update on how each one is going is coming in the next few weeks, but these are the ones I’ve picked out specifically for this month.

  • Read Harder – Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust (queer retelling of a fairytale)
  • Girlxoxo – The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh (keyword: beautiful)
  • 52 Book Club – The Maid by Nita Prose (we’ll try this January book club selection again to fulfill the prompt “published in 2022”) 
  • POPSUGAR – The two original Lewis Carroll selections listed above (from the advanced section – a duology – although I do have a lot of duologies on my general TBR list)

Lush Reads

A nice blend of challenge and comfort.

Additional Options

Mostly books that need to go back to the library soon but also some long-standing TBRs.

What are you reading this month?

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There is something about sitting next to a bookshelf – especially one of my own – that I find simultaneously invigorating and soothing. It must be the fond memories of the books on it that I’ve loved. The anticipation of those I’ve not yet read. The inevitable, distinct smell of a collection of books that vary in age, how many hands have touched them, and how far they’ve traveled. My bookshelves are great roommates.

A few years ago, my 31 Days series was a celebration of shelfies – pictures taken of my bookshelves. Like the books on them, each shelf tells its own story.

Like the one pictured above, with the whimsical pig bookend holding up books I’ve had since childhood. It captures the reminiscence of Scholastic book fairs and the special visit from John R. Erickson, creator of the Hank the Cowdog series, to our small town elementary school. Technically I wasn’t in elementary school anymore at that point, but my mom made sure I still got a signed copy.

Or the one below, that holds some of my favorite serving pieces as well as the bulk of my foodie/cookbook collection. Everything I know about being a good host came from someone who used to own one of those pieces or from the wisdom shared in one of those books.

The next picture is another cross-section of my life. The little plant that could, a cutting from my friend Sarah in a planter that my mom just knew I had to have. Larry McMurtry’s most popular novel as well as the one we read for Follow the Reader (also nurtured/led by Sarah). Part of the latter half of my fiction collection, including books from some of my favorites – Louise Penny, Haruki Murakami, Toni Morrison, Ann Patchett, Joyce Carol Oates. Just thinking of these authors makes me remember where I was when I discovered them and what their books helped me through.

When I have a larger library, some authors are going to get their own shelves. Meanwhile, I’ll arrange my Isabel Allende collection however it will fit. She is the reason the As already get their own shelf, when most other letters of the alphabet have to share. The Bs are quickly catching up, though.

The shelf that holds most of my nonfiction is probably what you saw behind me if you’ve had a Zoom meeting with me in the last year or so. I don’t have quite as much nonfiction, so there are also children’s books, stacks from authors I like who write both fiction and nonfiction (but I feel like they would miss each other if they were separated), and books from my academic years, which are mostly nonfiction but with a sprinkling of poetry and short story collections (some, apparently, in German). As with most of my shelves, I also have small pieces of art nestled between, in front, and beside the books.

The look and smell of my books is what makes any place I live feel like home. You could probably learn a lot about me by spending some time perusing them. Maybe that’s why the first place I go when I’m left to my own devices in someone’s home is to their bookshelves. I always learn something I love about the people who live there.

I don’t just love looking at books – I also love writing about them! So that’s what I’m doing this month.

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This is nowhere near the whole stack – just the ones that were on the unshelved/library cart. Also, this month has a lot of ebook and audiobook selections.

So listen. I got really excited about being three books ahead of schedule on my Goodreads challenge and super happy about the 24in48 marathon this coming weekend and…I kinda overplanned. I fully admit that it is HIGHLY unlikely that I will finish all the books listed below but I do not care because I want to read them all RIGHT NOW and will probably start them all this month anyway because what even is an attention span.

I’m just going to list them this month because to list AND talk about them would be a little tl;dr even for me. So here we go. At least I’ve divided them up into categories for you.

Books I’ve started and will continue to read/finish this month:

Whew. I told you I have no attention span. Definitely about 20-150 pages into each one of these so far. And we press on.

After my joy selections from last month were of the “ok, Type A, calm down and maybe sit still occasionally” variety, and I am not good at following that advice but I am super great at overcompensating by going the exact opposite direction, my restless soul has gone into super cleaning mode. I’m not complaining, but it seems like a good month for these three:

I also find joy in revisiting things that I’ve read before or series that connect me to people. So I’m dabbling in a little:

Book club selections for the month:

Recommendations from friends or continuing reading from an author or timely re-read or just because I grabbed it from the library because it sounded interesting and now I only have it for 21(ish) days:

And why not finish it off with some poetry?

It’s only…35 books. In a month.

This goal is so ridiculous, I’m making a guessing game out of it. For every $5 you give to Denton Bail Fund, you get one guess about how many I’ll *actually* finish from February 1-February 28. I’ll send the person whose guess is the closest (or the person whose name I draw out of a hat, if there’s a tie) the book of their choice from this list. Because of who I am as a person, some game rules:

1. To qualify as an entry, you must email coffeesnob@gmail.com:

  • Screenshot of your donation confirmation to Denton Bail Fund with date and amount showing
  • Which of the 35 titles you would like to receive if you win
  • Your mailing address (I will not sell your information – just use it this one time to mail you your book if you win)
  • Your guess(es) – one per $5 donated, whole numbers from 2-35 (I’ve already finished 2 – don’t guess lower than that) – about how many books I will finish between February 1 and February 28.

2. Donations made to DBF must be dated between 12:01 a.m., January 1, 2021 (because yes, I reward being already on this) and 11:59 p.m., February 10, 2021, to count toward an entry.

3. Deadline for receiving email entries is February 11, 2021, at 5:30 p.m., CST.

4. I will send a confirmation email when I get your entry. If you do not get a confirmation from me, you have not successfully entered.

All other things being equal, I will have a final total posted by March 5 and will place the order for the winner’s book by March 10, 2021.

Okay, so I’m going to go read now. I have so many choices! This is the best month!

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I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s April Love challenge on Instagram, and today’s prompt is “five things about me.” So here goes:

  1. I have a sister who is one of my favorite people. She lives in a state of delight, getting excited about every joy. It’s captivating. I did not always want a sister, though. The whole time my mom was pregnant, I kept saying I was having a brother. I talked about it, prayed for it, dreamed about it. When a sister was born, I was flummoxed. It didn’t make sense to me. Our family already had a girl (me) so we needed a boy to make everything balance out. Gender roles were a big deal and part of my raising, so I figured a brother would have the necessary skills and traits to complement my own. So obviously I thought a mistake had been made and I wanted to speak to the manager. Offended at the audacity of God to deny my request and armed with a supreme practicality (even at the age of three), I set out to find ways to remedy this situation. I called her Tommy for the first three weeks of her life, perhaps hoping it would catch on. MeMaw told me that, if she kissed her elbow, she would turn into a boy. Excellent. Finally, an actual solution! I often snuck into her room to talk her into doing it herself. When she did not comply, I tried to help (don’t worry – no little sisters were actually harmed in the making of this story. I didn’t want to hurt her. Also, her crying would have alerted Mom to my subterfuge, so…not prudent.). But at some point, I discovered how rich life can be with a sister, and I’ve been pleased to call her mine (and also by her actual name) ever since.
  2. I grew up in a small town in the panhandle of Texas, and my parents still live on the farm there. When you grow up in an environment with a lot of narrow, rigid rules and expectations where compliance is valued over authenticity, you learn a few key skills, particularly if you do not naturally fit within those rules/expectations. I learned to pretend that I did by only revealing the aspects of my person that were deemed acceptable. As a result, to this day, it’s pretty difficult to get to know me because I walk into every social situation trying to figure out which parts of me are acceptable there. I’m getting better, but I’m still trying to work out how to turn that off. On the upside, I can get along with just about anybody. I can cheat the system.
  3. A better upside to growing up where you don’t belong is that, to make room for all that I couldn’t reveal, I developed a pretty large, pretty spectacular inner world. I have this world to thank for all the characters I’ve created and every story I’ve ever written. When I have a big decision to make, it’s a great place to walk through various potential outcomes. All my best decisions have been made there. It taught me the pleasure of my own company. It’s not a suitable substitute for actual intimacy, but it’s coming in really handy right now in the isolation
  4. Talk to me for even five minutes, and you’ll probably hear about something I’m reading.  I’ll suddenly get really animated and bouncy about it. I love books. I have a large collection, and I read 4-5 books at a time. I like choices, and this allows me to choose the one that most fits my mood or is in an audio format that allows me to knit or doodle at the same time. In addition to the books we’re discussing at my various (four…maybe five if I finish in time to join the discussion for the daytime book club at church) book clubs this month, I’m currently reading my Isabel Allende collection in the order she wrote them. I’ve read some of them before, but I’m excited about re-reading each of them when it’s their turn.
  5. I have so much yarn. On the one hand, I’m glad. I’ve been able to share some of it and also I am in zero danger of running out of things to knit (Keep Denton Warm is gonna be chock full of blankets, scarves, and hats this year. If that’s a thing we get to do. Someone, somewhere will need them. Surely.). But I thought I had it all organized last year and I just found another bag this week. *sigh* I come from a long line of yarn hoarders.


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Because Fall.

Fall food is my favorite food. October didn’t have quite the sharp coolness that I wanted, but I feel like I ushered in the season in my heart with food and habits.

I made so much beer bread last month. I used a slight variation of my friend Mel’s recipe, which is super easy – Mix 3 cups self-rising flour and one beer (I use Corona or a similar beverage), put it in a greased loaf pan (that’s right – no kneading necessary), pour half a stick of melted butter on top, and bake it for about an hour at 350 degrees. It is good with soup (and also with gravy, but we won’t talk about that).

I also made a lot of lasagna and stacked enchiladas, and I quite possibly ate my weight in kettle corn. It was not a health food month.

For someone who spent almost every day blogging about books, I certainly did not read that many. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones was nice. I enjoyed that.

I spent most of my TV hours watching My Boys (ah, that takes me back) at home and Once Upon A Time at my sister’s house. Whoever told me that I would loooooove OUAT? You were utterly correct. It’s so clever and awesome, and I want all of the evil queen’s clothes/costumes. Also…Hook. I don’t care if he’s bad, I am a big, big fan.

But the main thing I was into this October? Knitting. I knitted like a madwoman.

I finished a blanket that I started over three years ago:

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I started and finished a whole new lap blanket:

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I made several scarves:

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All of these projects barely made a dent in my yarn stash. I don’t know what triggers these knitting frenzies, but I’m glad I have them every once in a while. My house would be overrun with yarn.

What have you been into this October

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – come join us!

What I'm Into button

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This was originally going to be the background to my 31 Days icon. I look sneaky. I like that, but I couldn’t get the right color of text that would show up in front of the books and the dark space. The writing group at Andilit helped me in my hour of visually challenged need to pick a better picture, a better font, and better spacing.

Large Icon With Text 2

Ah, yes. Much better.

I also received a lot of encouragement from my other online writing group, the Coterie at Awake the Bones. We had several people participating in the 31-day challenge, so we had a thread every day to help us keep up with each other’s posts.

I am thankful for my friend Michelle, my librarian friend and star of my Fandom Friends post. She will read anything I hand her, and she’s done so for as long as we’ve known each other. I need to clear out a place on my shelf where her books will go someday. You’re all going to love them. Also, I am pretty sure I got the idea of taking shelfies from her. I distinctly remember a picture of her with library shelves in the background, and I thought, “Shelfies. That would be a cute series.” So I’m officially giving you credit, Michelle.

Dear Maggie – here is another post where you are mentioned. It happens so often because, even though you are far away, you are still one of my main sounding boards for rants and stories, and a lot of those turn into longer rants and stories of book-ish length. Thanks for loving my rants and reading my stories and for being my partner in crime for NoHoNoPro (No Honor, No Problem) that one time.

I love being friends with Margarett, and I love that this series is sprinkled with stories from our friendship, from our one shelf of sanity to our obsession with Ethiopian food to our compulsion to acquire large numbers of books in a single bound. Thanks for never telling me I have too many books.

This month has made me especially grateful for my parents. My earliest memory is my mom reading Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer to me. She took me to libraries, encouraged me to read anything I could get my hands on, and made me look up answers for myself. My parents insisted that I go to college, and that experience was instrumental in forming me into the person I am today.

Thank you, dear readers. Thanks for your likes and your comments and your emails and your encouragement. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. You make me make this face:

Excited party face

I wrote 31 Days of Shelfies!

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Today, we will be taking a look at one of my virtual shelves – the Goodreads Reading Challenge shelf (ignore how far behind I am).

I was originally going to talk today about my five favorite books I’ve read this year, but then the video of the assault at Spring Valley High School changed my mind.

And before we launch into you-don’t-know-the-whole-story rhetoric, let me be clear on my position. No other possible side to this story justifies his behavior, so don’t even try it. No matter what she did, he was wrong.

Earlier this week, I shared this post – The Assault at Spring Valley Would Not Have Happened if the Girl was White -with a friend who was telling me that this assault wasn’t about race. His only response after he read (I presume he read it) the article? “Well, of course they think so. They’re black.”

Okay, then. Let me be clearer. I am saying that this assault would not have happened to me in high school. Even if I had been doing whatever it was she had done before the video. Even if I refused to get up. Even if I refused to go with the man who was threatening me.

It wouldn’t have happened. Not because of anything I did or did not do, but simply because I’m white and because of who my parents are.

“But you didn’t act the way she probably acted to get the cops called on her.”

What way? Sitting in my chair, minding my own business? Or even mouthing off and giving zero damns about people who disrespected me? No matter how you spin it – actually, I almost always acted that way. Still do. And it has never ended in my being thrown on the floor by someone who was supposed to protect me.

I was pulled over for failure to use my turn signal one night. I was guilty – I did not use my turn signal. The person following me was following closely, and I pulled into another lane to let them pass. I was annoyed with the person behind me, and it probably showed in my sudden acceleration and sudden lane change. It turned out the person was a cop. When he pulled me over, he asked why I didn’t use a signal, I replied, “I was trying to get out of the way of the jerk tailgating me.” I was snippy, and I delivered it with a look to match my tone. Did he pull me out of my car and force me facedown on the ground with my hands behind my back? Did he ask me to step out of the car at all? Did he give me a stern lecture on cooperating with law enforcement?

No. He did not. He laughed and said, “Fair enough,” and told me to have a good night. He did not even give me a ticket, despite the fact that technically he could have.  He gave my behavior – which frankly was quite rude – the best possible interpretation he could come up with and let me go with his good wishes. Now I understand that this could have been an unusually jovial fellow. It’s possible that particular cop would have responded the exact same way if I had been a woman of color. I think that’s naive, though. I’ve heard too many similar stories with different outcomes just from my friends, not to mention the stories that have made the news.

So I don’t just want to talk about great books today. I want to talk about great books that made a difference in me.

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Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson 

Bryan Stevenson is an attorney and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. His book is heartbreaking. We read it for my church book club in August. As aware of the world as we like to believe that we are, it shocked quite a few of us. We were dismayed that there’s still so much reform needed in our prison system. This book made me want to go to law school (that urge passed) and be more involved in the work of justice (that urge wakes me up at night).

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Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

This is one of my favorite books – and not just of this year. In her collection of essays, Roxane Gay lays out her point of view and points out exactly how it doesn’t always fit in with mainstream (or, as she admits, any) feminism. I need her voice; my feminism is incomplete without it.

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The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves tales between the past and the present, between tradition and modern life. This book made me realize how many of the stories I read about other cultures are not written by people from that culture. The difference in the stories told is remarkable. I want to read more stories written by people who embody the narrative rather than people who are merely reporting it.

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Salt by Nayyirah Waheed

Nayyirah Waheed’s poetry leaves me undone. There’s not a word wasted or unintentional. Her words paint pictures of her experiences living in her body in this world.

Speaking of undone…

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Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

If I could only recommend one book of all the books I’ve read this year, this would be it. Everyone should read this book. Just read it. Claudia Rankine chronicles the treatment of people of color in the world and in the media. If you are interested at all in race relations, you need to read this book. Listen.

I made a goal at the first of the year to read at least 40 books – one third of my overall goal – written by people of color. I’ve only managed to read 17 so far, and it’s not quite a third of all the books I’ve read. I’ve learned that even when I’m being intentional about my choices, I gravitate toward the familiar and comfortable. This knowledge is humbling and helpful. I can do better.

I’m writing 31 Days of Shelfies.

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I have always been told that I’m good at languages.

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but hey – it’s something I’m good at – I’ll take it.

I took a couple of years of Spanish in high school, four semesters of Latin in undergrad, and three semesters of German in grad school. Of course, I still have all the books.

I’ve also added to them. I will often buy books in one of the languages I’ve taken to practice my skills. I will also purchase books in languages I have absolutely no training in, because I like the title (In Praise of Yiddish) or because I recently read a book (by Murakami) and thought, “That was a nice paragraph. I bet that was beautiful in its original language” (and thus had to buy a book of Japanese phrases). I have several books on Portuguese because I want to travel someday to Brazil, and I am trying to learn Italian (and they said the Latin was a waste of time!) because I not only want to travel there but also because I found a cookbook that I need to read.

I’m obsessed with Duolingo.

I know that I will probably only become marginally proficient (I can ask for the bathroom and order coffee in at least five languages), but it’s a fun pursuit.

I’m writing 31 Days of Shelfies.

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It is odd how few plays I own considering my theater experience. I guess most of them are in scripts.

But it does highlight pretty clearly who my favorite playwright is.

I love Neil Simon. I love his wit and his characters. Any time I had to choose a monologue to give, it was almost always Neil Simon.

Barefoot in the Park is my favorite. I even managed to work it into a conflict management assignment in grad school. I analyzed one of Paul and Corie’s many arguments and made the class watch it during my presentation. They know they loved it.

His most famous play is probably The Odd Couple.  I love Felix. He is one of my top five favorite TV/movie characters.

Who is your favorite playwright? What’s your favorite play?

I’m Writing 31 Days of Shelfies.

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