NaNoReMo

November is National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. Write-ins are happening all over the place, including the library. And some people even go a step further: they become published authors as a result of their hard work and dedication to the craft of writing. How cool is that? One year my husband and I decided that we would each write a novel during NaNoWriMo. While we would be writing vastly different stories and not exactly collaborating, we wrote side-by-side in the same room and bounced ideas and grammar conundrums off of each other. Neither one of us finished our novels, but we had a lot of fun and learned more about each other as a result. Which, let me tell you, after being together for almost half your lives is something special indeed!

But this isn’t a post about NaNoWriMo. This is about a new moniker I am giving November: NaNoReMo, which stands for National Novel Reading Month. Reading books out loud together is something my husband and I have done on multiple occasions. Sharing an experience with someone can definitely bring you closer together, and sharing the experience and enjoyment of a book together is one of my top things for us to do as a couple. It’s free, doesn’t take much time, and can sometimes even be done while doing otherwise mundane or boring tasks. I’m going to share with you a few of our favorite books that we have read together, which will hopefully spark your own imagination and enthusiasm!

1-dad-is-fat

The time we read to each other: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
One of the best things about reading a Jim Gaffigan book is when you can get your hands on an audio recording of it and hear him read it to you. As huge fans of Jimbo, we were tempted to go that route. But instead we decided it would be fun to try reading each other alternating chapters. You read chapter 1, I’ll read chapter 2. One of the best things about this method was sometimes one or the other of us would be sleepy and not be up for reading that night. That’s okay; the other person was ready with the bedtime story. I might be sharing too much of myself here, but there is nothing I love hearing more than the sound of my husband’s voice. When he would read to me, I could feel the stress of the day melt away and if I was awake enough I’d be laughing right along with him as he read. I don’t know if he feels the same way about my voice, but I definitely returned the favor. It was a great balance and the fact that the book’s content was about an experience we haven’t yet shared, parenthood, made the experience educational as well.

2-ready-player-oneThe time we listened to an audiobook instead of watching TV: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
When Ready Player One first came out it didn’t even become a tiny blip on my radar. It’s the worst-kept secret that I detest dystopian novels, and this promised to fit the bill. But then the library acquired the audiobook and I saw that it was read by Wil Wheaton. After a quick fangirl dance of joy I promptly checked it out. On the drive home from work that night I listened to the beginning of the story, and over the next couple of weeks I finished the first few discs on my commute. It was a great way to pass the time while fighting rush hour traffic, but I had a better idea. I knew this story would appeal to my husband, so that night I brought the whole set into the house, set up some equipment, and started from the beginning. We were both riveted, and over the next several days we skipped the usual evening television programming in favor of listening to Wesley Crusher relate the story of Wade Watts and his journey into the OASIS system in search of James Halliday’s three keys and, hopefully, his ticket out of poverty.

3-the-martianThe time we read the same book back-to-back: The Martian by Andy Weir
This was another not-on-my-radar book that I almost missed. A few months before the Matt Damon movie was to be released in theaters, my husband read a story about the movie and knew he wanted to see the movie but read the book first. He devoured the book. I mean, he’s a quick reader anyway compared to my reading speed, but in this case he actually lost sleep in favor of finding out if astronaut Mark Watney, who was stranded on Mars for several years, ever made it back to Earth or not. He then began his campaign to get me to read it, too. Our reading tastes don’t often overlap so we aren’t in the habit of pestering each other to read a book we enjoyed. But this was different. He warned me about some technical jargon and heavy use of math (what does that say about me, that I need a math trigger warning?) but said the humor and writing style would win me over, and the suspense would keep me up as well. While I admit that I started reading the book in a thinly-veiled attempt to shut him up, the joke was on me. I absolutely loved it, and consider myself fortunate to have read the book before seeing the movie. Through no real effort my brain read the book in Matt Damon‘s voice.

4-romeo-and-or-julietThe time we will take turns choosing how the book goes: Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North
So I don’t know about you, but my Octobers are always super-busy, very stressful, and as a result I always get sick. This year was no exception. It was such a struggle to get through the month that November has so far been a kind of recuperation period. That’s all ending this Veterans Day when both my husband and I will finally have some quality time together. We’ve planned to read this book by Ryan North, aka one of the funniest guys in comics today, aka the crazy mad awesome genius behind The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series for Marvel. He has reworked Shakespeare so that the reader gets to choose the ending. That’s right; it’s a choose your own adventure for adults, and it has been sitting on our shelf at home for months collecting dust, waiting for its turn in the TBR. Our plan is for one of us to read while the other one drives; that is to say if I’m reading, he’s telling me which choice he wants as we go along. I really can’t wait for this one, as it’s another new type of book that is sure to help rejuvenate our spirits before we plan to travel back home for the holidays (stress x 1000).

So there you have it. Whether you’ve been married for decades or just swiped right, I urge you to file this one away in your relationship database. Let’s make America read again!

What’s Overdue? or Books I Wish I’d Read in 2013, Part 2

Kathunk!
Thud swoosh thunk!
Jiminy kathunk zowie!

That is the sound of my 2014 reading list, created from books which I’ve checked out but not finished, piling higher and higher towards the planets and such. And I can’t seem to even make a dent in the list because I keep finding interesting, irresistible books such as 11/22/63 by Stephen King, Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago, How Music Works by David Byrne and Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews.

New unread books

I’m trying to change my reading habits so as to not miss out on any books that at one point seemed interesting, because once I return a book unfinished I seldom go back to it. The first portion of my 2014 list contains five titles, and of these I have so far read NONE. But am I daunted? Neigh I seigh, so I continue on compiling my list.

Universe versus Alex WoodsThe Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Here’s one I’ve checked out three times, read a fair bit of, thoroughly enjoyed, yet set aside for other reads. A 10-year-old boy named Alex is struck in the head by a meteorite, which scars him both physically and socially, making him a favorite target of bullies. As punishment for vandalism that he didn’t actually commit, Alex is put to work for hermit-ish Mr. Peterson, and a friendship slowly starts to grow. But the story doesn’t start here, rather it begins with Alex at age 17 detained at customs with a large amount of marijuana. How did he arrive in this situation and where will he go from there?

City of TruthCity of Truth by James Morrow
Movies featuring people who are unable to lie (Liar Liar, The Invention of Lying) have bloomed in recent years, and the premise is an interesting one. City of Truth, written in 1990, is about a city called Veritas where people have been conditioned to always tell the truth. The result is a lack of tact, total candor in advertising (beef is “murdered cow” and car models include Adequates and Functionals) and generally amusing brutally frank communication. It is in this setting that Jack Sperry learns his son has a fatal disease and realizes that it might be in the boy’s best interest for Jack to lie to him. In Veritas, lying is not a simple decision; to lie is to become a subversive. This weighty subject is surrounded by abundant humor in a story that, although based in a fantastical framework, is actually a commentary on our very own society.

Janus AffairThe Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine
One of my favorite books of 2012 was Phoenix Rising: a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novel. This Victorian steampunk thriller features Eliza Braun, a government agent whose first move in any situation is to throw a stick of dynamite, and her de facto partner Wellington Books, an archivist with wicked mechanical skills and no desire to leave his repository. The Janus Affair is book two in the series, this time finding the gear-flinging duo trying to discover why British citizens are suddenly vanishing in brilliant flashes of lightning. Will they once again save England from naughty evildoers and make the Empire safe for its citizens?

Ready player oneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
Here’s another highly-rated book that I got a ways into, enjoyed, and put aside. In the near-future the world has become an unappealing junk-filled dystopia. Many people frequent a virtual reality called OASIS, a much happier place, where one can go to learn, socialize, play, and engage in various aspects of real life. There’s a rumor that 3 keys exist within OASIS, and whoever acquires them will inherit the greatest fortune ever amassed. Scouring this virtual world for the keys is not without danger, but there are also puzzles, romance and a large chunk of 1980’s trivia. So if I understand correctly, one can escape our mundane reality by entering this fictional dystopia, which one escapes by entering a fictional virtual reality … umm … yes.

And so goes part two of my 2014 reading list. Stay tuned as I continue to amass next year’s reading choices, and agonize with me as I attempt to push aside temptations (hey, I haven’t read the last book in the Scorch series yet!) and actually finish (ooh, new Bill Bryson book!) these excellent books that I’ve (I wonder what Steve Hockensmith is up to?) set aside. Will he? Won’t he? Only time will tell!