Literature, Right To Your Inbox

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Years ago, I read a quote from Stephen King where he said everyone should learn to read not only in gulps, but also in sips. It’s still one of my favorite pieces of reading advice. For most of my life, I was always a gulper, nerding out after class or work with a book for a good 4-5 hours straight. Over the summer, I would read up to 12 hours a day! As I got older, I still had gulper mentality, but with less time–and with that came less reading. If I knew I wouldn’t get more than 30 minutes of reading in, I wouldn’t even bother (my thinking was that you can’t really enjoy a book unless you really sink into the whole experience, which requires time!). Are any of you guys like that? :) Anyway, a little after I read that quote, I moved to New York. At first I didn’t think I would ever pull out a book during subway rides or while waiting in line, but I slowly started to and it made such a difference! Even ten minutes a day got me through a good amount of pages over a week. And, surprisingly, I could still get lost in a book in just a matter of moments.

Which brings me to DailyLit…this cool little site will actually e-mail you installments of books, designed to be read in about 15 minutes per day, right from your inbox. So if you don’t have an actual book on you (which happens to me a lot more now that I’m back in L.A. and forget it in my car/don’t have to carry my life around with me in a big bag anymore), you’ll have your trusty phone on you. Plus, the e-mail is an easy reminder to squeeze in regular reading, and installments can be customized to come on specific days and times of the week. And the whole service is free!

Think you would try this? I just signed up for Journey to the Center of the Earth, which I think I’ve been meaning to read since I was 12. :)

{photo via DailyLit}

Street Photographer

Self Portrait by Vivian Maier

Photo by Vivian Maier

Photo by Vivian Maier

Photo by Vivian Maier

One of the things I admire most about photojournalists and street photographers is their ability to capture life in action. Raw. No posing or fancy lighting or perfectly placed props or planning meetings. There’s something magical about looking into the faces of the people in their photos, frozen in time, and wondering what must have been going through their minds or how their life had taken shape.

This weekend I had some time to kill in Los Feliz, so I decided to flip through some of the fabulous coffee table books at Skylight Books. In the midst of my wandering, I discovered a book of photographs by Vivian Maier, a New York City/Chicago nanny who took thousands of captivating photos throughout her fascinating lifetime (1926-2009) and was only discovered in 2007 when historian John Maloof came across her work, found in a local-Chicago thrift auction house. Not only was I fascinated by Maier’s life, which very much broke the mold of her generation, but also by her photos, which were beautiful, haunting, funny and intriguing all at the same time.

I think when I wrote Summer Bucket List item No. 12, become a better photographer, (more on my progress with that in a later post), I really had photos like these in mind. A girl can dream …

{Photos by Vivian Maier}

This Will Be My Summer

One of the many candidates for that "cool graphic" I was telling you about. Still ... not quite right.

My goal was to post this on Wednesday, the official first day of summer, but that didn’t quite pan out. (Not a good start to my jam-packed, goal-filled summer.) I have an excuse, though: I wanted to find the perfect background picture with which to create an awesome graphic that would surely inspire me to zoom right through my 30 summer bucket list items. I’m still working on that part, so in the meantime, I’m making this official …

I’m doing a summer bucket list!!!

Summer has a way of biting me in the butt and making me want to go on a thousand adventures. I think it’s the extra sunshine. I pretty much run on solar power. So I decided to create a list of all the fun things I have in store for myself  this summer. The best part is I’m planning to blog about all of it, so you’ll have a front-row seat to my adventures and, I’m sure, misadventures. And maybe you’ll even create a bucket list of your own and post it in our comments. Wouldn’t that be just delightful?! Before I use any more exciting punctuation, let’s get to this list:

  1. Go paddle boarding
  2. Go to Catalina Island
  3. Take a SCUBA diving refresher course
  4. Learn to windsurf
  5. Host a retro beach party
  6. Find a cute retro swimsuit to wear to said beach party
  7. Go sailing
  8. Ride my bike somewhere new
  9. Wake up early to see the pros surf at the U.S. Open of Surfing
  10. Go surfing
  11. Read these books: Girlchild, The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir), The Violin Face, Atlas Shrugged
  12. Become a better photographer
  13. Attend at least one outdoor cinema and one beach concert
  14. Start writing a story (or maybe write a whole short story)
  15. Do something with that canvas that’s been sitting against my wall all year
  16. Check out some local markets
  17. Make some of Real Simple’s fabulous-looking summer cocktails
  18. Take a nap in a hammock
  19. Buy a plant – or create an herb garden – and keep it alive all summer long
  20. Give back
  21. Try as many of Los Angeles Magazine’s “Cheap Eats” as possible
  22. Give an unexpected gift
  23. Indulge in a local tourist trap
  24. Learn a new skill
  25. Figure out what to do with all my travel photos
  26. Take a spin in some new car possibilities
  27. Start learning a new language
  28. Write a letter to someone special
  29. Spend an entire day disconnected from all technology, and see what happens
  30. Blog about it all …

Sounds pretty cool, right? I think so. Let the summer officially begin!

On Being A Woman

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Rarely does a book — an nonfiction book, no less — come along that’s so intriguing, I read it from cover to cover in one sitting. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran is exactly this kind of book. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me cry laughing and it made me want to share it with every woman — and many men — I know. Moran combines stories from her awkward but very relatable childhood and similar adulthood with modern feminist issues. Don’t be scared by the “feminist” part. We’re talking simple issues that any woman faces but that have somehow taken over our world — things like should we get Brazilians and have babies and extravagant weddings. My favorite part is that Moran is quick to give the reader the final say. There’s no forced opinions, just a whole lot of  “haha,” “so true …,” “yeah, totally!” … and only occasionally, “meh, but keep talking.”

Love, By the Peanuts Gang

Charles M. Schulz, the cartoonist behind the popular Peanuts series, authored an adorable book called Love Is Walking Hand In Hand, and it is the absolute sweetest thing. Each drawing and line about the simple feelings and gestures of everyday love makes you smile and I so wish I could get my hands on a copy. Sadly, it seems to be out of circulation these days unless you’re willing to shell out a pretty penny for a used copy on Amazon, but BrainPicker did post some great pages from the book.

Here are a few more favorites:

p.s. check out the full article from BrainPicker and read the bottom part about a message on the inside of one of the used copies :)

Books As Craft Projects?

The Repurposed Library by Lisa Occhipinti

While the idea of destroying a good book for the sake of style makes me sad, I’m a little more lenient about the practice when it comes to books that aren’t so “good.” I find plenty of these: old books that have a beautiful patina or cover, but a subject matter like “Carrot Farmers of the North Atlantic.” In these cases, I think it’s totally justified to make one of the fun and crafty items found in Lisa Occhipinti’s “The Repurposed Library: 33 Craft Projects That Give Old Books New Life.”

In fact, some of these projects just might serve to put these so-so books in the spotlight more than if they were just taking up room on a bookshelf. What do you guys think? Is it OK to turn a book into a craft project?

Face to Face With Literature

Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë - from The Composites

Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald - from The Composites

As much as I love seeing my favorite books make it to the big screen, it is sometimes hard to reconcile my own envisioning of a particular character with Hollywood’s. Case and point: the Twilight series.

So I’m slightly intrigued yet slightly wary of this tumblr feed created by Brian Joseph Davis that uses law enforcement composite sketch software to create mug shots of famous literary characters.

I think I’d be more on the intrigued and delighted end of the spectrum if the software didn’t make everyone look like descendents of Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Luckily I don’t have a strong affinity for any of the characters featured so far.

Regardless, it’s a fascinating and thoughtful project, so it technically meets “smitten” standards :). Learn more about the project and creator Brian Joseph Davis in this video feature from the BBC.

Homeless Gift #2: Literally Cool Clothing

Moby Dick Women's T-Shirt - Out of Print Clothing

Pride and Prejudice Tote - Out of Print Clothing

The Great Gatsby Sweater - Out of Print Clothing

For bookish friends who already own most of the classics, why not get one of these adorable shirts or sweaters featuring classic book covers like Moby Dick, Animal Farm, The Great Gatsby and Fahrenheit 451. (They range in price from about $20 to $40.) Out of Print Clothing also sells totes, phone cases, stationery and other cool merchandise for literature fans.

While you’re browsing, check out the “What’s Your Story?” photo gallery to see happy customers in their purchases doing (sometimes) literary things.

Magical Books

There are good books, there are great books, and then there are downright magical books: the kind with writing that take your breath away, and stories and characters that leave you feeling in awe of what’s possible.

I’ve read a good number of books since last summer and my hands down favorite is still Just Kids by Patti Smith, a memoir on her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. It’s a journey through poetry, art, music, literature, and photography, sewed in with all the confusion, energy, and hungry ambition of young artists trying to create–a beautiful study of growing up. I saw her do a reading last year and her stories have a way of feeling so familiar you can relate to them, yet so unique you can’t believe they ever happened. I loved her book so much I read it very, very slowly and would literally hug it when I finished a chapter.

What are some of your favorite magical books? I’d love to hear your recommendations :)