Friday, January 3, 2020

December Favorites: The British Navy, Suicidal Misanthropes, and Drawing with Waffles

Why yes, I DID spend an evening flipping through every single sewing book in the library, looking for the perfect zip-top tote bag pattern.

And that's just one small example of all the roaring good times that books and I spent together this December!

First of all, Friends, I have discovered a new book series! AND it's actually an old book series, so there are a bunch of books and I can read them all as fast as the library can check them out to me!

If you remember how much I love the Temeraire series, an alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars told through the perspective of a British Navy captain and his dragon companion, then I think you'll understand already how much I love this book:

It's a historical fiction novel of the Napoleonic Wars told through the perspective of a British Navy captain and his surgeon companion. It's immersive, in that if you don't already live in the early 1800s, you absolutely do while you're reading. Both Aubrey and Maturin have flaws--Aubrey, in particular, has a LOT of flaws, the poor, bumbling, unsocialized oaf--but somehow you find them both ineffably charming, and their relationship to each other is a treasure. I will vote for anybody who refers to another adult as "my particular friend!"

And yes, of COURSE there is a fan-made map for reference. How could you trace the Sophie's travels without it?

If we see each other on Facebook, you'll know that I already went on and on (and on...) about my other favorite book of December:

It's the incredible, unbelievable, heartbreaking history of the AIDS pandemic, and the story of the grassroots activists, themselves victims, often literally dying as they worked, who educated, memorialized, searched for a cure, and advocated for each other.

You guys, everyone needs to read this book. If you're shocked at the way that the current administration is willing to dehumanize immigrants and seems actively working for their genocide, then it's because you haven't read this book, in which the government was willing to dehumanize gay people and seemed actively working for their genocide. There are so many stories in here that sound so crazy that you want to believe they're not true--why would the FDA insist on drug studies that involved placebos even after it became clear that 100% of the people who received the placebo instead of the drug were dying? Victims were deliberately martyring themselves by continuing to participate in such studies, just because that was the only way the FDA would eventually approve the drugs.

It was so bad that one day a New York City activist read in People magazine an article about Ryan White that made it clear that his doctor had never heard of a life-saving prophylactic drug that he could have been taking. The doctor had never heard of it because the FDA wouldn't approve it for that use, even though it had been known for years that it was saving lives. They wouldn't approve it because people weren't willing to submit to a drug study that involved placebos for it, because if they got the placebo they'd die. People were literally having to resort to word-of-mouth to pass along these kinds of tips, and that's what this activist did: he called Ryan's grandma, who put him in touch with his doctor, who then started Ryan on the prophylactic drug.

It's a stunning book. Read it as soon as you can.

And here's what else I read in December!

Will had quite the December with books, as well. Somehow she managed to read 44 books in 31 days, bringing the total number of books that she read in 2019 to 350!!!

I'll just say that one more time and then just kind of leave it there: my child read 350 books in 365 days.

And one of her favorites was this one!

Will read it happily, but claimed afterwards that she didn't understand it. I pushed back, though, and told her that the book report that she was supposed to be reading it for was non-negotiable, so she spent a VERY sulky afternoon out in her shirtsleeves in the cold, sitting out on the back deck with her book, pencil, and notebook, in full sight of the picture window so I couldn't miss her (self-imposed) suffering, and finally came back in, triumphant, with an absolutely terrific book report in hand. She understood the book quite as well as any fifteen-year-old could possibly understand philosophical fiction, and I think that spending the afternoon forced to delve into it and think about it and make herself figure it out made her like the book quite a bit more than she would have if I'd originally replied, "Oh, you didn't understand Steppenwolf? Oh, well. Choose something else for your book report, I guess!"

Although its morals might be a little suspect... Will had a LOT of fun with the plot of a suicidal misanthrope who is taught to appreciate the existential indulgences of the bourgeoisie, murders his girlfriend, and learns to accept himself while visiting a trippy magical theatre.

In other incredible news, I recommended two of my favorite books from November to Will, and not only did she read them, but she decided that they were two of HER favorite books, too! GASP!!!

My specialty is magical boarding schools and their graduates, apparently.

Here are Will's other favorite books from December:

And here's the rest of what she read in December!

Yeah... that was a lot of books.

I can't give you links to my favorite December podcasts because Spotify and I are fighting--EVEN THOUGH I pay them ten bucks every single month, they've got some glitch or hack going in which every time I try to play my music, some crappy instrumental song cuts in. The people on reddit (whenever I have a problem,  I always go to reddit first) who've had this happen to them, too, say that disconnecting their account from Facebook and changing their passwords solved the problem, but I can't disconnect my account from Facebook without temporarily deactivating Facebook, and I can't do that anyway because Spotify also won't let me update my email address so if I tried to reset my password it would just send the link to an email address that's deactivated, too.


I am THISCLOSE to deactivating my Spotify account and losing a decade's worth of carefully curated playlist memories, but you guys, is there even any other comparable music streaming service?

Okay, my first-world problems are not your problems, so instead, check out Syd's current favorite YouTube channel, Drawing with Waffles!

She's this super sweet and upbeat artist who videotapes herself completing little drawing challenges, encountering setbacks and troubleshooting problems she runs into, etc. She's a TERRIFIC influence on my own little artistic perfectionist. Isn't it nice to find positive influences on YouTube, of all places?

Speaking of my little artistic perfectionist... she makes her own YouTube videos! They're primarily animated music videos, and as her mother, I find them adorable:

Syd dominated our TV time in December, it seems, but when I got a turn to choose a video, I generally just made everyone watch one of these English Heritage cooking shows.

I want to make trifle!

Girl Scout cookie season is about to start, which means I won't have much reading time until mid-March, but when I do get to eke out some time for myself, at least I'll have my British Navy captain and his pet surgeon to enjoy!

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