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The Book Beat - January 10, 2021

Where to start with my first post of 2021? As you know, I usually start these posts with a bit of personal information and talk about my love of books/reading and how it informs the life I'm currently living and what's happening in our world. And with the insurgent attack on our nation's Capitol this week--aside from being upsetting and infuriating--I, of course, turned to books for context, information, historical reference, and solace. In the last few years, I've become more interested in reading about history, politics, culture, and other social sciences, particularly how they relate to the current events (political and social) happening in our country. I will say, I'm not picking up The Glory and the Dream anytime soon (that HUGE two-part tome plagued me in high-school American history class!), but I do plan to sprinkle the books pictured above and more into my overall 2021 reading goal.

The well of titles is deep. Many historians, social scientists, reporters, and others have published many books in the last few years as the genre has flourished; as social issues have risen to prominence due to national events; and, yes, as American and international politics and the depiction of American history have become rife with division and controversy. Add to that all of the older, popular nonfiction books I've never read (I WILL read Harriet Jacobs' Incidents of a Slave Girl this year, I will!), and the reading list becomes immense. What I'm going to try and do is match the book to the current newscycle--and with a newscycle as rapid and everchanging as the current one, that's going to be a challenge--and my own particular interests.

I will add a caveat...I don't plan to spend my time reading "sensational" books meant to expose, inflame, accuse, propagandize, or denigrate. I know there's a market for those, but as I've always done with reading, I want to honestly and openly approach a subject (e.g. the good, bad, and ugly of our history and current world; the truths experienced by people from various races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc.; the real-life struggles of those I don't come into contact with on a daily basis, etc.) and be entertained, informed, educated, and, most importantly, grow my mind and experience with the narratives of our government, our world, and the people in it.

To that end, I'm going to start a new blog page in addition to The Book Beat, which focuses on reviewing nonfiction books, specifically related to history, culture, or other social sciences and assess them through the lens of real-life events. I hope that through it, I will learn more about these important subjects, while also growing my own belief system. I'll let you know when the first post is up (there won't be a set schedule). I just started historian Joanne B. Freeman's The Field of Blood about violence in Congress that precipitated the Civil War, so I plan on that one being the first book I review. I hope you'll check it out and, as always, feel free to email me about what I write and what you read.

Now, onto book news. We got some fun ones this week. I hope, as always, you're all healthy, safe, happy...and reading!

Gatsby: Still Great and Now Free for All!

On January 1, 2021, all copywritten works from 1925 entered the public domain, meaning you can finally share that The Great Gatsby fanfiction you've had noodling around in your head. The year 1925 is arguably known as the best year ever for book releases. Some of the titles published: The Great Gatsby; Mrs. Dalloway; Ernest Hemingway's first book, In Our Time; Harlem Renaissance writers showcased in The New Negro anthology; Harold Ross launched The New Yorker; and more. These works were supposed to be released in 2001, but Congress added 20 more years. There are more details in these articles, both about what copywriting law and public domain mean and how the events of the time influenced the literature released in 1925.

A History of Libraries That Were Destroyed

This sad article discusses the history of several libraries that were destroyed--and with their destruction, a treasure trove of irreplacable literature was also lost. Reading about these reminded me of the Ray Bradbury dystopian classic, Fahrenheit 451. If you're a reader and haven't read it, definitely do. I finally cracked it open for the first time last year and loved it. I was a Bradbury fan then, but between that book and the many Bradbury short stories I read last year, I'm now an even bigger fan. Do you have a half hour now? After you're done reading this post, check out "A Sound of Thunder" at the below link. This story is what the concept of "the butterfly effect" is based on and it is one of my favorite short stories of all time.

Still Swooning Over Bridgerton

I've wanted to use this GIF in my blog and now seems like the perfect time. Is it hot in here? Simon, The Duke of Hastings is a rake/rakehell, or lovable scoundrel. Learn more romance novel terms below. Think they're not valuable? Years ago, I won a very competitive game of Balderdash because I knew what "lothario" meant. How? Romance novels!

I love how popular Bridgerton has become on Netflix and am thrilled that it's getting tons of press. So, why stop at one article, when I can share three? The first is about what the popularity of Bridgerton could mean for more small-screen adaptations of traditional romance novels. My suggestions would be Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin, the Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooter series, and both Bet Me and Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie. Thank goodness for streaming services, which I think are especially good homes for these types of showcases.

Odes to Reading

I'm an avid reader of Maria Popova's site Brain Pickings. Profound, fascinating, expansive, and awash in culture, literary, artistic, and philosophical information, it's one of those sites that makes you a richer person--in knowledge and empathy--just by reading it. I put a few of my favorite entries below, but wanted to speak to the first one that celebrates reading and the power of books and what writers have said reading means to them. Below is a quote from James Baldwin, which gets to the heart of it:

"You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive."

I highly recommend subscribing to Maria's blog and getting more of this powerful content.

Simon & Schuster Exercises the 1st Amendment of Capitalism...Freedom to Cancel a Book Contract

Books, Books & More Books!

I've added quite a few books to my TBR pile recently. What are you looking forward to reading this year? Also, have you wondered where I'm writing this? I put a pic of my cozy (read: crowded with books and more) office space below, too. And, of course my 2021 calendar features fun, pop drawings and quotes of the late, great RBG.

Before I Go, A Reminder From Your Friendly English Major...

Capital can refer to uppercase letters, accumulated wealth, or the city that serves as the seat of a country's or state's government. A capitol is a building in which the legislative body of government meets. In the United States, the Capitol is a building in Washington in which the US Congress meets.

Cover of the Week: Outlawed by Anna North

A feminist mash-up of The Crucible and True Grit? I am in! Our Patron Saint of Books Reese Witherspoon just picked this for her book club's January pick and I got mine from Book of the Month. If two clubs are recommending it, you know it's going to be good.

I love this cover! A feminine take on the traditional western aesthetic, it is bold and bright and catches the eye. The western font is done in red and hot pink, while the faceless cowboy character has a bold, red lip. With one, quick look, you know this book isn't your grandmother's western. I will keep you updated on what I think! Here's a write-up from the publisher...

In the year of our Lord 1894, I became an outlaw.

The day of her wedding, 17 year old Ada's life looks good; she loves her husband, and she loves working as an apprentice to her mother, a respected midwife. But after a year of marriage and no pregnancy, in a town where barren women are routinely hanged as witches, her survival depends on leaving behind everything she knows.

She joins up with the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang, a band of outlaws led by a preacher-turned-robber known to all as the Kid. Charismatic, grandiose, and mercurial, the Kid is determined to create a safe haven for outcast women. But to make this dream a reality, the Gang hatches a treacherous plan that may get them all killed. And Ada must decide whether she's willing to risk her life for the possibility of a new kind of future for them all.

Featuring an irresistibly no-nonsense, courageous, and determined heroine, Outlawed dusts off the myth of the old West and reignites the glimmering promise of the frontier with an entirely new set of feminist stakes. Anna North has crafted a pulse-racing, page-turning saga about the search for hope in the wake of death, and for truth in a climate of small-mindedness and fear.

Till next week...

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