2019 TBR Pile Challenge

November Checkpoint #TBR2019RBR

It’s November and the TBR Pile Challenge Continues!

Folks, this is a RED ALERT. We are running out of time. With just 6(?) weeks left in the 2019 calendar year, I hope you have plenty of time available to finish your challenge books and get your posts linked-up for the grand prize! 

(Should we do this again next year? Let me know in the comments!)

If you’ve completed your list or made a lot of progress, share that in the comments! We’d love to cheer you on and feel motivated too, especially those of us (cough cough) who have been stuck for a little bit. Also, as a reminder, if you did read all 12 (or 14!) books on your list but want to write a final wrap-up post for the challenge, in order to be entered once more into the grand prize giveaway when the challenge ends, please feel free! I’ll remind everyone in December.

At the moment, we have 267 posts linked-up for this challenge (soon to be 268, since I count this one! Ha!). That’s pretty darn good, although I would love to see us hit 300 pots overall. What do you think? Can we do that by year’s end? I will do my best to add to that count, despite the fact that I’ve been stuck on my list since June or July. Oh, dear. What a bad leader I am! 

Progress: 7 of 12 Completed / 7 of 12 Reviewed

My progress is exactly what it was these last two or three months. And now Big Brother goes and releases DISNEY+ and I’m like, well, wonderful! Let’s see if I can pull myself away from TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck and Moana long enough to do some reading. That’s a big ask right now, considering I’m sick (cough cough) and I’m heading into the final 4 weeks of the academic semester, when my personal time, well… wait, what’s personal time? 

Books read:

How are you doing?

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Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated!

MINI-CHALLENGE #4 WINNER: 

Congratulations to Jane at Just Reading a Book, who has won a book of choice from Amazon.com or The Book Depository! ($20 USD or less). I’ve been in touch with the winner and hope to reveal to everyone which book they chose. Onward to December and the end of our challenge! 

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS! 

 

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2019 TBR Pile Challenge

October Checkpoint #TBR2019RBR

Happy Autumn, TBR Pile Challengers! 

Well, it’s autumn here in the United States, but I suppose it is spring elsewhere. Anyhow, those are the two best seasons, aren’t they? So, happiness all-around!  

I wonder if you might take a moment to leave a comment this month and share your favorite book from this year’s challenge? If you’ve completed your list or made a lot of progress, share that too! We’d love to cheer you on and feel motivated too, especially those of us (cough cough) who have been stuck for a little bit. 

Speaking of stuck, there have only been 9 new links added since last month’s checkpoint, and I have a feeling more reading than that has happened, but maybe not? I for one did NOT make any progress, so I can’t fault anyone else. In fact, I’ve been so busy that the last post I made on this blog was, wait for it, the September checkpoint post! (Where I lamented not making any challenge progress. Ha!) It’s time to take a look at my daily planner and see how I can start managing my time a little better. 

Progress: 7 of 12 Completed / 7 of 12 Reviewed

My progress is exactly what it was. Even my overall reading has been slowing down, as I focus on more in-depth readings of course works + grading student papers, etc. That said, I have been reading some comic books (House of X / Powers of X) and read an absolutely stunning book called Ziggy, Stardust & Me that I’ll need to review soon, or re-read again. Maybe both. I also finished Living Buddha, Living Christ, which was great, and the new long-awaited new release from Stephen Chbosky, which was fine enough (it doesn’t hold a candle to The Perks of Being A Wallflower, but what could?). Now that we are headed into the eigth week of the academic term, I hope I’ve adapted well enough to my work schedule in order to get back to an effective reading/writing and leisure schedule as well. But enough about me.

Books read:

How are you doing?

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Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated!

MINI-CHALLENGE #4

To be eligible to win a book of your choice ($20USD or less from Amazon or The Book Depository), please leave a comment on this post sharing your favorite TBR Pile Challenge read of all time. If you’re new this year, it would need to be from this year’s list, but if you’ve participated many times, it can be from any challenge list in the last 8 years. (Yes, I HAVE been hosting this since 2011, can you believe it?) I can’t wait to hear what you all share, and good luck! I’ll choose and post the winner for November’s checkpoint, so be sure to comment by November 14th. 

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS! 

 

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2019 TBR Pile Challenge

September Checkpoint! #TBR2019RBR

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

I wake this morning to find almost 250 posts linked-up for this challenge. Bravo! 

I wonder if you might take a moment to leave a comment this month and share your favorite book from this year’s challenge? If you’ve completed your list or made a lot of progress, share that too! We’d love to cheer you on and feel motivated too, especially those of us (cough cough) who have been stuck for a little bit. 

Speaking of stuck, as summer here in the world’s hottest region begins to come to an end, I will begin to find myself more often outdoors. That usually means a rapid slowing-down of my reading progress. This is a little problematic because I’ve already had two months in a row with now challenge list progress! Teaching two literature courses plus composition courses tends to whittle away at any of my free time, but especially free/pleasure reading, because I need to read so much material for lectures, reviews, and of course I need to read student work, too. All of that is to say… I swear, it’s not my fault! (Ha ha – are you convinced?)

Progress: 7 of 12 Completed / 7 of 12 Reviewed

My progress is exactly what it was. Even my overall reading has been slowing down, as I focus on more in-depth readings of course works + grading student papers, etc. That said, I have been reading some comic books (House of X / Powers of X) and read an absolutely stunning book called Ziggy, Stardust & Me that I’ll need to review soon, or re-read again. Maybe both. I’m also about to finish Living Buddha, Living Christ, and I hope to put some thoughts together for that one as well. Now that we are headed into the fourth week of the academic term, I hope I’ve adapted well enough to my work schedule in order to get back to an effective reading/writing and leisure schedule as well. But enough about me.

Books read:

How are you doing?

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Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated!

MINI-CHALLENGE #3 Winner:

Constance from Staircase Wit! She chose to receive a copy of THE SUMMER HOUSE PARTY. Congratulations, Constance! 

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS! 

 

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Classics, Japanese, John Okada

No-No Boy by John Okada

John Okada’s No-No Boy is the story of Ichiro Yamada, a young Japanese-American man who comes of age during World War II. He and his family are forced into a Japanese internment camp for two years, after which Ichiro is ironically drafted to serve in the U.S. Army. When he refuses to serve, he is arrested and imprisoned, ultimately losing his freedom for another two years.

The story begins just after Yamada has been released from prison. The war has ended and the Japanese-Americans are coming to terms with what this means for them. Some, like Ichiro’s friends, served as “proud Americans” and now look to return home as military heroes, taking their place in a grateful society. Others, like Ichiro’s mother, refuse to believe that Japan lost. They consider any anti-Japanese sentiment, even the most clearly documented, factual evidence, as nothing more than American propaganda. And others, like Ichiro, who refused to serve, struggle to find a place at all. They are neither American nor Japanese, anymore, and they are vilified by almost everyone.

No-No Boy was a surprise for me, in two ways. First, it is not the story I expected. I went into this believing that it would be a direct and damning critique of what the United States government did to the Japanese-Americans during World War II. But, it’s not that. Ichiro’s character, and those who surround him, elucidate just how complex and convoluted the reactions to this time were, even for those whose lives and livelihoods had been robbed. It was uncomfortable to read any perspective that was at all gracious to this time period, but even more so discomfiting to read it from the perspective of a young Japanese man.

The second surprise was in the prose itself. Reading Okada had me thinking of a bizarre marriage between F. Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger. I imagined the two had a young Japanese-American child, and that child became a writer named John Okada. His style is acerbic and beautiful, pointed and meandering. He reveals, in his prose, the same complications and confusions reflected in the time and people surrounding his main character. Even the somewhat cliche ending, which felt, in the moment, like a tragic disappointment to me as a reader, developed in my mind over the ensuing twenty-four hours into something obvious and unavoidable, and painfully sad.

To put it plainly, Okada is a subtle genius, and his work is both challenging and unique. I believe Asian-American writing is on the verge of being more thoughtfully recognized and fully embraced, something that is long overdue. Okada should be a staple in this deserved renaissance.

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2019 TBR Pile Challenge

August Checkpoint! #TBR2019RBR

Greetings, TBR Pile Challengers! 

Y’all! We have more than 230 posts linked-up for this challenge! How incredible is that?

I hear summer is coming to a close; students and teachers are returning to school, and many are eagerly awaiting the autumn season. Count me in as one of those many! It’s still very much summer in my part of the world, with temperatures hitting 105+ degrees every day (for at least a few more weeks). I’m more than ready for September to get here (or October…or November…) 

Last month’s checkpoint came with the third of four planned mini-challenges. I hope you’ll all take the opportunity to return to last month’s post and look at the few book title poems that people submitted — they were fantastic! Thanks to those who did participate, it was a lot of fun reading your poems. You made the choice very difficult. Mini-challenge #4 will be coming soon. 

Progress: 7 of 12 Completed / 7 of 12 Reviewed

Well, after a pretty good stretch of progress through June, I hit a bit of a wall this last month. There’s a reason, though! I decided to focus my reading entirely on POETRY in July but, unfortunately, I didn’t have any poetry on my TBR List. I’ll have to be sure to include even more genre diversity next year! I had done a themed reading month for June, too (LGBTQ+), but I had two titles that worked within that category.

Oh well, there’s plenty of time to catch up! If I get even one book from my list read in the month of August, that will put me back on track with 8 books in the 8th month, right? Since I’ve turned my attention heavily toward writing, I might try to make my two “on writing” books (Reading Like A Writer and Light the Dark) the next two to read and cross off my challenge list. HOW ARE YOU DOING!?

Books read:

How are you doing?

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Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated!

MINI-CHALLENGE #3 Winner:

Constance from Staircase Wit! Constance will receive a book of her choice from The Book Depository ($20USD or less). I look forward to sharing her selection with everyone, once she has made her decision. Congratulations, Constance! 

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS! 

 

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Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

“All of us suffer from injustice and intolerance. Instead of being brothers and sisters to each other, we aim guns at each other. When we are overtaken by anger, we think that the only response is to punish the other person. The fire of anger continues to burn in us, and it continues to burn our brothers and sisters. This is the situation of the world, and it is why deep looking is needed to help us understand that all of us are victims.”

Yesterday, I finished reading The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. I found it helpful in two specific ways. First, Hanh does a commendable job of explaining the tenants of Buddhism and its history, including the historical splits and how the different regions took different approaches to the faith/philosophy following the Buddha’s death. Second, Hanh spends a lot of time emphasizing what is important to practitioners of Buddhism, especially mindfulness and The Middle Path. He often clarifies what Buddhism is versus what it is not, in particular noting where Buddhist teachings have been misapplied or misunderstood.

For someone who is new to Buddhism, this book is really an excellent and helpful starting point. I won’t say I understand most of Buddhism, yet. In fact, a lot of the the different components, like The Four Noble Truths, The Five Precepts, and The Eightfold Path, are still pretty confusing to me; however, the book did help me understand these principles on a basic level, to get an idea of the way forward and the general attitude/practice. If nothing else, it provided me with a great deal of impetus for learning more and a number of ways to pursue that learning, whether that be direction to specific texts or guidance to a way of being in and interacting with the world.

It’s hard to review religious texts, but I’m approaching Buddhism more as a philosophy than a faith. It’s different from Taoism, for example, in that there’s no specific expectation of an after-life, deified salvation, or reincarnation, for example, which separates it from a lot of similar religions. Instead, it’s a guide to living peacefully and with kindness, to finding wholeness and balance, and to helping others live their best lives as well. I think this is why the philosophy is resonating so loudly with me; for a long time, I’ve been agnostic who is simply trying his best to be a kind person that lives up to his potential, finds inner-peace, and helps others succeed whenever possible. Buddhism is interesting because it is a similar philosophy, with the strength and community of thousands of years and millions of people supporting it.

I will say, this book seemed to get repetitive after a while, partly because I started to become confused about the more technical teachings. They all seemed similar to me, and I had a difficult time understanding when/how each of them was supposed to apply or be applied. In treating this book as a primer, though, I have to say I am impressed, and I’m eager to read and to learn more. The best parts are Hanh’s personal stories about Vietnam. When he speaks in his own voice about his own experiences, it is beautiful. Hanh has a great deal of texts to his name, covering a variety of topics, and I think it will be beneficial to read specific books about specific ideas, now that I’ve read an overview of Buddhism generally. It might help me connect the dots a little more. To this end, I’ve purchased and will be starting LIVING BUDDHA, LIVING CHRIST, next. I have the 20th-Anniversary edition, and I look forward to beginning it tomorrow.

I’ve also downloaded the free PLUM VILLAGE app for my phone. Hanh’s Plum Village is an actual Buddhist colony (is that the right word? See, still much to learn), and the app provides meditations, songs and chants, lectures based on user’s questions (e.g. “Can we be mindful in a competitive environment?”), readings, contemplations, practices, resources, etc. It’s a really wonderful resource.

Notable Quotes

“Your purpose is to be yourself. You don’t have to run anywhere to become someone else. You are wonderful just as you are.”

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”

“Anxiety, the illness of our time, comes primarily from our inability to dwell in the present moment.”

“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”

“Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas. If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct. If it is not, we say it is incorrect. In either case, we learn nothing.”

“All of us suffer from injustice and intolerance. Instead of being brothers and sisters to each other, we aim guns at each other. When we are overtaken by anger, we think that the only response is to punish the other person. The fire of anger continues to burn in us, and it continues to burn our brothers and sisters. This is the situation of the world, and it is why deep looking is needed to help us understand that all of us are victims.”

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Personal, Politics

Mad World / Deep Wounds

I can’t say much more about what’s happening in our country right now. It’s like speaking into a void, particularly with those still supporting this POTUS.

I realize that might be you, but I can no longer quietly accept your support, for whatever reason, of the man currently occupying our White House. If this offends you, then I accept your right to unsubscribe from my blog, though I’ll be sad to see you go.

I do want to share thoughts that I emailed to someone today, who suggested that the problem with all this gun violence stems from our nation’s loss of civility, separation from traditional values, rejection of God, and treatment of everything as “political.” In effect, this individual placed the blame for these shootings at the foot of the liberal media, pro-choice supporters, and non-Christians, and then suggested it is everyone else who makes these massacres political. This, I cannot abide.

So, here’s where I stand:

“Treat each other civilly” is a wonderful idea. I try to practice it every day. I’ve turned to meditation to help me respond with patience and kindness in a time of total madness, because I agree with the idea that we should be civil. We should be good to each other. But quite frankly, that statement is also an empty token coming from someone who supports this POTUS. Of course we should all be nice to each other. Now, reconcile that, please, with your support for this man. He’s so kind and compassionate? He never calls for violence, never vilifies the other? He is a role model for decorum? His Twitter account and his rallies are joyful manifestations of Jesus’s teachings?

With these platitudes, you speak out of both sides of your mouth. Be a good person, or don’t. People who genuinely want civility and kindness and to live like CHRIST, in truth not just in name, cannot support this president. They cannot. He is not that person. So, maybe it makes you feel better to say you, personally, are a good person and treat others well. In general, I agree with that. I learned a lot about charity and family and friendship from my parents, and that’s where you’re right about part of this–that it matters who we surround ourselves with. But is being good, personally, enough when the world around us is burning because the man you still support is lighting the torches? Civility is an action. Kindness is an action. To sit back and let unkindness happen, is a choice. It’s time to choose better.

I hope you will consider the cognitive dissonance you’ve accepted in your own ideology when you tell me that “people are trying to make it political” while making this argument: “Traditional marriage, traditional family values, and pro-life are what we need. God is what we need.” (P.S. whose values? Whose god? Just yours? P.P.S. How many atheists have you heard of committing mass murder? Hindus? Scientologists, for that matter?). And “anyone who doesn’t believe in these is what’s wrong with our country and is responsible for the condition we’re in.”

In other words, when you don’t agree with someone else’s perspective or way of being in the world, they are being political. But the way you think and feel is, “simply natural” and “getting back to normal.” Why is your normal the normal? Why do you get to define the right way for all of us to live, the right beliefs for all of us to adopt? Do you know how these shooters were raised? Do you know anything about their parents? Do we honestly know anything other than they are white, male, and got their hands on weapons that shouldn’t even exist (excuse me – who needs to own a weapon capable of killing 40 people in under a minute? What kind of sport is that? I think not.) How can you, in other words, suggest that they weren’t raised the right way?

Terrorists are radicalized over time, and they are taught to accept messages that make them feel comfortable, needed, marginalized, and activated. They are taught to hate, and not just by their parents, but by the systems in place that applaud it or refuse to condemn it. Avowed supporter (like the Florida bomber) or not (like the El Paso shooter who seems to have been a white supremacist anyway, at least according to his “manifesto”), the fact is that a cooperative leadership, however subtle, sends the message to these people that it’s okay to go ahead and “take the country back.” That’s the message they’re getting from this president and that’s why the majority of them are white males. They cannot accept that other people have the right to live here, too.

This is the problem with straight white male Christian privilege. (You’re going to think that’s an attack on you. It’s not. But do the math. To solve a problem, we have to understand it. The people committing these atrocities are almost always white males who almost always identify as Christian or who came from a western-Christian background; the KKK? Founded as a Christian organization. In my own understanding of Christianity, these people are obviously not Christians, but something radical IS happening with right-wing Christian extremism and it’s beyond negligent to ignore it.) There’s systemic, institutional racism and sexism running rampant through our civic and governmental systems, there always has been. People are being taught that it is “the other” who is the problem. But this gets progressively worse when black people and immigrants are referred to as vermin, criminals, and animals by the most powerful person in the world. Honestly, what do you think that does to people teetering on the edge? Do you really think this president doesn’t know what he’s doing when he Tweets out that language? When he inspires violence against his adversaries at his rallies? We’ve read the history books — how can we ignore it when it’s happening in our own front yard? You think the press supporting him doesn’t know what they’re doing when they publish the names and addresses of abortion doctors? When the NRA puts images of four minority congresswomen on their advertisement with targets on their heads? There is absolutely a call to violence happening in this country, but you’re ignoring where it really comes from. Why?

This is why a white male shooter who walks into a black church and kills a bunch of people performing a bible study is taken into custody, given a bullet proof vest for his protection, and fed Burger King, while a black man named Philando Castile who is pulled over and complies with the police, tells them outright that he has a license to conceal and there is a concealed weapon in his car, is murdered in front of his wife and child.

This is why a white male who posts anti-Mexican immigrant racist rants online can get his hands on an automatic rifle, kill 20+ people, and be taken alive into custody, but a black man named Eric Garner is choked to death on the sidewalk for selling cigarettes.

These things are happening all the time. It’s easy to look at one case in the news and say, “darn, that’s terrible.” But there is instance after instance after instance of this happening, with no recourse. No one held accountable. Black and brown people are simply not valued the way white men are in this country, and their mis-treatment, even murder, is not taken nearly as seriously as the feelings of white people. I’m a white person who can acknowledge this. It’s not an attack on myself or my life, because I do try to live a good life. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see what’s happening at the macro-level. We have to be able to see this and acknowledge it, and we white people have to be involved in fixing it.

What did you think of Captain Marvel? Black Panther? I hear a lot of people think they were “too political” because they dared to cast a woman and a black man as heroes. Did you walk away from Bohemian Rhapsody when truths about Freddie Mercury were presented on the screen? Do these stories not have a right to exist, too? Why does their presence become “political”? Why isn’t it political that almost every superhero or rock star is assumed to be and always has been presented as straight and white? Are all these “other” people who are getting stories of their own the ones who are being political, really? Or is it the person who is made so uncomfortable by other people finally getting a chance to have a story, that they refuse to listen or watch? (The sky is falling! The sky is falling!)

You think white men are being minimized just because other people get to have a voice. That’s making it political. Life is political. Fighting for one’s life is absolutely political. I encourage you to dig into others’ lives and see what it has been like for them, trying to have what you’ve taken for granted most of yours. The peace of being present and visible in society without fear of molestation or murder. The right to simply participate in public life without being threatened by an angry fragile straight white person who is offended by their existence. It’s been called a “political” act to hold hands with my partner in public. It’s also a death wish. What does my presence in public do to deserve that? How is someone’s fear and hatred stoked that greatly by two people simply being in the world, that they’d kill over it? How many trans people have been killed this year? How many gay couples attacked? How many people who “look” foreign have been stopped, lately, and held without cause and without access to a lawyer? Where is this violence really coming from? I hope you’ll think about it.

I believe this president is a white supremacist and always has been, from the time he got involved in housing to his reaction to the Central Park 5 scandal, to his comments on his “superior genes.” And it’s worse than that. His supporters are enabling him. I hope more than anything right now that you will start to do some genuine research into institutional racism, straight white privilege (that doesn’t mean white people get it easy, that’s another mischaracterization designed to keep people attacking each other rather than the systems in place that hold everyone back), for-profit prisons and the right-wing extremist takeover, including Christian evangelical sharia (yes, that’s what it is) of local governments, school boards, and public media. There’s no liberal bias in the media. That’s some brilliant spin. Research this. Look up the Mercers and the Kochs and the Murdochs, the people who actually own the vast majority of television, newspaper, and news radio outlets. It’s not liberal Hollywood.

If a guy kneeling on the sidelines during the national anthem deserves the president’s rage, but an unarmed boy murdered for wearing a hoodie while black somehow deserved what he got, then there’s something happening that you’re not acknowledging.

I believe he is a white supremacist. White supremacist groups support him gleefully. But he’s not the problem. He’s a symptom of the deeper issues I’ve started to outline above. There’s no excuse for being comfortable in this company.

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