Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Review copies of some of the books mentioned below were provided for free by publishers in the hopes that I would mention them on my blog.
Here are the books I bought/received in May:
- Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler (Gift)
- If I Run by Terri Blackstock (Gift)
- The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity by Norman Doidge, M.D. (Purchased)
- Molecular & Cell Biology for Dummies by René Fester Kratz, PhD (Purchased)
- Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment by Wenonah Hauter (Review Copy)
- Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome: Reclaim Your Energy and Vitality with Clinically Proven Nutritional Programs by Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H. & Dorine Lam, R.D., M.S., M.P.H. (Purchased)
May in Review
I use the same rating system as Goodreads.
1 star – I didn’t like it.
2 stars – It was okay.
3 stars – I liked it.
4 stars – I really liked it.
5 stars – It was amazing.
The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs by Joel Salatin
I’ve been a fan of beyond organic farmer Joel Salatin’s work ever since I first read about him in The Omnivore’s Dilemma five years ago. Salatin has authored a number of self-published books on farming and is best known for Folks, This Ain’t Normal, his first foray into the world of mainstream publishing. In addition to being a boots-on-the-ground environmentalist, Salatin is also a devout Christian. The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs is his first enviro-theological manifesto–a heartfelt case for environmental stewardship as an expression of a healthy Christian faith.
The satisfaction of being nature’s nurturer always trumps the short-lived adrenaline high of being nature’s conquerer. -Joel Salatin
Salatin convincingly argues that the dominant agricultural system of CAFOs, GMOs, and aggressive chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides is wholly contrary to the God-ordained natural order and has no place in the life of the professing Christian. Furthermore, he condemns the farming methods used by many of America’s early protestant settlers, which resulted in soil erosion and nutrient depletion. In other words, organic is not enough. As stewards of this beautiful planet we shouldn’t be thinking about what we can get away with, we should be thinking about how we can best honor God, his creatures, and his land with our farming methods.
Salatin is a farming genius, but his writing could use a little work (although no one could ever accuse him of lacking personality). For one thing, he makes Sarah Palin’s word salads look basic. He describes himself as “a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer” and affirms his love for “tree-hugging, cosmic-worshipping, Gaia-promoting, big-government evolutionists.” He also has a tendency to run off on little bunny trails where he offers his opinions on Calvinism (he doesn’t like it), socialism (he really doesn’t like it), and UC Berkeley (“hotbed of liberalism and fount of godlessness,” but he was well-received as a speaker there nonetheless). These asides might alienate some readers and distract from the core message.
Salatin is likable, regardless of where you fall on the religious or political spectrum, because he is unapologetically himself. His style is certainly not for everyone, but his message is hugely important and his vision for what farming could be is inspiring. Three stars.
I Am China by Xiaolu Guo
I received an unsolicited review copy of I Am China last year and shelved it indefinitely for lack of interest. I’m so glad it didn’t end up in my giveaway pile! The book is about a politically idealistic Chinese punk guitarist, the poet he loves, and a British translator tasked with extracting a cohesive narrative of their lives from a bundle of letters and diary entries spanning two decades. This is Guo’s first English-language book and it is beautifully written. The story unfolds at a perfect pace and I became deeply invested in the lives of the three main characters. Four stars.
Reclaim Your Brain by Joseph A. Annibali, M.D.
Reclaim Your Brain: How to Calm Your Thoughts, Heal Your Mind, and Bring Your Life Back Under Control was my pick for this month’s Riot Round-Up. You can read my thoughts about it here, but in case you’re too lazy to click over and scroll down, the short version is that I recommend it to anyone who deals with or knows someone who deals with anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, OCD, PTSD, or any other common neuropsychiatric conditions that plague modern humans. Four stars.
I’ve instituted a new stress-reducing practice of abstaining from the Internet on weekends. I have been filling the time I would otherwise spend surfing the web listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and radio shows. Cabin Pressure, the half hour BBC Radio sitcom starring Roger Allam and Benedict Cumberbatch, is my new favorite. The show is about a third-rate one-plane airline owned by a domineering elderly woman (whose son is the hilariously incompetent flight attendant) and piloted by an eager beaver young captain (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and his slyly sarcastic and much more seasoned co-pilot (Roger Allam). I can’t recommend it highly enough. Five stars.
I love a good Bond film and I have to say, ridiculous plot lines and unbelievable action sequences aside, I enjoyed this final leg of Daniel Craig’s 007 run. I was excited for the changing of the guard when I thought Idris Elba might actually have a shot at the role, but how that it looks like Tom Hiddleston will get it, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. Four stars.
I’m from Massachusetts and I have a longstanding interest in whaling. I actually chose it as my topic for an independent project when I was in the fifth grade, for which I made my own [very rudimentary] scrimshaw from marrow bone. I haven’t yet had a chance to read the book by Nathaniel Philbrick that this movie was based on, but I was pretty excited when I found out that the true story behind Moby Dick would be made into a film. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The storyline was a bit uneven, though I could have easily overlooked that were it not for the weird lighting/coloring choices and the horrendous green screen sets that were, apparently, supposed to be Nantucket. I also found Chris Hemsworth pretty uninspiring, but then, I always find Chris Hemsworth uninspiring. Well, his acting anyway. Points for the convincing CGI whale though. Three stars.
I really need to stop watching free movies on Hulu when I can’t sleep. Last month is was The Resident and this month is was this sappy, poorly-acted snooze fest, which I swear looked good in the trailer, but sadly, was not. Blake Lively’s attempt to appear aged and wise just looked wooden and the weird father/son/immortal woman love triangle was, well, weird. It could have been worse, I suppose, but then, it also could have been so, so much better. Two stars.
Television (Season Finales)
Warning: Watch out for spoilers.
The Blacklist (Season 3)
The Blacklist veered a little off course for me this season. I think it’s the consequence of too much airtime (a problem British television, I’ve noted, doesn’t seem to have). The story has grown ever more convoluted and now that the show writers have pulled out the ultimate stop–the believable, yet still fake death–I don’t really see where else they can go with this and keep it interesting. I may or may not continue watching next season. Two stars.
Blindspot (Season 1)
My feelings about Blindspot have ebbed and flowed over the course of this first season. I never saw it as something that could keep my attention long term, but I think the finale left a solid place to return to next season. Three stars.
Castle (Season 8, Series Finale)
I’ve watched Castle on and off (mostly on) since the beginning despite what I see as the show’s insurmountable flaw–the utter lack of chemistry between the two leads (though I do give Nathan Fillion credit for faking it pretty well most of the time). And does anyone know what’s been going on with the whole Locksat subplot this season? I was so bored that I just sort of tuned out during that whole thing. Anyway, I was hoping for one great final show, but they totally blew it. The ending was super rushed and gave me whiplash. One minute Castle and Beckett are dead meat, the next they’re celebrating their happy ending, only to find out that no, they’re really dead, but then, wait, a happy ending has just been squeezed into he final five seconds, and TOUCHDOWN! If you’re confused by that, then welcome to the club. Unfortunately, I have to give it the dreaded one star.
Elementary (Season 4)
My interest in Elementary has waxed and waned since the smashing kickstart season, but I am always drawn back to the great acting of Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, who share a really unique and subtle chemistry. The season finale didn’t impress or disappoint me and I will continue to watch next season, though what I think the show could really use is the return of Natalie Dormer as Moriarty. That would be awesome. Three stars.
[bctt tweet=”The season finales of #Castle, #Quantico, Blindspot, The Blacklist, & more in The Inkwell: Vol. 2, Iss. 5 | @parchmentgirl37″]
Quantico (Season 1)
I greatly enjoyed the first season of Quantico (Priyanka Chopra is amazing and Jake McLaughlin looks great with a beard…also without a shirt), but I’m not sure if this love will last. The season finale failed to impress and I’m not sure if the writers can keep the momentum going without the original time jumping format that fueled the first season. We’ll see. Two stars.
News from the World of Books
- Overenthusiastic Christian publishers have ensured that there is a Bible for everyone, and I do mean everyone. Relevant’s Definitive Ranking of Oddly Specific Bibles includes versions for homeschool moms and busy moms (because those two categories don’t overlap at all), outdoorsmen and every man, and so on. And now, glory be, the limitations of mere language have been transcended by the new Bible Emoji, to which I give a resounding ?.
- Heating up the political arena, 472 authors, including 10 Pulitzer Prize winners and a number of household names, have signed an open letter to the American people opposing Donald Trump’s candidacy. They cite his denigration of women and minorities along with an implied lack of “knowledge, experience, flexibility, and historical awareness.” Power to the people!
- A teaser trailer for the highly anticipated live action remake of Beauty and the Beast was released last week. It doesn’t show us any of the things we actually want to see (i.e. the library and Beasty Boy), but it is accompanied by a lovely piano tune that hopefully hints at a stellar soundtrack to come.
- Letters and family photographs that once belonged to Marcel Proust are being sold at auction in Paris. The entire collection is valued at somewhere between €520,000 and €740,000.
- The 2016 International Man Booker Prize was awarded to Korean author Han Kang and translator Deborah Smith for The Vegetarian, “a beautiful, unsettling novel about rebellion and taboo, violence and eroticism, and the twisting metamorphosis of a soul.”
Best of the Bookosphere
- 50 Books, 50 States: A Literary Map of America – POPSUGAR
- 100 Must-Read Books about Mental Illness – Book Riot
- 20 Beautiful Reading Nook Designs for Cozy Bookishness – Flavorwire
- These Feminist Hogwarts House Posters Will Make Your Muggle Day – Bustle
- 21 Book Titles That Are Hilarious When You Remove One Letter – BuzzFeed
- How Books Are Helping Austen’s Homeless Community – Literary Hub
- Watch George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien Face Off in Rap Battle – Electric Lit
- 21 Perfect #ManlyBookClubNames for Bros Who Only Wanna Read about Bros – Huffington Post
- Spare Me, ‘Me Before You’: Hollywood’s New Tearjerker Is Built on Damaging Disability Stereotypes – Salon
- The Cool Girls, Good Girls, and Bad Girls of Modern Books – The Guardian
Most Popular Posts of the Month
A few weeks ago I fielded the idea of a post on my favorite fictional INTJs to my Twitter followers and received an enthusiastic response. Unfortunately, I had an inordinately difficult time coming up with ten fictional INTJs I actually liked. Fictional INTJs tend to fall into one of three categories: stereotypes, villains, or Mr. Darcy, and there’s a lot of overlap between the first two. So I had to reevaluate my criteria for this list and own up to the fact that I don’t often like people of my own type–at least not in the world of books and film.
You probably invest a lot of time and effort in your blog and it’s perfectly reasonable to want a return on that investment. Hobby bloggers are turning professional at an ever-increasing rate, and though the book blogging niche is definitely one of the most difficult to monetize, there’s no reason you can’t make at least a little extra cash from your blog.
This month’s featured book blogger is Caroline Donahue from The Book Doctor. Caroline is a life coach who tailors custom book lists to propel her clients’ growth. She authors an email newsletter called Footnotes. Caroline also has a special section of her website called “The Secret Library” where subscribers can access ebooks she writes especially for her online community.
Best of the Archives
This past month I finished up my 20-week Ultimate Guide to Book Blogging series. You can read the whole series and get some bonus tips on social media strategy here.
Books to Watch for in June
- Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti (June 7, Dey Street Books)
- Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach (June 7, W.W. Norton)
- The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men’s Prison by Mikita Brottman (June 7, Harper)
- The Hospital Always Wins: A Memoir by Issa Ibrahim (June 1, Chicago Review Press)
- The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle That Brought Down the Klan by Laurence Leamer (June 7, William Morrow)
- Vanished in Hiawatha: The Story of the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians by Carla Joinson (June 1, Bison Books)
What are you reading right now?