Progress Report // Books on the Nightstand

My nightstand is now overly cluttered. The book pile is too tall.

I'm in the middle of that thing I always do. I've started nearly a dozen books and am happily in the middle of all of them.

I make no apologies for this.
I am a Beginner of Many Projects.
It's who I am.


Here's what I'm currently reading, more or less:





ALMOST FINISHED

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
I've loved Saunders' short stories since they were gifted to me a decade ago, and his first novel does not disappoint. It's really a beautiful story, and I was lucky enough to hear Saunders read from it (and get our book signed!) at the Free Library this year.


The Great American Songbook, by Sam Allingham

The first book for this author, who is a friend of the SLA community, is so beautifully written. I love his style and themes and characters. Short story collections are perfect nightstand occupants, and this one is terrific. I recommend it very highly.



STARTED THEN STOPPED BUT I'M STILL IN IT

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
A beautifully-written four-part series with a female friendship at its center? You know I signed right up.


The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson
One of the readers and writers I trust most recommended this one, and she's of course right. I put it down a few weeks ago and now probably need to start it over, but to be honest I'm happy about that.



ONGOING

Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay
This was another awesome reading at FLP, and Roxane Gay signed my copy, "To Amal -- Be difficult." I really enjoy her nonfiction writing, and the characters she's developed here are intriguing to me. Another excellent collection of short stories for bedtime reading.


The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt
The same friend who recommended The Argonauts told me about this one. It came up in our conversations during the Women's March. It is a social psychologist's exploration of where morality comes from (spoiler alert: humans are not rational beings) and dives into the ways we communicate and understand those who are different from us, especially in politics and religion. I'm loving it so far and have talked about it a lot already.



MISCELLANY

Too Loud A Solitude, by Bohumil Hrabal

This is a re-read; this novel was my favorite assigned text in my freshman seminar at William and Mary, which happens to be one of the best classes I took, ever (shoutout Professor Koloski!). I wanted to revisit it for our trip to Prague recently.


Girl With Curious Hair, by David Foster Wallace
This was recommended to me by a thoughtful and lovely friend who was shocked that I'd never read any DFW. I haven't given it an honest start yet, but am excited to check it out at last.





Oof, I need a book club.
What's in your reading pile?

In My Inbox // Lady Newsletters

At some point in recent Internet history, email newsletters became acceptable and interesting, and I find myself with four inbox treats each week that bring me terrific joy.

Turns out, mine are all from awesome ladies.


I recommend:



The Ann Friedman Weekly // Journalist and podcast-bestie Ann Friedman curates solid journalism and interesting pieces from around the web, often covering feminism and women's issues. Also, pie charts.






The newsletter from Heben and Tracy of Another Round (the Buzzfeed podcast you should be listening to) covers everything from social issues of race and gender and pop culture to animal gifs. I highly appreciate this spectrum of seriousness.






What a treasure Maria Popova is. Brain Pickings, a "weekly interestingness digest," features longer-form pieces about culture and politics, often through a lens of art or literature. I am always inspired by the way Popova places writers and thinkers in context and conversation with one another to shed light on big ideas.






Stacy-Marie Ishmael's short and sweet Galavant Times offers commentary and wisdom and spotlights relevant thinking in three categories -- Engage, Learn, and Connect -- which I think solidly capture what the whole thing is all about.





Subscribe and enjoy and donate where you can.
Most of these are passion projects and it's very clear that a lot of hard work goes into them.


Happy inbox :)

Illustrated Arabic Typography

When my parents made me spend Saturday afternoons in Arabic school instead of playing sports, I thought I'd never overcome my resentment toward them.

I never got great at sports, for one.

But now I am someone who can read and write in Arabic.

Mostly.

What I mean is:

I speak like a Lebanese mountain villager who just emerged, Encino-Man-style, from a 1960s time capsule.
I read at about a 4th grade level on my best day.
My handwriting has been described by Lebanese children under the age of ten as "adorable".


I mean. I'll take it.




It's a good enough foundation for a native speaker who has lived her whole Americanized life on a different side of the planet.


Maybe eventually I'll polish my vocabulary, step up my literacy game, start watching Middle Eastern news channels oooohtheytalksofast, and use these skills to help people. It't not yet a game plan, only a possibility, if my current job, which I still love, unexpectedly quits on me or something.



For today, I'll share the amazing work of designer Mahmoud El Sayed, who illustrated Arabic words based on their meaning:








Aren't these beautiful?! They made me so, so happy.

In My Brain // Snow Day



Happy snow day! I'm working from home and catching up on the grading pile I've been stupidly saving. Stay warm and cozy and enjoy yourself some Internet:



// A genre I love is Writers Writing About How They Write. So of course a piece by George Saunders captivates me.


// I love me some Cold War education films, and Disney's 1946 The Story of Menstruation maybe takes the cake.


// Everybody! Everybody! Homestar Runner mirrors the history of the Internet.


// Always excited for, inspired by, and proud of this beautiful artsy weirdo: Erica Taylor <3


// The above photo is from Cory J. Popp, whose work you should be following if you love Philly or talent in general.

Portrait Doodles

I've been really inspired by these mixed media portraits that have been showing up lately. I kind of want to find a way to bring this idea into the classroom.










1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

In My Brain // Valentine's Day



This is the first year in a long time that I didn't make a zillion cards and send them to my friends all over the country for Valentine's Day. I'm really bummed that I didn't get it together to do that. It's one of my favorite things.



Here are some other current favorite things:

Mystery Cove // We can't stop spinning Monster Rally's record at our house. We love its beautiful tiki vibes on these dreary winter days. Listen here.

What's old is new // Mini-backpacks are here again and I am shamelessly on board. Coveting this one (and its price point).

George Saunders // I get to see one of my favorite authors at the Free Library tonight! I'm finally finishing Tenth of December and can't wait to read his new, weird novel.

Townsend // We just made our reservations for East Passyunk Restaurant Week

Diversity // Read the transcript for Roxanne Gay's speech at WI12. I love her writing and am grateful we're on the planet together so I can read it in real time.