It Came from the Interwebz: Books that Started Out as Online Phenomena

10 May

Since we are a blog about books, and I love all things meta, I thought it would be fun for this blog post to look at print books that started their life on the internet that I’m going to suggest online that you go read in print (though you can enjoy some of them in digital format too if you don’t want to leave your computer).

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente

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In Valente’s novel, Palimpsest, she had a character discuss a book they read as a child, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (at the time the book did not exist). Valente then began what would become Fairyland as a crowd-funded project and published the story online about a lonely young girl, whose father is off fighting and mother is busy working at a factory to help the war efforts, while she is lured to fairyland.  Although appropriate for middle graders, the story equally charms teens and adults with its wildly imaginative description of a fairy land which feels both fresh and modern and yet hearkens back to earlier fairy tales.  It reminded me of the magic and wit of the Oz books.  You will also want to check out others in the series including: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, and The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home.  You can borrow several of the books as digital audiobooks from Hoopla.  I had previously blogged about Valente’s fantastic adult novel Radiance in a previous post and dubbed it one of my favorite books of that year.

Welcome to Night Vale, by Fink Joseph

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If you are fans of podcasts you have probably at least heard of Night Vale which reached the top of the iTunes chart and well deserves its popularity.  In the small desert town of Night Vale odd things like floating cats and mysterious disappearances are recounted as ordinary daily events by the host of a local radio broadcast.  I love that podcasts like this one bring back the storytelling of radio dramas for a new age.  Just be forewarned the librarians in Night Vale aren’t the helpful, friendly staff you will find at HPL, but creatures to be feared.  Welcome to Night Vale expands on the events of the podcast.  You can also borrow Mostly Void, Partially Stars : Welcome to Night Vale episodes, Volume 1 and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 2 which include material from the podcast as well as art, commentary, and a peek behind the scenes.  You can borrow eBook and digital audiobook copies from eLibraryNJ.

Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, by Jen Yates

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The award winning blog Cake Wrecks started out when Jen Yates saw an unintentionally funny cake reading “Best Wishes Suzanne Under Neat that We Will Miss You.” She found other cakes that were misspelled (like my son’s fourth “birthay” cake), poorly (and therefore hilariously) iced, and just plain silly. Although the cakes are funny in and of themselves, it is Yates witty writings that brings back readers for more delicious helpings. Like the blog, the book includes pictures of cakes with her commentary (75% of which is not also featured on the blog). If you need to take a quick laugh break from holiday stress, checkout the sequel Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets “Festive.”   You can borrow Wreck the Halls as an eBook on eLibraryNJ.

Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them, by Jillian Venters

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Jillian Venters took her popular Gothic Charm School site and transformed it into a Miss Manners guide for those who want to be both darkly spooky and polite.  It includes such practical information as what to wear on a job interview and how to handle disapproving family members.  My husband and I attended the book launch potluck tea party in Green-Wood Cemetery when it came out back in 2009.  Although obviously the years have passed and some reference may not be as au courant, there is still some solid timeless advice in the book for the alternative set.

John Dies at the End, by David Wong

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A recommendation from my husband, David Wong’s comic horror novel, John Dies at the End, began life as a free web serial by Cracked writer/editor David Wong (aka Jason Pargin). My husband was a fan of the humor site Cracked (which arose from the ashes of its print counterpart) and introduced me to it around the time of my son’s birth, a period where being up for what seemed at times like 24 hours made a good laugh a necessity.  Think of the novel as what would happen if the raunchy, clueless characters of Clerks or Harold and Kumar were living in HP Lovecraft’s Innsmouth. A sequel This Book Is Full of Spiders, was published in 2012. John Dies at the End was adapted into a 2013 movie which you can borrow from Hoopla. Scheduled to be released in October will be What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror.

Want more?  You can also read several previous posts were I discussed books that were birthed from blogs including:
Voracious
based on Cara Nicoletti’s blog Yummy Books
Molly on the Range for fans of Molly Yeh’s blog My Name is Yeh
Adulting How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps based on Kelly Williams Brown’s blog, Adulting
Bon Appétempt based on Amelia Morris’s blog Bon Appétempt
Eating Wildly arose from Ava Chin’s Urban Forager blog for the New York Times
My Berlin Kitchen comes from Luisa Weiss’s blog, The Wednesday Chef
Plus you can read about fanfiction inspired books and DVDs to checkout in a previous post. 

Have other picks for books that made the transition from the internet to print?  Share them in the comments!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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

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