Meet Your Unfamiliar Self | Read Diversely

It’s been a while since I wrote anything in this space, so let me catch you up real quick.  I work in a library – a small public library in Missouri – and from December through February I’m in charge of our displays.  This month, I set up a display themed around reading diversely.


Meet Your Unfamiliar Self

February is Black History Month, and where I work the entire staff is white women.  Most of what comes across the circulation desk is written by straight, white, cisgender men, and I’d like to see some more diversity.  Which is not, of course, to say that straight white cisgender men don’t write great books, plenty do.  But plenty of other people do too.  

Even though this is Black History Month, I chose to do a general diversity theme because I am almost certain that when my quarter of the year on displays ends there won’t be another similar display.  I’m only on displays from December-February.

So I scoured our catalog (twice actually – lost the first list) and cross-referenced it with a bunch of lists of popular authors from different racial and ethnic backgrounds until I had eight shelves worth of fiction, poetry, and children’s books to display.  Eight shelves worth is a ton of books, but there were a few sticking points.


Meet Your Unfamiliar Self


While I was able to find a bunch of authors, I also found that we most often only owned one of an author’s books.  At least, that held true for authors of color.  I couldn’t count on both hands the number of Clive Cussler or Gilbert Morris books we have on the shelves.  On top of that I had a really hard time identifying Native Hawaiian, Indigenous Australian, or Polynesian authors.  If you know of any, please, leave a comment.  Though we had quite a few children’s books by Native American authors, adult books by Native authors mostly eluded me.  

Ultimately, the diversity display, and the call for diversity in literature in general, isn’t about me.  It’s about the little girl who opens up Corduroy and sees a girl who looks like her, or the teenage boy who’s finally drawn to reading when he sees a name like his own on the front cover.  It’s about showcasing the stories of people who don’t experience the world in the same way that I do.  As a white person with white privilege, it is my duty to use that privilege to elevate the voices of people who do not.  
I used GoodReads lists to find popular authors of different backgrounds.  Native American | African American | Latinx | Asian American | Polynesian

If you know of any Native Hawaiian, Polynesian, or Indigenous Australian authors, please, leave me a comment so I can add their books.


Five Young Adult Novels For Winter Break

It’s the last day of Book Rec Week!  (I bet you didn’t even know I called it that.  I know how to forget what I called a week of posts!)  I’m so excited to bring you my last recommendations, five young adult novels.  And don’t give me any of that “I’m an adult, I can’t read a teen book” nonsense, because you totally can.

Winter Break Book Recommendations

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children | Ransom Riggs

This is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. But it’s so great, and it’s the first of a trilogy. The second book, Hollow City, came out in 2012, and the third is set to come out in 2015. It follows Jacob, a teenager from Florida, who discovers his grandfather dying in the woods, and suffers an apparent nervous breakdown. Then, he and his father go on a trip to Wales for a few weeks, and everything changes. Jacob discovers the children’s home where grandfather lived as a teen during World War II, and that just maybe the other children he grew up with are still there, hidden from the rest of the world.


We Were Liars | E Lockhart

Oh my god, this book. I read it in less than 24 hours, and it’s incredible. I made a video about it here, and you can watch that for my reaction closer to the time I read it. We Were Liars tells the story of a teenage girl, Cadence, who goes to spend the summer with her grandfather, her aunts, and her cousins on the family’s New England private island. But all is not as it seems and there are mysteries lurking beneath the pristine surface of the family’s life, and Cadence needs to know them. When you read it, don’t read the last 50 pages in public. And if anyone asks you what it’s about, just lie.


The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks | E. Lockhart

I read this after I read We Were Liars simply because it was by E. Lockhart and it looked good. I was not disappointed. Frankie is a brilliant girl going to an elite boarding school. She has it all, good grades, good friends, hot boyfriend, and inspiring classes. Then, she discovers her boyfriend is a part of an all-male secret society, and that infuriates her. You see, Frankie is a young feminist, just discovering how divided the world can be. So she sets out to prove that she’s smarter than all of them, and she just might be. There are some truly epic pranks, a lot of mystery, and an incredibly cool protagonist. Frankie is one of my favorite protagonists of all time.


The Lovely Bones | Alice Sebold

This book is amazing. I actually haven’t seen the movie, because the book is so amazing. (Sidenote: have you seen the movie? Does it do the book justice? Tell me in the comments). I read it at about 12 or 13, and I still think about it all the time. The story follows Susie Salmon from the moments before she’s murdered into the afterlife, where she watches her family for decades. Her family doesn’t know who killed her, and we see them struggle with her loss, searching for her killer. We watch her younger sister grow into a woman Susie is intensely proud of; we see her parents face the loss of their daughter, and struggle to keep their family together. It’s a very intense book, and I recommend it highly.


The Perks of Being A Wallflower | Stephen Chbosky

This is one of my favorite books. I might go so far as to call it my favorite book. It’s an epistolary novel, told in the form of letters he’s writing to this anonymous friend of a friend explaining all that’s happened during his freshman year of high school. And believe me, Charlie’s year was interesting. He starts out with no friends, but by the end of the first few weeks, he’s found himself absorbed into this group of seniors. Charlie is also totally in love with one of them: Sam. But Sam is dating an older boy, and Charlie dates another friend, and that ends badly for everyone. There is also a secret trauma in Charlie’s past that comes to light after a while. This is a wonderful, amazing book. Everyone needs to read it.


Those are my final winter break book recommendations for you. For more, check out the rest of the week here.  Have a wonderful break, a great holiday whichever holiday you celebrate, and in the comments tell me your book recommendations.

Four Serious Mysteries for Winter Break

Again, I know it’s late.  I have a post coming up about how crazy my life has been lately, so stay tuned.  These are pretty heavy, so I’ve only got four of them for you, and two of those are just the series names.

Winter Break Book Recommendations

Two Little Girls in Blue | Mary Higgins Clark

I read this book in about 12 hours. Probably less than that, actually. It’s incredible, and I think everyone should read it. The book tells the story of twin toddlers Kathy and Kelly, who get kidnapped. When the parents pay the ransom and find the kidnapper dead of an apparent self-inflicted gun shot, they think it’s over. But only one daughter – Kelly – is in the back seat, and the kidnapper’s suicide note tells the parents’ worst nightmare: the other daughter is dead. But a few days later at Kathy’s memorial, Kelly turns to her mother and says “Mommy, Kathy is very scared of that lady. She wants to come home right now.” That launches their mother – and soon everyone around them – into a desperate search for Kathy. This was terrifying, and intense, and I could barely put it down. It probably helped that I had a long flight ahead of me.

Scarpetta Mysteries | Patricia Cornwell

These books are some of the best mysteries I’ve ever read. They follow Dr. Kay Scarpetta, chief medical examiner, from one case to the next. You could pick up any one of them and have an amazing story to read, but I’m going with Black Notice. It was published the year I was born, and that’s part of the 2015 Reading Challenge from PopSugar. Just wait for New Year’s Prep Week and we can talk about that.

Serious Myseries

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo | Stieg Larsson

If you haven’t read this yet, even if you’ve seen the movie, go read it. Especially if you’re a woman. This is the book that really cemented for me the fact that not only did I need to be a feminist, I needed to fight for women the world over. This follows Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist as they try to identify the killer in a 40 year old murder. It’s incredible, and there is so much more than just one murder. This is also the first of a trilogy which follows Lisbeth over the next couple of years, and the rest of the trilogy is just as good as the first book.

Women’s Murder Club | James Patterson

I’ve read the first 7 or so of these. There are now 13. I picked up another one at the library book sale back in August, and I can’t wait to read it. These follow the Women’s Murder Club, a group of four, then five, women in San Francisco who are all involved in the murder solving business. Lindsay is a cop, Claire is a medical examiner, Jill is a district attorney, Cindy is a journalist, and Yuki is a defense attorney. These are so good, and they’re so fascinating. Read them.

Tomorrow is the last day of these posts, so watch this space.

Five Chick Lit Books For Winter Break

First, I know this is going up later than usual.  I got really good news today, so I spent the morning dancing around excitedly.  I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’ll tell you about it when everything is final.

Second, I normally hate the phrase “chick lit” but I couldn’t think of a better way to describe these books.  They’re female driven.  They’re written by women, for women.  They’re truly wonderful stories.

Winter Break Book Recommendations

Eat Pray Love | Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve been slowly reading this book since April. I love it, but it’s slow for me. The book is broken up into three main sections (Eat, Pray, and Love or Italy, India, and Indonesia), and then into vignettes that can be as short as one paragraph or as long as 10 pages. The pace in the Italy portion is faster than India, and I’ve just started Indonesia, so I don’t really know its pacing yet. It’s excellent for a plane ride if you have one coming up, and it’s excellent for sitting on the couch with your family members while they argue about politics so you can pretend you’re in Italy, India, or Indonesia.


Confessions of a Shopaholic | Sophie Kinsella

The movie version of this is so different from the book. I read the book a couple of years ago, and I was honestly shocked at how different it was. I knew the book was set in London, but the differences were phenomenal. Honestly, I think I liked the book even better, and this is one of my favorite movies. If you loved the movie, you’ll still love the book. Becky Bloomwood is a shopaholic journalist in the early 2000s, who doesn’t even know how much her credit card debt is. Irresponsible though she can be, you’ll be rooting for Becky the whole time.


Dakota Born | Debbie Macomber

My mom loves Debbie Macomber. So eventually I was convinced to read one. I quite liked Dakota Born, which tells the story of Lindsay Snyder, an outsider in this small farming community in North Dakota where her grandmother lived. Lindsay became fed up with her life in a big southern city and took the opportunity to become a teacher in Buffalo Valley. But getting there, she discovers that the school is in need of so much more than a new teacher. Lindsay has a good heart, but she has a lot of learning to do herself. Normally, I hate books (and movies, to be fair) that push the “get out of the city, move out to the small town, find a husband and be content” message to women, but Lindsay is not the average protagonist of these stories, and she never loses her inner fire.

Chick Lit

The Secret Life of Bees | Sue Monk Kidd

I LOVE this book. Oh my god. The story takes place in 1964 in South Carolina, and it doesn’t skim over the racism of the time. In fact, racism and sexism are at the core of the story, and they are intertwined. Lily Owens is 14, and she’s been motherless for most of her life. She’s been raised mostly by Rosaleen, an African-American maid and nanny, because her abusive father tends to ignore her. One day, Rosaleen tries to register to vote, and the confrontation that follows drives Lily to make her escape – but she wouldn’t leave Rosaleen. Lily and Rosaleen head for the small town where Lily’s mother was from, and they find her mother’s former nanny, and the secrets to Lily’s mother’s life. It’s beautiful, it’s incredible, and the story rests on the strength of the bonds between women.


The Devil Wears Prada | Lauren Weisberger

You’ve probably seen the movie. You might even have read the book. But trust me, if you haven’t, you need to. I know you’re thinking this is shallow, superficial, and silly because it’s about the fashion journalism industry. Listen, I used to think similar things. And then I read it. Oh, my friend, how wrong I was. Andrea is driven, headstrong, and sometimes a bit bull-headed. She goes into her job with the same attitude I had when I started the book, but she discovers that this industry is made up of people, interesting, fascinating, intelligent people, and that she actually likes her job. But can she make it for a full year?

(Sidenote: yes, her boyfriend is a jerk. Although I don’t think it’s as bad in the book as it is in the movie, cause holy crap is it bad in the movie).

Five Lightheared Mysteries for Winter Break

I refer to these as lighthearted not because there isn’t any violence or death, but because of the tone of the prose. Most lighthearted mysteries are also narrated by amateur detectives. Not all of them, as you’ll see, but many are. I love a good lighthearted mystery for winter break, because they’re so easy to get through. They’re not as terrifying as serious mysteries, nor do they have the thriller elements that many serious mysteries do.

Winter Break Book Recommendations

The Sweetness At The Bottom of the Pie | Alan Bradley

I read this book on my last trip to DC, after I got it at a library book sale. It follows 11-year-old Flavia deLuce, an amateur chemist/detective in an aristocratic English family during the 1950s. The real mystery starts when she discovers an old stamp, a connection to her father’s school days, and a murder plot. Flavia’s narrative voice sounds older than she is, but in context it really works.

Stephanie Plum series | Janet Evanovich

Janet Evanovich has been writing Stephanie Plum novels for about 19 years. My mom and I picked one up for a road trip as an audiobook, and we’ve been hooked since the first. The series starts when 30-something lingerie buyer Stephanie Plum finds herself divorced, laid off, and in need of some quick cash. Her mother suggested a filing gig with her cousin Vinny, but when she goes to ask it’s already filled. Of course, since Vinny’s a bail bondsman, there are always bail jumpers to catch, and Stephanie does need the money. She’s also perpetually caught between two equally difficult men: cop Morelli and fellow bounty hunter Ranger. Stephanie’s narrative voice is light, and the novels are always infused with comedy, be it Stephanie’s new friend Lula or her elderly (and slightly demented) grandmother. You can start anywhere, but I’m on the twentieth.

Dug To Death | Adrian Praetzellis

This was actually assigned for my archeology class sophomore year. Why? Because it’s a teaching novel. Praetzellis uses the novel’s mystery to teach readers about archeology procedures. The setting? Obviously an archeological dig. The characters? Archeologists, geologists, and the like. At the back of the book you’ll even find a glossary of archeological terms. You don’t have to be into archeology to enjoy it, but it certainly helps. Because the plot isn’t the only focus of the book, it makes for a fairly lighthearted read.

Lighthearted Mysteries

Nero Wolfe | Rex Stout

This series is one that’s not narrated by an amateur detective. They’re narrated by Archie Goodwin, a private detective and assistant to the great Nero Wolfe. Beginning with Fer-De-Lance, New York’s greatest detective has been written about since the 1930s. Of course, after the original author Rex Stout died others have taken up his mantle. I’ve loved Nero Wolfe mysteries since the early 2000s tv show, which I own on DVD but I’m sure you could find online if you want to watch it.

Hannah Swensen Mysteries | Joanne Fluke

I’ve only read one of these (Candy Cane Murder) but my mom has read at least half a dozen. She loves them and has been reading them for about 12 years. They’re set in Minnesota in a small town where there is an alarmingly high murder rate. Hannah, the main character, owns a bakery called the Cookie Jar, and gets into a lot of hijinks. Plus, every book contains at least one recipe!

Five Non-Fiction Books For Winter Break

If non-fiction is more your cup of tea than fiction is, then I’ve got recommendations for you!  Or for someone you love who needs some non-fiction this winter.  Keep in mind, most of the non-fiction I read is related to history, anthropology, or archeology. There is also the occasional book about religion or languages, so you won’t find anything for your favorite physics nerd here.

Winter Break Book Recommendations

Vikings, Saxons, and Celts | Bryan Sykes

This book is the sweet spot where history and science meet. It gives both historical documents and genetic history a foothold in the historiography of the British Isles. Sykes defines the British Isles as the modern countries of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Brian Sykes is a geneticist, not a historian, but as a historian, his work holds up to my scrutiny. I’ve actually had this book since Christmas 2010, and I’ve never gotten around to reading it until now. If you’re into history and science, this is the read for you.

In Small Things Forgotten | James Deetz

James Deetz is sort of a god in American Archeology. If you can trace your academic lineage to him, you feel pretty great about yourself. I know, because my archeology professor was a student of a student of Deetz. I read this for my archaeology class, and I still keep it on my bookshelf and flip through it now and then. If you’re into archaeology, you should definitely read this. Plus, I kind of want to make a blog series called In Small Things Remembered and write about archaeology.

Violence in Medieval Europe | Warren Brown

Another former class book, I read this as research for my thesis. If you’re into medieval history, this is a great book for you. It goes into incredible detail, and it doesn’t paint the middle ages as a brutish, ugly period. It wasn’t a brutish, ugly period in human history. There was plenty of beautiful art, incredible writing, and cultural exchange. Of course, there was also a lot of violence. For a full picture of that violence, read this book.

Non Fiction Books For Winter Break

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue | John McWhorter

I must admit, I haven’t read all of this. I bought it in August but then school started up so I haven’t had the chance to read it all yet. It traces the history of English, and the linguistics that have gone into it, and what I did read was fantastic. I’m a major nerd when it comes to language and history (I tried to read Beowulf in Old English several times, didn’t work) so this book fascinates me. If you’re into language at all, and you speak English, then this book is for you. It’s not terribly long either, and what I read wasn’t dry at all.

Religions of the Silk Road | Richard Foltz

The last book is another one I read for class. As an undergrad I took two religion classes, and totally loved them. This book gives the history and a brief introduction to various religions that have lived (and sometimes died) on the Silk Road trading route. Of course, there is a lot of overlap because the Silk Road created immense cultural exchange. If you’re into comparative religious studies, this book will keep you enthralled all winter break.


That’s all I’ve got for you today, but check back tomorrow for more book recommendations!  As always, any of these recommendations can really work for anyone, whether you’re a student or not.

Interesting Reads

I’m off at work/internship today, so instead of a well-written original post (okay, even I couldn’t write that with a straight face, well-written?) let’s chat about what we’re reading.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about paleontology and extinct human species.  So I thought I’d share the last two weeks of reads with you guys.


Since I finished The Casual Vacancy I needed something a bit less dramatic.  Saxons, Vikings, and Celts by Bryan Sykes is just what I needed.  This is all about the genetic ancestry of the peoples of the British Isles.  Or, as I like to call it, the sweet spot where history and science meet.  I also picked up the book All The Lovely Bad Ones from my local library, and it’s meant for kids about 13, but it’s a fun read.


I started reading Science Magazine’s website, and found that they have a HUGE section on paleontology and fossil humans. For a random sampling: How We Domesticated Ourselves | Pregnant Fossil Mare & Fetus | Profile of Rachel Watkins (my favorite anthropology professor)


Early Europeans Weathered Ice Age | BBC World News recently posted this article, which is super interesting if you’re like me and into this sort of thing.

Ice Age Babies Surrounded by Weapon Found in Alaska | Smithsonian Magazine is always good for science, anthropology, and history articles.

The Long History of Disease and Fear of the “Other” | In this time of crazy outlandish fears about Ebola, it’s important to remember the cultural history of disease and othering.

George Washington Didn’t Have Wooden Teeth | I touched on this a bit in my American April Misconceptions video, but the myth about wooden teeth is just that – a myth.


Kim Kardashian Doesn’t Realize She’s the Butt of an Old Racial Joke | This article from The Grio sums up exactly what I thought when I saw the photos of Kim Kardashian from the Paper Magazine photoshoot.  The images reminded me very much of Saartjie Baartman, also known as the Hottetot Venus.  They conjure up a long history of the exploitation of the bodies of women, especially women of color.  On the other hand, I’m not about policing what another woman does with her body – mother or not.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Response | Just for good measure, the Met weighed in with an art history comparison and it’s good to remember that everything has a longer context than the last few years.


I’ve been incredibly into slam poems recently, and Button Poetry is my current favorite channel for them.  Some personal faves?  The Tampon Poem | Thighs | The First Time I Met His Mother | Fantastic Breasts And Where To Find Them | Khaleesi | Sleeping On God | Girl Code 101 | The Nineteen Text Messages To You Stuck In My Drafts Box | Mother of Dragons | One Side of an Ongoing Conversation with Sharon, My Therapist

(I also shared a very short slam poem called Scorch Marks and you should definitely go watch it.)