Don’t Get Your Grad Oh the Places You’ll Go

So I’m graduating in a couple of weeks, as are a lot of my friends. Not to mention, many of my friends and family members have already graduated, from high school and college. Tis the season of Graduation parties, which means graduation presents, which means each graduate can count on receiving a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go, maybe even more than one. You know this, I know this, and the bookstores know this too, as this book is most often taken out from the toddler picture book section and moved front and center with a bunch of other sentimental, sappy books pitched as graduation gifts. I’ve even seen the OTPYG books or otpigs for short, released as special graduation edition books, with spaces in the back to write down the year you graduated, and what school you graduated from. There’s also spots for photos and signatures from friends, like it’s a yearbook or something now. I’m normally all for giving books as gifts, but this is getting out of hand.

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No! Stop it!

Otpigs may have been a cute, nostalgic, original gift once upon a time, but now it’s the equivalent of a birthday card you didn’t even sign. You can put more effort into a gift than that, and you know it. I’m pretty sure I might even have my old otpig from childhood, and one from when I graduated from high school, of course. I don’t need another. It’s not even my favorite Dr. Seuss book. I remember being creeped out by a picture in it with some creepy shadow lumps with angry eyes when I was little. My favorite Dr. Seuss story was probably the one about the Sneetches, those bird-like thingies that discriminated against each other based on whether they had a star on their bellies or not. Don’t tell me that doesn’t have helpful life advice. Plenty of his books do! If you have to, get one of those. It will be far more original.

Most other books to get graduates aren’t much better. Either they are equally sappy memento-like books with cute little bites of wisdom, or supposedly “practical” books about how to be an adult and/or college student.  These gems are also full of unhelpful advice, but it goes more like “Do your taxes. Spend money carefully.” Or, for the college bound kids, “Study and be nice to your roommate!” Maybe some of these are specific enough to be helpful, but I’ve been looking all throughout these graduate advice books, and not found a single book that gives me in depth advice on how to feed myself on a budget, with only one sauce pan and two different types of spoons to cook with in my kitchen. Otpig will only help me there if someone ties it to a skillet pan and a spatula, or a can opener even.

Maybe you shouldn’t even get your grad a book. Maybe you can buy one back from them. They now have loads of textbooks they often  had to pay a hundred plus dollars for that are of no use to them anymore. If you have the money, give them a full refund and then you get to walk away from the whole thing with a memento of your own, surprise twist! Sure, there are some websites and places that students can sell their textbooks on, but you usually can’t sell it back for full price. Depending on the numbers some of those sites name and how they deal with packaging and delivery costs, it could still be a net loss. Be the cool uncle or aunt that has a hundred or so to spare and pick up this now useless, out-of-date textbook on Adobe Illustrator or Eastern Philosophy. If it were me, I’d be happy to have some of my shelf space back, and have some can opener and non-plastic silverware money too.

Really though, I think one of the best book-gifts you could give a graduate is a book with nothing in it, a journal I mean. Instead of patronizing your graduate by giving them a bunch of advice and sermons or lectures about life success or whatever, advice that you didn’t even write, recognize that this is a time for beginning a new story of their own. Maybe they might have their own sage words to write down. They made it through high school and/or college somehow. They have stories. Maybe you don’t think  your grad is a writer, and so this gift won’t be useful or appreciated. Well, they almost certainly aren’t still avid Dr. Seuss fans, and that wasn’t going to stop you from getting the a wretched otpig, was it ? There’s way more potential use for a journal notebook than an old children’s book that may or may not have terrified them as a child. I mean, it was just that one page, but c’mon guys, those eyes.

Maybe a nice but empty diary or journal really isn’t your grad’s speed. There are specialized journals with prompts and pages where you only write one line a day for five years or so. I have one I got from graduating high school, and its kind of fun to look back at how college freshman me answered the prompts senior me is now answering. I know they even have some themed around graduating and stuff. I think I may have even seen one inspired by Oh the Places You’ll Go. Maybe don’t get them that one. Other than that, there’s a wide variety of useful journals, diaries, or even sketchbooks. Finding one for your graduate that actually seems like it means something should be easy. With this gift, they’ll be able to tell people there own story, a new and never before heard one, not one Barnes and Noble is rolling out to sell by the crate-full this time of year.


Getting All the Death Books

Well, not to brag or anything, but last weekend at BookCon went pretty nicely. Allow me to show off my stack o’ books I compiled by the time I finished taking that convention floor by storm.


Yes, those are Choose Your Own Adventure books on top. You Jealous?

It was only part way through BookCon that an interaction made me notice a trend in the books I was picking, not one I’d been consciously fostering, but definitely something apparent enough that I creeped my mother out a bit when I told her about it. I think she figured I was going through the goth/emo phase she thought she lucked out of once I got past the really broody parts of puberty with buying any black lipstick.

Turns out I bought a surprising number of books about death,well four books anyway. A smallish portion of my overall haul, but still. The fact that it was a mostly unintentional trend kind of weirded me out more than anything. I’d bought one book that promised a good time, some necromancy, fantasy, and some laughs, and then found a table of the author Mary Roach.

She was one of those authors that, when I said I’d never heard about her before and asked about her work, people could only say, “Oh my God she is amazing though! You have to read everything she’s ever done!” She’s written two books that are about death in one way or the other, and both are nonfiction, like the rest of her work. One, Spook, talks about scientists investigating the afterlife. The other, Stiff, talks about the whole “death industry” and how people deal with dead bodies. I guess I can blame Roach for this, because I apparently had to read all the books she’d ever written and here were two books to start that seemed like the perfect buddies.

Then, the sales rep for that publishing company saw the two books I’d picked out, and said, “Oh, well then you’ve got to read Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory, If you’re getting all the death books.” And I did buy it, of course, and I’m reading it now. The anecdotes are charming and funny and the author, Caitlin Doughty, is very frank about what she does and what place she feels it has and should have in the world.

I shopped around plenty after that, very consciously choosing books that looked like they did not mention death in the least, except for maybe in an action oriented “Will they escape the danger?!” type of way, which is really more about survival than death anyhow. As much as those books I’d picked up looked interesting, I felt weird being the one a salesperson would see and go, “Oh, we got a morbid one here folks. Get all the books fixating on our fragile state of mortality and insurmountable demise likely leading to an endless abyss!” Is that supposed to be me now?

I suppose I have just as many questions about death as anyone, maybe even more, speaking as a college student with loads of existential questions shoved into my head and a firmly held personal belief system of “WTF? IDK.”

Death is just one of those black holes of a subject, the dark kind that draw you in. It compels authors to write about it and readers to read about it. From what I’ve read of the books so far, it’s all quality stuff, and some of it even is shaping the way I think about death, for the better. The nonfiction books  I picked poke fun at death, ask questions we probably should be asking about it, and try to provide answers.

Basically, I felt a bit weird getting pinned as someone interested in nonfiction accounts of a darker subject, but came out feeling it’s worth the stigma to pick up odd, dark, books, if they are drawing your attention. Maybe deep down you are asking questions abut this sort of stuff, and there are too many books out there with intriguing answers to feel shy about asking for them.

Going to Bookcon 2016!

An awesome convention is rolling right up into my hometown this Saturday, and I’m so excited for it. It couldn’t be more perfect for me and this blog. That’s right ladies and gents, I’m talking about BookCon 2016!

BookCon started out only in 2014, and this is the first time it’s taking place in Chicago. The previous two years were held in New York. Tomorrow, that’s Saturday, May 14th, (Only one day? Will that be enough time for me to properly geek out? Oh dear.)  the McCormick Convention Center will be hosting this great convention to all things bookish. Writers of varying levels of renown will come as special guests for autographs, and a whole bunch of panels and events that promise to talk about storytelling, do some storytelling, and talk about books in general. It’s all making me salivate, really.

Some of the guests I’ll be the most excited to see tomorrow include Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instrument series and several others I love besides that, Hannah Hart, the vlogger behind Drunk Kitchen who has written a book, and Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which might or might not soon be ruined by Hollywood. I’m really hoping for not ruined, but c’mon, the book is always better. There’s even a panel about that at BookCon, so you know I’m right. Well, it’s about YA authors having their work adapted to film, but anyway, close enough. There’s loads more interesting panels too, going with the loads of more interesting authors who will be there.

I only named  my top three guest authors, of course. A more comprehensive list of everyone I’m excited to see would include almost every author slated to come, and you could just check out their site for that. Seriously though, they’ve got some people I’m looking forward to see talking, like Sherman Alexie, Kate Dicamillo, Chris O’Dowd from Bridesmaids for some reason… No, I’m stopping. I promise, no more. Except I have to mention Veronica Roth… No, gah, no, I can’t! Too… many… brilliant… authors. Must. stay. brief… and Maggie Stiefvater. Gaaah! I can’t stop myself. There’s too much talent. Gotta keep talking, gotta change the subject.

There are definitely plenty of YA and children authors coming, as you could probably tell from the names above. That’s nothing I, nominally an adult, am gonna get upset about though, seeing as this is the exact sort of thing lil’ me would’ve loved. Tickets for kids are at a really reduced price too, so it could be a nice family weekend thing for all the bibliophiles with their bookworm spawn. My mom will be coming with me, and I’m not so much her spawn anymore as I am her fully grown bookworm mutant monster, finally risen hatched and fully grown out of the primordial ooze. She’s so proud of me.

There will also be plenty of publishing companies, book sellers, and other related companies on the convention floor. I’ll have to bring my roomiest duffel bag for all the merch (cool convention talk for merchandise of course) that I’m gonna pick up, and maybe I’ll just have to go without food for a week or so to offset the cost. It’ll be worth it. My buddy Anderson’s Books will have a booth there, as will a handful of independently published writers, among all those big professional, corporate publishing companies. As someone who is hoping to get involved in this industry upon graduation, meeting these people is exciting in its own way. If you’re looking to learn about publishers and authors from all over the world, BookCon is a good place to be this weekend.

22 Years of Books

So I recently had a birthday. I’m now 22 years old, so I’ve decided to try something special to commemorate this occasion. I shall attempt to list my favorite book from each year I was alive on this earth. I mean, it’ll probably be a little fuzzy around my early years, but I’ll try my best to name a book I know I loved around that age, and review it. I mean, we’ll have 22 books to get through, so I can’t say more than a line or so about each one, but I’ll try my best to tell you all how each book affected me. Alright, let’s do this!

  1. Goodnight Gorilla: Ahahahahaha! Gorilla! *poops self* Ya!
  2. Where’s Spot?:  Where is he though? Spot? Spot?! Oh my God this book has flaps. Whaaa-? Oh thank God Spot, I found you.
  3. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom: A fun, colorful book about letters. It’s sequel, Chicka Chicka 123, on the other hand, was hopelessly derivative drivel.
  4. Berenstain Bears: stain, stein, whatever. I loved these guys.
  5. Benny’s Big Bubble: My first book that I ever owned and could read through all by myself. It was about a kid who blew a big bubble, and then it popped. Yup. that was practically as dense as Crime and Punishment for me back then.
  6. Bailey School Kids: Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots: I fell in love with this series about kids proving teachers and other adults in their life were supernatural monsters because I was pretty sure they had to be true, in some way.
  7. Bailey School Kids: Mermaids Don’t Run Track: Don’t they though, don’t they?!What if they do? They totally do. Oh my God, these kids get it!
  8. Bailey School Kids: Ghouls Don’t Scoop Ice Cream: Illuminati confirmed! Illuminati confirmed! I can see the truth now! I’ll never stop reading these books!
  9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: Oh, hey, what’s this? I like this. Will there be more?
  10. Poppy series by Avi: I liked the adventure having mice characters. My mom did not like how much they made me want mice as a pet.
  11. Pippi Longstocking: The first “classic” book I read all by myself and enjoyed. It proved authors that had been dead a long time could still write stuff I liked.
  12. Huckleberry Finn: Wow, I like these adventures a lot but I can barely understand their old southern dialect. What’s this n-word they keep saying even mean?
  13. Golden Compass: I felt this series was innovative but kind of slow, until I found out it was blasphemous, then I loved it so much. Rebel!
  14. The Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz: I could totally be a spy, like Alex Rider. We’re both  fourteen. He does spy stuff. I could do spy stuff. totally.
  15. Entering Twilight saga phase: Noooooooo. Skip.
  16. Good Omens: Terry Prattchett and Neil Gaiman. Awwwww yisssss. This my jam.
  17. The Sandman series: This Neil Gaiman guy is my shit! The story! The artwork! Gah!
  18. Walking Dead: Hey, I guess I’m reading picture books again, but not the kind four-year-old me would have liked.
  19. Game of Thrones series: I finally got brave enough to read the books after trying the TV series, and they were dense as heck but damn I love them.
  20. Bossypants: Tina Fey can boss my pants any way she wants. I shall worship her.
  21. the Saga “saga”: More picture books I could not have read as a child. Hot damn did this series blow my mind though, made me rethink what stories you could tell with science fiction.
  22. Well, c’mon you guys, I’ve only read, like, five books since I turned 22 two days ago (maybe I exaggerate). Give me some more time here.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of my life in books. Here’s to many more years of books and reviews! Huzzah!