I Promise I Won’t Freak Out This Time.

I have a certificate in Women’s Studies. I’m still not entirely sure how I received it, but I feel that way about most of my college experience. I *do* remember taking my first Women’s Studies class. The four dudes that lived with me also remember. Because I lost my mind. Like, if they didn’t do the dishes, they were clearly keeping me down.

Or, you know, they were 20-something guys.

I was furious all. the. time. Everything I read simply made me more angry. So like an adult, I stopped reading the assigned texts.

Fast forward to now and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Adult Summer Reading program! This year we asked our summer readers to set a reading goal. I volunteered to be a reading coach and set a goal of my own. I will read those feminist classics that I avoided in the interest of not burning my house down. (So far “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is the only one that had me eyeing the matches.)

Here is a short list, with blurbs from the catalog. (I didn’t read them yet, so I can’t write reviews.) What’s missing? What should I skip? OMG, summer is so short!

SimonedBThe Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir’s masterpiece weaves together history, philosophy, economics, biology, and a host of other disciplines to analyze the Western notion of “woman” and to explore the power of sexuality. Drawing on extensive interviews with women of every age and station of life, masterfully synthesizing research about women’s bodies and psyches as well as their historic and economic roles, The Second Sex is an encyclopedic and cogently argued document about inequality and enforced “otherness.” A vital and life-changing work that has dramatically revised the way women talk and think about themselves.

KateChopinThe Awakening, Kate Chopin

Novelist and short story writer Kate Chopin (1851-1904) was the first American woman to deal with women’s roles as wives and mothers. The Awakening (1899), her most famous novel, concerns a woman dissatisfied with her indifferent husband. She eventually gives in to her desire for other men and commits adultery. It is a searing indictment of the religious and social pressures brought to bear on women who transgress restrictive Victorian codes of behavior.

BettyFriedanThe Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan

Landmark, groundbreaking, classic–these adjectives barely describe the earthshaking and long-lasting effects of Betty Friedan’s . This is the book that defined “the problem that has no name,” that launched the Second Wave of the feminist movement, and has been awakening women and men with its insights into social relations, which still remain fresh, ever since.

AudreLordeSister Outsider, Audre Lorde

Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope.

NaomiWolfThe Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf

The bestselling classic that redefined our view of the relationship between beauty and female identity. In today’s world, women have more power, legal recognition, and professional success than ever before. However, Wolf is troubled by a different kind of social control, which, she argues, may prove just as restrictive as the traditional image of homemaker and wife. It’s the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of “the flawless beauty.”

And much more by Lucille Clifton, an amazing author and poet I discovered during National Poetry Month in April.

homage to my hips
these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Anyone else have a reading goal? Need a coach?

not burning anything down currently,
suzy

 

 

 

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The Girl and the Goal

bookcover

So, my Summer Reading goal is to read more “adult” books. If you’ve read one of my previous posts, then you know that I mainly read young adult books. One question that the children’s and teen librarians are asking participants when they sign up for the Summer Reading program is: Why are you signing up for the Summer Reading program? One of the answers is “to challenge myself.” That option stuck out to me. I’d like to think that my goal is challenging myself because I’m broadening my horizons. I’m stepping outside of my reading comfort zone.

The book that helped me to get out of this reading comfort zone is The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. One day I was lucky enough to find a best-seller copy and decided to see what the hype was all about. The book is well worth all of the praise. It helped break down the stereotype that I had about adult books being boring. I realize now that I hadn’t come across the right book to crush this stereotype until now. This book was full of twists and turns. I was shocked when I found out who the killer was.

I won’t give away any spoilers. If you’re looking for a good book this is it. I know it’s hard to find an available copy in our system at the moment, so I would recommend looking on OverDrive for an audio or electronic version. Since it’s hard to get a copy in every medium I’m going to suggest some read alikes. They are The Secret Place by Tana French, The First Prophet by Kay Hooper, and Losing You by Nicci French.

Other titles that helped me towards my summer reading goal are God Help the Child by Toni Morrison and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling. (I can’t wait for her new book to come out in the fall!)

What are your summer reading goals? Let us know in the comments below!

~Kayla

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Tumblr’ing Toward Ecstasy

Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress. You can do a ton with it—this blog proves that! In spite of the versatility of WordPress, Tumblr remains my social media platform of choice for sharing my obsessions.

Hiking, haiku, gaming or what have you—Tumblr’s easy-to-use-and-customize online publishing tools let you share your interests with the wider world. We’ve got a few nice books on Tumblr that can help you get started, but keep in mind, the site changes all of the time, and new features crop up regularly!

Tackling Tumblr by Thord D. Hedengren

Tumblr For Dummies by Sue Jenkins

Sams Teach Yourself Tumblr In 10 Minutes by Bud E. Smith

If you’re anything like me, you might need a brush-up on your digital photography skills, and we’ve got that covered too!

Camera And Craft: Learning The Technical Art Of Digital Photography by Andy Batt

Your Photos Stink: David Busch’s Lessons In Elevating Your Photography From Awful To Awesome by David Busch

Complete Digital Photography by Ben Long

While Tumblr ranks as one of the easiest blogging platforms available, this wikiHow provides a nice visual step-by-step on getting started. Tumblr offers an amazing way to share your interests with the world, and every now and then, one of your images might wind up on one of their login screens!

tumblr-login-screen

Hey, if you post enough, you can be Internet-famous too!

-Scott P.

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Keep on Movin’, Don’t Stop

Yesterday I spent most of my waking hours carrying boxes up several flights of stairs for friends who had recently moved back to Pittsburgh (yay!). It was wonderful to catch up on each others’ lives, but I got just as much out of the lifting and climbing as I did out of the intellectual camaraderie. There’s something wonderful about collapsing on your couch at the end of the day with the sense of a job well-done, muscles pleasantly aching because darn it, you put your back into it.

It’s strange to think that, once upon a time, you didn’t really need to make time for exercise because our society depended so much more on manual labor, both at home and at paying jobs. Now those of us in the service and information economies have to carve out space in our busy schedules to run, swim, stretch, climb, and all the other things that used to come to us naturally (and that so many other people still do for a living). Given that I can’t help someone move every day, it’s worth the schedule-shuffling if it keeps me from turning into a slack-jawed couch potato.

The Library collection has been really helpful in terms of finding new workouts and activities to try. Because I already walk all over the city, I’ve pretty much got cardio fitness under control. Books about strength training and flexibility, however, are always coming home with me from the Library for a test-drive. Here are a few of the books that have made it to my permanent home collection.

You say "ripped" like it's a bad thing.

You say “ripped” like it’s a bad thing. Image taken from Marvel Database – click through for source page.

The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health, Linda Sparrowe.

This book contains three long practices and a wide variety of short sequences that women can use through the various stages their life, from young adulthood through post-menopause. The instructions are clear, the illustrations are helpful, and the advice is comprehensive: Sparrowe covers modifications and suggested poses for pregnancy, osteoporosis, arthritis, and back pain, and she has a lot of helpful advice on topics like eating disorders, depression, and perimenopausal symptoms. If you need a serving of stretching with some heaping sides of emotional support, this is the yoga omnibus for you.

Ballet Beautiful, Mary Helen Bowers.

Always wanted to work at the barre, but can’t bring yourself to join an actual dance class? Bowers, who helped train Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan, offers a butt-kicking workout that will leave your muscles aching, your posture taller, and your face grinning from the sense of achievement you’ll feel after that last set of swan arms (tougher than they sound, I assure you). Because of my visual impairment, I’d rather learn this sort of thing from a book; however, Bowers has created a series of companion DVDs for those of you who learn better from a live instructor. Respect the ballerinas, my friend, for they are made of pure steel under those tutus, and this workout proves it.

The Abs Diet, David Zinczenko.

Normally I avoid any book with the word “diet” in it, mostly because of the “die” part (moderation in all things is more my style). The gold in this book, however, comes from the actual workout, which combines ab exercises and weight training for an all-over body buzz that will make you feel strong and confident. I like this workout because it doesn’t require a lot of special gym equipment; if you have it, that’s great, but modifications are provided for those of us who rely on free weights around the house. There’s also The Abs Diet for Women, but here’s a little secret: it’s the same workout. So don’t be fooled by gendered marketing; just get your hands on either of these books, or the companion DVDs, and get crunching.

Smart Girls Do Dumbbells, Judith Sherman-Wolin.

One of the biggest myths out there is that women who lift weights become She-Hulks; while I can think of worse things than looking like Jennifer Walters, it’s just not true, and Sherman-Wolin’s book explains why, in great detail. Once you’re convinced, you can flip to the back section where she outlines a 30-day program that alternates upper and lower body weight training with incrementally increasing weights and reps.

These workouts are great when you’re crunched for time; they’re over so fast, you think you’re not really doing anything, but as the days go by, you’ll feel stronger, healthier, and happier. By the time you’re ready to level up the weights, you’ll be feeling a lot more confident, too. This is one of my favorite workout books.

The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, Bernie Clark. 

Yin yoga uses many of the same poses you may already know from other forms of yoga; what’s different is that you hold them for long periods of time, so that when you finally release them, your whole body weeps with gratitude. At least, that’s what it feels like! This is much more pleasant than it sounds; often I do not realize how tense I am until I practice one of Clark’s sequences and feel so much better afterwards.

There’s a lot of information on the history, practice, and anatomy of yin yoga; depending on your level of interest, you can peruse it all or jump straight into the workouts, though a cursory reading of the introductory material is a good idea if you’ve never done yin style before. Each sequence is offered in two lengths: a reasonably short one (30 minutes) and a longer one (60-90 minutes), so you can modify your workout based on how much time you can make to practice. Clark says that even if you’ve only got time for one long pose, it’s better than nothing; having tested that theory myself, I agree 110%.

The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts, Hanne Blank.

Consider this book a workout for your brain that will help you design a workout for your body. Sadly, a lot of women don’t enjoy exercise because they think of it as a chore, a duty, or a punishment for a body that doesn’t fit into society’s draconian cultures for what is “acceptable.” Blank calls shenanigans on all that, and argues that movement is supposed to be fun and joyful, something you do because it feels good, not because you’re not a size zero, or because you ate cake today.

A combination of practical advice, encouragement, and writing exercises designed to help you figure out what would work for you, Blank’s book emphasizes being fit over being thin, which is good, because they aren’t necessarily the same thing. A must-read for anyone struggling with body image issues, and don’t forget the resource list in the back, which is loaded with more useful gems.

It can be really difficult to feel at home in your body when your waking life relies so heavily on your brainpower, and when the culture you live in only values that body if it fits a certain mold. I’ve managed to take my power back by finding physical activities that not only make me stronger, but bring me joy. Do you like to exercise? Why or why not? What kinds of workouts do you do most often?  Do you have a favorite workout book / DVD / download? Share your thoughts and resources in the comments section!

–Leigh Anne

with apologies to Soul II Soul

 

 

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Robot Roll Call

Welcome back, constant readers! We begin today’s blogging week with a few robot lists from Whitney Z., a library assistant in CLP’s substitute pool (with apologies to the ‘bots of MST3K).

In his third film, South African director Neill Blomkamp (District 9 and Elysium) once again sets his film in Johannesburg.  The movie focuses on a South Africa that has become so violent that police robots are being used to keep the peace.  One robot (Chappie) that has come to the end of its life and is destined for the scrap heap finds new life after a (significant) software upgrade from its maker (Dev Patel), who stole him after failing to convince the company making his police robots to allow for a testing of his rudimentary Artificial Intelligence program.  Although it was disliked by a majority of movie critics, I found it to be entertaining and enjoyed it enough to give it a solid 3 stars.  This movie isn’t going to be the next Terminator 2, but if you liked District 9, you certainly won’t be disappointed with Blomkamp’s latest effort.

Image spotted at The Ranger, a news blog for Amarillo College. Click through for their review.

Image spotted at The Ranger, a news blog for Amarillo College. Click through for their review.

A Few Robot DVDs in the Library collection:

Big Hero 6 (2015)

Terminator 2:  Judgment Day (1991)

Bicentennial Man (2000)

The Matrix (1999)

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2002)

Wall-E (2008)

If you’re looking for some reading material instead, here are four books to help you get started:

 I, Robot
Isaac Asimov
Written in 1950 and one of Science Fiction master Asimov’s first books-this collection of nine short stories introduces the world to the infamous Three Laws of Robots and gets you thinking about a robots place in our world.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Philip K. Dick

Written in 1968, one of the most popular science fiction books of all time, and (loose) inspiration for the film Bladerunner, this dystopian book tells the story of what happened after the World War left our planet almost uninhabitable (by the year 2021!) and humans evacuated the planet for others deemed more hospitable.

The Robot: A Life Story of a Technology
Nocks, Lisa

Everything has a history—including robots. Learn all about it in this fascinating book!

–Whitney Z.

 

 

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Unlikeable Characters

I recently read a book that I could barely finish because I hated the characters so much. The only character who seemed even slightly interesting in her dysfunction was a minor character who never felt fully developed. The main characters were all boring or snobbish or outright mean. Despite the fact that I knew going in that this was a book about a dysfunctional family, I couldn’t really find anything of meaning that made me want to keep reading about them.

And maybe the worst thing of all: The characters were boring in their unlikeableness.

Somehow this book just didn’t get the hang of the compelling unlikeable character, but it did make me realize that lots of my favorite novels are about unlikeable characters. In fact, lots of us love novels with characters who aren’t easy to love. So, a short list dedicated to unlikeable protagonists:

The Catcher in the Rye: It’s recently come to my attention that not everyone loves this book as much as I do! It’s hard to believe, I know. Probably a lot of this stems from the fact that Holden Caulfield is kind of a jerk. He is, however, a very sentimental and vulnerable jerk, which is why people like me and the scores of others who love this book find him palatable. And who doesn’t hate phoniness?

Anna Karenina: Another of my favorite books, with a main character who is really pretty awful. To be honest, the things that make me love this have very little to do with the title character, and EVERYTHING to do with Kitty and Levin. Anna really doesn’t have many redeemable qualities aside from being beautiful, but the romance between Kitty and Levin is a wonderful side plot. Also, even though Anna can be pretty awful at times in this book, she’s literally a train wreck, and what can I say—I enjoy melodrama!

Madame Bovary: Like Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary is beautiful and shallow. I’ve read this book a number of times and always find myself rooting for her despite the fact that she continually makes terrible choices. She’s a dreamer, and loves books (like me!); she’s also just so self-sabotaging that it’s hard to sit and watch her downward spiral. The fact that this is one of the most beautifully written novels of all time doesn’t hurt it either.

The StrangerMersault, the main character, doesn’t have much going for him. He doesn’t have much empathy for anyone and winds up killing a man. Like all of these books though, the point of the story isn’t to have a likeable character; it’s to comment on society. This is one of those books that stayed with me, in part because it’s a classic of Existenialism, but maybe a little bit because I’ll always remember struggling through it for the first time as a young French student and suddenly realizing that it was the inspiration for one of my favorite songs.

Lolita: Yep, you don’t get much more unlikeable than Humbert Humbert, the most famous pedophile of all time. It doesn’t stop this book from being one of the most widely-regarded, if controversial, works of 20th century literature.

Do you prefer characters you can relate to, or like me do you like them a little despicable? Who is your favorite unlikeable character?

-Irene

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Digital Comics Now on Hoopla

Sandman Preludes and NocturnesI have been waiting for libraries to carry digital comics for years.

And now, thanks to Hoopla and a few major comics publishers, they do. (Read this for information on why the Library may not have the eBook or digital comic you’re looking for.)

Hoopla now carries comics published by DC, IDW, and more. Image (my current favorite publisher) will hopefully be added to that mix in the near future.

There are a few quirks to watch out for as you browse. Some comics are collected into digital “trade paperbacks” (most of DC’s are like this) and some are available as single issues.

For some comics the series is broken up and you have to look in two different places to find it. (Example: Princeless issue one is here, and the other three are over here.) For others (like Adventure Time), only select issues are available (30 to 36 as of this writing.)

To celebrate this momentous occasion for comic nerds everywhere, I made a list of my top six digital comic picks.

  1. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman: If you haven’t read this classic wherein Death, Dream, Destruction, Destiny, etc. are godlike entities who get wrapped up in the mundane world in various ways, you absolutely should. This is the series that made Gaiman’s name, and for good reason. It’s fantastic.
  2. Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham: This is another of my all-time favorites. (I talk about one volume a little in this post over here.) Fairy tale characters are living in modern Manhattan after the Adversary takes over their homelands. There are murder mysteries, epic battles, magic, sarcasm, and plenty of tender moments.
  3. John Constantine, Hellblazer by Jamie Delano: I have had a major crush on John Constantine since I first read Hellblazer back in high school. He fights demons, chain smokes, and generally embodies the spirit of punk in a totally kick butt way. (There’s also a movie, which I recommend only if you are fond of Keanu Reeves, and one season of a television series–now cancelled–that began airing last fall.)
  4. Lumberjanes Issue 1Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson: This band of girlfriends is the kind of group you’ve always wanted to belong to. Maybe you do. If so, all of you should read this together.
  5. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller: My first introduction to this classic Batman tale was the cartoon adaptation of the early 1990s (which is fantastic, too, by the way). This is a “what if” scenario: What if Batman weren’t there to save Gotham? Now you can find out, 24/7, without leaving your couch/bed/gaming chair.
  6. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn: What if all men died? Not just humans, but all male animals, too? Except for one. Follow him and the awesome ladies he encounters as he searches for his fiancee, who might be somewhere in Australia.

You’re smart, so you probably noticed most of these are DC Vertigo titles. It’s true. I love DC Vertigo. There are so many more comics on Hoopla though, like biographies of Barack Obama and Kate Middleton for young adults, and classics adapted into comic form.

But the best thing about Hoopla? There are no wait lists. Every title is available to everyone all the time. So go on, read some comics!

-Kelly

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