231 Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant

eggplantedited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler, 2007

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: An essay anthology.

I’m a big fan of eating and of cooking and of reading so, naturally, I also love to read about the two subjects. I’ve lived by myself for most of my adult life and have never subscribed to the idea that I don’t warrant a nice meal. Sure, I have my share of scrambled eggs, grilled cheeses, and other quick fixes to fill me at night, but I also consider this my time to experiment, to try new recipes and new ingredients so that when I do cook for others, I’ll have some proven wins in my arsenal. Thus, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone immediately appealed to me when I first saw it years ago. I’m glad that I finally took the opportunity to read it.

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230 Unexpected Stories

unexpectedstoriesby Octavia E. Butler, 2014

Here is it, my final Octavia E. Butler read. This is a collection of two of her early stories that were published after her death. The two feature some themes that she later came to repeat in her novels: alien races, the nature of hierarchies, telepathy, and the segregation of others. To me, this pair was a bit lackluster compared to her later, more developed works, but there’s still some love to be found in these early examples of her talent.

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229 The Communist Manifesto

communistmanifestoby Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1848

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: An assigned book you hated or never finished.

This may seem like a weird choice for me to pick up, but I took a look at my reading log and realized that I only had five tasks remaining for the Read Harder Challenge, so I decided to give it the ol’ college try. This fulfills my “book that you hated or didn’t finish in school” task and I’ll tell you why. The University of Chicago is obsessed with The Communist Manifesto. I had to read it for no fewer than three separate classes and I hated it. Confession time: I hated it so much that after my last day of class I went home and burned my copy of The Marx-Engels Reader. Lit a match and watched it as it gloriously crumbled into blackness. (In the sink, of course, because safety first.) Now, the burning of a book may sound sacrilegious to every single person who has ever read a book blog ever, including myself, but that should tell you how much I loathed this text.

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228 Fledgling

fledglingby Octavia E. Butler, 2005

Octavia Butler’s final novel is a vampire story, but it’s not your everyday “I want to suck your blood” tale of horror. While some elements remain true – the vampires hail from eastern Europe, including Transylvania, and they must feed on human blood for sustenance – their relationships with humans are symbiotic rather than predatory and they can never turn a human into a vampire, for the vampires, called Ina, are a completely different species. Fledgling differs from the typical vampire narrative in other important ways, because this, like so many of Butler’s works, is a story about race.

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227 Flow

flowby Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1990

I have an inherent distrust of books that everyone says are good. Call it snobbery, but I can’t help but think that books that have such a wide appeal, especially of the self-help genre, must be dumbed down, pseudoscience, woo-woo crockery. Flow is one of those such books, for while I kept seeing its name appear on a number of blogs I read and respect (Nerd Fitness, A Life of Productivity, to name a couple), part of me was still skeptical about a book that purported to tell its readers how to be happy. Well, they can all say they told me so because Flow is simply the best book I’ve ever read, not on how to change your life to be happy, but on how to change your mindset to grow, be challenged, and, yes, appreciate happiness. Still sounds a bit woo, doesn’t it? Let’s see if I can explain.

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226 Parable of the Talents

parable of the talentsby Octavia E. Butler, 1998

Octavia Estelle Butler is bae. I have no idea how Butler was able to imagine a world that would so frighteningly mirror America twenty years in the future, but her vision for a country torn apart by Christian extremism, economic strife, and indentured servitude is downright alarming. We should not be able to recognize ourselves in this bleak picture of our country in 2032, and yet…here we are.

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225 Bloodchild and Other Stories

bloodchildby Octavia E. Butler, 1996

This is a delightful collection of seven short stories and two essays from Butler. I say “delightful,” but what I really mean is bizarre and sometimes terrifying and altogether too reminiscent of present day society, but that’s just the sort of thing I like, so I’m sticking with “delightful.” If that weren’t fantastic enough, each story and essay is followed by an afterword by Butler wherein she explains her thought process or intentions for the piece. It’s like getting a little insight into her brain, which is so rare but so special when you read works by authors you love. (I also greatly appreciated that Butler purposely put her comments after the story so as not to spoil it. Few publishers take such consideration.)

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