Successful Failure: NaNoWriMo 2018


Exhibit from the Toronto Royal Ontario Museum by E.A. Schneider 

Hello, dear pond readers! This year, I said that my goal was to write 2000 words for NaNoWriMo 2018 on a new writing project. Well, I did not make it. By the time the clock struck midnight on 11/30/2018, I had only written 1,667 words in the entire month.

Truthfully, I felt rather bummed about this. 2000 words had seemed like such a modest, achievable goal and I had not made it. Bummed though I was, I did what I try to do no matter what: persevere. Though it is now mid-December, I’m happy to say that I’m at 2,076 words and counting. I have a new project that I like. I have discovered a better sense of the main narrators and the stakes involved in their lives. I have an inkling that this might even be a black comedy. Who knows? Only time and word counts will tell.

The important thing is that I have made a real beginning. I started and I have a good feeling that this is something that I might actually finish. That is the point of NaNoWriMo: whether you finish or not, slaying the demon of doubt with the writing instrument of your choice to find out what you have to say. It is thrilling. And, if you try, it can last well past November.

What writing projects are you working on, dear pond readers? Any other creative endeavors you are persevering on? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for coming by the pond today!


Whether you’re the tiger or the hunter or the horse in this picture, good luck with what you’re facing! Carving is at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, CA. Picture by E.A. Schneider




All the Crafting for babies!


Note: Due to requests, I have added links to the bottom of this post to some of the fabrics used. While several of these fabrics are out of print, there are either related fabrics available or ones I found that could work for you. If you buy these fabrics using the link, I will get a tiny percentage through the Amazon Associates Program that will go toward supporting my creative endeavors. Thank you!

Greetings, dear pond readers! Today I’m going to share some pictures of some of the various things that I’ve managed to craft in the last year. Because I have a new human and another new human besides in the family as well as friends with new humans, I’ve spent a lot of time making cute baby things. Specifically, cute nerdy baby things. While I don’t have pictures of all the things at this time, I will share what I do have.


Baby bag of holding with Doctor Who fabric! Mom did all the real work, I just helped cut out the fabric. Thanks, Mom!


Fuzzy baby hat! Also, my mom and dad’s work. Thanks, Parental Units!


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I made the above baby bibs for my wee bairn and my other favorite baby. I did all the embroidery on the Spaceballs! the Baby Bibs! The backing is plush micro fleece and there are velcro closures because snaps are the devil. Both babies are destined to be exposed to both Spaceballs and Star Trek on a frequent basis. Hopefully, they enjoy it and I at least enjoy seeing the crew of my favorite Galaxy class starship as I feed my wee bairn various foods. Commander Worf would be gratified to know that my bairn shares his high opinion of prunes.

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Being a happy member of Doctor Who fandom, I had to make my bairn some Doctor Who baby swag. I made the above blanket and bib out of the same Doctor Who flannel. I used the Clover Quick Yo Yo Maker Heart 1″X1 1/4″ 8704 to make the red hearts out of quilting cotton. So far, the hearts have survived all manner of baby food and baby teeth with structural integrity intact.

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Because one cannot have too much Star Trek: TNG in one’s life, I made my bairn an additional bib in the white color way of the crew fabric. Super Mario is another thing we’re looking forward to introducing the bairn to so why not start now? All of the bibs are backed with plush mirofleece with velcro closures. I used to only do flannel backings but I’m glad that I switched to the microfleece, the plush backing absorbs food drippings very well while being soft against baby skin. Both the short and the long bibs have been equally useful and I’m glad that I made them.

Above are some bibs that I made for a friend of mine who is a big fan of Captain America and I’m trying to get her in to the tough heroines of the DC universe. Both bibs above are cotton with microfleece backings and velcro closures. The heart on the Cap bib is made with a Clover Quick Yo Yo Maker Heart 1″X1 1/4″ 8704. I have matching ones cut out for my wee bairn but sewing is exponentially more difficult now that my wee bairn is out and ambulatory.

That is okay, I like a challenge. I’m this close to finishing matching extra large crib quilts for my two favorite babies. Hopefully, I will finish them in the next two months AND get the one mailed where it is meant to be in a timely enough manner to facilitate posting and sharing. We’ll see how far I get!

What are you working on, dear pond readers? Any exciting crafts for loved ones or yourself? Please, share a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond today.


Unfortunately, the image below is the only color way left on Amazon from Camelot Cottons The Next Generation fabric line:


But Camelot Cottons has some other really lovely Start Trek fabric:





And here are some other fabrics:

The exact Doctor Who TARDIS flannel! Woot!


I used this Doctor Who fabric in an earlier post about pillows I made years ago and apparently you can still buy it. Who knew?


I could not find the exact Captain America fabric I used but here is another:


It is the exact DC super-heroine fabric! Woot!

I could not find the exact Nintendo fabric that I used but this one is close to it:


Also, full disclosure, I don’t know if this is the same brand of white microfleece that I used in my projects or not but I do like working with the fabric in general when making baby bibs:


I use velcro closures because I hate everything about working with snaps. What I do is cut a small square of velcro to fit the bib then trim off the corners so it is somewhat rounded. Then I stitch the velcro to the bib using a universal needle and a bamboo stiletto. The velcro does not seem to bother my bairn, in fact, the bairn likes chewing on the velcro. This has not harmed the bairn or the bib yet so huzzah!



Engaged Reading Post #2: Tracks

Hello, dear pond readers! Welcome back to the pond and my next post on my Engaging Books journey of discovery. Today, I’m discussing the second book on my list: Tracks by Louise Erdrich. During Spring 2017, I read this beautiful book. There will be some spoilers and they will be marked.


The view in Blue Mound State Park, WI by E.A. Schneider

Tracks is simultaneously about surviving and the cost of surviving. It chronicles the lives of the Ojibwe community in Matchimanito, North Dakota in the early 20thCentury between 1912 and 1924.  The prose is lovely, haunting, and heartbreaking laced with dry, sardonic humor. Multiple characters narrate the story and their perspectives beautifully interweave, sometimes overlapping and sometimes not. Nanapush, the trickster elder, is my favorite narrator but I also enjoyed the story as told by Pauline, as unreliable and unpleasant as her version of the story is, because you have to keep reading; her words are hypnotic. For the next seven paragraphs, starting after the bumblebee picture below, I’m going to be dropping some heavy spoilers about Tracks so you might want to jump down to the paragraph after the Fox River image.


Bumblebee in flight by E.A. Schneider

Fleur Pillager is the main character of Tracks but you never see the story through her eyes. Rather everyone in the community of Matchimanito and Argus spends the book talking about Fleur and the decline of the local Ojibwe culture is the haunting backdrop. The story straddles World War I. Lumber companies are buying up land. Family allotments are designed to be hard to keep because the encroaching invaders want it so and they have all the power of numbers, guns, and germs. Disease repeatedly lays waste to the community and every family has lost members to its grip. Government boarding schools take children out of the community network of extended family, dressing the children in orange to make it harder for them to flee. With the decline of the traditional subsistence options because of the white colonists and the loss of population, starvation is a perennial issue. Some characters resist taking government assistance as long as possible to cling to the old ways while others in Matchimanito adapt to the invading culture successfully enough to survive though they strain their connection to the Ojibwe community in the process.


Trillium by E.A. Schneider

Feet and footwear seem to be a recurring motif in Tracks, underscoring themes of agency, mobility, freedom, and legacy. We find at the end that Nanapush is telling the story of Fleur to her daughter, Lulu Nanapush, in part to convince her to reconcile with her estranged mother. Lulu nearly loses her feet to frostbite during one of the most dramatic sections of the book when she runs through the snow wearing ruby red patent leather Mary Jane shoes to get help to save Fleur’s life during a winter miscarriage.  The shoes, a gift from Eli to Lulu much disapproved by Fleur, are a symbol of the intruding force of white American culture on the Ojibwe customs that helped them survive in North Dakota for generations and they nearly cost Lulu her feet. Only Nanapush saves Lulu from a traveling American doctor who would have amputated to stave off gangrene.

It is one of the most poignant parts of the book to read Nanapush’s temptation to trust the modern American ways to save his granddaughter’s life though he ultimately puts his faith in the old, slow ways. Fleur, in her embrace of the old ways and sabotage of the local lumber company, sends Lulu to a government boarding school voluntarily to save her from both starvation and retribution from the locals angry with Fleur, and Lulu never forgives this betrayal. Personally, I found it interesting that as fierce as Fleur is about following Ojibwe culture in extremis, she wants her daughter to survive regardless of which world she has to do so in. The last image of the story is Lulu running to Nanapush and Margaret, her grandparents, when they finally regain custody of her from the boarding school years later. It is an image filled with love and hope that the family and the people will endure. Nanapush honors Fleur, calling her the heart of their people and raising her daughter, even though he is ultimately able to adapt to the American ways enough to survive, as tricksters always can.


Unfurling possibilities by E.A. Schneider

Against this vibrant background of love, loss, and change, Fleur Pillager is the center of the story, the anchor point of a changing landscape, culture, and time whom we see but we cannot completely inhabit her perspective. Fleur is apart while still being the heart, distant while standing in arm’s reach. Fleur is never the narrator of her own story. Reading Tracks, I found myself uncomfortably reminded of Antonia and her settler life on the frontier in My Antonia by Willa Cather. I read My Antonia over 15 years ago; while I have not re-read it, the book left a strong impression on my mind and I have plans to re-read the novel.

Even though I think these books can be in dialogue with each other and part of the point of this book project is to put vastly different perspectives on the table together, there are two glaring, insurmountable differences between Fleur’s and Antonia’s stories: Antonia is white and her story is a triumphant elegy to the settlement of the American West, a romance with the myth of the colonial frontier itself.

As a white invader, Antonia can in the end become a wholesome farm wife with status and power, albeit small, even if she starts out as an exotic outsider that embodies the mythic spirit of the Frontier, while Fleur, being an Ojibwe woman, cannot achieve a happy end by the standards of either culture. Despite a long relationship with Eli Kashpaw, Fleur remains a symbol of untamed Nature who ultimately rejects all society, Ojibwe and white, to live in the wilderness alone with the gravestones of her dead family. Tracks is telling the tale of settler colonialism from a place of critique rather than praise. For Native Americans, colonialism isn’t a section in a history book, it is an ever-present fact of life. Antonia and Fleur are two outsiders with stories that bear similarities in my memory but the power difference inherent between conqueror and conquered can never be forgotten. That poignant gap has been something I’ve mulled over a lot after reading Tracks. This comparison, as iffy as it is, is something that I hope to return to and fill in more in future posts after I re-read both books together. Hopefully, I can do that sometime in the not too distant future.


Prairie grass by E.A. Schneider

Reading Tracks and following the stories of this dynamic ensemble cast of characters, Fleur, Pauline, Nanpush, Margaret, Nector, Eli Kashpaw, Lazarre, Napolean, and Father Damien, I found myself having compassion for all of the characters and why they do what they do in a way that I don’t often do in community style novels. The Ojibwe are a conquered people who must reckon with survival, and its costs, in the face of occupation. The fact that many of the characters make sometimes cruel, shortsighted, and selfish decisions makes perfect sense when you remember that their lives are always on the line without the options and safety nets they had maintained for generations. Whether one adapts successfully like Bernadette to be prosperous, protect one’s own land like Margaret Kashpaw, or reject everything to live and die traditionally like Fleur, the decision makes sense given what is at stake.


Fox River by E.A. Schneider

As a reader I couldn’t help but appreciate all of these wonderful, human characters. While the tone of Tracks is serious, I can’t emphasize enough how delightful the humor of the story is. The Matchimanito people in Tracks feel real in part because of the laughs they share. All the bawdy humor, all the practical jokes, and all the wry observations breathe life between the lines. I highly recommend this book; I’m so glad that I got to meet these characters and walk with them awhile. I look forward to reading more of Louise Erdrich’s work.

Having said all that praise of Tracks, you might justifiably wonder why I have not posted this blog entry until now, over a year later. Two reasons: I was sad and I was scared.

I was sad because when I read Tracks, the news was filled with stories about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The people of Matchimanito in Tracks are forever linked in my memory with the people of 2018 North Dakota fighting to protect their water, treaty rights, and their honored dead from the forces of rapacious capitalist American culture. Tracks is fiction set over 100 years in the past between 1912 and 1924 but nothing has substantively changed for our Native American brothers and sisters in America: powerful people want their resources and there isn’t a whole heck of a lot they can do about it though they certainly made a heroic stand. While this was happening, all I could do was watch and pray and read this book. In my head I recognize that being a witness to history matters, prayer matters, and reading narratives from other points of view matters; in my heart it sure does not feel like much.

I fully admit that I’m as dependent on fossil fuels as the next person. I also fully admit that I think a well-constructed pipeline that is in accordance with the strictest possible environmental regulation beyond any government mandated minimum is demonstrably better than trains or barges for transporting crude oil. Those two admissions having been made, I will state this: the DAPL did not have to cross Lake Oahe. I don’t care if profits would be decreased or the cost of continued environmental impact statements (EIS) by the Army Corps of Engineers was high. Profit is not as important as healthy water or honoring treaty rights or letting the dead rest in peace. Something can be safer without being safe and minimal, minor safety incidents are neither minimal or minor when you live there, when your children play there, and your dead rest there. Yes, Not In My Backyard syndrome is problematic but every backyard and community is different; their voices need to be heard.  I think doing careful science and investigation to make a safe piece of infrastructure that affected communities can be comfortable with matters. Saying that profit is not the be all end all of life is a pretty radical statement in America but I believe it to be true.


Black-eyed Susans by E.A. Schneider

The injustice of the whole DAPL project made me furious and sad. The DAPL was rerouted from the Bismark, North Dakota area to be closer to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. In contemporary life as in Tracks, Native Americans are expendable when jobs and profit are on the line. America is built on gravesoil from the government sanctioned genocide of millions of Native Americans. Native Americans are still here, they didn’t fade away into the landscape as is often depicted in pop culture, but most people don’t remember that or think about Native Americans until they have the temerity to protest something. When I went to undergrad, I took multiple classes in Anthropology and English that were about Native American history and culture and I took those classes with Native Americans. When I think of Native Americans, I think of real people first not sport team mascots or film characters. While I know that no culture is a monolith and every Native American has their own experience, opinions, history, and life, I thought of my classmates a lot watching the DAPL coverage and wondered how they were processing all of that.

So, I’ve talked about the sadness, now for the fear. I’m afraid of being part of the problem. I’m afraid of being just another white person who means well and does harm with all my good intentions. I’m afraid of not only coming across as someone more interested in virtue signaling and social media progressive liberalism but actually being that person. I don’t want to be culturally appropriative. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to try to help, I want to really help. We can’t change the past. No amount of reparations can bring back the dead. All we can do is make the present and the future a more just, compassionate reality for all Americans. And I don’t know how to do that anymore than I suspect you do, dear pond reader. But I realized that this entire paragraph is going to be true of every book I read on this list. I can’t let fear win. Even though I’m scared and I don’t know how to help, I figure that hiding this blog post and compulsively re-writing it isn’t going to help so here I am, posting my thoughts in all their imperfect reality.

November is National Native American History month and this November 2018 was certainly historic. The past, including the recent past, is filled with blood, pain, and oppression but the future has the potential to be both brighter and more just. Even if it will be really hard, this American experiment of representative government has always been hard and I look forward to seeing what the future brings.

There are still a couple days left in November. If you haven’t already read Tracks, you’ve still got time to start. If you have, what did you think of Tracks, dear readers? Do you have any comments or questions or favorite quotes? Do you have any other thoughts on the issues I’ve brought up? Please, leave a note below and thank you for stopping by the pond today.


Maple leaves by E.A. Schneider

Salutations! and NaNoWriMo 2018


Dragon from the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada by E.A. Schneider

Salutations, dear pond readers! I have returned. It has been an eventful year since my last post. I have a baby and I finally have a new, functional laptop. During the joyous upheaval attendant with a new human I have actually managed to do quite a bit of reading and no small amount of crafting. I’ve read 7.75 books from my Engaging Books list as well as a plethora of other delightful books. Hopefully, now that I have a working laptop, I will be better able to post about all of these exciting developments in the weeks to come.

Today is the beginning of NaNoWriMo 2018 and I have decided to participate once again. As in past years, I don’t actually expect to reach 50,000 words but that isn’t the point. Rather, the point is to try to get words on the page and then see what happens next. I’ve got a bunch of fountain pens, three kinds of ink, a passel of blank journals, a flock of ideas, and a working laptop; let’s see how far I get.

What creative projects are you working on, dear pond readers? Anybody attempting NaNoWriMo, too? What books have you been reading? It’s been a year and I want to hear how it’s been for you, dear pond readers. Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond today!



Marvelous dragon carving at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada by E.A. Schneider


Thank you, Ms. LeGuin


Lake Michigan in winter by E.A. Schneider

On January 23rd, I found out that one of my heroines died. At the age of 88, Ursula K. LeGuin passed from this mortal realm into whatever dreams come next. All of us are left behind to grieve and ponder the mark she left on our lives. Ursula K. LeGuin was a legend. I find myself thinking of her in terms of the line from Robert Frost’s poem “Take Something Like a Star” that, to paraphrase, she was an ever fixed point that asks of us a certain height because, even though she wrote diverse things across fiction, essay, poetry, and children’s literature, the moral tone of thoughtful curiosity and beautiful prose seemed constant to me.  As a reader, her work demands a certain imaginative courage to leap into new ways of thinking and her elegant word craft makes the leap a joy.

Unlike many people, the first Ursula K. LeGuin book for me was a short story anthology called Changing Planes and it changed my life. I grabbed the book on impulse in a local bookshop in middle-of-nowhere Northern lower Michigan when I was home on college break because I had liked “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas” in creative writing, I soon found myself in love with her perspective. Changing Planes  was unlike any book of sci-fi I had read before. It was so scientific, so ethnographic, so purely imaginative, filled with wisdom and humor. Here was science fiction that did not rely on whizbang technology or ray gun fueled space opera but rather the sublime exercise of the if/then question: If humans did this, what then happens? It was a thrilling thought for a writer that here was science fiction (by a woman no less!) that I felt I could maybe in 10,000 hours write: something about people rather than things. I was inspired. I’ve been working on science fiction ever since in addition to my other fiction interests.

I soon found out that Changing Planes was a small star in the LeGuin firmament and was giddy at the thought of reading more of her celebrated work. I have generally read at least one LeGuin book a year ever since that day in the bookshop. Left Hand of Darknessthe Earthsea trilogy, and The Dispossessed are justly lauded; I cherished reading those books and look forward to re-reading them. I will say that there is a purity to this grief because LeGuin lived such a long, lauded life and left such a plethora of work for us to enjoy. Her voice will carry on as it should.

Maybe I’m selfish but I have a confession to make. When I first saw that she died, my immediate thought was “Oh no! I never sent her a thank you note!” and I felt guilt. I was raised to believe that no matter what, if someone really makes a difference in your life, you better find a way to tell them and that the best way was a handwritten thank you note. I am an avid writer of thank you notes and an inveterate procrastinator of writing thank you notes, particularly when they are for something really important. It is a vexing contradiction. To this day, I have never gotten up the nerve to thank an author who made a difference in my life. I have drafted letters in my journals but always quailed at the moment of truth. Fear and introvert-ness keep winning over fandom. In that moment of reading the fateful headline of LeGuin’s passing, I felt the double loss of her, with all her stories yet untold, and the missed chance to say the two words to her that every artist finds gratifying: thank you. I will always have her books. In fact, there are many books of hers I’ve never read that I’ve been saving for a future day’s enjoyment and years of pondering. I can hardly wait to share her work with children and students yet unknown but now, I will also always have that regret of never finding the nerve to thank her for being her and that is too bad. So today, I will share with you my unsent thank-you note below.

Dear Ms. Ursula K. LeGuin,

Thank you for being you. Your incredible books, essays, and poetry have changed my life. Your human focused science fiction with its fascinating if/then hypothetical structure thrills my imagination as both a scientist and a creative writer. I’ve been writing fiction, reading everything I can, and dreaming of making a difference since I was a little girl.

I confess that I did not encounter your work until I was in my early 20s but when I did, it had a profound impact on my artistic approach. Before I read your work, I felt daunted by sci-fi and fantasy. As much as they drew me and I struggled to write stories in those genres, I felt in the back of my mind that there wasn’t quite room for stories that didn’t necessarily rely on complicated mathematical physics or epic violence and war but rather operated on a more individual, human scale. Reading your work and learning about your life as a mother, a feminist, a poet, and an apologist for Sci-fi as literature, I felt like not only was the world of options infinitely wider than I had supposed but that I could find a place there too, if I persevered.

Thank you for blazing your path and lighting the way for the rest of us. You have left the world infinitely more beautiful than you found it and I look forward to reading your stories yet to come. Please also know that in a biology lab in the Midwest, your poetry hangs over my desk and it inspires me as I work on my day job experiments even as the experience of reading your fiction hovers in my mind while I write my own creative stories. Both pursuits require imagination and your work has been invaluable encouragement in each endeavor.

Sincerest thanks again,

Ellen A. Schneider, MS a.k.a. E.A. Lawrence

I also hereby will endeavor to make 2018 the year I send the other draft letters to those living authors who, like Ms. LeGuin, opened my mind, wrote on my heart, and have helped me find my voice as a writer. Every artist deserves a thank you.


Engaged Reading: Post #1

Good afternoon, dear pond readers! Thanks for joining me at the pond on this Summer day. At last, I’m giving myself permission to sit down and write out my thoughts on the first books I’ve finished reading from my Engaging Books list. I will post these thoughts over on the Goodreads discussion as well so please feel free to chime in at either forum with your own thoughts, the more the merrier. I am breaking up my thoughts into separate posts so that you won’t be scrolling for days. Enjoy!


Geese from a Chinese tomb exhibit by E.A. Schneider

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood [311]

I read this book over the course of the first week in October 2016. I tell you this because I believe that reading this book during the tumultuous 2016 U.S. presidential election added an extra layer of poignancy to a book that is perennially relevant. It’s also a page-turner. My thoughts on this are extensive, kinda ramble-y, and hopefully spoiler-free.

Handmaid’s Tale makes me feel so grateful for my life and so hyper-aware of how easily the right set of things could go wrong to take it all away. This book feels real in many ways as good genre should.  So much of Gilead reminds me of ISIS and how they treat women there. The misogyny makes me think of Trump and his loathsome ilk. The rhetoric of certain feminists in the book and their longing for a world of no babies and no men also struck a familiar note; it’s something I’ve heard before. The best part of the story is its small, human scale. I like that Offred never tries to be a hero. I like that she is a flawed, petty human just trying to survive in horrific circumstances while feeling incredibly guilty about surviving. The comments that Offred makes about forgetting loved ones, grief, loneliness, waiting, and mourning for the past are beautiful and relatable. As I read, I found myself rooting for Offred to be able to escape to safety to finish living a small life with flowers and cats, but, it is okay if she didn’t, because she told her story and that helps all of us better understand our own. My husband got extra hugs during the week I read this, and afterwards, to thank him for being an incredible man as far from awful as can be.

I told my mom extra thank-yous for being such a wonderful, fierce role-model. Offred’s mom reminded me of mine in some ways. The outspoken passion for equality coupled to maternal devotion struck home. My mom stayed home but I never saw her as idle; she was a community advocate, volunteer, amazing seamstress, cook, and was always shoulder to shoulder with my dad fighting for us no matter what it was. Mom also made sure that I had feminist trading cards, made me a Nellie Bly costume (I still have it in my closet!), and made sure that as a family we went to Seneca Falls New York to walk through the entire Declaration of Sentiments monument together. It was awesome. My parents to this day resent me calling them dynamic super-heroes; I think they see this as an unrealistic pedestal, but, they are, and reading books like this kinda just reinforces that image. Sorry, Parental Units, but, you’ll always be my superheroes.


Snow leopard by E.A. Schneider

Reading this book also made me feel more grateful for my job, the fact of its existence, and that I work with so many amazing people, most of them women, every day, even if we’re facing some hard, scary economic realities. The ease with which technology was leveraged to force women out of the workplace to create Gilead chilled me to the bone with its plausibility. The following thoughts flirt with spoilers so you might want to skip to past the cave picture. Continue reading

Engaging Books: A Book Club for the next 4 years


Summer wildflowers by E.A. Schneider

Salutations, dear pond readers! Today, I am excited to launch a new project at Technicolorlilypond just in time for Summer. This project is a book club for the next four years that I’m calling “Engaging Books.” The election for the 45th president of the United States has made the world an extra tumultuous place and stirred up a lot of feelings in people. I think that if we could all be on the same page of the same book engaging in the imaginative exercise together, and then sharing thoughts on it in a polite way, that that would make the world a little bit better place right now with a little bit brighter future. What can I say? I’m the child of librarians; I can’t help but think that books are the best place to start when faced with crises.


Ring-tailed Lemur hugging its tail by E.A. Schneider

Engaging Books is designed with three specific goals. Goal #1: pierce our self-made bubbles of knowledge and, by so doing, achieve Goal #2: foster consideration for each other as human beings whilst doing Goal #3: read some amazing books. In short, the ultimate goal is to become a more engaged, informed, and polite member of society. Our self-curated bubbles of information have highlighted our polarized political climate in the United States as well as contributed to a crumbling sense of community. There is data to support this belief and there is no shortage of evidence that we are more likely to believe that the “other” is a subhuman enemy when we don’t know anything about them personally. I’m hoping that reading these books and works will help us all see the world with more compassion.

Like a lot of others in the USA, I felt a little blindsided after the November elections and I want to read up on points of view that I’m now aware I knew nothing of as well as perspectives that I might have mistakenly taken for granted.  A lot of thought went into this list of books. The books are a mix of fiction and non-fiction and every book is less than 600 pages long.

Because this is the Internet, everybody reads at different paces, and there’s this pesky thing called Real Life that rudely interrupts one’s ability to read, I have some guidelines for how this is going to work. Naturally, these are subject to revision as things develop. The books are listed below in the rough order I will aim to read them in. There are 60 books on the list which works out to 15 books a year for the next four years. As I read, I will post thoughts on the books here on my blog as well as on Goodreads in the Engaging Books Group. If you are reading along, please post your thoughts. If you’ve already read something on the list, feel free to post your thoughts on the work even if it’s way down on the list. However, all people posting will need to put SPOILER warnings on their comment where applicable and always be politely respectful in their remarks.

The books on this list are purposefully challenging. I fully expect many of them to contain content that is disturbing, offensive, graphic, and emotionally affecting. That is the point. Again, we all curate bubbles for ourselves regardless of facts to protect our identities. It is our nature. However, we can and should challenge that nature to stretch because that is how we learn and grow.

This isn’t a class. There are no grades and no credit beyond the personal. All I can offer is my own written commentary, some cute animal pictures, and the truth that when you read a book, you’re going to learn something you didn’t know before. Personally, I think that reading these books is a worthwhile endeavor and I hope you do too. On to the list!


Relaxed Seal by E.A. Schneider  Seals are one of the cutest animals around!


Engaging Books: The List  

# / Title / Author / [page count]

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood [311]
  2. Tracks by Louise Erdrich [226]
  3. News from Nowhere by William Morris [167]
  4. The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher [272]
  5. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed [274]
  6. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance [272]
  7. It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis [400]
  8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler [345]
  9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley [288]
  10. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglas [160]
  11. Bus Girl: Poems by Gretchen Josephson [107]
  12. The Irony of American History by Reinhold Neibuhr [174]
  13. We by Yevgeny Zamayatin [225]


    Diving sea turtle by E.A. Schneider

  14. 1984 by George Orwell [322]
  15. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond [418]
  16. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood [400]
  17. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank [200]
  18. Selected Poems by Langston Hughes [320]
  19. Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston [243]
  20. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hothschild [288]
  21. Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt [527]
  22. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach [181]
  23. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg [308]
  24. Muslims and the Making of America by Amir Hussain [150]
  25. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine [160]
  26. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot [370]
  27. Waist-high in the World: A life Among the Non-Disabled by N. Mairs [224]
  28. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai [352]
  29. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver [436]
  30. Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson [240]


    Summer wildflowers at dusk by E.A. Schneider

  31. Prophesy Deliverance! by Cornel West [188]
  32. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks [243]
  33. The Dictator’s Handbook by Bueno de Mequita [352]
  34. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury [249]
  35. Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik [218]
  36. Coyote by Allen Steele [436]
  37. The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force by Eliot A. Cohen [304]
  38. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins [374]
  39. The American Jeremiad by Sacvan Bercovitch [256]
  40. High-Rise by J. G. Ballard [204]
  41. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine [291]
  42. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd [296]
  43. Caesar’s Column by Ignatius Donnelly [278]
  44. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks [174]
  45. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer [240]
  46. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin [349]
  47. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman [208]
  48. The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (pseudonym of Stephen King) [384]
  49. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson [448]
  50. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt [528]
  51. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli [140]
  52. Animal Farm by George Orwell [112]
  53. The Wave by Morton Rhue and Todd Strasser [143]
  54. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez [120]


    Coneflower by E.A. Schneider

  55. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson [433]
  56. Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 by Ida B. Wells-Barnett Jacqueline Jones Royster (Editor) [288]
  57. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels [48]
  58. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society by Herbert Marcuse [320]
  59. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama [585]
  60. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins [294]

Thank you for reading to the end! I am going to intersperse my reading of this list with other lighter works and hopefully I will blog about those, too. I’ve already read a couple of these and will be posting my reviews sometime soon. Hopefully, this will help you launch your Summer Reading with some fascinating books and dynamic thinking. Any thoughts? Concerns? What are you reading now? Please, share below, happy Summer reading, and thank you for stopping by the pond today, dear reader.


Onward by E.A. Schneider