Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Things I Give Major Side-Eye

Image via The Broke and The Bookish

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is a free-for-all, meaning that all us book bloggers who participate in the meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish are allowed to discuss anything that’s on our minds.

Now normally I don’t get snobby about books. For the most part, I’m just happy that people make reading a priority. However, since we’re being completely honest today, there are quite a few book-related things that rub me the wrong way. So if you want to avoid receiving some major side-eye from me, make sure you avoid the ten items on this list!

1. Men who only read male authors. There’s a particular brand of hipster dude in the Bay Area who thinks he’s so enlightened because he reads literary or experimental fiction. The problem is, ALL of these books are written by men. If you’re on a date with a guy, and he prattles on about his obsession with Franzen, Vonnegut, Palahniuk, Wallace, and/or Bukowski, get up and leave immediately, because you’ve just come across a literary chauvinist.

2. Non-fiction readers who don’t value fiction. On the flip side, there’s another type of reader (unsurprisingly, also often male), who thinks he’s above reading fiction entirely. He’ll bore you with the latest WWII war read or Steve Jobs biography, and if you attempt to bring up that fantasy novel you’re interested in, he’ll brush you off patronizingly by saying he’s more concerned with reality than fairy tales. He’s a total square with no imagination, so don’t bother trying to convince him that fiction makes people more empathetic and intelligent. He’s too dumb to care.

3. Readers who look down on romance/erotica. Once again, men are typically at fault for this snobbery, but plenty of women also believe that the romance and erotica genres are inferior to those of “substance.” I am not ashamed to admit that not only do I read romance/erotica, I write it as well. I came across this type of reader in my creative writing workshops in college, and although they were fortunately shut down by the peers who came to my defense, the experience was an eye-opener to the literary discrimination that romance novelists face from many readers.

4. Writers who look down on romance/erotica. Newsflash: Romances make a boatload of money. It’s the 2nd most popular genre behind thriller and makes over $1.1 billion annually, accounting for about 20% of all book sales. The publisher Harlequin alone sells more than 3 books PER SECOND worldwide. So get off your high horse, because there are millions of people around the world who love this genre, and thousands of novelists are profiting from it. You can be a starving artist if you want, but if desiring my cut makes me too “commercial” of a writer, then I’ll just go cry into my sweet, sweet cash.

Oh, and as for the writers who say they’re writing “love stories,” not “romance,” I give you double side-eye. That’s right, I’m looking at you, Nicholas Sparks!

5. People who think Fifty Shades of Grey is good erotica. That being said, just because I enjoy the occasional racy romp, that doesn’t mean that I have no standards. Writing good erotica involves more than inserting Tab A into Slot B, and it certainly involves more than writing terrible Twilight fan-fiction and changing the characters’ names. See, if you remove the shame from reading erotica, then you can open up the discussion to what makes good erotica. So let’s do our part and start talking! Recommendations are always welcome!

6. People who don’t respect LOTR. It’s a well-known fact that I’m a die-hard fan of The Lord of the Rings. I’m positive that if you are as well, then you’re most likely an awesome person who I would get along with. On the other hand, if you think LOTR is dull, then you probably are too. Call me harsh or judgmental if you want, but #sorrynotsorry.

7. Readers who prefer electronic over print. This is likely an unpopular opinion given the mass adoption of tablets and e-readers, but I guess that I’m too old-school. I’m already on a computer all day at work, so when I’m home, I prefer to give my eyes a break from the screen. I understand how convenient e-readers are when traveling, but I would argue that reading should be a sensory experience. There’s nothing better than getting lost in a library or local bookstore, holding an old book in your hands, thumbing through its pages and taking in its intoxicating scent. But maybe that’s just me?

8. Book bloggers who don’t read the classics. Let me preface this item by saying that I’m not hating on book bloggers who have a favorite contemporary genre. Most of the blogs that I follow focus on YA because they’re managed by high school and college students. I love YA as well, but I believe that if you pigeon-hole yourself as a blogger, then you’re missing valuable opportunities to widen your subscriber base. Love The Hunger Games? Check out Lord of the Flies. Big fan of Divergent? Why not try Brave New World? Stretch your literary comfort zone by reading the classics, and you might find your new favorite novel!

9. People who only read books being made into movies. I often say that Hollywood has run out of original ideas, and you only have to look at the blockbuster list of sequels and reboots for evidence. I’m not hating on books that get made into films, and would in fact be overjoyed if a book I end up publishing gets its own adaptation, but if you’re only reading novels to see them on the silver screen, then you’re not exposing yourself to overlooked but equally talented authors. Sure, I may be reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with my book club right now in anticipation of the film release next month, but those selections are few and far between.

10. People who don’t read anything, period. As I stated in the beginning of my blog post, at the end of the day, I’m just happy if people are reading. Fiction or non-fiction, male authors or female authors, romance or realism, pretty please–for the love of all that’s holy–just pick up any book and read it. Turn off Netflix for once, and let your brain create the pictures for you. And don’t give me any crap about your crammed calendar: You’re never too busy to read (or at least, listen to audiobooks!). Almost a quarter of the population hasn’t read a single book, probably since high school when they were forced to, and that fact is awfully depressing. Don’t be that person.

What other bookish things would you give major side-eye? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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My Top 5 Books of 2015

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Another wonderful year has ended, and it’s time to recap all the books that I have read! According to Goodreads, I have completed 23 books in 2015, totaling 7,364 pages! This year was above average in quality, considering that I rated over half of these books at least a 4 out of 5.

This, of course, made it very difficult to select my top five books of 2015, but I managed it! Click on my vlog above to hear my thoughts on my favorite books of the year in detail, and see below for the full list from best to worst. (Big shout-out to my awesome brother Nick Jarrett for producing this video; feel free to reach out to him for stellar work in graphic and web design!) As noted, be on the lookout next week for my rant on my least favorite book of 2015, Chuck Palahniuk’s Beautiful You.

I already have 11 more books waiting for me on my desk, so it’s time to ring in 2016 with lots and lots of reading! Thank you so much to all of you who read my blog; these past four years of blogging have been an amazing journey, and I look forward to sharing many more with you!

XOXO Book Club Babe

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
Uganda Be Kidding Me – Chelsea Handler
Bet Me – Jennifer Crusie
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs
The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty
Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari
China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: 16 Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids – Meghan Daum
It Happened One Wedding – Julie James
Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling
Texts From Jane Eyre – Mallory Ortberg

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Gendarme – Mark T. Mustian
P.S. I Still Love You – Jenny Han
Royal Wedding – Meg Cabot

Rating: 3 out of 5

Invisibility – Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
Sisterhood Everlasting – Ann Brashares
Popular – Lauren Urasek
When in Doubt, Add Butter – Beth Harbison
Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
God’s Debris – Scott Adams

Rating: 2 out of 5

Beautiful You – Chuck Palahniuk (book review coming soon!)

My Most Anticipated Books of 2015

Happy New Year everybody! There’s nothing like starting the year off right with a good book, and 2015 is shaping up to have many good books in store for us!

I wanted to share my top five most anticipated books of 2015, so let’s get right to it!

All images via Goodreads

1. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, release date March 3. It’s been almost an entire decade since Ishiguro’s last novel Never Let Me Go, which was awarded TIME magazine’s ‘Best Book of 2005’ and listed in its ‘Top 100 Best English-Language Novels.’ The novel is also one of my absolute favorites, and after reading The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans, it’s safe to say that Ishiguro is one of my most admired authors. I can’t imagine The Buried Giant being anything less than extraordinary.

2. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han, release date June 2 (cover art TBR). This sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara Jean as she sorts out her feelings for Peter Kavinsky, the boy who blurred the lines between pretend and real boyfriend. With all the buzz in the book blogosphere, it’s clear that Han is a rising YA star with scores of devoted fans like me who are just itching to get their hands on this book!

3. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, release date June 16. Crazy Rich Asians was one of the most entertaining books I read in 2014, and I cannot wait for this sequel, which continues the story of Rachel Chu, the most envied girl in the Far East. Engaged to Asia’s most eligible billionaire bachelor, she tries to balance wedding planning among the uber-rich while searching for her estranged father in China. I’m so ready for this crazy whirlwind rollercoaster!

4. If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison, release date July 28. I can’t forget Beth Harbison, who has penned some great chick-lit. I enjoyed Shoe Addicts Anonymous and Secrets of a Shoe Addict, and I’ve got When in Doubt, Add Butter waiting for me on my bookshelf. This latest novel with “Freaky Friday” similarities sounds like a hoot. A 30-something waking up in her 18-year-old body after a boating accident? Count me in!

5. Rhiannon by David Levithan, release date unknown (cover art TBR). YA fans everywhere are hyperventilating over this companion book to Every Day, this time written from the perspective of A’s love interest Rhiannon. Every Day has to be the most unique romance that I have ever read, and I’m sure that Levithan will knock this book out of the park like he always does!

So that’s it! Which books are you most looking forward to in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comments!

My 2014 Reading Recap!

Happy New Year’s Eve!

2014 has finally come to an end, and I’ve read some great books in the process! To recap, I have completed 20 books, totaling over 6,877 pages! Eight of these were audiobooks, which goes to show how valuable my commute is in staying on track to meet my quota.

The video above discusses my top five books in detail, but below is the full list from best to worst. 2014 was all about comedic memoirs and chick-lit, with a few YA fantasies and works of literary fiction in the mix. I’m excited to see what’s in store for the new year!

Rating: 5 out of 5
1. Yes Please – Amy Poehler (2014)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
2. Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan (2014)
3. Hollow City – Ransom Riggs (2014)

Rating: 4 out of 5
4. The Engagements – J. Courtney Sullivan (2013)
5. Wedding Night – Sophie Kinsella (2013)
6. Afterworlds – Scott Westerfeld (2014)
7. When We Were Orphans – Kazuo Ishiguro (2000)
8. A Well-Tempered Heart – Jan-Philipp Sendker (2014)
9. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson (2012)
10. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han (2014)
11. My Horizontal Life – Chelsea Handler (2004)
12. A Lot Like Love – Julie James (2011)
13. About That Night – Julie James (2012)
14. Love Irresistibly – Julie James (2013)

Rating: 3 out of 5
15. I Know I Am, But What Are You? – Samantha Bee (2011)
16. The Bedwetter – Sarah Silverman (2010)
17. Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham (2014)
18. Deeply, Desperately – Heather Webber (2010)
19. Absolutely, Positively – Heather Webber (2011)

Rating: 2 out of 5
20. Reached – Ally Condie (2012)

So have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think? And what were your top five books of 2014?

Philosophical Questions about Reading

As the year comes to a close, it’s natural to become more contemplative, evaluating your past and planning your future. Today I’ve rounded up some articles I’ve read online, which posited these questions about reading that are sure to get you thinking:

Image via Gawker Media

1. How can fiction help you live a better life? Lifehacker reports that reading fiction has tons of benefits, including learning empathy, breeding curiosity, and making you a better storyteller. So how has reading fiction changed your life for the better? Here were my favorite comments on the article:

“Game of Thrones taught me to not be a hero and to eat and drink more.” – ichiban1081

“LOTR taught me that the world is changing for the worse and Elves are leaving because of it.” – PeteRR

For extra credit, answer me this question, from a previously reported NYT blog: how has reading changed your life for the worse?

Image via The Frisky

2. What do you do when the things you love don’t match up with your politics? Rebecca Vipond Brink at The Frisky feels conflicted over her love for Kurt Vonnegut despite his poor representation of women in his writing. It’s one thing to love an author who lived centuries ago, when racism and sexism were more intensely upheld in society, but what happens when you find yourself admiring the work of a modern author who offends you?

I felt the same cognitive dissonance when reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, a known homophobic Mormon author. I also love Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, even though I’m aware of the author’s reputation of appealing to misogynistic frat guys and MRAs. I guess my response to the question would be that I try to distance fiction from author when applicable, as not all stories are intended to be autobiographical. And when it comes to the especially offensive, if I must read their work, I find ways around supporting them monetarily by borrowing books from friends or libraries.

3. Have you ever had a relationship end because of a book? The New York Times does it again with another literary brain-teaser. One writer was dumped in part because her boyfriend couldn’t get over her distaste for Hunter S. Thompson, and another learned that many men can’t handle a woman being more preoccupied by reading at times than them. Whether it was a specific book or just reading in general, has anyone split ways over fiction?

When it comes to books, there’s nothing that turns me off more than a man who doesn’t read enough or unenthusiastically reads something just because you like it. Instead of trying to change yourself for someone, it’s best to find partners who share your values. This is why I would dump someone over a book, if need be. If you utterly abhor The Lord of the Rings, just see yourself out. It’s not me, it’s you.

Image via The Telegraph

4. Why does Nicholas Sparks suck so hard? Apparently I am not alone in thinking the king of the romance novel is a total ass. Turns out Jodi Picoult is not a fan, according to this article by The Telegraph. She laments that women’s fiction does not mean that women are your audience, but rather you’re just a women who writes fiction.

When asked whether she ever used a pseudonym, this was her response:

“I did once,” she says. “So let me tell you what happened. I wrote a book under a man’s name. It was years ago, my kids were really tiny. It was when The Bridges of Madison County [by Robert James Waller] had been published. Nicholas Sparks was becoming big [as a romantic novelist]. Please don’t get me started on Nicholas Sparks,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I haven’t had enough caffeine yet.” But anyway.

“I was so angry about these men who had co-opted a genre that women had been slaving over for years. There are some really phenomenal romance writers who get no credit, who couldn’t even get a hardback deal. And these men waltzed in and said, ‘Look what we can do. We can write about love. And we are so special.’ And that just made me crazy.” Her agent tried to sell her pseudonymous book, but was told it was too well written for the male romance genre. “So there you go,” she says, angry, and yet ever-so-slightly pleased.

A-to the freaking-men, Jodi Picoult. I haven’t read any of your books, but maybe it’s about time I started. It looks like we have at least one thing in common: our hatred of the suckage that is Nicholas Sparks.

So let me hear your thoughts on these philosophical questions! I’m all ears!

Here’s to Surviving NaNoWriMo!

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween, chock-full of tricks and treats! I celebrated by dressing up as my favorite super-villain: Loki, the Norse god of mischief who is played by the sexy Tom Hiddleston in “Thor” and “The Avengers.”

And I am burdened with glorious purpose!

And I am burdened with glorious purpose!

But now that November is upon us, it’s time to dive into NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month! Every year, hundreds of thousands of delusional people commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ll save you from whipping out a calculator: that equals 1,667 words per day for a total of approximately 175-200 pages. Holy moly!

Needless to say, this lofty goal is causing participants to absolutely freak out today, especially those of us who may or may not still be hungover from last night. I mean, why November of all months? The time of year in which I should be focusing on relaxing and spending time with loved ones during the holidays, not holing up like a hermit until I hit my daily word count.

Loki gifs make it better though!

Even though we all have a love/hate relationship with NaNoWriMo, I can’t help but feel inspired by my fellow writers. There’s nothing like write-ins and word wars to fuel your competitive spirit and encourage you to do your best.

This is only my second year participating, so I’m still a newbie. If I had to offer any tips, I would say that the only thing you should be taking seriously is your output. When it comes to plots, characters, and settings, it’s best to be open-minded and flexible about where your story goes. There’s nothing wrong with outlining, but you shouldn’t be so rigid that your story can’t roll with the punches and evolve over time.

Of course, there’s power in numbers so attend local write-ins, comment in the forums, and share your experiences on social media. Tell the whole world about your crazy mission! The people around you will hold you accountable and root you on, making it all the more special when you finish.

Sweet victory!

So good luck to all the Wrimos out there! My username is bookclubbabe if you’d like to add me as a writing buddy. Obviously, I’ll be too busy writing to do much blogging, but I’ll try to pop in from time to time.

Alright, I’m off to write! LET’S DO THIS!

Can a Book Ever Make a Reader’s Life Worse?

“I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over. . . I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all,” read Mark David Chapman at his 1981 sentencing hearing.

Last week I stressed the importance of reading and lamented how people aren’t doing enough of it. With all of its mental and emotional benefits, you can gain so much from reading that it’s difficult to imagine any downsides.

The New York Times did just that in its piece, “Can a Book Ever Change a Reader’s Life for the Worse?” Writer Leslie Jamison discussed this question by referencing Mark David Chapman’s obsession with The Catcher in the Rye as his motive to assassinate John Lennon, and other murderers who were inspired by literature.

Jamison also revealed that one reader relapsed back into addiction after finishing her novel The Gin Closet about a woman’s struggle with alcoholism. This reader sent Jamison a note filled with blame:

“I picked up this book at a thrift store for 10 cents. That’s right and it was the worst 10 cents I ever spent. So depressing and it placed me in a horrible place. Back to drinking and taking drugs. Even tried to slit my wrists. A terrible dark story about nothing worthwhile. No inspiration or hope anywhere. You should be ashamed of yourself. No good will ever come of this book.”

I can’t imagine the guilt that Jamison must have felt after receiving this letter. Although the addict alone is the cause of her relapse, words are certainly powerful enough to persuade someone to behave or believe a certain way.

I think all media is capable of this power, not just literature. Criminals have also imitated movies, television shows, and video games, so it would be naive to say that books don’t possess the same capability to influence.

However, blaming media for the actions of others is wrong, because those who are mentally sound know the difference between fact and fiction. Books can enhance the dark recesses of our minds, but I think that the direction of influence is important.

I believe that people like Mark David Chapman who possess dangerous urges are drawn to stories that amplify them. Books don’t cause murders; murderers find solace in certain books and will often use them as excuses for acts that they know are wrongful.

The Collector by John Fowles: the inspiration for many crimes, most notoriously for the murders conducted by Leonard Lake, Charles Ng, Christopher Wilder, and Robert Berdella.

As for Jamison’s relapsed reader, there is nothing wrong in recognizing one’s own limitations. People suffering from addiction, depression, eating disorders, or other mental illnesses can often find comfort in reading the stories of others, but many won’t–and that’s okay.

Because I have a vivid imagination and a tendency to suffer chronic nightmares, I avoid horror stories like the plague because I know that they would make my life worse. Even crime dramas like “C.S.I.” trigger me, so I’ve discovered that it’s best just to steer clear of them.

That’s not the fault of horror or crime stories, and I would never suggest censorship to make my life easier. Sure, it’s difficult in October when movie trailers for the latest slasher flick pop up during commercial breaks, but plenty of other people love them. Just because we can’t handle something does not mean we abolish it for everyone else.

So can a book make your life worse? Yes, but only if you let it.