Engaging Books: A Book Club for the next 4 years

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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.

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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!

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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]

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    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]

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    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]

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    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.

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Onward by E.A. Schneider

 

 

Sewing some fun

Hello, dear pond readers, thank you for joining me here at the pond. Happily, I’m here today to share some crafty fun that I’ve been sewing. I hope that it inspires you to get your own crafty shenangins going.

I got busy making some Whovian magic happen by using this set of directions for an envelope pillow cover to sew two 16″x16″ throw pillows. As odd as this sounds, I liked that Martha Stewart’s page didn’t have pictures for the directions because just using the math happened to be easier for me. There are various picture-filled options online though for the more visually inclined. The pillow pictured below is wonderfully plush and cozy.

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Front of Whovian pillow by E.A. Schneider Also, FYI, it is super adorable to see someone using this pillow and see the “Vworp Vworp” above their head like a text balloon.

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Back of the Whovian Pillow by E.A. Schneider

For my mom’s birthday, I made this pincushion. I made it two-sided because both sets of fabric are adorable and my mom likes to have fun choices. I’m rather proud of how well centered the buttons are.

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Blue side of pincushion

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Peach and blue side of pincushion

I also made her this pendant but I did cheat and string it on a pre-made cord. It is painted jasper so it also has two sides that look all impressionistic and lovely.

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Jasper pendant side 1 by E.A. Schneider

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Jasper pendant side 2 by E.A. Schneider

To kick off my fundraising for team Nerds for a Cure in Walk MS Waukesha 2017, I made these two dice bags for friends of mine. These friends have joined the glorious world of Dungeons & Dragons and needed suitable bags of holding for their dice so they asked me if I could make them bags. Two years ago I made dice bags for my fundraising for Nerds for a Cure and I used that same pattern again.  We play weekly and I tailored the bags to their personal interests, both in and out of the game. It was a delightful creative challenge and I’m happy to say that they were pleased with them.

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Dragon and cat dice bags of holding. By E.A. Schneider

Also, because I thought it would be a fun challenge, the insides of the bags have a surprise at the bottom.

I have no doubt that I’m going to craft some more nifty stuff for the fundraiser and will share the details here when I can.

I’m working on some other fun craft projects and will hopefully get them finished soon. What sorts of crafting are you doing these days, dear pond readers? Please, post comments and links below when you have the chance and thanks for stopping by the pond today!

Words on my mind

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Seagulls and Lake Michigan’s surf by E.A. Schneider

Hello, dear pond readers, long time no see. This winter has been busy and I have not been able to be here at Technicolor Lily Pond as often as I’d hoped. In addition to real life demands, I’ve been doing some sewing, some cooking, taking some pictures, reading, and I’ve been busy writing. I’ve also been playing a lot of various tabletop games and exploring that world. In 2017 I have many big, creative plans to keep doing more of all of those things and hopefully I will be able to not only accomplish them but also to share them here at the pond with all of you. Here’s hoping!

Thanks to recent world events, I have a lot of feelings that will probably surface here at the pond. Nevertheless, I still want Technicolor Lily Pond to be a creative, fun space at the end of the day that can inspire as many people as possible in positive ways. In that spirit, I would like to share with you a poem that has been on my mind over the last two weeks. Thanks to my poetry loving mother, I have a few different poems rattling around in my head to turn to for comfort in times of stress (thanks, Mom!), but, this particular poem is one I first encountered at the Milwaukee County Zoo as part of their Language of Conservation Project and it has become a treasured favorite to turn to in times of uncertainty. I found it on the Internet thanks to the Scottish Poetry Library and have linked to their page below. Enjoy!

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

As you face the challenges of your week wherever you are, dear pond readers, I hope that you can take a moment to look on something wild whether it is a creek or a song sparrow or a squirrel, breathe, and find a moment of peace.

What are you hoping to accomplish in 2017, dear pond readers? Any new books you’re hoping to tackle or novels you’re hoping to write or recipes you’re hoping to try? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

Thankful Thoughts

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Whale shark and friends by E.A. Schneider

Happy Thanksgiving, dear pond readers! Today I find myself counting my blessings. I’m thankful for my spouse, my family, my friends, my faith, my work, my words, my readers, and this incredibly beautiful world. This post is filled with pictures of some of our magical wild neighbors which I hope you enjoy. Despite multiple setbacks, I’m thankful that I’m still plugging away at NaNoWriMo, slowly but surely (2574 words and counting!), as well as my reading goal of 52 books (43 books and counting!) this November.

This Thanksgiving may be extra stressful for many in the USA because we’re dreading the P-word (P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S) rearing its head over the turkey and sweet potatoes while grappling with the usual stresses of travel, family, distance, and cooking things we only cook once or twice a year. Fingers crossed for no food poisoning or flu! Look on the bright side, given the statistics on political opinion in the USA, odds are high that we’re all stressed out together. If misery loves company, then surely anxiety enjoys a crowd.

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Jellies in the deep by E.A. Schneider

No matter how tough it is or how divided your dining room might be, it is more important than ever to hang on to those we love and find the strength to keep talking to each other. Count your blessings together, I guarantee that you will find many in common if you try. The future may be uncertain with lots of things to be afraid of, but, cultivating a grateful, loving heart can only be an asset. Especially when coupled with yummy food in the company of dear ones.

What are you grateful for, dear readers? Are you in the final sprint of your own NaNoWriMo experience? Are you cramming in some reading time? Or cramming in a new tasty recipe? Please, leave a comment below while you have a safe, happy, and tasty holiday filled with love. Thanks for stopping by the pond today.

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Tanuki in Autumn by E.A. Schneider

 

Hope and Forgiveness

It is several days post election and a lot of people are justifiably scared. I have a lot of thoughts about how things turned out, but, rather than share them today, I’m just going to share this quote which has been a source of comfort over the years during times of uncertainty. Since the news of November 9th, I find myself re-reading it often. Hopefully, it comforts you, too.

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”

― Reinhold NiebuhrThe Irony of American History

If you want to help make your community a better place and help your neighbors, here is a link with some good suggestions about where to start. Together we can dig deep and make a loving world. Take care, dear readers, and thanks for stopping by the pond today.

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Deep blue calm by E.A. Schneider .

Finished some reading!

I got to do some reading the last couple of days, dear pond readers, and I have a couple tiny updates for you.

Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2)Changeless by Gail Carriger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series is distractingly addictive and I am thoroughly enjoying every page. Alexia is a fabulous heroine and I can hardly wait to read what further adventures she encounters in book three armed with her parasol, glassicles, and preternatural wit.

View all my reviews

Red Hood's Revenge (Princess, #3)Red Hood’s Revenge by Jim C. Hines

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The stakes keep building for the trio of no-nonsense princesses in Red Hood’s Revenge. I absolutely love how Hines is mining the deep, dark recesses of classic fairy tales to tell these very realistically positive fantasy stories. I can hardly wait for book four.

View all my reviews

I’m over halfway through my goal of 52 books this year with 29 books done. Here’s hoping that I can not only power on and finish some more books but also do a longer capsule review heavy post for all of you. What are your reading and writing goals this Fall, dear readers? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by.

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Budding possibility by E.A. Schneider

 

If you want to support Technicolorlilypond and check out some super fun books, check out these links: Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate) and Red Hood’s Revenge (Princess Novels) Thank you!

Reading in the Woods

As you all know, I was able to sell a second short story entitled Kitsune Tea,” using my pseudonym, E.A. Lawrence and it was published in the anthology ROAR 7 edited by Mary E. Lowd.

Prior to going on my recent camping trip, I finally got my paperback copy in the mail. It was a delicious feeling to hold the book in my hands, drink in that new book smell, and caress the pages that held my imagination. Let me tell you, that is the best paper I have ever felt in my life. This whole selling-my-fiction-for-money thing is a dream that I’ve been actively pursuing since I was nine and getting to see my work in a BOOK is a dream come true.  I feel triumphant and energized and hopeful that my story will make people smile. Optimism about this being but one step in my literary journey with more to follow in the not-too-distant future is also revving me up.

Since I got the book in the mail before my trip, I figured that I would bring it along. Why not? Paperbacks are tough and what better place to read a story set in the woods than actually sitting in the woods? I guess that I’m a little method but who cares.

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Campsite by E.A. Schneider

We got to the state park in the upper midwest and set up camp in a nice clearing. Like most state parks there was a picnic table set on more or less level ground and a fire ring. The site was surrounded with a nice mix of hardwood deciduous trees with a full, bushy understory and a wet spot/creek bed running through the area. It was lovely.

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Butterfly feeding by E.A. Schneider

My friend and I did our hiking and came back to camp later than we planned to cook dinner but, no big deal, right? Well…we weren’t alone. Remember all those lovely big trees with a moist bushy understory surrounding our site? At dark  we quickly realized that there was a meso-predator who called the site home and he wanted something besides the numerous cricket frogs in the moist spots to eat. A raccoon wanted in on dinner and was  quite bold about saying so. It was clear that people had fed him. This raccoon approached the picnic table even though we were there and started chewing on the tied up garbage bag before my friend shooed him off.

As we sat at the picnic table eating our campfire food (delicious baked stuffed onions and cakes in oranges), the raccoon kept creeping up. I have no doubt that if we had been less antagonistic in waving our lanterns at him, that he would have felt comfortable sitting at the table and helped himself from our plates. Being us, we disapprove of such shenangins, wildlife should be wild thank-you-very-much, and were careful to clear everything edible up and away in the car for the night. I rather thought that, without anything in sight anymore, that the raccoon would put his energies toward other foraging and leave us to ourselves.

We pulled our camp chairs to the fire and settled in to relax. I had a cup of tea, my lantern, and my book. I even took a picture of the first page of my story for posterity because why not. There were stars gleaming above between the tree-tops, more stars densely packed in that one clearing of sky than you can easily see from my whole backyard, and it was a lovely quiet night.

 

Then my friend saw the raccoon, driven by curiosity to explore our picnic table. He trundled off after we snapped some pictures. The pictures were not terribly good but it had been worth a try. Again, I figured that he would move on and went back to reading my story.

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Raccoon on the table by E.A. Schneider

As I read my story, getting drawn into the suspense and keen to see that the copy was clean, I was startled by that elemental pricking at the back of the neck one reads about in books occurring on my own neck. I heard paws treading into camp. The raccoon was back again to verify the absence of goodies. This time I snapped a decent picture of the interloper, he scampered off, and that’s it, right? Nope.

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Yeah…I’ve been having fun with the Make It Stranger font generator. I love the show “Stranger Things,” and the font definitely captures the suspenseful feelings of the night with some humor.

Again, I was roused from concentrating on my own story, during a chase scene no less, by the shuffling paw steps of the raccoon coming toward our fire from the other wooded side of camp than the picnic table. I could hear the raccoon’s paws moving through the underbrush and leaf litter. I don’t know if he was that loud, it was that quiet, or my hearing is that much keener than I thought. I couldn’t see him, my eyes were dazzled from the whiteness of my page, which only added to the primal anxiety aroused by the situation. My friend and I both jumped, startled from our separate pursuits by the raccoon’s intrusion. Why would he come back? We had no food left out, we were just sitting there. This was incredible. In all my time in the woods over the years I had never before felt the scrutiny of an interested predator, albeit a small one, in my movements, environment, and objects. Feeling encircled and studied by a wild animal bent on exploring our space and stealing our food definitely added an extra dimension to reading my story.  All the suspenseful bits of “Kitsune Tea” had an extra edge to them than there would have been if I had elected to read the story in an armchair at home.

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My favorite picture of the raccoon by E.A. Schneider

I was able to finish reading my story without further interruption by the raccoon and I was happy. “Kitsune Tea”  was as I remembered with a clean copy having nary a typo in sight. I was both pleased and impressed. Going to sleep that night was tough. For one thing I was still excited by the day and having read my story in a book. For another, the night was teeming with sounds from owls, crickets, cricket frogs, cicadas, the murmur of other campers at other campsites, and other unknown rustlings in the woods.

I also kept thinking about the raccoon. How many calories did he get from campers? How did he choose which campers to pursue and which to avoid? From a raccoon perspective, the site was perfect habitat with those trees, water, and frogs so the human element might just be the cherry on top rather than the main draw. It was fun to ponder. I have always been fond of urban wildlife and the ways in which they thrive. A raccoon living in a well attended state park might not be exactly urban but he certainly knew the perks of the human herd. I don’t know if there is a sequel to “Kitsune Tea” in my brain yet or not but, after my experience with that bold little raccoon, I think there very well might be another adventure set in my imagined Maintou State Forest in the not too distant future. We’ll see.

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Trees in the dark by E.A. Schneider                                                                                                                I freely admit that this is not a good picture but I like the different tones of green and I like remembering just how densely packed with stars that little spot of blackness was.

All in all, I have to recommend reading in the woods generally and particularly reading my “Kitsune Tea” in the woods if at all possible. It was fun. I hope that my encounter with a raccoon made you smile, dear pond readers. Do you have a raccoon anecdote? Do you  have a comment or question? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond today, dear readers.

 

 

P.S.: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. If you buy this lovely ROAR 7 anthology published by Furplanet publications through this amazon link: ROAR Volume 7, I will get a small advertising fee. I hope that these fees will help support me as I continue writing and doing creative things here at Technicolorlilypond. Thanks for your support!