reading recap: february 2018

I’m pretty sure I’m out of that slump and funk now, by the end of February. I had a great month of reading, much better than January. Almost all of these were audiobooks. Since I knew the end of my membership to my library back home in Kansas City was ending in February, I wanted to capitalize on using it as much as possible. I was pretty pleased to get some highly anticipated new releases, as well as discovering some new gems I hadn’t heard of before.

My favorites were easily Dark MoneyOtis Redding, and Broad Strokes, with Shark Drunk close behind. I’m happy I stuck with writing up posts after finishing books here throughout the month too!

Other bookish stuff… I started The Left Hand of Darkness for my Best Friends International Book Club and quickly DNF’d. It’s just not for me. I have trouble getting into high sci-fi fantasy in general, and I could barely follow the story. I didn’t know who was who or what was happening most of the time. Anthony, my book club buddy, DNF’d too, saying, “So many words I don’t know how to say, let alone keep track of. And the narrative voice doesn’t resonate with me; I can’t understand where I am in almost any given sentence.” Some people have the right kind of mind for elaborate, made-up words and worlds, some don’t. Our first-ever BFIBCDNF! I also bought two new Singaporean small-press books, SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century and The Infinite Library.

Right now I’m reading Homegoing (for BFIBC and the TBR Pile Challenge), The Summer That Melted Everything (TBR Pile Challenge), and SQ21.

Otherwise, I’ve been spending time drawing and trying to get out of the apartment more. I went to see the Museé d’Orsay impressionism exhibit at the National Gallery of Singapore last week, which was fantastic, saw the amazing  Black Panther movie, and also bought a new bass!! It’s a Fender American Elite Jazz Bass. I’m in love.

monthly recap image

shark drunk

Another great find from my epic audiobook hunt last week: Shark Drunk by Morten Strøksnes! It was a really pleasant surprise and I’m glad I gave it a chance. From Goodreads:

In the great depths surrounding the Lofoten islands in Norway lives the infamous Greenland shark. At twenty-six feet in length and weighing more than a ton, it is truly a beast to behold. But the shark is not known for its size alone: its meat contains a toxin that, when consumed, has been known to make people drunk and hallucinatory. Shark Drunk is the true story of two friends, the author and the eccentric artist Hugo Aasjord, as they embark on a wild pursuit of the famed creature—from a tiny rubber boat. Together, the two men tackle existential questions, survive the world’s most powerful maelstrom, and, yes, get drunk, as they attempt to understand the ocean from every possible angle, drawing on poetry, science, history, ecology, mythology, and their own, sometimes intoxicated, observations.

I like sharks. I’m not obsessed, but I’ve been somewhat interested in them since dissecting one in my ninth-grade biology class. (My teacher even fried up little pieces for us to taste over a bunsen burner! A little bit like chicken.) Last year, I saw a fantastic, eye-opening exhibit here in Singapore at the Parkview Museum called On Sharks & Humanity, a curated collection of works celebrating sharks and bringing awareness to our changing relationship with them and the ocean, including preservation and protection of these beautiful creatures.

Strøksnes basically uses the shark-hunting trip with his friend as an excuse to talk about myriad topics, so it’s a little all over the place, but it’s a delightful book that’s more about the journey than the destination. I loved all the “fun facts,” from oceanography and the mysteries of the sea, to mythology and literature and history, to life in small Scandinavian fishing villages, and more. It was a little like being in the boat with the two of them, waiting and waiting and waiting for this shark to bite, and having access to Strøksnes’s mind as it wanders across all these topics, with some philosophy and personal anecdotes thrown in.

With all the horrible news of the world right now, this book was a good mental break that also put our place on this planet back into perspective a bit for me. A little bit of everything, and it was an enjoyable, informative listen on audio.

Listened to audiobook in February 2018.

mini-reviews: my life on the road, freedom is a constant struggle

I have admired the work of Gloria Steinem and Angela Y. Davis for a while, but haven’t read any books or essays by either until this past year! Here are my thoughts on their 2015 releases:

I won an ARC of Steinem’s fascinating, engaging memoir My Life on the Road from Goodreads. I didn’t know anything about Steinem’s upbringing, and she was so relatable here. I really enjoyed learning about her nomadic childhood, with her father’s wanderlust taking the family on frequent road trips, and how those experiences shaped her adult life both personally and professionally. I think this would have been even better on audio. A few sections dragged, but overall I loved how she used travel to illustrate feminism, organizing, and more in our world. She had insightful things to say about Hillary Clinton and 2008 primaries and election season, which was interesting to read just before the 2016 election. [Read in Sept. 2016.]

Freedom is a Constant Struggle is a great collection of selected speeches and conversations of Angela Y. Davis. The speeches in the last half of the book especially stood out to me; they connect race, feminism, civil rights, intersectionality, fighting for freedom, and more. Despite some repetitiveness, I think this is a must-read in these times as it drives home the point that several complex struggles we’re facing in the United States are also global issues. Davis is a fascinating, inspiring figure, and I’m awed by her brilliance and bravery. She’s a radical thinker and activist, and this slim book pushed my thinking on several issues. [Read in February 2017.]

reading recap: april 2016

All right, everybody. I didn’t finish any books in April. I have a good reason:

13920663_10100679800242329_3444565035162486689_n

I am moving to SINGAPORE!

My husband will be the new assistant professor of composition at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music at the National University of Singapore this fall. I’m so, so proud of him and so excited for this adventure! So as you can imagine, there is a lot of preparation to do for this upcoming international move. You’ll have to forgive me for not posting lately and I may not finish any books in May either… maybe one by the end of June?? But yeah, writing blog posts and getting through books is the least of my concerns at the moment. There will be LOTS of time on the plane ride out there… and when I arrive jobless… for reading, haha!

I still love to see what others are reading, though! What did you read in April? Who’s ready for summer to start!?

kitchen confidential (audio)

On the drive up to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving, my husband and I listened to Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, read by the author. Edited from Goodreads:

A deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain, laying out his more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine.

Bourdain gives away secrets of the trade in his wickedly funny, inspiring memoir/expose. Kitchen Confidential reveals what Bourdain calls “twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine.”

I had already read this on paperback in 2012 and loved it. Nick has been a fan of Bourdain’s tv shows, so I thought this would be something great for both of us. And it was! Even better on audio than on paper, as expected when read by Bourdain himself. Here’s some of my review from 2012, which I still feel about the book:

Part memoir, part exposé, part editorial, Kitchen Confidential was totally engrossing for me. Bourdain brazenly describes his inflated self-confidence and youthful pride, while admirably owning up to mistakes, failures, and shameful moments in his career. He gives credit where it is deserved and shows honest appreciation for hard work, dedication, and tenacity in the kitchen. Bourdain knows he is not a perfect chef—or human being, for that matter. I like how Bourdain did not gussy up his writing with too-unusual terms or flowery language. He rhapsodizes about food, of course, but in a genuine, down-to-earth way. After all the descriptions of how nasty, chaotic, and vulgar restaurant employees and kitchens are (in Bourdain’s experience), I really loved the chapter about Scott Bryan and his kitchen.

A section that really stood out this time around for me on audio was the “day in the life of a chef” chapter—just the relentless pace and stress of it was mind-boggling. I wasn’t quite as shocked by the behind-the-scenes kitchen reveals, but the tips for restaurant dining (don’t order fish specials on Mondays, etc.) were interesting… I wonder how many still hold up today, 15 years after the book’s original publication.

Kitchen Confidential is not PC—plenty of vulgar language and stupid behavior—and a seriously entertaining read. I still haven’t gotten around to any of his other, newer books; I better get on that!

Listened to audiobook from November 22 to 25, 2015.

denver anniversary trip

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know we’ve been through Denver before, when Nick was a fellow at the Aspen Festival in 2013, but we didn’t spend much time in the city—just passed through. This time, we went to celebrate our anniversary with a Slash concert, and we had a really fun visit.

We drove in on Thursday, and immediately went to the nearest brewery, Station 26 Brewing Co. They don’t serve food, but the Meatball. food truck was there. The next day we shopped at Tattered Cover Books and Twist and Shout and came out with a real nice haul of books and records:

tattered twitstmedia haul

After shopping, we hit up the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, which had a Marilyn Minter exhibit throughout the building (plus me in an egg):

mintermca 1

Before the concert, we had beers and dinner at Vine Street Pub & Brewery, just a mile from the Fillmore Auditorium where Slash was playing.
fillmoreThen on Saturday, we hit up Voodoo Doughnut for breakfast. Nick had already been to it in Portland, but this was my first time. We had the Pot Hole, the Diablos Rex, and a Memphis Mafia, which was so massive we saved it for breakfast the next day! Delicious. After the donuts, we wandered around the 16th Street Mall for a bit, where there was a zombie festival just getting started. There were djs, stations for makeup and accessories, fashion runways being set up, and tons of people in costumes all over the place. Generally, the area was a bit “touristy” for us, but all the zombie stuff was pretty cool.

saturday

After the mall, we went back over to Station 26 Brewing Co. to meet up with a couple of friends from grad school who had moved to Denver. We were having such a good time we stayed the whole evening.

I wish I could have had one more day in Denver! It was a wonderful trip.