Wednesday, June 3, 2020

May Favorites: Piers Anthony, Magical Women, and Depressing Facets of Humanity

These are some of the books we returned the second that our library re-opened its returns. So excited to have some counter space again!
Sooo... how's everybody doing? Anybody else waiting for, like, the *next* sign of the Apocalypse? At this point, I'm not gonna rule out zombies...

My one comfort is that maybe all this shit is shit that, because it happened, will result in positive change. Our medical system is broken. Our system of social services is broken. Our society, and its collective sense of justice to everyone of all races, most particularly those who are Black, is broken. I don't even understand what-all is broken to have put Satan's stupidest hellbeast in the office of president of the United States for the past three and a half years, but clearly some kind of gears are flying off and knocking into other gears and sending them flying in order for that ridiculous mess to have happened.

So, yay for outrage, I guess. Yay for protests. Yay that we somehow, in the midst of all this shit, have built enough collective compassion that we will say George Floyd's name and admit that Black lives matter.

On the topic of understanding a little more about the ways in which hundreds of years of active racism have led our society to this point, this book was one of my favorite reads of May:

It's about the actual lived experience of Black Americans who fled the South for the North and the West in the time between the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement. The author conducted extensive interviews with some of the precious few individuals who are still alive from those days, and it's made a huge impact on how I understand racial disparity in our society.

It's a whopper of a book, but it's a must-read.

It feels weird to move from such a heavy, important book to YA sci-fi/fantasy, but that's what I read this month. I snagged these two books from Will's library shelf--

--and I LOVED them! They follow an orphaned teenager who manages a company of wizards in a land that's semi-magical but also quite prosaic and is run by a despotic king. Our local public library just re-opened its holds queue, so I put the third book on hold and I'm super hoping that they call me this week and tell me I can set up my fifteen-minute slot for a no-contact pick-up.

This book was also great--

--and it's my greatest coup that I encouraged Will to read it, as well, she told me it didn't sound interesting, I told her just to try it, and she did, and she liked it! It's not one of her personal favorites, but the perilous adventures of a telekinetic woman mixed up with a crew of undercover operatives is just my speed.

Here's another SUPER depressing book about yet more ways that we are actively killing our environment:

You guys, I hate to tell you this, but it turns out that sustainably-sourced seafood is just about a lie. Wild-caught tuna is not caught by Ernest Hemingway's old dude with a rod and a reel--it's caught in a big-ass net with a ton of other sealife and oceanic infrastructure that just gets trashed. Like, thousands of sharks are killed and just get trashed. Turtles are killed and just get trashed.

I do NOT want sharks or sea turtles to die because of me.

And "dolphin-safe" just means that dolphins mostly aren't part of the by-catch, although now that often has to be done by putting divers into the water to herd the dolphins out of the nets as they close. Not only does that scare the ever-loving stuffing out of the dolphins--multiple times a year!--but it can also separate mothers and babies. It SUCKS.

And there are nets that just drag across the ocean floor, tearing away all the supporting infrastructure and killing everything down there, just for scallops.

Because I know you needed one more thing to be depressed about, you guys. Sorry.

Hey, want to hear about something else depressing? It's THIS guy!

William Smith basically invented geology by making the first geological map. He did this by essentially walking the literal roads in three countries, hammering away at the ground, comparing fossils, exploring mines, and low-key manipulating canal-builders into building canals where he'd sure like a nice big cut in the earth opened up for examination.

He showed it off to members of the new Geological Society, because he thought they'd think it was cool and he wanted to be a member. But at the time, the Geological Society was made up almost entirely of rich snooty-snoots who were, like, hobby rock collectors and looked down on somebody who actually made his living with geology (Smith's side-hustle was contracting himself to farms and figuring out systems of dikes and canals to turn their fields from marshland to viable cropland), and not only did they make fun of him to his face and NOT make him a member of their snooty-snoot society, but some of their members deliberately plagiarized his map.

Like, deliberately and systematically. It took them years to spy out all of the relevant info it had taken Smith decades to discover, but when they finally achieved it, they redrew his map, published it, and undercut his selling price on account of they were rich.

William Smith was sent to the literal poorhouse because of them.

Man, the zombies really ARE coming after us next, aren't they?

Okay, now that I've realized why I've been in such a bad mood all month, let's turn to Will's list. She's our champion of escapist literature!

Alas, even poor Will has been struggling lately, as she has been bored, bored, BORED with the dearth of reading material since the library closed. Hopefully that will be remedied with our next library pick-up!

Will's partly been coping by re-reading some old favorites. I don't know how many times by now she's read this beautiful, positive children's novel:

She's also let me suggest a few books for her. She doesn't always love what I suggest, but I was stoked to see that she loved this particular old favorite of mine:

I may have even been about her age when I fell in love with Piers Anthony!

Here are Will's other favorite books from May:

Okay, that seems to have been quite a Ben Aaronovitch rabbit hole! And I will be quite sad if there's ever a month that Tamora Pierce doesn't appear on Will's favorites list.

And here's the rest of what she read!

It cracks me up that she always includes her AP textbooks, but she DID read them...

I've mentioned that I love narrative podcasts the most, so even though I'm still blowing through You're Wrong About, the kids and I have gotten super interested in this awesome horror podcast:

It's narrative, but not so much so that you can't space out for a bit or have to make everyone pause it while you run to grab a popsicle. It's for sure slowed down our progress in our family audiobook, Dracula, but it is the absolute perfect thing to listen to while hanging out on the back deck or working a puzzle in the family room--scary, mysterious, and engrossing!

And here's my latest YouTube obsession!

I really like long-form crafting videos--not even tutorials, but just watching someone make something incredibly detailed and sophisticated. Most of my other follows are dressmakers and costumers, so I was stoked to find this crafter who does all the other things, too! And I'm hella jealous that she has a Glowforge, which I have hopelessly desired for YEARS.

It's too bad I forgot the part about making any money from blogging, lol!

So far in June, all I've really done is wander around, sometimes eat nachos, and incessantly worry myself sick while reading Twitter updates about ever more acts of police brutality against peaceful protestors and ever more words of cruelty and inanity from our evil and incompetent president. I'm trying to read a history of women in computing, but I can't make myself relax and focus, and the earliest pick-up I could arrange for all of the fluffy, escapist fiction that I requested from the library is next Tuesday, alas.

So if all I have to show for myself come July 1 is a half-read history of women in computing and a thousand bags of tortilla chips eaten with cheddar cheese, black-eyed, peas, and too much onion, so be it. I'm sure the zombies will be showing up any minute now, anyway...

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