Monday, May 26, 2014

Armchair BEA: Introduction

The #ArmchairBEA (Armchair Book Expo America) is slated to being, uh, today? Maybe? I'm going to (try to) participate over on Twitter (as best I can in my GMT +1 time zone). Here are the introductory questions, if you'd like to be polite and introduce yourself, and here is party HQ. Use the hashtag #ArmchairBEA on Twitter to join the conversation!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 

Hello! I am a twenty-something American expat in Stockholm. Normally this is where I blog about (feminism and women in) STEM and my jewelry, but I also am an avid reader and so stuff about books finds its way here, too. I've been keeping this blog since 2010 but I've been blogging online in one form or another since 2003. I've got, like, opinions, maaaaaaaaan, and I have to express them somewhere!

What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ . 

It changes depending on my goals and mood. SF/F is a genre that I'm always willing to tackle, though I am very picky about it. Right after college I went on a pop nonfiction binge because I had read basically nothing but either heavy-duty philosophy texts or the canon works of Western literature for my English (Creative Writing) and Philosophy degrees and my analytic, critical mind just needed a bit of a break. At the moment I'm trying to read all of the books on TIME magazine's "Top 100 Novels of the Twentieth Century" list, with alterations here and there, so right now I'm reading a lot of "literary fiction." Which ties in nicely with the first blog topic!

What do you think of when you think of literature? Classics, contemporary, genre, or something else entirely? We are leaving this one up to you to come up with and share the literature that you want to chat about the most. Feel free to share a list of your favorites, break down your favorite genre, feature your favorite authors, and be creative about all things literature in general. 

For me and my English degree, literature is all that great stuff in the canon, plus the stuff that women, people of color, and other marginalized people may have been writing at the same time as the dead famous white guys. It's writing that is it at once easy and addictive and compelling to read but also difficult, requiring lots of thought and rereads. It speaks to issues that are both timely and universal.

My goal after the TIME Top 100 list is to crack some literature outside of English, in Swedish and French (two languages I can read fairly well) and translated to English otherwise. My favorite discovery in this quest so far is Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki. Do you have any other nonanglophone books to recommend? Please do so in the comments—I'm always looking for new reads!

The other thing I'm always looking for is a fresh take on the novel form and different ways of storytelling. I didn't care much for the story of Train Man—even though it is purportedly a true story about an Internet message board helping one timid user on his quest for love, it does become so Hollywood that you have to wonder who is lying, about what, and how much—but the idea of a bunch of disparate posts on the Internet coming together to be a story as a 21st century epistolary novel is really cool. I hope that's a format that catches on in the world of "professional fiction."

Maybe I ought to write that novel. Hum.

I love to read because I love being challenged and educated. Entertainment is nice, too, but I like it when a book goes above and beyond that. I like learning about how the world works, or about how people who are different from me experience the world.

What was your favorite book read last year? What’s your favorite book so far this year? 

I read some good books last year: The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Death Comes For the ArchbishopBeloved, and A Confederacy of Dunces all stand out as excellent, thoughtful novels I'd like to add to my permanent collection. In terms of more recent books, the only new release I read this year was Crown of Midnight, the second book in the very fun, very dramatic Throne of Glass series.

What does your favorite/ideal reading space look like? (Pinterest encouraged!) 

This is Rockin' J's hostel in Puerto Viejo. I spent a few nights here when I was in Costa Rica and there is nothing better than snuggling in one of their hammocks and reading while you listen to the rain on the roof. This is where I read the bulk of Infinite Jest, in one of the hammocks on the left.

Share your favorite book or reading related quote. 

There are so many, but I think I'll choose one from Walden, from the chapter called "Reading." It stuck with me the first time I ever read it and it still resonates with me now, and I think it's a good quote to leave off with:

However much we may admire the orator's occasional bursts of eloquence, the noblest written words are commonly as far behind or above the fleeting spoken language as the firmament with its stars is behind the clouds. There are the stars, and they who can may read them. The astronomers forever comment on and observe them. They are not exhalations like our daily colloquies and vaporous breath. What is called eloquence in the forum is commonly found to be rhetoric in the study. The orator yields to the inspiration of a transient occasion, and speaks to the mob before him, to those who can hear him; but the writer, whose more equable life is his occasion, and who would be distracted by the event and the crowd which inspire the orator, speaks to the intellect and health of mankind, to all in any age who can understand him.
Nice to meet you all!


  1. I think I'm going to have to check out the Time's list because I like having a list to take inspiration from! I'm planning on reading 'The Bridge of San Luis Rey' soon! That hostel looks absolutely amazing! I love the idea of hammocks, it sounds like a lot of fun! I hope you have fun this BEA and I hope I see you around during the week!
    My BEA Intro
    Juli @ Universe in Words

    1. Having a list really helped me decide what to read in a postcollegiate world. The Modern LIbrary list is another one to check out; it's on my list of lists, as it were.

      It was a great hostel and I couldn't recommend it enough. If you ever find yourself in Costa Rica, make sure you get to Puerto Viejo for a few days. Even without such a funky hostel, it's a gorgeous seaside town.

      I LOVED The Bridge of San Luis Rey. I have a review of it here, if you're interested:

      Thanks for the welcome!

  2. You're doing this too? Yaaay! This is my first year doing it. I wrote my "introduction" post, and I'm going to do the Instagram challenge stuff, but I still suck at anything Twitter related so I might skip those parts, hahah. Your Costa Rica digs are too cool! I'm not sure if I could sleep in a hammock though? Guess I won't know until I try.

    1. I saw a couple people doing it so I thought I'd jump off that bridge, too. ;) I suck at Twitter (AND I'm six time zones away) but that seems to be where the action is.

      Honestly, sleeping in a hammock was super comfortable! I loved it~

  3. That does look like a great hostel! Thanks for sharing, if ever in Costa Rica I will look it up!
    Great meeting you!

    1. It was probably the coolest one I've ever stayed in, that's for sure. Great to meet you too. :D