Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday Web RoundUp 3/30/11

After a brief hiatus, I'm back with a Wednesday list of reading related links.

A beautiful explanation about why reading is so important to one reader.

A though-provoking discussion about a new book that suggests that books are NOT on the way out.

A once-thought lost piece of Gone With the Wind, found.

Another take on the debate about e-books and public libraries from The Atlantic.

What have YOU been reading about reading lately? Do share!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

World Read Aloud Day Message from Kenya

I just had to share this wonderful message from Kenya on the importance of learning to read and write. This was created as part of World Read Aloud Day (yesterday, March 9) by LitWorld, an global literacy organization.

Thanks to to Room to Grow for pointing me toward this video.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

200th Post! Wednesday Web Round-Up 3/9/11

This is my 200th post on commonreaders! How exciting! I wish I could say that I had something exciting to write about, but I'll just be sharing a few links, as per usual on Wednesdays.

Did you know that today is World Read Aloud Day?

Reading is Fundamental and The National Writing Project have lost their federal funding. Here are some ways to help them.

President Obama emphasizes the need for better education in math and science, but rarely mentions reading and literacy. Do you think he assumes it goes without saying or is he prioritizing math and science over reading?

Join the NPR book club for March by reading Cutting for Stone.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Reading Evangelist

After much hemming and hawing and hesitating, I've come to a conclusion. I believe that everyone should be a reader. (Please stay with me. This post has been a long time coming, and may end up being a bit wordy. Consider it the beginning of my manifesto.)

I don't just mean that everyone should be literate (although I absolutely believe that, that's just not what I'm talking about here), but that every person should be an active and frequent reader. I'm not sure what would be my definitions of active and frequent are yet, but I'm inclined to sat at least one book per month.

I've been coming toward this conclusion for a while now, but I've been hesitant to declare it out into the blogosphere for fear coming across as snobby or judgmental. Let me be clear. I don't believe that I (as an avid reader) am smarter or somehow superior to those who do not read frequently. I do believe, however, that my life has a richness and a depth to it that can only come from reading widely and deeply. And I wish that for others.

One of my greatest joys in life is reading a wonderful book, then handing it over to a friend or family member that I know it will speak to. Often, that person comes to mind partway through the book, and I can't wait to finish it so I can give it to her right away. Just tonight, as a couple of friends ate dinner at my apartment, I jumped up from the table several times to run to my bookshelves and locate the exact book that was relevant our topic of conversation. As I pressed a book into one of their hands, she exclaimed, "I haven't finished the book you gave me last week!" Okay, so it's true; I can be over zealous. But it's truly one of my most favorite things.

However, one of my least favorite things is when someone replies, "Oh, thanks, but I don't have time to read." Or "I don't really like to read." It's so disappointing! I know that the book will bring such beauty or insight into that person's life.

Up until recently (well, really more like until right now), I've responded apologetically, as if I've offended. But no more. While I don't mean to be a pest, I am no longer accepting, "I don't have time to read" as an excuse. I am not expecting others to read as much as I do (thought there are many who read many more books that I), or setting out to make them feel bad about their lack of reading. I have just decided that I am going to make it my personal mission to inspire others to become life-longer readers. And I'm going to need your help.

Look for many more posts on this topic. Over the next few months, I plan to transform this blog into a platform to spread the reading message. I will still provide book reviews and literary news items, but it will all be focused on encouraging, equipping, inspiring, and connecting readers, new and old. And since non-readers probably won't read a blog about books, I'll need your help to spread the word. I will be creating resources to help you go out and encourage your friends and families to become readers. I also want to start providing book "match-making" services so that I can virtually "press" a book into your hands as well.

I'm toying with the idea of calling myself a "Reading Evangelist". What do you think? Will you join me?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday Web RoundUp 3/2/11

It's Wednesday, so it's time for another round of literary links.

HarperCollins publishes an open letter to libraries regarding e-books.

I've heard about Sag Harbor for a while now, and this review makes me even more interested in the book.

Another review has me interested in a book (namely, The Postmistress).

A conversation with Katie Couric and The Help author, Kathryn Stockett.

What links have you interested this week? Do share!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Reading Goal: An Update

It's the start of a new month, so I thought it would be a good time to revisit my reading goal for the year. At the start of 2011, I decided that I wanted to read at least 60 books this year. After reaching 53 last year, I though this would be a bit more of a challenge, but still attainable.

As you can see from my list of books read in 2011 at the top of the page, I have read 16 books so far. For two months, that's really great! I'm very excited about the possibility of surpassing my goal. However, to be realistic, I must also realize that these past two months have been rather lacking in the obligations department, so I probably won't keep this pace up for the whole year. It's a fantastic start though, I'm so encouraged that I am well on my way to meeting my goal.

Tell me, what are your reading goals for this year? How are you doing? It's not too late! Make a reading goal for March, or the remainder of the year. Have a number to reach in your head is a great motivator when you're deciding between the remote and the bestseller you just picked up at the bookstore.

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Depicting Real People in Fiction: Legal Controversy over The Help

Coincidentally, after I wrote about The Help yesterday, I discovered that NPR and others were talking about the book as well. Ablene Cooper, who works for the author, Kathryn Stockett's brother's family is suing her for representing her likeness in one of the books main characters, Aibileen. Their names are almost identical and they share some distinctive characteristics. Cooper believes that she was misrepresented and portrayed in a negative light, and is seeking compensation. Stockett, however, maintains that her book is a work of fiction. She stated that she did not know Cooper well, and that although she drew certain elements from real life into her books, the characters are not representative of any real-life person.

The NPR show, Tell Me More, conducted an interview with several authors about the issue. The participants in the conversation brought a breadth of experience and perspectives to the debate. Personally, I immediately felt a sense of solidarity with Stockett when I first read about the controversy, probably because I loved the book so much. One of the authors interviewed expressed similar sentiments. Another, however, already had problems with the book (although she agreed it was a great work of literature) and felt that Stockett was clearly in the wrong with regards to the lawsuit. I encourage you to listen to the interview or to read over the transcript as it is an enlightening presentation of different opinion.

And as it turns out, opinion on the law suit issue, the author, and the book itself are largely divided along racial lines. Many black readers do not care for the book, and some seem to be troubled by a white woman's attempt to tell a story from the perspectives of black domestics in the 1960s South. I understand that position, but am almost ashamed to admit that it had not occurred to me until it was pointed out. Everyone I talked to loved the book. But then again, I never sought or found the opinion of a black reader.

I continued to want to defend Stockett until I heard that Cooper specifically requested that she not be depicted in the book. I still do not believe that Stockett intentionally meant to portray Cooper directly in the book, but it seems apparent that Cooper was among those whom Stockett drew on for her character. The similarity in the names seems particularly blatant. But of course, none of us knows what was inside Stockett's head at the time of writing.

What do you think? Have you heard about this recent controversy regarding The Help? Does it change your mind on the book if you have already read it? Or change your decision to pick it up and read it for the first time? What is appropriate when authors draw from real life to create their own literary worlds? What to they owe those that inspire their characters?

I have not sorted out my own feelings on the subject, but I plan to continue reading about the issue. I will share my findings with you all here. In the meantime, I would love to know what you think.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review: The Help

I'm going to start right out and say that if you haven't already read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, go get it. Right now.

I had heard people mentioning it for nearly a year when I finally picked it up at Borders last fall. It's a hefty volume and I was preparing myself to settle into the book for a while, but I finished it in less than two days. I brought it home to my mom over Thanksgiving and she finished it in time for me to pass it on to my stepmom before I returned to Austin. I just got it back from her a week ago because it was passed around a few more times. I love it when books garner that kind of excitement. You can almost feel the enthusiasm of readers as it has been passed from one eager reader to another.

So back to the book itself. The story is told from the perspective of three different women who live in a Southern community in the 1960s. One is a young, white, college graduate, who is struggling to find her way in a world that expects her to marry and quietly slip into the mold of perfect wife, mother and Junior Leaguer. The other two women are black housekeepers, who are best friends, but quite different from one another. One has raised over a dozen white children in her life and clearly does so with a great deal of love and steady affection. The other has trouble keeping her mouth shut and has recently lost her job because of it and has trouble finding new work. The three courageous women find themselves banded together in a secret mission that could be devastating to all of them if it was revealed.

Although parts of the book are heart-breaking and extremely maddening, overall, it is a feel good story. I think it is to Stockett's credit as a writer that she deals with a topic such as racism with such grace and humanity. The Help is as funny as it is difficult, and left me with thoughts of hope and gratitude.