Things on Cowboy’s Head – No. 81

Things on Cowboy's Head No. 81: Biro.

Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 81: Biro.

Background Note: Cowboy, as you know, is one of our cats. She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot. All characteristics which help with this ongoing photographic project that I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

(Cowboy’s posts are all gathered in one spot on her own blog.)

New TBR Shelf…

 

Picture5 So – summer is almost here (at least where I live) and with summer comes a new TBR list to drool over. These are all books that I already own and just surfaced when I reshuffled my bookshelves so I’m looking forward to this selection.

Usual guidelines apply: there is no “have-to” about any of this or keeping/straying from the list so this is a no-pressure environment here. Pull up a chair and let’s have a look at the titles:

  • Creating a Beautiful House – Alexandra Stoddard (NF and been on the pile for a while)
  • Remember the Alamo – Alison Battle and Allison Vale (UK take on US history, I think)
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson (NF science writing/humor)
  • Quirk – Hannah Holmes (NF sociology – similar to Malcom Gladwell, perhaps)
  • I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot from School –Caroline Taggart (bite-sized reminders about things you may have daydreamed through class)
  • Servants: A Downstairs Look View of Twentieth-Century Britain – Lucy Letheridge (NF/social history/UK)
  • An Unnecessary Woman – Rabih Alameddine (F)
  • Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing – Ted Conover (NF/autobiography/prison guard)
  • The Rotter’s Club – Jonathon Coe (F)
  • Nothing to Envy – Barbara Demick (NF/travel about North Korea)
  • The Entymologist – Mark Forsythe (NF about words)
  • Getting Stoned with the Savages: A Trip through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu – J. Maarten Troost (NF/travel/funny)
  • The Day the World Came to Stay: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland – Jim deFede (NF/history)
  • Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson (NF/travel)
  • Maphead – Ken Jennings (NF/Geography/history)
  • Everybody was So Young – Amanda Vaill (NF/history/Lost Generation)
  • We Should All be Feminists – Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie (essays)
  • Rules of the Wild – Marciano (F/Africa/history)
  • Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome (F kids)
  • A Walk around the West Indies – Hunter Davies (NF/travel)

So happy reading ahead!

The Polysyllabic Spree – Nick Hornby (2004) and other thoughts

book451This is a short collection of some of Nick Hornby’s brilliant book review columns from The Believer magazine, these ones from 2003 and 2004. Well, after reading these (and laughing out loud at the gym several times), Hornby has now made it on to my evergreen Literary Dinner Party Guest List.

If you’ve only read Hornby’s fiction (Like a Boy, High Fidelity et al.), then get ye to a bookshop and buy any of his volumes of his book review columns. His fiction can be a bit patchy, but his columns are little nuggets of gold all tucked into each two and half page entry of his book. I have to say (and I don’t say this very often, mind you) that I thoroughly enjoyed every single page of this collection.

Hornby looks at books in exactly the same way as I (and probably as other voracious booklovers do comme ça) and so this read was like sitting down for a cuppa tea or coffee with a friend and then just nattering away about things. His columns always start with a list of “Books Bought” and “Books Read”, each column varying from month to month (as they do for many of us), and he’s upfront about his book-buying (and book-receiving) habits and why his “Books Read” list rarely matches his “Books Bought” selections. (Hmm. Nope. Never happens to me. No sirree bob.)

In one of the columns, I came across this sentence:

“All the books we own, read and unread, are the fullest expression of self that we have at our disposal…”

and then this one (actually taken from one of his other collections but along the same lines: there are sometimes:

“…unusual attempts at reinvention that periodically seize one in a bookshop…”

For some reason, I was so struck by this thought as it really resonated with me. It’s true that with some titles I purchase or bring home from the library, I am saying to myself “I’m really going to read this time,” or “I should really read this title – it’s so *important* to be well read,” or perhaps something along the lines of “I’ve always meant to read this,” or “Ooh goody. I’ve been looking for this…” and then the new acquisition gets home and is promptly put on a more inaccessible bookshelf for that “one day…”

(And here, I’m not berating myself (or anyone else) about this whole “not reading what you’ve bought” thing. (That’s part of the fun of being a reader, don’t you think?) It’s more of an observation, and I think it’s pretty funny to contemplate. I mean who hasn’t done this with at least one book that’s been brought into the house at some time?)

Thinking about it, I’m not sure what the impetus for these admittedly far-reached reading dreams may be – perhaps I read about it on a blog somewhere or via a book review, perhaps it was bought up in casual conversation with a booky friend or maybe it was just drudged up from the long-ago past and I just happened to be reminded of the title as I browsed one of the shelves. It is as others have said many times (and this is an incredibly vague paraphrase here), “…for where is a heart so weak as in a bookstore [or other booky place]”…

So, I decided to take a look along my own particular bookshelves to see if I had an inordinate number of Titles of Shame – sad volumes who, through no fault of their own, have remained untouched and unmoved off their shelf, watching other books be chosen (or not as the case may be). Which regrettable titles (although obviously thought worthy at the time of purchase) would be found during this observation?

(…Time passes…)

passing_timeIt wasn’t too bad. I’m pretty good at getting rid of books that aren’t of interest any more so I don’t have that many Failed Dream titles hanging around. I did have two books about foreign languages, one for French and one for Spanish, but I still hold out a fragile hope for those two titles. I even think I have one for Latin, but I’ve already tried that and crossed it off the list. (Oh my god. The declensions, the conjugations, the tenses!)

(Oh, and Superhero suggested that I add all the cookbooks to the Failed Dream title group as well, but I pretended not to hear that.)

I think if I had looked closely at my infinite TBR list(s) that they would more closely mirror my intended self. They are pretty wide-ranging in scope and, I would have to admit, even a touch optimistic in places, but I say “aim high.” The old “Ad astra per aspra,” right?

For myself, I’m going to keep the hopeful fire of Hopeful Dream Titles burning. There’s nothin’ wrong with that.

dream1

Things on Cowboy’s Head – No. 80

Things on Cowboy's Head No. 80: Southwest Airlines peanuts.

Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 80: Southwest Airlines peanuts.

Background Note: Cowboy, as you know, is one of our cats. She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (like Olympic-level). All of which helps with this ongoing project I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

(Cowboy’s posts are all gathered in one spot on her own blog.)

I’d like a large serving of typos please…

Superhero and I are big believers in giving our consumer dollars to small local businesses when possible and so we went out to a new restaurant in town. As I scanned the menu, I happened to notice this:

Menu1

And this:

menu2

And this:

menu3

And this popped up:

menu4

With this one being my favorite:

menu5

I’m not going to name names, but this was a particularly high achieving menu writer, I think.

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandberg (2013)

book448With this new work promotion comes leadership, and as a reminder to myself, I decided to read Sandberg’s Lean In book. This was really a pretty good book with the usual chapters covering the role of women in the workplace (although it’s hard to believe that “women in the workplace” is still an issue in the U.S. in the twenty-first century as we are).

So, there was some treading of familiar ground but there were also some new pieces of information which I picked up. Here are some of the notes I made whilst I was reading if any of you are in a similar situation:

  • About young women choosing to leave the workforce in such high numbers: “My generation fought so hard to give all of you choices. We believe in choices. But choosing to leave the workforce was not the choice we thought so many of you would make.” Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation and first woman to serve as President of an Ivy League university.
  • Opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.
  • Increasingly, opportunities in the workplace are not well defined, but instead, come from jumping in to something. That something (if done well) then becomes her job. (True that.)
  • You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way round.
  • The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.
  • Employees who concentrate on results and impact are the most valuable team players. Teams need goals to aim for.
  • Being risk averse can lead to stagnation. An analysis of senior corporate management appointments found that women are significantly more likely than men to continue to perform the same function even when they take on additional new duties.
  • Women only apply for jobs if they meet 100% of the criteria listed. Men apply if  they think that they meet 60% of the criteria listed…
  • Women need to shift from thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that and I’ll learn by doing.”
  • Lean in at the conference table. Lean in and be counted among the players.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any.          Alice Walker

Things on Cowboy’s Head – No. 79

Things on Cowboy's Head No. 79: Ribbons.

Things on Cowboy’s Head No. 79: Ribbons.

Background Note: Cowboy, as you know, is one of our cats. She is big and friendly and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She naps a lot (like Olympic-level). All of which helps with this ongoing project I have going on…

It’s called “Things on Cowboy’s Head” and I am just seeing what I can balance on the top of her head when she’s amenable to that. It’s been fun so far, and she seems quite happy to play along. (She just moves when she doesn’t want to participate.)

(Cowboy’s posts are all gathered in one spot on her own blog.)