Cool Girls Read Books!

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(Image above: Kristin cozies up with a classic!)

Have you ever uttered the statement, ‘I should read more?’ I have, about a million times. I am constantly whining about not reading enough, but I let life get in the way. Magazines are easier at the gym, late nights out take the place of bedtime reading, and television fills in all the other gaps. But, I feel guilty for not making more time in my schedule for books. I love them. I miss them.

Keep reading for a great blog and book tip!

Kristin Pazulski felt the same way. She was working as a reporter for Philadelphia’s The Chestnut Hill Local where writer Hugh Gilmore had a column called ‘The Enemies of Reading.’ Gilmore discussed the distractions to reading and challenged everyone to overcome them by embracing the goal of 100 books in a year. Although 100 seemed beyond her, the idea forced Pazulski to get serious about increasing the time she spent with her nose pressed in a book. It was 2007, her goal was 25 books (higher than her normal reading pace, but also achievable), and the Cover To Cover blog was on the cusp of creation.

After that first year, Pazulski discovered that not only was her appetite for reading increasing, but looking back at the list of books she had read helped her to reflect on her life. She was able to remember the events of that passing year through the list, and when there was a glitch in her memory, it meant there was a lull in her reading at that time during the year. Fascinated and inspired by this phenomenon, she invited her friends and family to join her reading pursuits. They set their own reading goals, picked their own books, and Cover To Cover was born!

Cover To Cover features regular book reviews and updates from the readers themselves, who also list their personal reading goals on the site. “The most important thing to emphasize,” states Pazulski, “is that this is not a competition.” Readers should not feel stressed or pressured by other members – this is a community of individuals who simply want to read more, and Cover To Cover wants to help foster that goal. Pazulski says that “whether you reach the end result is nearly irrelevant.” It’s wonderful if you do, of course, but you are still likely to read more than you would have without the goal. Last year, Pazulski’s goal was 32, but she only read 25. She’s not upset, though – that was way more than she’s read in the past, and that makes her happy. In fact, her boyfriend set a goal of just one book last year (more then he usually reads), and reached it! He’s already on his third book for 2009.

The Cover To Cover blog has an encouraging, positive feel, and Pazulski hopes that will keep people involved. It seems to be working – the network of readers is expanding, and Pazulski is excited about fostering this new community. Eventually, Pazulski would like to bring this program into schools (anyone remember Pizza Hut’s BookIt?) with the support of her dedicated readers.

So, set your goal and start reading with Cover To Cover!

(And, let us know if you do…we’d love to see your goals and book reviews!)

If the books on your reading list are anything like Life After God, you’ll find yourself meeting the yearly reading goal with ease. Unfortunately, you may also end up a little on the sad side; a sample line reads “First there is love. Then there is disenchantment. Then there is the rest of your life.” This is certainly not the right selection if you’re looking for a chipper beach read. But if you’ve never read Douglas Coupland (one of my personal favorite writers and author of Generation X: Tales of an Accelerated Culture– a book which many have said gives a voice to that alphabetically-named generation born after 1960), this is a wonderful introduction. The stories are brief, accessible, and deal with universal topics like love, heartbreak, and the small sadness that comes with growing up. This is the kind of book best read with a dose of self-contemplation.

Coupland has said that the title of the book refers to what he views as a generation (his generation) born in the absence of any belief structure or organized religion. Most of the stories express a concern with where we come from, wondering how it is we got on this Earth–what makes us human and what makes us us. Each of the eight stories is laced with an awareness of the divide between ‘real lives’ and the expectations of life we get from reading stories or fairytales.

Each of the stories addresses in its own way the consequences of belonging to this generation. These include fear of a nuclear fallout (“The Wrong Sun” vividly depicts people’s experiences in their last moments following an atomic explosion.), cynicism (the strained father/daughter roadtrip in “Little Creatures”) and disappointment (The final eponymous story, “1,000 Years (Life After God)” finds six high school friends twenty years later, each let down by their lives in a different way.).

But despite the confusion and loss apparent in all of the stories, there is also an appreciation of the beauty in decay, such as the line “The cold air sparkled and the maple leaves were rotting, putting forth their lovely reek, like dead pancakes.” The world might not be a fairty tale, but Coupland continuously finds hope in nature and in animals throughout these stories, and the overall mood is not morose–just reflective.

For a more diverse look at Coupland’s writing, see his website or his Opinion blog for the New York Times. Generation X is a great read, too!

Have any great book recommendations?? Let us know!!

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19 Responses to Cool Girls Read Books!

  1. Katie Z. 03/19/2009 at 7:33 pm #

    This is such a wonderful idea! I’m a doctoral candidate in English literature, so I love seeing people reclaiming reading.

    I recommend:
    ~The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; it seems kind of stereotypical and obvious, but I think the reason why the title is bandied about so much is because Plath’s candor seems so shockingly ordinary.
    ~The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson; this is an account of a cholera epidemic that swept through a London neighborhood in the 1830s. The historical aspect is drawn from journals and medical publications, but it reads almost like fiction or a detective novel: it reminded me of an episode of House! Absolutely makes you appreciate indoor plumbing.
    ~White Teeth by Zadie Smith; really, and quite remarkably, something for everyone—a wild tapestry of characters from various racial/ethnic backgrounds, ages, classes, and sexualities. This novel traces the intersecting lives of three families in London during World War II, the 1970s, and the present day. The stories are revealed through flashbacks, reminiscent of multi-plot films, and it is *hilarious*!

  2. Hugh Gilmore 03/19/2009 at 7:47 pm #

    This is a great idea. I thoroughly support it. If anyone can get this idea going, it’s Kristin. Her enthusiasm and sincerity will carry the day!

  3. Rebecca K. 03/19/2009 at 9:00 pm #

    The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts is a MUST.

    Any Toni Morrison book (currently reading Beloved). Sula is really good.

    And Frankenstein by Mary Shelley WILL surprise you. It’s very emotional and moving.

  4. Maggie 03/19/2009 at 9:31 pm #

    Nice review. I’m so glad that you lent me Life After God, Alicia – it’s an amazingly resonant book!

  5. Polly 03/20/2009 at 2:55 am #

    Any Haruki Murakami or Gabriel Garcia Marquez!!

  6. Melissa 03/20/2009 at 4:45 am #

    I’m a HUGE fan of anything written by Dave Eggers, but my favorite of his probably has to be You Shall Know Your Velocity.

    Demian by Herman Hesse is my all-time fave.

    The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin is great too.

    I just finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and thoroughly enjoyed it, very original. Exciting idea!!!!

  7. CharLee 03/20/2009 at 7:55 am #

    I agree with Katie Z.! This is wonderful!

    I’m an undergrad studying English Lit, and so I generally read about 25 books a year that have been assigned. This year I am determined to read that many, or more, outside of assigned reading.

    I always recommend Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Early 20th century American novel, built of short stories about people in a small Ohio town. It’s a quick read, but is an utterly beautiful rendering of the characters and what it is like to live in a small American town.

  8. Susan 03/20/2009 at 8:04 am #

    I’m definitely going to check out Life After God for my next book, thanks for the recommendation!

    Right now I’m reading the New Kings of Nonfiction, a collection of short stories chosen by Ira Glass (host of the radio show This American Life) I’m really enjoying it!

  9. Brittany 03/20/2009 at 9:05 am #

    What a wonderful goal! I, too, have my degree in English Literature and it does my heart good to hear that young women want to bring more reading into their lives.

    My indispensables include:

    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. A funny, thoughtful and terrifying anti-feminist dystopia in which a battered America establishes a very Old Testament system for the treatment of women. Beyond the eerie parallels to our contemporary discussions of choice, Atwood writes a beautifully intimate account of a domestic life bound to bed and home.

    The Trial by Franz Kafka. Another hilarious work, this tale is about a maddening, all-pervasive bureaucracy that manages to trample human ambitions without really getting anything accomplished.

    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. If you enjoy words, this book is like candy for your brain. Beneath the layers of linguistic gymnastics, theatrical brutality, and questions about the natures of God and free will, resides a very traditional humanist message. Compare the ending of this novel to the ending of the Kubrick film and you will be left with two very different messages about the human heart!

  10. Molly 03/20/2009 at 10:33 am #

    Oh, Brittany, the Handmaid’s Tale! Love it. I’m a sci-fi fan…anyone else? Dune by Frank Herbert?

  11. Angela 03/20/2009 at 12:48 pm #

    Awesome post! I am a member of Cover to Cover and I love it. I did usually make time to read for pleasure, but this also encourages me to find things I’d want to write about – good and bad reviews. The added step of writing a review or reflection only enhances my reading experiences for the best! Thanks Molly!

  12. Brittany 03/20/2009 at 1:32 pm #

    Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin and E.E. “Doc” Smith are among my favorite sci-fi (or is it SyFy now?) writers!

  13. Pam 03/20/2009 at 3:58 pm #

    Currently- Emma

    The Perks of Being A Wallflower

    Fear and Loathing inLas Vegas- it grabs your attention all the way.

  14. Claudia 03/21/2009 at 10:12 am #

    What I Was by Meg Rosoff. I’ve just read it, and it’s very well-written. I highly recommend it.

  15. karen 03/21/2009 at 8:30 pm #

    “Devil In The White City”
    “Middlesex”

  16. Little Gray Pixel 03/22/2009 at 3:30 am #

    I, too, love Douglas Coupland. Right now I’m reading “The Gum Thief.” So far highly recommended.

    I would suggest that there’s no wrong thing to read as long as you’re reading. Read trash, smut, classics, serious lit, whatever, as long as the book is open and your brain is imagining another world…

  17. Rachel 03/22/2009 at 4:17 pm #

    Anything by Kurt Vonnegut is amazing, but I’d recommend either Cat’s Cradle or Mother Night

    Also The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. It’s sortof a russian classic, it was banned in russia when it was first written, during the 30′s.

  18. Destiny 03/22/2009 at 5:16 pm #

    Great idea! I love almost all of thouse authors.

  19. Mandy 03/23/2009 at 7:54 pm #

    Three great reads:

    1. Franny & Zooey by J. D. Salinger

    2. The Wasp Eater by William Lychack

    3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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