Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What we’re reading and listening to (and other updates)

I will be honest. I lost my motivation for all of the house projects I wanted to do (referenced in this post). Maybe it’s because the weather changed and it’s been chilly in Minnesota. Maybe it’s because I had a nasty cold for a week (am still recovering). Who knows. But I haven’t had much progress to report.

I did spray paint a few frames for our photo wall. But there are many more I need to spray paint, and it’s been too chilly to get outside and do it. This project may end up being postponed until spring. However, here’s a preview. Rather than going with our standard glossy white spray paint, we decided to shake things up (no pun intended) with something different. We picked up this textured brown spray paint by Rustoleum and tried it out on one of our frames (which used to be plain black).

Photo take in process, outside after one coat of spray painting

I like it a lot. The texture is a nice change, and in person, it has a bit more of a rustic feel (which goes well in our dining room).

Alright now let’s talk about what we’re reading.

I mentioned in my iPhone app post that I am really digging the free Kindle app. Since finding this app, I’ve already finished 5 books. It feels good to be reading for fun again (I hadn’t read much in the last few years, other than blogs and grad school materials). Another blogger, Julie from Peanut Butter Fingers (go check out her blog - it’s one of my absolute favorites), recently started a blogging book club, which sounds like a lot of fun. I am not reading the current book club book, but I did check out a few of her past selections.

Currently reading:

Room by Emma Donoghue

I just downloaded this one today. Here’s the summary via Amazon:

“To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer. Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating--a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.”

If you’ve already read this one, please don’t spoil it for me! I tend to like books with a little darker subject matter, and this one definitely seems to fit the bill.

I also recently completed the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (which I also heard about from Julie’s blog).

I had mixed feelings about these books. On one hand, they really did suck me in and hold my attention. I read all 3 books very quickly because it was hard to put them down once I started. And I do tend to like books with these themes (dystopian society, uprising, in the line of 1984 or Brave New World). But on the other hand, the storyline and even the language of the book seemed overly simplified to me. I get it - it was written for mass appeal and so it’s a very easy read. And that’s fine. It’s actually nice at this stage in my life since I read on the bus and only have 20-25 minute blocks of time to read (so it’s nice to find books that you can dive right into rather than wallowing through really slow-paced dense material). However I sometimes felt that the author glossed over certain things that could have been fleshed out more. Sometimes she went for a quick resolution that wasn’t very realistic (example - sometimes a character would suffer severe physical injuries, but a magic potion or medicine would heal them almost immediately). And the relationships in the books were fairly superficial - real life relationships are far more complex and multi-faceted. I don’t really like shortcuts in books or movies, and therefore I’m typically a pretty picky audience member. But again - the books really did suck me in, so I suppose I can’t be too critical. They read like young adult novels, and I think that’s how they were intended to be consumed.

After that, I read Tina Fey’s book Bossypants.

It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really told in a linear fashion. It’s just stories/anecdotes from her life. It’s written in Tina’s voice, which makes it another light and easy read. And it is very funny at times. I especially loved the parts about Tina’s time working at Saturday Night Live and wish there would have been more on this subject. I’m really interested in hearing how the show operates and what happens behind the scene (who writes the skits and how they decide which actors to use and so on).

I love 30 Rock and that style of humor, so I thought I would love this book. I did enjoy it, but I didn’t love it.I think maybe the reason I don’t love this book is because it slightly changed my perception of what Tina Fey is like as a human being. Sometimes she doesn’t sound like a very nice person. I really don’t mean that to sound harsh, and I realize that not everyone values kindness in the same ways that I do. But it does kind of ruin it for me a little bit. I guess that’s the tricky part about the state of celebrity. You want people to like you but you also want the freedom to be yourself. So kudos to Tina Fey for writing/speaking her mind and being true to what’s important to her. Plus after reading the book and her statements, I highly doubt Tina Fey would give a crap what I think about her as a person.

Finally and most recently, I just finished reading Chuck Klosterman’s Eating the Dinosaur.

This book came out in 2010, but it’s his latest book of essays (he’s done some fiction works that I haven’t read yet). I loved this one. I’ve read all of Klosterman’s non-fiction books, and this is my favorite. I think his writing just gets better and better. If you’re not familiar with him, Klosterman is an author from my home state of North Dakota. He used to write for a newspaper, and then he wrote for a few different magazines over the years (Spin, Esquire, ESPN Page 2). His non-fiction books are typically collections of essays about random things. I fear the word “random” is overused these days, but it’s the best descriptor I can come up with for Klosterman. The subject matter is truly varied. He’s very introspective and thoughtful, and his works are filled with pop culture references and subtle humor. I love it. Sometimes when I read something by Chuck Klosterman, I feel like I’m reading my own thoughts. My brain operates in a very similar fashion. If you’re new to this author and this sounds like something you would like, I recommend starting with Eating the Dinosaur or Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto.

Blogs I’m reading:

  • Peanut Butter Fingers - Already mentioned above. I love Julie’s blog! She has such a positive attitude, and I like that she posts often and with varied subject matter (common themes are fitness/health, food, and working as a freelance writer).

  • Redhead in Ruffled Flats - Sarah is a fellow Minneapolis blogger. She’s also a newlywed who recently launched her own photography business, so her blog is a lot of fun.

  • Francy Pants - My sister-in-law moved to France in September to work as a teaching assistant. You can follow along with her European adventures. We love you, Ann!

  • Everything else listed in the side bar - Check out the list of blogging friends over at the right side of this page. I wish I could highlight them all here, but I’ve talked about many of them previously (see here and here).
What Rob’s reading:
Questions for the brave commenters**

What books are you reading at the moment? Any recommendations on what I should read next? If you’ve read any of the books above, do you agree with my reviews? Do you think I’m a big dummyhead who doesn’t know what she’s talking about? Let’s hear it.

**we get a lot of regular traffic but hardly any comments. Why is that?

And finally...

And since we’re talking about what we’re reading, why don’t we also talk about what we’re listening to? In the Whitman household, we like to put on some jams and dance around. If you need some jamming material, here’s some funky classics that you can check out:

someone else's words

"Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others." - Buddha

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