Editor’s Note: You may remember Natalie from her post earlier this year about the books she loves to read over and over again. As school gets underway, I asked her to think of the books a teacher assigned that turned out to be personal favorites. Here’s her list.
All of us have had our share of bad book assignments for school. In my experience, the books assigned generally aren’t bad, but they just aren’t very good either. However, every once in a while, the exceptional book comes along. Suddenly, you don’t dread the thought of “read chapter 4 by Tuesday.” Reading assignments are finished before they’re due, and notes fill with details. I’ve had a handful of good books assigned by teachers; they have a variety of great qualities: funny, thought provoking, inspiring, exciting, and the like. The books listed below are from very different genres, but they are each enjoyable in different ways.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
A semi-autobiographical novel about a Native American teenager living on a reservation, this book doesn’t have a page that is boring to read. Fourteen year-old Junior tells the story of his family, friends, and school through an illustrated diary. The book leads the reader through life-changing situations with razor sharp wit and an excellent voice. You really feel like you are in Junior’s head. This book draws attention to important issues like poverty, bullying, and discrimination. It also reminds us not to forget the young people in our community, as they are just as affected by problems as everyone else.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury gives a fascinating and sometimes horrifying vision of the future in a series of short stories. The stories start in the year 1999 and continue into 2026. They depict the experiences of humans fleeing a dystopian Earth and its ignorant population. They go to Mars to escape from the troubles plaguing them on their home planet. I found this book to be thoroughly enjoyable and fun to read because of Bradbury’s beautiful writing and use of imagery, his understandable characters, and the stories’ lessons about respect and appreciation for the unknown. What I found especially great about this book was Bradbury’s use of an inter-planetary setting to explore issues that are still prevalent in our world today. The problems remain the same from Earth to Mars, and they also are unchanged from 1950 to the our world of 2013.
Liz’s Pick: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I thought this book was so salacious when it was assigned in my eighth grade English class and the adult themes in this book about shame, guilt and the female body are as relevant today as ever. I’m also a huge fan of the film adaptions - but the book is a short and easy read that always delivers.
So what books did your teacher assign that you actually loved?
Post by Natalie El-Hai. Natalie enjoys science and all things theater. She spends her free time reading and snuggling with her cats. She will be a sophomore at Southwest High School this fall.
Meet Emily Farquharson (aka Frogmella, @frogmellaink on Twitter). She’s the co-founder of Geek Girl Pen Pals, a wonderful online community of geeks who write letters to other geeks. On the 15th of every month, Emily and her comrade Leslie match all participants with a pen pal so they can write, tweet, and bleat to each other.
Farquharson also makes up one half of
So read Farquharson’s interview with Being Geek Chic and discover her passions, advice, memoir title, and geeky crush…
Q: What led you to your passion?
A: Oh so many things! From a very, very young age I read whatever I could get my hands on. By the time I was 8 I had read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Hobbit and pretty much everything Roald Dahl wrote for children, which set my imagination off and opened up so many other doors. I also loved art a lot as a young one, particularly Dali and Picasso, which lead me to painting, drawing and generally being crafty. I am very lucky to have wonderful parents who did nothing by encourage me to explore, learn, read and it is something I have taken with me through my life. I am passionate about so much, not just books and art, but music, fashion, films and television, comics, science, baking and food, travel, ancient history, animation and more. I could fill a book with the things I am passionate about, because they have all shaped me into who I am in some way!
Every May I start loading up my bookshelf, or rather my Kindle these days, with my summer reads. I always start out really ambitious and then somewhere along the way some books get read and others don’t. However, I’ve tried to keep my list tight this summer so I can get it all done. Here’s what I’m reading:
Attempting Normal by Marc Maron
Confession: I already started reading this one this weekend. I’m a religious listener of Marc’s WTF Podcast and I’m one of the few that apparently doesn’t fast forward through his intro. Don’t judge me, but I’m really not a fan of cats. Love Marc anyway. I even love hearing about his cats. Yeah, he’s that funny.
Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer
The folks at Twelfth Planet Press sent me this book and I’m eager to read it. They’re an independent publishing house specializing in speculative fiction. I’m happy to report that independent publisher’s seem to be alive and well.
The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
My fellow Baker Street Babe wrote this book last year and I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m just getting to it now. If you love Sherlock Holmes stories, you need to check out her books.
Positron: Episodes 1-3 by Margaret Atwood
Do I even need to say anything? Atwood is a goddess. With all three Positron episodes now available as a set, I’m jazzed to check these out.
The Savant by Jack El-Hai
Jack is one hell of a writer and a great friend of mine. If you love real science stories that SEEM like they could be science fiction, then you need to check out his books.
What are you going to be reading this summer? Have you read any of the books I’ve listed here?
P.S. Tidal Wave Girls was featured on Jezebel yesterday. Yes, I did a big of a jig.
After years of occasionally flirting with the Kindle app on my iPad, I’ve officially moved on to the Kindle Paperwhite. Let’s just say, my eyes have never been more pleased. Oddly, I’m also relieved. Here’s why: I don’t think paperbacks are sustainable for my lifestyle anymore.
I wish it wasn’t the case. There’s something beautiful and romantic about the tactile experience of holding a new book in your hands and turning those pages. Somehow, I know I will mourn the loss of it in my life. Unlike CDs, which I have never missed since getting my first mp3 player in 2004, the physicality of a book seems personal. But practicality ultimately wins out for me and here’s the three key reasons:
1. I don’t own a McMansion. As a city dweller, I just don’t have the space. When you choose to live closer to the city, your home is ultimately smaller. There’s no “study” in my place and the number of bookshelves one home can accommodate has reached its maximum. In fact, my most recent storage effort involved “stacking” the books in a corner, but when the books got to be four and a half feet tall, I realized it was also a safety hazard.
2. My library is digitally accommodating. If you haven’t asked your library about their digital loan program, you really should. Sure, the selection may be smaller and occasionally the wait times are longer, but it turns out that most libraries know they need to offer this service and are eager to talk with patrons about how to make it work to everyone’s benefit. I’ve even asked my local library if they could get certain books and they’ve been able to acquire them for me. It never, never hurts to ask. On top of this, just think of the possibilities when it comes to interpersonal loans as well. With Amazon, I can lend a book to a friend without the fear that I’ll never see it again.
3. Research has never been easier. I’m in the very beginning of stages of a new documentary project and while I never thought this would be a key reason why I ultimately made the jump to 100% digital reading, it has actually been the turning point. Keeping notes, saving key phrases and sharing important passages is easier and simpler than my previous process. The idea of sitting with a book, highlighting passages, writing notes on a post-it and then scanning everything to send as a PDF in an email seems ludicrous to me. Now, I simply read and save a bunch of passages as I go and export them to my email when I’m done.
Have you made the jump to exclusive eReading? What are the key reasons whys? Is it the environmental impact? The low eBook prices?
I intended to read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) By Jenny Lawson aka the Bloggess, The Magician King: A Novel By Lev Grossman and Imagine: How Creativity Works By Jonah Lehrer. And I dutifully started off well! I started reading Lawson’s memoir and enjoyed the taxidermy stories and tales of revenge - but due to ridiculously glowing reviews - my expectations were too high. And I got to page 100 and I just lost interest. Which leads me to share an important rule I have about reading:
I know this is an unpopular method, but hear me out. There are HUNDREDS, no THOUSANDS, of brilliant books that will capture your heart and mind. There is no reason to keep reading a book that you don’t love. I know, I know. You’re in a book club. Well, SKIM.
I was a little bummed that I didn’t love taxidermy stories as much as I thought I would - but it ended up being OK, because I had other books to read. Just as I was about to move onto The Magician King, Nora Ephron died. I was suddenly ashamed of myself… My friend Jeff had given me one of Nora’s books months ago and I still hadn’t cracked the cover. So, The Magician King would have to wait.
I inhaled I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections. It was funny and honest and not my usual “type” of read, but it was brilliant. I started working backwards from there. Despite the fact that I don’t actually feel bad about my neck (yet!), I still loved I Feel Bad About My Neck. This passage, in particular, was like discovering a nugget of gold. I already knew it - I just hadn’t held it before. It was real to me. It was now my truth.
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”
I had always loved Nora’s movies, which is why it’s so baffling that I didn’t dive into her books sooner. If for no other reason than because she so thoroughly understood what I loved about reading books (including hers) in the first place.
So now I’m back at The Magician’s King. (Admittedly, I took a minor detour this weekend and read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, because I can’t ever seem to get enough Gaiman…)
I’ve decided to toss out Jonah Lehrer’s book, because if you’re going to make shit up, call it fiction. It’s really that simple for me.
How’s your summer reading going? Do you have rules for when you will stop reading a book? Has your reading list taken any detours?
Carolynn Duncan (@hundreddollar on Twitter), our Lady Geek of the Week, packs an impressive resume. She’s the CEO and Marathon Program Facilitator of Portland Ten, an education company which runs and licenses financial literacy programs for entrepreneurs and business leaders across the country, AND she’s the CEO of Founder Training Center, a business education company which helps emerging entrepreneurs and business owners sharpen their business skills.
She’s got a lot on her plate, but she took some time to answer some questions about her work, geekiness, dreams, and schemes.
Q: What has led you to your passion?
A: Continuously making conscious, focused choices about how I spend my time daily and annually, in order to grow in areas that make effective use of my abilities in ways I hope result in good outcomes within my life and toward the networks/people/circles/organizations I’m connected with & have responsibilities toward serving. This approach has gotten me through transitions like starting as a liberal arts undergrad to finding my first jobs in social work to teaching ESL to learning business management to studying high growth entrepreneurship to working in venture funding to teaching tech entrepreneurship to now working in social venture/philanthrocapitalism, in a very short period of time (6 years), and I think it was the decision to explore a variety of interests rapidly while building skills along the way, until I found things I am totally enthralled by that are also core to my lifelong interests/mission.
Q: What inspires you in the world?
A: Ideas, people, places, problems - injustices to, and suffering within, vulnerable populations in particular, possibilities, barriers (how they can be overcome), music - all great/lovely forms of music, growth, opportunity, and most importantly, my close friends & family (and cat!). Taking whatever’s available within close proximity and trying to make more from it, or of it, than it is currently or can become without some imagination/effort.
Q: First time you realized you were “geeky?”
A: It’s sort of a continuous realization that happens when I compare/contrast my favorite/usual activities (working on spreadsheets, analyzing data, researching interesting ideas, hacking on projects, obsessing about learning new things in my technical areas of expertise - finance, investment, software, business, technology, etc.) with the majority of others a) in my age group (31) and/or b) in the US at large: hanging out, going to dinner, going to the movies, watching TV, shopping, etc. It’s not that I don’t enjoy those activities as well, it’s just that given the choice, I literally would rather spend 3 days in a row doing exclusively geeky things, and everything else seems like an interruption to when I can get back to doing things I enjoy the most. As a young girl, my obsession first reading (any book I could get access to) then music (piano, then violin, then singing, then viola, then cello); as a teen it was language (first English literature, then Spanish, then Russian, then German), etc. So this has been a lifelong trait… ;)
Q: What would you tell you 13-year-old self?
A: Pace yourself. You’re on a wild, epic rollercoaster of life and the next several years may not be the best of the whole experience overall, but you definitely won’t want to miss what comes next, so stay tuned. And try to care a little less about what the assholes in your junior high class think, about anything/everything, as they’re totally wrong on all levels.
Q: “I admit it—I’ve never seen/read/experienced: ____”
A: I’ve never traveled abroad - yet! That seems unusual because I work with many people who are 1-3 decades older than me, who’ve all traveled to many interesting places - Egypt, Israel, Samoa, England, Russia, Denmark, Ireland, India, etc. - and I’ve yet to do so. Look forward to remedying this one in the near future!
Thanks to Edward Borasky for nominating this week’s Lady Geek! Do you know someone worthy of Lady Geek of the Week? Send her name and her website (or blog or Twitter account) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo credit: Devon D’Ewart Hyatt)
Post by Emma Bauer, who works as BGC’s official intern. Clearly, she’s got great taste. She is a PR enthusiast, history scholar, tea drinker, fashion devotee, and of course, aspires to Be Geek Chic. On twitter: @emmalynnbauer