Seattle Public Library Summer Book Bingo 2019

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Hello, all! I’ve been a little swamped ever since my last post in mid-August, which is why (as you might have already figured out) I haven’t written any posts since mid-August! The main event prompting this radio silence was my move from Seattle to Boston (via a very intense 5-day road trip), which was itself prompted by my starting grad school for two degrees: library science in youth services and writing for children and young adults. How exciting! And how exhausting.

Unfortunately, this event also coincided with the weeks usually occupied by my annual “race to the finish” for the Seattle Public Library/Seattle Arts and Lectures Summer Book Bingo. Tragically, my need to pack up my entire life demanded I put my bingo card aside this year and instead spend my time making elaborate packing lists, hunting online for furniture, shopping for all that random stuff you previously didn’t even think about needing until suddenly your entire life needs to be transported in a car, and, most importantly, spending as many hours as I could with my friends. And so my unbroken blackout record of the past three summers has come to an end—but at least I still got a few bingos!

Since I am now a busy grad student and you, dear reader, are no doubt a busy person yourself for your own unique reasons, I’m going to keep the rest of this post short. Each square I actually managed to check off on my bingo card gets one sentence.

Let’s go.

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Book Club Discussion Transcript: Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel Everett

We hope you had a good time discussing Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes with your book club—or had a good time reading it on your own and thinking about it!

Below the cut is the transcript for our own Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes discussion. Maybe you’ll agree with our opinions, or maybe you’ll think we got it all wrong. Either way, we’d love to hear from you in the comments if you found our discussion interesting!

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Review: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

As I mentioned in my Indie Bookstore Day Success! post a few months ago, our IBD trio received a number of recommendations from a wonderfully enthusiastic young woman who was determined to make our visit to Brick & Mortar Books in Redmond a standout amongst a day a featuring 21 bookstores. Among these recs was Into the Drowning Deep, which was briefly described to us as “mermaids, but it’s a horror novel.”

I’ve read a couple things by Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant in the past—Every Heart a Doorway, Sparrow Hill Road—and as a result was a bit on the fence about reading another book by her. I would never argue with anyone who says Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant is a good author, but her writing style is not one with which I’ve been particularly taken previously. (Same goes for China Miéville, an author whom Colleen loves, while I do not.) I really love horrific fantasy books, though, and I also love it when authors come up with a scientific explanation for popular fantasy creatures actually existing in the real world. And so, while looking for a fun read to distract me from how miserably ill I was while attempting to backpack through the Swiss Alps, I looked at Into the Drowning Deep sitting on the Sci-Fi/Fantasy – To Read shelf of my Kindle and went, ……… FINE.

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Challenge Check-In: August 7th, 2019

How’s your reading challenge going?  For the past 3 months I’ve been traveling non-stop around Europe (the British Isles, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy), so my checked-off categories continue to look pretty dismal compared to the full 75 which I’m still hoping to complete. Somehow Colleen’s list of checked-off categories is still in good form, despite her two very busy part-time jobs this summer leaving her hardly any free hours to read—which I suppose are the benefits of hitting those categories hard in the first few months of the year. Alas, we sometimes have to admit that living life to the fullest and reading dozens of fabulous books are goals which do not always align!

We’re hoping our category fillers will help you find some suitable candidates for your own reading challenge—and to that end, we’ve included a few quick reviews of our favorite reads. Hopefully you’ll find some winners of your own as you rack up categories over the next few months! Best wishes, and happy reading!

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Book Club Questions: Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel Everett

Everett, then a Christian missionary, arrived among the Pirahã in 1977—with his wife and three young children—intending to convert them. What he found was a language that defies all existing linguistic theories and reflects a way of life that evades contemporary understanding. The Pirahã have no counting system and no fixed terms for color. They have no concept of war or of personal property. They live entirely in the present. Everett became obsessed with their language and its cultural and linguistic implications, and with the remarkable contentment with which they live—so much so that he eventually lost his faith in the God he’d hoped to introduce to them. 

Over three decades, Everett spent a total of seven years among the Pirahã, and his account of this lasting sojourn is an engrossing exploration of language that questions modern linguistic theory. It is also an anthropological investigation, an adventure story, and a riveting memoir of a life profoundly affected by exposure to a different culture. Written with extraordinary acuity, sensitivity, and openness, it is fascinating from first to last, rich with unparalleled insight into the nature of language, thought, and life itself.

Colleen and I were both pretty pleased that we picked this title as a book club book, since there was a lot going on which we both wanted to try and unpack during our discussion. Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes raises a lot of questions for a Western reader, and in many different areas outside of just linguistics. Our experience of the memoir/linguistics-for-beginners story Everett is telling definitely benefitted from our ability to work together in navigating our own understanding of the concepts Everett introduced during our book club meeting.

I highly recommend this book, as it introduces many challenging concepts about language, culture, and perception for a Western audience, without being overly academic and terminology-laden. I would also recommend you read the book with the intention of discussing it with someone else, if possible, as your brain will benefit from being forced to grapple with the ideas Everett is introducing and to put your thoughts into words.

Discussion questions below the cut!

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Book Club Prep: Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel Everett

Our next book club book will be Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes by Daniel Everett! This memoir covers the thirty years during which Everett spent time living with the Pirahã, a group of Amazonian native people, and the many lessons he learned as he struggled to become fluent in their very difficult and unique language. Although he initially began his work as a missionary with the goal of translating the Bible into Pirahã, Everett’s personal views and understanding of the world around him shifted significantly during his thirty years learning both a new language and a new way of thinking from the Pirahã.

Everett, then a Christian missionary, arrived among the Pirahã in 1977—with his wife and three young children—intending to convert them. What he found was a language that defies all existing linguistic theories and reflects a way of life that evades contemporary understanding. The Pirahã have no counting system and no fixed terms for color. They have no concept of war or of personal property. They live entirely in the present. Everett became obsessed with their language and its cultural and linguistic implications, and with the remarkable contentment with which they live—so much so that he eventually lost his faith in the God he’d hoped to introduce to them. 

Over three decades, Everett spent a total of seven years among the Pirahã, and his account of this lasting sojourn is an engrossing exploration of language that questions modern linguistic theory. It is also an anthropological investigation, an adventure story, and a riveting memoir of a life profoundly affected by exposure to a different culture. Written with extraordinary acuity, sensitivity, and openness, it is fascinating from first to last, rich with unparalleled insight into the nature of language, thought, and life itself.

Highlight white text for content warnings: alcohol addiction, animal cruelty or animal death, threats of assault, death or dying, racism, giant effing snakes

For those of you looking for hosting ideas, here are some easy snacks and beverages you and your book club compatriots can enjoy while discussing Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes. And for those of you who are looking for something more beyond the book itself, here are some articles and books which either tie into Everett’s memoir or expand upon its themes and content.

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Book Club Discussion Transcript: Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

We hope you had a good time discussing Six Wakes with your book club—or had a good time reading it on your own and thinking about it!

Below the cut is the transcript for our own Six Wakes discussion. Maybe you’ll agree with our opinions, or maybe you’ll think we got it all wrong. Either way, we’d love to hear from you in the comments if you found our discussion interesting!

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Book Club Questions: Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer—before they kill again.

It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.

At least, Maria Arena had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died.

Maria’s vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn’t the only one to die recently…

As I mentioned in the Book Club Prep post for this novel, the synopsis above isn’t super accurate as to the actual plot, worldbuilding, and primary concerns of this novel, but at least it probably piqued your interest.

After reading and discussing Sadie and The Fact of a Body back to back, we were hoping to find something a little lighter to read, and Six Wakes definitely fit the bill. Although the novel asks a lot of questions of us as far as what makes a person this person and not some other person, it’s a light and fast-paced read that’s easy to fly through. Don’t expect a tightly plotted mystery, though—Lafferty’s book is best enjoyed if you focus your little grey cells on the philosophical questions she’s presenting, rather than looking out for clues the way you would with a Hercule Poirot novel.

Both Colleen and I enjoyed this read, although I was a little disappointed by the lack of a strong mystery storyline. We had a good time reading and had plenty to talk about during our discussion, but we also wished Lafferty had pushed some of her ideas even farther when it came to the societal repercussions of the world she’d created. Even so, I would still recommend Six Wakes, especially for people who want the sci-fi lit experience of contemplating interesting concepts and philosophical questions, but are also looking for a fun page-turner.

Discussion questions below the cut!

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Book Club Prep: Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

Our next book club book will be Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty! The synopsis below is pretty inaccurate, both factually and as far as what the book is actually about—but gosh, it sure sounds exciting, which I guess is what really matters in the publishing house’s eyes. If you’re interested in ethical dilemmas and philosophical questions raised by the concept of cloning, delivered in a fun and fast-paced read with a murder mystery subplot hanging around in the background, Six Wakes would probably be a great book for you!

A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer—before they kill again.

It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.

At least, Maria Arena had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died.

Maria’s vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn’t the only one to die recently…

Highlight white text for content warnings: death and dying, assault, suicide, torture

For those of you looking for hosting ideas, here are some easy snacks and beverages you and your book club compatriots can enjoy while discussing Six Wakes. And for those of you who are looking for something more beyond the book itself, here are some articles and books which either tie into Lafferty’s novel or expand upon its themes and content.

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Book Club Questions: The Fact of a Body by Alex Marzano-Lesnevich

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins an internship at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.

[Note: Although Marzano-Lesnevich now identifies as non-binary, I am using the official synopsis of the book as written on their website.]

Although neither of us went into this book expecting a jolly-good-times read, we were both a bit taken off-guard by the intensity of the subject matter. The book is beautifully and carefully written, and the parallels and connections between Marzano-Lesnevich’s own lived experience and the trajectory of Ricky Langley’s life are artfully drawn. Like many great true crime novels, The Fact of a Body raises more questions than it answers, with the added weight of the author’s personal connection hanging onto the facts they ask us to consider. But if you can stand to carry this novel’s heavy subject matter with you, it makes for a impactful and worthy read.

Discussion questions below the cut!

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