You may have noticed that this blog has gone dormant. But it’s not dead! I promise.
At the time of my last post (all the way back in December), I’d already been meaning to re-evaluate my approach to book blogging for awhile. I’d noticed that I’d begun to churn through books in search of “content” rather than actually reading for pleasure, and it was doing both the books and me a big disservice.
I especially wanted to take a step back from my previous philosophy of reviewing everything under the sun. Reading and writing are contextual, and trying to write coherently about such a wide variety of genres and topics was driving me nuts. My goal for this blog is to create thoughtful content and community for and with other readers. Instead, it felt like I was constantly spouting off uneducated, seat-of-my-pants opinions. It was a crummy feeling.
In particular, in seeking to highlight work by indigenous authors and authors of color, I noticed that I’d begun to take up more and more unearned space, treating myself as an authority over stories I don’t have any authority over at all. As far as I know, I haven’t made any egregious missteps. But as long as I continued blogging in the same style and format, it felt like a matter of time before I’d fumble and do real, racist harm, regardless of my intent.
Lastly, I wanted to make more space for myself as a writer and not just a reader. It’s not a secret that I’d like to write novels of my own someday, and I felt like that part of me was missing from this blog.
In short, it was time for a long break while I figured some stuff out.
I’m still tooling around with what this blog is going to look like going forward. There will definitely be book reviews, just written more selectively. I plan to continue to center books by marginalized authors, but to do it in a more intentional and appropriate way. I also plan to add more essays, photos, and personal content, though the blog will remain book-focused. Other than that? Who knows!
That’s forward, and this is right now. Right now, this blog is still on hiatus while I finish catching my breath and dealing with the s***-show that is this year. If you’re so inclined, please follow my Twitter, where I’m much more active: @maggietiede.
I hope you’re all as safe and sound as you can be in this topsy-turvy, deeply horrible time. I wish you silver linings and good books.
(The changes won’t be nearly as sad as the song, I promise. I just like the song.)
I’ve been having more and more trouble keeping up with book blogging this year, for a few reasons. One is my health, which continues to be a royal pain in the ass no matter what I try to do to manage it. My descent into constant and severe chronic pain over the past several years has been a really tough one. I don’t have anything inspirational or plucky to say about it. It’s just tough.
Reasons two and three are that I’m feeling increasingly tired of reading and writing. Like it says in the sidebar, writing is my day job, which also involves a significant amount of research (i.e. reading). I’m writing, reading, or thinking about those two things nearly all the time, and at some point, it started to make this blog feel less fun and more dreary.
But I do love blogging. I love interacting with other readers and writers, I love writing reviews, and I love the sort of digital scrapbook of my literary self that I’m creating every time I post here. I’ve poured a lot of time and energy into this blog and gotten a lot of joy and satisfaction out of it in return and I don’t plan to quit now.
So, onto the two major changes that I think will make Maggie Reads work better for me (and hopefully better for my readers, too):
I will be posting book reviews, interviews, and personal posts only from here on out. No more Friday Bookbag, no more Throwback Thursday, none of the other weekly posting formats that I’ve tried. They’re too much work and I’m never fully happy with the result.
I am going to commit to writing one, and only one, book review per week. This gives me a more tangible goal to shoot for than just “read a lot of books and write about them.” It gives me more time to read things for fun (and for work) without the pressure of trying to post a bunch of reviews. It will also hopefully create a little more consistency for you, the reader. Most of my favorite blogs pick a regular posting schedule and stick to it, and I would very much like to be like my favorite blogs.
Maybe this will expand to two reviews a week down the line. Maybe not. This is a trial balloon and I’ll see how it goes for me.
I’m open to feedback about these changes from you, too, especially regarding which day of the week would be best for posting reviews. If you have a preference, let me know in the comments.
Slight tangent: If you’re disabled, I’d also greatly appreciate feedback on the accessibility of this blog. Are my cover descriptions helpful? Do I need to make layout changes? Are there content warnings or other content changes I could make that would benefit you? I would love if you shared. My disabilities do not affect my use of the internet and so I’m always trying to learn and improve this site for people who do face accessibility challenges on websites.
In short: Feedback. I want it. Got it? Good!
Thank you very much for reading this and for your continued support. I’m so delighted that this niche and oft-neglected blog has found an audience and I hope that audience continues to grow as I work to find more sustainable ways to create content.
I’ve lamented a good deal on this blog about my reading slumps and how I wish I read so much more than I actually do. But it occurred to me recently that I never actually stop reading–I just read different things. When I’m struggling to focus on a book, I often dive headfirst into Twitter, for better or worse.
I also spend tons and tons and tons of time reading longform articles online, usually ones I’ve found through Twitter or one of the myriad email newsletters I subscribe to. My favorite genre of these are deep-dives into scammers and government and corporate corruption (especially in Silicon Valley), followed closely by celebrity profiles and cultural criticism.
The fashion blogs Tom & Lorenzo and Go Fug Yourself fill up many of my hours, though I rarely if ever pick up an actual print fashion magazine thanks to the mainstream fashion press’s rampant body-shaming.
All this got me thinking: why am I so hard on myself for “not reading,” when I’m clearly never “not reading”? (The answer is, of course, perfectionism, generalized anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder! But my point still stands.)
As the internet becomes more and more dominant in our lives, I have to wonder if our ideas about what constitutes “reading” and even what’s reviewed and analyzed on our beloved book blogs and in literary criticism will change, too.
Fanfiction has already crossed over into the mainstream, with Francis Spufford writing a much-anticipated “unauthorized” Narnia novel. (It’s fanfic, dude! You’re just writing fanfic.) Fifty Shades of Grey is part of that same blurring of the lines between “fiction” and “fan,” just a little tawdrier.
So what will it look like when we come to see internet texts–in all their ever-shifting, precarious (look at what happens when beloved outlets like The Toast and The Hairpin go offline) glory–as just as worthy as books?
I feel like print magazines are in a similar nebulous space, and they’re much older than the internet, so maybe there’s no hope for internet words after all. The New Yorker is my favorite magazine (which is why I was so thrilled to be in their letters to the editor section earlier this year, *shameless plug*), and it happens to be one of the snootiest highest-browest literary publications out there. But even then, I never seem to count the time I spend sitting down with an issue of The New Yorker as “reading” in the same way I’d count the time I spend reading a book.
I’m curious what the rest of you think. What do you read when you’re not reading books, and how do you feel about it? For those of you who do read and love audiobooks, do you have trouble convincing yourself that it’s “real reading” (and do you think podcasts count at all)? What words do you weigh as worthier than others?
1. You’re never going to read that one. Really. Let it go.
2. You’re never going to re-read this one. It’s dead weight. Let it goooo.
3. You’re never going to re-read this one either…but you loved it so much the first time that it’s unimaginably precious anyway. Into the box it goes.
4. Hardcovers are so heavy. Stop buying hardcovers.
5. But this hardcover is so pretty…
6. You forgot you had this one. You remember reading it. You remember that salsa stain and each individual dog-ear. It’s like running into somebody you used to know, the person who makes you realize now just how much you’ve changed. Usually for the better, but maybe a little bit for the worse? You lie on the floor and think about life and death and stuff for awhile.
7. You forgot you had this one, too. You’ve never read it. It was a gift from someone close, someone who’s gone now, someone who shared your love of reading. You love it, but you know you’re never going to read it. You gently place it in the get-rid-of box, trusting that your memory of that kind and thoughtful gift is enough.
8. Or you keep it, even though you’ll never read it. After all, you’ve packed up far less worthy mementos today.
9. The dust and wear on all of these is gnarly. Jesus. You should take better care of your books.
But seriously–you’re never going to take better care of your books. It’s okay! They’ll probably outlive you anyway. (And you find that thought strangely comforting.)
…you come home with even more books. Woe. (If you’re unfamiliar with Half Price, it’s a used bookstore chain where you can sell your used books for cash or credit…and I always take the store credit.)
This time I bought cookbooks–including a badass sushi cookbook and Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan–a paperback copy of Difficult Women by Roxane Gay, and an intriguing big fat hardcover book about the history and sociology of “the other woman” over the centuries. That last one seems like it’ll make great fiction fodder.
The problem with this is, of course, that I am currently in the process of moving. Not sure if this is common knowledge (/s), but books are HEAVY and I was supposed to be moving less of them, not more! Oh well. *hair flip*
Those of you with a Half Price in your backyard know how it is, I’m sure. What’s your favorite section? Mine is definitely the sociology/anthropology/social justice/cultural studies section (whew, a mouthful!), where I found the book about “the other woman,” because I am a nerd about that stuff. Cookbooks and literary fiction are close seconds. Obviously.
Learn from my mistakes. Go sit in your car while they tally up the offer. Wandering around Half Price Books unsupervised is dangerous.
In case you’re a subscriber or have a sudden hankering for a real print magazine, I’m delighted to say that I currently have a letter to the editor in The New Yorker. (It’s the March 11th edition, the one with the skier and cute dogs on the cover.)
I wrote a response to Ian Parker’s excellent profile of Dan Mallory, bestselling pseudonymous author of The Woman in the Window and noted scammer and creep in the publishing world. Dan Mallory has said in a response to the piece that the history of lies that Parker uncovered are due to his bipolar II disorder.
Hmmm. I happen to have lived with bipolar disorder for nearly ten years, and I call bull.
Luckily, The New Yorker was kind enough to ask me to expand on my tweet on the subject to explain why mental illness doesn’t make you a liar, scammer, or cheat. Greed, arrogance, and privilege do.
I hope you’ll check it out! There’s a delay between when letters appear in print and when they go up on the site, so I’ll edit this post with a link when it’s live online.
It’s been awhile! Since, uh, November, in fact. This is unfortunately the longest hiatus I’ve ever had on Maggie Reads, and if you follow me on Twitter, you might have gleaned that it’s for health reasons…again. Oy vey.
The bad news is that I’m not up to writing or reading much more than 280 character snippets at the moment. The good news is that I’m getting surgery in February that should help a lot. It’s going to be a long road back to normal, but I’m hopeful that normal is, indeed, waiting for me somewhere in 2019. I hope you’ll stick around till I get there!
How cool is that? It’s not even one of those weird stub articles that’s written by someone with an axe to grind. It’s a very professional-looking, well-rounded Wikipedia article. I’m honored to be included, though who knows if I’ll last till the next edit.
My cousin also gifted me The Wasp Factoryby Iain Banks and There Thereby Tommy Orange. I’m excited about both but especially about There There since I had it on hold at the library last month but was unable to pick it up because I’ve been so sick. I was crushed to miss it because it’s literally a 4-to-6-month-long wait for it in my local library system! That’s a loooooong time when you’re excited about a book, but now I don’t have to go back to the back of the line (or be back in line at all). Great timing, cuz.
As I said, I also gave a bunch of books for Christmas, with the help of NPR’s 2018 book concierge, which gets better and better every year. (It’s a giant widget of book recommendations that you can filter by all sorts of criteria.)
Here are some of the books I gifted this year:
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startupby John Carreyrou, for my dad: A book about Theranos, a disastrous startup that lied to lots of people about their blood test results and was generally a terrifying/wacky/out-of-control company. The book is written by the journalist who initially broke the story for the Wall Street Journal.
Emergency Contactby Mary H.K. Choi, for my brother who just left for college: A college romance (it’s a YA novel) that takes place mostly through text messages. My brother’s gay and unfortunately this romance is m/f but he loves the premise and promises to forgive me. (LOL.)
Orphan Monster Spyby Matt Killeen and Warcrossby Marie Lu, for my high school-aged brother: These are the only two books that I read before deciding to gift them. They are two badass YA novels that, to me, showed how rich and diverse the YA category is becoming. OMS is about a Jewish teen undercover at a Nazi boarding school and Warcross is about a teen hacker who hacks a futuristic Fortnite/World of Warcraft-style video game. Both totally awesome and (I hope) right up my brother’s alley.
Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older, for my middle school-aged brother: This one’s about a group of orphans banding together and fighting bad guys during the Civil War, except they all have dinosaurs. How cool is that?!?!?! It also has the coolest cover ever:
Best. Cover. Ever. Right? I hope my brother thinks so too!
So, those are all my bookish updates. I hope you’re all having a peaceful end of the year, and if you’re not, I hope you at least have some good books to get you through. I’m not sure when I’ll be back on the blog, but I’ll definitely be back. See you soon!
(And if you’re so inclined, please continue to cite me on Wikipedia, okay? It’s very flattering!)
If you’ve spent any time on my blog–if so, thank you! –I think you’ll soon realize how few books by men I seek out, read, and write about. Scanning back a few months, the last two books by men that I’ve mentioned were Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (in September) and November Road by Lou Berney, in a Friday Bookbag all the way back at the beginning of August.
It’s not that there aren’t books by men that I enjoy. To discount the artistic ability of nearly half the population would be absurd, right? (Ha.) It’s that, for me, reading is personal. I have always read what I want to read, and I want to read about women.
Luckily, at least in this regard, I grew up homeschooled. (The only formal schooling I got before college was one hellish year in kindergarten.) While the experience was a mixed bag, one thing I remain grateful for was that my mother did not insist I read classics, leaving me instead to read…well, everything else.
Before starting this blog, I ran a YA book blog titled “Bibliophilia – Maggie’s Bookshelf” (clearly, I’m not particularly creative with blog names) from 2009-2013 or so. I took it down some time ago–it was full of embarrassing coming-of-age content that I no longer wanted to broadcast to the web–but the experience was profound. It was my first exposure to ARCs, reviews, the ins and outs of publishing, and most importantly, the incredible diversity of books that are out there if you’re willing to find them.
Once, both for that blog and for my own enjoyment, I read 365 books in a year. It’s a great fun fact.
And yet I’ve never read Moby Dick. I’ve never read Lord of the Flies or 1984 or Lolita or Steinbeck or Twain or Dostoyevsky or any of the dozens more defining books of the English-language canon.
It’s not something I’m proud of, per se, because canons exist to create common ground, and no reader is an island. I may not have read Moby Dick but I have read countless other books by authors who care a lot about Moby Dick. To be so unfamiliar with their source material is a loss, not a gain.
But I still don’t know if I’ll ever read Moby Dick, because I value fun–or at the very least, human connection–in what I read, and Moby Dick strikes me as neither fun nor about the kind of humans I care for, although perhaps I would be interested in the whale. If that makes me a bad reader, so be it.
There is also, quite simply, so much else to read.
I once began a college essay with “I have never been fond of feminism as a way of being.” It was an essay for an English literature class; an essay on Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, no less. It’s an essay I look back on with a fair amount of embarrassment, but also, strangely, delight.
Because earlier that same year, I devoured Mockingjay, hunting an elusive release day copy at every bookstore in town. I would soon be introduced to Tris of Divergent. I already loved the kooky, Southern Belle-esque feminine wiles of Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves, about a schizophrenic biracial girl who returns to a Lovecraftian Texas town to fight monsters. I was enthralled by Gemma Doyle, Libba Bray’s Victorian witchy badass who has a vulnerable side, too. I was addicted to Philippa Gregory’s “historical,” smutty novels about the women of Tudor England. Which is to say nothing of Katsa or Lauren Olamina or Offred, or–heaven help me–Bella Swan, or Merricat and Constance of We Have Always Lived in the Castle itself, or the dozens of other intense, prickly, complex heroines who have profoundly shaped my life.
I am delighted by my crappy college essay because it has the broken-clock quality of understanding that feminism, to me, is not a way of being, at least not in any cohesive sense. It is merely–and perhaps that is the wrong word–merely the acknowledgment that the lives of women and nonbinary people are not second-rate. (Revolutionarily.)
Their stories aren’t second-rate, either, something I must have understood already, based on my tastes. Based, as well, on my analysis of Jackson’s creepy, idiosyncratic, lovely novel about two sisters, an uncle, and a sugar bowl. I still think that analysis is quite good; I found that novel to be deadly serious, and still do, just as I find the lives of young girls everywhere to be deadly serious.
If I were to assemble a personal canon, here are the novels I would place most prominently within it:
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
and, yes, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.
It is not the canon. It is a canon, and I am always re-shaping it. It is a key to my heart and also, somehow, my heart itself. I encourage you to develop your own.
My life is not second-rate. My experiences are not second-rate. And neither of the stories of other oft-forgottens, especially the stories of Black women, Indigenous women, and other women of color. I am always reading–devouring–stories that affirm that truth, however frivolous they seem. (In fact, the more frivolous, the better.) This is an act of self-love and an act of love for the universe.
It is not that I find the male literary canon to be irrelevant. It is that it is a treasure that already has a home and a prominent shelf to itself.
…and newly married, honeymooned, and more relaxed than I’ve felt in what seems like years. So relaxed, in fact, that I can’t quite seem to focus on books just yet. But since I can never stay away from reading (or opinion-giving) for long, I’m sure you’ll see me back here soon. I’ve got a number of library holds and NetGalley requests pending that have me extremely excited, after all. I might do a post this week just about those. Hmmm…
In the meantime, here’s a photo of me and my wife taken just before our ceremony that’s giving me warm fuzzies every time I look at it:
image description: a photo of two very happy-looking people in white poufy dresses. My now-wife Serena is on the left. She is wearing a veil, pearl earrings, and a pearl necklace. I am on the right wearing a tiara. We are embracing in front of a brick background.
Thanks for sticking around, dear readers, and I’ll see you soon!
It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks here at Casa de Tiede! I’ve been picking up extra freelance work, my best friend got married, and my own wedding just keeps getting closer and closer. (Fact: 95% of wedding planning is staring at a calendar and crying.)
The last thing I’ve wanted to do lately is extra reading or writing, so this blog has been neglected. Luckily, I’ve been enjoying lots of other cool media instead, like:
BlacKKKlansman: an extremely intense and interesting movie about a black cop who infiltrates the Colorado Springs branch of the KKK. It’s based on a true story (!!!) and memoir by Ron Stallworth. I checked out the book from the library earlier this summer but had to return it before I could finish it. I really loved the movie adaptation, but be aware that it portrays racism and anti-Semitism in extremely frightening, realistic, and potentially triggering ways, including footage from last year’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. It has humorous and empowering moments, plus a great soundtrack, but it’s also tense and upsetting. Your mileage may vary.
image description: a vintage photo of Cannonball Loop, Action Park’s loop-the-loop water slide that frequently trapped or injured guests.
Defunctland: On a lighter note, this astonishingly well-edited and in-depth YouTube series explores the histories of defunct amusement parks and rides, from terrifying regional attractions like New Jersey’s Action Park to high-profile failures at Disney and Universal Studios. Episodes range from 5-30 minutes. They’ll bring a fun mix of nostalgia and schadenfreude (at the expense of greedy park managers and CEOs) to your lunch break.
Cheapest Weddings: This Australian reality show about people planning dream weddings on tight budgets is available to stream on Netflix. It’s funny, clever, and genuinely sweet. The couples never feel like the butt of the joke, even if their preferences are a little…eccentric, as with an unforgettable LARP wedding. I find a lot of reality TV to be cringey and mean, but this series is just right. (And I’m gleaning lots of DIY inspiration from it, too.)
What movies, TV, video games, and webseries have you been enjoying lately? I’d love to hear about them as I head into another stressful stretch. (I could use all the procrastination distraction help I can get.) In the meantime, happy reading, and expect me back on a regular schedule soon!