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Read AND Listen to Your Favorite Books: And, Task 5 in a Librarian’s Read Harder Challenge

3 May

Whenever I enjoy something, I want to do it again. This applies to experiences, travel, food, and most importantly books! If I really like reading a book, I seek out the audiobook to experience the story again. In this post I will share books that I have both read and listened to because I enjoyed them so much. This post also ties into the Read Harder Challenge I’ve been following this year (click here for more about that journey).

Back in 2011 Jane Pratt, the legendary editor of Sassy and Jane magazines, established a website called xoJane. I was a fan back then, mostly for the edgy and entertaining beauty articles written by Cat Marnell.

No offense to Vogue and Glamour and Marie Claire et al., but their beauty content doesn’t usually include references to hip-hop songs that hearken back to my childhood, or advise readers to get lip injections for a “sexy baby” look, or publish enthusiastic reviews for a drugstore brand lipstick where the dek (or subhead) repeats the word “OBSESSED” seven times in all caps.

These are all pieces by Cat Marnell.

She definitely influenced my beauty purchases when she wrote regularly for xoJane. Out of the previous articles I cited:

a) I purchased one of the BB creams mentioned in the article but gave it to a friend because it didn’t suit my skin tone.

b) As of now I am not interested in injecting fillers in my lips or anywhere else in my face, but Cat’s garter tights are awesome and I bought those.

c) Cat Marnell inspired to me to buy nearly all the Kate Moss for Rimmel lipsticks, and she’s totally right, they’re the real deal.

Cat was also known for being outspoken about her drug use on xoJane. This article she wrote after Whitney Houston died of a drug overdose in 2012 went viral. Her erratic behavior landed her on Page Six and was much discussed in the media gossip sphere. She eventually parted ways with xoJane (which folded in December 2016), but left with a book deal. Her memoir, How to Murder Your Life, was published this past January.

murder-your-life

How to Murder Your Life: A Memoir, by Cat Marnell

I requested the book as soon as it was available. After my copy arrived at the library, I received a very concerned phone call from a colleague who was worried that I borrowed the book for ideas on how to murder my own life. I assured my colleague that How to Murder Your Life is just a title and is someone else’s story, and all is well with me.

Cat is very honest about growing up in a dysfunctional family and how her drug abuse started with a Ritalin prescription she received as a teen. At times the book is hard to read. Cat encountered some awful men in the depths of her addiction and it was painful to read the parts where she recounted how the men took advantage of her and abused her.

If you’re like me and love magazines you will enjoy reading about Cat’s time working at Conde Nast. She dishes about sharing an elevator at 4 Times Square with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, and about the editors of Lucky magazine, which I loved reading in the 2000s when Kim France and Andrea Linett were at the helm. (I owned and loved the book The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style written by France and Linett, which includes an appearance by Cat.) But it was frustrating to see how Cat threw away an amazing career in which she excelled as a result of her addiction, despite having a supportive boss who forgave her after making many mistakes on the job.

Cat is a gifted writer–her writing in this book is light years beyond this xoJane piece where one paragraph includes the word “vanilla” repeated over and over. In the book she admitted to writing many xoJane pieces while high. She is self aware, and owns the messy parts of her life and how her actions impacted other people. Namely, her coworkers who had to pick up her slack, her sister who tolerated much bad behavior, and her roommates who also had to deal with Cat’s addict friends.

When I saw that she narrated the audiobook, I borrowed it from CloudLibrary and listened to it over a few days. (You can also borrow the audiobook on CD.) Hearing Cat tell her story made me enjoy it even more. And I was also able to fulfill my fifth task on the Read Harder Challenge: Read a book you’ve read before.

I look forward to reading more from Cat Marnell, be it longform narratives or beauty writing. I am always looking for amazing new lipsticks to try.

Following are some other books that I have both read and listened to on audio.

Amy Poehler, Yes Please  (I’ve written before about this book for the blog.)

Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking (What a broad! Carrie, you left this world too soon. RIP.)

Side bar: These were two picks from the Lady Memoir Book Club I lead at Little City Books. We’re meeting next on Wednesday May 17 at 7 PM to discuss Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl. Join us!

Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, The Knockoff (I read this with the Library’s Mile Square City Readers Book Club and enjoyed it. This author duo will be back this summer with Fitness Junkie, which I plan to read.)

Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance (Dating in these times: the struggle is real. Although Aziz is a comedian, he teamed up with a sociologist to write this book, which has well-researched data and thoughtful insights on dating in these modern times, where singles swipe left or right on their phones through what seems like endless potential love interests.)

For those who are concerned that listening to audiobooks isn’t reading: IT IS READING! Remember, book printing didn’t exist until the printing press was invented at the start of the Renaissance, and most stories were told orally. I believe that audiobooks are part of that oral tradition. So, if you like audiobooks, this librarian totally supports you in your enjoyment of them.

What’s your favorite audiobook?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

A Librarian Takes on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read A Book About War, Task 4

12 Apr

I am now one sixth of the way through the Book Riot Reader Harder Challenge! In the first post I wrote about trying and failing to stick to previous years’ Read Harder Challenges, and hope I can maintain this momentum! (Read more about the books I’ve read so far for the challenge here.)

For Task 4 I decided to read a book about war. The book I chose is called Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes by Maria Goodavage. I purchased the book a few years ago after seeing the author interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. The cover played a role in my decision to purchase the book as well. Isn’t the dog wearing goggles (proper name: “doggles”) the cutest?!

Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes, by Maria Goodavage

soldier-dogs

The most fascinating thing I learned from this book is that dogs are seen by the Department of Defense as equipment–their exact designation is military working dogs, or MWDs. The dogs are given names, which include a special code with a letter and numbers to denote the year their training started that is tattooed inside their ears. If you are a pet owner, I am sure you see your dog as a part of your family and not an object. I have never owned a dog, but my fourteen year old dog-niece Molly is very important to me.

I also learned that dogs have a long history of serving alongside soldiers in war, going back to the Revolutionary War. During World War II people were volunteering their pet dogs to serve. The preserved body of a dog that served in World War I named Captain Stubby is part of the collection at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

MWDs now have a higher profile as a Belgian Malinois named Cairo is rumored to have played in role in the SEAL Team 6 mission in Pakistan to take down Osama Bin Laden in May 2011, and many families are eager to adopt these hero dogs after they retire from military service.

Goodavage wrote about her own dog, Jake, as she interacted with the soldier dogs (and their human handlers) during her research process. She imagined how Jake would perform in the various tests the dogs are subjected to in training, such as determining their temperament in stressful situations, their responses to loud noises such as explosives and gunfire, and how well they respond to commands when working off-leash.

I thought about how Molly would respond in these situations. As Molly is spooked by vacuum cleaners and loud trucks and occasionally her three human sisters, I don’t see her performing well in combat situations. Molly’s main interests in life are resting in the sunshine, eating cheeseburgers, and having her belly rubbed.

molly-2

This is Molly posing with Santa Claus, as part of an adorable fundraiser held each year by the Liberty Humane Society in Jersey City.

This book was pretty good overall, but I found the sections about dog training and dog breeding sort of boring. I don’t have a personal interest in these topics, but those that have experience training a dog and/or the science of animal husbandry may get more out of those chapters.

What I was most interested in was reading about the dogs. My favorite soldier dog in the book was a Jack Russell named Lars J274, an unlikely bomb sniffing dog. Large, imposing dogs like Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are preferred for bomb sniffing, but due to a mix-up Lars was trained in this field. His small size and large personality make him a great fit for sniffing for bombs in submarines, which is his main job. This book has two full color photo inserts so readers can see Lars in action, as well as many of the dogs featured in the book. You can see some of these photos, including Lars, in The Daily Show clip, too.

Soldier Dogs is a book about war, so there are definitely heavy parts. I mostly cried while reading the fourth part of the book, titled “Dogs and Their Soldiers”, which detailed the intense bonds between the dogs and their handlers formed in battle. (To be honest, recalling this part of the book to write this post is bringing tears to my eyes.) One dog stood watch all night while his handler slept in a ditch while on patrol in Afghanistan. When one handler was killed, his dog was listed in his obituary as a family member. Sadly, some dogs featured in the book died in combat or of illness.

Another interesting fact is that these dogs are not eligible for official Purple Hearts, which is a policy I think should change given how much training the dogs undergo before going to war, not to mention their experiences in combat that can leave them permanently injured and, in some cases, with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). See this article from the American Kennel Club to learn more about this topic. The United States War Dogs Association works to raise awareness and acknowledge military dogs.

If you are either a dog lover or interested in military history (or both!) I would recommend this book. Do be prepared for the tough sections, though.

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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