“Do one thing every day that scares you” is a wonderful sentiment that is widely attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but I’m not sure she actually said that exact thing (although she did say words about doing things in spite of fearing those things.) At any rate, I’m not very good at doing the things that scare me—not on a daily basis or any other time, really—but yesterday I did do such a thing. At six o’clock in the evening I met with a few other readers at a coffee shop and we talked about books. I guess you could say it was a book club, but I couldn’t think of it that way, or else I might not have gone. But books and steamy, delicious coffee, and maybe sharing my enthusiasm about both things? This I thought I could do. And I did. And I am going back next month! “We improve ourselves by victories over ourselves. There must be contests, and we must win.” This is a thing that someone else said.
I Am, I Am, I Am was a memoir, specific slices of life told through the author’s numerous brushes with death, and it was a beautiful, breathtaking piece of writing. Coincidentally, I was already reading The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks, which is what they read last month, so I had the opportunity to discuss that as well. It is probably not fair to make this comparison, because I am not sure that it is meant to be an enjoyable read– but when I compare the writing styles, the Henrietta Lacks book just feels flat, functional, a vehicle for a vast amount of research; it just didn’t have the extraordinary gut-punch of the language that I Am, I Am, I Am did–which is unfortunately, because Henrietta Lacks was a remarkable story and deserved the same kind of treatment.
All these knitted squares upon which these books are cozied up in? Well, I’m working on my baby sister’s divorce blanket again, knitting up scraps of sock yarn (and sock knitters know—there are *always* scraps) into a chaotic, multicolored monster of an afghan. I just checked my notes and it would seem that I started it over three years ago, in January of 2015. Yikes. Hopefully I will finish before her next divorce! Haha, just kidding. She’d have to remarry first for that! Not gonna happen on my watch. For those interested, the pattern is Shelley Kangs’ sock yarn blanket, and I don’t know if the instructions are still on her blog, or if her blog exists, but ravelry links to a web archive page, so you should be able to find it.
I don’t quite recall when we first installed this spacious landscape of shelves into my office, but what I can assure you is that they have been amassing quite a lot of junk ever since! (The above is an “after” photo, and as you’ll see, I still have a lot of junk.)
It occurred to me that there was a great deal of empty space just begging to be filled with all of the books that were lying around the house because the other bookshelves were already dangerously full. I figured hey, I’ll take this opportunity in finding a home for all the wayward books, to do a bit of organizing…and who knows…maybe that will clear up space for more books!
I posted a few photos on Instagram of this process and several folks requested that I share some lists of the titles I was reorganizing. I am happy to! See below for a shelf-by-shelf breakdown of what got moved where and why, my probably-logical-only-to-me reorganization system, and where to find each of the books if you want them for your own shelves.
A shelf of mostly haunted anthologies that have covers illustrated by Edward Gorey.
And the rest of the shelves…well…they’re a bit of a work in progress. There’s my mom altar, my shelf of incense, potions, and elixirs, and then an entire shelf dedicated to perfume samples! And as you can see from the photo at the very top of this post, there’s still a few shelves that need some work; they’re in odd or hard to reach spots with relation to my desk and where I sit, and so right now they are home to weird little action figures and toys that still need some sorting.
…so that’s it! And in case you are wondering: yes. Yes, I did clear some space to make room for even more books.
I am currently in the beginning pages of four books which –so far!– are equally wonderful. I’m not far enough into the stories to tell you much about them, but they are all magical, for good or ill, and I am enjoying them each immensely!
If you are the type to judge a book by it’s very excellent cover or if your tastes are similar to mine, which is to say you love ghosts and fairy tales and terror and enchantment and you treasure lyrical language and mysterious stories and beautiful illustrations…well, I don’t think you’d be steered wrong if you picked up any or all of these books to curl up with before the year ends.
Well, I don’t know about you, but when I have a Saturday afternoon all to myself and a pile of books crying for my undivided attention, I go all out. It’s true. I will slip into my most splendid finery, don my sparkliest baubles, paint my face, spritz myself with the most expensive fragrances on my shelf (sometimes maybe three or four at once!) and then…plop down on the sofa and begin reading long into the night.
Is that weird? I don’t know. I often get all dressed up to spend the day alone, and there’s no finer reason to do so than in the name of devouring a much anticipated stack of books. Here’s a suggested ensemble for the next time you have the marvelous opportunity to get all gussied up for your bookstack. (With some required reading, of course!)
It makes me very grumbly that Halloween is not an official holiday and that I actually have to preoccupy myself between the hours of 9-5 on this day with things that have nothing whatsoever to do with ghosts or monsters or candy. Who can we complain to about this?
Being old farts, my partner and I are forgoing spooky soirées (not that we’ve been invited to any tonight, come to think of it) and staying home to pass out treats, carve up pumpkins, and watch Monster Squad. Maybe drink some whiskey. I might not even wait until the last kid has rung the doorbell! We’ll see what kind of night it is.
Speaking of soirées! I was actually invited to a Halloween party a few weeks ago, and I am shock–shocked!– to tell you that I had a fine time. I actually had fun. What! How can this be? Honestly, parties are pretty awful for me; I get anxious about a lot of things, but nothing sends me into panic attack mode faster than the thought of celebratory social interaction. I think what made this an okay experience is that I knew the hostess and had been to her home a number of times, I already knew most of the attendees in some capacity, and, well, I went with a date. Actually three! My sister, brother-in-law and partner were all there. Come to think of it, there was actually nothing to be nervous about. Huh. My costume, in case you couldn’t tell, was a skeletonwitch. Oh, what, you thought I was a panda? Are you blind or something? Unfortunately, this fabulous hat arrived after the event, but that’s fine. I’ll wear it while I’m watching Monster Squad and drunkenly carving children. Pumpkins, I mean. I’m not drinking already or anything.
Though we’ve had some glorious weather these past few days with lower temperatures that lend to layers and cloaks and tights and cardigans, the beginning of October was pretty wretched, as this time of year tends to be. I felt sorry for myself and bought an obscene amount of autumnal candles, spooky records, and a numberofhauntingreads. Also some “trock or treat” socks from Korea.
Earlier in the month I spent the weekend with my best good friend in Orlando, who is moving out of state. I can’t believe she’s leaving, but we’ve been through this before. 15 or so years ago, I was the one who was leaving…and everything ended up being just fine. So, although I will miss her, I know this will just be a new phase in the adventure that is our weird and wonderful friendship. Anyway, she fixed the most amazing breakfast for me, during the course of our visit. Basically a toads in a hole slash avocado toast mashup. It may now be one of my top five favorite breakfasts.
Let me tell you about my other favorite breakfasts lately: rice with a little butter and soy sauce, topped with a runny fried egg and furikake; a “fake bagel”, which is basically a low calorie english muffin toasted and spread with laughing cow cheese, ripe tomato slices, red onion, and Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning, and salmon jerky. For real! Salmon jerky is amazing. Do you, like me, hate sweet breakfast offerings? Cereal, yogurt, most breakfast bars, etc.? Gah, they’re just the worst.
What are you up to this Halloween? Tricks? Treats? Napping with your cats and favorite monsters? That sounds pretty great, actually.
Over at Haute Macabre today you will find a media extravaganza! Take a peek at Stacked to grow your autumn reading list and afterward, head on over to Aural Fixation to learn more about our current earworms and sonic obsessions!
Katy graciously indulged my questions about this curious compendium in our illuminating Q&A, (and I like to think that Taisia was there in spirit, too.) Thanks to them both, for conjuring these connections, channeling these women, creating this wonderfully special, utterly splendid book.
So as you may know (because I complain a lot) I have tried many, many subscription boxes over the past few years. And canceled all of them. None of them have measured up to the consistent excellence that is The Nocturnal Readers Box, a monthly subscription service for fans of Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy Books and Psychological Thrillers. Today at Haute Macabre you can my recent interview with founders Vincent and Jessica Guerrero, as well as a chance to win their sold out October box!
How did I do? Well, I was going strong until mid-August, at which point I was distracted by a barely perceptible (probably imaginary) change in the air, a slight difference in the quality of afternoon sunlight through the trees. In my brief stint in living up North, these small changes signified the seasonal shifts leading to the oncoming Autumn months…and even though that’s actually kind of cute and laughable down here in FL (if anything, it gets hotter here!) there’s still something in my brain that switches on right before September and begins to look the end of summer around every corner. When I catch wind of it, my fingers begin itching for a skein of wool and wooden needles, and then, well, too bad, so sad, summer reading!
In June I managed eleven titles; six in July, and in August another six, making for a grand total of twenty three books completed in the course of my summer reading mini-challenge. Two short of my goal! Ah, well. There were a few books that I started during that time, but I am still reading, so I don’t suppose those count. And then in September when I was trapped in the house for a few days with no electricity, I read three more, but those don’t really count either!
See below for a full listing of the titles I completed over the course of the past three months, along with those read in September, and those I am still reading. I have marked the ones I thoroughly enjoyed with an “*”, and you’ll note that Grady Henrix’s Paperbacks From Hell:The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction, even though I’ve not finished it, has quite a lot of *s. I think, even though it’s basically a book about books, that it’s going to be my favorite book of the year!
My bold, beautiful, beloved friend Meredith just shared this Kickstarter project with me, and it’s such an important thing, a vitally, crucially important thing, that I am compelled to share it with you, too.
BECOMING DANGEROUS: A book about ritual and resistance, is comprised of twenty personal essays from witchy femmes, queer conjurers, and magical rebels on summoning the power to resist.
Some words from the creators:
“BECOMING DANGEROUS is a nonfiction book of deeply personal essays by marginalised people using the intersection of feminism, witchcraft, and resistance to summon power and become fearsome in a world that would prefer them afraid. With contributions from twenty witchy femmes, queer conjurers, and magical rebels, BECOMING DANGEROUS is a book of intelligent and challenging essays that will resonate with anyone who’s ever looked for answers outside the typical places.
The latest book from Fiction & Feeling, a new and independent UK publishing company, the book is edited by Katie West, and Jasmine Elliott. From ritualistic skincare routines to gardening; from becoming your own higher power to searching for a legendary Scottish warrior woman; from the fashion magick of brujas to cripple-witch city-magic; from shoreline rituals to psychotherapy—this book is for people who know that now is the time, now is the hour, ours is the magic, ours is the power.”
Contributors for this book write for publications like The Guardian and The Paris Review; websites like Autostraddle, The Hoodwitch, VICE, Broadly, and Nylon; and have published books and journal articles with several different publishers.
Some identify as witches; others identify as writers, musicians, or artists. All of them have developed personal rituals to summon their own power and want to share these personal experiences of resistance and survival with you.
I have already backed this project; I cannot think of any book more worthy or deserving of my money right now, and I am absolutely certain that BECOMING DANGEROUS will similarly compel so many of you, too.