Books for busy mums and other humans

Reading has been a challenge lately, due to new baby and the delirium that accompanies around-the-clock breastfeeding. On the other hand, it has taken me three months to be able to comfortably leave the house, so I’ve had quite a bit of downtime.

My favorite book that I’ve read lately is, appropriately, about raising happy infants. Superbaby, by Dr. Jenn Berman was a gift from my mom the librarian, and has been a great help. It is a compendium of research and useful information from a variety of sources. So rather than an exhaustive study of, say, the positive effects of using ASL as baby sign, it dedicates a nicely summarized chapter and moves along. For the attention deprived among us, it is a quick way to wade through a pile of information.

When I was pregnant, I read about 500 Terry Pratchett books. I was emotionally wrung-out, and they provided just the right balance of humor and comfortingly happy endings to keep me going. If you haven’t read any of the Discworld novels, I often recommend Small Gods, or Guards, Guards!, but you can start anywhere. If it were possible, I and almost everyone I know would like to give Terry Pratchett a hug for being such a nifty writer.

Connie Willis. I’ve been working my way through everything she has ever written, novels, short stories, novellas, introductions and interviews. I don’t usually obsess this much over reading an author’s full catalog, but Connie Willis shares many of the same qualities that make me enjoy Terry Pratchett, in addition to a fantastic grasp of European history and a charming tendency to always turn the Most Frustrating character into the means of Everything Working Out in the End.

If you haven’t read any Connie Willis, I suggest starting with the short story Firewatch, then her novel Doomsday Book. Next, skip over and read the classic Jerome K. Jerome story Three Men in a Boat: to Say Nothing of the Dog. Once you’ve done this, grab Willis’ To Say Nothing of The Dog, a wonderful homage to both Jerome and Dorothy Sayers.

Oops. Happy Daughter is waking up. That’s all for now. Website improvements will continue at their current plodding pace. Thanks for reading!

Librarian Avengers Stomp of Approval – Shelf Discovery

Bad books aren’t worth talking about. Good books, however, should stand up and be recognized.

Shelf DiscoveryTo that end, I invented a new thing that I’m going to act like I’ve been doing for ages: The Librarian Avengers Stomp of Approval.

As you know, Librarian Avengers stomp around quite a bit, railing against things and waving our arms around.

In this case, we’re stomping in approval of Lizzie Skurnick’s new book Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading.

Shelf Discovery is a compilation of Ms. Skurnick’s excellent Fine Lines posts on Jezebel, in which she lovingly scrutinizes Young Adult books read by bookish girls of the X/y/whatever generation.

I’m always surprised to find such quality writing just floating around on the web for anyone to read, and I’m glad there is finally a dead tree version available as well.

greenbooks.pngIf I suffered from Pageant-Mom syndrome and wanted to create an exact replica of myself from the raw material of some random pre-teen girl, I would begin my narcissistic experiment in literary manipulation by having her read all of the books celebrated in Shelf Discovery.

Which is all to say that I love this book and you should too. So, yay.

Stomp stomp stomp stomp.

Bookbinding Tattoo, concept art

Someone asked me where I found the art for my nonexistent biopsy scar-covering tattoo, and I thought you guys might be interested…
This came from a series of 18th Century bookbindings. It’s too elaborate for reality, perhaps, but I liked the idea.

This was intended to cover a scar that I have grown rather fond of. The tattoo plan was scrapped, but the concept was good.

I sampled my skin color from a photo, isolated two different florets from book covers I found in a digital library collection, overlapped them, messed with transparency, did a color mask to match a brown ink, and then chickened out at the last minute.

For more on why I didn’t get a tattoo, please see this very special episode of Red vs. Blue.

Technorati Tags: tattoo, book, bookbinding, librarian, nerd, geek

Fine Lines: Jezebel reviews the books that we 30somethings loved in our youth

I want to talk about YA books for girls in the 1980s. Books like Anastasia Ask Your Analyst, and The Girl with the Silver Eyes.

Besides PBS and the Thundercats, these books were pretty much the only media I had available during my nerdy nerdy youth. And since I hadn’t been sentient for too long, so they had a disproportionate impact on my social development.

I wasn’t alone. The fine ladies at Jezebel (One of those Gawker media blogs. I’m usually against ’em. This one, however doesn’t suck.) do a recurring feature called Fine Lines, which is UNCANNY in its ability to suss out YA books from my misspent youth.

I checked out an average of 14 books a week from two different local libraries, thanks to my geek parents. Most of the books I read were comic anthologies like Peanuts, Bloom County, Garfield and (odd for a 12 year old) Doonesbury. However, the books that really got through were the ones like Island of the Blue Dolphins, or From the mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankeweiler.

Fine Lines has them all, lovingly glossed and tinted with a healthy dose of grown-up lady perspective. Go. Go now. Read and remember. You were not alone.

Great Opening Sentences in Science Fiction

“I lived long enough to see the cure for death; to see the rise of the
Bitchun Society, to learn ten languages; to compose three symphonies;
to realize my boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World; to
see the death of the workplace and of work.” – Cory Doctorow, Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom.

There’s a nice list of Sci Fi opening sentences up at io9.com. I haven’t read many of them, and I think there’s a few I’ll pick up because of this page.

via boing boing

Rearranging the books, playlists

I can’t sort out my head properly, so I’m sorting my books. Plover the cat and I are drinking red wine and water, respectively, and pacing the apartment listening to Motown.

I’m rearranging my books.

I’ve you’ve read Nick Hornsby’s book High Fidelity or seen the movie, you might remember Rob rearranging his record collection. Today is sort of that, but without the breakup.

When I have something big on my mind, usually related to self-definition, I become more interested in music and stories.

The music I listen to becomes Important. The books on my shelves become Me. I download. I read. I sort. I fuss and swap and graze over my books, looking for the right system. And through this, somehow, I describe myself to myself. Whatever is going on in my head benefits from the organization I’m doing with my hands.

I externalize this stuff because it’s easier than neurosurgery and cheaper than therapy.

Behold my books. They are arranged by priority, then color.

Upstate fucking glory, books

Spring birds are yelling from snowy trees this morning. It’s spring, despite wind, snow, roaring wood stove, and other evidence to the contrary. I’m taking today off of work. I’ve got nine stitches. I can do whatever I want.

I finished re-reading Microserfs by Douglas Copeland yesterday. This book was important to me at a formulative time. It helped convince me it was cool to be a nerd. It introduced other tech-inclined women to my humanities-girdled world. It drew a model of unashamed geekery, separate and outside of a traditionally-female need for perfection and image. It was pretty liberating.

An excerpt:

Susan is 26 and works in Mac Applications. If Susan were a Jeopardy! contestant, her dream board would be:

* 680X0 assembly language
* Cats
* Early ’80s haircut bands
* “My secret affair with Rob in the Excel Group”
* License plate slogans of America
* Plot lines from The Monkees
* The death of IBM

Susan’s an IBM brat and hates that company with a passion. She credits it with ruining her youth by transferring her family eight times before she graduated from high school – and the punch line is that the company gave her father the boot last year during a wave of restructuring. So nothing too evil can happen to IBM in her eyes.

Susan’s a real coding machine. But her abilities are totally wasted reworking old code for something like the Norwegian Macintosh version of Word 5.8.

Thanks for your kind comments last night during my Dark Night of the Beer. Friendly words were unexpected and wonderful. I often forget that there are people out there. Hello imaginary people. It’s as though my fictional heroes (Elizabeth Bennet! Harriet The Spy! Meg from Wrinkle in Time!) suddenly started interacting.

Off to haul wood one-armed and scour Craigslist for cars. What would your Dream Jeopardy! categories be?