How to Stay in Touch with College Friends

CollegeFriends2

Last week I got to see two of my best friends, Jordan and Hattie, for Jordan’s 21st birthday. We all met up at her house and spent the afternoon on the lake, visiting Jordan’s grandmas, and wrapping things up with her birthday party! It was great to see them again (we’d met up earlier in the summer to see The Fault in Our Stars and to have dinner), plus I was pretty busy the first half of June and it was nice just to get away for a day and do nothing but hang out with my friends.

That being said, it’s hard for me to keep up with my college friends over the summer. “Out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t really apply. It’s mostly just that I have so much going on that when I think about checking in with friends and seeing when we can meet up it’s in the middle of something. But, that’s no real excuse and being proactive about keeping in touch with my friends is something I need to be better about.

So here are a few things Jordan’s Birthday Extravaganza taught me about how to better stay in touch with my college friends:

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What I Read: Cry, the Beloved Country

4.5/5 pineapples

CryBelovedCountry Cover

ISBN: 9780743262170; 316 pages; Pub. 1948

Oh, do I want to give Cry, the Beloved Country five stars so bad. It has everything I love in a book: beautiful language, an intriguing plot, thought-provoking themes, and characters you care about. Written in the 1940s about South African life, it also appeals to my historical side and makes me think about a completely different life than I know.

Alan Paton wrote Cry, the Beloved Country to discuss the issues plighting his home country for many years. The novel was developed as Paton traveled through Europe and North America. After one particularly rough bout of homesickness came Kumalo, Zulu pastor and main character. Kumalo’s journey and subsequent story is what pulled me through the novel, but it was Paton’s passion for South Africa’s issues and lyrical writing that made the reading experience pleasurable.

But here comes the missing .5: Even though the hardships Kumalo endures are only a part of the story, I felt that once they were wrapped up the story should have ended. I raced through the first two books in the novel, but it took me a week to finish the final 50 or so pages. Paton dragged me through those final chapters, chapters I felt could have been summarized in an epilogue and made much more powerful.

If there was a deeper meaning behind the final chapters, focused on Kumalo’s community, I missed them. I missed them because I felt like I was forced to read past the true end of the plot, past what I as a reader was entitled to know. However, the last chapter was beautiful, and I appreciated the closure it brought the characters. It also felt like it had a true purpose in the novel, as a way to sum up all the questions Paton was writing about.

Which is a part of why I like this book: it asks questions. There is no clear answer to how South Africa can change, only examples of the people and problems that live in it and why some sort of action is necessary. Paton lets the reader decide what is right/wrong, and what might be the change the country needs. Kumalo invested me into this entirely foreign world, but it was the beloved country that made me desire a change in people blinded by fear.

Have you read Cry, the Beloved Country? What did you think? I’m thinking The Bean Trees is going to be my next book… Barbara Kingsolver, here I come!

leeann

When Airports Get You Down…

…bring a book!

Airport

My view from a Starbucks in DC

I recently found myself getting some personal time with gray walls and runways at my local airport, due to an unfortunate series of cancellations. And as I waited, watching my flight get delayed, then delayed again, then ultimately canceled, I finally had some chance to get some quality reading done. While I wasn’t flying into DC, I at least had 1940s South Africa and a family’s demise in front of my eyes.

It’s harder than I would like to admit, to find time to read. But last Wednesday night, and then on the plane Thursday and Friday, I had nothing to do but pour over that book, and finally, finally, get to read. I shot through the first two sections and made good progress on the third.

It’s easy to forget how great reading can be. While I was frustrated and tired, I could just escape into a book, where my problems seemed trivial, and worry about characters whose lives had become very important to me. They took me away from the black vinyl chair I was sprawled in, from the gray walls and shut-down shops, and let me pretend that it wasn’t an airport I was trapped in, but Johannesburg.

Books let you do that. They take you away from your problems, your issues, and give you someone else’s (someone whose problems are almost always way worse than yours) and let you see how they deal with them. If the author is a great one, then you might even learn a thing or two about yourself and your own problems along the way.

I did, fortunately, get to spend a day in DC. And even though the time around that one day was spent waiting (and waiting, and waiting), I was also spending time with my book, in the world of paper and ink.

And that, ladies and gents, is not such a bad place to be.

leeann

My To-Read Books of the Summer

To-Read Books

Over the school year, I slowly collect any and all books I want to read on my Goodreads “to-read” shelf, waiting for their time to be moved to “currently reading.” I start the summer with a mile-long list of books I’m thrilled to read and the excitement of getting to read books I actually want to read. By the time the end of August comes around, however, most of them are left on that “to-read” page for the next year. And I just feel sad.

So: I’ve decided to make a solid list of the books I can conceivably read this summer, in the hopes that I can not only stay on track for my 50 books in 2014 goal, but not feel so defeated when it’s time for school again and many books remain unread. If I can check off at least one list of books, I’ll feel a lot better about the countless others left waiting for another year, another time in my life. Hooray for short-term goals!

So, without further ado- the list:

  • Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi. I saw a lot of great reviews for this book, and with a cover that beautiful how could I resist? (My friend Danielle will tell you, I’m a huge judge of book covers). But the plot sounds pretty intriguing too and it’s a long book- perfect for the summer when I can continuously read a book for a long period of time.
  • A Lesson Before DyingErnest Gaines. My mom has recommended a lot of books to me lately, both from her collection and my sister’s really great school summer reading list. I loved Gaines’ novella “A Long Day in November,” so I really want to read one of his novels. I recently purchased A Lesson Before Dying at the resale bookstore in my city, so it’s definitely getting picked up this summer.
  • The Bean TreesBarbara Kingsolver. Another author I read last semester is Kingsolver, who as a writer really fascinates me. I’ve only read her essays so far, and I want to get into her fiction. I thought I would start with a shorter novel than The Posionwood Bible before getting too committed, but if this goes well you might see next summer’s list start with another Kingsolver novel.
  • Mrs. DallowayVirginia Woolf. I want to like Virginia Woolf sooo bad. But after my struggle with and ultimate defeat by To the Lighthouse, I just wasn’t so sure if Woolf was the author for me. But she’s so important in the female writer world, I’m going to give her as many chances as it takes! My mom recommended Mrs. Dalloway as a good take two, in conjunction with Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. We’ll see how this one goes, but I’m determined to actually finish it- I hate leaving books behind, half-read.
  • We Were LiarsE. Lockhart. Basically, I’m just really intrigued about this one. It’s gotten a lot of hype, but I’m always nervous about young adult novels (they can swing in all sorts of directions, as far as quality of the novel goes). Is it good, is it bad? Is it really that mysterious? I’m curious enough to figure it out for myself.

So there you have it, the five books I want to be sure to read this summer. I’m currently reading Cry, the Beloved Country (um, AMAZING so far, by the way) and once that is complete I will start my mission to read all of these books. What books are you trying to read this summer?

leeann

The Reading Rainbow Comeback

I grew up on PBS. While my fellow 90’s kids remember Nickelodeon show after Nickelodeon show, I watched Arthur, Zoom, Cyberchase, Barney, Mister Rogers, Sesame Street, Between the Lions, and yes, Reading Rainbow. I loved each and every program, but I remember my mom making sure I sat down for the occasional Reading Rainbow episode. I learned all about new books and was exposed to different kinds of reading. I loved it as a kid, but as I grew up I typically only turned PBS on for the occasional Arthur and, or course, British television shows.

But now, Reading Rainbow is coming back and in a new, 2010s format. LaVar Burton, the face I’m used to seeing with a book, wants to bring back the program to help increase literacy and give millions of children access to the wonderful world of reading. He explains it way better than I ever could on the Kickstarter site, including a nifty graphic :) It’s pretty cool what Burton and his team are doing, and how they’ve invited all of America to be a part of it.

I can’t imagine my childhood without stacks of books all around my house, and I can’t imagine not having the love of reading I do now (yes, even when I’m face with 100 pages of reading assignments at college. Even though it doesn’t seem like love at the time ;)). I’m really glad to see Reading Rainbow return, and the response Burton’s project has gotten so far!

leeann

What I Read: Gone Girl

4/5 pineapples

Gone Girl Cover

ISBN: 9780297859383; 395 pages; Pub. 5/24/12

After all the rave reviews, I assumed this was going to be the best. Book. Ever. But you know what they say when you assume…

Okay, so this wasn’t the best book ever but it was still pretty great and maybe my expectations are just too high (I’m a picky book person). Gillian Flynn is an amazing writer and I enjoyed how much she twisted my mind as I read Gone Girl. There’s no clear “bad” and “good” involved, and that’s just what I like about it. Flynn has created a very unconventional novel, one where you never know where to place your alliances and who to trust (spoiler: no one). I liked how she kept me on my toes, especially after the first section.

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