Category Archives: People
Last weekend, the Durham Public Library held ComicFest 2013. One of my favorite graphic novelist, Raina Telgemeier, just so happened to be one of the main events. So, of course, I dropped all of my studying for the afternoon to watch Raina speak and draw. I also got my copies of Smile and Drama signed.
Raina’s presentation was awesome, and it really shed some light on the process of creating a graphic novel. I was aware that they are far more labor intensive than text novels (something we as librarians struggle with — these books are lost more often, but cost more to buy). She said she spent five years on Smile and two and half years on Drama!
I love Raina’s work. More importantly, my students loved her work. I did not discover her on my own! It was the intense demand for Smile at a 2010 book fair the put her on my radar. I think I had to buy eight copies to meet the demand in my school. There are not many graphic novels geared toward readers of realistic, contemporary fiction.
It was so nice to meet Raina, and to see the enthusiasm from girls and boys alike in the audience. I was especially impressed by the number of dads and daughters! Of course, I also geeked out about Raina’s other books (the graphic adaptations of The Babysitter’s Club, which were my FAVORITE books as a child) and her love for particular comic strips that I also read as a kid (For Better or For Worse and Calvin and Hobbes). All in all, I’d say it was a good day.
Interested in Raina’s books? You can start with my review of Drama from this past summer. It was the ONLY BOOK on the 2013 ALA youth media award winner list that I had read before the award announcements at ALA midwinter. You should also check out Smile, since Raina’s childhood dental dramas are incredibly relatable.
I’ve read some scholarly stuff on gender in children’s cartoon novels, but nothing on Raina’s graphic novels. Future paper topic?
Have you read any of Telgemeier’s books? Any other favorite graphic novels you want to share?
Title: Contagious: Why Things Catch On
Author: Jonah Berger
Publisher/Year: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 3/1/2013
Length: 200 pages/6 hours and 54 minutes
Genre: Adult non-fiction
Source: Review copy from Simon & Schuster
Contagious is about why things go viral. Jonah Berger divides the book into chapters based on his six elements of why things catch on, devoting each chapter to the explanation and examples of each element. The elements are social currency, triggers, emotions, public, practical value, and stories, and Berger calls this the STEPPS model. Nothing here is rocket science, but the examples are entertaining and the material thought-provoking.
As a book blogger, I found this book particularly interesting. Not only am I interested in promoting my own work, but I’m also part of a chain of promotion centered around authors, publishers, and books. Berger is very clear in noting that the first element for a contagious idea is that it must be a good idea. With blogging, this is how we have conversations about posts being original (instead of memes) and interesting. With books, we all know how a truly good book almost sells itself! But it’s more than that. I was particularly smitten with Berger’s coverage of word-of-mouth advertising. I never realized just how hard it is to promote such advertising and just how valuable it is. As book bloggers, thats EXACTLY what we do for publishers.
It’s like I knew that, but I didn’t. I didn’t realize how it important it is. How cool it is that I, by reading one little book and spending thirty minutes writing up a review for my thousands of followers, am really doing something. It’s the reason my email inbox is flooded with requests from self-published authors to read and review their books — word of mouth can’t be bought. Even a negative review is valuable. So, Jonah Berger, thank you for making me feel important!
FINAL GRADE: A I give this my top grade for being a pleasant listening experience. Not too dense, not too dry, not too long. It’s a perfect audiobook for the car or for working out. Accessible for the non-business majors among us. And for bloggers — definitely an interesting read! I also wrote a similar review for this book over at Bookkaholic, so hop on over to that if you want to know more.
Required Reading: Required for all my book blogging friends. Especially if you don’t normally like audiobooks, as this is a good gateway audiobook.
Library Recommendation: You could put this in a high school library, but it would probably be unnecessary. It’s perfect for a public library or e-book collection, though.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we are highlighting our favorite characters in specific genres. I tried…seriously tried, to mentally brainstorm any other genre besides dystopian, but I just couldn’t do it. What can I say? I love my dystopian characters and I’ve been reading a lot lately. I like this list because it means I don’t have to focus on the books, which means I get to talk about characters I like in books that I didn’t like. Fresh material and whatnot.
Top Ten Dystopian Characters
[I picked dystopia...again]
1.) Warner in Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi – As I said last week, I’ve only read Shatter Me, and not Destroy Me or Unravel Me…but Warner’s my favorite. I don’t even like the other characters that much (don’t get me started on Juliet). What does that say about me?
2.) Xander in Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie– Haven’t read Reached yet, but I’m still pretty sure the Cassia/Xander match doesn’t happen. Which is a shame, because I like him far more than Cassia OR Ky.
3.) Julian in Pandemonium and Requiem by Lauren Oliver – Are we starting to see a pattern here?
4.) Bree in Taken by Erin Bowman – She’s pretty kick-ass.
5.) Elder in Across the Universe and A Million Suns by Beth Revis – I identify with him more than Amy, and just want that poor kid to be happy!
6.) Aech in Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Because…well, I can’t tell without being spoilerific. But let’s just say…best online sidekick ever, but even better in real life.
7.) Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I need to read this one again, it’s been far too long.
8.) Clove in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – The movie in particular made me think a lot about her character. I would love to know more about growing up as a female tribute. I feel like there is more to her than just nasty snarls.
9.) Prince Maxon in The Selection by Kiera Cass– Pick him, America! HE’S SUCH A DOWN-TO-EARTH PRINCE. And we’re supposed to like that. And I do.
10.) Hana in Requiem by Lauren Oliver – My review is coming next week. Seeing 1/2 of this story from Hana’s point of view made me really love her. I haven’t read the short story about her, so maybe I need to get on that?
Which dystopian characters are your favorites?
I’d like rant a little bit today about something that has been happening in my fair state. North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory, has recently spoken out about his plans for our university system. In particular, he spoke about funding to this system. It is no secret that our system features incredibly affordable public universities, heavily subsidized by the state government. Apparently, Governor McCrory is not a fan of our system because he feels our graduates fail to get jobs. Instead of giving money to universities based on the number of students enrolled, he proposed giving money based on the number of students who get jobs.
McCrory argued, “I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs,” and proceeded to cite gender studies and philosophy degrees specifically as producers of unemployable graduates. (BTW, Governor, if the educational elite shouldn’t be running education — their area of expertise — then who should be? Isn’t that the job they were trained to do? I’m confused.)
This has become, essentially, a battle between vocation and liberal arts education. It’s a very common educational debate: are we preparing student for jobs or are we preparing them to think critically with a broad base of learning experiences? I’ll say up front that I am firmly in the liberal arts camp. I went to college to get a liberal arts education, not to get a job. And this model has been highly successful at schools like UNC-Chapel Hill. It enrages me to see what politicians want to do in the name of “job creation” or “the economy.” The last thing we need is thousands of engineering students (who would rather have been philosophers) flooding the job market and making things worse.
There are many more good points stated in various articles and blog posts that I have seen posted around Facebook: businesses are actually looking for skills taught in liberal arts degrees, that Governor McCrory himself has a liberal arts degree (and a job…), that Republicans are anti-intellectual, that Republicans would have benefited from some gender studies knowledge during the 2012 elections, that the job market is too unpredictable to determine with majors will lead to jobs, etc. It just really makes me sad to see what the leader of my state values. Am I particularly surprised? No. But that does not make the verbal blow hurt any less.
If you want to know more about this issue in depth, you can read this article from The Charlotte Observer.
Or check out this blog post from Religion News Services that examines the politics of this debate.
What do you think is the value of a liberal arts education? Do you stand on the vocational side or the liberal arts side of this debate?
I’m not done with my discussion of The Great Gatsby just yet (if you haven’t already, check out my review from Thursday). While poking around the internet for Gatsby love, I happened upon this video by the one and only John Green. It’s one of his regular Vlogbrothers videos from last fall (just a few weeks before my epic school night road trip to see him speak in Asheville). In this video, he offers his analysis of some of the big metaphors in the novel, mainly the valley of ashes. If you’ve ever read or loved Fitzgerald, you need to watch this video. So happy Saturday, y’all. Enjoy.
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — But Some Don’t
by Nate Silver
Audiobook from Audible.com
[#63 in my 75 book challenge]
With the 2012 election season in full swing, I decided it was time to read Nate Silver’s little book about predictions. I finished the book on November 1, just in time to have his ideas rattling around in my head while reading election polls in the days before the big election day. Apparently this Nate guy is a prediction guru and he’s quite trusted in these matters.
At over 500 pages, this is a pretty hefty work of non-fiction. Silver covers everything from the housing bubble and 9/11 to Vegas gambling and sports betting. He can get a little wordy, going very in-depth to each idea, but his thoroughness is part of his process. Silver argues that too many people make overconfident predictions, while his are more calculated and offer probabilites rather than outright “this or that” predictions. It’s more of a tortoise and the hare type situation, which is why I forgive him for his book being moderately long-winded at points.
He’s not boring — never boring — but do beware that is a fifteen hour listen. I enjoyed the audio format such a long book, and I recommend the audio for anyone who likes non-fiction in that format. I learned a lot of tidbits about the housing bubble, Bayes theorem of probability, and weather forecasting that I might even drop in casual conversation. Of course, his insight on the 2008 election polls was the most fascinating. You can check out his popular FiveThirtyEight blog for the New York Times to see what he’s said about the 2012 elections. I’m writing this at 4pm on November 6 (election day), and he’s predicted Obama to win the election tonight.
FINAL GRADE: C Y’all know I love pop non-fiction, and I enjoyed this book. It gets a C for being steady and well-researched and for entertaining me on the bus in the morning. I recommend it to fans of politics and good non-fiction. This is solid adult non-fiction, so I wouldn’t put the book in a middle school library, but I can imagine some high school students finding the information interesting. This read brings me up to nine out of ten books for my personal adult non-fiction challenge in 2012, which means I’m doing better on that challenge than I am on any of my others! Now I just need to read thirteen YA novels by December 31st…
Which adult non-fiction books would recommend I try next? Have you heard of Nate Silver, and did you consult his predictions for the 2012 election?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week is a freebie week, so I’m picking up last week’s topic. I was too caught up in homework to post about it, but this topic was MADE for me:
Top Ten Kick-Ass Heroines
[aka the best list ever]
So what makes a book character kick-ass? I like realistic characters who have strength and interests of their own, but also have flaws. I like to see the character grow throughout a story. “Kick-ass” can mean actual ass-kicking and action scenes, or the character can be kick-ass in different way (intellectually, character, leadership, etc).
1.) Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Sometimes she’s a little bit too hard, but it would be hard to say that she didn’t kick ass. It was a fight to the death MULTIPLE TIMES OVER, for goodness sake. Katniss holds her own and has more bravery in her little pinkie fingernail that I’ll ever have.
2.) Kristy Thomas in the The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin
Here’s my example of kicking ass through leadership. Homegirl was a successful business woman at age twelve. Plus she kicked ass on the softball field.
3.) Tris in Divergent by Veronica Roth
She’s in a faction called DAUNTLESS. They run and jump on the subway, and zipline off skyscrapers. Fearless, tough, and loyal…a kick-ass combination.
4.) Cammie Morgan in The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
Cammie is a spy at a boarding school for teenage spy girls. She goes all James Bond and stuff. I’m pretty sure she actually literally kicks an ass at some point in the series.
5.) Valentine Wiggin in Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Not only is she brilliant, she also has a big heart (which is what keeps her out of Battle School). Plus she accidentally takes over world politics. Whoopsies.
6.) Frankie Landau-Banks in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Frankie doesn’t like that she can’t do what the boys do, so she infiltrates their secret society and plays some massively awesome pranks on her boarding school’s campus. She’s smart and stubborn. I’d give her a high five.
7.) Kate Wetherall in The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Again — she carries a BUCKET full of tools and she does all kinds of crazy shit with them. She can do anything.
8.) Kyra in The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
It’s one thing to have guts when you are trained to have guts and fight for your life in a society where women have power. Kyra finds her strength in a society where women are given no power — a polygamist cult. Her bravery and strength in going against her family and trying to get away are admirable.
9.) All of the Ladies in Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Get it, girls! Fight the patriarchy! Be sexually free! Wear bikinis…if you feel comfortable doing so! Blow some stuff up!
10.) Amy in Across the Universe by Beth Revis
She may not have immediately popped up in you mind, but she did in mine. When Amy was unfrozen, she could have settled back and enjoyed life on the space ship. But she doesn’t. She’s on a mission for answers, and she finds them.
Which kick-ass characters are your favorite? Why?