{ESC} BOOK EIGHTEEN: FUN HOME

Dear Reader,

I was reading this book the other day in my living room and my mother walked in and said, “I didn’t know you read comics!”

And because I always say obnoxiously snobby things to her (it’s fine, she loves it, she thinks it’s hilarious) I replied, “oh my god Mom, it’s a graphic NOVEL.

And don’t worry, I’m not about to go into a whole big rant about the proper classification of these books, because honestly I don’t think it’s a big deal what people refer to them as or what stigma they associate with them because a story can be told a million different ways. And some stories are told better in the form of a graphic novel while others are better told in a video format–or others are best told by one person on stage with a microphone, talking to drunk people in a comedy club.

That’s why I love this book so much. Fun Home is a great story. It’s written like a graphic novel (with panels and captions and such), but the writing isn’t what you might expect from a “comic book.” It’s written in a really sophisticated way and it’s actually a lot more words than you might think. Some of the panels are news articles or diary entries or things written in scratchy handwritten notes that you have to try extra hard to make out.

So, while it still only took me a day to get through, it was a lot. It made me think and reflect a lot. And even though it’s an autobiography, it tells much more about the life of her father than her at some points. But it’s all so connected and just truly well done.

Also, it’s been reformatted, in you will, into a Broadway musical (a hit, I should add) and I desperately want to see it. So you can just add that to the list of things in NYC that are taunting me.

Sincerely,

Sammy

PS. Here’s a video of Fun Home’s performance at the Tonys this year that I can’t stop watching.

{ESC} BOOK SEVENTEEN: I WROTE THIS FOR YOU AND ONLY YOU

Dear Reader,

Merry Christmas Eve! I’m currently partaking in a Mario Kart tournament so I’ll make this book review quick.

I got the book “I Wrote This For You and Only You” as an early Christmas present (thanks Zach!) and I read it in one night. It’s this book of short poems that are each paired with really cool photography and I couldn’t put it down. I was marking the pages with different bookmarks and writing some of my favorites in my journal and all of a sudden it was 2AM.

I mean, it happens.

I’ll probably make another post with a few of my favorite ones, but for now all I want to say is this book is great. A lot of the poems are so deep and thoughtful and choose all the perfect words to say things I’ve felt but could never articulate. There are also other books in this collection and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Alright, I’m going back to my family now, so I’ll just leave with you with this:

“If all you do is making something beautiful for someone else, even if it’s only for a moment, with a single word or small action, you have done a great service.

Because life can be ugly and frustrating and for so many, it is.”

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK SIXTEEN: BEAUTIFUL MUSIC FOR UGLY CHILDREN

Dear Reader,

This is the story of Gabe, a boy who is about to graduate high school and just got his very own weekly show that he calls “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children.” But the thing that drives the plot of this book is one little detail: Gabe was born a girl.

For as long as he can remember, Gabe has felt like a boy. But because he is in this girl’s body, he is treated differently. He is defined by the people who perceive him as Elizabeth, despite the feelings he has inside.

And isn’t that crazy? That people can be so offended by the way others choose to act? It’s okay to be confused and it’s okay to ask questions and it’s even okay to be ignorant. We all are ignorant at one point or another. There are certain things that you simply may not know until they come up. Until you become educated. But we cannot promote that ignorance. We must always strive to learn–and if we cannot understand, we must at the very least strive to accept.

This is why I love this book. You start the story with a character that you are just now learning about. Someone who has never existed in your mind before. And you see him develop in front of your eyes.

He’s on the air. He’s playing Green Day and Mika.

Now he’s talking to John, his neighbor and idol.

Now he’s talking to a viewer, and we learn his name is Gabe.

We learn more and more about him, this picture of him in our mind is forming, and then, seven pages later, we learn that he was born a girl: Elizabeth.

That’s the wonderful thing about books: we learn the characters from the inside out. And sure, we can learn of their appearance as well, but those are often the details that can be overlooked. Plots are driven by the actions of characters and these actions are driven by who they are and how they think.

And in the case of this book, a lot of the actions are driven by how others feeling about the appearance of Gabe, but that reveals much more about those characters than it reveals about him.

I think that’s a very important lesson that needs to be taught, and I think this book does a very good job teaching it. The characters are vibrant and lovable and the story is heartbreaking but hopeful.

This was a book that I finished in one night, but will stay with me for a very long time.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK FIFTEEN: BINGE

Dear Reader,

I absolutely love reading biographical books written by my idols. I love their ability to capture and showcase their voice when telling their own stories. It feels so authentic and personal. I’ve read the autobiographies of Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, Jenny Lawson–hilarious individuals whose stories have me giggling at the pages even in public. But there’s always more, too. They share their experiences with failure and tell stories that have overarching morals that are applicable to real life. I love it.

And then I read the memoirs of Connor Franta, as you know.

This was the first book I bought that was written by a YouTuber and I was, to say the least, extraordinarily disappointed. I won’t get into it too much (because you can read my other review if you really want a recap of all the corny ways he ended his chapters), but let’s just say I was disappointed.

Then a few months later, after it was heavily recommended by a friend, I decided to pick up yet another book written by a YouTuber: Binge by Tyler Oakley.

Amazing. Hilarious. Inspirational without trying too hard. Real without the forced happy endings. He shared stories that definitely didn’t portray him in the best light, but this only made me adore him even more.

His writing was so authentic and him that it was hard for me to put his book down. The only cons? One, I found two typos which always confuse me because don’t these things get proofread meticulously before getting sent to print? And two, I felt like throwing up the entire time I read the chapter on foot fetishes–but that’s probably just because I hate feet.

But you know what? In Connor’s book I learned lessons like “hop on that high-speed train.” I learned how he was homecoming king and his accomplishments as a competitive swimmer. And I still love Connor, but I felt like he was just shouting inspirational quotes at me and trying to make everything in his 22 years of Earth into a lesson that should be learned.

9781471145131.jpgI learned real things from Tyler.

I learned to “check thyself before you wreck thyself.”

I learned that when life throws a wrench into your plans, you make an IKEA bookshelf–something he demonstrated when interviewing Michelle Obama.

And I learned that you should always try something twice. Sure, he used a story about a guy’s foot fetish to convey that particular message and I felt a bit queasy after that chapter, but I learned something.

He wrote about the times he’s flipped out on restaurant employees, T-Mobile workers, and even fans. He discussed his eating disorder and the desire he had to kill himself and that time when the entire One Direction fandom had #WeWantTylerOakleyDead and #RIPTylerOakleysCareer trending worldwide. He talked about the hardships of his fame and the secret wishes he had (just last year) of his plane rides taking a turn for the worse.

He wrote about life so authentically. He captured both the beauty and the pain and intertwined the two into this beautiful piece of writing.

I feel so much more connected to Tyler as a person and a human being. I love him and appreciate him more than I did just a few days ago, and it’s all because of this book. Sure, he shares his life online with millions of people, but we didn’t really get the full story.

This book gave us that–or at least more of that. I’m sure there are many more stories that could be told to invite us into the real life of Matthew Tyler Oakley.

And maybe one day he’ll bless us all with a sequel.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK FOURTEEN: MORE HAPPY THAN NOT

Dear Reader,

This isn’t the fourteenth book I’ve read this year, but I’ve been really slacking on book reviews. So I’m getting back into the swing of things with–I kid you not–the best book I’ve read this year.

If you’re not familiar with the way that I do most of my reviews, I hate spoilers. So, I try to give as little information as possible, while still recommending the good books that I stumble upon. The reason is because I absolutely love indulging in a story with absolutely no idea where it will take me.

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So here’s what I will say: I am in a class this year that is helping us future teachers be able to implement different reading material into the curriculum in order to relate to more diverse audiences. All I knew of this book was that it is about a guy who is coping with his father’s suicide with the help of his girlfriend, but he starts becoming confused when he starts talking to this new guy.

Sounds kind of interesting, right? Eh, maybe not. I even thought it wasn’t the most gripping story before I read it. But I honestly couldn’t put it down and started gasping and making exclamations when things happened–which is how you really know I was lost in the story. I even cried in the suite (discreetly, I might add) because I couldn’t hold back. Who knows how many tears would’ve come out if I were alone.

But I really, really don’t want to say more–not that there’s not more to say, but because everyone gets one chance to read this book for the first time. And I have a problem with over-promoting my recent obsessions to the point where they can’t possibly meet the expectations of those I recommend them to, but I don’t think that’s the case with this. I truly think this is a story that will stick with any reader for a long time. I think it’s shocking and touching, but also heart-breaking as well as eye-opening.

Basically, I’m just really excited to use this in my future classrooms and I can’t wait for the conversation it’s sure to provoke. And I understand that this book deserves a much better review, so I’ve made one. It doesn’t have spoilers necessarily (don’t worry, I won’t give away the ending), but if you don’t want to read a book with such little information, then you can go ahead and check it out here, using the password: esc (I hope this works… I’ve never done this before) 

Anyway, I really, really hope you read this. And I hope you love it as much as I do because I certainly played it up enough.

Sincerely,

Sammy

{ESC} BOOK THIRTEEN: NINETEEN MINUTES

Dear Reader,

This book took FOREVER to finish. Yeah it’s almost 500 pages and it’s not always the most action-packed reading, but it’s more than that. It’s a lot different than the books I normally blow through. I mean, if you look at my most recent books, I’ve read about happiness and road trips and memoirs of people living out their dreams.

This book is about a school shooting.

I’m not going to give away more than that, but I’m going to be honest. It was hard for me to get through. If I read it before bed, I’d often dream about guns and violence or sometimes not be able to sleep (this was during my second semester of college, as well). And then I wasn’t particularly eager to make time in my day to read it, but I did want to finish it. Mostly because my sister said she read it and it “messed her up,” but she still highly recommended it.

And I’m glad I finished it. It was a really good story, and the first book of Jodi Picoult’s I read–and I’ll definitely read more. She’s an amazing writer, but all of her books are about such heavy topics. Still, they’re worth it to read. They make you think and figure out more about yourself, as you notice your own reactions and feelings towards these characters and their story.

Most importantly, though, it made me think about how I’m going to be when I’m a teacher. This shooting was done by someone on the inside–a kid who had obviously been struggling. And as someone who’s going into education, I’ve learned about school shootings, and I’ve been taught how to prepare and how to act not “if” it happens, but “when.” That’s how teachers these days must be taught, because school shootings seem to be happening more often these days.

And I know it’ll be my job to teach students about “The Great Gatsby” and prepare them for the ACT, but a bigger, debatably more important, part of my job will be to be there for the students. Every one of them. In the best way that I can.

And I’m determined to learn how to do that to the best of my ability.

So. This book. I say 5 stars, and I say take the time to read it. Make the effort, because it’s worth it.

Sincerely,

Sammy

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{ESC} BOOK TWELVE: THE HAPPINESS PROJECT (and intro to my own Happiness Project)

Dear Reader,

I adore this book. I picked it up at a bookstore in Columbus (post about that road trip coming soon) and immediately started reading it when I got home. And I don’t mark in every book I buy, but about four pages in, I knew I would have to for this.

Whether or not you want to start your own happiness project, I would recommend that you read this book. It’s full of awesome quotes, really cool resources (how did I not know about the website lulu.com???), and good tips on how you should go about making yourself happier. I finished this book last night and I already have a mental list of people I want to lend this to to read, as well as an actual list of resolutions I want to start implementing in my life.

In 16 days, I go back to school. And while I’m extremely excited, I’m also kind of nervous as well. I haven’t talked about it on here yet (though I’m sure I alluded to it), but freshman year was really hard for me. I found myself struggling with feelings of unhappiness and signs of depression–which was very new to me. But this year, I’m determined to be better.

So today, on August 1st, 2015, I am starting my own Happiness Project. I may not be as prepared as Gretchen was when she started hers, and it may seem kind of weird to start a year-long project in August, but waiting until January seems dumb to me. I don’t want to wait. I can’t wait.

So today, it begins.

Sincerely,

Sammy

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{ESC} BOOK ELEVEN: AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES

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Dear Reader,

On Friday night, my sister and I decided to see Paper Towns. I read this book last summer, loved it, and was ecstatic when I found out that they were turning it into a movie. And I am glad to report that it did not disappoint, and might be my favorite movie of the summer so far.

After it ended, we headed down the street to our local Books-a-Million, where I dropped $78 on books and road maps (I was very influenced by this movie). But one of the books I picked up was another John Green book, An Abundance of Katherines. I had no idea what it was about, but I like John Green, and I own all of his other books, and it was $10. So I bought it and read it within 12 hours. And here’s what I thought.

First of all, it’s a very weird premise. This child prodigy has been dumped by 19 Katherines, and, in fact, has never dated anyone by another name. Bizarre, right? And I really don’t want to spoil it (though there’s not much to spoil), so I won’t say much else about the actual plot. But I will say that the characters were very interesting and it was very informative. I feel like I know a lot more random facts that I found interesting (even if the supporting character, Hassan did not).

But here’s the thing: it’s a John Green novel. So, if you like stories that follow the same formula as Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska, you’ll like this one. There’s a boy who really doesn’t do much. He’s not necessarily opposed to adventures–I mean, he’ll certainly follow the main female character into one without question–but he’s just used to staying home. And then he falls in love with this quirky, interesting, intelligent, beautiful girl.

That’s really all I can say without giving away the ending, but if you asked me if I would recommend it, I still probably would. It has tons of overlaps with his other stuff (the above formula, discussion about oblivion like in The Fault in Our Stars, characters obsessed with road trips), but there were still some interesting differences from AAOK that I enjoyed. I especially liked the last bit about the stories we tell and how they can impact people.

So, I’ll give it 3 stars, and probably won’t be dying to read it again any time soon, but it certainly wasn’t a waste of time. Parts of this story will definitely stick with me.

Sincerely,

Sammy

 

{ESC} BOOK TEN: A WORK IN PROGRESS

Dear Reader,

I finished this book a while ago but didn’t write a review on it right away, so I ended up forgetting about it. And, actually, that pretty much sums up the experience I had while reading it. It was fine. Some of the advice given might be worth hearing (if you haven’t heard it before). But overall, it was pretty forgettable.

This is the first book I’ve read that was written by a YouTuber, and only because I got it as a gift. But I was a big Connor Franta fan for a while. He’s constantly cheerful and ambitious and is always ready for an adventure, or able to turn something into a good story–characteristics I find admirable in anyone.

But in his writing, I started getting kind of annoyed. Mostly because every chapter ended with a piece of advice–and one that I had already heard before. One that everyone has heard before. Things like “go for it” and “chase your dreams” and “look up from your phone every once in a while.” Not bad advice, by any means, but it was also the way he said it that bothered me. I felt like Connor was the annoying brother who, just because he’s a few years older, feels qualified to pass on all of his wisdom. But he’s only 22, and while he has done more than most guys his age, I found myself annoyed when, at the end of each chapter, without fail, there was some corny sentence along the lines of “What are you waiting for? Start climbing.”

That’s an actual concluding sentence from one of his chapters.

Another is: Time to hop on that high-speed train.

And another says: Start living today, not tomorrow.

And: So what are you waiting for? Let go, my friend.

Do you get my point?

But he knows that he’s young and that he still has a lot to learn–which is part of the reason why he titled it “A Work in Progress.” So maybe I’m being too hard on him. I mean, if was writing my memoirs at this age, I’d have no idea what I would say.

So, I don’t think this is going to be my favorite book written by a YouTuber, and I still have hope for those written by Carrie Hope Fletcher and Mamrie Hart and a lot others (but those two specifically). And if you can get past the lame advice and want a visually pleasing book (the pictures are great) with amusing stories that will take a day to read, then this is probably for you.

But for me, I’ll just sick with giving him 3 stars out of five and continue to watch the occasional collabs with him.

Sincerely,

Sammy

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{ESC} BOOK NINE: DIRTY RUSH

Dear Reader,

I’ll admit it: I love this book. Let me tell you why.

According to Rebecca Martinson, this book “fucking tells is like it fucking is.” Unfamiliar with that name? She’s also known as the “deranged sorority girl.” The one who wrote an email to her entire chapter, threatening to “cunt punt” them for being boring and undesirable to frat boys. You can find a hilarious reading of this letter by Michael Shannon here.

So I was scared that a girl who seems to care so much about such pointless, judgmental things claims that this is a book that actually tells the real truth on sorority life. But, it kind of does.

Now, I’ve only been with my sorority for a semester, and I’ll admit that I didn’t relate to about half of what this “Taylor Bell” experienced, but that’s not saying that it doesn’t happen. I’ve talked to girls in other sororities who have group messages that are dedicated to getting adderall and cocaine. And hazing is still a very prevalent thing in greek life, even though I’m fortunate enough to truthfully tell you all that I was in no way hazed.

But this book actually did have some good morals, and the ending was great. I love that the main character, Taylor, was so nonjudgmental, and even most of the other characters stayed that way, too. Plus, the friendships she made were true and even the clichéd theme of sisterhood was portrayed really well.

So yeah, it’s kind of weird that this book was as refreshing to me as it was, and yeah there are certain aspects of it that I didn’t so much enjoy (like how everything was “crystal cute”), but it was a quick read, and a book that I’ll definitely lend to my friends. And then ask for it back so I can read it again.

Sincerely,

Sammy