Frank Reads: Favorite Books of 2015

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Right off the bat, let me be clear that, while I did read a number of new releases in 2015, others were older. So when I say that this post is about my favorite books of 2015, I mean that it’s my favorite books that I read in 2015, regardless of what year they actually came out. Also I realize that this post is coming a bit late, but life got in the way.

So… books. I like ’em. I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have something I was reading. I’ve heard there’s a recovery period after college, but for me that lasted only a few months while I got settled into teaching, and then I started tearing through books again (“tearing” might be a generous term for me because, as with everything I do in life, I read very slowly because I’m afraid of missing something, much like I eat very slowly because I’m afraid of choking, and I run very slowly because I suck).

Process

I use Goodreads to track everything I read, manage my TBR list (which is unmanageable at this point anyway because every time I hear about a book I want to read, I go to Goodreads and add it immediately to my “want to read” list), and set yearly goals for myself. The Goodreads reading challenges are definitely not perfect, but I’ve found that it works well for my purposes. If you wonder what books I’m in the process of reading at the moment, check out the Goodreads widget in the sidebar.

Right, then. In 2015, I made it a goal to read 19 books. I read 21, so I met 111% of my goal. Here’s my data, along with the books I read in the order that I read them in 2015:

Renee’s Year in Books

click to enlarge

I think it’s interesting that Sara Bareilles’ book was the least popular but also the highest rated. Not as many people reading it as something like Why Not Me, but I loved it. I love Sara Bareilles. Also Mindy Kaling.  Continue reading

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Frank Reads: Go Set a Watchman — Part 2: Reviewing the Book

photo credit: my books

photo credit: my books

In Part 1 of this post, I spent some time talking about the issues surrounding Go Set a Watchman‘s publication. In Part 2, I’m going to talk about what I actually thought of the book. So let’s get down to it, shall we? If you haven’t read the book yet and you plan to, be aware that this post will contain spoilers.

Expectations

First, having been following the story of this book’s publication since it was announced, I had an idea about what to expect. I wasn’t expecting a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, and I still maintain that it shouldn’t be read that way. I was expecting a rough draft of the book, which meant that I was also expecting it to be kind of awful, as most rough drafts are (thus the “rough” part). A few weeks before the book’s release date, it came out that in this book, Atticus Finch is a racist. I had adequate time to steel myself against that, as well. You don’t have to like it. You just have to know that it’s there so you can prepare yourself to deal with it.

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Frank Reads: Go Set a Watchman — Part 1: The Problem With Publication

Harper Lee Books

photo by me — these are my books.

If you’ve spent any time in the world (maybe watching the news or scrolling through social media updates), you have undoubtedly heard that Harper Lee, the reclusive author of one-hit-wonder (and one-hit-written, or so we thought) book To Kill a Mockingbird, had a “lost manuscript” that was recently published. You remember To Kill a Mockingbird. You probably had to read it in high school. Scout. Jem. Boo Radley. Tom Robinson. Atticus Finch. It’s a classic, and a much beloved one, at that. While TKAM isn’t really a book about race, per se, it does examine the topic in a way that is very memorable to most people who read it: Atticus Finch, upstanding southern lawyer during the Depression, defends Tom Robinson, a black man who is accused of raping a white woman who lives on “the wrong side of the tracks.” In the end, it’s clear that Tom is innocent and the girl’s own father attacked her, but Tom is still convicted because it’s Alabama in the 1930s and that wasn’t how the world worked. It was barely, if at all, how the world worked in the early 1960s when the book was first published.

I spend a considerable amount of time on the “Bookternet” — the part of the internet that is basically just a whole bunch of book nerds reading, writing, and talking about books and publishing and all that goes along with them. When this “new” Harper Lee manuscript was first announced, it was maybe the biggest thing I’ve ever seen happen to the Bookternet, and though I’ve heard just about every review and criticism of the book in the loosest sense (second and thirdhand accounts that I only halfway pay attention to), I’ve tried to largely avoid and ignore them. This meant staying away from my favorite podcasts and websites for a while so that my opinion would be my own.

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Readasaurus Rex: 5 Favorite Reads of 2014

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photo credit: moqub via photopin cc

According to Goodreads, I read 5620 pages this year. That was just books that I finished. This was the year that I finally gave up trying to finish books that just weren’t doing it for me. A moment of silence for the ones that met the end of my attention span far before their time:

  • The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (a re-reading, originally read in 2006)
  • The Giver by Lois Lawry (a re-reading, originally read in 1993)
  • Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (I heard it would make me feel the feels. I felt very little. It remains on my nightstand in case I run out of books for some reason … even though I have several hundred in my apartment. Perhaps someday I will return to it).

But that number doesn’t take into account all the reading I do each day for work — the emails and articles. It doesn’t take into account all of the reading I do around the interwebs just for fun (Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Book Riot). It doesn’t take into account everything I read to keep up with things so that I can be good at my job. It doesn’t take into account all of the reading I do on social media (and anyone who follows me on any social media site knows that I am a daily participant because I think social media is fascinating for a plethora of reasons I won’t get into now).

Ultimately, I feel better having a page count at 5620 combined with all of the other reading I’ve done than I would if I would have spent, like, 6 months slogging through Infinite Jest and another 6 through War and Peace or something. There’s a reason I’ve not re-read Ulysses, as well. There are so many things to read and my to-be-read list grows weekly. I blame the following podcasts: Book Riot, Literary Disco, and Overdue Podcast.

I’ve been a reader forever. There are pictures of me as a toddler, passed out on stacks of books. I couldn’t wait to participate in the library’s summer reading program, or Book It! during the school year. I loved being a part of Great Books and reading outside of class as a kind of club activity. With very few exceptions, I only ever got in trouble in school if I was reading when I should have been paying attention (joke’s on my 7th grade life science teacher who took books away from me weekly… I still have yet to find a practical use for knowing all of the nitty-gritty details of the pasteurization process, but reading is crucial). Sometimes I’d get in trouble because I didn’t do my homework… because I’d been really engrossed in a book the night before. Sometimes my parents would take me to the bookstore on a Friday night. I’d get a new book and, being somewhat insomniac at an early age, stay up all night reading it, finishing it before the sun came up — by flashlight, so as not to wake my otherwise narcoleptic sister. I never minded being sent to my room as a kid because I’d hide in my closet, which is where my mom kept baskets full of my books — the same ones she would sit on my bed for me on days when I stayed home sick from school.

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Frank Jams: Top 5 Favorite Albums of 2013

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Author’s Photo: Sara Bareilles at the Electric Factory in Philly (Oct. 2013).

It’s the end of the year, so I feel obligated to do some reflecting, recapping, and re…nee-ing.

2013 was a pretty big year for me. My nephew was born. I officially became employed full time for the first time since 2009. I finally got to move to the Philly area (which is something I’d been trying to do since I finished undergrad in 2005). I knitted my first full-size blanket. I took up running. I ran my first 5k. I joined Rotary.

I listened to a lot of music.

One of the things I love best about living so close to the city is that I can get to shows easily now (bad for my wallet, but good for my love of live music). I love that I can go to a show on a week night and be home 20-30 minutes after I exit the venue. I was fortunate enough in 2013 to see 3 of my 5 favorite albums of the year performed live.

I’m terrible at ranking. I spend too much time second guessing myself. So here are my desert island top 5 favorite albums of 2013.
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Frank Reads: The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

It’s been a while, Frankophiles. I’ll spare you all of my reasons for not blogging for nearly two months. I respect you more than excuses are worth because I know you weren’t born yesterday (although I have been really busy and I’m basically living out of suitcases for October). For what it’s worth, though, on Monday night, I sat down with some time to finally write that blog post I’ve been meaning to write here. And…. I ended up trashing three posts and giving up because my mind was blank.

But what really matters is that I’m here, you’re here, and so we should have some fun, yeah?

First, I have a really important question. I’m hoping that a new reader stumbles upon this and can help a sister out. Every day, Frank’s video blog on 11/22/63 by Stephen King is getting a whole bunch of hits. Because I don’t pay anything for this blog, I don’t get high-end analytics, but I can see that people from all over are coming to ye olde blarg on that post. The problem is… I don’t know where they’re coming from. I would really like to know. So if you happened to get here by way of… there… please leave a comment and let me know how you got here.

(And if you didn’t get here via an appropriately mysterious link to the video blog/post about the Stephen King book, I’d still like to know how you got here!)

And now on to business. Frank and I didn’t have much time for reading over the summer. We started The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian in June and just finished it somewhere around mid-to-late September. Below you will find Frank’s standard weirdo video blog as he reviews the book. Then I’ll share my additional thoughts (as always, the dino-sock puppet thinks for himself! … yyyyep.) Continue reading

Frank Reads: Drinking With Strangers by Butch Walker

Ermahgerd! I’m back again.

Life continues to have other plans for me as I try my best to make it back here each week and post something for you. I had a super productive day, though, and found myself pretty much done with work at 5 or 6 pm with only a few light tasks to do this evening, so, I thought… hey. You know who needs an update?

Oh, you know who needs an update.

It’s been a slow summer for me in terms of reading. I read a few books at the beach, but the last one that I started there (in mid-June) is the one that, sadly, two months later, I’m still reading. It’s not that it isn’t good, but more that I just haven’t had a lot of time to read.

So I gave Frank three options this time. He told me he was sick of vlogging about “all of that girly shit” and told me to give him something that didn’t cause tears or teen angst. There was really only one answer, and it’s one that I’ve been saving since late December/early January. In fact, the only surprise for anyone who knows me (or has ever read this blog) will be that it took me this long to get Frank’s shit together.

And so, without further ado, Frank’s newest video: a review of Drinking With Strangers: Music Lessons From a Teenage Bullet Belt by Butch Walker.

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Dino Jams: The ‘Wait, That’s Catchy!’ Edition

First off, Frank wanted me to tell you thanks for checking out his video book review in the last post.

(We’ll pretend that I am not speaking about myself in the third person, k?)

I think this is the best assessment of Frank’s accent at the time of this writing, and it comes from my friend Jim: “Your accent sounds like if Bjork did an impression of The Count.”

I also want to take this opportunity to tell you, oh loyal Frankophiles, that my ability to update this blog regularly over the next few weeks may or may not be impacted by another new career move. As I figure my schedule out, I will work hard to give you a weekly dose of something here. And don’t worry — it’ll probably continue to be weird. I’m going to start a [hopefully humorous] series, possibly called “Why Am I So Neurotic?!”  — you’ll just have to wait until you see it.

So anyway, Mondays are a bummer. I’ve got a bit of a #MusicMonday for you, but in the spirit of Frankasaurus, I’m calling it Dino Jams. These are my five picks, upbeat and current (though not all necessarily mainstream) and I think they’re rather catchy. They’ve been helping me get pumped and shake off any bad moods.

1-2-3-HIT IT!

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In the Absence of Nonsense

Hi readers.

I’ve been feeling awfully guilty about not having written anything here recently. Life has gotten pretty busy with some interesting things happening for me. Normally that wouldn’t keep me from trying to write something, but much of what I’d been writing here recently has been an effort for me to make sense of some things that, well, were sort of … plaguing me, I guess you could say. I was exploring my thoughts and feelings on different topics impacting my life because, well, that’s what you do with a blog.

I think more with my heart than with my head sometimes (or maybe most of the time. Who knows). Anyway, in a fabulous and depressing display of heartlessness, someone who was, until very recently, one of the closest people in the world to me, made it known to me that my thoughts and feelings are “nonsense.”

It’s kind of taken my Frankasaurus mojo.

So while I recover from feeling silly for… well… experiencing (and exploring) human emotions, I’ll let this Aldous Huxley quote frame the rest of this post.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

In the absence of nonsense, I just feel like sharing some music. So if you feel like listening to music, awesome! If not, you know how dinosaurs are. They’re pretty resilient until they go extinct, so, barring any kind of Big Bang, Frank should be back soon (in all of his nonsensical glory).

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