January Favorites

In December I finally subscribed to Austin Kleon’s newsletter. Each Friday he sends a list of 10 things he’s into. Considering that my weekend starts on Friday, that’s excellent reading for the weekend. So, in honor of Kleon and his famous Steal Like An Artist, I’m going to steal from this artist.

I’ll start with the thing that made me start this list:

Austin Kleon’s newsletter and blog. If you don’t follow this guy, you should. He’s great on all his social media platforms, balancing work life and personal life. He also has the most photogenic family ever.

Other Internet Media Things

A few weeks ago Marie Kondo’s second book on organizing came out. Of course, I sell this book (it’s a bestseller), but as an archivist (someone who focuses on collecting) I dislike its emphasis on present-feeling emotions. That’s why I’m glad counterculture exists. In “The Tao of Trash” and “Sifting: Technology, Trash, & Digging for Memories” the New England Media & Memory Coalition examine the arbitrariness of “value.”… Sort of like the arbitrariness of “sparking joy.”

Books

The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee crafts a heart-wrenching tale of three women, all American expatriates living in Hong Kong. Mercy, in her mid-twenties and without a job or direction; Hilary, struck between the two tidal forces of her husband’s midlife crisis and affair, and the stalled adoption of a child; and Margaret, mother of three who literally loses her youngest child on while on a short trip to Seoul. As a chronic list-maker, I’m creating a brand new personal reading list just to put this book at the top: Fiction – The Complex Inner Lives of Women. (I just don’t know where this list will live just yet.) Lee puts into words what would be otherwis unmentionable. It’s beautiful and harrowing and foreign and familiar.

Movies & Television

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014). I’m not sure why it took me so long to come to this film, but this is what I want horror to become. This Persian-language American horror film takes place in the fictional Iranian ghost town of Bad City (its name implies the seedy underworld that it depicts). The film’s director, Ana Lily Amirpour, describes it as “the first Iranian vampire Western.” The plot follows Arash, a hard-working young man; Hossein, Arash’s heroin-addicted father; Saeed, a pimp and drug pusher; Atti, a prostitute working for Saeed; The Girl, a music-obsessed loner who stalks those she finds on the streets late at night; and a cat. I especially love the visual of the chador replacing the traditional “Dracula” cape. I have a new favorite fictional vampire. Skateboarding into the night.

The X-Files. People who know me are surprised to discover that I didn’t watch the X-Files when it aired in the 1990s. My parents weren’t into it, so we didn’t watch it. So when a friend (whose taste is impeccable) began live-tweeting her adult re-watch of the series, and I noticed that Hulu Plus has all 9 seasons, I decided to check it out. I’m about midway through season 5 as of publishing this post. If you follow me on Twitter at all, you know that I think Mulder is silly, Krycek is annoying, Scully a goddess, and Assistant Director Skinner is…well, let’s just say I’m into it.  #janwatchesxfiles on Twitter.

Bookstagrams

Last year, suspenders83 took photos of every book she read. To keep things interesting, she scoured second-hand bookshops to find the most unique book jackets and covers out there. This year, she is hand-drawing each cover in her book journal. This is such a cool way to creatively engage with the book-as-object.

readasaurus_rex includes a lot of older fantasy and young adult books in her reading. I love seeing the tattered covers of books that took me to far of places when I was younger being given new life on new social networking platforms.

Food

Maangchi’s Korean Lettuce Salad 상추겉절이 is spicy and delicious and so easy to make. Try not to get sucked into a YouTube hole of Maangchi’s cooking videos.

BookPeople’s In-Store Displays

My favorite book store is always doing something for the community. Black Lives Matter and David Bowie’s Favorite books are two displays that are deeply meaningful to us. (I worked on one of these.)

Finally

The return of the Boston Yeti. I am now, and forever will be Texas’s biggest Boston Yeti fan.

 

Viva la Webolution!

Another thing I wrote about online communities and enthusiasm

BookPeople

-This post comes from our inventory manager Jan

Online Creators and Their Communities Are Our People, Too

I’m in no way overstating when I say that here at BookPeople, we care about community. We love serving communities that are built from the ground-up. And the most visible ground-up communities these days are happening online.

The Internet is a big place. Really, really big. And, being designed by hippies, the web, of course, has no hierarchical structure. Everything is (somewhat) equal on this massive web that just keeps growing by the nanosecond (YouTube has over a billion unique users who generate over a billion views daily [source]). And yet, humans–being the amazing, social wizards that we are–have found ways to not only interact with one another, but connect.  These online communities consist of membership based on anything from identity to shared interest and are mediated on access to…

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From the YouTube Archives: Chidren’s & Teen Books That Pass The Bechdel Test

Another vlog I filmed for BookPeople. Children’s and Teen Books that pass the Bechdel Test. Enjoy!

Titles featured:

A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban
Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han
Percy Jackson & The Olympians by Rick Riordan
Under The Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan

Shop local!

Obscenegasm: An Editorial on Vandalism as Censorship

Last week, during my morning walkthrough, I found a book in my store that was vandalized. If you follow me on Instagram, you likely saw my photos of the cover of the book Moregasm: Babeland’s Guide to Mind-blowing Sex by Claire Cavannah and Rachel Venning, which was vandalized by some Random Crusader Against The Orgasm by writing the word “obscene” across the cover in black ballpoint ink.

The culprit then shoved the book behind The Guide to Getting It On and left it there. So forgive me, but the rest of this post is written directly for the culprit.

Booksellers and librarians will tell you, we have to make constant decisions on where we place things that balance the security of our inventory and the privacy of our patrons. Do I want to move my sex section to a place that is more visible by either booksellers or our security cameras? No. Absolutely not. People have the right to browse in private. Does that mean that I have to do more work replacing the shrink wrap on books that have been opened that shouldn’t be? Yeah. Does that mean I wash my hands a lot more at work than I would on a day off? Hell yeah. I guide people to the information they seek. I’m not in the business of telling people what information they can have and what information they can’t. They can do that for themselves.

And this is why this pisses me off so much. You only get to decide what is obscene for yourself. Unless you’re a Supreme Court Justice, you don’t get to decide what’s obscene for anyone else–especially not by writing in ball-point pen across the cover of a book for which you did not transact ownership. (A general rule: if it’s not yours, don’t fuck with it.)

So who gets to decide what’s obscene? Well, the Supereme Court for one. In Miller v California (1972)–a case involving the distribution of actual pornographic materials (not an informational book)–the Supreme Court refined its definition of obscene material as lacking “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Considering that Moregasm contains information on safely and comfortably performing an activity that nearly everyone does (go home and thank your parents), that encourages open communication resulting in mutual pleasure for all parties, it’s pretty apparent that it contains informational socialscientific (and possibly political) value.

But if what you’re looking for is obscene material, and because National Banned Books Week is right around the corner–a magical time when booksellers, librarians, teachers, and information professionals celebrate the works of literature that citizens like you decided to police for the sake of other people’s sensibilities (which, the did not ask you to do)–here are some books that are on our shelves that are far more obscene than Moregasm:

Tropic of Cancer

by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller book jacket

Published in 1934, on trial for obscenity in 1961 (after a reprint). “This is not a book in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty… what you will.” I’d say his aim was pretty clear here. This is not art. Or is it? What can be described as art?

Still from Martin Scorsese's After Hours

Paul read Henry Miller in public before it was cool. Have a great night, Paul!

 

Naked Lunch

by William S. Burroughs

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs book jacket

Challenged for obscenity for its depictions of child-murder, rape, homicide, orgies, drug abuse, cop-killing, auto-erotic asphixiation, graphic depictions of homosexuality, and more. Banned in a Boston trial in 1962 for depictions of child murder and pedophilia (decision reversed in 1966) Burroughs claimed that you have to peel away the veneer of artificiality to really see out what you are consuming on the end of your fork. This book lays it all bare.

Gif from the film Naked Lunch directed by David Cronenberg

Must be one of them metaphors.

Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure 

by John Cleland

Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland

Published in 1748 while the author sat in debtor’s prison, this novel is known as the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography taking the form of a novel. This title sat on the banned books list in America 145 years as a result of the first obscenity case in the United States in 1821 until a Supreme Court decision in 1966 declared that it was not obscene material.

Oh snap! Free Fanny Hill ebook download! 

The number one book challenged for obscenity in 2013 was Captain Underpants. It didn’t stop hundreds of children and parents from showing up to BookPeople in support of Dav Pilkey when he celebrated the release of the latest Captain Underpants installment last week.

The bare fact is, by challenging these titles, you bring more attention to them. To challenge a book is to step up to the line of censorship: a line that booksellers, librarians, teachers, and information professionals consider something of a firing line. We will fight tooth and nail against censorship. And whether you know it or not, you directly contribute to these titles’ increased circulation as more attention is brought to them. In most cases, you revive interest in books that may well sit on the shelf, untouched. I suppose that’s why my first instinct is to lay bare the most obscene books I can think of.

For the rest of you, enjoy National Banned Books Week! I will be reading two books challenged this past year: John Green’s Looking For Alaska (yep, the same John Green who is getting all of his books optioned into highly successful films) and Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (because this girl is a freaking hero.) What are you reading for Banned Books Week?

Gif from the Francois Truffaut film Farenheit 451

It was a pleasure to burn.