Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Coffee Book Tag

I recently came across a long-existing Booktube tag called the Coffee Book Tag, created by BangadyBangz.  You can watch the original tag here.  I'm a die-hard, life-long coffee lover, so although I wasn't tagged by anyone, I knew that I must do it.  It's inspired by coffee and its ephemera, so what could be better?!!  In fact, as I'm writing this post, I've got a cup of coffee next to me!   With that, let's dive into the questions!

Exhibit 1: My current view

Question 1:  Black - Name a book that was hard to get into at first, but has a lot of die-hard fans

For me, this book would be Difficult Women by Roxane Gay.  This author has a lot of ravenous, dedicated, passionate fans who love her work and extol its virtues far and wide across the interwebs.  I had picked up her most recent work, this collection of short stores, from the library because I wanted to give it a try, to see what all the fuss was about.  Difficult Women wasn't difficult to get into in the sense that the language was too academic or the plots were overly complicated.  It was difficult to get into because of the subject matter.  Each of the stories contain abuses and graphic events that are troubling to read about.  However, as I reflected on the stories after I had read them, I started to unpack the layers of reality that the characters are, in fact, facing.  It was during this process that I felt that I understood why Roxane Gay is such a beloved author, for her prowess in not shying away from the unspeakable.

Question 2: Peppermint Mocha - Name a Book That Seems to Get Popular In/Around the Holiday Season

There are a lot of books to choose from here.  In fact, once December rolls around there are all kinds of list of "must-read books" for the holiday season.  The book I'm choosing is actually a series - Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series - The Golden Compass/Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.  There is a wintery/Christmassy theme throughout the books, and there seems to be an uptick in interest and publicity about the trilogy during the last month of the year.  But I suppose any book that (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) contains scenes of wintery weather would get a little more popular during the holiday time.

Question 3: Hot Chocolate - Name Your Favorite Children's Book

As I've been out of childhood for a very long time, I don't have a lot of memories of my early reading.  One book that has stuck with me, and that I still have a copy (signed by the author!) and read occasionally is The Giver by Lois Lowry.  It's part of a quartet with Gathering Blue, Messenger, and The Son - none of which I have read.  There's also a recent movie adaptation of the book, but I have yet to get around to watching it.

Question 4: Double Shot of Espresso - Name a Book that Keeps You on the Edge of Your Seat 

This was a toughie, because I don't often read thriller-type books.  The most recent read I could think of that kept me at all on the edge of my seat was the graphic memoir March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.  The books tell the story of John Lewis, a Georgia politician and renowned civil rights leader, from his childhood as the son of Alabama sharecroppers, through his education and work with the Civil Rights Movement, and ending with the inauguration of President Barack Obama.  There are so many harrowing and fearful moments, and I found myself on the edge of my seat more than once.

Question 5: Starbucks - Name a Book That You See Everywhere

This book would have to be Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly.   It's everywhere for two reasons: 1. A movie adaptation was released in 2016 and is nominated for a whole lot of awards.  2. It focuses on a little-known aspect of events (space exploration) that have become part of American national identity and pride.  3. It adds a voice to the chorus of countless others who demand equality and recognition in American society.  While the movie directs its attention on three specific women - Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan - and their unique stories and contributions to aeronautics, physics, and math - the book relaxes its attention to how their stories play into the American story of reconstruction, segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, and beyond.  This book deserves to be everywhere, because it has important things to say about where we are now as Americans, and where we came from, and how we might progress in the future of race relations and racial-gender equality.  I'm listening to it as an audiobook right now, and it's fantastically written and researched.  I highly recommend it!

Question 6: The Hipster Coffee Shop - Name a Book by an Indie Author That You Really Like

In 2016, I read a Tin House Press book Glaciers, by Alexis M. Smith.  It follows one day in the life of Isabel, a woman in her late 20's, who works as a damaged book librarian in a library in Portland, Oregon.  You follow her as she wakes up, goes to work, eats, interacts with her coworkers (including a man nicknamed Spoke, on whom she has a huge crush), goes shopping for vintage clothes, and attends a literary party.  It doesn't sound like much fodder for a novel (and this is a short one, at only 174 pages), but it grows into much more when the author explores the depths below Isabel's surface - her childhood and experiences that have shaped her.  In this way, Isabel is like the glaciers that surrounded her in her native Alaska.  The author does a tremendous job with evoking emotion and a sense of place in so few pages.  I know that she published another book, Marrow Island, in 2016 that I have on my TBR.  I hope to love it just as much as Glaciers.

Question 7: Ooops! I Accidentally Got Decaf - Name a Book From Which You Were Expecting More

I desperately wanted to love Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets by Jessica A. Fox.  Leaving everything behind and starting a new life in a remote Scottish town...what's not to like?  It sounds lovely and romantic!  However, I found the protagonist (Jessica) to be completely insufferable.  Being that this is essentially a romance story, you should want Jessica and the love interest (Euan) to live happily ever after.  However, I found myself rooting for see how selfish, privileged, demanding, and insecure she really was; to realize that all of her emotional baggage just wasn't worth it.  Jessica wanted to live her life as a fairy tale, without regard for reality or the feelings of others.  I wanted to love this book, but in the end I just couldn't.

Question 8: The Perfect Blend - Name a Book That Has the Perfect Combination of Bitter and Sweet

Having only read it for the first time a few weeks ago, White Teeth by Zadie Smith has the perfect blend of everything I like in a book.  It's a multi-generational family saga, a book about the immigrant experience, an exploration of what makes a national identity, and so much more wrapped up in just under 500 pages.  It's a masterpiece!

Question 9: Green Tea - Name a Book That is Quietly Beautiful

Marilynne signing my copy of Housekeeping at 2016 National Book Festival!
I didn't even have to think about this.  Any of Marilynne Robinson's fiction would be appropriate, but I'm choosing her debut novel Housekeeping.  It envelops the reader in its quiet, dreamlike prose as if you're being bundled up in an infinitely soft, handmade blanket.  The ethereal way that the author describes the people and surrounds of Fingerbone, Idaho imbues them with a quiet, palpable power.  Although there is conflict and tragedy throughout the novel, there is also a grace that permeates throughout Housekeeping.  It is truly a novel of quiet, beautiful brilliance.

Question 10: Chai Tea - Name a Book that Makes You Dream of Far-Off Places

I'm actually picking a series, instead of a single book, because throughout all four books in the Neapolitan Novels quartet, I was dreaming of Naples and the Italian Coast.  It's far-off from where I live, but I could close my eyes and feel the stifling heat of inner-city Neapolitan summer, the soft sand and vivid blue waters of vacation spots, the hectic transportation, and the food.  My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child  didn't necessarily inspire me to make immediately travel plans, but I was completely drawn into the location throughout the reading experience.  There's so much heat on the pages that I don't think I could read the quartet at any other time than summer...whether I'm at home or in Italy.

And that's the Coffee Book Tag!  If you're interested in exploring these questions, consider yourself tagged!

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